When I was touring the West Coast this fall, I stopped by the laboratory founded by Nathan Myhrvold which houses the Modernist Cuisine kitchen. (The lab is mostly devoted to creating patents for new inventions such as a laser-guided mosquito zapper. Don’t ask!)
Unbeknownst to me, Nathan had organized a 12-course lunch which was stunning both in its creativity and the food itself. Yes, some of it was silly and certainly not for the home cook (the pistachio gelato cost $25 per scoop) but credit must be given to someone who had the time, money, and smarts to investigate the best way to produce certain dishes. The pea and corn butters, produced in a centrifuge, were incredible. The gelato was amazing. The roast chicken was indeed perfect. And, I got lots of ideas for testing in our kitchen. I was left, however, with an appetite for imperfection.
As a colleague of mine says every year about dry turkey breast, “That’s why God invented gravy!” We always strive for perfection at America’s Test Kitchen, but I love cooking because it doesn’t always turn out as one had hoped. It’s the possibility of failure, the joy of discovery, and the pure imperfection of it that is often its charm. However, Nathan Myhrvold has made a terrific contribution to the culinary world and a huge “thank you” from me to his staff for an extraordinary dining experience.
Here I am with Nathan Myhrvold at the Modernist Cuisine lab. Bright, interesting guy.
This polenta was excellent and the "strawberry marinara" on top was full of flavor but a tad unsettling. This is a far cry from a cast-iron Dutch oven and the kids trying to get at the crusty bits around the sides of the pot!
This roast chicken did provide the ideal of perfectly crisp skin and very moist meat but it certainly was no Tuesday night recipe. But kudos to Nathan and his team for a job well done.
This pea butter is made using a centrifuge. Yes, it had intense flavor and was a winner.
This is pastrami cooked in a sous vide method for 72 hours and served with wasabi and sauerkraut. This was quite good although it did lack chew—a great fallback option in my later years!
An omelet that has a design of "constructed egg stripes." This was extremely rich and eggy—think that a Julia Child omelet would be my first choice here. Of all the 12 courses, this was my least favorite.
Here's what it looks like inside.
This is Nathan's steak frites recipe. The fries are indeed very crunchy on the outside. They are put into a water bath and then sound waves are run through it which roughs up the outside of the fries.
This king salmon recipe was good but I like texture in my food and this fish was a bit too soft. Great flavor but I do still have my teeth!
A pea broth soup before the broth is poured in.
This banana/bourbon/goat's milk milkshake was fabulous. Say goodbye to Dairy Queen!