“It’s his evident cult of personality that’s most chilling. Tetrick used anti-Big Food, pro-animal rights rhetoric to whip his employees and brand ambassadors into a fervor, and the technique was so successful his shady schemes often went unquestioned.” The New Food Economy 9.23.2016

There has been lots of talk about Hampton Creek, buyback programs and other shenanigans! But as a food scientist I have a few obvious thoughts to point out:

Why was everyone so impressed with the following:

• Vegan spread made from oil and modified food starch and flavorings

• Cookies made from sugar, flour and oil

• Salad dressing made from oil, vinegar, xanthan gum and other commonly used hydrocolloids

These are all common stock food items that have been made by food scientists and mommy bloggers alike across the universe. There is nothing unique, special or new-scientific about these products. The famous pea protein that Josh and his team said was such a game changer- has nothing to do with their functionality- it all comes from the sugar, processed white flour, xanthan gum and modified food starch—ingredients that are seen as “unclean” in this day and age.

Investors: Stop being fooled by start-up entrepreneurs who don’t know a thing about food science or how to develop food products. Just because a 30 something year old hoodie wearing kid tells you that he is going to save all the chickens, doesn’t mean that they know how to actually do it!

Do your homework- crosscheck with real food scientists and stop believing the hype!

Yours Truly,

Rachel Zemser, Food Scientist (BS, MS, CCS, CFS)

The Pink Elephant In The Room

I can’t help but wonder—why is everyone pretending that Hampton Creek is a great company doing great things for our earth? The facts are so clear and obvious but I see the issues being skirted in the media and the majority of readers—including the smart ones that listen to NPR radio- are giving Hampton Creek way more credit than they deserve—lets do a recap here of what is being said and what is really true:

  1. Just Mayo is a PLANT BASED product: Just Mayo is almost all oil and modified food starch. It is not natural (modified food starch is not natural) and the finished product is certainly not “plant based”in the way that Hampton Creek is making it out to be. Yes it has oil (like most spreads and dressings) and it also has the modified food starch mentioned (from corn) but the pea protein- -which is the “plant” that Hampton Creek is saying that the product is based on- is only in the product at less than 2%. It really isn’t even needed in there!
  2. Just Cookies (or Cookie Dough) Can Change the World: Is a plant based product- Just Cookie dough or cookies has less than 2% sorgum (the plant that is supposedly making this product the amazing cookie that it is) – but really the cookie is mostly flour, sugar and other typical cookie ingredients like xanthan gum, brown sugar and soy lecithin. So how can this cookie change the world again?
  3. Poor Hampton Creek- the FDA is really being Mean: The FDA may do lots of things that the masses do not agree with- but I think everyone should agree that its nice to have defined products out there so food companies can’t deceive us into thinking their margarine is butter or their jam is not artificially sweetened/colored sugar and pectin. Mayonnaise just happens to be a defined product and Just Mayo has a picture of an EGG on it—so to many people who don’t watch the news or NPR radio, they will assume they are getting real mayonnaise and instead they are getting modified food starch and oil.
  4. Just Mayo-It’s JUST a name: Just Mayo has a whole bunch of violations on their label including the name, healthy implications and ingredient statement violations.

I work with start up companies that don’t even get 10K in investment money, let alone 120 million and they still did their due diligence and read the CFR’s (that would be the CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS) to ensure they didn’t violate any labeling regulations and mislead consumers.

Hampton Creek loves to boast about how their product is so affordable—of COURSE its affordable- its cheap oil and modified food starch. Modified food starch is why we get cheap shelf stable puddings and dry gravy mixes—its like a SUPER ingredient that can leap across mountains and make ingredients do what they don’t normally do.

Everything about Hampton Creek reminds me of the Molecular Gastronomy era. Remember Ferran? Wylie Dufrense? Homaro Canto (may he rest in peace)? All these chefs loved playing around with modified food starch and carboxymethycellulose and xanthan gum. They were AMAZED at all the cool things industrial ingredients (invented and discovered like a million years ago by my long dead food science professors professors) could do— like a kid in candy store they discovered the ingredients we have been using all along. Hampton Creek even hired one of those cool molecular chefs Ben Roche- formerly of Hampton Creek.

Hampton Creek is not going to save the world by putting out products that have already long ago been invented. At BEST they are bringing awareness to the masses on how chickens are treated and how not eating chicken/chicken products we can use less water and less resources—but that is AT BEST.. at WORST they are putting out silly products to promote their own marketing agenda—and wasting millions of dollars on researching pea proteins and sorghum that don’t really add anything to their product.

It would have cost less money to pay Josh Tetrick a salary to go around the country with his chef side kick Chris Jones giving talks on how we don’t need eggs to make cookies and doing demo’s on the wonders of food starch. Think of all those millions that could go to food science departments and fund real research being conducted by real food scientists and not molecular gastronomy chefs.

*For the record, I always admired chefs who play with industrial ingredients as they were able to bring creativity to the table using the very same ingredients that we (the food scientists) use to make foods normal and functional. So three cheers for those chefs- they have their place and space in this world—to entertain and amuse us with hydrocolloids and dehydrated bell pepper powder dipped squid – not squander money that uninformed investors paid in to get a scientifically sound and legal food product.

Josh Tetrick has offended me as a food scientist and as a human being. I don’t like being mislead and I don’t like it when marketing teams try to pretend like their product is all that– when it ain’t and its been done MANY times before.

orange injectoin

Why do chefs get annoyed with Rachael Ray? She takes what they  (the chefs) worked really hard at and recreates substandard versions using manufactured products and ready to use ingredients. Rachael won’t shuck her own peas, she just buys them in the can and dumps them in-she won’t make her own puff pastry, she will buy it, defrost it and top it with fruit.   She takes what was hard, makes it easy—and not as tasty AND she gets tons of money and a TV show for doing it. It all just seems unfair right?   She is also way to upbeat and happy – and that’s annoying too.  Rachael Ray may anger the chefs but she makes the masses happy—they can recreate an illusion using her shortcuts while impressing their friends all in the 45 minutes they have left after work, the gym and carpool.

Rachael let the world in on the chef’s secrets so they could enjoy it too!

A similar parallel has taken place between the food scientist and the food science “writers” like Harold McGee and Nathan Myhrvold. McGee wrote “On Food and Cooking” which translates technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science, something that had not yet been done in a systematic, comprehensive way. Myhrovold wrote Modernist Cuisine, a description of the application of scientific research principles and new techniques and technology to cooking.  Both of these writers took the mysterious world of food science and made it into something that everyone could understand and relate to- and play with in their own at home kitchens.

BUT yet- I am bothered by these guys in the same way that Rachael Ray bothers the chefs.  I think about the great food science professors and all the research being done by food companies all over the world and how they are looked upon with disdain by the masses… The food scientists are just a bunch of artificial flavor using, high fructose corn syrup worshipping, preservative injecting, GMO supporting scientists responsible for world-wide obesity and diabetes.  I actually get annoyed when a “foodie” or chef tells me how McGee changed their life or Myhrvold inspired them—or now they see how great xanthan gum really is— I just want to say: “hey, I coulda told you all that stuff and then some if you just asked”.

But they didn’t ask me and if they had I would not have been able to explain it to them in layman terms the way McGee and Myhrvold did- I would have probably just quoted from my Fennema Food Chemistry textbook or given them a lecture on the importance of acidified foods and a sub 4.6 pH.

And so I can’t really resent Ray or McGee or Myhrvold- they simply just recreated, in simple easy to understand language what was already out there. As long as we all understand that Rachel Ray is not a real chef and McGee and Myhrvold are not really food scientists, but very smart people who just generated mass interest- I think I can live with their fame and glory while I continue to get the evil eye from all the foodie, hippie, artisan, free thinkers of the food world. Just don’t forget who optimized those canned peas that Rachael Ray tosses into her authentic made from scratch Shephard’s Pie!

