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MobyP

The Fat Duck 2004

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I'm not surprised - the restuarant is tiny - 12 (or 16 - i forget) tables

we were there from just after 1 'till well after 5 so he's hardly packing them in

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Directors' salaries were £129,000 compared with £143,000 the year before, when the restaurant made an £18,000 loss

Maybe it is different in the States, but generally a "director" would be an investor and not be on salary. Any money returned to them would be after all expenses were paid (return on investment). What would a "directors" job be in the everyday workings of a 15 table restaurant (other than scarfing up free food, which is a bad thing if it is allowed)?


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Directors' salaries were £129,000 compared with £143,000 the year before, when the restaurant made an £18,000 loss

Maybe it is different in the States, but generally a "director" would be an investor and not be on salary. Any money returned to them would be after all expenses were paid (return on investment). What would a "directors" job be in the everyday workings of a 15 table restaurant (other than scarfing up free food, which is a bad thing if it is allowed)?

I don't know about the catering world, but in most small businesses the directors include the people running the business as well as (sometimes) investors.

If Heston isn't a director I would be most surprised. His job probably involves something to do with the cooking and the running of the place. :wink:

Without checking the companies house records, I would guess his wife is probably another director, and quite possible the only other director.

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May I ask the final score?

i'm still in denial...

250, gulp. 85 x 2 for food and it helped a lot by having the champagne as gift.

not cheap but certainly stunning (there's more than a little congitive assonance going on here). in fact, on refelction, this was one of the best tasting menu's I've had anywhere - much much better than Le Manior, The Square, The Capital & Foliage and a few other. only Gagnaire's was far better (not better - more in a league of its own)

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It could be completely my imagination, but did I read in one of the many interviews with Heston, that there are plans for another restaurant, possibly in London?


Edited by Spam (log)

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That's not something I remember reading :hmmm: For some reason, I can't imagine TFD working in London. Maybe The Riverside Brasserie in London - That would work. Talking to Heston I got the impression he wouldn't want to open in London, although the acquisition of 3 stars may have changed his view on that.

Incidentally, I would love to see TFD move to London, the journey to Bray and the lack of reasonably priced accomodation is a pain in the arse :rolleyes:


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I've e mailed Heston to see if he can provide a definitive answer, I have to admit I don't remember seeing a reference to a move to London in any o f the recent publicity, but I could easily have missed it. I know on the past that he has said that he wants to stay well out of the London scene, but as you say the 3rd star may have prompted a re-think.

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An e mail from Heston today:

"Hello Andy

Just for the record, there are no plans to go to London. I don't know where that came from?

Heston Blumenthal"

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Truly an exceptional lunch at the Fat Duck yesterday (Sunday), thanks to that Olympic gold medal-winning reservationist Tarka.

Two things surprised me. Although we had the tasting degustation, this is a menu you would want to explore like a beautiful building; corridors leading off in all directions. Unfortunately you have to commit to a direction; and if you decide on one path, then by necessity it's too big to return and take the others as well. As it was the temptation was too great, and we ordered a couple of courses in addition to the 18 provided; two portions of the lasagne of langoustine and pig's trotter in the middle, and a tarte tatin for the table to share at the very end.

The second thing was how approachable the meal was. Everyone around our table had a dish they were anticipating would be an ordeal - for me, the Oyster and passion fruit jelly; for Jack the Snail Porridge, for Tarka, the foie gras. For all of us, perhaps, the sardine on toast sorbet. But as Heston has said, at the end of the day it has to taste good - and most of this food tasted but seriously good. The presentations - as is the style these days - were beautiful and (I think) French Laundry inspired. Plenty of futurist and cubist sculptures supported or mounted with perfect quenelles. The style of the meal was a multitude of half and one-bite dishes

The courses were understandably small. Everyone, I think, had a point in the meal where they stopped, and said: I could have that 17 more times. And everyone's choice was different.

I'm going to skip through this meal, as most of it has been described before, and stop on the highlights. Fortunately, there were a stupid number of them.

The Pre-Amuse: Nitro green tea and Lime Mousse with vodka - this is exactly as good as you expect it to be - unless you don't know it's coming, in which case it's much better. A frozen shell on the outside, which turns into a creamy vapor in the mouth. (On a side note, on several occasions a man walked through the restaurant carrying a bucket of liquid nitrogen - minus 192 degrees Centigrade. If he tripped and the bucket went flying, what would happen? The man at table 14 loses his nose?)

Oyster and Passion Fruit Jelly: I can't stand oysters; I can't even stand to hear about oysters; if you once knew an oyster when you were a child, kept it in your pocket, let it sleep on your pillow at night, and told it stories around the camp fire - I'm not interested. Really. The only good oyster is one several thousand miles away, underneath a bulldozer that's gone out of control, fallen off a pier, and killed it's entire oyster family.

Still, this dish was pretty good. The texture of the jelly and Oyster were exactly the same, or close enough. The sweetness repressed the ocean salinity. For the Oyster fans - there was much applause, and closed eyes, and groaning.

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho. This sounds very odd - and was my first aesthetic hurdle (mustard ice cream?) to handle, but was delicious in all respects. A tiny quenelle of ice cream, balanced on a small pool of beautifully purple soup.

Quail Jelly, Pea puree, Cream of Langoustine, with a quenelle of foie gras parfait on top. I loved this; the different textures and levels of flavour revealing themselves on the tongue. BLH thought it was musty - but I found the tastes to be very clean.

Snail Porridge, Jabugo ham: this was a surprise - a beautiful savoury texture, resembling a perfect risotto (as someone noted) - but deeply garlicky, and notes of parsley. Every now and then a tender morsel of snail - not big rubbery lumps. And the jabugo ham adding a texture and saltiness.

Roast Foie Gras with almond puree, cherry, chamomile - this was a let down for me, though not for others. It wasn't bad, but I didn't think it was exceptional. The texture of the foie was the same all the way through, and it was luke warm. The puree was a little sweet.

Sardine on Toast Sorbet, Ballotine of Mackeral - We thought this was going to be a test, but the ice cream was v. nice. You could just get a hint of the buttery toast flavour - which was very odd, but fun. The mackeral was a little strong for my tastes.

Salmon poached in Liquorice, vanilla mayonnaise, and 'Manni' olive oil - a definite highlight. The texture of the flesh was beautiful, the vanilla mayonnaise really vivid, the liquorice (almost a gelatin layer) restrained. And the olive oil (at 150 dollars for about 100ml) gave it a nice earthiness.

Sweetbread cooked in Salt Crust with Hay crusted with pollen, cockles, and Parsnip Puree.

The best sweetbreads I've ever had. From the description, I expected them to be soft, but they were perfectly crunchy on the outside, and immensely creamy within. The puree had at least 13 kilos of butter in it. A lovely dish.

Lasagne of langoustine with Pig's trotter, black truffle. This was nice, with plenty of langoustine, but I didn't get the earthy taste of "caramelized" trotter I was expecting. The pasta was silky. (This was an extra course).

The deserts were a mix of bizarre and fun. High point for me was definitely the smoked bacon and egg ice cream, french toast, and salted caramel ("put all the flavours in your mouth at the same time" said our waiter). It was like having all your 'treat' foods in your mouth at the same time. It was fantastic. And the tea jelly - marvelous. What they should really do is figure out something to do with sausage and baked beans, and make it a full caff breakfast dessert.

Low point for ex-smokers at the table (myself included) was tobacco chocolate - which left you with that 5 cigarette taste in your mouth, without the buzz of nicotine or satisfaction of a lung-full of smoke.

Also, in addition, we ordered a tarte tatin. This was a bit protestant for my tastes - a bit restrained. However as Suzi is completing a life-long study of tarte tatins, we felt it a matter of conscience.

Overall the meal took, roughly, four and a half hours. But at no point did we feel we were hanging around. And after all of that food, including the two extra courses, none of us were uncomfortably full.

It would be silly to say this was a surprise, but it really was. I was expecting a 'difficult' or 'challenging' meal - and what I found instead was exceptional cooking and innovative taste pairings. Once you've read about or tasted the 'surprises' - the nitro-foam, the beetroot jelly - you're left with food that has real soul to it. I'm looking forward to his reinterpreting of the classics as apparently he is considering. Even as it is, there are many different meals to be had at the Fat Duck, not just the tasting menu. And I'm looking forward to returning.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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On a side note, on several occasions a man walked through the restaurant carrying a bucket of liquid nitrogen - minus 192 degrees Centigrade. If he tripped and the bucket went flying, what would happen? The man at table 14 loses his nose?

It is possible to put your hand into a bucket on liquid nitrogen and splash it around a bit - your hand is so hot by comparison the N2 evaporates. This was one of the tricks of the person who ran the carbon dating section at the british museum.

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I've never been to Fat Duck, but i can't understand the amount of grief Blumenthal seems to be getting in the press! Obviously alot o fpeople love the food, but it seems alot of people are slagging him and the premise of his food off as being rediculous, playing to the inspectors, greedy, inedible etc... etc...

I think food should be reviewed in the same way whether it be at an un-starred restaurant or molecular gastronomy. The fact he is trying such brave and different food does not make him anmything apart from a brave chef, and it seems a lot of the stick he has taken has stemmed from jealousy that he has been awarded the third star so soon.

I say well done to him. The food he is giving us is absolutely cutting edge, and the fact he has made it work in a small village in the English Countryside says alot. Critics may not like the food, but you can't deny his place at the top of the British food chain so to speak!

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I wrote this before reading this thread. It looks like I had exactly the same menu as two previous posters. Oh well; you get to read about it a third time.

Bruce

*******

You know it's going to be an interesting meal when someone wheels a Dewar flask filled with liquid nitrogen to your table.

The Fat Duck is a UK restaurant in the small town of Bray, near Windsor. Chef Heston Blumenthal is known for serving some of the most interesting food in Britain.

The restaurant is simple and unassuming. From the outside it looks like just another squat row house. Inside, the furnishing is spare, with a lot of low beams that the waitstaff has to keep warning tall customers about.

I came for lunch on a Saturday, during a seven-hour layover at Heathrow. I landed from Chicago at 10:00 AM, hung around the airport lounge for an hour and a half, and then took a taxi to the restaurant. I figured on a two-and-a-half hour meal, and I would be back at Heathrow by 3:00. Plenty of time to catch my 5:00 flight to Islamabad.

My choices were a three-course lunch menu, an interesting selection of a la carte dishes, or the tasting menu--which I ordered. And which began with a Dewar flask of liquid nitrogen cascading vapors all over the place.

A waiter appeared with a pressurized canister, which he said was filled with green tea, lime, and egg white. He was going to make a ball of the stuff and then "cook" it tableside in the liquid nitrogen. I was to eat it in one bite, immediately after he took it out of the Dewar flask.

Okay. The stuff that came out of the canister looked like shaving cream, and it sputtered a bit as he dropped in the nitrogen. When it was done he put it on a plate and handed it to me. I did as I was told. It was a ball of mostly air, crunchy on the outside and a creamy vapor on the inside, with hints of the tastes he described. Kind of like a savory sorbet, kind of not--really like nothing I had ever eaten before. A fascinating palate cleanser.

This is going to be interesting, I thought.

Next came two small squares of gelee: an orange one and a beetroot one. Again, instructions: "Eat the orange first." It was okay, but the beet gelee was delicious. Another savory dessert-like item.

Then I was served an oyster covered in passion fruit jelly--another absolutely delicious morsel. The menu claimed that there was lavender, but I couldn't taste it among the passion fruit and oyster flavors. It was, again, kind of dessert-like but not. The pairing of oyster and passion fruit was delicious. I wanted another.

Instead I got another dessert: mustard ice cream served with red cabbage gazpacho. A stunningly beautiful dish: a small ice cream quenelle in the middle of this vivid purple soup. Again, amazingly delicious. Again, strong and interesting flavors that combined together well. Again, I wanted more.

Next up: a parfait. It had three layers: langoustine cream on top, quail jelly in the middle, and pea puree on the bottom--topped with a small piece of roasted foie gras. This was the most decadent dish so far. I loved the way the flavors and textures blended. I loved everything about this dish.

And I still hadn't gotten my first course on the menu.

Time to catch my breath. I had just eaten five absolutely delicious tiny dishes, each interesting in itself and together interesting as a progression. The flavors moved from simple to complex, from spare to decadent. They were all clearly designed to startle and delight. And clearly, blending flavors in an interesting way is Blumenthal's strong point.

The first course was snail porridge, topped with small slices of ham, fried fennel, and some walnut oil. It looked a lot like green risotto. This was clearly not dessert, but it was again an interesting blend of interesting flavors. Snails are strong and earthy, and the ham and fennel accented it perfectly. There was garlic too, of course. A delicious dish.

The second course was roast foie gras. The foie gras was topped with little bits of chive--I think--and chamomile. The plate had cherry puree, amaretto jelly, some sort of cream, and a couple of almonds. Again, a fascinating and delicious blending of ingredients I wouldn't have put together.

And every dish so far was presented beautifully: everything artistically arranged just so. That kind of thing is commonplace at these sorts of restaurants, but I thought it was done especially well here.

The third course was the same story. Blumenthal has written about trying to capture comforting tastes from youth. This dish was called "Sardine on Toast Sorbet." There was no toast, but there was a sardine sorbet that tasted like tinned fish. He topped it with a few salmon eggs, and served it with a mackerel ballotine. This was a very strongly flavored dish: all three flavors were loud on the palate. But they blended excellently and interestingly.

Next came a piece of poached salmon crusted with licorice. It was served with baby asparagus, some of the strongest mayonnaise I have ever tasted, tiny shreds of grapefruit, very strong olive oil, and shavings of a strong licorice. Again, this wildly unlikely combination of ingredients was delicious. Mayonnaise and grapefruit--definitely. Who knew?

Course five was sweetbreads cooked in a crust of pollen and salt in a fire made from hay. I have had dishes cooked with hay before, and when it works right the result has a hint of hay-like smoke. This technique calls for a mild meat, and sweetbreads was a good choice. It was served with very pretty light-green cabbage, parsnip puree, and a couple of cockles. This was the weakest dish of the night. It was all good, but it didn't come together like the other dishes did.

Then, a break before my desserts: a small disk of white chocolate topped with caviar. Better than I expected, by a lot.

The first dessert was called "Mrs. Marshall's Margaret Cornet." I got a little card explaining who Mrs. Agnes B. Marshall was and how she invented an ice cream maker and was the first to make an ice cream cone, back in the late 1800s (seventeen years before it was "invented" at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, according to the card). This cone had apple sorbet on top, and orange/ginger mixture below. Very good.

Another break: pine essence and sugar, eaten with a small piece of vanilla bean. This was supposed to evoke some comforting taste from British youth, but of course that was lost on me. But it was important that I eat it, I was told, to prepare me for the pine dessert to follow.

That dessert was three things on a plate: some mango and Douglas fir puree, a bavarois of lychee and mango, some blackcurrant sorbet. This was served with blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly. Fir is not a common flavor and while this was interesting, and tasty, it was not awe inspiring.

Next, some more things not on the menu. A carrot and orange lollypop, really just a sliver to crunch and eat. Then some orange and beetroot gellee, this time mixed together and sweet. And a basil bavarois.

And then it got really weird. I was served a gold paper box in a bowl, and some parsnip-infused milk in a small pitcher. Inside was "parsnip cereal," I was told. I hope this wasn't another one of those comforting tastes from British youth. While it was interesting, and good, I was glad that there weren't more than a few spoonfuls. It was very strong.

