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thebartrainer

Molecular Cocktails

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I've been asked to represent the future era of cocktails in a '200th aniversery of the cocktail' event in the UK.  There are several teams representing notable eras in cocktail history (Tiki, Prohibition... etc...) and I have had to come up with two futuristic drinks.

The challenge was really to come up with a couple of interesting ideas that could be cranked out at good speed as we are being asked to make 300 drinks in 30 minutes (3 of us!).

Being a lover of all things Molecular I have decided to be as off the wall as possible.  Given that the general public has not really heard of Molecular Gastronomy, I figured using two of the best known cocktails, and messing with them a bit, was the best approach.

I have decided on:

#1 A Bloody mary consisting of a semi frozen layer (churned in an ice cream maker until liquid sorbet consistency) and a hot foam layer, garnished with worcester and tabasco merangue shards.  This was going to be a shot glass with frozen vodka at the bottom, room temperature clear tomato juice in the middle and hot foam on the top but the clear tomato juice has proven hard to source.

#2 A trio of cosmos...  A martini glass of warm water with a garnish of three gel cubes of Citron Vodka Cosmo, Kurrant Vodka Cosmo and Apeach Vodka Cosmo (three guesses who the sponsors are!!) on a cocktail stick.  We are going to have to issue instructions El Bulli style as the idea is to pop a cube in the mouth followed by a sip of warm water to melt the jelly.

I have no idea how these will turn out and whether or not they will be accepted by the guests as valid, quaffable drinks but what the hell.

The event is on the 17th so any advice/comments  would be welcome.  It is meant to be a competition of sorts so any bright ideas may win me a trip to France!!

Cheers

Ian

Ian~

I CANNOT wait to hear how it goes, and how those are received. Please keep us posted........

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Where can one buy liquid nitrogen?  I'm in Scotland so specific retailers are not going to be an option but types of suppliers would be a help if anyone knows.

Cheers

Ian

Any British Oxygen Company Depot should be able to supply you with liquid nitrogen. The minimum order is 25 litres though on this kind of quantity the delivery cost and rental fee for the vacum container will cost more than the gas itself. Your probably looking at £120.

Are you familiar with MSK ingredients ? They supply stuff like Gellan Gum (for making gels that will turn liquid when you chew them), crackle crystals , powdered fruits and all sorts of flavourings and colourings. Theres all sorts of interesting stuff that it could be fun to play with .

Gethin

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I've been asked to represent the future era of cocktails in a '200th aniversery of the cocktail' event in the UK.  There are several teams representing notable eras in cocktail history (Tiki, Prohibition... etc...) and I have had to come up with two futuristic drinks.

The challenge was really to come up with a couple of interesting ideas that could be cranked out at good speed as we are being asked to make 300 drinks in 30 minutes (3 of us!).

Being a lover of all things Molecular I have decided to be as off the wall as possible.  Given that the general public has not really heard of Molecular Gastronomy, I figured using two of the best known cocktails, and messing with them a bit, was the best approach.

I have decided on:

#1 A Bloody mary consisting of a semi frozen layer (churned in an ice cream maker until liquid sorbet consistency) and a hot foam layer, garnished with worcester and tabasco merangue shards.  This was going to be a shot glass with frozen vodka at the bottom, room temperature clear tomato juice in the middle and hot foam on the top but the clear tomato juice has proven hard to source.

#2 A trio of cosmos...  A martini glass of warm water with a garnish of three gel cubes of Citron Vodka Cosmo, Kurrant Vodka Cosmo and Apeach Vodka Cosmo (three guesses who the sponsors are!!) on a cocktail stick.  We are going to have to issue instructions El Bulli style as the idea is to pop a cube in the mouth followed by a sip of warm water to melt the jelly.

I have no idea how these will turn out and whether or not they will be accepted by the guests as valid, quaffable drinks but what the hell.

The event is on the 17th so any advice/comments  would be welcome.  It is meant to be a competition of sorts so any bright ideas may win me a trip to France!!

Cheers

Ian

So?

What happened?

