Chow Bella

FoodLab 2010: Your Worst Nightmare: Eating Your Positive Lab Results (Part Two of Seven)

Molecular gastronomy (not the after-effect of eating too many black bean, spicy sausage and cheese nachos) is a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. In this seven-part series, we're using our love of food and Carl Sagan to create molecular masterpieces of deliciousness as newly indoctrinated chef-chemists, or "chemefs." Pray for us.

Since our first post last week,we've realized molecular cooking isn't going to be as easy as our French friends at Cuisine Innovation told us it would be in their sleek yet shamefully confusing and metric-muscling brochure. That said, we'd already spent the 70 bones for the kit, so why not give it a try? Heck, we might even learn something.

Recipe 1: Caviar of Red Fruit

According to the brochure, when making the first recipe, Caviar of Red Fruit, something called spheriphication happens. That's when sodium alginate forms a gel in the presence of calcium ions, allowing the formation of beads with a liquid core.

Ah, of course.

It also recommends we eat these beads immediately or as soon as possible; and cautions against disposing of the sodium alginate preparation in the sink. Rather, we should use our "bins."


Tools and Ingredients:

Consulting the list of tools, we find we have everything we need in the kit save for the $50 immersion blender we refuse to purchase (a regular blender should be fine). Oh, and just in case you don't want to use the tools in the kit or somehow found the brochure stuffed into a Louis Vuitton knockoff bag you bought off the street, you'll need a precision scale and a small sieve (approximately $35).

Onto the ingredients. Again, most of them, thankfully, are already in the kit, except for the red berry juice. That's right. Red. Berry. Juice. Not raspberry, strawberry, or even wolfberry, but red berry. Guess the Frenchies want us to pick our poison. Fine. We choose cherry, or cerise. Let's get started.

The Process and Outcome:

With the exception of several trips to the confusing volume-weight conversion table on the last page of the brochure, the process was fairly quick and painless. Unfortunately, the results were horrific: Looking less like caviar and more like bloody Sea Monkeys, it appeared our test results had come back positive and now our mad scientist/doctor was going to make us eat them. We did. In the name of science. And although the flavor was cheerfully cherry, the caviar "beads" were flat and slimy -- like frogspawn swimming in a gelatinous crimson coating.

Today, the "bin" would be used for more than just the remains of what appears to be a cruel, French joke.

FoodLab 2010 Report Card: Caviar of Red Fruit Food Grade: C Science Grade: C-

What went wrong? We can only speculate. Was it the red berry juice flavor of choice? The meddlesome metric system? Little does Cuisine Innovation know, we, the chemefs at Chow Bella are a tenacious bunch, and we'll be back next week to make Coco Jelly, Mango Compote and Chantilly -- scientifically. Stay tuned.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld