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thebartrainer

Molecular Cocktails

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Are you thinking of doing this with sodium alginate/calcium chloride, or gelatin and cold oil?

the former.

In either case, I think this would be extremely tricky, especially with the high proof of Chartreuse.

I'd got that impression.

AFAIK, alcohol interferes with both gelatin and alginate, so the only real option would be a reverse spherfication using a sodium alginate bath and calcium chloride in the Chartreuse

Hmmm...I hadn't thought of that...interesting...

(see this post, for example).

OK- I'll check that out. Thanx! :biggrin:

Sincerely,

Dante

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That pesky Eben Freeman is making the news again...

Eben Freeman Turns His Cocktails Solid Just for the Hell of It

Tailor’s new “solids,” a series of edible cocktails. There are currently three on the restaurant’s menu...“Cocktail geeks are coming in and asking me all these questions,” Freeman complains. “This is just to have fun!” And, he adds, soberly, to “push the boundaries” of mixology. No wonder they’re curious.

Oh, we're just a curious bunch.

But, uh, White Russian Breakfast cereal?


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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See, that stuff of Eben's seems whimsical and fun. I think "molecular mixology" has got to get past the becoming-tired-cliché of spherification tricks.


--

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I think "molecular mixology" has got to get past the becoming-tired-cliché of spherification tricks.

We're not quite there yet. Today's NY Times has an article on Cointreau's spherification kit.

A BARTENDER’S arsenal has looked roughly the same for a century or so. Just about any drink in the book can be whipped up with a sturdy bottle opener, a corkscrew, a long-handled bar spoon, a sharp knife and an all-purpose cocktail shaker.

Now a liquor company wants to convince bars that they will not be complete without a magnetic agitator, magnet extractor, syringes and a stash of powdered chemicals.

Starting Thursday, Rémy Cointreau, the global wine and spirits corporation, will begin teaching a coterie of New York bartenders how to deploy those tools and chemicals to shape tiny edible balls filled with Cointreau. The company calls the balls Cointreau caviar and suggests that bars spoon a few into a Cosmopolitan or a flute of Champagne.


Edited by jmfangio (log)

"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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Now, if that's not an indication that spherified cocktails have joined Arthur Fonzarelli in mid-air, I don't know what is.


--

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David Arnold, the director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute, said, “There’s so much to be done with drinks that’s not being done that doesn’t involve tiny little balls.”

interesting article...

if i made spherified balls of flavor i'd probably lie and claim it existed a hundred years ago... the tradition of a land you've never known... high concept things are cool but not when they are left to sit naked... everything needs a sense of humor and some cultural depth added to it...

strangely the most pressing issue to me at the moment is my bartenders were diluting my lime juice with water... 50/50... they said it was too tart and they wanted to stretch it out... i was speachless... how do you grow when you have wierd individuals doing insane stuff likeing diluting your acid?

i try and teach them about the concept of "the average of everyone's tastes"... when you make fifteen mojitos for a group of fifteen everyone individually will have different tastes but to be successful you need to hit the average... for sweet and tart history has shown that it is more or less one oz. of 1:1 simple to one oz. of lime juice... if you use your diluted lime juice you might please 5 of the 15 but you start to alienate the other 10...

balance theories by emperical study and measurement & portioning technologies (jiggers) seem to be the most pressing issues in mixology...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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I just got back from the spherification demo held by Cointreau and it was pretty amazing.

They have created a sphereification lab kit for bars that makes it pretty easy to produce on a large scale as well as the technique for using alcohol in encapsulation.

The kits included everything needed to make the cointreau gold leaf spheres

magnetic agitator

scale

beakers

sodium alginate and malodextrin

calcium lactate

gold leaf flakes

strainers, spoons, syringes

and the best thing -- the pearl dropper.

It takes about 5-7 minutes to make up a batch of the cointreau gel which can then be held in the pearl dropper for service. When a drink ticket comes in, you turn the dropper upside down and the pearls form in the sodium alginate bath.

We sampled both the cointreaupolitan with spheres as well as a champagne cocktail with spheres. Both interesting from a textural thing more than anything else.

Overall it was a great hands on demo of how to make them. We all had our own little station for working at with the full kit of tools.

Definitely going to play around with the idea a bit more.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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tonight i drank sparkling sauvignon blanc... they don't exist in the wild but with a little molecular mixology anything is possible... it has a particularly fun aromatic intensity... i can't wait to top a french 75 with it...

a winemaker told me that carbonation increases aromatic intensity... certain wine varietals could become obnoxious if they were anymore intense which is why they don't exist in sparkling versions under any tradition... cocktails love near obnoxious intensity at times... so a market just emerged!

does anyone know anything about surface tensions and dissolving CO2 in liquids? what is the optimal for keeping a gas from escaping a liquid and how do you create the optimal if it doesn't already exist?

i want freshly squeezed (no more than an hour old) sparkling grapefruit juice... the surface tension of the natural juice doesn't like being injected with bubbles that much... can it be done?


Edited by bostonapothecary (log)

abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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I just got back from the spherification demo held by Cointreau and it was pretty amazing.

I'm curious, John (and this may seem like a ludicrous question): presumably the spherification lab is designed specifically for Cointreau? But there's nothing to prevent using the toolkit for any other liquid, is there, should a bartender be of such a mind? I assume there are proof- and/or spirit-specific concentrations of the various chemical components that would need to be tweaked, and that would be a matter of trial and error, yes?

Christopher

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does anyone know anything about surface tensions and dissolving CO2 in liquids?  what is the optimal for keeping a gas from escaping a liquid and how do you create the optimal if it doesn't already exist?

i want freshly squeezed (no more than an hour old) sparkling grapefruit juice... the surface tension of the natural juice doesn't like being injected with bubbles that much... can it be done?

Where did you get this idea about surface tension? As far as I know, solubility of a gas in a liquid depends on the gas, liquid, temperature and pressure. But since we're talking about dissolving carbon dioxide into water, for our purposes we can consider this a constant. Solubility, then, depends upon temperature and pressure. Lower temperatures and higher pressures correspond to greater solubility. Time can also be a variable, depending on the carbonation technique used, simply to allow the gas sufficient opportunity to dissolve into the liquid.

We create fizzy liquids by dissolving carbon dioxide into water under increased pressure (chilling the liquid also helps, of course). The liquid fizzes because, when the liquid returns to regular atmospheric pressure, the gas comes out of solution, forms bubbles and we get effervescence. Actually, most of the carbon dioxide simply escapes from the surface of the liquid into the atmosphere without forming bubbles. In order to form bubbles within the liquid, nucleation sites are needed -- usually provided by microscopic pieces of cellulose or tiny points on the surface of the glass (little known fact: the best champagne classes are etched by the manufacturers to provide nucleation sites throughout the glass). Carbonated water in a perfectly clean, flawless glass would not form bubbles.

The size and extent of the bubbles is largely determined by the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved into the liquid, with larger bubbles corresponding to greater amounts of dissolved gas. One reason why we consider small bubbles desirable in champagne is that a certain amount of carbon dioxide is lost through the cork as the wine ages and therefore an aged champagne containes less carbon dioxide compared to a young champagne. The chemical composition of the liquid can also have a minor effect on the characteristics of the bubbles, and of course on the formation and character of a "head" on the liquid as the bubbles rise to the surface. This, and a whole lot more, is explained well in the book Uncorked: The Science of Champagne by Gérard Liger-Belair.

In the formation of persistent bubbles at the surface of the liquid, which is not the same thing as "keeping the gas from escaping the liquid," surface tension and other variables can be important. If you want a persistent foam like that, I would suggest including some egg white in the charger with your liquid.