(Inquiring minds want to know ! :biggrin: )

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Hey guys and gals

First of, Ijusted started a molecular mixology thread that you guys are more that welcome to join :biggrin: didn't see this thread till now.

Second, you might want to check out the sodium alginate thread, which is awesome for ideas on e.g. cape codder and such.

I'm currently working with destilled juices and such and so far is seems to work, we're trying to make a non-alcoholic drinkmenu with flaours ot match the food at the restaurant where i work and so far the ideas look like this:

- first course: mango, litchi and passionfruit juice distilled to look like clear water topped of with a lecithin foam of pine.

-main course: a chocolate varietee cocktail split down the center of a cockail with one half made with dark chocolate, vanilla and chili and the other half a foam made in sifon of white chokolate, caramel, coffee and the whole thing topped of with a smoked oak mist. hopefully it'll work, but the is to design a cocktail that compliments the flavours in the food.

- Dessert: I'm thinking of doing a cape codder style drink, with little pearls of a deconstructed drink in a martini glass

Hope to get this discussion rolling :smile:

BTW I'm working on an idea that I don't want to post yet, but if it works I'll post pictures and recipes, it's very fat duckish :biggrin:

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I'm currently working with destilled juices and such and so far is seems to work, we're trying to make a non-alcoholic drinkmenu with flaours ot match the food at the restaurant where i work and so far the ideas look like this:

How are these ideas progressing? And where do you work?

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A "Hot and Cold Gin Fizz" was the first course at my el Bulli meal last week. Phenomenal drink. (Not to mentiuon a phenomenal location out on the restraunt's terrace, overlooking the Mediterranean.) The waitress brought out two cocktail glasses with an ice cold (possibly on shaved ice) gin-lime (and seltzer?) mixture, foamed the top and said "drink these quickly!" Without being forewarned, the temperature contrast was an amazing surprise. The hot and cold layers differed not only in temperature and texture, but also in flavor, due to the reaction our tastebuds have to temperature (the waitress claimed the ingredients in the base and foam were identical). Anybody else experimented with temperature contrasts in cocktails?

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We've looked at a couple of option that we might try to do at the end of the month and we're gonna take some photos and stuff. I have all the plans in my head and some of the stuff I know will work, but we're gonna mess around for a few days and then take some photos and I'll try to post them..

I succeeded in distilling a lavendersirup at home and it was completely clear and looked like water, but because I used dries lavender the scent was very strong..

The hot and cold gin fizz aounds amazing, I read about this guy in England who tried something similar but also had different textures, the way i remember it he would serve 3 shotglasses, one with fridge cold blueberries, one with warm apricot liquor and one with roomtemperature mangalore foam from a sifon, so one glass solids, one glass fluid and one with plasma..

What else did they serve at El bulli? I'm thinking of buying the new El Bulli book to get some inspiration, have you read it?

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What else did they serve at El bulli? I'm thinking of buying the new El Bulli book to get some inspiration, have you read it?

That was it for cocktails. I'm going to post a full review on the Spain/Portugal message boards in a few days, including scans of the menu. I have el Bulli 1998-2002, which has some very interesting cocktail recipes (I should post a few, or at least summaries), and the book itself is a masterpiece of design. While I was in Barcelona I flipped through the spanish-language 2005 edition, and it looks even better. Adria also includes detailed recipes, sequences of photographs to show techniques, and an ingredient glossary.

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Awesome, I'll pick it up at the book store. Also, I e-mailed Herve This (the "father" of molecular gastronomy) he told me to check out pierre gagnaire's website where he sends his findings in the lab to pierre gagnaire and then pierre gagnaire cooks up a recipe incorporating Herve This experiments... It's definately worth checking out

