Saturday, 6 November 2010

Basque gastronomy evening

No one does culinary theatre better than the Spanish. And so it was that I was invited to go down the rabbit hole into an edible Basque Wonderland.

Held at the Wallace Collection in London's Manchester Square, the evening aimed to flaunt the culinary skills of three of Spain's most prestigious chefs: Andoni Luis Aduriz from Mugaritz, Martin Berasategi, and Pedro Subijana from Akellare.

Flaming torches light the way to the stately entrance of the Wallace Collection. On arrival, I'm lead through a round room full of Louis XVI furniture and a sculpture of Venus chastising Cupid, to a courtyard buzzing with hungry food hacks. Three wines are on offer, a Rioja Reserva and a pair of Txakolis; my poison of choice for the evening.

Showcasing the latest in new-wave Basque tapas, or 'pintxos', as they're known in the region, my culinary adventure begins with a passion fruit half topped with foie gras mousse – the epitome of a sensual food experience. The passion fruit, with its exoticism, edible pips and juicy centre, paired with the rich, creamy, foie gras, makes for an incredibly sexy match. Foodie hedonism at its best.

I'm then handed a medicine bottle full of blood red gazpacho, which I'm advised to shake before imbibing. Alas, nowhere on the bottle does it say 'Drink Me'. The three chefs are stationed in different corners of the room. Where they cook, a snaking queue follows. Subijana is surrounded by frying pans filled with large black stones. He places a solitary prawn on each and dramatically sets fire to the lot. The flames lick the crowd, and I have to check if I still have eyebrows left.

In another corner, Berasategi is indulging his inner pyromaniac, setting fire his millefeuille of foie gras, smoked eel and apple with a tiny blow torch. The result is an explosion of flavour and texture – creamy, crunchy, smoky, smooth, sweet and savoury, it's an inspired match in a league of its own. I have to be forcibly dragged from the stand.

The most intriguing dish of the night comes from Adoni Luis Aduriz, who plays with our perceptions of vision and taste with his trompe l'oeil edible pebbles on a bed of sand. The gray rocks are in fact clay-baked potatoes, and the sand bread crumbs. The drying sensation caused by the breadcrumbs feels like munching on a mouthful of sand, but when paired with the free range egg yolk dip, the rocks are rendered edible.

A plethora of puddings follow, the standout being Cinderella apples dusted in gold, with a pureed apple centre. Without thinking I pop the green stalk in my mouth, and am horrified to find it's chive - a culinary trick too far. And wasn't it Snow White who ate the poisoned apple?

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this Lucy, the evening sounds much more mystical that I remember, I think I prefer to switch my memories with yours!

    Totally agree with you on the foie gras - certainly the best dish although the potato pebbles were quite exciting. Did you get to try the pork that came round at the end? That was pretty good.

    Good to see the Basque region put on this very strong performance and great to see the chefs come over, what was it 8 Michelin stars in one room? What a treat!