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.

Let the games begin… San Sebastián Gastronomika 2013

Once again we are getting ready to be part of San Sebastián Gastronomika, where not only will we share our latest ideas and experiences, but we will also meet old friends. This time, our participation in the congress will be very diverse: on wednesday 9th, we will open our research and development kitchen to a small group of enthusiasts to show them how we put together our menus. It will be a step by step explanation of how we build an experience from scratch.
Tomorrow we are also going to make a presentation in the main auditorium. We will share the new developments based on the concept of playing with food. We have already talked about how games can be used in the search for pleasure. The adventure of the unknown becomes easier if it is turned into a game. The “Astragal” dish is a stimulating exercise for which the craft of Japanese artists from the Arita region is necessary. These craftsmen are part of a porcelain workshop which will soon be 400 years old. This has been an amazing project which we have worked upon for a long time. From the very start we have been in love with the ability of Arita artists to recreate tradition, technology and a huge dose of creativity.

 

We will end our presentation with the world premiere of a new video produced by La Fura dels Baus for Mugaritz. A wonderful story about moving from the past into the present while preserving traditions and stimulating innovation. Food and games… is there anything better?

High mountain cheese for Mugaritz

- - Sin categoría

The road to the Beaskin hut, in the hills of the Aralar montain range is hazy. Full of details, ins and outs and surprises all of which are reflected in the cheese made by Jon and Martina. They are shepherds from Zerain, a small town in the heart of Goierri (literally highland in the Basque language) region. From May to October, Jon confines himself to the remote wilderness of the mountain to make a unique cheese full of distinctive features.

Quesos de altura para Mugaritz

The Mugaritz team paid a visit to spend a day with him. Observing the landscape around the hut and watching Jon work with his flock of Latxa sheep is the best way to comprehend the reasons why his cheese is so rich in flavour and texture. We brought him a basket of food and supplies since we know he will not come down off the mountain for another month.

Jon is 37 years old and he knows that in order to make the best product, he must sacrifice much of his time taking the sheep to graze on the best grass only found on the higher plains of the mountains. It can be said to be the best because the diversity of aromas from the wild herbs found near the peaks are condensed in the milk and, subsequently, in the cheese he makes.

 

The Aralar mountain range is a territory shared by the regions of Gipuzkoa and Navarra. At a height of 1,200 m the grass flourishes in this natural ecosystem where shepherds have carved out a living for centuries. There are more than 70 individual huts where shepherds make cheese. Every single one of these cheese-makers has his idiosyncratic style and methods. For Jon the protocol is strict: a flock of 160 sheep milked twice a day by hand. After letting the milk sit for a few hours, a batch of new cheese is made. The cheese is then aged for 6 to 18 months. The result is sublime!

The only problem when dealing with Jon, is that his own high standards exceed even our own. It has been more than 3 months since Jon has sold us any cheese. “It is not my best work”, he insists. We can’t wait to sample what he deems to be truly exceptional.

The best moments of 2012-2013 season of Mugaritz

A collection of sensations, stories, locations and friends. We want to share shots of the places we have travelled to. From Berlin to Sydney making stops in many cities of the world. A glimpse of Tokyo Taste and Mesamerica, always explosive and surprising gatherings. From London, where we presented our book “A Natural Science of Cooking”, to Madrid and Barcelona where NFS and ONFAN were presented. The participation of Mugaritz BSO at the Berlinale Fim Festival, shots of the tastings for the 2013 menu and as always, creativity, friendship, accomplices and collaborators…
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