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Nuclear gastronomy

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What Heston Blumenthal calls his cooking style. Blumenthal is the owner-chef of The Fat Duck, a restaurant 15 minutes from London’s Heathrow Airport, in the village of Bray-on-Thames. He and his fellow cabal of visionary chefs create dishes out of outlandish combinations of ingredients, such as chocolate and cauliflower, pasta made from radishes, and smoked bacon and egg ice cream. Raymond Sokolov investigated, and reported in Friday’s Wall St. Journal. From his article:

“Dramatic is the green-tea and lime mousse, for which pressurized essences of tea and lime are pumped out of siphons into a bowl of steaming liquid nitrogen. The cold ‘poaches’ the mousses instantly, turning them into clouds of pure airy flavor. Or perhaps you would prefer something straightforward, like a soft-boiled egg in an egg cup. At The Fat Duck, this means three raffine layers – langoustine cream, quail-egg jelly and pea puree with a strip of sauteed duck skin standing up in the faux egg.

Main courses, while not so radical, continue the prestidigitation. Veal kidney is cooked in its own fat, pretending it is a Big Mac by being served with fries, ketchup, and a sauce ‘mac-vin.’ On the $150-a-person tasting menu, the audacity level rises, as if the chef is daring you that you WILL like sardine-on-toast sorbet.”

Sokolov, long-time food critic for the New York Times, now a peripatetic food writer for the Wall St. Journal, received, in the early 1980s, what was, in that pre-MacArthur era, a great prize: a fellowship from the American Museum of Natural History to travel around the U.S. in search of regional cuisines. His work, which anticipated the “slow food” movement by about 15 years, was published in a series of essays in the early 80s, and later assembled into a book, “Fading Feast: A Compendium of American Regional Foods.”

Among my favorite chapters: country hams, Brunswick stew, blueberries, the clambake, black walnuts, abalone, Olympia oysters, Pacific salmon, dates, and sea urchin [fun fact: girls who like uni sushi swallow. “A very unique, melt in the mouth texture” is a major understatement!].

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