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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Cooking with beeswax at 84•C left the fish moist and evenly cooked.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The orbs achieved a vibrant green color, which needed just a bit more work before going to the plate.
The orbs were gently fried to achieve a delicate, crisp texture.
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.
The 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.
The first way had the ladybugs placed upon live roses in small shot glass vases.
Some of these were passed out for members of the audience to sample.
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.