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  1. I keep reading El Bulli this or El Bulli that...I have tried to figure out this place...Is it real, is it an elaborate e gullet running gag, whats the deal!...Ya I know I am a burrito and burger guy so I may not be "sophisticated" enough to know about it ie "El Bulli, yes Thurston and I dined there last week before the theater, fabulous darling"...so whats the scoop all you New Yorkers, fill in a regular west coast schlub on this El Bulli place....if it even exists.. If it does exist, will I need to look for a good interest rate on my second mortgage to purchase a meal there....Do they have burrito's?
  2. ''I have created something five times lighter than the foams. The new texture that I create is air. In the bathroom there is the bath foam. This is the same texture.'' A few more questions and his discretion dissipated. ''You will be the first journalist to see it,'' he said. He asked Castro to make preparations in the kitchen. ''It is only done with the product, nothing else,'' he explained. ''For example, the carrot is only carrot juice, nothing else.'' thats a quote of the last thread on ferran adrias carrot "air" there were lots of ideas like lecithin, agar, gelatin, eggyolx, etc. but that doesnt come close to whats happening... when i saw a documentary on el bulli ( google 4 : Alchimisten des Geschmacks ) on spiegel-tv they were whipping some stuff with a "esge zauberstab" (immersion blender) the stuff that came out was huge and wobbly, it was pretty high and had LARGE pores... then on guy came on and sucked the whole plate into his mouth as if it was nothing.... so is there ANYONE who has a fucking idea of how to achieve something like it... with lecithin & co. you can only do minor foams that are not that stable BY FAR !!! rite now iam trying to get a copy of the documentary.. if i get it i will post a series of images... to get the ball rolling my first suggestion is (always keep this in minds----) "is only carrot juice, nothing else.'') that he maybe uses somekind of "physical" device which changes the electric charges of some kind which then effects the electrostatic charge somehow.... (iam just guessing here... i have no idea.... maybe there is someone who does... ok iam looking forward to get many theories & stuff cheers torsten from cologne
  3. I am often struck, when following this board, not by the fixation with El Bulli, Arzak or Mugaritz - these are great restaurants, and they logically center everyone's interest - but by the exclusion of everything outside these fabled, starred restaurants when planning trips to Spain. The itineraries I've seen include those, plus Can Fabes, Martin Berasategui, Akelarre, etc. - and no room or thought at all is given to traditional or regional places. It's understandable that the cutting-edge places concentrate so much attention, but I think all those who only want to eat at these types of restaurants will miss culinary experiences that are as interesting and often more original, more 'different'. I can tell you this: if anyone is familiar with Pierre Gagnaire, he will be less surprised with El Bulli than with Rafa's modest bar-and-restaurant in Roses. Outstanding raw materials are a Spanish specialty, and sometimes they can only be found in Spain, or are different in Spain (lamb, suckling pig) from what one would find under such names elsewhere. These products are best highlighted in simpler, 'terroir'-oriented restaurants than in the havens of refinement. The blinkered foodie will thus miss, if he/she only goes from three stars to two stars to three stars again, all these treats that really mark the soul of Spanish gastronomy: - the Roses bay shrimp or the L'Escala anchovies at Rafa's, or perhaps the tiny springtime Maresme green peas (next March!) and delicate langoustines ('escamarlans', in Catalan) at Hispania, a few miles down the coast - the classic menu at a down-home 'sidrería' in Guipúzcoa (these raucous, fun cider-making and cider-serving establishments' offer typically is a fresh-tuna omelet, a porterhouse steak with piquillo peppers and a 'pantxineta' cake) - the unique texture and taste of a Castilian milk-fed lamb of the 'churra' breed, slowly roasted in a low-temperature baker's oven - the opulence of a 'cazuela' (small earthenware pan) of sautéed baby eels followed by a grilled 'a la espalda' sea bream at Kaia, Elkano or Kaipe, the fine fish 'asadores' in Getaria near San Sebastián - the real paella, a very wide, very shallow pan with the thinnest (less than a half-inch) layer of Calasparra short-grain rice, first fried and then cooked with a classic accompaniments of wild rabbit and small snails, at Paco Gandía's paella shrine in Pinoso (Alicante) - the explosion of fresh Ribera del Ebro vegetables, perhaps under the guise of a palatable mixed 'menestra' with bits of serrano ham, at such Navarra restaurants as Maher in Cintruénigo: cardoons, artichokes, piquillo and cristal peppers, tiny 'cogollo' lettuces, asparagus, broad beans... - the fastuous three courses (soup, vegetables, meats) drawn from a pot of 'cocido madrileño', the chickpea-dominated Madrid 'pot-au-feu' in one of the three nostalgic dining rooms of the capital's 165-year-old Lhardy restaurant... ...and many more such moments. Take my word for it: a serious foodie trip to such countries as Spain or Italy should always include one 'moment' like those for each three-star meal enjoyed. Only the knowledge of both ends of the culinary spectrum will enable the 'gastronomad' (as Curnonsky used to call them... er, us) to understand the breadth of the food experience in these countries. But of course you're free to go to Italy and spend a whole week not eating spaghetti even once...
