Listening to chef Christopher Gross explain the mind- and palate-expanding sensation of eating "miracle fruit," I can't help but think of Willy Wonka waxing poetic about Everlasting Gobstoppers.
"You can eat a lemon wedge, and it tastes just like a piece of candy!" he tells me.
It's called flavor tripping. Apparently this is what happens when you nibble on synsepalum dulcificum, a West African berry that's been dubbed "miracle fruit" for its unusual taste-transforming abilities. It makes sour, spicy, and bitter foods taste sweet with a glycoprotein molecule that binds to your taste buds and affects the sweetness receptors for up to half an hour.
Miracle fruit could've been next big commercial sweetner back in the 1970s, before the FDA mysteriously put the kibosh on it (conspiracy by the sugar industry? who knows...). These days, it's become a foodie phenomenon, an excuse to play with Tabasco sauce, radishes, vinegar, and all kinds of bold flavors. Flavor tripping parties are de rigueur in our nation's culinary capitals, don't you know?
Well, as far as I know, nobody's brought it to Arizona until now. Gross is planning to host a flavor tripping party at Crush Lounge at the Biltmore, where guests will take miracle fruit tablets before feasting on a variety of foods -- including plenty of lemon wedges. There will be wines, too. Gross says that the miracle fruit makes even a dry champagne taste like dessert wine.
Sounds almost too trippy to be true, but believe it. The party starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, and is $15 per person. Call 602-522-2344 for reservations.