Lets keep it real!

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Wagyu Beef for Everyone—

I have been to many a World of Flavor conference- Eight to be exact—and most of them have focused on one particular type of cuisine or a category, like Mediterranean or Asian, or my favorite – Spain! This year was different- this year the Culinary Institute of America World of Flavors Conference focused on creativity and techniques that all chefs are using across the board all over the world—The World of Flavors “Kitchen’s Connected” brought together chefs from some of the worlds top kitchens and they showed us their creative process, their research and innovative techniques.

Some of my favorite highlights so far have included:

  • Nathan Myhrvold’s opening speech on creativity and innovation in the kitchen
  • Australian Chef Matt Wilkinson’s creamy savory tomato filled puff 

The Australian Chef with savory tomato cream puffs

  • Kentucky chef Ed Lee’s chicken and waffles
  • Wixon Seasoning Green Apple Greek Yogurt Pushup pops
  • Nonstop all you can eat Wagyu beef slices being passed out like London broil by MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fishery Gov. of Japan) (they told me it cost $90/lb and the cows are massaged daily and fed lots of beer… lucky cows!)
  • Torani’s Bourbon Milk Punch (which lead to my falling asleep for a few minutes during the general session…)

sleepy time

sleepy time

 

This is the first time that the CIA has really brought together both chefs and scientists to demonstrate how the creative culinary and food science combine and can be used to create amazing and fun dishes that are delicious to eat and to look at and play with.  It was almost like a big gigantic Research Chef Association Conference but with more restaurant chefs!

What was fascinating is how these chefs manage to bring together scientific techniques but yet still maintain farm to table-ness in their restaurant. It was  unique combination of culinary creativity allowing chefs to create natural artistic results.

This year you didn’t even have to be present to watch the World of Flavor general sessions live- it was broadcasted via a live web feed through the website.  After the show you can probably find links to all general session videos here: http://www.worldsofflavor.com

So far its been an amazing two days and for the first time I really feel like the CIA is calling out to my very own industry of Culinology- the art of science and food! More photos and coverage in the next few days or you can follow my twitter feed @culinologist

IMG_4066Every year the Almond Board of California organizes techno/culinary events to remind food scientists like me how great almonds are from both a flavorful and technical point of view. This year we visited Vosges chocolate shop in Chicago, during the IFT conference.

Almonds are really nutritious especially when eaten with cheese, chocolate and wine— all that fermentation (cheese) antioxidants (wine) and heart healthy nuts— It made perfect sense that we ate them all together ! For your own future pairing– do what we did at Vosges

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First Pairing

  • BARCELONA  BAR | Hickory smoked almonds + Fleur de Sel sea salt + 41% deep milk chocolate
  • VERMONT BUTTER + CHEESE COMPANY COUPOLE |Crumbly, nutty goat cheese.
  • Parcel  41 Merlot, Napa California | Enormously rich, ripe and concentrated showing layers of blackberry, current and mocha.

Second Pairing

  • NAGA TRUFFLE | 41% cacao deep milk chocolate truffle + sweet Indian curry powder + fresh coconut
  • VERMONT BUTTER & CHEESE COMPANY COUPOLE |This distinct cheese encompasses an amalgam of roasted nuts, citrus and florals as it ages, beginning firm and tangy and gradually transforming into an almost liquid outer layer of creamy bliss as it grows older.
  • NIVOLE MOSCATO D’ASTI| Gentle bubbles rise from this frizzante sparkler with notes of tropical mango, sweet peach and pea, balancing the spicy curry

 Third Pairing

  • WILD OPHELIA |SALTED ALMOND BAR| 41% cacao milk chocolate + chowchilla almonds + smoked Maine sea salt
  • YOUNG PECORINO| moist, milky and sweet, this fresh sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany resembles fresh mozzarella, with a similar spongy texture but a more pronounced tang.
  • GOOSE ISLAND NUT BROWN ALE | chestnut-hued ale of unusual complexity. Subtle notes of chocolate, honey

Almonds are super healthy— just a quick summary of their benefits:

A one-ounce serving of natural or roasted almonds contains 6 grams of power-packed protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. It’s a top food source of the antioxidant vitamin E as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps the body produce energy, maintain muscle tissue function and regulate blood sugar.[i]

And, it’s a heart-healthy choice: according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. An ounce of almonds has 13 grams of monounsaturated, “good” fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat. 

