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The Fat Duck 2007

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The one and only time I ate at FD we ordered ALC, and I still regret it. With the exception of the bacon and egg ice cream, most of the dishes I had were nothing to write home about. They weren't in any way bad, just fairly standard fare. There is no doubt in my mind that if and when I get the chance to return I'll go for the taster menu. I don't think there's any shame in wanting to sample dishes that I've heard and read about, and it's not merely to tick it off some imaginary list.

Of course if the hoi polloi continue to order the taster menu, then obviously the real connoisseur has to do something else. In fact, only the basest savage orders off the printed menu at all. The exalted few know the secret handshake and the password that unlocks the door to the REAL kitchen...

Si

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The Fat Duck

The Fat Duck, surely one of the galaxy’s most famous dining destinations, tucked away in the London exurb of Bray, is in fact two of the world’s most creative restaurants. The problem is that they do not always fit together harmoniously. One is to be applauded for its culinary brilliance; the other for its cleverness. One is Per Se, the other April Fools. One produces astonishing food; the other forces astonished diners to question what food really is. Is food anything that a chef dares to place on the plate? One is modern cuisine, the other hyper-modern games and molecular buzz.

The Fat Duck appears a rural inn from its pubby name to its exposed beams and white walls. The only signal that this is other than small-town Britain is a few abstractions on the walls in yellow and chartreuse. As is so common, service in the temple of modern cuisine is attentive and gracious; service at the house of games is demanding and controlling. At the first the diner is king; at the later, he is a pawn. And throughout the meal The Fat Duck sells itself from the small placard on the table that encourages the purchase of Chef Heston Blumenthal’s cookbooks to the several odd objects emblazoned with the name and visual markings of the establishment. Blumenthal has not moved as far as some in turning himself into a brand, not yet opening branches in Dubai and Las Vegas, but perhaps the time is not so far off. The current chef, overseeing the cuisine at The Fat Duck is Ashley Palmer-Watts, who deserves much credit for the day.

One’s tasting menu begins with play. A server appears with a smoking kettle of nitrogenated ice in which she places a white sphere: a immediate freeze by one of MacBeth’s witches. This is the opening palate cleanser of Nitro-Green Tea and Lime Mousse. I am informed that it is to be eaten whole; and when I chose to consider the dish in two bites, I am chided for my effrontery. So much for clichés about the client’s authority. The ball itself is tartly citrus with a smidge of vodka. As advertised, it is a clarifying moment.

The second amuse brings a plate with two small squares of jelly: one orange and one beet red. The server orders me to eat the orange first. I follow instructions despite a growing desire to rebel by combining half of each. What’s up? The orange gel tastes of beet; the red square tastes of orange, just like those experiments in home economics in which green food coloring is added to cherry ice and red to mint. As it always has been, this is a cute idea for a class in food science to demonstrate the power of expectations, but the idea triumphs over the senses.

This experiment was followed by a lovely, little thing: a fresh oyster with passion fruit jelly and a sprig of lavender. Although the lavender didn’t add much to this particular dish, the combination of fruit and bay was delightful. This is the first of the dishes that demonstrates that the kitchen can cook – although if one is discussing raw oysters, “cook” is not precisely apt.

The next small treat was “soup,” although soup that one needed a magnifying glass to spot, Red Cabbage Gazpacho, served with a micro-scoop of Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream. The soup was luscious, luminous, and light, all that one expects of a chilled soup. I only wish I had a bowl and not a tumbler. The flavor of cabbage was distinctive, but not overwhelming, and the royal purple contrasted smoothly with the tan custard.

