Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014 Last day in Marrakech Restaurant Le Bougainvillier

April 23, 2014 Last day in Marrakech  Restaurant Le Bougainvillier

We spent a slow day in Marrakech get our bags packed and filling a box with 20 kg. of stuff we could not carry onto the flight from Marrakech to Madrid, due to a booking error by Ryan Air.  At around noon we walked toward the square to look for some lunch and to go to Naiome’s store to discuss with him our decision to ship some of our clothes back to Albuquerque, stopping at a spa near the apartment so Suzette could make a reservation for a body scrub and massage at 5:00. 

We had decided to carry on our luggage so we would not need to wait for our luggage in Madrid so we would have a better chance to make the Madrid to Dublin flight on Ryan Air.  Naiome checked freight fees on DHL and the Post Office. 

We then started walking toward the Jemaa al Fna to look for a place for lunch when just a few feet past Naiome’s store Willy and Suzette saw a lovely small restaurant in an open patio named Le Bougainvillier located at 33 Rue de Mouassine in the medina.

We decided to stop and had a lovely meal at Le Bougainvillier, located near the Maison de Caftans du Maroc.  I finally realize what pasilla de poulet is because Suzette ordered it; it is phyllo dough wrapped around a combination of chicken, potatoes, and lots of herbs like turmeric and fenugreek with a little chili baked and then garnished with cinnamon and powdered sugar.  The hacked chicken had a lovely yellow color and flavorful taste. I can only imagine what the dish tastes like with the traditional ingredient, pigeon.

I ordered another tagine; this time with kefta and quail eggs.  Kefta apparently are small meat balls of beef, no bulgur wheat in the middle.  The tagine was flavored with a thick tomato sauce. The restaurant served fresh baked rounds of stiff corn bread, sort of like Johnny cakes with olives.  Willy had a Berber dish of beef and vegetables also cooked in a tagine.  His was cooked enough to have softened the joints of the ligaments included in the dish with the meat, which made the sauce of his dish very flavorful.
We saw that the Bougainvillier had a TV and Willy mentioned that he had seen a sign saying that Bougainvillier planned to show the soccer game this evening.  We asked if they were going to show the semi-final game of the EUFA cup between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this evening.  When they said, “Yes,” we told them we would see them for dinner.

After lunch, we walked the thirty or forty feet to the Maison de Caftan du Maroc and tried on Willy’s altered shirt and Suzette’s altered dress.  Willy’s was fine but Suzette’s arms had not been shortened and the zipper she requested had not been added.  The cousin fitted her arm length again and said everything would be ready by 7:30 p.m.  The cousin handed the dress to a lady for delivery to the tailor, who came out in a minute of two to ask about the buttons on the dress and length of the zipper.  Suzette gave him her instructions and in a couple more minutes they had wrapped Willy’s shirt and we were on our way home.   
We went by Naiome’s shop and discussed with him our needs for a box and selected a roll of appropriate tape to seal the box.  He said he would send over a box and the tape in fifteen minutes and Shahim showed up with the box and taped the bottom of it so we could fill it.

We spent some time packing and resting. When I awaken from my nap Suzette had gone and Willy and I had a cup of tea on the terrace.  When Suzette returned we went to an ATM and then to the Maison de Caftans du Maroc and picked up Suzette’s dress.  When we returned to the Bougainvillier, Willy had arrived and taken a table in front of the T.V. and was sipping mint tea.  Most restaurants do not serve alcohol.  Instead they serve lots of mint tea.  

We decided to eat lightly.  Willy ordered a plate of spaghetti with pesto sauce. Suzette had a Panini with cheese, a toasted sandwich and I ordered a pizza with merguez sausage, onions, mushrooms and roasted eggplant.  We each ordered a coke with ice and felt like we had officially begun or return trip to the States and Dublin respectively.

The game was good but not great.  Madrid won 1 to 0.  The great game will be the next one in Munich, when Munich must win by 2 goals to pass on to the finals.  Willy thinks that the winner of the Real Madrid v. Bayern Munich will win the EUFA cup because both of those two teams are better than both Chelsea and Atlantic Madrid, the other two teams.

After dinner we walked back to the apartment and Naiore called and came by to weigh the box.  We paid him for his services and the freight and he seemed pleased with the payment.  He has been a wonderful guide and made us feel at home in Marrakech, which has made all the difference in our ability to see the sights and enjoy our visit.

