…and now, for something completely different

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Today we shall explore the darker side of the the food and drink business. The twilight zone of molecular gastronomy and mixology, where people take our common conceptions of what is regarded as “food” and deconstruct it, creating deliberate disassociation between ingredients and flavors, or between appearance and taste, or just using unexpected materials for unexpected results.

First, some before-dinner drinks courtesy of Tony Conigliaro of The Drink Factory, a cocktail blog that has the csmokedOldFashionedhemical periodic table and the alchemical philosopher’s stone both mentioned in recent posts, so that should give you a hint of what we’re dealing with. The drink we’ll mention here is the Smoked Old Fashioned. It’s a variant of the classic Old Fashioned which tries to recapture the feel of sitting in a leather armchair, sipping the drink and smoking a cigar. This it does by using extracted essences tobacco and leather, purified to be edible, and layering them with the rest of the drink, thus conjuring up the bartender’s fireside vision. Is it any good? I don’t know. But it certainly goes above anmolecular_cuisine_olivesd beyond what I expect a cocktail to be.

For the main course, we can bring some dishes from the chef José Andrés, with some Olive Spherifications: you take olives, puree them, mix them with lime and seaweed extracts for flavor and consistency, and roll them back up into olive-shaped spheres. molecular_cuisine_martini

One thing you can do with these deconstructed, reconstructed olives is to use them in a deconstructed, reconstructed cocktail. In this case, a “Dirty Martini” consiting of a dry martini with one of these faux-olives and a foam made of sea-salt for a briny feel whenever you drink it. The used the same salt-foam for a margarita, as a replacement for the salt-encrusted glass commonly used.

Another thing that molecular chefs seem particularly enamored of is liquid nitrogen – omolecular_cuisine_nitrosushine of the basic tenets is that it isn’t the duration of cooking that is important, but the temperatures achieved, both hot and cold. Butane burners and liquid nitrogen, then, help achieve extreme temperatures without extensive cooling or heating. In one case, a fish tartare was accompanied by nitro-frozen smoking-cold pellets of sesame oil as garnish.

And for dessert – chocolate. But no mere hazelnut pralimolecular_cuisine_peachocolatenes here. No-siree. We have Dominique Persoone, a self-styled Shock-o-latier (groan) making everything from a tomato/basil/olive marzipan to a wasabi-and-white-chocolate green-pea ganache, and up to inhalable cocoa powders and smoked cocoa beans. Another dessert, quaintly named “Peanut Butter and Jelly”, is actually “grape juice that has been altered using sodium alginate and then dropped into a calcium cloride bath.” Add to that "peanut butter that has been combines with maltodextrin” and you get a very simple, but very chemical, molecular desert:



Thank you for joining me in my slightly-appalled, often-surprised and mostly-tempted excursion into unfamiliar gastronomic territory, one that I doubt I will have much chance to explore in person.

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