As I reviewed your question again after I composed my reply, I realized that you changed your original question to a new one, above. My reply, below, is to your original question:
"in some lights spanish modernism seems about humor, to french's more intellectual take. do you see any of that in cuisine?
*cervantes, goya, bunuel and gaudi say
**flaubert, manet, duchamp, goddard and baudelaire"
Very much so. After sampling a number of the finest restaurants throughout this region, I have learned the degree to which these chefs are true artists, entertainers, and magicians. As with any artist, one can become acquainted with the personality of each chef, as expressed through the dishes they choose to create. I would say that one of the trademarks of Ferran Adria is to show sleight of hand or humor throughout his menus. One dish I recall was a “Black Rice” that was not Black Rice, consisting of bean sprouts cut to the length of grains of cooked rice, served in a squid ink sauce and accompanied by flash fried baby squid. Other dishes designed to shatter taste expectations based on appearance include, a “couscous” made entirely from cauliflower, and tagliatelle carbonara, in which the noodles were made entirely from thin slices of consomme jelly.
At Akelarre, Pedro Subijana injects humor into several of his creations. Taste, temperature and texture are sometimes enhanced with a dimension of live activity to become more of a full sensory experience. Usually in appetizers or desserts, Chef Subijana will add his equivalent of ‘Pop Rocks’ into an ingredient, that when eaten will crackle and pop in your mouth. We were once served a light and wonderful carrot cake dessert, which bore no resemblance to any cake of that name in the U.S. One of the elements on the plate was a strip of dried fruit which fizzed on our tongues. During our most recent dining experience at Akelarre, we had a foie gras “sandwich” in which the foie gras was served between two triangular slices of citrus flavored meringue. We also sampled his popular Gin and Tonic novelty dessert. All the gin and tonic elements are served on a plate – a clear, colorless mound of Beefeater gin and tonic gelatin, a scoop of lemon sorbet, and crushed juniper berries in sugar syrup – when eaten together, tastes and is exactly like the drink of the same name.
My personal vote goes to El Celler de Can Roca as the restaurant that displayed the most creative artistry, and impish humor in its dishes, primarily desserts. Other than the every-flavor Anarchy (Anarquia) dessert, which I mentioned in a Spain thread on El Bulli, Chef Joan Roca and Pastry Chef Jordi Roca have created several other highly whimsical desserts. Their adaptation of the Lancôme perfume “Miracle” consisted of a peach purée sorbet, sprinkled with tiny gelatin cubes concentrated with the flavors of roses, lychee, and honey, and surrounded by a sauce of apricots, violets, loquats, and ginger. Startlingly aromatic and ambrosial. As a testament to their confidence at having created an edible perfume “Miracle,” a strip of paper scented with the actual Lancôme perfume accompanied the dessert in a separate cup. We did not taste their “Perfume Angel” adaptation of a Thierry Mugler scent. The most humorous dessert on the menu was the “Havana Trip.” It was served on a large crystal ashtray, and consisted of a chocolate “Partagas cigar” filled with ice cream, with one end covered in gray powdered sugar “ashes;” and accompanied by a Mojito sorbet.
I enjoyed that question.
As you might surmise from my response to your original question (above), I believe that the creations by Catalan chefs show quite a bit of humor. Perhaps the reason is due to the fact that the chefs of Catalonia that I discussed are Spanish Catalan chefs as opposed to French Catalan chefs.
It is my opinion that Catalan dishes are distinguished from other traditional Spanish and French dishes by their inventive and daring use of seemingly disparate ingredients. Catalan cooks regularly create unique vegetable and meat or seafood combinations, and clever blends of sweet and savory ingredients. I could make the connection between Gaudi and Catalan cuisine.
Edited by Marina Chang, 25 April 2003 - 12:36 PM.