Categoría "Cocina"

Cerca de los fogones de Mugaritz

Pleasure and health

- - Cocina, Sinergias

Gastronomy is a way of life. What and how we eat has a massive impact on our well- being. There are two essential concepts to understand this formula: nutrition and dietetics.

The first, refers to the process of acquiring the necessary nutrients to ensure the best performance of body and mind. However, the term dietetics goes a step further. Etymologically speaking it means “lifestyle”. Originally it did not only focus on the mere nutritional aspects, but rather on the balance of such important aspects as exercise, or even pleasure.  No matter how healthy a meal is, if this does not stimulate our senses or require some kind of interaction, we will in all likelihood become bored or even not enjoy it.

Therefore, one could say eating is not only about nourishment. Luckily, there is something else; a source of pleasure, joy identity, culture and even happiness. That is why the we eat directly influences our well- being, as geneticist Charles Zucker (Columbia University) and neuroscientist Leslie Voshall (Rockefeller University) explained during the symposium Brainy Tongue (see our post about Brainy Tongue here).

Health and pleasure on a dish

A thousand leaves…

We are specially interested in exploring the elements which drive our desires and appetite. And also in understanding what happens in the depths of our stomach. We don’t try to improve quality of life from a purely nutritional angle. Given that different research projects have demonstrated that our digestive system is connected to our brain. Frequently when we experience cravings it is just a signal sent from the stomach to the brain when it notices a lack of certain food groups. When the stomach feels something, it orders and our brain demands that we eat. Our stomach contains more than a hundred thousand neurons which allow us to self- regulate and which work in tandem with our gud flora.

This is why each product needs to be treated in the correct way to simultaneously express its nutritional and gastronomic proprieties, and at the same time to let it appeal and seduce. It is important to not only consider the proteins, carbohydrates and fats of the ingredients, but also the way in which we cook, and subsequently the way we present and offer the dish to the diner.

At the end of the day, caring about the pleasure of our diners is to care about their health in the long term.

Read this post in Spanish here.

The story behind our cheeses

- - Cocina
Photo: José Luis López de Zubiría/ Mugaritz

Photo: José Luis López de Zubiría/ Mugaritz

Cheese has always been present in Mugaritz. At the very beginning, in 1999, when there were different menus we used to offer a cheese platter with garnish. At this moment, it was the guest who could choose whether he wanted or not cheese to be part of his gastronomic experience.

However, the role of cheese continued to evolve and gain protagonism over the course of time. This year it has featured prominently in our tasting menu in the form of The Cheese dish (above).

We are now able to offer the best artesan cheese thanks to the hard work of a series of excepcional suppliers. They advise us on the optimun period of maturity of their product so we can offer it to our guests.

We began the season with the cheeses of José Manuel from Borda Marengo placed in Belagua, in the Roncal Valley, the famous cheese producing region in Navarra. Then we had Anne’s unpasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Eskanda farmhouse. We also sampled Ramon Lizeaga’s cheese. The last cheeses of the season came from Iñaki (Uhartia)  who couldn’t single out just one cheese and therefore suggested three different types of 3, 6 and 12 months maturity. This week we have visited Jon and Martina in the Aralar mountain range (we also did it in 2013, here you can read about it). They have waited 3 years to prepare the perfect cheese for Mugaritz.

In our presentation of the cheese we try to reflect the uniqueness of the cheese maker. It is served with a piece of bread and a cloth containing a text which introduces you to each shepherd. This is the same cloth which is used by cheese makers during the ellaboration process.

They represent the people who make the Mugaritz experience possible, the hands in which our cuisine is based.

Here you can read this post in Spanish.

Cooked nougat with savory peppercorn praline.

- - Cocina

turrón cocido (pie de foto en)

For centuries, Asia has been home to sophisticated vegetarian preparations. The culture of seeds (specially soya beans) has permeated every layer of oriental society, and more recently, it has become an appealing trend in western society. Although we have already talked about culturing foods in previous posts, our latest creation for the 2014 menu deserves a special mention.

HAZELNUT TEMPEH

The “Cooked nougat with savory peppercorn praline” is the result of a series of intuitive connections. The starting point was Indonesian Tempeh which has quickly gained in popularity in vegetarian diets because of its high protein content.

We thought that separating the mould Rhizopus oligosporus from the soya beans where it is normally used, was the first step in the process of creating something unique. We inoculate boiled hazelnuts with the mould culture, and the resulting growth of mycelium (a root-like system of fungus) is what binds the hazelnuts together to form big cakes which look like nougat.

