The cheese table: the fermented and the rotten

- - Sin categoría

Culture is cultivation, but it is not an isolated act; it is, by definition, part of a cyclical ongoing process, passed from generation to generation.

Sandor Ellix Katz ,“ The art of fermentation”

Penicilium-roquefortis-reduccido-en

The willingness to cultivate is to preserve life; but there is no life without death. This is a large cycle, a cycle in which extremes converge.

In this limitation, the king of mushrooms is present; invisible, intangible, and omni-present; decomposing and transforming the substance that feeds life.

Mushrooms and human beings are very alike [1]. They have lived together since the beginning of time. Men have given mushrooms the fruit of their labour: milk, fruit juice, refined flour…perpetuating and converting them into cheesemakers, wine-producers, bakers…into micro-cultivators.

Mushrooms have given men fermented ingredients, which have been passed on from generation to generation. They have maintaining taught and learned flavours and aromas; ultimately converting them into transmitters of culture.

Life and death, beauty and decay, the fermented and the rotten…have always been part of one cycle where extremes converge and blend with each other in a limitation lived by mushrooms.

Penicilium-candidum-en

The installation of the ‘Cheese table’ of Mugaritz will be part of URBANZIENTZIA – CIENCIA URBANA, a science day of the OLATU TALKA event organised by Teknahi. This initiative, which will be part of other activities in DONOSTIA- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016, will take place on May 21st in Iztueta, between Gros and Egia.

 

logos-todos(1)-(4)


[1] Maurizio Montalti, “Continous Bodies, Cycles of decomposition triggering a simbiotic partnership between humans and fungi”

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2015

- - Sin categoría

Mugaritz opened the season on the 15th of April 2015, after devoting 4 months to research and creativity.  We began a year which promised new experiences and teachings; trips, stories and people who would make it an unforgettable year.

On the 14th of April, our 10 first guests enjoyed our culinary offering thanks to You open the doors of Mugaritz, they were followed by more than 14000 diners from 80 different countries.

We have tried to match the efforts of who have travelled from the 4 corners of the world to experience Mugaritz by bringing our cuisine, philosophy and knowledge to Europe, North and South America and Asia. Mugaritz, led by Andoni Luis Aduriz, has travelled to: Switzerland, USA, EUA, Colombia, Philippines, Italy, Great Britain, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina and Malaysia in the space of 11 months.IMG_0812

We have staged lunches and dinners in Mallorca, Miami (South Beach Food and Wine) Taiwan (Thomas Chien) and the restaurant Zaldiaran, among other locations. At one point Andoni even swapped kitchens taking the helm at COI (San Francisco) as part of the Gelinaz event.

In addition to the kitchens we have visited we have taken part in a diverse range of congresses (Madrid Fusión, San Sebastian Gastronomika, Madrid Fusion Manila, etc.) and talks in events (Advanced Computer Entertainment, El futuro por venir, etc.) and universities such as Harvard, for example.

This year Mugaritz has not only phisically approached a wide audience but also in the form of a documentary. On the 19th of September we released OFF-ROAD on the San Sebastian Festival, a philosophical and ethological documentary about Mugaritz where La Fura dels Baus distills the ideas behind Mugaritz.

Finally, we should not forget all those who have joined us on our journey: our complices, who have made Mugaritz what it is.

The curtain of Mugaritz comes down tomorrow until the 13th of April, but we will continue working behind the scene.

See you soon!

Here you can read this post in Spanish.

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.

Cooking with common sense, above any rule: Crema Catalana

- - Sin categoría

The sea and the mountain, an ancient love between a shepherd and a mermaid, the trompe l’oeil and the abstract, the contradiction and the boundary…various dualities that converge in this Crema Catalana. A dish which has been converted to a model of the multiple stories a recipe may hold and which is witness to many occasions where eating guides us in our journey through memory.

An extravagant combination per se, that is contradictory with culinary rationalism, stemming from being a fruit of scarcity in the kitchen as well as from agitated ideasl; perhaps hindered by the strength of the Tramontana, which some have said to have the power to drive us to brilliant madness or perhaps, clairvoyance.

In this Crema Catalana, an originally marginalised product is united, where coincidence and scarcity has converted it to an article of luxury, while another rather luxurious product has become marginalised due to culture and abundance.

The sea and the mountain, the contradiction and the limit, the dream and reality…worlds that hold each other by the hand thanks to an eloquent Mexican who interpreted Catalan cuisine in this way, in a land where Euskera is spoken.

Here  you can read this post in Spanish.

Brewing our knowledge: Beer and coastal herbs

- - Sala

This project has its roots from a concern, from an idea and from an eagerness to explore and experiment with a product that, year after year has strengthened in our environment, as much in Mugaritz as an important piece in our daily lives; this product is beer.

In 2013, we began with this idea, but it was several months later, in a workshop held by both Porto-Muinos and Mugaritz in Madrid Fusion, which allowed us to understand how complex it is to elaborate such an authentic product as a craft beer with coastal herbs. Coastal herbs are greens grown on the coast with which we have not only worked with for many years but from which we have benefitted learning in-depth from our friends at Porto-Muinos.

We started to work on the project and we realised that the use of coastal herbs to elaborate a beer permitted us to unite two products which on the one hand, were never paired together before and on the other hand, posed a risk due to the lack of references.

