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Fat Guy

I love foam

125 posts in this topic

Why is it that when foam is mentioned in a culinary context it's so often pejorative? I love the stuff. From its modernist applications (though it's pretty old-school at this point) to its traditional ones (e.g., cappuccino), I enjoy foams in all their forms. Why is there so much hating on foam?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't have much experience it with myself, to be honest. Is it "over done"? Done by many people who don't know what they are doing and do it poorly? Maybe that Marcel guy from "Top Chef" ruined it for everyone? I dunno.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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It's insubstantiality makes it an easy target. A transparent pile of fine bubbles evoking whatever seems precious. Of course, if it were, say, zabaglione, you probably wouldn't hear many complaints.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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It's insubstantiality makes it an easy target. A transparent pile of fine bubbles evoking whatever seems precious. Of course, if it were, say, zabaglione, you probably wouldn't hear many complaints.

Or prune whip or lemon or pineapple fluff (all from the '50s)


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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because they are fairly easy to do with out having to understand what makes it an effective component of a dish. Why do you add a sauce to a dish? moisture, mouth feel.. ect. Why do you add a foam to a dish? Doing things with out knowing why leads to poor modernist cuisine. At least outside of NYC where there are a lot of great chefs.

That's my take on it anyway.

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I generally find foam really gross. I don't like the way it feels in my mouth (I won't use the word "mouthfeel"). I don't like the visual association with spit...ewww.

The worst foams are the grey/whiteish ones that really look like spit. A little color takes that association away. Pink, green, black all improve the look of a foam to me.

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I generally find foam really gross.

What's gross about chocolate mousse? Or sponge candy?

Oh, wait. You mean you find certain types of foams gross!


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Ahem. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

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Ahem. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

Right, but this is exactly the problem when people paint "foam" with a broad brush: there's a real risk of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There's clearly nothing inherently wrong with foam; there are only good and bad uses of it. No one eats an unnecessary or poorly made paloise sauce and then declares, "I hate emulsions."


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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When speaking of foams you are talking about lecithin (or no) based sauces that are usually foamed á la minute. This is completely different from an egg or cream based foam which is like a velvety kiss and complements everything. Hollandaise from a sifon is lighter, fluffier, generally better in my opinion. And the key point here is that it is incredibly economical! From 1 dl of sauce you can get about 10 times more plates of food than if you were using it normally.

And the main idea of foam is to add dimension to a dish, something that has been lacking for a long time. If you think about a fish dish for example, fish is almost always flat, the veg won't really make a difference, but add a beautiful creamy cremolata passed through a sifon and you have these parts of the plate that rise off the plate.


The perfect vichyssoise is served hot and made with equal parts of butter to potato.

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I believe that the lecithin based foams are called "airs", a term that is even easier for people to misunderstand and ridicule. A 30 Rock episode with boxes full of flavored airs comes immediately to mind.

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And the main idea of foam is to add dimension to a dish, something that has been lacking for a long time. If you think about a fish dish for example, fish is almost always flat, the veg won't really make a difference, but add a beautiful creamy cremolata passed through a sifon and you have these parts of the plate that rise off the plate.

Maybe it's just me, but I never really thought that the inability of my food to rise off the plate was a problem that needed a solution. Generally, the only time I want my food rising off the plate is at the end of my fork.

Of course anything that gets a certain amount of hype is going to get a backlash. This is a surprise? The foodie world made a big deal over Ferran Adria and his foams. Which most people are never going to eat. Then, you say, foam, in itself, is not really a new thing: we've had it in various forms and uses for a long time. But if it not a new thing, then why the fuss. Either these modernists have invented something new and wonderful, or they have not, and the fuss is baloney.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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Maybe it's just me, but I never really thought that the inability of my food to rise off the plate was a problem that needed a solution. Generally, the only time I want my food rising off the plate is at the end of my fork.

I put a lot of energy into making sure your food looks cool/interesting.

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I agree that there is nothing wrong with foams. The problem was one of over-exposure. For a while they were everywhere and people got tired of them. In addition, they were used by people who have no clue as to what Ferran Adria and elBulli are about to paint a very broad brush of ridicule in much the same way that nouvelle cuisine was ridiculed for not having overly substantial plates.


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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Either these modernists have invented something new and wonderful, or they have not, and the fuss is baloney.

That's a little too black and white for me. Obviously, foam in the culinary world is not a new thing but that doesn't mean that some of the things done in fairly recent years within the boundaries of the word "foam" weren't new and wonderful. The first time someone decided to see what would happen if you whisked cold cream long enough or wondered what would happen if they dropped and egg white in the cocktail shaker, it was probably considered new and wonderful even though some form of foam certainly would have existed before those things took place.

There is always going to be a backlash to whatever is considered cool by those who want to feel like they're at the leading edge:

"Foam is cool."

