Molecular Gastronomy | Dining With Out-Laws (2023)

October 19, 2011 · 7:05 pm

Blender Bender: Sights and Sounds from the 6th Annual International Chefs Conference

At the International Chefs Congress last week I got to attend live cooking demos with way-noteworthy chefs exhibiting the new technologies used in food science stuff. I even learned how to distill beer into heavily concentrated liquor. The Inventor,Polyscience President Phillip Preston, brought with him a portable laboratory for super food enthusiasts, including gadgets as out there as a smoking gun.

Maybe I’m just a bit of a kitchen-tech nerd, but I recognized the gun. A few years ago there was this show where chefs competed for a top prize, and one year this guy showed up with all sorts of astral-looking equipment, and then whopped out liquid nitrogen and made instant ice cream.

For my daily breakfast I consumedNespresso’smacchiato and stopped by theEmmi Roth USAcheese folks to grab me some aged gruyere every morning.

It all ended, three days later with the 2011 Vitamix Challenge being judged in a pseudo iron chef style competition. And let me tell you, the dishes were phenomenal! Last year one of the contestant’s managed to steam a fish, in the blender machine, using only boiling water and speed. Pretty neat, eh?!

The entire competition took no more than an hour from start to finish. Each contestant had some additional time to prepare mise en place ahead of time.

I saw glimpses of sausage casing and pigs blood at one end; neither my favorite ingredient, but amazing to see what looked like a vampire’s meals on display. Others brought in vacuum-sealed steaks, fine cuts of dry aged prime sirloin.

The winning dish this year came at the hands of chef Asbel Reyes of SideBern Restaurant in Tampa Florida, who made Pumpkin Banana Pie using N20 (liquid nitrogen) in the mixing process. His set up reminded me of my line cooking days: everything labeled, packed, organized and separated into steps. I remember browsing through the ingredients before the start of the competition and a nerd alert light bulb firing up.

Finally, after all that cooking, freezing, blending and plating…the dishes looked absolutely stunning:

Earth and Turf by Adam Hegsted – Coeur d’ Alene Casino and Resort, Spokane, WA

Unagi and Foie Gras Terrine with Pickled Eel, Hibiscus, and Frozen Uni Powder by Seth Siegel-Gardner – Kata Robata, Houston, TX

Pumpkin Banana Pieby Asbel Reyes of SideBern’s Restaurant Tampa, FL

Idiazabel Soup with blood sausage, acorn squash, apple butter, and Urfa pepper by Jamie Bissonnette – Coppa & Toro, Boston, MA

Roasted Loin of Cervena Venison, Liver Mushroom Croquette, Brussels sprouts, Woodland Mushrooms, Berries, and Vadouvan Curry Reduction by Dirk Flanigan – The Gage / Henri, Chicago, IL

Final say was up to judges, who deliberated over their many tasty bites…

And announced their winner, none other than Asbel.

The 2011 Vitamix Challenge Winner
Pastry Chef Asbel Reyes ofSideBern’s Restaurant
Tampa, FL
Dish: Pumpkin Banana Pie

The winner was announced in the main stadium mid afternoon- something like half an hour after they finished the competition (Pretty short deliberation). Wyle Dusfrene, chef at WD-50 in New York, NY participated as a judge. Here’s the key reason why Asbel won: He poured N20 directly into the blender, used it multiple times during the hour-long competition, he was over prepared (chefs like this a lot), and he worked fast. I think pouring the N20 directly into the blender did the trick however. And his dish looked very pretty and tasty too. Here’s how the judges broke down the score:

Judges based the challengers on plating technique, uniqueness utilization of equipment and of course how the whole thing tasted.
Equipment use: 50%
Taste: 30%
Plating: 20%

Before I said my farewell to the amazing Disneyland of gadgets, food science and newly attained knowledge, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the main stadium and watched a video of El Huevo Roto as Andoni Luis Adruiz himself explained. The video demo of his egg shell project, made with vegetarian based powders and potions. It looked like a real egg shell. The plating technique requires “cracking the egg” in front of the customer, servedtableside (are we attracting Michelin Stars?-hmmm). I was blown away and in awe. Rethinking food is the least we can say about what I witnessed. This my friends was how I spent a fun-filled three day adventure at the International Chefs Conference, amazed by all the gadgets and space food that will indeed tickle the sixth sense (this year’s theme) out of you. I can’t wait to go back next year and see what the chefs are up to again. Since it wouldn’t come soon enough- I’ll spend some time experimenting on my own until then.

More info onEl Huevo RotoHERE

Cheers to the geek squad for inventing all the toys a chef and foodies can dream about!

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Filed under Food2, Hot on the Blog, Molecular Gastronomy, Special Events, Starchefs International Chefs Conference, Uncategorized, Vitamix Blender Challenge

September 7, 2011 · 2:28 pm

Tequila Tasting: Two Tequila Cocktails, with Class

Last Thursday night I went to Irving Plaza for a 901 sponsored FreeSol concert. I got a glimpse of Justin Timberlake and watched the band rock out Irving Plaza. I sampled a few tequila drinks before and during the show. And after tasting the natural sweetness blue weber agave affords a margarita at the Sidebar, I sat down with 901 Tequila president Kevin Ruder to pick his brain about this new silver spirit.

I asked Kevin if he’s visited Mexico with Justin Timberlake and if they’ve had a chance to meet the agave growers. Surprisingly they’ve visited Mexico several times, tasting various versions of the distilled agave before developing a unique flavor for 901. Check out JT’s triphere. Tequila has always been JT’s favorite drink so naturally he opted to create his own when he couldn’t find a favorite after trying at least 300 varieties.

901 is a triple distilled spirit that deserved a little extraordinary attention. I first tried this tequila in a classic margarita. Then I tried it straight up in a shooter glass. My first pour was smooth and clear. It left lovely fruit notes lingering on my taste buds.

I took the muddled strawberry concept to the next level thinking about how much I dislike a watered-down version of the original cocktail (halfway through, when the ice starts to melt). So I opted to blend my fruit, and then turned it all into strawberry ice cubes. Next, I mixed the rest of the ingredients, which include home made sparkling lemonade (thanks to my new SodaStream machine), 901 tequilla. And then finally, I garnished the finished product with fresh basil and voila! a drink that only gets better the longer it sits.

Strawberry Rock recipe:

1 pound of strawberries
½ cup water
1 liter of home made sparkling lemonade
6 ounces of tequila
basil as garnish

In a blender, pulse strawberries with a few tablespoons of water at a time until mixture is smooth and creamy. Strain. Transfer mixture into ice cube trays and allow to freeze overnight.

Pour tequila and sparkling lemonade into a rocks glass. Stir. Add strawberry ice cube and garnish with basil. Allow cocktail to sit for a few minutes until ice starts to melt to fully enjoy the flavors of this drink. An occasional stir will enhance the flavor.

Next, I took the strawberry cocktail to the next level. This version I devoted to all you gastronomic geeks out there (I’m one of them!). I used lime instead of lemons, clarified it with some agar to make it crystal clear without losing any flavor.

A straight up version of strawberry purée didn’t work the first time around. It was too acidic and too thick, so I watered it down using a ratio of 1/3 water to strawberries, and then added balsamic vinegar and honey to sweeten it up. You can also use simple syrup, or even better, just more tequila.

To that mix I added xanthan gum and calcium gluconate. I waited a day, and then dropped the happy mixture into a sodium alginate bath, rinsed the pebbles in a water bath and finally they were immersed into the cocktail!

My mission was to create a unique and subtle cocktail that looks nice and is fun and exciting to drink. So there you have it: my Strawberry Bomb cocktail made with tequila, clarified lime juice, home made carbonated water, simple syrup, and faux caviar strawberries with balsamic vinegar. Next time you’re entertaining at home, whip this out and you’ll be sure to get some brownie points from your buddies. Enjoy!

Strawberry Bomb recipe:

For the reverse spherification, I went online and usedBob Stanton’s recipe.

For the lime clarification, I used Dave Arnold’s Agar Clarification Made Stupid-Simple technique foundhere.

1 pound fresh strawberries, blended, strained
½ cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon calcium gluconate
2 teaspoons sodium alginate and 500ml water (about two cups)
500ml water for water bath
12 limes, juiced and clarified with 1 teaspoon of agar (about 1.5 cups of clarified lime juice)
½ cup simple syrup
1 liter carbonated water
6 ounces of tequila
2 bunches of basil

Other tools and gadgets recommended
Plastic tube bottle or syringe
Mixing bowls
Small saucepan to boil agar solution

In a blender, pulse strawberries with water, balsamic vinegar, honey, xanthan gum and calcium gluconate for about a minute. Strain and pour into a squeeze tube bottle and refrigerate overnight.

Juice limes, strain. Boil 1/3 of liquid about 250ml (1 cup) with agar on the stovetop.

Mix with refrigerated agar to bring to room temp. Place over an ice bath and allow agar to jelly up. Break agar curds with a spatula. Place over strainer with cheesecloth beneath and gently massage mixture. Your resulting liquid should be crystal clear. Add simple syrup to the clarified lime juice. Carbonate water, add lime syrup.

Whisk in sodium alginate with water, strain and allow to sit for about 30 minutes. Drop strawberry liquid into sodium alginate bath. Allow to sit for about 2 minutes, transfer to water bathusing a slotted spoon. In a martini shaker, pour 1 ½ ounces tequila, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 1/2 ounces carbonated water and 1 ounce of simple syrup. Shake in martini shaker with ice. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out strawberry caviar and place into drink.

Pour into martini glass. Add strawberry balsamic caviar. Garnish with basil, and enjoy!.

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Filed under Food2, Hot on the Blog, Molecular Gastronomy, September 2011, Special Events, Uncategorized

September 1, 2011 · 6:19 pm

National 901 Day: Get Your Tequila On!

Tequila cocktail recipe coming right up - above: the ingredients.

Today isNational 901 Day(That’s 901 tequila day!) And in celebration of 901, there will be a free concert atIrving Plazaperformed by the bandFreeSolco-hosted by 901 PresidentKevin Ruderand CEO and founderJustin Timberlake. We’re celebrating the arrival of the premium tequila made with 100% blue weber agave, water and yeast. Over 500 accounts across the US are offering drink specials all night. I’ll be personally attending the FreeSol concert tonight which starts at9:01pm. That’s right,9. 0. 1. pm.I also managed to get my hands on a bottle of the silver tequila in the meantime to conjure up my own version of the premium blue weber.
If you’re out and about in NYC today, stop by for a free concert atIrving Plaza, 17 Irving Place and East 15thStreet in Union Square, New York, NY.I suggest getting there a bit early as this is a free concert and it’s first come first serve type of deal.

And if you’re out and about anywhere else in the US, drink specials featuring 901 Tequila will be available at the following venues (just to name a few!):

Tico– Boston
Cutting Room– LA
Spanish Kitchen– LA
Pink Taco– LA
Ed’s Lobster Bar– NY
Southern Hospitality– NY
Masa Azul– Chicago
Depot Nuevo– Chicago
Justine’s– Austin
AllHouse of Bluesnationwide

In the meantime here is my buffet of ingredients. Tequila, strawberries, lemons, limes, ginger, basil, simple syrup, and a few magic potions to make an interesting & adventurous cocktail recipe… Stay tuned for some high tech home made cocktails coming your way!

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