Madrid remains in the global gastronomic spotlight. The 35th edition of Salón Gourmets kicked off yesterday to celebrate, as always, the best of Spanish gastronomy. This was made clear by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, who referred to the gastronomic offer presented at the show as "the jewel in the crown" of everything Spain has to offer. A perfect definition of the food on display at Salón Gourmets, which will run until Thursday, April 28th, turning several pavilions at the IFEMA Convention Center into a festival for the senses. Over four days, more than 1,600 exhibitors will showcase 40,000 products, 600 of them new, to be presented in the Innovation Area. Additionally, 70,000 professionals are expected to attend to learn about novelties in the agri-food sector.
As the first fair in the sector held in Europe after the mask mandate has ended, the event was noticeably busy from early on the first day. Just a few minutes after the doors opened, Spain's gastronomic wealth was already on display in all its splendor. One woman was cleaning anchovies from Santoña while, just a few feet away, extra virgin olive oil tastings were underway, and groundbreaking products such as canned Spanish omelet and beer made with turnip tops from Galicia were being presented.
As in previous years, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) organized the wine, oil, and cheese tunnels: spaces to learn more about these products, which represent Spanish gastronomic excellence. "We offer an overview in which 22 grape varieties are presented but produced in different areas, with different climates and using different methods," explains Ignacio Crespo. He's responsible for the wine tunnel, where a wide range of professionals, from sommeliers to restaurateurs, journalists, and amateurs can learn about the differences between a Tempranillo from Rioja and Ribera del Duero as well as the possibilities offered by a Chardonnay or a Syrah in Spain.
The extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) tunnel uses the same educational format. "Here we provide information not only on the oils made from the most well-known varieties such as Hojiblanca, Picual, and Arbequina, but also on those made from lesser-known varieties," says Joaquín Guillén, a member of the organizing team. The aromas and flavors of each of the oils can be tasted on site and an ingenious system of diffusers allows people to enjoy some of the most common oil descriptors, such as tomato, green grass, and lemon.
The cheese tunnel is always very busy at Salón Gourmets, as it features the 90 finalist cheeses—all available for tasting—competing for the title of Best Cheese in Spain, perhaps the most prestigious prize awarded to mark the end of the fair. "What's great is that everyone who comes can taste not only the best in each category, from young cow's, sheep's, and mixed milks, but if they're lucky, they'll try the cheese that wins," says Antonio Álvarez, one of the organizers.
From the best ham carver to the biggest names in cooking
Competitions are an essential part of Salón Gourmets because they highlight what can be achieved with the best products. One example is the ham carving contest, organized by the Dehesa de Extremadura PDO, in which participants demonstrate their expertise in slicing different parts of a ham. This year's winner was Mirko Gianella, from Jamón Experience.
Another important part of Salón Gourmets is chef participation. On the first day, participants included 3-Michelin-star Quique Dacosta, who gave an interesting presentation on using coffee in cooking. Other participants included Cristóbal Muñoz (Ambivium restaurant, Peñafiel, Valladolid, 1 Michelin star) and the experienced chef Jesús Almagro, who gave a demonstration on contemporary fusion cuisine. But this was just the beginning: Salón Gourmets will run for three days, offering the best of the best of Spanish gastronomy at an event that, after the two-year global pandemic, welcomed attendees with a smile.