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Decoding Ferran Adria (Merged Topic)


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How the heck did those "raviolis" work?

Adria demonstrated this technique when he was in London. Here's my understanding of it: Sodium alginate (a carbohydrate found in seaweed) is added to the liquid solution. Then spoonsful of liquid are dropped into a solution of calcium chloride. This sets off an ion exchange reaction, and causes the polymers in the alginate to link and thicken, creating the "skin" of the ravioli. Adria uses the same technique to create "caviar" out of apple juice, essence of ceps and other liquids.

Waldman, Amy Sue; Schechinger, Linda; Govindarajoo, Geeta; Nowick, James S.; Pignolet, Louis H. The Alginate Demonstration: Polymers, Food Science, and Ion Exchange J. Chem. Educ. 1998 75 1430. (November 1998)

For a student lab demonstration in which this technique is used to make "snakes" out of Gaviscon, click.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, c'mon!!!!!

GREAT STUFF!

Can't wait to see the whole thing.

Awesome work, Mssr. Bourdain.

Please keep us posted to the release of this, can only hope it's soon.

2317/5000

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Adria totally comes off as a Spanish version of Rotwang, the mad scientist from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. He has that same crazed look in his eyes.

At times, yes. But there's an essential difference, Jason: Ferran is a Mediterranean genius, not a northern one, and - just like Picasso or Miró - his streak of madness is always tempered by a fundamental bonhomie and a basically playful, mischievous attitude about food and life. He's having fun, and Rotwang wasn´t... Thank goodness!

PS An addendum for Tony Bourdain on the intricacies of Catalan spelling: the correct one is neither Adria nor Adriá, but Adrià.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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This show is really going to blow people's minds when it airs. I had the fortune of seeing it for the first time this evening.

In many ways, its the ultimate Cooks Tour episode -- although it could also be said that its understandable why it never saw the light of day on Food Network -- its far, far too cerebral when compared with the kinds of stuff that is showing there now. I hope it finds a home where people will appreciate watching it.

The footage in the "Taller" showing Adria and his assitants conjure new cooking techniques and the Skunkworks-style documentation process is truly bizarre and awe-inspiring. The food in the restaurant could only be described as scary and thought provoking -- now that I've actually had a chance to hear Tony describe the food and his sensations and watch him eat it, I'm not exactly sure I even want to go to El Bulli -- the cuisine seems to threaten and challenge every convention of what food and the dining experience actually is. I think I'm too comfortable in my world view of what I think food should be -- the experience would probably screw me up for life.

A truly awesome peice of work -- there are other really nice treats the show as well, such as a visit to a hand-sliced Iberico ham shop and Rafa's, Adria's favorite restaurant.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Where might we see it?

[Given my "Shrimp Burger" post earlier, I may not be ready either. But I'd sure like to find out.]

The production company, Zero Point Zero, is working on getting it aired in various broadcast venues. I've been sworn to secrecy as to who they are -- otherwise, Bourdain will show up at my house a la Paulie Walnuts and I'll suffer the same fate of many an odd character on the Sopranos if I disclose anything more.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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That was a really cool show. I hope it finds a home so that everyone can be blown away by it as I was. So many times I sat there saying, "what is that?" "how the fuck do they do that?!"

In many ways it reminded me of a Burt Wolf PBS special, but in a good way and so much more intense.

I know that either Jason or I would be squeamish during some of the courses consumed by Tony during his meal (i.e. cannoli of rabbit brains, fish cotton candy) at El Bulli (pronounced boo-yee, not boo-lee as I thought). But, if we are ever so fortunate as to visit the restaurant, we have vowed to try everything. How could we not?

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the cuisine seems to threaten and challenge every convention of what food and the dining experience actually is.

"Threaten" seems an unnecessary way of looking at the way Adria's food challenges the diner. For all that the diner is challenged, I've witnessed very ordinary folk who weren't obsessed with food or obsessed with creativity, take to the food with an immediate joy and pleasure. Perhaps some of us are too locked up and protective of our life styles. Adria does challenge not only what we eat, but how we eat, at El Bulli. That's true, but I don't think there's anything threatening about it.

I'd be curious to know how the show differs, not from what's on FoodTV now, but from the general approach and feeling of Cook's Tour as previously shown on FoodTV. More cerebral could be fascinating although as I mentioned above, it's possible to approach Adria's food on an immediate level and get a lot out of it. It will be a pity if this doesn't get exposure quickly.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I can't believe I keep posting as such a foodie conservative - I'm not and would take a table at El Bulli or the Fat Duck in a New york minute - but I think what worries some of us with great respect for the traditions of great gastronomy is that Adria, Blumenthal et al are doing less cooking than chemistry.

The worry, or at least one of them, is that science will triumph over art and that Adria's experimentation will eventually end up with a Frankenstein monster indistinguishable from the formulas developed in the food additive industry. How far is the journey from the master's kitchen to Dow Chemical?

Silly and far-fetched, but a worry nonetheless.

Malcolm Jolley

Gremolata.com

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I'd be curious to know how the show differs, not from what's on FoodTV now, but from the general approach and feeling of Cook's Tour as previously shown on FoodTV.

The main difference, to me, is that Tony seems more humbled. Usually on Cook's Tour, he's out to have a great time. Learn some, yes. Be shocked, sometimes. Be the adventurous tourist for those of us in our living room. This was like all that and more, and you got to see Tony anxious. Truly anxious. More than when he had to consume the very fresh snake parts. You get to see him confused, but then surprised and happy.

Overall, however, it has a feel very much like Cook's Tour, as I believe it was shot to be part of that series.

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Malcolm,

I understand your worry and I know that it is shared by many. I have heard many who are far more averse to this movement than you are.

However, I have had the pleasure of spending a short time at a progressive, very forward-thinking restaurant in Chicago and hope that my perspective on the matter might lay your fears to rest.

First and foremost, a genuine respect of food, the ingredients used, and the methodologies followed lies at the very core of the people executing these progressive dishes. Although many manipulations might appear throughout the meal, the diner is brought back in each dish to the purity of its components. I think all cooking can easily be taken for chemistry, depending on the cook's perspective. I think many are saying that chefs such as Adria, Blumenthal, Achatz, and Dufresne are "doing less cooking than chemistry" simply because their techniques have moved ahead with the same speed that the science behind them has - "dangerously" accelerating hundreds of years of culinary traditions and methods not just to "contribute something to the movement," but to elevate it beyond what it is.

Second, many of these new food science products, such as the alginate used for the raviolis (which is just the coolest stuff to work with, btw), agar agar, etc. are completely natural. As science moves forward, so does its ability to accomplish more with nature while minimizing its manipulation of it (i.e. the alginate and agar agar, derived from seaweed). Other examples include maltodextrins (a modified sugar with varying lesser degrees of sweetness than sugar), film forming starches (used to make Listerine breath strips), new porcine gelatins (which stabilize foams, add body to salad dressings), transglutaminase (meat glue!), and lots of new stuff that I haven't even heard of yet.

What a rant! :wacko:

Thanks for the link, Bourdain! I look forward to seeing that aired.

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I have to admit that I began my Ferran Adria experience with a certain amount of trepidation--if not open hostility. I was deeply skeptical. But once I saw the man eating Iberico ham with his fingers, eyes filled with pride and delight, my reservations began to vanish. I think--if anything--that the show we did is very much about overcoming that apprehension and suspicion. I tried very hard to "explain" Ferran--to the extent one can after a week with the man. The El Bulli experience is much more about "food" than I had imagined. He himself says this--again and again on camera--and points out that the making of ham is itself a "process"--just as using agar agar to congeal pea puree is. Bottom line? The food at El Bulli tastes good. It's fun. It's thought provoking. It's also-admittedly-- deeply confusing to traditionalists like myself who were previously comfortable in their assumptions.(as we see in posts above)

If there's a "money shot" in the show, I think it's the shot of Adria at Rafa's, greedily sucking the juice out of a prawn head, then talking about this experience, this flavor being what he wants to honor at El Bulli.

When Chris, Lydia and I set out to shoot this show, any idea of making it into an episode of A Cook's Tour went quickly out the window. I think we realized right away that this subject was too big, too interesting, too important for the kind of breezy treatment we were used to. We shot with an hour format in mind--one subject and one subject only, no comedy, no dramatic devices, basically thinking

"Fuck Food Network--this footage is just too good to miss". FN for perfectly sensible business reasons, produces "personality-driven" shows. The constant refrain in editing--this time--was " Less me! More food!"

I think I'm happiest that in addition to the food and the process, we got Ferran--unguarded, enthusiastic, demonstrative, gesticulative--as he really is--eating and talking about the things he believes in.

abourdain

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What intrigued me from the clips is Tony's inability to describe the flavor of the pea ravioli. It tasted like essence of peas, simply put. Nothing else. Is it the intensity of the flavor that blows you away? Or is it the process of getting there? Doesn't Thomas Keller do a lot of the same things? (I'm thinking about his soups.)

I think that watching the show is, in one way, going to be frustrating for me because what Tony is describing is something that I have had no experience of at all. At least on most of his shows, I've been able to identify with some of the flavors. This show verges almost on Science Fiction?

I have a feeling there will be an award or two after this airs.

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Foodie52,

From my experience, describing the flavor as the "essence of peas" is an understatement. Where I worked, we made a similar dish in which peas, with the exception of a little salt and a little simple syrup to elevate the sweetness, were the ONLY ingredient. That's one of the things I love about it so much: the fact that it undeniably resembles itself because that is of what is entirely composed.

That, and a corn soup (described in the French Laundry book, except in a sauce form) are the two best soups I have enjoyed, not only because I love the two ingredients regardless, but for their purity and intensity of flavor.

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OK: but can't you get the same intense experience by eating peas, say, right from the pod? Would one wax quite as eloquently about them then?

I'm being devil's advocate here: I realize that the pea raviolis taste nothing like raw peas. So the process of taking the raw and turning it into cooked but without compromising the flavor....or is it about enhancing the flavor...is what El Bulli is all about?

Or is it kind of like Cirque du Soleil, where your eyes are tricked into believing. In this case your taste buds.

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