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I finally got around to mixing a drink out of el Bulli 1998-2002: a passionfruit whiskey sour:

gallery_25246_4203_32877.jpg

Unfortunately, even after 4 packets of gelatin, 4 nitrous oxide cartridges, one frozen hand (screw the top on the cream whipper before inserting the nitrous cartridge. duh.), and a quart of passionfruit juice, I didn't achieve a successful drink. The first problem was the quality of the passionfruit: the Ceres juice I used must be weak compared to whatever is used at el Bulli/minibar: the recipe calls for cutting the juice with water, which results in a very dilute cocktail base, without any sour component to speak of. Second problem was the foam: it was supposed to sit in the fridge for 2 hours, but after 30 minutes or so half the foam had collapsed and the rest had gelled into something the consistency of a marshmallow. The recipe calls for 1.5 sheets of gelatin, but I can only find packets of Knox. Neither 1, 1.5, or 2 packets seems to work, and at the high concentrations you can clearly taste the gelatin (yech!). Has anyone else experimented with foamed cocktails? Any advice?

thanks


Edited by Rob Simmon (log)

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I finally got around to mixing a drink out of el Bulli 1998-2002: a passionfruit whiskey sour:

gallery_25246_4203_32877.jpg

Unfortunately, even after 4 packets of gelatin, 4 nitrous oxide cartridges, one frozen hand (screw the top on the cream whipper before inserting the nitrous cartridge. duh.), and a quart of passionfruit juice, I didn't achieve a successful drink. The first problem was the quality of the passionfruit: the Ceres juice I used must be weak compared to whatever is used at el Bulli/minibar: the recipe calls for cutting the juice with water, which results in a very dilute cocktail base, without any sour component to speak of. Second problem was the foam: it was supposed to sit in the fridge for 2 hours, but after 30 minutes or so half the foam had collapsed and the rest had gelled into something the consistency of a marshmallow. The recipe calls for 1.5 sheets of gelatin, but I can only find packets of Knox. Neither 1, 1.5, or 2 packets seems to work, and at the high concentrations you can clearly taste the gelatin (yech!). Has anyone else experimented with foamed cocktails? Any advice?

thanks

I love Passionfruit Whiskey Sours, though I didn't realise that it was a molecular mixology drink.

2 shots Makers Mark,

1 shot Boiron Passion-fruit puree,

1/2 shot Monin Vanilla Syrup.

Eggwhite (optional).

Shake with ice, and then strain into an ice-filled glass.

Cheers!

George

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As it stands, this particular foam recipe doesn't hold its own--the flavors are a bit boring, and the foam and liquid differ only in texture. In the context of a 30-course tasting menu the same drink (made properly, of course) works very well. I think the potential of foams in mixology lies in using different flavors, temperatures, etc. in the foam vs. the base (see my description of a hot and cold gin fizz up-thread). For now, I'm just trying to figure out how to make a foam properly--further experimentation will follow.


Edited by Rob Simmon (log)

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I finally got around to mixing a drink out of el Bulli 1998-2002: a passionfruit whiskey sour:

gallery_25246_4203_32877.jpg

Unfortunately, even after 4 packets of gelatin, 4 nitrous oxide cartridges, one frozen hand (screw the top on the cream whipper before inserting the nitrous cartridge. duh.), and a quart of passionfruit juice, I didn't achieve a successful drink. The first problem was the quality of the passionfruit: the Ceres juice I used must be weak compared to whatever is used at el Bulli/minibar: the recipe calls for cutting the juice with water, which results in a very dilute cocktail base, without any sour component to speak of. Second problem was the foam: it was supposed to sit in the fridge for 2 hours, but after 30 minutes or so half the foam had collapsed and the rest had gelled into something the consistency of a marshmallow. The recipe calls for 1.5 sheets of gelatin, but I can only find packets of Knox. Neither 1, 1.5, or 2 packets seems to work, and at the high concentrations you can clearly taste the gelatin (yech!). Has anyone else experimented with foamed cocktails? Any advice?

thanks

To make Cocktails with foam there are a few options. Gelatin, Egg Whites, Egg white powder or Xanthum Gum.

