Unlike the namesake film – “My Dinner with Andre” – where the existential discourse found its place in the conversation at the table – the philosophy and science of this dinner was placed in the story of the food itself.
The occasion was an offering of a 30-course (frankly, I lost count) sampling of recipes from the upcoming: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking authored by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet. Consisting of over 2400 pages with 3500 images, the 6 volume set spans over 6 miles of text with the ink alone weighing in at 4 pounds. The dinner was prepared and served at the Intellectual Ventures food lab.
Now, realizing we are all shaped and live by particular metaphors, I am going to induce a music analogy to describe my culinary experience. The Roasted Corn Elote (freezer drier, N-Zorbit powder) and the Spaghetti Vongole-Geoduck, Banga Cauda, Sea Beans (centrifuged broth) had the progressive sophistication akin to King Crimson. The post-punk, funk and ska sensibilities found in the continuum of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Fishbone (if you can catch the allusive nuances) played out the the bang and flow of the “Snow Ball” – Green Apple and Fresh Wasabi (vacuum aerated sorbet, frozen fluid gel powder) and the Oyster Cocktail (liquid nitrogen shucking, liquid nitrogen citrus shattering). The Roast Chicken, Jus Gras (combi oven roast program, heat stable jus gras, pressure cooker garlic confit) was pure Hendrix. My favorite, the Pistacchio Gelato, Cocoa Nib, Black Olive (frozen constructed cream) launched into Curtis Mayfield space.
My table-mate coined the compliment “bowl licker” – as in the Beef Stew (low temperature extraction, cured, sous vide marrow) being another “bowl licker.” Another compliment added to the mix by another table-mate was “pocket stuffer” as he referred to the Pastrami and Sauerkraut (72 hour sous vide, precise curing and brining, fermentation, dehydrated bread). I did find the BBQ (high tech smoking, sous vide, centrifuged sauce) to lean more to the Bolten rather than Marvin Gaye side of the R&B equation.
All in all, the dinner was a brilliant mix of scientific explanations and the heart-felt care of preparation of Bilet and his team all wrapped up in Myhvold’s infectious kid-in-a-candy-store laugh.
A quote by Matt Catmill that I found on one of the stall walls best gets at the spirit of the dinner, “As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life – so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.” If I would have had a sharpie in my pocket, I would have added the Earth, Wind and Fire lyric: “sounds never dissipate… they only recreate… in another place.” (thanks Quetzal)
To catch more of Nathan Myhvold in action be sure to join us on February 21 for our next Media Space / Four Peaks salon: “Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Pacific Northwest: Are We Really Ready for the Future?”
A UWTV/MCDM/Four Peaks event: Monday, February 21, 2011 11:30 – 2:30 p.m., Walker-Ames Room, Kane Hall, University of Washington
Admission $20 (includes lunch – a thought-provoking way to spend President’s Day) **FREE parking
Salon conversation leaders will include: