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On Thursday, I had the extremely rare privilege of getting an inside look at the kitchen laboratory at Intellectual Ventures.  If you aren’t aware, Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures CEO) along with chefs Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, has spent the last four years working on the book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.  This will be no ordinary cookbook – at 2400 pages and 5 volumes, it is unarguably the most in-depth, detailed compendium on the scientific process of cooking that has ever been written.  I’ll have many more interesting facts on the book in upcoming posts, but if you want the big picture, check out my interview with Nathan Myhrvold back in May.

The pictures and videos below are from a reception that the Modernist Cuisine team hosted as part of the International Food Blogger’s Conference.   Needless to say, this is the most sophisticated kitchen on earth, and as a food geek, I was in heaven.  Click through for more photos and video.

Lab panorama
[Click the picture to view full-size] This panorama gives you a sense of the kitchen’s layout.  All of the stations are on wheels and the whole kitchen can be rearranged as the team focuses on different projects. 

 


In this video clip, CEO and King of the Food Geeks Dr. Nathan Myhrvold discusses the decision to not dumb down the book to cover only the equipment you’re likely to have in your home kitchen.

Spice Cabinet
[Click the picture for the full-size image (so you can read the labels)]  This is the Modernist Cuisine kitchen’s idea of a spice cabinet.  Many of the products are available through the website www.chefrubber.com

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A centrifuge is used here to separate solids from liquids and clarify sauces and stocks.  The green bottle is finely-blended raw peas that have separated into solids and pea water.


In this video, Chef Chris Young talks about the benefits of having a kitchen without customers.  The unique design of the Modernist Cuisine kitchen allows the staff (up to 36 people at certain points in the book’s development) to focus on research and testing of new recipes and techniques. 

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You’re looking at the world’s only deep-fried watermelon chips.  I have no idea how they managed to deep fry watermelon, but I promise that it’s a dangerous proposition if attempted incorrectly.  The chips were light and delicious, with a recognizable hint of caramelized watermelon flavor.

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Those look like beautiful cherries, don’t they? They’re actually made of foie gras.  And yes, they were delicious.

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Chefs plate a small bite of horse mackerel sashimi with ginger and plum, proving that not all of the recipes require a particle accelerator.

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My favorite dish of the night’: "tongue and cheek pastrami and rye”.  A thin slice of sous vide smoked Wagyu beef cheek is served with thinly-shaved tongue and delicate rye chips.  But, what makes this dish spectacular is the beef marrow mousseline (shown being shot out of a CO2 charger).  The mousseline is like the richest, fattiest mayonnaise you could imagine, except it’s made from sous vide egg yolks and bone marrow, and it is served warm. 

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The frozen pistachio “cream” (ie. pistachio ice cream) alone is worth the price of the book.  As you can see from its beautiful glossy sheen, the ice cream was creamy and incredibly smooth.  What makes this dish really incredible is that the ice cream is made only from pistachios, emulsifiers and sugar.  No milk. No Cream. No eggs.  That’s right, it’s vegan!

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And, for a little whimsy, they made olive oil and vanilla bean gummy worms.

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And finally, I was thrilled to get a picture with Nathan.  See that grin on my face?  I kept it for days.

For more information on the book, check back here and also be sure to visit the official site for the project, www.ModernistCuisine.com

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Update: The book finally has a shipping date – March 14th, 2011!  Pre-order your copy today!

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The 2nd Annual IFBC starts today in Seattle!  I’ll be tweeting like a maniac (follow me at http://twitter.com/seattlefoodgeek), but also highlighting some of the more important moments here. 

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If you want to keep up with the conference, just keep hitting refresh.

 

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headshot square white 1024px 2009 has been a great year for food in Seattle, but with the new year just around the corner, I thought I’d share my guesses insight into what we’ll see in restaurants and home kitchens 2010.  Some of these may be national trends, but as Pacific Northwesters, we tend to be the canaries in the coalmine, especially when discussing what we put in our bodies. 
As always, there will be a balance of healthy, socially-conscious eating and perverse gluttony (see Bacon Explosion). 

Seattle will go sous-vide crazy

svs-ModernRackFinal-393 The fancy restaurants have already been doing it for years (though, perhaps illegally).  But in 2010, I predict that sous-vide preparations will start showing up on restaurant menus everywhere (like The Keg and McCormick & Schmick’s), not just at cutting-edge gastropubs.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, sous-vide describes a cooking method where food is vacu-sealed and heated very slowly (hours or even days) in temperature-controlled water baths.  The method lets cooks achieve heavenly textures not achievable with an oven, stove or fry-o-lator.  2009 saw the release of the SousVide Supreme, the world’s first home-use water oven.  But at $499, it only appeals to serious food geeks (even I don’t have one yet).  I predict that 2010 will give us the “George Foreman Grill of sous-vide”, an afforable, mass-market water oven, complete with late night infomercial.

 

Homemade Pasta is the new Canvolution

Papardelle with Sweet Potato and Spinach There’s nothing new about homemade pasta.  Nor is there anything new about canned foods.  Both are oldschool, inexpensive, and very social ways of preparing food.  2009 gave rise to a huge wave of canning parties, covered under the umbrella movement of “Canvolution”.  I predict a similar wave of ad-hoc food gatherings next year, and I think homemade pasta could be the recipe of choice.  Making pasta – particularly rolling and cutting noodles – is a fun group activity.  Plus, dried pasta lasts forever and makes for a great gift (just like canned goods).  Stock up on Semolina flour – it’s gonna be a carb-tastic new year!

 

Sliders Out, Rillettes In

salmon rillet You know sliders are falling out of fashion when they appear on the menu at Jack-In-The-Box.  Although the mini-burgers enjoyed  their time in the spotlight at almost every restaurant in the city, it’s time for us to move on to the next “it” dish.  My prediction: rillettes.  Sure, they lack the mass appeal of a very small hamburger, but these spreadable potted meats are a total rustic treat.  The first rillette I ever tasted was a creamy little pot of salmon at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in New York.  Let me tell you, it left an impression.  Although pâté may be hopelessly off the mainstream, I think rillettes have a fighting chance.

 

Other Predictions, Hopes and Ramblings…

  1. Cupcakes are over.  And so are the Pinkberry knockoffs.  Please, let’s move on.
  2. Sustainable sushi will be the new norm.  With more and more diners checking sustainable seafood watchlists at the dinner table, we can no longer gorge on unagi without social consequences.  Bravo to chefs like Hajime at West Seattle’s Mashiko for leading the charge.
  3. Salts on the rise.  Look for specialty salts to play a major role in restaurant menus.  Oh, and regular table salt is so last decade.  If it’s not Chardonnay-smoked, truffle-infused, or from an obscure seaport town in France, I’m not interested.
  4. We get it: bacon is delicious and makes for ironic kitsch.  Let’s find a new punch line in 2010.  How about blowfish?
  5. Seattle chefs embrace (or at least tinker with) molecular gastronomy.  It may not be for everyone, but molecular gastronomy – sciencey food made through extremely geeky methods – is still turning heads around the country.  There are a number of brave Seattle chefs are already having fun with science, but in a city with so many artists, I have to believe the best (and weirdest) is yet to come.
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