With Gelatin for 750ml of liquid I use 2 1/2 sheets of gelatin (be sure to bloom the gelatin in cold)

So first I take the gelatin and bloom it (about 2 minutes)

take about 50 ml of the liquid and put it in a pot let it warm but not to a boil.

pull it off the heat and add the bloomed gelatin wisk it in off the heat until all of the gelatin is dissolved then wisk in the rest of the liquid all the while whisking. Then I just roll it back in forward into to mix everything completely. The let it rests for an hour or so in the fridge. Then transfer it into a foamer bottle (do not fill it completely use about half of the 750ml is usually enough for batches) the add only 1 N2o cartridge shake it vigorously and let it rest for about 15 minutes in the fridge. Then you should be ready. I always put the foam in first and then pour the liquid right in the middle so the liquid goes to the bottom and the foam floats on top.

I also use egg white powder in making hot foams for 750 ml of liquid I use about 25 grams of powder I heat the liquid to a simmer and add the powder and wisk vigorously making sure all is dissolved. Then I pour it in a Thermal ISI Foamer and it stays warm for about 2 hours. I use this for a hot sherry cocktail I am doing at our small bar called PX.

With the raw egg whites I was doing a Pisco Sour 3 ways at Restaurant Eve. One way out of the foamer, the other a granite, and the final in liquid form.

Good Luck


Todd Thrasher

The Guy who says YES CHEF and Sometimes makes a cocktail or two.

Restaurant Eve

110 S. Pitt St.

Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 706-0450

Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper

PX (Upstairs)

728 King Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 299-8384

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In the "Science of Deliciousness" episode of "Diary of a Foodie" they covered Heston Bluementhal's Hot and Cold tea.

He makes two slightly thickened tea gels (Using Sodium Alginate? I forget.) pours them into either sides of a glass with a divider in it. When they remove the divider the gels do not mix, giving you a drink which is cold on one side and hot on the other.

I was thinking it might be neat for cocktails with different colored ingredients. Vertical Pousse Cafe?

Has anyone experimented with this? How finicky is the gelling agent?


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I spent a very informative hour with Todd Thrasher at Restaurant Eve last Saturday (thanks Todd!), and he gave me a few pointers on foams, airs, and powders (ideas for bacon powder in a cocktail, anyone?). I got the passionfruit foam working, but using essentially the same ingredients in the foam and the base result in a somewhat uninspiring drink. Fresh passionfruit would likely help, but I think the small number of flavors limit the potential. However, I got home ready to experiment. The result: a Pho 75 (named after a Hanoi beef noodle soup restaurant in Langley Park, MD).

2 oz. thai basil infused vodka (4 sprigs for 12 oz. vodka)

2 tsp. five-spice powder infused simple syrup (1 tsp. spice in 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, simmered for 10 minutes, then strained)

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 lime, cut into four wedges

salt air (12 oz. water, 1/4 tsp soy lecithin powder*, 2 tsp. salt)

Prepare the salt air by aerating 12 oz. of salt water + soy lecithin. Use an immersion blender on the surface of the salt water in a wide pan with a tall rim. An "air" with the consistency of sea foam will form on the liquid's surface. Set aside.

Muddle the lime wedges in sugar, then add the vodka and simple syrup. Shake with ice, strain and serve in a small-mouthed glass. Top with thin layer of salt air.

My significant other thinks I should experiment with noodles (perhaps tapioca), too, but I'm not feeling that adventurous.

*Todd recommended xanthan gum for the air, but I couldn't get it to work--I ended up with salt gel. Soy lecithin is used in el Bulli 2003-2004.

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I've been interested in the idea of cocktails using scented foams for a while now.

Anyhoozle, I was reading an article over on liquid muse about Pickled Martinis. It didn't seem that hard, so, off to the store in search of Soy Lecithin. Sadly, no joy.

However, I did chance upon some Xanthan Gum.

Has anyone had success making foams with it?

According to this website, it seems like it should be relatively stable across a variety of PHs and dissolve at room temperature.

Xanthan gum is mainly considered to be non-gelling and used for the control of viscosity due to the tenuous associations endowing it with weak-gel shear-thinning properties. It hydrates rapidly in cold water without lumping to give a reliable viscosity, encouraging its use as thickener, stabilizer, emulsifier and foaming agent...Being relatively unaffected by ionic strength, pH (1 - 13), shear or temperature it may be used in such products as salad dressings.

Mmmm... Bacterial slime! So appealing! And people have a hard time with egg whites. I've no idea how you'd explain Xanthan Gum without having the customer run screaming from the bar.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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See, this is why I tend to look askance at molecular mixology.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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i use xanthum gum to make foams.....

textures need to be more important to mixology but you need to use the "classical context" or it is lame.... the ramos gin fizz is an advanced emulsion and all about texture.... yet so few bartenders know how or why it works....

i've actually made it with alternatives to eggwhites and gotten similar textures but went back to the egg whites because my glasses came out cleaner in the dish washer.... some emulsifiers gel and make slime stick to your glasses....

i only use a foam in my version of the hurricane.... i thought the origional was fruit mud so i deconstructed it sorta and used the passsion fruit foam as a garnish.... to keep it from being gimmicky the foam needed to be highly aromatic and "whimsical".... meaning sit on top of the ice, have very large bubbles, taste good, and not fall.... the hardest part is mastering the bubbles and it becomes something almost cool but definitely better than the origional hurricane.....

i do use powdered egg whites in all sorts of drinks because i can portion them better and then different gums as well to create viscosity and stabilize any froth....

with froth you need to be careful because you can't always emulsify acids and only sugar gets sucked up into your froth....the sugar also seems to come out sharper like going from white sugar sweet to sweet and low and can be disgusting.....

my favorite thing to do is stir a bitter into the froth because it is divine with the texture.....


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Folks,

just so you know myself and Bastian Heuser have just finished a 5 city German Bar Coaching tour of Germany sponsored by Bols and they wanted to continue with their 'ownership' of MM...

Quite a fun time and some good ideas but our crowning moment was creating Campari Candy Floss...

We created some fabled Campari Dust and put it into a Candy Floss machine and voila!

We then played about with atomising gin/vermouth directly into our mouths and eating some...

Was huge fun.

aw

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Having been working through the excellent Hydrocolloid recipe list at http://blog.khymos.org/2007/08/14/hydrocol...ipe-collection/ its given me the idea to start compiling some technological cocktails in a thread here. I'd like to include alcoholic and non alcoholic cocktails which can be in any form - liquid, solid or gas and use interesting preparation techniques or equipment such as Cream whippers, spherification etc. Its a fine line between whats a food and a drink but it'll be interesting to see where this is crossed.

For starters, here are two links to some ideas

Wired Cocktails

Tony Conigliaro Cocktails (Guardian Newspaper)

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Having been working through the excellent Hydrocolloid recipe list at http://blog.khymos.org/2007/08/14/hydrocol...ipe-collection/ its given me the idea to start compiling some technological cocktails in a thread here. I'd like to include alcoholic and non alcoholic cocktails which can be in any form - liquid, solid or gas and use interesting preparation techniques or equipment such as Cream whippers, spherification etc.  Its a fine line between whats a food and a drink but it'll be interesting to see where this is crossed.

For starters, here are two links to some ideas

Wired Cocktails

Tony Conigliaro Cocktails (Guardian Newspaper)

the jellied gin and tonic sounds pretty cool.

i've made things like the pink lady in the soda siphon....

i like to take a simple espresso martini to the malt mixer.... you get a very cold drink with very little water break down but unreal amounts of air mixed into it.... a really interesting textural element that can be done really quickly at a very busy bar....


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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I am hoping to have someone either design for me or adapt from available equipment a special shaker. It would need to be insulated and capable of withstanding a fair amount of internal pressure, and will need some kind of pressure release valve to let off gas before the shaker is opened and the drink is poured.

My idea is that one would build a cocktail as usual, including putting the usual amount of water ice into the shaker, but would then add an approximately marble-sized piece of dry ice into the shaker. Seal, shake (this is why the shaker would need to be pressure-tight), release the pressure valve, open the shaker, strain. I think this would result in a cocktail that is not only extremely cold, but also hopefully smoking and lightly carbonated.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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