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Mesamerica, Day 3: Beans, Masa, and Scratch-n-Sniffs

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Alex Stupak and Lauren Resler of Empellon in New York.
Alex Stupak and Lauren Resler of Empellon in New York.

[Photos: Paula Forbes]

The first annual Mesamerica, Mexican chef Enrique Olvera's three-and-a-half day long celebration of Mexican cuisine, has come to an end. The event went out with a bang — Spanish chef Albert Adrià closed it by revealing details for his forthcoming Mexican restaurant in Barcelona — but before that happened, a final full day of presentations got the crowd of cooks, journalists, and food industry folks hyped up about Mexican cuisine.

Some names have already been announced for Mesamerica 2013 — chefs Alex Atala, Daniel Humm, David Kinch and Rene Redzepi among them — but first, some final thoughts on the end of the conference. Below, a preview of the Mexico City issue of Swallow magazine, thoughts on food journalism in Mexico, why masa is fascinating to pastry chefs, and meditations on beans.

Chefs Mikel Alonso, Bruno Oteiza and Gerard Bellver of Biko in Mexico City got the crowd riled up about the future of Mexican cuisine before demonstrating some dishes.

James Casey, editor of Swallow magazine, previewed the upcoming Mexico City issue, which comes out in October. Featuring a "high risk" guide to Mexico City (which uses skull and cross bones to denote the potential for getting sick at each restaurant), scratch and sniff stickers that smell like the city's various neighborhoods ("I think we're the first magazine to print the smell of human shit. At least the first food magazine"), and 500-year-old observations of Mexican markets by Franciscan missionaries next to photos of the same food today. (See slideshow for more.)

A panel of Mexican journalists discussed the current state of food journalism in Mexico, from shrinking staffs to the faster, digitally-based news cycle, to the fact that "it's difficult for a Ratatouille-style critic to exist in Mexico [City]." (Largely because of its size.)

Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo beans in Napa Valley talked about how Thomas Keller launched his career, the importance of understanding Mexican culture through its agriculture, and how delicious beans are. Beans!

Alex Stupak of New York's Empellon restaurants and wife/pastry chef Lauren Resler talked about masa as a gateway from pastry to Mexican food, with Stupak saying "Mexican food crept up on me, it was something I couldn't explain." He made sure the crowd knew that "We're not trying to change Mexican food because we already think it's perfect. But we did think that Mexican food was going to change us." (And the crowd went wild.)

Benito Molina and Solange Muri of Manzanilla in Ensenada, Mexico asked the crowd (which was largely comprised of students) to travel throughout Mexico and learn about the different regional cuisines. And there was a toast to Mexican cuisine — mezcal, naturally.

That's it for this years Mesamerica coverage; check out day one and day two.

· Mesamerica [Official Site]
· All Mesamerica Coverage on Eater [-E-]