The following intersecting courses were described as an “Homage to Alain Chapel.” How the late chef might feel about such an honor will never be known. I was informed that I must first lay a small film infused with oak flavor on my tongue, waking me for the touches to come, adding a whispered note of terror, if not terroir. However, this Sleeping Beauty trick was neither deadly nor delightful. Set on my table was a bonny package of oak moss that was flirtatious enough, but even when a liquid infusion caused it to smoke vigorously, it was more a proposition than than a passion. Here was molecular cuisine at its most jejune. A jest of the dark woods at table. This complaint does not neglect the insistent flavors of the dishes served as sides. The oak moss and truffle toast was carefully plotted and an evocative of the fungal bed. Compact, tightly bound, and explosive with aroma. Better still was one of the finest preparations of the day, an inspiring parfait with layers of quail jelly, langoustine cream, and foie gras mousse. Each satin sheet was urgently composed and together was an amorous moment. This parfait was as much a climax as an appetizer could be.

And now the meal became serious and profound – for awhile. The first of the larger course was Chef Blumenthal’s signature Snail Porridge, served with Joselito ham and shaved fennel, described by the organizationally immodest server as “our famous snail porridge.” The snails might speak for themselves, but whether famous, infamous, or anonymous, this was a breakfast of champions – fusing two of the meal’s motifs: breakfast in the woods. The green porridge, the translucent fennel, the rosy ham, and the dark snails made beautiful harmony. Flavors that seemed far distant became as one. This porridge wakens the limp and restless.

Following the porridge was is tribute to Foie Gras, what each fat duck will be without: Roast Foie Gras with Almond Fluid Gel, Cherry Sauce and Chamomile Jelly. Here was foie gras marzipan with bursting cherry notes. The fruit was cherry cubed, so intense was its flavor. Not only was the dish symphonic in taste, it was fluid and expressionist in presentation. A magnificent treat.

And then “The Sound of the Sea.” Here was molecular cuisine as wack. The server brought out a large conch shell with earphones which I was ordered to wear. Inside the shell – why? – was a small iPod – why? Putting on the earphones, one heard the sound of waves – why? And I sat for perhaps five minutes experiencing a cross between vexation and bondage, feeling little of the wispy shore breeze in this snug little cottage by inland Bray. Let me be blunt: it was dumb. The chef’s desire for discipline outweighed any hint of pampering.

As I began to lose hope, fearing that I would be dunce for the afternoon, perhaps feeling a touch nauseated, the food arrived. If the dish was not among the finest creations of the tasting menu, it was far more evocative than the attempt at Radio Free Bulli. The chef sculpted a shore scene with tapioca sand, sea foam, fried baby eels, razor clams, cockles, and a quartet of Japanese seaweed species. It was a curiosity, too clever by half for greatness, but a thoughtful attempt to build on an unusual mix of textures.

Finally arrived the crux of the meal: an indelible dishes, a creation of gustatory renown: Salmon Poached with Liquorice, Asparagus, Pink Grapefruit, Vanilla Mayonnaise, and Olive Oil. The salmon, moist and succulent, was enveloped by a dark, mysterious, potent, slightly bitter film. Served on a plate by its lonesome it would have been splendid, but the companion tastes, each paired in a bite were gravely symphonic. Modern cuisine does not get better than this, and inspires me to forgive – sort of – the fooling before and after. I was tempted to ask for Hester’s technique, but then realized that my evening fumblings might tarnish my memories of what Chef Blumenthal unfolded.

The meat course was perhaps the most “traditional” of the afternoon: best end of lamb with onion and thyme fluid gel with a potato fondant. The best end of lamb included tongue, neck, and sweetbreads, leaving this lamb silenced – along with part of the lamb’s rack. This was a fine, sturdy dish – and a rich and thoughtful one, unafraid of the dense flavor of the thyme gel. If it was an anti-climax – and in some measure it was – this evaluation was a function of what came before.

The liquid palate cleanser was labeled “Hot and Iced Tea.” Two distinctly textured liquids – one rather warm and gummy, the other cool and fresh within the same cup. The trick was that the cup appeared to contain a single liquid, while actually constituting a science experiment. Like teaching a dog to waltz, it was more impressive in theory than in practice.

This was followed by a small dish, “Mrs. Marshall’s Margaret Cornet,” named after a frozen dessert pioneer: apple ice cream with orange and ginger granita. This small cone with its smooth flavors and elaborated decoration was a nostalgic reference to the days when visiting the ice cream parlor was an occasion, not merely an errand.

