You’ve seen them around—waiting for the elusive email from El Bulli, snatching up tableware designed for Alinea, and ordering food-grade sodium alginate. They’re the fans of molecular gastronomy—mad scientists in the kitchen.
Food blogger Rob, of Hungry in Hogtown, is one of the faithful. When he’s not putting his sodium alginate to work re-creating El Bulli’s famous liquid ravioli (for the uninitiated, that’s ravioli without pasta to keep it together), he’s mixing white chocolate and sturgeon caviar, caramelizing trout roe, gilding a quail egg, and smuggling the El Bulli 1994–1997 cookbook, not yet available in North America, back from Europe.
Rob even credits early incidents of food experimentation (throwing disliked vegetables back onto his plate as a child) as attempts at culinary experimentation. “Grandma, do you remember that time I ‘made’ deconstructed spinach?”
This month, Rob is deconstructing Homaro Cantu and a meal at Moto. He imagines Cantu as the class nerd in school, president of the chess club. “Marginalized by many, poor Homaro … overcompensates for his nerdiness by being the biggest, baddest nerd he can be. In the kitchen … this makes Homaro Cantu a molecular gastronomy chef who thinks too much about the ‘molecular,’ and not enough about the ‘gastronomy.’”
While a comparison between Alinea’s Grant Achatz (whose innovative cuisine Rob recently sampled) and Moto’s Cantu leaves Moto in second place, Rob pays homage to Cantu as well. “A dinner conceived and executed by Cantu is not to be missed; to be debated, loved, and reviled, yes, but never dismissed.”
His notes from the dinner include:
Does anything say good eats quite like a notice that the cracker cum menu you’re about to eat is made using patent-pending technology? The menu is a neat trick, but the cracker itself is nothing special, being only marginally more savory than the paper it replaces.
The ‘plate’ for this dish resembles an overdone, hyper-modern Battleship board that has spent too much time on a fetish porn set…. Shame about the overdone presentation and the underdone beans, because the bison itself is succulent.
Goat cheese snow and balsamic—According to our server, goat cheese snow is made using a paint sprayer. I guess that means I need a paint sprayer for Christmas, because it’s wonderful.
And for those of you with an aspiring molecular gastronomist on your holiday shopping list, a paint sprayer is only one of the options for your gift-buying consideration. Wired News has released its list of “Gifts for the Nanogastronome”, which includes an industrial dehydrator (all the better to make your pineapple powder with), an immersion circulator to monitor the temperature of your sous-vide, and the Cuisine Technology Anti-Griddle, “a minus-30-degree ‘cooking’ surface that freezes foods on contact.”
All of which should make the Robs on your list very happy. But not nearly as much as a pair of those desperately desired El Bulli reservations would.