As for your grapefruit juice. . . so long as it is as cold as possible when carbonated and spends sufficient time under pressure, you shouldn't have any problems. An hour is a fairly short time period, however, if you're using a seltzer bottle. You should also consider that citrus juice is full of suspended particles. These make great nucleation sites and are likely to make the carbonated juice lose its fizz rather quickly. You might consider running the juice through a fine filter (perhaps experiment with a Büchner funnel filter) to remove these particles to the greatest extent possible. Adding some gum arabic could be interesting as well, as it should result in good head retension.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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does anyone know anything about surface tensions and dissolving CO2 in liquids?  what is the optimal for keeping a gas from escaping a liquid and how do you create the optimal if it doesn't already exist?

i want freshly squeezed (no more than an hour old) sparkling grapefruit juice... the surface tension of the natural juice doesn't like being injected with bubbles that much... can it be done?

Where did you get this idea about surface tension? As far as I know, solubility of a gas in a liquid depends on the gas, liquid, temperature and pressure. But since we're talking about dissolving carbon dioxide into water, for our purposes we can consider this a constant. Solubility, then, depends upon temperature and pressure. Lower temperatures and higher pressures correspond to greater solubility. Time can also be a variable, depending on the carbonation technique used, simply to allow the gas sufficient opportunity to dissolve into the liquid.

We create fizzy liquids by dissolving carbon dioxide into water under increased pressure (chilling the liquid also helps, of course). The liquid fizzes because, when the liquid returns to regular atmospheric pressure, the gas comes out of solution, forms bubbles and we get effervescence. Actually, most of the carbon dioxide simply escapes from the surface of the liquid into the atmosphere without forming bubbles. In order to form bubbles within the liquid, nucleation sites are needed -- usually provided by microscopic pieces of cellulose or tiny points on the surface of the glass (little known fact: the best champagne classes are etched by the manufacturers to provide nucleation sites throughout the glass). Carbonated water in a perfectly clean, flawless glass would not form bubbles.

The size and extent of the bubbles is largely determined by the amount of carbon dioxide dissolved into the liquid, with larger bubbles corresponding to greater amounts of dissolved gas. One reason why we consider small bubbles desirable in champagne is that a certain amount of carbon dioxide is lost through the cork as the wine ages and therefore an aged champagne containes less carbon dioxide compared to a young champagne. The chemical composition of the liquid can also have a minor effect on the characteristics of the bubbles, and of course on the formation and character of a "head" on the liquid as the bubbles rise to the surface. This, and a whole lot more, is explained well in the book Uncorked: The Science of Champagne by Gérard Liger-Belair.

In the formation of persistent bubbles at the surface of the liquid, which is not the same thing as "keeping the gas from escaping the liquid," surface tension and other variables can be important. If you want a persistent foam like that, I would suggest including some egg white in the charger with your liquid.

As for your grapefruit juice. . . so long as it is as cold as possible when carbonated and spends sufficient time under pressure, you shouldn't have any problems. An hour is a fairly short time period, however, if you're using a seltzer bottle. You should also consider that citrus juice is full of suspended particles. These make great nucleation sites and are likely to make the carbonated juice lose its fizz rather quickly. You might consider running the juice through a fine filter (perhaps experiment with a Büchner funnel filter) to remove these particles to the greatest extent possible. Adding some gum arabic could be interesting as well, as it should result in good head retension.

that is a good summation. i wonder if it was the abundence of suspended particles that caused the failure with the grapefruit juice. gonna have to try it again...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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I just got back from the spherification demo held by Cointreau and it was pretty amazing.

They have created a sphereification lab kit for bars that makes it pretty easy to produce on a large scale as well as the technique for using alcohol in encapsulation.

The kits included everything needed to make the cointreau gold leaf spheres

magnetic agitator

scale

beakers

sodium alginate and malodextrin

calcium lactate

gold leaf flakes

strainers, spoons, syringes

and the best thing -- the pearl dropper.

It takes about 5-7 minutes to make up a batch of the cointreau gel which can then be held in the pearl dropper for service.  When a drink ticket comes in, you turn the dropper upside down and the pearls form in the sodium alginate bath.

We sampled both the cointreaupolitan with spheres as well as a champagne cocktail with spheres.  Both interesting from a textural thing more than anything else.