  4. A central premise of the TDG essay "Eight at El Bulli" (click here) is that the restaurant represents a tradition of its own, a break with existing culinary traditions: neither French, nor Spanish, but in some sense encompassing and going beyond both. Following cues from chefs and writers, we have called this phenomenon "avant garde cooking". Do you agree with our assertion that El Bulli is in the vanguard of a genuinely new culinary tradition? How do Adrià's innovations compare with other recent "revolutions" such as the advent of nouvelle cuisine? How should one define the culinary avant-garde? Notions such as "deconstruction", "displacement", "transformation"and "reconstitution" come to mind. What other practitioners (chefs, restaurants, critics, etc.) would you place in the forefront of this movement? Many observers have noticed perversions or imitations of Adrià's cooking, such as meals with foams in every dish, or counterintuitive pairings of ingredients that, unlike those at El Bulli, have no gastronomic integrity and merely shock rather than creating a refreshing surprise to the eye and palate. Some argue that we are worse off for Adrià and El Bulli, since it has spawned so many vapid or gimmicky imitations. What is your view?
  5. Egullet folks, I've been trying to track down recipes and techniques for making luminescent (glowing) dishes and drinks. Google searches and even egullet searches haven't turned up much. Obviously there are plenty of substances and materials that are luminscent or can be made luminescent, but almost none of them are edible. I'm not necessarily looking for a way to make a dish that is luminescent in normal lighting conditions (which may not be possible at all), it will probably be reduced light or completely dark (glow-in-the-dark). The only thing I've managed to find so far is the glow-under-blacklight (ultraviolet) method of using quinine in drinks. I also recall Heston Blumenthal making a glow-in-the-dark jelly tower, but that, too, may have used a blacklight. If so then these would both be florescent techniques. Everything that is phosphorescent seems to involve chemicals that aren't safe to consume (zinc sulfide, strontium aluminate), but I can't find solid sources to confirm this. The same goes for chemiluminescent materials (like the stuff in glow sticks). The most promising approach might be to find a bioluminescent bacteria or algae that is safe to consume. As a matter of fact, you might even be able to cook and kill the bacteria/algae and have it retain its bioluminescence for some time afterward. Has anyone experimented with any of these approaches? Any thoughts?
  6. [Moderator note: The original "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 2)] Since I've received mine I've had little time until this weekend to actually read through it in depth. I've been starting with the history in volume 1, which I find fascinating as I love history. I even looked up some of the original recipe books it references and downloaded them to my kindle through gutenberg as it is a wonderful addition to the whole and its history. Second to that I started sifting tbrough the equipment. Then yesterday I drove three hours north to share the volumes with my family. I don't think their mouths ever closed after seeing them for the first time. We each grabbed a volume, from my 16 year olde nephew to my 70 year olde father and for five straight hours we were consumed and shared with eachother ideas and "finds". In my family cooking and meals are a big part of us "coming together"...this truly added to a family moment for us. Now I've got to find a weekend to bring my 16 year olde nephew down to Massachusetts to cook with me. He wants to get into spherification and I want to experiment with the fish paper. I have a crazy idea to use the paper for and can't wait to start experimenting. ...after that I think the mac and cheese, since everyone has been talking about that on here I can't wait to try it as it brings back fond childhood memories for me.