I could have skipped the “Pine Sherbet Fountain” – sugar powder with a pine aroma. First, oak, now pine, soon poison ivy. I scooped the power with a vanilla bean that added some taste, but didn’t persuade me that this was other than a tease of the late afternoon heat.

The main dessert – Mango and Douglas Fir Puree with a Bavarois (Bavarian cream) of lychee and mango with an intense blackcurrant sorbet – was precisely presented, a stunning picture. As a serious presentation, the dessert was welcome, although I felt that the flavors did not merge as well as some earlier courses. It was a plate in which the sum of the parts was more impressive than the combined taste.

After this effort of the pastry kitchen, we returned to ideas, forgetting gustatory triumphs. First, I was served a Carrot and Orange Tuile – a high-end lollypop - with a beetroot jelly square, a reference to the earlier surprise but with the color matching the taste.

As the meal ended – perhaps most appropriate for those evening repasts that concluded in the wee hours – I received a box of parsnip cereal – Fat Duck brand - served with parsnip milk. Perhaps one can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, but apparently Chef Blumenthal can tease breast milk from a parsnip. Cereality indeed.

I concluded with the second course of a molecular morning repast, another Blumenthal signature: Nitro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream with Pain Perdu and Tea Jelly. Like the opening nitro-Green Team and Lime Mousse, this was a tableside presentation. The kitchen wizards infused an egg in its shelf with bits of bacon, When cracked into a pan, mixed with liquid nigrogen – kazaam! – ice cream resulted. Cuteness trebled, cooled and warmed through magic. Better living through chemistry, although I prefer better living though stovework. It was an impressive end, although not the most impressive in flavor. The conjurer’s trick seemed designed to wheedle a standing ovation. The breakfast was somewhat in-between brilliant and curious, in-between funny delightful and funny odd.

With the weak American dollar a tasting menu at The Fat Duck is an investment in reverie, and has some rough patches. Yet, it is not an experience that I would have missed. Perhaps The Fat Duck is two restaurants in one – one molecular, one inspired – but both reveal how magical a meal can be. This is a cuisine agape. I left with my heart aflutter and my mouth agape.

The Fat Duck

High Street

Bray Brkshire

+44 01628 580333

http://www.fatduck.co.uk

Photos available at:

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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Just got back from London (dinner at St John, 7.5/10, hardly world class but pretty good, and probably the manliest restaurant in England) and saw some chappy on the train carrying one of those fashion boutique style bags, with the Fat Duck logo on. Anyone have any idea what's going on there?

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Just got back from London (dinner at St John, 7.5/10, hardly world class but pretty good, and probably the manliest restaurant in England) and saw some chappy on the train carrying one of those fashion boutique style bags, with the Fat Duck logo on. Anyone have any idea what's going on there?

Doggy bag?

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Just thought I'd mention the Heston Blumenthal ice cream stall that's been in Manchester throughout the festival that has been running here. Finally made it down there yesterday. 3 "chilled summer treats" on offer.

The first was a pea sorbet with mint gel, mint granita, peanut brittle and dried bacon. Served in a cornet, it was amazingly sweet and retained all the essence of fresh garden peas. Really very impressed.

Next was a chocolate-wine slushicle with Millionaire's shortbread. Served as a giant ice-pop, it was a frozen red wine and chocolate ice. The flavours came through beautifully. Iw was served with an unbelievably rich slice of Millionaire's shortbread. The caramel was salted and extremely gooey. The shortbread, made with olive oil, melted in the mouth. This was topped off with sea salt and gold leaf.

The final one was a vanilla and strawberry sundae with olive and leather. The ice-cream was beautiful; a really rich vanilla ice-cream that was as good as any I've ever come across. The sundae was layered with strawberries, strawberry sauce and a Kalamata olive and extract of leather sauce. In all honesty, I couldn't make out the leather, which may have been a result of the heavy drinking session the night before. The black olive flavour, however was a revelation. It balanced the sweetness of the other ingredients and made for a remarkable ice cream.

