It is rare for fine dining and powdered clay to be used in the same sentence, but one of the best restaurants in the world has as one of its signature dishes a dish that extensively uses clay to create a culinary experience like no other.
Edible stones have been a fascinating showcase dish for the Mugaritz restaurant based in Rentería in Spain, one that takes advantage of the unique properties of kaolin clay and the creativity of one of the most imaginative minds in the fine dining world.
In 2012, the restaurant published the recipe alongside some of its other signature dishes, but to explain where it came from and why the dish has delighted restaurant goers for well over a decade, it is essential to try and explain Mugaritz’s head chef Andoni Aduriz.
Science, Philosophy, Art And Cuisine
Born in San Sebastián in 1971, Andoni Luis Aduriz lived and breathed Basque cuisine, which consists of meat and seafood grilled over hot coals, paprika and dishes made with Tolosa beans, tomatoes and red peppers.
After an attempted career as an academic fell through, he took his philosophical and experimental approach to cooking with him first to the Catalonian restaurant El Bulli before opening his own dining establishment in 1998, which has since been awarded two Michelin Stars and Three Repsol Soles.
During his 25 years at Mugaritz, Mr Aduriz has created some truly unusual and flabbergasting dishes that have wowed and perplexed in equal measure, often closing the doors of his restaurant for four months to concoct new and unique dishes.
To celebrate his Michelin Stars, he made a dish consisting of a marshmallow version of the tyre brand’s mascot that dissolves in a puddle of rancid wine, with a level of discourse surrounding its meeting that rivals Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
Alongside this, he created a version of the patisserie favourite macaron that was made from wild game and was so shocking it was even marketed in a short film.
However, the edible stones are by far his most famous creation, and one that makes his diners somewhat uneasy.
Stones And Apples Of The Earth
Of course, despite the name, edible stones are not in fact made from river stones but instead are made from small Cherie potatoes wrapped in kaolin clay mixed with black dye, salt and lactose.
The key to the dish is all about the spectacle. If you order edible stones you will get a handful of what look exactly like river stones, hot and dry to the touch. They are exceptionally difficult to discern from real stones with the naked eye.
People who have gone to a restaurant with a menu by Heston Blumenthal may understand the wave of different reactions that come next.
You pause, wondering if you have made a mistake and if you have ordered actual stones and, if so, wonder if they are actually edible without shattering your teeth. You wonder if this is all an elaborate joke.
Tentatively you take one of the warm stones and draw it to your mouth. You hesitate, and then you bite down. You notice the earthy taste and texture of the clay before enjoying the delightfully soft and fluffy texture of the potato.