  7. I know there are a lot of complaints out there (mine included) about the expense of Modernist Cuisine. And the post-traumatic expense too, once the book is purchased and actally in hand, to buy some/many/all of the toys, tools, appliances, chemistry sets and so on you must have in order to "cook" from this book. But since I don't really cook from cookbooks, I probably won't be cooking that many recipes from this one either. What I hope to do is learn and maybe change an old habit or two, or perhaps pick up a new habit...or two. Interesting enough, I already have. And it was REALLY CHEAP, TOO. All the better. Today, I bought one of these... I plan to use it, at my kitchen sink, all the time. I mean, how much less can you spend in order to be a Modernist Cuisine early adopter? Oh yeah, 1 - 196. Show me your cheapest.
  8. Many of us have been rubbing our hands together over the last few days in anticipation of receiving our copies of the Alinea cookbook. Those lucky ducks who have theirs in hand: what're you doing with it? Those still waiting: where do you think you'll start?
  9. There are a number of posts having to do with the "perfect" French fry, but most of them date back to the 2003 to 2006 period, and none provide an adequate discussion of the techniques developed recently by Heston Blumenthal, Dave Arnold, and most importantly, in Modernist Cuisine. I therefore thought it might be useful to summarize my results to date, particularly with the starch-infused ultrasonic fries in MC. I've been trying to improve on that recipe, or at least simplify it. Now, I've made the traditional double-cooked fries on and off for 40-50 years, and earlier this year I experimented with Heston Blumenthal's triple-cooked Pommes Pont-Neuf, which uses water, sugar, salt, and baking soda to blanch the fries for 20 minutes, until very tender, followed by vacuum cooling (or air drying), frying at 150C/300F about 7 minutes, cooled again, and then frying at 22C/430F until crisp. Those were a substantial improvement over my older technique, although I found that 20 minutes was too long -- too many of the fries fell apart. 15 minutes seems about right, at least with Idaho Russets. After reading the starch-infused ultrasonic French fries recipes from MC, I ordered a Branson B5510 2-1/2 gallon ultrasonic machine, and followed the recipe. My wife and I agreed that they were absolutely the best we had ever eaten, bar none! They were deliciously crunchy on the outside, and soft and succulent, rather like a good baked potato, on the inside. These were hand cut into 1/2" or 1.5 cm square-cut fries. Because I don't have a combi oven (which the MC video suggests using), I cooked three potatoes (750 g, divided onto two bags, after brining them with 15g of salt in 750 ml of water) in a big pan in water on the stove, in two SV bags. I then drained them and let them cool in the freezer for about 20 minutes, while I made up the potato starch mixture. I transferred the potatoes to two new bags, and added the potato starch mixture, then put them in the Branson ultrasonic cleaner, which had been degassed and brought up to 64C. After 20 minutes, I flipped the two bags over, and gave them another 20 minutes. (The recipe calls for 45 minutes per side, but I misread or misremembered it.) I then put the fries on a rack, and put them in my JennAire oven on the dryer function at 100F for about 20 minutes. After that, I transferred the fries to a rack, and put them in my chamber vacuum and ran it it five times at maximum vacuum. Several times it timed out, unable to reach 99% vacuum, so I had to stop and restart it. Then I put them in my Krups Professional Deep Fryer at 330F for three minutes using Crisco vegetable oil, and afterwards put them on rack in my cool garage, with an electric fan blowing on them to cool them. Then finally back in the deep fryer at the maximum setting (375F), but unfortunately this isn't quite hot enough. So instead of merely 3 minutes, I had to give the fries closer to 6 minutes to reach a nice goldren-brown color Served with ketchup and Boar's Head Creole mustard, together with two SV lamb shoulder chops, with rosemary and garlic confit for Valentine's Day, the results were absolutely worth the effort! Now, some have questioned whether this was worth the time and expense. But as someone said, even a monkey ought to be able to make hot, fresh, French fries that taste good right