At first glance, it looks a bit like pea soup with some little roasted nuts sprinkled in and dollops of cream on top. Wasn’t sure whether this new “marine grain” would be savory, sweet or just downright strange.
Since famed Spanish chef Ángel León – known as “Chef of the Sea – was presenting a bowl of the concoction, I thought I’d better taste it. Surprisingly, it was quite good. Savory and with a bit of crunch.
This, León said, could be a “food of the future.” And it is coming from the sea.
“This is a very very special day for me,” said León, who has been awarded three Michelin stars with his restaurant Aponiente near Cadiz, Spain. “My task is to cook. That is why I am so grateful to the Costa Cruises Foundation which will keep on doing research work to develop this plant.”
A great innovator in signature cuisine – “I’m a man who loves to dream,” León says – Aponiente is equipped with a research and development center focused on including new food and other products from the sea for the human diet.
The goal, León said, is that people will be able to feed themselves with marine products that are not mainly fish which are often affected by over-fishing. The marine products will be healthy, sustainable, inexpensive and relatively easy to produce.
In 2017, León launched a pioneer project focusing on the recovery of a native species of marine plant, Zostera marina, in an ocean garden in the Bay of Cadiz in Spain. The plant can be grown without fresh water or fertilizers.
“The sea is the greatest resource we have in nature,” León said. “It is an idea that Costa and Costa Cruises Foundation share with us, and that led us to collaborate together on this project.”
Zostera marina is a plant that helps generate greater marine biodiversity, thus enriching the ecosystem. It contributes to mitigating climate change by absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon. Above all, it is able to produce from its seeds a “superfood” with great nutritional properties.
“This marine grain could represent a future solution to the problems of hunger and malnutrition,” said Davide Triacca, secretary general at Costa Cruises Foundation.
Since 2015, the foundation has looked to the future with tangible and long-term projects for the planet and for the communities that host Costa Cruises ships. The cultivated area of the ocean garden can be expanded to promote the ability to export Zostera marina to new coastal areas, Triacca said.
Toscana’s Archipelago Restaurant
Born in 1977 in southern Spain, León opened his restaurant Aponiente in 2007 in el Puerto de Santa Maria, close to Cadiz. León’s fascination with the sea began with childhood fishing trips with his father into the Bay of Cadiz.
Aboard the Costa Toscana, León is one of three chefs featured in the new Archipelago restaurant. Each five-course menu in the restaurant is designed by the three world-renowned chefs – León, Bruno Barbieri and Hélène Darroze to reflect regions in which the ship sails.
For example, chef Hélène Darroze takes diners on a culinary exploration of 2,491 nautical miles featuring red tuna tartare with ginger for Granada, vol-au-vent with carabineros red prawns for Pantelleria, confit cod with garlic oil for Torino, duck breast with sultan’s spices for Casablanca and baba soaked in Armagnac darroze for Tolone.
The elegant and intimate atmosphere of Archipelago is enriched using driftwood washed ashore and shaped by the waves of the sea. The natural works of art were recovered during beach cleanups by “Guardians of the Coast,” an environmental education program for the protection of Italy’s coastline managed by the Costa Cruises Foundation.
In fact, for every dinner ordered in Archipelago, Costa donates a portion of the proceeds to the Costa Cruises Foundation to support ecological and social projects. Along with its delicious cuisine, that is another reason for passengers to savor a special dinner at Archipelago on a Costa Toscana cruise.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
- Angel León presents his special marine grain dish. Marine grain dish.
- Davide Triacca describes the goal of the Costa Cruises Foundation.
- Archipelago restaurant is adorned with driftwood. (cover photo)
- Archipelago sommelier pours specialty wine.
- An amuse-bouche precedes the meal at Archipelago.
- Sweet liqueur is poured over the dessert at Archipelago.
Many thanks to Costa Cruises for inviting All Things Cruise editor-at-large to the Costa Toscana christening that I got to take part in on her behalf and on behalf of All Things Cruise.
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