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Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Course #2: Mint sphere in cider

This course was originally going to be chorizo cream spheres in cider, a second recipe from “My Molecular Cuisine Kit”. I had the foresight to try this recipe out ahead of time and the results were disgusting; the cream mixture got very thick when spherified and it was the texture of wet cat food. Ugh.

I had already purchased bottles of Val de France sparkling apple juice so I decided to re-tool the recipe, and mint spheres sounded like they would go well with the cider.

I started with a simple syrup of mint leaves but the flavor wasn’t strong enough so I added some mint tea. Then the color was too brown so I added some green food dye to boost the color. I mixed 500ml of the mint syrup and 5.2g sodium alginate with an immersion blender, poured into 1/2 sphere silicone molds and froze for 2 hours.

Once frozen, the 1/2 spheres were dropped into a calcium bath (36oz water mixed with 5g calcium chloride). As they melted, they morphed into perfectly round spheres, like magic. And looked a lot like olives. The spheres were then rinsed in clean water and dropped into shots of apple juice.

The drink had a refreshing burst of sweet mint set against the carbonated, slightly sour cider.

See Molecular Gastronomy Party for the complete menu.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Course #1: Baked Camembert with honey pearls

This was a recipe from “My Molecular Cuisine Kit”, which involved heating honey with some water and agar agar. Within seconds of taking the honey off the heat there was a swarm of crazed bees outside my door trying to get in. I never really knew what was behind the saying “make a beeline”, but now I understand.

The recipe said to drop the honey mixture from a pipette into a very cold container of grapeseed oil. We tried this over and over again, even adding more agar agar but unlike water and oil, honey and oil really do seem to mix.

We totally scrapped that recipe and at T minus 30 (T being party time) went hunting for a different one. My friend found this one and disaster was averted. It was a more traditional spherification technique using the combination of sodium alginate and calcium chloride to form the gel-like skin upon contact of the two ingredients. This time when we dropped the honey mix from the pipette beautiful little pearls formed. Because we didn’t have time to let the mixture set, ours were a little on the opaque side, but I kind of liked that.

The Camembert and a goat cheese brie were baked at 350° until the cheese started to ooze out. The combination of crusty French bread, gooey cheese and the delicate, clean burst of honey when the pearls popped was delicious.

See Molecular Gastronomy Party for the complete menu.

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy Party

I must be insane. Last night I threw a molecular gastronomy party with 11 courses for 15 people. I was cooking for two full days and was exhausted by the end of it. But it was wildly successful, with a great guest list and lots of playing with food. Here was the menu:

Baked Camembert with honey pearls
Mint sphere in cider
Pea “ravioli” with truffle oil
Deconstructed nachos
Asparagus with soft poached egg & mustard lemon emulsion
Quinoa coated shrimp with sweet chili sauce
Duck confit with arugula “spaghetti”
Salt-block seared steak with chimichurri air
Raspberry mousse with effervescent lime sugar
Vietnamese coffee ice pops
Sous-vide sage & mint chocolate lollipops

More posts about each course to follow…

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy – Attempt #1

consumed 1/2/10

My first brush with molecular gastronomy was eating at WD50 back in 2007. We were invited into the prep area and it looked more like a laboratory than a kitchen. It was intimidating. Then after watching seasons of Top Chef the idea of trying it at home became more reasonable. Then I came across the Experimental Texturas Kit and it was on.

Our evening started out with doughnut soup, which as it sounds, would have been better suited to dessert. My friend made HOMEMADE rice milk (yum) from sushi rice and mixed it with cream, coffee, cinnamon and poured it over doughnut crumbs—glazed Krispy Kremes that had been processed lightly in the Cuisinart and then toasted until super crunchy. Freaking delicious.