Finally, the eighth (and last) course on the menu. On the plate was a small scoop of "smoked bacon and egg ice cream" over tomato jam, a small piece of French toast, and a small scoop of caramel covered with morels. This was accompanied by a small dish of tea jelly. The right way to eat this, I was told, was to eat everything on the plate together and to use the jelly as a palate cleanser. I did, and while it was all interesting, I didn't think it worked all that well. The ice cream was just weird, the tomato was...well tomato. (Cooked tomatoes are a standard British breakfast thing, so that's probably where it's coming from.) Caramel and morels is definitely a good idea, though.

I wasn't done yet: next came chocolates. I got four: pine, oak, tobacco, and mint. There was some confusion in the beginning, as the waiter wasn't sure if the second one was oak or leather. But it was definitely oak. I didn't care for the tobacco, and I've never liked mint with chocolate. The pine and oak chocolates were okay.

I declined coffee, so I was done: two and a half hours total for lunch. My taxi was waiting for me, and I spent the entire drive back to Heathrow wondering what leather-flavored chocolate tasted like. And I made my plane with lots of time to spare.

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Did you not get the little bowl of white powder with the stick of vanilla? You are meant to lick the stick and then stick it back into the powder and lick it... and so on until the powder is gone...

Sort of like those monkeys trying to get ants out the anthill...


www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Schneier - superb report. What conclusions did you come to about the experience?


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Schneier - superb report. What conclusions did you come to about the experience?

Conclusions? None, I guess.

I generally don't think of dining experiences as conclusion-reaching.

Bruce

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Did you not get the little bowl of white powder with the stick of vanilla? You are meant to lick the stick and then stick it back into the powder and lick it... and so on until the powder is gone...

Sort of like those monkeys trying to get ants out the anthill...

I did. It's in there.

Bruce

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I enjoyed a sublimea meal there - everything from the fois gras to the goats ilk ice cream was sublime - for some it may be too modern but i thought it was a real gastronomical experiece. Well done Heston.

This link is worth following, for an update.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england...ire/3645315.stm


Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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In this week's Restaurant magazine (no link available), Pierre Gagnaire lables The Fat Duck as the most important 3 star place in the UK, because unlike White or Ramsay, it's the first European restaurant that hasn't tried to be French.

It's true, isn't it.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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In this week's Restaurant magazine (no link available), Pierre Gagnaire lables The Fat Duck as the most important 3 star place in the UK, because unlike White or Ramsay, it's the first European restaurant that hasn't tried to be French.

It's true, isn't it.

Absolutely. It's trying to be Spanish. :wink:

Is he saying it's the first European 3 star that hasn't tried to be French, or the first UK 3 star?

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The first UK 3 star. I think he's doing something very different from EB. Interestingly, he might be heading more towards bourgeois French than he was with the proposed selection of new dishes (i.e. sole veronique et al). I don't know if he's thinking of serving them pureed up in a shot glass with a syringe full of liquid squid spleen - but we can only hope!


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Depends on what accounts you see Andy, theres the accounts the VAT,Bankmanager and Tax man sees and then theres the real accounts :wink:

actually..to make myself clear..i didnt want to see THE accounts ledger....just wondering about about how they price dishes etc...$ going into a dish vs cost of dish...how much percentage does it actually cost..plus of course..the overheads...labour/wages...TAX...rent etc...i have been speaking to a couple of people and it seems that real estate is one of the major roadblock that determines survivability...fat duck in bray probably doesnt have the burden of rent as would a fat duck in..lets say..london...at the same time, fat duck in london probably would attract more customers..i remember someone mentioning(at one of blanc's manoir debates, i think) that most resturants have to do something else other than the business of serving people food in order to stay alive in the business....like running a manoir'esque kinda joint, i suppose..now...is that such a bad thing?

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      Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

      Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
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