Overall it was a great hands on demo of how to make them.  We all had our own little station for working at with the full kit of tools.

Definitely going to play around with the idea a bit more.

I was interested in the kit and hoping that someone would have caught a picture of it. I am particularly interested in the Pearl Dropper since good tools are still things everyone is looking for. I read in the NYT that it looked like a cheese or pepper flake shaker. The magnetic agitator sounds like a good addition and I assume that is like one of the lab stirring machines with a spinning magnet in the bottom. Otherwise I would think that they would have all the chemicals in pre-measured portions of some sort because I cannot see a bartender fiddling with a gram scale in strobe lights.

/Tim

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if i made spherified balls of flavor i'd probably lie and claim it existed a hundred years ago... the tradition of a land you've never known... high concept things are cool but not when they are left to sit naked... everything needs a sense of humor and some cultural depth added to it...

But the key is to ensure you at least have your facts straight or have an unverifiable story. I remember going to a restaurant at the top end of the list of best kitchens. We did a wine tasting and the Sommelier was always very descriptive and it sounded like he had trudged around the mud in his rubber boots.

I knew a particular wine area very well however, which was a reason I was looking forward to a specific wine in the tasting menu. And on he starts describing how this one variety comes from the North slope which has more clay content than the Southern slope. However looking at the vines they had very similar qualities blah blah blah.

So I then said that from the Northern slope one had a very good view of a valley and did he see this particular landmark? The Sommelier stuttered a bit then went tut-tut and explained that he had only ever seen pictures and had never even been to Europe.

Did I feel taken for a ride!

/Tim

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if i made spherified balls of flavor i'd probably lie and claim it existed a hundred years ago... the tradition of a land you've never known... high concept things are cool but not when they are left to sit naked... everything needs a sense of humor and some cultural depth added to it...

But the key is to ensure you at least have your facts straight or have an unverifiable story. I remember going to a restaurant at the top end of the list of best kitchens. We did a wine tasting and the Sommelier was always very descriptive and it sounded like he had trudged around the mud in his rubber boots.

I knew a particular wine area very well however, which was a reason I was looking forward to a specific wine in the tasting menu. And on he starts describing how this one variety comes from the North slope which has more clay content than the Southern slope. However looking at the vines they had very similar qualities blah blah blah.

So I then said that from the Northern slope one had a very good view of a valley and did he see this particular landmark? The Sommelier stuttered a bit then went tut-tut and explained that he had only ever seen pictures and had never even been to Europe.

Did I feel taken for a ride!

/Tim

you are right you need to be careful. there is an art to a good story and a good sense of humor...

"this is a specialty of rural borneo or least it SHOULD be... they have all the ingredients..."

i think wine should be taken a little more seriously. its ok to mix and manipulate it but alot more time, blood, sweat and tears go into it than any silly liqueur i make...

with wine also i've gotten to a point where i dont' like to endorse a pairing unless i've actually tried it... luckily i get to try alot... its a big practice to bluff on pairings but i've found when you actually start obsessively trying things its so counter intuitive...

bluffing and experimenting with cocktails is great fun... you can construct and present a new drink with out ever having previously tasted it in confidence mainly because you know the contents of sugar, alcohol, bitter and acids you are working with...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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OK- tried several techniques, including the reverse spherification (what I got from that reminded me of the H.P. Lovecraft line about "Ye liveliest awfulness". It was so hideous I threw it out in to my back yard rather then in to my trash can- I'm sure some day its children will come crawling out of the woods seeking revenge on me :unsure: )

I even tried diluting the Chartreuse, using it as just a flavouring, but even the smallest amounts still interfered with the process, so I guess it's just chemically impossible.

Oh well, it was a good idea, just not a viable one... :sad:

Sincerely,

Dante

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Over in the Stomping Through the Savoy topic in a bit of accidental molecular mixology I discovered that substances high in pectin gel in alcohol solutions.

Might it be possible to use pectin to form something like a caviar? Would be more like a jelly ball...


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I was interested in the kit and hoping that someone would have caught a picture of it.