A dish which initially promises both hardness and sweetness, suddenly turns into a creamy mouthful where the only disruptive sensation is given by aromatic peppercorns and some salt flakes… once again, less is more.

Here you can read this post in Spanish.

Decoding pictograms in the kitchen

- - Cocina, Sala

 

There is no white canvas nor is there a start from scratch. Many ideas are bounced around years before the proposal reaches the surface where it needs to be presented, the name that defines it or the context it will be served in. Many hours of creative work are required to find certainty and in many cases the guts to defend an idea.

During the four months that Mugaritz remains closed, the main kitchen becomes a hive of buzzing minds and hands. A lab for tests and trials. A creative space where new ideas come up and old ones are reshaped. The working process of the more than 10 chefs who work with the senior R&D team members changes drastically. The stiffness of everyday work is broken, we sacrifice perfection in order to gain flexibility.

81 drawings_mugaritz_creativity

 

One of the kitchen walls is covered with 81 drawings. Ideas that chefs need to decode and shape into the 50 new dishes for the new season.These culinary proposals go through 3 menu rehearsals where Andoni and the front of house staff, sample the new ideas. Each rehearsal is a stage for the new dishes to perform and show if they deserve a place in the new menu. These are moments of great tension where ideas are ripped open to see if they are viable, unexpected and creative.

This year we had a renowned guest participating in the rehearsals. Toni Segarra, the acclaimed Spanish publicist who came to visit and share the creative process with our team.

Every year we end up making about 100 new dishes including those that need to be adapted to fulfill nutritional or dietary requirements. This must be done in order to keep making exclusive daily menus. We also see more and more diverse ingredients among the ones we use. A pure reflection of how our prejudices yield in front of the cultural exchange we have been part of in our many travels.

During 2014 we will eat dishes that make sound, appetizers that disappear in your mouth and the most delicious cream ever made. A Long story made short, we are finishing the last details of what we think will be a thrilling season…

 

 

Sharing emotions: mortar soup

- - Cocina

Emotions are a key element in our perception of space, time and memory. Emotion is a powerful fuel which, in many cases, conditions the way we enjoy our daily routine.

At Mugaritz, we have observed that people don’t just travel from one part of the world to another to simply sit at a restaurant and eat. They do it because they are in search of new sensations and experiences that might get them excited. We have also learnt that most of our guests don’t know what they come looking for, however they all know with certainty what they don’t want to find: a context where nothing happens. It is for this reason that we put a lot of efforts in creating an ambience where emotions can be stimulated as much as the senses are.

At Mugaritz, we work under the premise that there are no set boundaries for knowledge, therefore, we enjoy bending (sometimes breaking) the rules and protocols of conventional service. Our Mortar Soup is a good example; we used to make diners grind their own spices on a hot, cast iron mortar. The simplicity of this dynamic made them feel the best aroma from the spices and enjoy the tune produced by the clashing metals. A very stimulating sensory experience, however, the biggest surprise behind the Mortar Soup was that every table in the restaurant was served the dish at the same time. The multiplied exercise made everyone in the dining room connect with strangers at other tables through an amplified  sensory experience. Bonding through smell and sound lead to bonding through laughter and  joy. Emotions were shared through time and space making us wonder if there are tools we can use to further develop this idea.

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During the 2014 edition of Madrid Fusion, Mugaritz shared ideas and thoughts on the concept of restaurants as multi-sensory spaces. Together with neuroscientists, we try to understand how is it that emotions make us enjoy certain moments more than others. We collaborated with Luis Castellanos, from El Jardín de Junio, an expert in Neuroscience who works with language to stimulate positive ideas, creativity and talent, and Professor Adrian David Cheok from London’s City University, an expert in multi-sensory projects.

These are stimulating and revolutionary projects which make us go deeper in the world of sensations and the creation of a unique experience. Hopefully one day we will have the keys to generate emotions in our guests, but in the mean time, we will keep providing a fair amount of excitement and happiness.

The simplicity of an apple

A great metamorphosis lies behind the white velvet of this apple. The peculiar resemblance of culture and cultivation is expressed through the art of fermentation. The transformation of food through a fermentative process withholds a world of possibilities to modify the aromatic expression and texture potential of food.

In Mugaritz we explore different fermentation techniques, each has a particular ceremony and the results vary greatly from one to another. Perhaps the only element they all share is the main concept behind them. The detachment of the mold from the food which it usually ferments.