The stall was remarkably busy, considering it was pissing it down, as it has been for the whole duration of the Manchester Festival. People seemed genuinely interested and it seems to have been a success. Considering each one was £5, it shows an interest in Heston's cuisine is alive and well in Manchester.

Adam

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Heston Blumenthal’s Chilled Summer Treats

gallery_54840_5008_255455.jpg

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It’s already been a month now since Blumenthal served his summer treats as part of the Manchester International Festival but I still wanted to post some photos of the dishes.

Mushy Pea Sorbet with Candied Bacon and Mint Syrup

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The pea sorbet was very mild and it’s smooth texture was a nice contrast to the sweet strips of bacon.

Strawberry & Vanilla Sundae with Olive and Leather

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The leather aroma that came in the form of an articficial (and therefore vegetarian) oil was barely noticeable compared to the taste of olives. I guess it was mostly there for the fun and for the attention it would get. I would have found this out of place at Fat Duck but I think it fitted under these circumstances. There was also a surprise element to this dish: some poppy candies that exploded in your mouth.

Chocolate Wine Slushicles with Millionaire’s Shortbread

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The chocolate wine slushicle was extremely rich. And what made the shortbread a „millionaire’s“ one were the gold flakes placed on top of it. The snack was served with a napkin on which a culinary history of the chocolate wine slushicle was printed.

The thing that most struck me the day I visited Blumenthal’s beach hut is how many parents took their children there. It was great to see the children’s reactions to the mushy pea sorbet and the sundae. Some were reuctant and didn’t want to try pea sorbet. Others got a kick out of the fact that they were eating leather and seemed very excited. Assuming that not many kids are usually dining at Blumenthal’s restaurant I found this a great way of introducing unusual flavour combinations to children and have them think about what they are eating.

I also found that Blumenthal’s event at the Manchester International Festival would have been a good alternative to Ferran Adrian’s decision to participate at Kassel’s Documenta by simply hanging a menue at a wall and flying two diners to El Bulli every day. To have a snack stand in addition wouldn’t have compromised the cooking at his restaurant while giving more people an idea about his take on cooking.

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Great pics Neu. Is this the first time that Blumenthal has staged something like this, or does he participate every year?

first time this year but it will probably happen next year aswell thanks to all the feedback even though it was pouring down almost all the time this year.

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The Manchester International Festival is a biannual event that tries to only feature newly

commisioned work. Under these circumstances I think they wouldn't invite the same restaurant/chef again.

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Assuming that not many kids are usually dining at Blumenthal’s restaurant I found this a great way of introducing unusual flavour combinations to children and have them think about what they are eating.

I'm not saying you are wrong in that assumption, but the first time we went to the Fat Duck was in a party which included two children.

The staff were great with the children: the baby got a tour of the kitchens and the restaurant. When she obviously enjoyed the beetroot jelly her mother asked if it was possible to have another one and they brought out an entire plateful. The older child also got asked in detail what sort of things he liked and also got a tour of the kitchens (and his mother was turning green at that).

That was in the good old days when they did a cheaper lunch menu. I doubt many children have gone for the full tasting menu, apart of course from Jay Rayner's visit for the Observer.

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That was in the good old days when they did a cheaper lunch menu. I doubt many children have gone for the full tasting menu, apart of course from Jay Rayner's visit for the Observer.

:laugh: yes and jonathan ross was in with his three kids the otherday they were hepling cooking the bacon ice cream. kids have very open minds its important to educate them about food and a good restaurant experience can change them forever.

Mag

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That was in the good old days when they did a cheaper lunch menu. I doubt many children have gone for the full tasting menu, apart of course from Jay Rayner's visit for the Observer.

:laugh: yes and jonathan ross was in with his three kids the otherday they were hepling cooking the bacon ice cream. kids have very open minds its important to educate them about food and a good restaurant experience can change them forever.

Mag

When I was there I recall children being present.