"Hmmm, Joe at the local diner knows what foam is."

"Okay, now foam is not cool. Something else is now cool that means I'm still above and looking down."

Of course some people will not like some types of foams... but that's not the same as not approving of them in general.


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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I put a lot of energy into making sure your food looks cool/interesting.

Well, not my food, because I do not care very much about that. I do not really want my food to look cool. I want it to look like food. Mainly I care about it tasting good. Food that looks cool is trying too hard to make me like it before I eat it.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I put a lot of energy into making sure your food looks cool/interesting.

Well, not my food, because I do not care very much about that. I do not really want my food to look cool. I want it to look like food. Mainly I care about it tasting good. Food that looks cool is trying too hard to make me like it before I eat it.

This is an excellent point. What excites a chef, who looks at plates of food every day and may well be bored by it, is different that what excites a diner who isn't so overexposed. Food ought to look like something I should eat.

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I think it's one of those so-called trends that's run its course.

Like tall food, plate painting (points if you remember when that was hot), flourless chocolate cake with a molten center and the ever-so-popular bacon.

When done well, it's great.

Like this:

2242760621_e6fa8b0da4_o.jpg

2242760923_a867704daa_o.jpg

Slow-poached egg in a mason jar, Maine lobster, crosnes, sea urchin foam

1444864683_8b270ef476_o.jpg

Summer fruits -- grilled apricot, plum, heirloom tomatoes, watercress, tomato foam, tomato sorbet

The pairings worked well. Each of these two examples really captured what the chef was going for ... a spoonful of the sea; summer in a bowl.

edit: and even though the mason jar thing is really gimmicky (slow-cooked egg is another "trend"), it was like a faint echo of chawanmushi. I just felt that all the pieces clicked into place. Worked for me.

On the other hand, I've had some real zingers that didn't quite work.

1394433808_3e03935d22_o.jpg

Asian pear, beer foam, mizuna, mustard seed -- a textbook example of someone trying too hard (even if it was just an amuse-bouche). Flavors didn't quite work ... though it's no fault of the chef that I don't like beer.

296112624_bafff2ca64_o.jpg

Yogurt foam, yogurt sorbet, granola

Dessert at BHWS can be good (as long as they're not trying their subtle schtick). I'm sorry, but granola isn't what I immediately associate when someone says "Blue Hill". Ditto for "winter". Completely unmemorable.


Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)

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It's insubstantiality makes it an easy target. A transparent pile of fine bubbles evoking whatever seems precious. Of course, if it were, say, zabaglione, you probably wouldn't hear many complaints.

Or prune whip or lemon or pineapple fluff (all from the '50s)

Hold on. Are you saying that people today wouldn't complain about- or at least make fun of- prune whip? Prune whip? Really?

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It's insubstantiality makes it an easy target. A transparent pile of fine bubbles evoking whatever seems precious. Of course, if it were, say, zabaglione, you probably wouldn't hear many complaints.

Or prune whip or lemon or pineapple fluff (all from the '50s)

Hold on. Are you saying that people today wouldn't complain about- or at least make fun of- prune whip? Prune whip? Really?

I know quite a few people, mostly men, mostly all transplanted southerners (with one Newfoundlander), who are very serious about prune whip. Their mama's and grandmama's made it and they really, really like it.

Laugh, at your peril.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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It's insubstantiality makes it an easy target. A transparent pile of fine bubbles evoking whatever seems precious. Of course, if it were, say, zabaglione, you probably wouldn't hear many complaints.

Or prune whip or lemon or pineapple fluff (all from the '50s)

Hold on. Are you saying that people today wouldn't complain about- or at least make fun of- prune whip? Prune whip? Really?

I know quite a few people, mostly men, mostly all transplanted southerners (with one Newfoundlander), who are very serious about prune whip. Their mama's and grandmama's made it and they really, really like it.

Laugh, at your peril.

I'll be careful... and pass the pineapple fluff! :biggrin:

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I put a lot of energy into making sure your food looks cool/interesting.

Well, not my food, because I do not care very much about that. I do not really want my food to look cool. I want it to look like food. Mainly I care about it tasting good. Food that looks cool is trying too hard to make me like it before I eat it.

This is an excellent point. What excites a chef, who looks at plates of food every day and may well be bored by it, is different that what excites a diner who isn't so overexposed. Food ought to look like something I should eat.

This is a terrible point.

Food at a restaurant should be an expression of the chef that designed it.

If I want your asparagus served to you standing straight up, you'll get it standing straight up.

If you don't care for artful presentation, that fine, but many more people do. You eat with your eyes first.

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I think that this goes to gfweb's point, in a roundabout way: if you eat with your eyes first, and your eyes see a big, foamy gob of spit....


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I could project chili looking like diarrhea onto my bowl - I don't.

Some people are just prejudice against the idea of foams right now.

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