It was during this time, that we became familiar with the elaboration process, the trials, the good and also bad results which helped us discover the taste, the texture and aroma that we wanted our beer to have. Over the period of trials that we carried out here at Mugaritz, we decided to take this project further.

In the Casasola Brewery we met kindred spirits who shared our passion. They opened their doors, allowing us to take our beer to a next level without renouncing the spirit of craft beer. They made us feel at home and provided us with everything we needed to make this dream come true.
It has been an incredible experience to work side by side with Casasola.

What follows is only a small sample of what Mugaritz did at the brewery.

Once the beer was made, we impatiently waited for the second fermentation to finish, to finally taste this anxiously-anticipated beer.

During this time, we chose the name Sustrai means “Roots” in Basque. It is an allusion to our origin and inspiration; to the roots of the oak tree which holds down the ground we work on.

As a result a couple of months later, we obtained our own artisanal beer. There two different types of beer:

sustrai simulacion

Zuria: a wheat-based beer that is fresh, smooth and easy to drink.

Halo-Ale: a beer made with coastal herbs which carries with it a more subtile marine touch. Herbaceous refinements.

Now is the time to share these beers with all of you.

Here you can read this post in Spanish.

Defying intuition. Stones, craftwork and vanguard.

- - Sinergias



Sin-título-1

It has been some years since we started paying special attention to the surfaces on which we plate our food at Mugaritz. Every year we look at new materials with curious eyes, even though we seek excitement in novelty, there are times where surprises may be unearth among treasures from the past.

Stone is rarely used in dishware design. Its very nature makes it difficult to shape it at will. The porosity on its surface is restrictive with many layouts and the arduos work each and every stone requires, means that large or serial productions are out of the question. Working stones to make plates is for either the brave or the mad; but as we well know, the line dividing passion from madness is rather thin. Luckily, some individuals blur this line and make the impossible, possible.

Joseba Lekuona  is a stonemason and an artisan. A master of stone who enjoys defying architectural rules with his creations. Hardness, texture and shape become a means to represent the surrounding landscape as a personalized concept.

The series flysch beltza features black and white striped pebbles. Unique pieces which have been polished by the ocean tides over the course of centuries in the proximities of Mutriku, a small town on the Bay of Bizcay.

Flysch beltza

The Valdorba series use sandstone boulders found scattered along the valleys of Navarra. Only after a careful observation of the environment, Joseba chooses stones of ultra thin grain with ochre and brownish shades. The result is a smooth surface with a warm and inviting texture.

Joseba Lekuona is one of a kind. His model is a hybrid between craftsmanship and innovation which raises his trade to the highest standards of creative processes. A model where one’s conservative intuition is confronted with evidence of impossible deeds becoming possible when pursued with passion.

 

 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.

Love/Hate every mouthful

- - Sin categoría

 

Controversial, daring and surprising. These are some of the traits which define one of the most thrilling culinary proposals ever made at Mugaritz: “Ice shreds. Scarlet shrimp perfume.”

It provokes a clash of opinions and sentiments. Love or Hate, Satisfaction or Disappointment. Tension or Pleasure. One must walk the tight rope dividing these feelings before one decides where to fall.

The brilliance of this idea lies in the simplicity of its elements; the technique and execution are quite elementary and the ingredients (just water and shrimp), even mundane. The concept however, is sophisticated and shocking. More cannot be done with less. A velvety texture that reminds one of cotton candy, is softly interrupted by cold as its only contrast. The intensity of concentrated shrimp flavor would be aggressive and overbearing without the ice to bring balance. You might like it, you might hate it… we don’t really care… the bite is so small and ephemeral it will be gone by the time you decide.

It doesn’t matter how you see it, this dish is the sum of intensity and tenderness; like melting snow  kissed by a drop of blood.

 

 

 

Bringing emotions to the table

- - Sala

A table shrouded with a tablecloth and a tilted plate as the only prop. A blank canvas, or better yet, an empty stage which will be fully illuminated only when the show begins. A rather empty space  where wood and glass set the ambience. In this unspoilt arena, everything is yet to happen and our guests will not  be limited to the role of mere spectators. We will make them be part of it. We will get them involved in the construction of an experience which to a large extent, will depend on their willingness to seek it out. “Are you willing to come with us? If you aren’t, then our failure is guaranteed”.

How can a restaurant operate like this? How can the front of house staff transcend the barrier that separates protocol from enjoyment? They have come a long way in the last few years, but the result has made it worth it. A collection of teachings, the result of shared experiences with choreographers and actors has made them feel different and therefore, move and project in a different way. They also underwent psychology training hoping to be able to read and understand diners at a reduced distance.

Panorama_sala_mugaritz

After many hours of practice, our front of house team has learnt that emotions are contagious, and we can influence the way the whole dinning room feels if we push the right buttons. Trust and complicity are required, because in order to make you enjoy our edible stones, first we must convince you to bite into them. Can we make you enjoy eating a macaron of sweet blood? Of course we can! We just need to make you feel safe and willing. The most important role of waiters and sommeliers is not to transport food or drinks, but to build a context where pleasure can be found, to point out the most important details and to tell the stories behind every nuance.

After a few minutes upon your arrival, your anxiety will be soothed with warmth and hospitality. Through body language and a natural speech, our team will charm you and will make you enjoy this quest in search of something memorable.

Perhaps the most surprising thing we’ve found through these innovative dynamics, is that when you try so hard to make someone feel happy, a gleam of true happiness flows through you every time you smile.

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…