Daily Archives: February 22, 2019

Casablanca: Rick’s Place

The movie Casablanca is an iconic one, filmed on a budget as a type of war propaganda, and now considered a classic.

Much of the movie unfolds in a fictional restaurant/gambling den in Casablanca.  Humphrey Bogart is the proprietor of Rick’s Place.

More then 10 years ago, the fictional Rick’s Place was constructed near the port in Casablanca.  Faithfully recreating the movie set, this restaurant is actually a fine place for a meal. I’m told they host evening shows as well.

My lamb and couscous was delightful.  Achraf’s salmon with mushroom risotto was even better.  And for about $60, we had entrees and drinks and an appetizer of goat cheese croquettes.

Tangier: cooking class

I am now in the habit of doing a food class of some sort in any new city I visit.  So I booked a cooking class in Tangier through Viator.com.

The promised four-hour class was two hours only, but I was the only one present and had the attentiveness of two different chefs.

And I learned a few things.  For instance, the chef was so attentive to appearances. We worked on the carrots and the turnips and the potatoes until we had rounded edges.  I also learned how to make authentic Moroccan couscous.

I also learned about smen, which is preserved butter with a distinctive taste and an almost cheese-like texture.  The scent is pretty overwhelming. One flavor indicator might be ‘rancid.’

The chef spoke a bit of English, and I bit of French, and the sous chef knew more English, so we got along fine.  Most of the ingredients were named in French only, and we had a fun game trying to learn each other’s terms for the veggies and the spices.

At one point I asked her how couscous was made, and she said “Cannot do in English.”  I said “let’s do French,” and after she gave me a sidelong look of bemusement, off she went. I got most of it, thanks to copious hand motions as well.

The lesson excursion started with a driver collecting me at the hotel.  We parked at the base of the medina and walked just a few blocks up hill to the Palais Zahia, a swanky hotel.  The lesson was in the hotel kitchen.

On the menu: chicken tagine, and couscous with golden raisins and almonds.

And thick, sugary mint tea.

Oh yes — I got to taste her homemade almond paste (heavenly) and the local high-end argan  oil, from a local tree.  The taste was like a nutty olive oil.  And so delicious.

The hotel itself is a recently renovated wonder of Moroccan crafts — tile, plaster, ceramic, wood painting.

But take one look from the windows of the top-floor restaurant and see reminders of reality:

Antenna dishes are everywhere here.  Everywhere.