20: The Golden Age of Gluten
Louise Bannon and her vision of what bread can be
Happy new year! I hope your holidays were restorative, and that 2022—against all reason and recent evidence—brings only good things.
I spent part of the holidays in Córdoba, Spain. I used to live in Córdoba, so getting to walk its white-washed streets and drop into Bodega Guzman for a small glass of fino again was a special pleasure. But I also got to visit Paco Morales’s restaurant Noor, which I’ve longed to do since it opened five years ago.
For much of the Middle Ages, Córdoba was the capital of al-Andalus, the Muslim kingdom that ruled the better part of Spain and that, with its universities and philosophy, architects and scientists, literature and music, was Europe’s most advanced civilization at the time. With Noor, Paco, who is originally from Córdoba, wanted to showcase that dazzling history by highlighting the changing ingredients and recipes as they evolved over the centuries-long course of the reign. But although his goal was to bring the flavors of al-Andalus to life, he is a thoroughly modern chef (he spent the early part of his career working at Mugaritz), and Noor’s dishes are not museum pieces but intended to feel like of-the-moment discoveries.
The food was delicious, from the tartare with polenta puffs that opened the meal through the mint sponge cake with Ceuta lemon that closed it. But what really struck me was how encompassing the whole experience was. From the orange-flower ablution to the custom-made cutlery to dishes bright with historically accurate spice and fruit (this year, the menu focuses on the 15th- and 16th centuries, and tomatoes and peppers from the Americas begin to work their way in among the almonds and salted fish of previous centuries), Noor is as much about ideas as it is about eating. Sitting there, in its sun-dappled dining room in an unlikely part of town, I felt like I had stepped into a true and unique vision.
In this age of branding, a lot of chefs and restaurateurs can talk about their ‘concept’—fast casual, say, or molecular Icelandic meets Amazonian farm-to-table. But true vision is a rarer commodity. Another case in point: Louise Bannon, the owner of the newly-opened Tír. On paper, Bannon is yet another talented chef-turned-baker who has gone on to launch yet another stellar bakery in a city that now abounds in them. But as the story below suggests, she stands out for her vision, a truly holistic and encompassing notion of what bread can and should be.
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It wasn’t the location that convinced her. Nor was it the space’s layout or the cost of its rent. It wasn’t even the place’s history as home to two legendary predecessors. What finally persuaded Louise Bannon to open her bakery Tír in the storefront at Store Kongensgade 46 was the door. At just over a meter wide, it was big enough to get her mill through.