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Voyage into Creativity

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Simply: thank you for sharing with us. You've given me insight, educated me, and made me curious. What a gift.

Not to mention, I've developed an obscene addiction to Spanish almonds, maracona (sp?), and I hold you directly responsible!  :laugh:

Thank you, Judith for the repeated kind responses. I do appreciate them. Those marcona almonds are nastily addictive though, aren't they? Don't get started on iberico though! That can be a very expensive habit. :wink::laugh:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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A few photos from Ferran Adria's small group demonstration:

gallery_8158_4179_60916.jpg

The line-up of Texturas Products.

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Ferran chats with Dr. Tim Ryan, President of the Culinary Institute of America through an interpreter.

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Harold McGee and Ferran Adria. McGee was the moderator of the session.

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Potato vs. truffle. How would the potato be viewed if it was as rare and costly as a truffle?

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A demonstration and discussion.

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Ferran and his lightly cooked clams.

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Rafa Morales and Ferran Adria squeeze shrimp heads.

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Lightly cooked shrimp.

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Rafa Morales pours melted ice cream into an Isi "Gourmet Whip" to make whipped cream. Many of Adria's techniques are transferable to a home kitchen.

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Adria makes carrot "air".

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Using Xantham Gum.

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Ferran with a can of agar.

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Making fresh orange sorbet with liquid nitrogen.

Though it has taken awhile, this concludes the content for my presentation of this incredible conference that I was fortunate enough to attend. I hope that you have enjoyed it and perhaps more inclined to set a place for Spain and Spanish food at your table.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Jeez, 'doc!

it's been awhile sice I first ventured into this amazing essay.

truly great stuff.

Question: You mention book signings by Oriol Balaguer amongst others.

Was it Dessert Cuisine or La Cocina Dolce or a (I pray) a new one?

Thanks again for such a stellar presentation!


Edited by tan319 (log)

2317/5000

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Jeez, 'doc!

it's been awhile sice I first ventured into this amazing essay.

truly great stuff.

Question: You mention book signings by Oriol Balaguer amongst others.

Was it Dessert Cuisine or La Cocina Dolce or a (I pray) a new one?

Thanks again for such a stellar presentation!

Thanks, Ted. I remember seeing Dessert Cuisine, but not the other. It's a beautiful book.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The L.A. Times has an article today on Identità Golose:

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo...-headlines-food

The Taste of Things to Come

At a most unusual chefs' conference, great ideas trumped pomp and pretention.

By Regina Schrambling, Special to The Times

February 7, 2007

Milan, Italy — THINK of Italy, and wild and crazy exchanges of cooking ideas are not what come to mind first. This is a country where each and every region is a world apart; the Tuscans in the center might as well be on Mars for all the interaction with the Piemontese to the northwest.

Which makes the frenzy of Identità Golose (literally "greedy identity") all the more extraordinary. For three days last week some of the biggest names in "molecular gastronomy" (Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne) were mixing and matching secrets with more traditional chefs from Italy, France, Scandinavia, even Japan. The result was a dazzling exploration of new ways to cook fish, present pasta and generally make a restaurant meal more like a night at La Scala. Throw in sugar surrealism for dessert and it was hard to remember this was all happening in the land of plain fruit and tired tiramisu.


Edited by Joe Blowe (log)

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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The L.A. Times has an article today on Identità Golose:

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo...-headlines-food

The Taste of Things to Come

At a most unusual chefs' conference, great ideas trumped pomp and pretention.

By Regina Schrambling, Special to The Times

February 7, 2007

Milan, Italy — THINK of Italy, and wild and crazy exchanges of cooking ideas are not what come to mind first. This is a country where each and every region is a world apart; the Tuscans in the center might as well be on Mars for all the interaction with the Piemontese to the northwest.

Which makes the frenzy of Identità Golose (literally "greedy identity") all the more extraordinary. For three days last week some of the biggest names in "molecular gastronomy" (Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne) were mixing and matching secrets with more traditional chefs from Italy, France, Scandinavia, even Japan. The result was a dazzling exploration of new ways to cook fish, present pasta and generally make a restaurant meal more like a night at La Scala. Throw in sugar surrealism for dessert and it was hard to remember this was all happening in the land of plain fruit and tired tiramisu.

I wonder if the following passage from the article is a portent of the 2007 season at El Bulli?

Adrià, who was greeted like Mick Jagger by an auditorium full of chefs, food media and others, also demonstrated his new technique for turning seaweed into "caviar" by mixing chemicals to gel it and dropping it into liquid from a syringe. But that was just part of his larger point that seaweed is the ingredient of the future, given that no fewer than 500 varieties exist, many known only by their biological names at this point.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I appreciated the information that the author was presenting, but 'tired tiramisu'? She needs to get out a little more. I can't remember the last time I saw tiramisu at a restaurant in Italy. Maybe that's what they serve in L.A. at Italian restaurants?

Apparently she responds to sweets more than savory:

"Sugar traditionalists can hope more chefs took away the last lesson of the conference, given by Galileo Reposo, a twentysomething chef who worked at Alain Ducasse's new restaurant in Tuscany. One of his creations layered pistachio shortbread with orange conserve, then partially gelled pastry cream, followed by a dip in melted white chocolate and a dusting of chopped pistachios; the precise perfection was plated with pistachio cream and orange sorbet. It was clearly more French pâtisserie than Italian dolce. But it could be a huge advance over tiramisu in a country where the food borders are now wide open."

I'm guessing this was put in here so that we could all go, "EEEEWWWW!"

"But most were left to the palate's imagination (luckily, in the case of the purée of pork lung and Jerusalem artichoke served under sweetbreads baked in blood pudding and garnished with shards of crispy pig's ear that a Swedish chef concocted)."