A 2012 study shows whole almonds may provide the body with 20 percent fewer calories than Nutrition Facts labels currently state – 129 calories per ounce instead of the current 160. The study takes into account the digestibility of whole almonds, and further research is needed to better understand the results of the study and how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of other foods.[ii]

Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

Putting it all on the table- Food Fete Goods!

I should be ashamed of myself- for years I too believed that maraschino cherries had formaldehyde in them- the stuff they put in dead people- someone told me this when I was like 8- and now here I am… years and many food science degrees later- still believing that this is the case. Crazy! Turns out that years ago- a writer for a national news magazine confused formaldehyde with benzaldehyde- a flavor that is extracted from cherries, walnuts and almond pits. Well, Cherry Man Farm To Market Maraschinos put a stop to all that nonsense— not only are they NOT made with Formaldehyde- but they don’t even have any artificial colors or flavors in them. It’s a whole new world of Maraschinos out there!

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All Natural- No Artificial anything and no formaldehyde!

Its been a few years since I attended Food Fete- the special fancy event that happens AFTER the fancy food show and is exclusive for companies that want more product exposure and want to mingle with elite members of the esteemed press. I was AMAZED at how BIG this event has become! There must have been 60+ companies there! Most brand new companies that I had never heard of- and a few established  companies that were launching their latest flavor/product concept. For example, Pepperidge Farms was demo’ing their Goldfish Mac & Cheese products.

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And here I thought Kraft and Annie’s had that market covered— enter Pepperidge Farm! They also had some cool puffy spicy goldfish crackers too! Lucky for you I am posting a picture because I can’t find it on their website!!! See, Food Fete Works!

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Puffy and spicy– and flavorful!

Entering into the show, they were serving Ole Smokey Moonshine cocktails- I passed on that because I don’t do the booze (read here why) – but great packaging right!?

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Moonshine – glass jars

I always though Kohler only made kitchen sinks and faucets- but now they make chocolate. I was more impressed with their press kit though, it was a fancy key USB in a box- I will cherish that key thing forever.

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the coolest of all media kits- a USB that looks like a key– in a box

The sneaky chef is sneaking vegetables into your marinara sauce and into the pasta- Now, while I don’t totally understand why they have to be SNUCK in –why can’t kids just be OK with it- at least they are there- and being eaten and that’s all that matters. But here is the part I am not clear on- they have a new veggie pasta on the market but I can’t find any online information—as a food scientist, I want to know how they got the veggies into the pasta. Stay tuned!!!

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Jama Cocoa is a start up company run by Jamasen Rodriguez and five other undergrads- the company combines modern, urban art world with the realm of delicious chocolate confections. They achieve this by partnering with both upcoming and established artists and featuring their artwork on their chocolate boxes. I think they should feature the artwork by Zariart.com who designed the cover of my new book!  The Food Business Tool Kit For Entrepreneurs (mini plug for my book here!)

my awesome book cover- of my great new book!

I also really liked the Jcoco Chocolate from Seattle– more cool packaging (beautiful women featured on the labels) and cool owners.

sexy women on the package!

sexy women on the package!

They promised to attend my RCA chocolate event in a few weeks in San Francisco-being held at Charles Chocolates with a microbiologist speaking about food safety and confections.

I think Lamb is like this forgotten meat in the U.S. – we should all eat more of it and if you visit the lean on Lamb website, they have tons of great recipes!

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eat more lamb!