I totally agree Magnus about kids having very open minds about food, it is the adults who have strange beliefs such as, 'children won't like that' or ' ...this type of food is only for grown ups' etc, which often leads to closed minds. Hence the proliferation of cloned kids menu's across the country.

My daughter has had tasting menus at Juniper (13+ courses), Sat Bains, and Anthony's, which like the menu at the Fat Duck are fun and kids like fun.............

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I’m putting together a Fat Duck (homage) menu for a dinner party Sunday and having made the elements of Quail Jelly, Cream of Langoustine, Parfait of Foie Gras, I just realised that I have assumed that this is a cold dish. Is this right?

Not having had the benefit of going to the Fat Duck, I wondered if one of the ‘regulars’ could help me out?

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From what I can remember, this is a cold dish. None of the elements, of course, are served very cold or chilled.

Are you adding Oak Moss and Truffle Toast as well? What a fantastic show effect this would be in a private setting!

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Hey Baggy

Yes, the Quail Jelly dish is served cold. The jelly is kept cold in a fridge already set in the serving cups. If I am not mistaken there are also 3 radish cubes and pea mousse at the bottom below the quail jelly. Then when they are ordered they are taken out of the fridge, the langoustine cream is added to cover the jelly, and a quenelle of the froie gras parfait is taken out from the parfait mold from the fridge also. There is some sea salt and freshly ground pepper and chives added to the parfait and then a little square of fig tuile inserted on the quenelle and that is transferred to the middle of the jelly.

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ameiden, Gabe Quiros – thanks for the confirmation. I had spotted the pea purée; but no time to stock up on radishes. And thanks for solving the mystery of the wafer – the fig tuile will appear next time.

I would love to have had the theatre of swirling mists associated with the Oak Moss dish, but as is my experience with trying recipes from the avant-garde chefs, it is difficult to track down the ingredients/equipment. It seems to take an inordinate amount of time researching the often sketchy detail when a dish first appears and it only becomes practical to try the dishes once the techniques and ingredients become more widely available – usually 2-3 years after the dish is first created.

I followed the recipe for quail jelly given in Caterer, using the deep fry and blend technique given in the Guardian, and whilst the final dish was a wonderful combination of complementary flavours, I was disappointed at the way the star anise flavour comes through. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive to this very distinctive flavour, but next time I’ll try using tomato to add the umami effect.

Not having first hand experience of the real thing, I plated the dish as quail jelly with a teaspoon of pea purée, followed by foie gras and partially covered with langoustine mousse (served from a cream whipper). However, I can see why the mousse needs a touch of xanthan gum, as it broke down quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to research this beforehand.

On the other hand, the snail porridge was a resounding success and I will definitely be trying a number of versions before settling on one for my standard repertoire.

Other dishes, in particular the Beetroot and Orange jelly, and Parsnip Cereal are wonderful surprises but like many jokes, can’t be repeated too often and don’t sem to have the flavour profile to make them a ‘standard’. I do wonder if the orange jelly idea could be developed further in the same way as a sorbet is used as an intermezzo.

Thanks again for the help. Next time I’ll ask earlier so I can incorporate everything.

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No problem Baggy. I spent some time there last year and although I don't have exact recipes I remember various elements of the dishes, so ask anytime.

I'm sure you've seen it before but this is what the final plated quail jelly dish looks like:

quail_jelly.jpg

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On the other hand, the snail porridge was a resounding success and I will definitely be trying a number of versions before settling on one for my standard repertoire.

Snail porridge is definitely very moreish. You may have already found it, but there is a recipe for snail porridge on the BBC food website.

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I had a great time eating all those desserts at the Manchester festival.

I also really enjoy talking to the Pastry Chef at the Fat Duck, the Scottish guy who told me how to make edible films with Methlycelluose an answered all my questions.

However, forgot to ask about the Candied bacon!

Any ideas? I think it must have been brined in a stock syrup then placed in a dehydrator?