Next up was lamb “pasta” with avocado foam. We added Gellan to lamb consumé, poured it into a sheet pan, let it cool and then sliced it into strips, like fettuccine. The weird thing with Gellan is that you can heat it back up and it will retain its form. We served the re-heated pasta with diced onions, tomatoes, julienne of basil and avocado foam (avocado and milk charged with N2O). This dish was a textural fail—the noodles were crunchy and glutinous at the same time. A little like eating soggy rubber bands.

We then had a spinach salad with delicious homemade Green Goddess dressing, fresh grapefruit and… spherical Mozzarella! I think out of everything we tried with Texturas, the Mozarella turned out the best. A little like burrata, with a creamy liquid center.

My friend then made mini-eggs by doing things with a syringe and Xanthan gum. Not quite sure what he did, but they turned out great served on Parmesan crisps with blanched kale, a touch of white balsamic and smoked salt.

The next thing we tried looked pretty but after the lamb aspic hot mess we had to dare each other to eat it: re-hydrated morel mushrooms and broth mixed with Kappa and poured into heart-shaped molds. Yep, tasted like mushroom jello. Gross.

My favorite dish of the night didn’t involve any molecular trickery. It was thinly sliced lamb shoulder and top loin steak  “grilled” table-side on a Himalayan salt block. The block, made entirely of compressed salt, was heated in the oven at 475 for an hour, then transferred to the table where we seared our meat. As it cooked, the salt melted a bit and mixed with the juices imparting a deep salt flavor.

For dessert #1 we tried to make ginger & lychee ice cream “caviar” with Algin and Calcic. I think we got the measurements wrong as it didn’t gel up and the pearls melted into the water bath. Boo.

Dessert #2 was another foam, this time with pineapple juice, meringue powder and long pepper. Success!

The last dessert involved Miracle Berries, which make sour things taste sweet. We raided the kitchen and ate preserved lemons, limes, grapefruit juice and salt & vinegar potato chips.

And just to be fancy, we drank soda water with pearl dust.

It was an exhausting but super fun day in the kitchen!

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Party party

consumed 6/3/11

To celebrate a personal milestone, I had a few friends over for a summer dinner party. This was the menu:

Zucchini Bisque – An old favorite from a Cuisinart recipe booklet. Easy to make and can be served hot or cold–perfect for hot California evenings.

Arancini (balls of risotto stuffed with mozzarella & peas) – I still haven’t mastered making these yet; they always end up as huge, crumbling balls, but they are delicious and I was able to make and fry them several days in advance.

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels – Easy to make ahead. Cheese, pork and puff-pastry… what’s not to like?

Asparagus w/ Mayonnaise Verte – Counteracts my tendency to serve all meat dishes; my standby when veggies are needed.

Dry Ribs – My absolute favorite. Crisp and salty on the outside and meltingly tender inside.

Panzanella – Toasted cubes of bread in a balsamic vinaigrette. The arugula and cheese are just an added bonus.

Shrimp Salad in Endive – Crunchy, sweet shrimp on crisp, slightly bitter endive.

Gnocchi w/ Roquefort Cream – French gnocchi (made with Pate a Choux) baked in a luxuriously rich Roquefort sauce.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts – Not your typical bacon wrap; these have a sweet mayonnaise and spicy chili coating.

Semifreddo – A great, creamy, frozen (or half-frozen) dessert. I couldn’t find marionberries (my favorite), but the blackberry substitute worked out fine.


Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Spring Fling

consumed on 5/26/07

Another Dunn Gardens feast…

Risotto balls with mozzarella & peas
Asparagus with mayo verte
Shrimp cocktail
Puff pastry with sheep’s milk cheese, mango chutney & oregano
Beef crostini with celeriac remoulade
Lox crostini with lemon caper shallot butter
Chicken ballotine with morels (Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook)
Leek & camembert tartlets
Tuna sashimi on pita

And for dessert…
Rhubarb & marionberry tartlets
Lavender shortbread
Chocolate shortbread
Meringue cookies

And a selection of cocktails…
Chambord & prosecco with raspberry ice cream float
Strawberry & basil drink
Factory 75 (a French 75 taken with a Polaroid)

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

Yen-Yen’s 89th birthday

consumed 03/08/2006

So now I know where I get it from.. for my grandma’s 89th birthday, my aunt planned a party for a hundred of my grandma’s closest friends. I guess when you’re 89 years old you can really rack up the friends.