I have to give a shout out to all California organizations (since I LIVE in California)  because they are just trying to support the farmers!  – the Almond Board of California , the California Milk Advisory BoardCalifornia Olive Ranch, and the California Olive Committee! I felt right at home at this years Food Fete!

Go All Things California!

Go All Things California!

I left the show with two heavy bags – took a taxi across town to meet my friend for dinner- he took a bunch of my chocolate bars, my veggie pasta (now I will NEVER know how they did it!) and some of my half popped popcorns!

sort of like corn nuts-- but not..

sort of like corn nuts– but not..

I got home and lay everything out on the table- wondering which items would come with me to Canada and then back to San Francisco.

Mom took the Lucini olive oil – so I don’t get to keep that– and more chocolate bars were removed from my bag when I was not looking– I did get to eat the Two Fold Foods Savory nuts for breakfast- trying to do the Paleo protein thing— so nuts work for that!

Nuts for breakfast

Nuts for breakfast

Mom snagged this shwag bag item

Mom snagged this bottle—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to thank Jeff Davis for putting on a great event- Great to be exposed to new products on the market- Glad to be able to share the information with my readers!  There were tons of other great products at the show but I can’t write about every single one— they are all listed HERE  because I thought everything was delicious!

I start going through withdrawal if I don’t attend a trade show at least once a month so was thrilled to learn that the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference was held in San Francisco this year. This conference is like a  “Power To the Women in the food industry” event. It was about 95% women and all of them in the food industry, mostly the culinary, blogging, cookbook writing, recipe development segment. But all food scientists know how to find their own, so it was easy for me to seek out a few of my people, including Skip Julius from Sensient Flavors and Ali McDaniel, a food marketing manager from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.

Mustard Eclairs?

Mustard Eclairs- Better Than It sounds!

While there were no seminars on food microbiology or research in the latest flavor chemistry technologies- there was a strong presence of innovative food topics that showed up in the form of- “Examining the Divide Between Dirt and Digital” which explored the tension between traditional and innovation or more specifically- a copper pot versus the sous-vide circulator. Maxime Bilet, the co-author of Modernist Cuisine- was on this panel and he also spoke about the future of food. I was very proud of my friend Dave Hirschkop, founder of Dave’s Gourmet– who gave an informative seminar on bringing your product to market. Not the farmers market but the big supermarket for mass-produced food. He covered all the secret food industry procedures that will also be in my upcoming technical guide for start up food companies!

So while Maxime Bilet was discussing Sous Vide and explaining the inner workings of industrial starches- there were equal but opposite seminars on the joy of foraging your own mushrooms and the history of the iconic sour dough bread. It was like old meets new, rustic meets modern and … dirt meets digital…. Oh, NOW I get the title!! This conference was all about the two industry extremes and what happens when their world collides…. You basically get sous vide foraged mushroom foam!

As the dirt and digital battled it out, I escaped and attended some seminars on how to promote your book (since I just wrote an ebook myself) and left with one piece of information that I can’t wait to use- affiliate book selling! I can give every technical food writer I know a link to my book site and let them profit for every book that is bought via someone finding it on their site! I also spent some time in Dave’s session on bringing products to market and couldn’t help but share a few of my experiences with the group –I left with a few companies asking me for my card in case they ever need one of those “food science” people.

Other topics that I got to explore were “Pinterest” (social media involving pinning pictures to your own virtual bulletin board), how to get funding for your project from kickstarter and other crowd funding sites.

My last session was Dough In The Dark- A Late- Night Finance boot camp for freelancers.  I learned at this seminar that most freelancing food writers make about 39,000 a year- we were encouraged to ask for more money – so I tried it out the next day when the editor of a magazine assigned me a piece- I insisted that I could not possibly take the job for less than $50 dollars more than what he offered me.. and guess what, the editor caved and now I will be $50 dollars richer- so it pays to at least ask!