out of the fryer -- the real question is what happens after they cool a bit, and what they "feel" like. Certainly there are lots of fast food joints that fall down in that regard. To my mind, taste isn't the only important factor -- auditory and other sensory "crunch" factors are also important to the overall dining experience. And it was the extra delicious crunch, plus the soft, mealy interior that made those fries so appealing. Since that initial, successful result, I've tried a couple of variations. The first was to simply boil the potatoes in a pan, rather than bagging them. That didn't work too well -- the potatoes tended to fall apart, while bagging them under vacuum seemed to hold them together better. Cooking the bags in a pot of the stove didn't work too well -- I don't have a deep enough pan. But I do have an immersion circulator, so I cranked it up to 95C -- whereupon it started to boil at my altitude (7000ft.) So I turned it down to 90C, and cooked two bags containing a total of 750 g of cut fries for 15 minutes. I could easily have done four or more bags at the same time. In a misguided effort to save time, I tried boiling the fries along with the potato starch. Big mistake! The starch made a very gloppy mess down at the bottom of the bag. Start over. After boiling the fries, I cooled them in room temperature water before draining them. I think that was a mistake as well. Draining them, then putting them in the freezer briefly seemed to work better. Then I added the potato starch mixture (150 g water, 75 g of potato starch, divided across two bags), pulled vacuum until the starch mixture started to boil, and sealed them. Then into the Branson ultrasonic for 45 minutes, then flipped the bags over for another 45 minutes. The bags were submersed in plain water, in a perforated rack to keep them off the bottom of the unit. (BTW, there is a considerably less expensive ultrasonic machine, the Samson GBW-300 Ultrasonic Fruit and Vegetable Washer, that is around $250. I wish I had seen that one before buying the much more expensive Branson.) I've done this twice, now, once with the Branson heater on and set at 62C, and once in just room temperature water. I didn't measure the final temperature in that case, but the ultrasonic warmed up the water -- I would guess to about 50C. I then put the fries on a rack and put them in my cool garage with a fan blowing on them to cool and dry the fries, followed by vacuum cooling. I now think that my convection dehydrator function on the oven (set at 100F) worked better, followed by vacuum cooling them further. Then into the deep fryer, set at 162C/330F for about 7 minutes, per MC. Then back to the garage and fan again. In the future, I think I'll try refrigerating or even freezing the fries on a rack at this point. Others have said that 24 hours in the fridge helps considerably. Heston Blumenthal recommends 220C/430F for the final fry. Unfortunately, no deep fryer I know of will go that high, and I don't like stinking up the kitchen with a Le Creuset or wok pan, so I had to use 190C/375F for about five minutes. (I might think about opening up my Krups Professional and seeing if I could recalibrate the setting to get it hotter, even though that would probably void the warranty.) In general, this second go-round, although excellent, wasn't quite as superlative as the first, so I'll go back to that method next time, perhaps with some added refrigeration between the first and second frying. A little added salt might have helped -- perhaps some hickory-smoked sea salt, and some pepper. Next time, I'll try using a salad spinner to drain the fries after boiling them, before dehydrating and cooling them. I just hope it wouldn't break them. This could also be used after the first frying step. Other changes that might be worth trying would be to try adding the sugar and baking soda that Heston uses during the initial blanching. (I'm not sure what effect the baking soda has -- I guess it makes it more alkaline, but to what end?) And I might skip the ultrasonic cavitation, to see how much difference that makes. It would certainly speed up the process. And I'm not sure I could tell the difference between 20 minutes a side and 45 minutes -- another variable that would be worth exploring. Sorry for the length of this post, but I wanted to summarize my experiments, and invite others to contribute as well. Bob
  10. demo5

    Fruit Glue?

