The other Spain, the Spain of taste and products, at Identità Golose Milano

Dishes and ideas from Óscar Velasco and Montse Abellà, husband and wife, chef and pastry chef of two-starred restaurant Santceloni in Madrid

27-09-2019
Montse Abellà and Óscar Velasco (in the middl

Montse Abellà and Óscar Velasco (in the middle) with the brigade at Identità Golose Milano. They are the protagonists in Via Romagnosi until Saturday 28th, always at dinner. For info and reservations click here. All photos are from Sonia Santagostino

Óscar Velasco and Montse Abellà, husband and wife, chef and pastry chef from Santceloni in Madrid, two Michelin stars (2001 and 2004) inside luxury hotel Hesperia, now part of Relais & Châteaux and Le Grandes Tables du Mondesmile. They smile, friendly, while he says: «Some say we are not creative enough. We believe we are very creative though!». The Spanish polemics of at least ten years ago come to mind, among prominent competitors: Ferran Adrià and his total avantgarde on one side, and the late Santi Santimaria defending product authenticity and the power of a cuisine based on market availability, in his tri-starred Can Fabes in Sant Celoni on the other.

Óscar Velasco

Óscar Velasco

It was at the very Can Fabes that Velasco, born in 1973, and Abellà, born in 1976, made a decisive change to their career, and shaped their style; that’s where they met, 23 years ago, when they were very young, and then fell in love. Later they ended up in Madrid, in the restaurant founded by Santimaria himself, in March 2001, with the establishment dedicated to the location of Can Fabes: Sant Celoni, hence restaurant Santceloni, all in one word. A place they have never left, with a constant success.

This to say: the first two nights, and the first two more until tomorrow, Saturday, featured at Identità Golose Milano, the first international hub of gastronomy (for reservations, click here), is the other Spanish cuisine, the one more based on identity, on raw materials, where technical skills are present, but in the background. «Our cuisine has a strong identity, it is a synthesis of the various regional interpretations of Spanish cuisine [he’s from Segovia, Castiglia y León, she’s from Tarragona, Catalonia]. A cuisine based on flavours, on products, which wants to represent our culture, which is strongly and deeply Iberian, in the best possible way. Hence multifaceted, with many local differences that can find their meeting point in Madrid. This is what we want to be and what we are».

Montse Abellà and Óscar Velasco

Montse Abellà and Óscar Velasco

Velasco with Alessandro Rinaldi, chef at Identità Golose Milano

Velasco with Alessandro Rinaldi, chef at Identità Golose Milano

In a global world, Velasco and Abellà explain, «we want to present our essence, our personality, we want to define ourselves as cocineros españoles. Why should we include ceviche or kimchi in the menu? Of course, we can make fermentations, we can make our own... Bu we don’t want to do something just because "we’ll seem more modern". We would lose our identity, and we cannot afford it. We start from tradition, which is a word often misused as derogatory; and we want to prove from where we come from».

This is what they want people to appreciate in Milan, in Via Romagnosi 3: «We’re in the city of fashion: starting from tradition doesn’t mean being stuck there, because there’s also creativity, ideas, knowledge, which gradually increases and influences the choices made; of course we also hope that you will want to fully experience the same emotions at our restaurant in Madrid as well». Velasco likes to mention a quote: «These are not my words, but those of Josep Villella, a Spanish gastronomic critic, a close friend of Santimaria. He always said to appreciate more a cuisine that is fun, rather than one that makes you think. I agree with him, with all due respect to those who make different choices. Last night we dined at Cesare Battisti’s Ratanà. We had an extraordinary risotto alla milanese. You don’t need nothing else. Then, of course, there’s creativity: but I must like our "new" dishes, and I must like them at least as much as the traditional ones. If veal in tuna sauce, or a slice of gorgonzola or tiramisu are tastier than a creative dish, there’s a problem».

Montse speaks Italian very well: «I attended catering school in Barcelona, there was an exchange with an Italian school. I spent 15 days in Piedmont. I stayed at Davide Sproviero’s, we became friends and never lost touch. I call him “my Italian brother”. Now with Fabio Poppa he’s chef at Le Scuderie del Castello di Govone». They were in the dining room the other night, celebrating the first dinner in Milan with Santceloni. And the tasting menu that they – we – created.

Sardine filet wrapped in Iberian jowl bacon, tomato, cucumber and almonds (paired with Berlucchi ‘61 Satèn DOCG - Berlucchi or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs AOC - Ruinart)

Sardine filet wrapped in Iberian jowl bacon, tomato, cucumber and almonds (paired with Berlucchi ‘61 Satèn DOCG - Berlucchi or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs AOC - Ruinart)

Filet of sardine wrapped in Iberian jowl bacon, tomato, cucumber and almonds- «All these dishes are from our menu at Santceloni. This sardine is a recipe from this year, in fact from June, because summer is the best time for blue tailed fish. Of course, they are seasonal dishes, as in our style: we often change menu, based on ingredients». On top of the sardines – placed on a base of tomato and onion – they pour a sauce of tomato water, «which is in fact a sort of play between gazpacho and ajoblanco. Of the former, it has the tomato, its acidity; plus there’s some cucumber; but then we also add the almonds. On top we put some fried onion, though without its strong flavour». It’s a delicious dish: clean, neat, tasty.

Smoked scampi with their sauce and corn (paired with Vermentino Bolgheri DOC SoloSole - Poggio al Tesoro)

Smoked scampi with their sauce and corn (paired with Vermentino Bolgheri DOC SoloSole - Poggio al Tesoro)

Smoked scampi with their sauce and corn - «The cigala is also in our menu. It’s a dish from last year. We add a crispy part with a sort of powder we make by frying, smoking lightly and crushing the corn, after caramelising it. We also add some black pepper and salt». Very elegant, and rich.

Duck lasagne, fennel, pistachio, cardamom and Idiazabal cheese whey (paired with Zeder Merlot, Cabernet, Lagrein IGT - Kornell)

Duck lasagne, fennel, pistachio, cardamom and Idiazabal cheese whey (paired with Zeder Merlot, Cabernet, Lagrein IGT - Kornell)

Duck lasagne, fennel, pistachio, cardamom Idiazabal cheese whey – Even the lasagne are from Santceloni’s menu. It’s a dish from the autumn of 2018. «We’re always happy to interpret different traditions, even when we’re travelling. So we drew some inspiration, but then we create our original version, with the duck in the main role (we prepared it in Madrid and then brought it here)». Idiazabal is a sheep’s milk cheese, typical of the Basque country.

Carrot granita, lime, dill, oats and ginger (paired with Le mie radici: vodka Belvedere sage and lemon, balsamic vinegar, ginger beer, vaporised with Ardbeg Whisky)

Carrot granita, lime, dill, oats and ginger (paired with Le mie radici: vodka Belvedere sage and lemon, balsamic vinegar, ginger beer, vaporised with Ardbeg Whisky)

Carrot granita, lime, dill, oats and ginger – A very fresh dessert, light, not too sweet. «This is our style. We don’t like to add sugar, instead we want to enhance the natural sugars included in the ingredients we use, in fruits and vegetables. We enhance their taste. I always say: my clients must want to try more than one dessert, but if I add too much sugar, after the first they won’t want to continue. Our tasting menu is made of five or six savoury amuse bouche, ten seven savoury courses, cheese and three desserts. But it all must be in balance, and light. We always finish with a small cake with chocolate (dark, perhaps aromatised or with spices, savoury, hot...), a final caress».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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