The IACP conference has some extravagant culinary events like the Culinary Expo sponsored by produce and retail product food companies (sort of like a mini Fancy Food show) and the Sunday night party- sponsored by local restaurants and food companies. I got to eat savory mustard eclairs (from Maille) and see endive growing out of its chicory root.

Next year I am hoping that I can present a seminar at IACP- maybe give my own technical talk on bringing a product to market or perhaps I could win an award for the best technical food guide written and self published in 2013! Stay tuned

I won the golden ticket! Yes, literally I won a ticket when I ate at ING  back in October and the prize was dinner for two at Moto and the opportunity to be head chef for the day.  Ok, maybe not head chef… actually I was probably 3 levels below the intern but I did get to spent 5 hours working behind the scenes in a famous well known culinary science-esque type kitchen. I did have to sign an NDA so I can’t reveal any of the hard core secrets that I saw but I am pretty sure they shielded me from the proprietary stuff- like I didn’t get the secret recipe for Homaro’s edible paper but I did get to peel a few hundred cloves of garlic and I got to wash some beautiful micro-greens and I got to liquid-nitrogenize a sunchoke dressing.

Edible paper and a pumpkin made from pumpkin

Moto restaurant is one of the top 10 restaurants inaccurately referred to as “Molecular Gastronomy” restaurants. This restaurant, along with the no longer in existance El Bulli, WD50 (NYC) and Alinea (Chicago) are known for using industrial ingredients like xanthan gum, “kappa” carageenen and calcium chloride to make their food do things that foods don’t normally do- (which I find very ironic since we, the food scientists, use those same ingredients to make food do what it should do and stay that way for long periods of time). As a food scientist I see the humor in how they use our lab industrial ingredients but I also admire their creativity that inspires them to turn pumpkin puree into foam and then form it into the shape of a mini pumpkin. We never get to have that much fun in the R&D lab- I am usually under a tight timeline trying to figure out which starch will give my sauce the right home-made textured look to match the gold standard the restaurant chain chef wants me to recreate! Ok- maybe we DO get to have as much fun, but our work has consequences.. if we don’t get the texture right, then no business for us!

All the chefs that I worked with at @Moto were high energy and dynamic. You have to be both high energy and precise to work there- you need to be quick and accurate-all at the same time. Head chef Richie Farina and his crew were all that! Chef Richie also had great tattoos…

Richie has great ink!

Richie has great ink!

Moto had several pieces of industrial looking equipment, it had some rotary flasks and my favorite was the Brookfield in the corner. I am not quite sure what they use the Brookfield for, but I know I use it to confirm consistency in sauce viscosity. I wonder what spindle number they use?

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Chef Homaro Cantu is the founder and Executive Chef at Moto.  He is a chef, but really he is an inventor. He mostly invents ideas that are edible, like edible paper. His recent obsession is with the miracle berry, otherwise known as Synsepalum dulcificum. You can eat some miracle berry and then eat a lemon- and it tastes sweet! Homaro recently finished a cookbook that has foods that are normally not sweet, that you can eat POST eating a miracle berry- and it will taste sweet. This one of a kind collection of recipes utilizes the flavor altering properties of a berry that contains zero sugar within the fruit itself. Once this berry covers your palate it tricks your taste buds into thinking healthy foods are actually desserts! You can eat ice-cream that has had all the sugar removed and it still tastes sweet. The hope is that this berry can become readily available in all households and help eliminate refined sugar from the diet.  Cantu also has a new show called Cooking Under Pressure, a web based series about what goes on behind the scenes at ING restaurant. Cantu was the keynote speaker at the 2013 RCA show this year in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was assigned to help him prepare the miracle berry tasting and I spent four hours cutting lemons, wrapping them and putting the lemons, spoons, sour cream and miracle berry into a paper bag that went onto 500 + chairs at the keynote session. I was wearing high heel boots, so the task was painful, but I was grateful that I got to spend all that time with Homaro and listen to his stories about patents and miracle berry and his other inventions.