The menu:

  • 17 fried chickens
  • 8 smoked hams
  • 6 baked salmon
  • 2 smoked turkeys
  • 20 lbs macaroni salad
  • 20 lbs potato salad
  • 5 boxes fried shrimp chips (they filled almost two kitchen garbage bags)
  • sticky rice with lop chong
  • 200 curry turnovers
  • lumpia (bought frozen at uwajimaya – really good)
  • seafood and chicken chow mein (from sun ya)
  • baked hum bow (from sun ya)
  • sheet cake (from sweet & fresh)
  • tai doi (homemade sesame balls filled with bean paste)
  • egg custards
Thursday, January 26th, 2006

B’s bday party

consumed 1/26/2006

My friend B makes a big deal for other people’s birthdays, so I wanted to do something special in return  and planned a roving cocktail party. After NYE I needed a menu that wouldn’t kill me with lots of things that could be made ahead:

Duck rillettes
Baked brie
Mini cheese palmiers
Wild boar puff pastry
Shrimp cocktail
Dry ribs
Crab in endive
D-I-Y hot fudge sundaes complete with sprinkles & maraschino cherries

Can’t really go into the details of the rest of the night, but let’s just say it involved a white limousine, two coolers full of Prosecco and a strip club. Don’t ask.

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Brunch, Culinary Fool Style

consumed on 9/24/05

In my circle of friends I’m known as the one who “over does” it with parties and food, so I always enjoy meeting people who are even more over the top than me. Culinary Fool is just such a person so when she invited me over for her semi-annual ladies brunch a few weekends ago, I gladly accepted.

I walked into an amazing smelling house and was quickly ushered out to the sunny back deck where coffee, orange juice and champagne were waiting. After introductions and some chit-chat we were asked back inside and seated around a table overflowing with food. This was the spread:

Crab and Shrimp “Quiche” – A beautiful mix of fluffy, light eggs packed with crab and shrimp.

Oven Omelet with Vegetables – Another egg dish more geared towards the vegetarians.

Tomatoes with Shallots, Basil and Balsamic – A colorful and tasty side dish with cherry tomatoes and basil from her garden.

Homemade Orange and Cranberry Rolls – Culinary Fool said that these didn’t turn out as good as usual, but I still enjoyed them.

Chicken and Apple Sausages – Completely addictive sausage from Aidells. It almost tasted like a savory-sweet kielbasa.

Pork Roll with Apple Stuffing – A pork roast stuffed with a chunky apple filling.

Bacon Fritters РWhen I saw these, a wave of happiness came over me and I wanted to hug Culinary Fool. They were light pancakes studded with bacon, served with arugula and saut̩ed balsamic onions.

Brunch is such a lovely occasion on its own, but when done Culinary Fool Style it’s elevated to a whole new level.

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Nishino / Tasting Menu

A week ago, Hillel from Tasting Menu invited me to a launch party for his latest creation: Autumn Omakase, A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino. The party was held at Nishino and since I had never been before I was excited to check it out.

For the party Nishino was serving platters of sushi, fabulous shrimp and asparagus tempura, seared tuna with chopped daikon and little foie gras/shitake/tuna nibbles. Admittedly, passed appetizers are not a huge indication of a restaurant’s capability, but I was sufficiently impressed. I will be returning very soon to try out the omakase menu.

Now for the good part. Even if you don’t live in Seattle you can still try the omakase menu—you’ll just have to cook it yourself. Hillel’s latest cookbook is filled with beautiful images and nine of Nishino’s recipes, which have been broken down into steps that seem very manageable. I can’t wait to cook the entire menu!

Download it for free at:

Congrats Hillel! Another beautiful baby…