Mugaritz, the acclaimed Basque Country restaurant known for its $200+ modernist tasting menu and black toilet paper, has added an unlikely new dish to its 2017 menu: a moldy apple. The course is called Noble Rot, and it has made a huge splash on Instagram.
A Mugartiz spokesperson tells Eater that the dish explores the history of botrytis, the fungus also known as “noble rot,” which infested wine grapes all over Europe. Per Mugartiz’s research, a 16th-century Hungarian discovered the fungus actually imparted a special taste to the grapes, encouraging higher sugar concentration. The first intentionally botrytized harvest (i.e., the first harvest intentionally cultivated from grapes exposed to the botrytis fungus) was in Germany in 1775, by the Schloss Johannisberg. (They are still making wine today.) Four glasses of wine represent the four countries that created botrytized wines: France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
Here’s how Mugaritz sees it: “Something that was initially seen as an illness, as something avoidable, was in fact a strength. Botrytis built inside this wine something strong and special.”
The dish was the result of an ongoing collaboration between the restaurant’s R&D and sommelier teams, a collaboration in which “they create the solid and the liquid part together, from the beginning, not looking for pairings, but for harmonies.” This dish in particular merges the two worlds, and represents “the beauty and the taboos surrounding fermented and rotten things.”
The Mugaritz R&D team (like many other culinary research teams), have been obsessing over fermentation for years. “In this case not botrytis, but two other fungi — penicillium roqueforti and penicillium candidum — are the ones that from something that could be understood as an illness, the mould that grows in an apple, make something extremely beautiful, full of personality and beauty.” To be clear, Mugaritz is deliberately exposing the fruit to fungus; not just letting it sit around and get gross.
Food blogger Haute De Gamme writes that the dessert “was a beautifully ‘rotten’, delicious apple which kept below the noble fungus a beautiful freshness.” Food blogger Life of a Travel Czar describes Noble Rot as a pear, “quite tasteless (albeit with a hint of tart fruit) and has spongy texture. It wasn’t a dish which impressed.” On TripAdvisor, one reviewer bemoans the course as “essentially a rotten fig.”
Mugaritz’s head sommelier Guillermo Cruz says this dish embodies “emotional harmony.” Moldy apple, anyone?
• Mugartiz [Official site]