    Does anyone know of an enzyme akin to transglutimase that can bind fruit, such as pineapple? Thanks
  11. Montreal

    Spherification

    Question on spherification. I was successful with baileys as well as with kahlua, however I also tried with maple syrup and the mix was coagulating into gelatin before I drop any of the mix in my bowl and create magic. Anyone knows if their is a rule of thumb that I should know? For some reason the medium with alchool worked very well and the one that is water based (in this case maple syrup) would not work. Tks in advance for your help
  12. The Ouest website mentions that Philip Howard's degree in microbiology encouraged a unique approach to cooking. I'd appreciate learning some details on Chef Howard's beliefs, and the ways in which there are similarities with, and differences from, the "Molecular Gastronomy" approach pursued by Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, Bray, and Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, among others. Below is a thread on Molecular Gastronomy: Clickety Are there other chefs in London that utilize the type of approach Chef Howard advocates, and how do you incorporate his insight into your dishes at Ouest (to the extent you do)? On Chef Howard, how did your role as sous chef at The Square differ from your role as souf chef to Raymond Blanc at Manoir? Also, I haver heard mention that The Square's dining room team can be a bit cold at times. What are your views on the kitchen team's perception of the dining room team at The Square?
  13. My active little nephew has a thing for ice blocks. Sugary lemonade-flavoured treats on a stick which his mother, my sister, allows him to consume by the dozens. It has me concerned about the health implications of so much sugar for a five-year-old. I've started to wonder whether it would be possible to do home-made versions which were somewhat more healthy in terms of sugar content. My current thinking is to use natural lemon juice with a bit of ascorbic acid (flavour), xanthan gum (texture) and stevia (sweetness), but after that I'm at a loss; especially when it comes to proportions. When I try to simply freeze lemon juice the result is rock hard, as should be expected. I have guessed that the xanthan gum would help to reduce this effect and make it more like commercial product which manages to be slightly softer, even when completely frozen. I'd love to hear if anyone has any insights to help me work out a formula for a child-friendly frozen treat.
  14. I store a number of powdered and dry ingredients in my freezer. Today I spilled half a bag of tapioca starch. (The freezer needed cleaning anyhow.) The tapioca starch was in the Bob's Red Mill bag it was sold in, with an outer plastic bag around it. Yeasts I keep in metal and glass sealed cans in the door of the freezer, but I don't have an unlimited number of metal cans -- plus after a while it becomes difficult to identify a given random white powder in a frozen can. Obviously I do not have a good system. How do other people store things like tapioca starch in their freezers?
  15. Modernist Cuisine was released just over a year ago to much acclaim (we're cooking with it in this topic), but there was an immediate clamor for a more home-cook-friendly volume: as nathanm mentioned here, that clamor is being answered in October 2012 with the forthcoming Modernist Cuisine at Home (eG-friendly amazon.com page). From nathanm's post on the book: I've been doing a lot of cooking from the original Modernist Cuisine set and it has resulted in some of the very best food I've ever produced, and in some cases the best I've ever eaten: so of course another volume was a no-brainer for me. It's still not cheap, but I'm pretty stoked about it. Eater has an interview with Myhrvold here with some more details. Who's in? Edited 6/27 to add: book homepage and table of contents.
  16. It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun? In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question. The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night. On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio. Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete… Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice) Machine-sliced thin bread Dairyless grapefruit “pudding” Dried Crème Brulee Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla PB&J Peeled grapes on the stem Peanut butter coating Wrap in brioche Broil Micro-grated, roasted peanuts Instant Tropical Pudding Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana Young coconut water spiked with rum Muscovado Sugar Cilantro Candied Chili Jamaican Peppercorn Vanilla Bean The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex." Chef Grant processing the broccoli The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours Broccoli stems after cooking The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter. Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking Ready for plating A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over. Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe... A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.” The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful. Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short. Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day. “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype. Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece PB&J Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying. Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples Coconut powder and other samples Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed. The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy. According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them. =R= A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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