Ask and ye shall receive:

gallery_26869_4681_87.jpg

More pictures from the event here.

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Nice. Thanks for that. I would have thought that for 1450 USD they atleast wouldn't make basic spelling mistakes on the labels i.e. could afford to have a proofreader ;)


"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. " - Marie Curie Sklodowska

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For those that want to see the pearl dropper in action, there is a video floating around youtube from the Paris event


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Everyone on this thread should take a look at playboy this month the March issue. There are 3 pages dedicated to Molecular Mixology. I guess this means it has hit the main stream now. If you only want to look at the articles I think it is page 77.


Todd Thrasher

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

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I received my Biozoon Cocktail Pro set today. I was wondering if anyone has bought or used this set ? http://www.biozoon.de/shop/product_info.php?info=p28_.html

There's a great book that comes with the set with around 50 recipes. Unfortunately it's in German so I have to start learning it soon.

However the set looks very professional and is intended specially for cocktails. It also has 2 interesting ingredients that I never came across before. One is some sort of dye and the other something that makes drinks glow in UV light as far as I can tell.


"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. " - Marie Curie Sklodowska

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Hello,

Sounds like an interesting set that you've just invested in. Perhaps you could share more about the 2 unusual ingredients that you'd mentioned with this forum? More details and some pictures (being used, look of ingredient, etc) perhaps?

Provocachic(sm): "what would your story taste like?"

I received my Biozoon Cocktail Pro set today. I was wondering if anyone has bought or used this set ? http://www.biozoon.de/shop/product_info.php?info=p28_.html

There's a great book that comes with the set with around 50 recipes. Unfortunately it's in German so I have to start learning it soon.

However the set looks very professional and is intended specially for cocktails. It also has 2 interesting ingredients that I never came across before. One is some sort of dye and the other something that makes drinks glow in UV light as far as I can tell.

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I will definately do that when I give them a go over the coming weekend. I might need some help from a German speaker :blink:


"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. " - Marie Curie Sklodowska

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I'm still getting my head round the German instructions which are not as easy as I thought. Even a German I met at the weekend had trouble to explain it to me. However the 2 ingredients that I mentioned are:

Riboflavin (E101) and Beta-Carotin (E160a)

gallery_52569_5903_20854.jpg

The Riboflavin is supposed to make drinks "glow in UV light". Unfortunately I don't have a UV at home to see what the effects are.

gallery_52569_5903_18968.jpg

The Carotin is meant to give "deeper colour" to drinks

gallery_52569_5903_9124.jpg

The other ingredients are Agar Agar, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Chloride, Methylcellulose and Xanthan.

gallery_52569_5903_7280.jpg

The set comes with a metal measuring spoon, 2 3ml dropper pipettes, a measuring cup up to 25ml, a plastic spoon and book - instructions and recipes.

gallery_52569_5903_12376.jpg

As soon as I get my head round the Geman obstacle and have any results I will definately report back. I'm a complete novice to this game. :hmmm:

The one thing that struck me so far with all the ingredients of the set is that they seem to be dosed with the metal spoon that comes with the set. No weighing involved i.e. Dissolve 4 spoons of alginate in 120ml of water. Then mix 20ml of the mixture with 40ml of cocktail. 4 spoons of Calcium Chloride in 130ml of water to make the bath.

That is if my guesses of the German are correct.


"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. " - Marie Curie Sklodowska

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Wow, an article in Forbes Online about Molecular Mixology?

What is the world coming to?

Molecular Mixology, Lauren Sherman, 07.01.08, 6:00 PM ET

Flame and gelatin are two important components of a bartending trend that's migrating from upscale lounges to amateur kitchens. Known as molecular mixology, the method takes scientific principles and tools and applies them to the construction of alcoholic beverages. These cocktails often require their creator to freeze, gel or flambé ingredients, and with the exception of a few wildly dangerous drinks, most can be made at home.

Includes recipes from Eben Klemm, Darcy O'Neil, Jamie Boudreau, and Claire Smith.


---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      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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