Terciopelo de Manzana from Mugaritz on Vimeo.

We use the bacteria Rhizopus oligosporus, which is traditionally used in Indonesia to ferment soy beans and make Tempeh, together with an emblematic ingredient of Basque culture: apples. After a 36 hour process, the mold transforms the whole structure of the apple using its natural sugar content and acidity to develop more complex aromas like those of flowers and tropical fruits. Furthermore, a white, velvety, hairy looking texture spawns from the fermenting apple and continues to grow until the whole process is finished.

The result is a rather strange looking apple which defies some and lures in the more adventurous. This new dish reminds us a lot of our “Edible Stones” because despite the first visual impression, which immediately leaves you taken aback, its inside is a surprisingly easy-to-eat mouthful. The familiarity of its flavors convinces even the most skeptical among us because its secret lies in its simplicity.

As a new dish, our fermented apple was presented in the 2013 edition of San Sebastian Gastronomika congress, however, fermentation has been present in many different civilizations over the course of history. Every one of them has handed down a legacy of culture which should be cultivated and passed along. We hope this new idea is not only a delight for the senses, but also inspiration for whoever might be looking for it.

 

Mugaritz witnesses the txakoli grape harvest

- - Cocina, Sala, Una pizca de...

Fresh and lightly acidic, txakoli has its own particular ritual for both serving and drinking. The distinctive taste of txakoli can be put down to the coastal climate in which these grapes flourish.

The grape harvest begins in autumn and this year we decided to make a trip to see this process firsthand in the winery of Txomin Etxaniz (Getaria). We hoped to discover what makes this local wine so special, and to see how this fruity white wine is made.

The influence of the Atlantic on the fresh, green vines is immediately evident. Two native varieties of grape Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza, grow in this region, the former makes up 95% the harvest and the latter the remaining part.

 

The way of pruning, which ideally takes place in winter, also contributes to the uniqueness of this wine. The resulting high vine ensures a distance between the grapes and the wet ground. The location of the vineyards on the side of the hill facing the sun, a very typical Basque landscape, is another influential factor in the composition of this characteristic wine.

We asked Nico Boise, sommelier from Mugaritz, for his opinion on the virtues of this wine. He states that the combination of traditional techniques and new technology have led to an improvement in the wine making process and the performance of the grape. What makes one txakoli different from another? The hand which makes it, the climate of each territory and the addition of new varieties of grapes.

It has been enjoyed by many generations on these shores and now is becoming increasingly popular beyond them.

Vegetable orgies full of stories

- - Baratza, Cocina

Our flowers and herbs are not only edible. They tell stories. They generate emotions and genuine bonds of friendship. For us, the gap between plant and edible, has always been a blurred line we happily cross ever since the beginnings of Mugaritz. Nowadays, our garden provides more than 125 different species of plants, flowers and fruits and we have managed to make them an active part of our proposals in the menu.

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Chocolate covered sins

- - Cocina, Sinergias

Chocolate is both pleasure and vital energy. Black or white, sweet or bitter, it nourishes body and spirit and is a millenary healthy ingredient. When enjoyed in the right proportion, it stimulates the production of endorphins, those substances released by the pituitary gland and controlled by the hypothalamus which are responsible, among other things, of producing that all-too-familiar sensation of well-being and excitement.

7_pecados_capitales_chocolate_mugaritz-300x300_en

At Mugaritz, we are well aware of chocolate’s intoxicating and appealing effect, so we decided it was time to tackle the challenge of using this ingredient in new recipes and desserts. Of course, we felt compelled to develop a new dimension to this exercise; something that arose desire and curiosity in dinners at the table. We have designed a playful ending for the new menu, offering very special gifts that have been covered in chocolate. The 7 capital sins covered in chocolate.

The chocolates have been created in collaboration with the world famous chocolatier Oriol Balaguer from Catalunia, who has spent several months working on capturing different shapes, textures and flavors in a delicate mouthful full of intentions.

An aphrodisiac version of The Tower of Babel made in natural oak wood, like the cornerstone tree which gives name to Mugaritz. A tower that requires dexterity, skills and eagerness to those attempting to put it together once the pieces have been separated. The design of the tower was carried out by GR Industrial Design in Barcelona, a group of designers who have given our ideas a stunning construction in both shape and heart.

The use of chocolate is not common in our cooking. It is for this reason, that defying the stablished standards and escaping the common uses and acceptance of this great ingredient, has been an amazing challenge. We are happy to present chocolate in is most innovative version; one full of playfulness and surprise.

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