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The Sam Mason book


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Sam Mason mentioned in an interview last year that he was thinking of doing a book. I know he pops in on the forums here occasionally so I'm starting this thread to see if I can drum up support for the idea from others. That book is something I'd really like to see happen, I've done almost every recipe of his that I've been able to find and I want more to learn from.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Sooo... over 100 views already and not one "hey, that would be cool". Oh well, I definitely hope it happens. He can just print me out the only copy from his computer and tell me what he needs to charge me for it, I'll sign the contract saying nobody else will ever see it. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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A book from Sam would be cool. A mix of sweet and savory would give a good taste of his breadth. Do it, Sam!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I thought he must be on it as he's taken his site down.

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Y'know, I was going through the WGF thread to look up my notes on Sam Mason, and I realized that I didn't start posting on that event until the year after.

I really like Sam Mason.

I would happily spend money on any book he puts out.

For the sake of history, here're my notes from Bangkok's WGF6 in 2005


L’Epicerie de Docteur Moreau

I have a new hero.

And his name is Sam Mason.

To begin, please understand that I am not a big fan of desserts. Oh, I can be tempted by this and that, and I’ve had a strange obsession with Turtles for the last month (which, thankfully, I cannot buy here), but, in most cases, I find that desserts get in the way of drinking. At least of wine. But more on that later.

Sam cuts a good figure. He was early on the ladies’ favourite for his youth and, more important, his tattoo.

For me, I liked his turn of phrase. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone say “god speed” to his assistant. Alas, I forget his foil’s name. Fran? Fran it shall be. In the light research I’d done earlier, I found he avoided sweets, and looked for the more challenging of contrasts in his flavours, having used my personal favourite, salt and vinegar chips at one point as a topping (it takes me back to Cairo).

Sam introduced his vision, Tim Robbins in style, “slightly creepy, slightly odd”, With a reliance on “hydrochlorides and other strange chemicals”.

We started off with a carrot lime ravioli, with coconut tapioca, and a lime sorbet. He started up with the lime mousse for the ravioli, which seemed like an excuse of sorts to send Fran off to the side whipping the lime syrup and gelatin up. Meanwhile he got the coconut tapioca on the go, successfully scalding his fingers on the unprotected metal handle of the boiling pot. From there he popped back to the exhausted Fran and took care of folding in the cream and dishing the mousse out into a tin to go in the fridge. The result at this time isn’t really a mousse, but more like a foamy gel. Then he went over the carrot wrap, using super-thin slices of carrot (cooked for 30minutes) in strips to box in the mousse. As he says, “you want some fun, make your people do 300 of these in an afternoon”. Work up a dry cumin caramel, top the ravioli, distribute the ingredients on a plate, and there you are, cursing ‘cause you touched that pot again.

“We’ll come back as soon as I get feeling in my fingers.”

The second one was a play on a theme, the deconstruction of a tart, which at first sounds like a particularly violent snuff film, but really works down to getting at the component pieces of a dessert. This one went by the name of eggless lemon custard with basil meringue.

Working on this, the key elements were the micri and the gellan. The gellan is heat stable, and particularly hard to hydrate, so it gets a seeing to with Mr. Buzzy, our hand blender. The gellan also doesn’t like acids (the lemon juice in the recipe) so you have to cool it fast after boiling it up, catching it “off guard” as Sam says. The micri you use to emulsify, but it can separate, so it’ll get hit later on.

Meanwhile, he blended down some basil and then whisked that up with egg white powder and fresh egg whites to get a beautiful green meringue. You could smell the basil from the cooking platform.

On the sauce side, he went back to everyone’s old favourite, xantham gum. It never really makes a firm gel, so this is his favoutite for adding viscosity to sauces. The other big draw is that you can thicken this cold, avoiding any changes that heat could cause in the flavour.

So, what did this end up like? Squeeze bottle action for a blueberry drizzle on the plate, a nice slab of lemon curd topped with crumbled tart dough, a lemon chip (very thin lemon slice covered in sugar and baked at 240 degrees), and a dollop of basil meringue sitting green on the side.

Then came the chocolate cream and Tonka ice cream on a bed of coffee soil. Now, I always understood that Tonka was a maker of fine children’s toys, specializing in heavy construction equipment that you could use to bury your sister’s toys. I find out, however, that Tonka beans are these wonderfully dark, very firm pods that put out this wonderful thick incense. While they remind you of vanilla, they taste more like cherry pods. They’re very popular with hippies for the purpose of incense. They are also completely illegal in the U.S. and Thailand. But Sam sees no reason to let that get in the way of cooking.

The chocolate cream is meant to approach a chocolate chantilly stabilized with gelatin. Egg yolks are used to bind, giving the gelatin a helping hand.

The coffee soil, a mix of chocolate and coffee grounds with some almond flour, butter, and salt, gives texture to the softer forms of the creams.. A nice touch is the apricot paper, blended fruit puree with some egg white. Spread it super thin on a sheet at around 100 degrees for 90 minutes. The draw on this is that it could be done with anything.

With that, Sam wrapped up the demo dishes and opened the floor to questions. I hate a silent room, so I asked him what else he was having fun with right now.

“Methyl cellulose”, was one of the answers. This will allow you to gell when hot, and he’s now working on such items as putting a liquid center into a crem brullee by filling from the bottom, heating up, and then putting in the fridge to allow the liquid to reform under the crème brullee.

More fun are the noodles. WD-50 is using carrageenans (phycocolloids obtained from members of the Hypneaceae, Phyllophoraceae, Solieriaceae, and Gigartinaceae of Rhodophyta) and agars to do wild stuff, emulsifying anything they can get their hands on to stretch it out as a basis for (pseudo) pasta. The big successes have been mango noodles, and prawn noodles, made out of 90% blended down prawn meat and 10% emulsifier.

The other one, that really got my attention, was current work on gluing meats. They’ve got some chemicals that are the basic building block that fixes the muscles in the body. Using these, you can seamlessly graft different muscles together, which leads to a whole new realm of chickens grafted onto salmon, lobsters connected bodily to tenderloins, dogs and cats living together…….

“Cool!”, says I. “It’s really getting Frankensteinish!”

“Better living through chemicals”, says Sam.

As a fluid comment, when the Grand Marnier came out alongside of the desserts, I opted to have it on ice, with a twist of orange. I’d wanted to try this given my experiences with Hennessy the year before. I can comment that the result is excellent. Like with a cognac, the cooling drops the more brutal volatiles out of the nose, and the background flavours of orange and spices can be isolated. Quite a civilized finish to the session.

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  • 1 year later...

I wanted it when he hinted at the possibility. I still want it. I'll definitely buy it if he gets around to doing it eventually. I'm not holding my breath though. I haven't heard/read any of the usual rumours and pre-buzz whispers that usually float around when something like that is in the works. I'm not betting on it happening any time soon... if at all.

There are four books I've really wanted to see happen. Sam Mason, Michael Laiskonis, Johnny Iuzzini and Alex Stupak. One down, three to go. I got a good dose of Alex Stupak stuff from the Alinea book but I'd still like to see him do a complete book himself.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Hey T2C, Will Goldfarb is supposedly working on a book, how about that? :)

I'll try to see if there's any word on this-- though at this stage the best, if not only, source is Sam himself.


The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

No Special Effects - my reader-friendly blog about food and life.

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Hey T2C, Will Goldfarb is supposedly working on a book, how about that? :)

That would be a cool book as well. I'd buy it.

I'll try to see if there's any word on this-- though at this stage the best, if not only, source is Sam himself.

I thought about asking on the Tailor Kitchen blog if he's still comtemplating a book but there doesn't seem to be much activity so it may not be read or answered any time soon.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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