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Molecular Gastronomy Leaves Me Plotting

Molecular Gastronomy Leaves Me Plotting


Last week, Maggi and I went to a cooking class at Rosendales in the Short North area in Columbus. Rosendales is an exceedingly good restaurant that Maggi and I only recently discovered. We’d go a lot more often, but the Short North isn’t close. When I have to send almost as much money to Iran just getting to dinner as I do on dinner itself, I stay home more often. That said, I’ll probably make the drive more often this Fall, when the owner and chef at Rosendales, Richard Rosendale, opens his second restaurant, Details, next door. I’ve talked to the sommelier and head bartender, and the bar at Details sounds like just the kind of superior, innovative watering hole that makes me wish I lived in Portland or Seattle, but haven’t found in Columbus.
Chef Rosendale’s class was on Molecular Gastronomy, and this was the second attempt to hold it. The first try was postponed when he was named a semi-finalist for the US slot in the Bocuse d’Or cullinary competition. He is now a finalist, which may explain why there are no more classes scheduled in the short term.

Wait! So what are you now, a food blogger?

Bear with me. This is still a cocktail blog.
Chef Rosendale did a wonderful demonstration of the use of hydrocolloids in cooking. These are the gelling agents that can transform water-based solutions in all sorts of cool and useful ways. He showed us ways to use Gelatin, Agar Agar, Sodium Alginate, Carrageenan, as well as Lecithin and Calcium Chloride.

Hey, um, not rain on your parade, but those last two aren’t hydrocolloids!

True, but Lecithin is an emulsifier that can produce similar results with the right ingredients, and the Calcium Chloride works with the Alginate to do something insanely cool that I’ll talk about in a second. He also threw in some fun with vacuum sealers that I have already failed to duplicate, and did the making ice cream with liquid nitrogen trick, which I had never seen close up.

Chef Rosendale’s style of presentation was clear, fun, and energetic. The group was curious and asked a lot of questions. Maggi the chemist asked a few questions I’d have never thought of, but the man was equal to the task. And of course I asked a whole bunch of questions, most of which were variations of Now, how would I have to adjust the mix if I introduced a whole bunch of alcohol?
I’ll be having fun with foam garnishes, alcoholic noodles, and Pegu Caviar for weeks.

Ok, I’ll bite.
Pegu Caviar?

Yep. That’s the cool trick with the Alginate. Basically, the recipe he showed us mixed cantaloupe juice and a trace of Sodium Alginate. You drop a dollop into a bath of cold water and Calcium Chloride. The instant the drop hits the solution, it begins to harden from the outside in. After a short time, depending on the size and desired consistency of the resulting ball, you remove and rinse in fresh cold water. You end up with a spheroid that is firm on the outside but still liquid on the inside. Even if you just made marble-sized drops with a spoon, this would be cool to do with cocktails. But with a little apparatus that he showed us from a website called ChefRubber.com you can drop scores of tiny drops in at once, resulting in a pile of little tiny balls the size and consistency of salmon roe. I’ve ordered one of these devices and will try to work up the ratios for as many different cocktails as I can, starting of course with Pegus. How ’bout a Manhattan and cheddar on a Bremner Wafer? Watch this space for pictures and recipes when I can get it to work!


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