Sorry, the article couldn't make up its mind if it wanted to be snarky, informative or just gratuitous.

Edit because I couldn't make the quote thing work properly.


Edited by hathor (log)

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I love Spain and its various sections. I love the food. I love the scenery and I love the people. I have had the pleasure and good fortune to visit parts of the country several times over recent years and certainly looked forward to going back at some point in the not-to-distant future. That is until this conference which whet the appetite for a return for both my wife and myself that simply couldn't wait too long. This past weekend we returned from an all too brief, but very intense culinary tour de force to Catalunya and the Community of Valencia. I will use this topic to relate a few observations.

Spain has become known for its inventive modern cuisine manifest most visibly to the world by Ferran Adria and elBulli. The incredible level of creativity of that restaurant and others, I am happy to say, continues. It does so, but the quality, degree and recognition of Spain's traditional cuisines have assumed greater prominence in the imaginations of both the chefs and the public than I recall from recent visits. For the most part, the cuisines exist in harmony with respect for both approaches and in many cases harmonious co-existence within the same restaurant or in the work of the same chef in sister restaurants. An example of the former is El Poblet, Quique Dacosta's vanguard haven in Denia in Alicante. While Dacosta's degustation menu is decidedly vanguardist, his regular menu is strong on tradition and pristine ingredients. An example of the latter is Maria Jose San Roman's neighboring restaurants, Monastrell and La Taberna in the city of Alicante. Though not unabashedly vanguardist, Monastrell is creative alta cocina retaining respect for local tradition. La Taberna is unabashedly traditional.

Ca Sento in Valencia has been described under the helm of Raul Alexeindre as a "vanguardist" haven. Though Aleixandre has great respect for his mentor Adria, I saw straightforward, beautiful presentations of traditional cuisine with an emphasis on spurity and simplicity. The meal was outstanding, the highlights of which were a cigala a la plancha on a bed of salt and a crab and shrimp based fideua.

Yet the vanguardists, including Adria and Joan Roca continue to create marvelous and delicious dishes. These dishes, while still offering exotic ingredients and not lacking in the technical innovations that both chefs have become known for are clearly based on their own Catalan and Spanish traditions. Dishes were loaded with local ingredients and acknowledgment of local culinary traditions. Perhaps Roca's most discussed recent dish - "Mar y Montaña" - an oyster "sauced lightly with a distillate of local "earth" is the best example of this. Surf and turf is a classic Catalan composition with this being a natural offshoot of that tradition. The minerals from the earth are supposed to provide the same component to the oyster as a great wine match like a flinty Chablis. I had the dish and it worked! I enjoyed the combination even if it may not become my favorite mode of eating the bivalves. It tasted good, it made me think and it made me laugh. What more can one ask for from alta cucina?

Though the vanguard remains strong and creativity continues to be a prominent aspect throughout Spanish culture, the continued and perhaps even exalted quality of the more traditional culinary components of Spanish cooking such as seafood and pork has become ever more in demand. This is true despite an obvious increase in cost of enjoying these delicacies. This is particularly true of seafood as supply pressures are becoming more obvious with extremely high prices for items that were perhaps more readily available a few years ago.

Our trip took us through the highest circles of Catalan Vanguard cooking and traditional cuisines. In a week we made it to elBulli, Can Roca, L'Esguard, Kiosk Universal, Aligue and the home of friends in Catalunya; and Levante, Casa Montaña, El Poblet, Ca Sento, Monastrell and Taberna in Valencia/Alicante. We had great tastes of both the vanguard and the traditional. I for one, am glad that both types of cooking exist and especially there, where they co-exist so well. It makes life and dining so much more interesting and fun.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Our trip took us through the highest circles of Catalan Vanguard cooking and traditional cuisines. In a week we made it to elBulli, Can Roca, L'Esguard, Kiosk Universal, Aligue and the home of friends in Catalunya; and Levante, Casa Montaña, El Poblet, Ca Sento, Monastrell and Taberna in Valencia/Alicante. We had great tastes of both the vanguard and the traditional. I for one, am glad that both types of cooking exist and especially there, where they co-exist so well. It makes life and dining so much more interesting and fun.

Good lord. You did all that in a week???

You know what you have really made me aware of: that 'vanguardism' in Spain is organic. Meaning that it has grown, logically and respectfully from it's traditional roots. This is a critical distinction.

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Very belated, but...

Thanks for the meticulous documentation of the WoF conference. I've been working in the kitchen at the conferences for the past three years, but considered 2006 the best yet. The hours at the conference are long to begin with; taking the extra time each day to photograph, write, and organize shows a real commitment.

Although working in the Graystone kitchens was (and always is) a treat, it didn't afford any real opportunity to see the presentations or to hear the discussions. As the presentations and breakout sessions were going on, we were doing prep for upcoming demonstrations and cooking for the evening barrel room tastings. Your narrative and pictures actually gave me more of a sense of the conference than working at the conference!


brian

"Num Num!"

-Julia

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Very belated, but...

Thanks for the meticulous documentation of the WoF conference. I've been working in the kitchen at the conferences for the past three years, but considered 2006 the best yet. The hours at the conference are long to begin with; taking the extra time each day to photograph, write, and organize shows a real commitment.

Although working in the Graystone kitchens was (and always is) a treat, it didn't afford any real opportunity to see the presentations or to hear the discussions. As the presentations and breakout sessions were going on, we were doing prep for upcoming demonstrations and cooking for the evening barrel room tastings. Your narrative and pictures actually gave me more of a sense of the conference than working at the conference!

Thanks for the feedback, Brian and welcome to eGullet! Without the work of yourself and others like you the Conference couldn't have been the success that it was.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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      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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