Reliving Casablanca the Movie at Rick's Cafe

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
29 November 2016 | blogpost

Leaving Marrakech, we traveled by car for 3 hours to Casablanca, Morocco’s cosmopolitan city. Casablanca with its more than three million residents boasts a selection of art galleries, fine restaurants, fashion shops and trendy night life.

Casablanca is also a historical city with intricate and decorative architecture such as the Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest in the world, and the Mahkama du Pacha, the country’s parliament building.

About the city, the Architectural Digest magazine refers to Jean-Louis Cohen, coauthor of the book Casablanca: Colonial Myths and Architectural Ventures: “Casablanca is laid out according to an imaginative plan, with beautiful parks and striking architecture, from late Art Nouveau and Art Deco to radically modern.”

Casablanca the Movie

Casablanca is made famous all over the world by a Hollywood Movie with the same name. It is a 1942 American romantic drama film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

In World War II setting, the movie focuses on an American expatriate Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) who owns Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca. Rick must choose between his love for Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and helping her Czech Resistance leader husband escape the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.

 Image: Palmbeachdaulynews.com

 Image: drkevincampbellmd

One of the most famous scenes in the movie was when Rick, with his cheerful friend and house pianist Sam (Dooley Wilson), brooding over Ilsa having turned up at his café and asked Sam to play the romantic tune “As Time Goes By.”

Although winning three Academy Awards the film’s initial run was not a huge success. Many years later, however Casablanca wins the heart of millions of viewers for its leading stars, memorable lines, and theme song. It is listed as one of the greatest films in history.

Making Rick’s Café

Casablanca wasn't filmed in Morocco, but at the Warner Bros. Studios in California. Hence, for 60 years the Rick’s Café in Casablanca was only a Hollywood fantasy. Kathy Kriger a former American diplomat in Morocco decided to recreate Rick’s Café exactly as portrayed in the movie.

Kriger envisioned Rick's Café as more than a restaurant and bar, but a tourism theme project. The Café is an embodiment of Kriger’s passion for architectural preservation, decoration, food, music and entertaining. Located in 248, bd Sour Jdid Quartier Ancienne Médina, Rick’s Café came into reality in 2004 after Kriger’s efforts in fund raising, perseverance (sometimes with tears) and optimism.

The restaurant building, circa 1930 is completely renovated to preserve a traditional Moroccan mansion with a central courtyard. Antique marble floors, wooden furniture, wall-to-wall bar, a grand piano and table lamps with metal shades and hanging beads give off nostalgic effects.

Enjoying the beautiful arched and pillared structure, the cozy ambience. the good food and romantic music, one would appreciate the Café more after reading how it came into being in Kriger’s book "Rick's Cafe: Bringing The Film Legend To Life In Casablanca."

The Food at Rick’s Café 

Rick’s Café is almost always crowded with busloads of guests, so a reservation is always recommended. We came for lunch and curiously browsed the lunch menu that is categorized into starters, meat and poultry, fish and seafood, specials, Moroccan touch, pasta dishes, vegetarian plates, and desserts.

Among the specials are Obama family chili con carne and Rick’s special hamburger with rosemary fries. Moroccan touch varies from lamb shank, sesame caramelized prunes, saffron rice to Moroccan lemon roasted chicken, and cucumber raita.

 

Kathy Kriger wrote that its starter, goat cheese salad with fig, has been a signature dish since the opening. Kathy handed the recipe to the Chef right at the beginning and it has remained a favorite since then. We did try the goat cheese salad with fig and enjoyed the taste sensation of sweet and savory and the textures of leafy arugula and soft cheese.

As Casablanca is famous for its seafood we ordered seabass fillet with safron rice and grilled swordfish, eggplant compote, basil oil and balsamic zucchini. The fish freshness is undeniable, making herbs and spices almost unnecessary.

Kathy Kriger generously shared how to make some foods and drinks serve in the café in her book "Rick's Cafe: Bringing The Film Legend To Life In Casablanca." The drinks are mint tea and some alcoholic choices, while the dishes are goat cheese salad with fresh figs, lamb tagine, vol au vent de poulet (chicken pot pie), Moroccan beet and potato salad, crab Louis salad, caviar presentation,

We ended our perfect lunch with a sinfully luscious apple tart and ice cream at the same time admiring Kathy Kriger’s passion and persistence in turning Hollywood fantasy into Moroccan reality.

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Cover image: MOMA. Other Images by Omar Niode Foundation unless otherwise noted.