Highlights of Madrid Fusión 2013 – Part 1 – Alija, Reitbauer & Arzak

Father and Daughter - Juan Mari and Elena Arzak

Father and Daughter – Juan Mari and Elena Arzak

The theme for the 2013 Madrid Fusión was “Creativity Continues.” I went to Madrid with my son intending to catch all three days and capture as much as we could to record here. Unfortunately, we both got sick and missed the whole first day. That was too bad, as there were a number of presentations I particularly wanted to catch including those of David Muñoz, Sven Elverfeld, Lorenzo Cogo, Quique Dacosta, Eneko Atxa and Pascal Barbot amongst others. The good news was that we recovered quickly enough to make it out to La Feria de Madrid for the second day. Many of the presentations utilized videos in lieu of live cooking. Many of these were well done and notable, but I will concentrate on the presentations that utilized live cooking.

Josean Martinez Alija and white bean broth

Josean Martinez Alija and white bean broth

The initial presentation was from Josean Martinez Alija of the restaurant Nerua at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Alija, a protege of Martin Berasetagui, cooks in a beautifully lean style with a cuisine that emphasizes the natural flavors of vegetables. That is not to say that he does not manipulate his food. He does and transforms the ingredients into unique presentations in a style all his own.

Eggplant Laquered with Red Miso

Eggplant Laquered with Red Miso

For his first dish, Alija utilized eggplant as his central component, cooking it with vanilla to provide sweet notes while also taking advantage of the vegetable’s inherent bitterness. His eggplant was ultimately crafted into small diamond shapes taken from the best parts of the fruit, and lacquered with red miso. This was served in a hot white bean broth with cubes of bacon and finished with a few drops of green pepper oil (made with green pepper, basil and grains of green coffee beans) and a Szechuan button.

Borage with Anchovy Broth

Borage with Anchovy Broth

He followed with a dish based on the green, borage. He sliced borage leaves thin, fried them in olive oil with sage and bathed them in a salted anchovy broth (made sous vide with anchovy loins and seaweed) as he felt the borage needed a strong flavor component to go with it.

Heinz Reitbauer

Heinz Reitbauer

Heinz Reitbauer of the Austrian restaurant Steirereck discussed the use of a variety of specially bred Austrian freshwater mountain fish with a diversity of interesting cooking techniques including cooking fish on a heated block of Himalayan pink salt and another cooking char in hot, flavor infused beeswax.

BU4A3689

Cooking the small fish on the hot salt made it easy to peel the fish skin as well as providing seasoning along with the cooking.

BU4A3695

Cooking with beeswax at 84•C left the fish moist and evenly cooked.

BU4A3696

It was also a hauntingly beautiful process.. Reitbauer’s dishes all looked intriguing, though unfortunately, I was unable to get the details of all of the dishes in a clear fashion as he spoke in German.

BU4A3668

BU4A3691

BU4A3717

BU4A3723

Char Cooked in Beeswax with Yellow Carrot, Pollen and Sour Cream

Char Cooked in Beeswax with Yellow Carrot, Pollen and Sour Cream

This last photo was the dish, one of Reitbauer’s signature dishes, that utilized the hot beeswax as a cooking medium. The fish was placed in a special silicone lined box and covered with beeswax heated and left to stand for 12-16 minutes. It was served along the the heart of a yellow carrot and a raviolo of sour cream topped by yellow carrot juice solidified with gelatin in a honeycomb pattern. The “pollen” on top is char caviar coated with dehydrated and ground carrot pomace.

BU4A3793

I love the colorful and delicious creativity of Arzak and Elena Arzak’s presentation at Madrid Fusión reliably showcased this aspect of the restaurant’s cuisine. Along with longtime Arzak kitchen stalwarts Xabier Gutierrez and Igor Zalakaín, Elena Arzak took the stage amidst a colorful display of coated balloons.

Xabi Gutierres "Painting" a balloon.

Xabi Gutierres “Painting” a balloon.

The bulk of the presentation was spent preparing the dish “Merluza Terrestre.” This was a dish based upon a traditional preparation of hake with a salsa verde, but in this dish, the green sauce comes solid in the form of a fried globe made from flavored Obulato Paper formed using a paper maché technique.

Xabi Gutierrez applying Obulato paper around a balloon.

Xabi Gutierrez applying Obulato paper around a balloon.

With the obulato paper (flavorless, gluten-free sheets made from potato starch) applied, Gutierrez worked on forming the orbs and flavoring them with parsley juice and barley.

Drying

Drying

 The orb wrapped balloons were hung to dry. Once accomplished (sometimes with the help of a hair dryer), the balloons were removed and the next step undertaken.

Elena Arzak describes the process.

Elena Arzak describes the process.

The orbs achieved a vibrant green color, which needed just a bit more work before going to the plate.

Igor Zalakaín carefully fries the green orb.

Igor Zalakaín carefully fries the green orb.

The orbs were gently fried to achieve a delicate, crisp texture.

Merluza Terrestre

Merluza Terrestre

For the completed dish, the orb was placed over cooked hake in a fashion similar to a cloche and broken atop the fish in front of the diner.

BU4A3873The Arzak team finished their presentation with a cute dessert piece, making edible ladybugs using chocolate, yogurt and licorice. These were presented two ways, each one highlighting the ladybug’s affinity for flowers and trying to project a fun way to enhance the experience of the dish.

Ladybugs on Roses

Ladybugs on Roses

The first way had the ladybugs placed upon live roses in small shot glass vases.

For the audience

For the audience

Some of these were passed out for members of the audience to sample.

Photoplate

Photoplate

The other mode of presentation was upon a photoplate, a technique that the Arzaks have been exploring for a bit to give some context and verisimilitude to a dish. The idea is to briefly confuse the diner and play with their ideas of what is and is not real. Arzak is one of the most fun restaurants I have ever experienced. This auditorium packed presentation  gave a good idea why.

 

 

 

 


This entry was posted in Culinary Personalities, Fine Dining, Food and Drink, Madrid Fusión, Pastry, Slow Food, Spain and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply