39th International Fideuà Competition, Gandia.


fideua_1 Gandia 2013

 

Gandia is to Fideuà what Sueca is to Paella, L´Alcúdia is to Putxero and Xativa is to Arroz al Horno – its spiritual home and home to the annual International competition to cook the best example. Yesterday was the turn of Gandia to host the 39th edition of the competition and gastronomia day in the Bayren Hotel on the seafront.

Setting up In the Grounds of the Bayren.

Setting up In the Grounds of the Bayren.

Accreditation for competitors and invited guests starts at around 10 am but until around 12.30 the attendees mill around the competion area, chatting or strolling along the seafront in their whites whilst the hotel staff are briefed on how to attend to the guests once the various sponsors tents open.

The event is sponsored by a number of different companies, Bodegas such as Pago de Tharsys and Chozas Carrascal from Utiel-Requena who provided the wines for the subsequent lunch, cheese producers Queserias Cuquerella whose trademark Flor de Oro traditional products were served alongside the new craft ale from Gandia, La Delicà, and less traditional beer from Mahou.

The competition also attracts a large press presence, TVE, Cadena Ser, A3 and a host of bloggers and photographers.

To say that  the Competition is important to Gandia is a major understatement. The Mayor, Arturo Torro went so far as to claim that it is the `major ambassador´ for the town and that it would lead Gandia out of the crisis long before the rest of the Valencian Community recovered…..What is certain is that Gastronomy is a major part of the communities tourism strategy. The CdT (  The Valencian Colleges for training in Cooking, wine and waiting service) were all represented by competitors and waiting teams.

And Fideuà is what the day is all about….what exactly is it though?

Well, Paco Alonso the TV journalist and acknowledged expert in Valencia gastronomy calls it the `Queen Consort´ alongside Paella Valencia. He attributes its creation in to Bautista Pascual Sanchis a cabin boy on a local fishing vessel. It was adopted in local restaurants and, as tourism grew in Gandia by the hotels which were springing up.

Chef´s Work Station.

Chef´s Work Station.

Essentially it is a dish consisting of monkfish, cuttlefish, common and Dublin bay prawns,  garlic, tomato, stock made from rockfish, pimentón, saffron, olive oil, salt and the fideuà which is a small pasta.

And so, on a fresh grey day in Gandia, a day not suited to a walk on the perfectly manicured and flat beach, the competitors from Restaurants across the Valencian Community, from Cordoba  and from France took to their stations, each of which consisted of a gas ring, paella pan, spoon, and the fideuà. Now, each chef has his own secret recipe for the stock that flavours the dish and the pasta is cooked in. These are brought along in a variety of containers, some large saucepans, some concentrated and to which water is added.

Nor does everyone add the ingredients in the same order. Traditionalists put a little oil in the centre of the pan and spread salt around the outside. The gambas and cigalas ( prawns) are cooked first then removed,  followed by the monkfish and then a sofrito of tomato, garlic  and pimentón . Yesterday I saw prawn heads and tails being hand pressed in the pan to extract every last drop of flavour, but the next step is to add the fideuà to the pan and cook it gently turning it in the garlic, tomato, oil etc. Then slowly the stock is added and the pasta cooked to perfection at which point the dish is decorated with wheels of the seafood, or in some enterprising cases these are presented as if they are still alive and waiving a claw!

Starting with the Prawns.

Starting with the Prawns.

Then the heat is turned off and the dish rests before being passed to the jury for assessment and then gifted to the public who can book a table in the hotels restaurant area. The jury this year was led by Evarist Miralles, Spanish Best Chef in 2011 and consisted of 10 other jurors drawn from the press, gastronomy clubs and  experts in cooking traditional dishes.

The Winning Fideuà!

The Winning Fideuà!

For the invited guest and sponsors ( some 500 people) there is a more formal lunch which yesterday consisted of traditional plates of Ibericos and cheese, prawn with chard on toasts, stalks of thistle in a salad with tuna loin, a mandarine sorbet, Fideuà, and a chocolate mousse with orange sauce and summer fruits.

This was well accompanied by the excellent Las Dos Ces white and red from Chozas Carrascal, followed by the equally excellent Carlota Suria Brut Nature from Pago de Tharsys.

Then begins the awaited prize giving and results of the competition, strung out between speeches  from government representatives and local dignitaries.

As there were about fifteen prizes space does not permit full details in this post!

The major prizes relating to the competition were awarded as follows:-

Best Tapa presented by one of the CdT colleges went to Castellon and the Best Fideuà from one of the colleges was won by Gandia.

Best Pudding made with orange went to Rte Chef Amadeo of Gandia.

Rte Maritim from the port of Gandia won the award for the best Tapa.

In the International Fideuà Competition third prize went to Rte Puturrú de Foie, Gandia, Second went to Hotel Kazar, Ontiniente, and the overall winner was Victor Navarro Gimeno, the ever present owner of Casa Granero in the Serranos village of Serra. Victor is an acknowledged master of traditional Valencian gastronomy and his dish was traditionally presented, which may be a useful lesson for competitors to note next year. I hope to be there to witness this very friendly but fiercely competitive day of quality cooking. In the meantime Victor, I will be calling in  for the recipe for your stock!

 

 

Victor with the Collar of santa Isabel.

Victor with the Collar of santa Isabel.

 

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