My impression of the Moroccan economy is one that has a very strong traditional agricultural and subsistence living base of persons rooted in that traditional culture and economic base with an osmotic wall linking that traditional economy to a strongly Westernized information based economy.  You see the traditional economy everywhere in the countryside with donkey carts full of goods going to market and men and women wearing traditional dress riding burros and even in the city such as day laborers and porters who are the beasts of burden for the merchants in the medina.  On the other side of that osmotic barrier are the merchants such Naiore who have lived in the West (in Nairoe's case N.Y.C. and London) and learned to negotiate the business methods of the Westernized world.  an example of the second category are the merchants who own fabrication plants and make beautiful hand made goods for sale to the tourists in the market.

One of the formulas for success in the Moroccan economy appears to be the ability to negotiate both sides of the osmotic barrier.  To deal within the traditional culture to get the best that culture has to offer and then to sell it into the Westernized culture to tourists or become a wholesaler to Western retail businesses or a restaurateur or hotelier.   This is what Naiore and T.R. have mastered.  The ability to cross the osmotic barrier seamlessly and do business on both sides optimally accrues to them the benefit from the huge cost differences between the two.  They are essentially buying goods and services at the traditional Moraccan economy levels and selling the finished goods they manufacture at the premium prices paid by Westerners in dollars and Euro levels for quality hand made goods, such as shoes, hand bags, handicrafts and clothing.  We followed this model at Pier 1 in the 70's with goods from Asia and Africa with buyers who would source the goods in the local economy, usually through local buying agents, then ship the goods to the U.S. and build a retail import store around those goods with typically an 82% markup instead of the more traditional 50%.  

We then went to the terrace on the roof and ate the last three pastries and drank the last bottle of Raposeira Brut Rosé ( and talked some more.

Finally, Suzette got tired before we could finish the sparkling wine so we decided to go to bed and make mimosas for breakfast in the morning.

Bon Appétit 

April 22, 2014 Essaouira Another day, another World Heritage site.

April 22, 2014 Essaouira    Another day, another World Heritage site.

Today we left at around 8:30 am for the drive to Essaouira, also known at Mogador, which is about 250 km. (150 miles) away from Marrakech on the coast.

Along the way, we stopped in the area that is populated by the largest forest of argan trees in the world.  The tree grows a seed, like an almond, inside a husk that is inside an inner shell.  The oil of the argan seed had been taken up by the cosmetics industry as the newest miracle skin care product, good for every type of skin and joint ailment from arthritis to psoriasis to simply the best natural skin care product in the world.  We stopped at a cooperative that employs many women of the area to grind and sell the oil.   I can only report that the place was mobbed with folks paying big bucks for the skin care products produced by the cooperative.
The cosmetics grade clear argan oil is produced by hand grinding the raw kernels and then extracting the oil from their pulp by hand kneading and squeezing. Also, the kernels are roasted and then when the kernels are crushed (milled by hand also) and the oil yielded by hand from the pulp, a clear oil is produced that can be ingested as salad oil, like olive oil.  The residual pulp after all the oil has been extracted is fed to the animals.
The most unique thing about the oil is how it is harvested.  The farmers allow their goats to climb the argan trees, that look a lot like olive trees, and pick and eat the argan fruit husks.  The goats only want to eat the outer husk of the fruit and then drop the inner seeds onto the ground and the farmers pick them up and wash them.  When the seeds arrive at the processing facility they are cracked and the kernel extracted and then processed for either salad oil or cosmetic oil by grinding in a hand mill and then hand squeezing to extract the oil.

Atlas Mountains

goats eating argan husks

argan forest

Blooming argan flowers and nuts

Argan seed and nut shell

roasted argan seeds

milling toasted argan seeds

raw argan seeds

kneading roasted argan seeds to remove oil

residual paste used to feed cattle

nuts being cracked open to remove seeds

Milling cosmetic argan seeds

argan oil, honey and butter

tasting argan oil, honey and butter

overview of Essaouira with camels

The battlements at Essaouira

view from restaurant onto Game of Thrones set

Suzette's spiny lobster salad 

Bob's sardine ball tagine with olives and vegetables

a tea break at a pastry shop

the beach at Essaouira

dinner of leftovers on patio

The oils were expensive.  The cosmetic oil cost $100 for 500 ml. and the roasted oil for eating was $55 per ml. bottle and this is at the source.

Suzette bought a bottle of each and talked to the owner about ordering additional amounts of oil in the future.
I cannot help but think of Morocco in the way I do about Mexico because the clash of the old and the new is everywhere (donkey carts traveling along the side of super highways), as is the nascent capitalism that raises it head every chance it gets, especially when the traditional populace intersects with tourists, like in the medinas and restaurants we frequent.
Finally we arrived at the coast and stopped to view Essaouira from a high overview where four or five camel handlers and their camels were patiently waiting for tourists who wanted to ride a camel.  One encouraged Willy to pat the nose of his camel, but that is about as close as we got, since Suzette is highly allergic to animal hair and the dust that is associated with animal hair.

So we drove on to the town of Essaouira and parked in the central parking lot.  We first walked through the battlements to the huge fishing port, which was alive with activity; boats and trucks of all kinds and fishermen and fish brokers and restaurant porters and fish mongers all over the place.  Then we walked back to the fort and toured it.  I cannot tell you how beautiful Essaouira is.  The combination of a Euro-African trading port with a 1700’s fortress is magical.  Speaking from an economic geography standpoint, according to Wikipedia, Essaouira was originally a Phoenician trading port and then became a Portuguese/Moroccan trading port.  It was the main port for all the goods traveling along the trade routes that linked the eastern Sahara by way of Timbuktu and the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech and then Essaouira on their way to and from Europe and America.
After we looked at the fortifications on the south end of town, Naiore guided us to the north end of town, which were even more impressive with their armaments supply rooms built into the walls converted into shops and a large ramp and gate to protect access to the battlements on the north side of the city.  It is easier to see the town by pictures so I am going to include a bunch of pictures to give you a feel for the locale.

After viewing the north side battlements we chose a restaurant for lunch located immediately behind the northern battlements with a view of them and the sea.  We were lucky enough to get a table closest to the battlements although there was a pretty strong about fifteen m.p.h. offshore breeze that was quite chilling.  This was the most expensive restaurant to date in Morocco, but also one with the one with the best views. 
In fact we were looking down on the exact place where the Game of Thrones filmed an episode.

Suzette had a spiny lobster salad that she liked very much, except the spiny lobster is quite a small lobster.  The restaurant specializes in Italian food and Willy chose a thin crust pizza with Moroccan spices named Sahara.  I chose sardine meatball tagine, which is a specialty of Essaouira according to the menu.  It was very hardy with lots of meatballs, olives, tomatoes, and spices and was garnished with braised lemon peel; a very interesting dish, although later I paid from it or something else, because I developed diarrhea in the afternoon.  This was our most expensive meal in Morocco, but it was still less expensive than Ireland.
We had taken a bottle of white wine but left it in the car at Naoire’s suggestion, so we were happy to see that the restaurant served alcohol.  We drank five 25 cl. Bottles of Full Sail lager between us with lunch.

After lunch Naiore walked us through the medina and took us to a wonderful pastry shop where we drank mint tea and ate pastries and Noire joined us for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake (gateaux).
The pastry shop had a pastry I first encountered in Denmark, which used to be called baked potato.  The shell is marzipan and the inside is filled with either Bavarian cream, as in Denmark, or with a granular nougat filling, as these we ate in Morocco.  I guess the lack of refrigeration and the heat are issues tha make it preferable to avoid egg creams in Africa. For example, the chocolate éclair in Essaouira was filled with a thick creamy chocolate sauce instead of the traditional Bavarian cream or custard.  There were restaurants, shops, and hotels everywhere but the town retained a very Mediterranean/African flavor.

As we walked around Essaouira Suzette said she would happily return for a longer visit some time.

Then we walked a bit of the huge crescent shaped beach and Suzette picked up a few shells.  In about thirty minutes we met Naiore who had spent the time buying a large case of shrimp and a fish for his family and we drove back to Marrakech.  Naiore was kind enough to stop in his home town of Sidi Moktar to buy Willy some fresh mint and black tea, so we could make a proper Moroccan tea. 

We arrived at the apartment just as the sun was setting, so we grabbed a glass of wine and Willy made tea and I sliced up an apple and we ran to the roof and watched the sun set and then Willy and Suzette ate the leftovers from the Restaurant Clock from last night and we lit the candle and enjoyed a lovely evening listening to the calls to prayer in the old city and relaxing.  Suzette heated some argan oil and she and Willy rubbed it into all of our scalps. 

Bon Appétit