More on the RCA next week!!!

The Soul of a Dish ….

 
food
Pondering the soul of food

I am one of the lucky few who made it to Club El Bulli  before closing 7/2011-I got a lucky break and knew people who knew people and managed to snag one of the last few reservations available to humankind!

However… even though I MADE it to El Bulli but I didn’t actually get to eat there!

The night before my dinner at El Bulli I ate at 10 different tapas restaurants in the old city of Madrid. I had mussels and sucked freshly cooked crawfish heads, sardines, patatas bravas, olives, sardines, potatoes with runny egg, lots of Rose wine and some sweet cherry boozy stuff for dessert.

Runny Eggs-all part of the tapas crawl

Sucking Crawfish Heads (photo: Gerry Dawes)

The next morning i was sick at the train station, passed out on the AVE (high speed train) to Barcelona and sick again at the rest stop on the way to Rosas. I went to the PHARMACIA in Rosas and they were very nice and gave me an assortment of over the counter drugs -but I was still so ill, I just wanted to curl up and die…

But!! I had to do it-I wasn’t going to let some silly food poisoning get in the way of my only chance to eat at El Bulli! So over the hill and through the woods.. to Ferran’s house we went, me and Boy Wonder (AKA Greg Grossman). 

Over The Hill and Thru the Woods-to Ferran's House We Went

 We took the obligatory pictures outside the restaurant and with Ferran-he was expecting us and we got to have a few minutes of chat with the master of modern cuisine! We then sat down and began our culinary journey through the Ferran’s 60+ dishes.  It started with a pillow like cocktail made with cotton candy and freeze dried pineapple, frozen alcohol and what appeared to be dipping dots! We then moved into the mojito apple flute (AKA the methylcellulose sandwich).

MethylCellulose Sandwich AKA Mojito and Apple Flute

There was an olive oil chip that I suspect was made with sugar-alcohols (not good for people with gatro-distress, but looks way cool!). Then there was a very simple no tricks boiled shrimp-I stared at it for awhile, trying to figure out what the science secret was, turned out it was just boiled shrimp. Simple and perfect! we had octopus Shabuway-boiling tiny itty bitty octopus then dipping them in freeze dried red pepper powder (available from Van Drunen Farms actually-they carry organic and conventional).  

octopus cooked in water, dipped in oil and coated in Freeze Dried red pepper powder Polydextrose Olive Oil Chip -same stuff in sugar free chocolate (sugar-alcohols)

And so the dishes continued on -truffled blini, foie cakes, steamed eels, tomato tartar, sodium alginate peas, and the desserts, all of which i missed because at that point I had to go lie down in the back seat of the car because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I thought alot about that meal and even though I didn’t get to eat much, I did get to observe and taste. I could definitly see hints and accents of all the same ingredients that I use in my R&D lab and I saw techniques used that were clearly borrowed from manufacturers (IE cod fish crust was all puffy like a 3-D Dorito and freeze dried fruits and aerated chocolate (just like the AERO bar from England…) -seeing these techniques and ingredients used to make restaurant food didn’t impress me too much, after all-I have had to use similar techniques and ingredients AND get some serious shelf life out of the dish as well… BUT I do have to say that Ferran’s food has one thing that all my manufactured items don’t have…

They got Soul! I can create the most sophisticated shelf stable soft centered dry outside cake and use every modified food starch, gum and hydrocolloid on the market but at the end of the day no one is ever moved by a poptart or a box of retorted soup or even a jar of Paul Newman tomato sauce (yes, food science went into that… ).  But at El Bulli, every dish that was placed in front of me (and hardly touched) connected me to something-made me think of something, related to me, called to me, bonded with me in some way.  Every dish was connected to a time (in my life) or a place (that I have been) everything was familiar but twisted up to be unexpected.

This is the difference between him and us-same science, same equipment-but emotionally.. his food is alive and manufactured food is dead.

I rest my case!

bulli menu 2011 (in PDF for your viewing pleasure)