Last year, our team traveled to Morocco to explore the country’s long-standing culinary traditions and bring them back to the home kitchen. What they found, passing through the cities of Fez and Marrakech and finally Essaouira, was a world of lush spices, bright colors and warm hospitality, with a deep connection to the past.
We spoke to our food development lead Travis Rea and Test Kitchen manager Amanda Haas for the details, and they walked us through the highlights of the team’s visit to Morocco.
They were guided by two natives: Chef Mourad Lahlou, who welcomed them into his home in Marrakech and cooked and dined along with them every step of the way; and Saida Ezzahoui, a Moroccan tour guide with immense knowledge of the area’s history.
Starting in Fez, an old, traditional town, they stayed at the Palais Jamaï on a beautiful hilltop. Their first Moroccan dining experience was a memorable one at Chez Berrada – a nondescript restaurant frequented by locals offering an amazing interpretation of traditional Moroccan food. They ate braised chicken with olives and caramelized onions off of plastic plates, along with French fries (“they come with everything,” says Amanda.)
It’s customary for meals to begin with a course of “seven salads” — not green salads but more like tapas, or small plates of cooked vegetables and legumes. They then ate grilled meats and meatballs. Couscous was served after the protein instead of alongside it, another traditional custom.
The medina of Fez was tightly packed with visitors, as well as vendors selling spices, nuts, fruits and rugs all around.
In this traditional culture, most things are still made by hand, from hammered copper cookware to vibrant tapestries. Processes can be painstaking and extremely time-consuming.
Another example: these mosaic tiled tables, all crafted by hand. Artisans hammer tiny pieces of tile and arrange them in a pattern, upside-down. They pour cement over the top and, once it dries, flip the whole piece over to reveal the finished product.
The final meal in Fez was at La Maison Bleue, a well-known hotel restaurant serving straightforward Moroccan food in an elegant atmosphere. Candles were lit, couscous was shared, and our team savored the last night before heading to Marrakech.
Keep reading to learn about the rest of our travels! Next up: street food, shopping and cooking classes in Marrakech.