“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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I had missed the BBC Food recipe for Snail Porridge – I used the one published in the Guardian. The two recipes are very similar (HB also publishes the link on the FD site).

adey73 – are you willing to share your new found methylcellulose knowledge?

On another subject, I’m intrigued to hear why Sole Véronique appears on the ALC menu. It seems to be a dish that makes its appearance on the menus of many of the leading chefs at one time or another. I can appreciate the delicate flavours, but think that sole might be a bit overrated in terms of flavour. What does HB do to make it a top class dish?

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It's the same as printed here on page 16 http://khymos.org/hydrocolloid-recipe-collection-v1.pdf

His main point (the pastry chef) was that Methlycelluose has a particularly aggressive chemical feeling tase about it so use only 1% by weight.

I asked him what was the best ingredient to whip beer into a stable foam/sherbert because I've read that Sam Mason used Methylcelluose with high and low gellan. He recommend using Lecithin. We also talked about making a chocolate consomme. He was very forth coming about techniques used and methodology, but then some old guy turned up and wanted to tell the Fat Duck staff about his WW2 experiences. The interrogation ended.

(What made me laugh most was that the two women in the stall were on Stages one from the U.S. the other from Oz and both looked miserable, presumably because they weren't learning anything at the Fat Duck but rather dishing out premade desserts under the leaden skies of Manchester!!! Muwhahahhahaha)


“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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I had a great time eating all those desserts at the Manchester festival.

I also really enjoy talking to the Pastry Chef at the Fat Duck, the Scottish guy who told me how to make edible films with Methlycelluose an answered all my questions.

However, forgot to ask about the Candied bacon!

Any ideas? I think it must have been brined in a stock syrup then placed in a dehydrator?

First appeared at FD around 1998 as one of the first petits fours, a derivative of Albert Adria's candied bacon slices and a precursor of the egg and bacon ice=cream I would guess.

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I had a great time eating all those desserts at the Manchester festival.

I also really enjoy talking to the Pastry Chef at the Fat Duck, the Scottish guy who told me how to make edible films with Methlycelluose an answered all my questions.

However, forgot to ask about the Candied bacon!

Any ideas? I think it must have been brined in a stock syrup then placed in a dehydrator?

hi, try making a dry caramel, dry some strong cured bacon very dry so it will crumble in your hand(serrano better than parma otherwise just too salty, set the caramel, then blend to a powder with the dried bacon. melt into shaped strips on a silicone mat in a gentle to moderate oven.

hope this helps


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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ok I'll give a go this weekend. Thanks


“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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An unexpected pleasure, but I’m off to the FD tomorrow – my first time.

Even though I have followed the menus and tried making a number of the dishes, I feel very unprepared; like going into an exam. Creepy!

I shall try to resist the temptation to spend my entire meal writing notes and try to concentrate on the food.

We shall probably have the tasting menu, but really can’t be bothered with the fast changing tastes of the matching wines. I prefer to have consistency as a foil for the flavours of the dish (although I might have a change for the salmon in liquorice). We prefer red, generally French and nothing fruity. Any suggestions as to what we should try?

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      The Daily Gullet is proud to present this, the first in a multi-part, front-row report on the recent "Spain and the World Table" conference. Watch for subsequent installments in this topic.

      In his introduction of Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller -- perhaps the most celebrated American chef ever -- described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.

      The moment that Ferran Adria strode towards Thomas Keller on the stage at the CIA/Greystone’s World of Flavors’ “Spain and the World Table” Conference was electric -- as if a giant Van de Graf generator had been turned on. The feeling didn’t subside when Adria took the stage from Keller; it only became more pronounced as the packed crowd rose to its feet, raining applause, admiration and love on the Spanish master. Adria accepted the response with aplomb, and gave it right back to the audience -- and to his fellow Spanish cocineros, who were standing off to the side. He brought each one up to join him on the stage for a rousing thank-you to the conference organizers, sponsors and participants. Once this emotional release subsided, Adria got down to what everyone had been waiting for -- his discussion and demonstration.

      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.

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      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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