Saturday, June 28, 2008

Do Horses Have Plumes? Well They Do in Saratoga

The Plumed Horse
(408) 867-4711
14555 Big Basin Way
Saratoga, CA 95070
$115 Tasting Menu

We came with a purpose. My mother, brother and I came to have the tasting menu; my dad and aunt were just along for the ride. We were not dismayed by the $115 price for a seven-course meal. We were here to eat well.

After an $8 million renovation of an old Silicon Valley work-horse, the new restaurant is now designed for modern elegance in a beautiful dining room and bar. The onyx bar serves a $50 martini next to the fire place and lounge area. I guess that's how they're going to recomp their costs. Separating the bar from the dining room is a four-story glass wine cellar holding over 24,000 bottles of a Wine Spectator approved wine list. The intricate glass work for the lights in the room changed colors periodically, going from a subtle green, to lavender, then a soft white. While visually simulating, it made for difficult food photos. The champagne cart, liquor cart and cheese cart were ready to stop by each table at a moments notice. In fact, the first thing that happens upon seating is an offering of their extensive list of sparkling wines from all over the world.

An army of waiters, busers, runners, sommelier and maitre'd stood by ready to answer every request. Water glasses were always kept full and napkins were folded whenever a patron arose. It always pleases me to see restaurants that give out black napkins for people wearing dark clothing to avoid the lint from the white napkins. To me, that thin black napkin is what characterizes truly high-class service. With each course, a stream of waiters each carrying one plate surrounded the table so that they could present it all at once. A little excessive, since it took five waiters to deliver each course, but a giddy thrill at the same time.

I ordered a glass of pinot grigio for my meal. It was probably around $12 per glass, but it was a solid wine, especially speaking as someone who doesn't particularly like wine. My aunt said her Manhattan was excellent and she has been drinking them for twenty years. Knowing that, I wouldn't mind stopping in at the bar for a drink by the fireplace. The sommelier seemed a little young, but he was friendly and talkative. He does much to put you at ease with the vast wine list. Not the snobby French type I expected, but genuine and relatable.

Caviar and Ahi Tuna, quail egg, brioche toast

Ahi Tuna and Foie Gras, foie gras torchon and mustard fruits

Our first course was Tsar Nicolai ostera caviar on a bridge of brioche toast over a quail egg and ahi tuna tartare. I have had caviar before, but nothing this good. The tartare was a bit tart, but didn't seem to have any complexity. It was good tuna, but I wanted some more flavors rather than just the fish, especially since the next course is also tuna. Sure ahi tuna's a solid fish, but I don't need to eat it twice in one meal. The second course was seared tuna with an inlaid foie gras torchon and mustard fruits. This was my first experience with any type of foie gras, even if it was only as a torchon. It didn't do much to dazzle me. The thick texture contrasted well with the tuna and the sweet mustard fruits contrasted with the savory foie gras. Unfortunately, the tastes were so far apart that it was hard to bring them together.

Foie Gras and Onion Souffle, Armagnac prunes

The third course of the tasting menu was served with the first course for my father and aunt. He got the crab bisque, which tasted fresh and had a pleasant crustacean flavor. She had the porcini mushroom soup with a piece of foie gras in the center. The soup was rich, but not as rich as the foie gras. It felt like butter and didn't taste like much to be honest. On the tasting menu, we had the chef's signature foie gras and onion souffle served with a fricassee of Armagnac prunes. As a souffle it had good texture, but the taste was completely dominated by the onions. It resembled a puffy French onion soup and tasted like it too.

Hawaiian Walu, onion soubise, braised beef cheek

Poached Rib Eye "Pot au Feu," garlic flan, bone marrow dumpling

Roast Duck Breast, foie gras, white peach

Wild Venison, piquillo pepper, candied yams

Our fourth course was the Hawaiian walu fish with braised beef cheek. I can see how the two worked together, the beef cheek being more heavily flavored compared to the butterfish. It was one of my favorite courses of the night. The chef demonstrated his respect for balance in flavors and textures that excels far beyong the one-dimensional tastes of the typical meal. For the fifth course, we had a poached center-cut ribeye with bone marrow dumpling and garlic flan. While the two white lumps on my plate weren't very appetizing, the steak was tender and cooked to a perfect doneness. This was my first experience with poached beef, and I would still prefer some browning. My aunt's duck breast with foie gras and poached peaches was the best duck I've ever had. It tasted hearty, hardly even poultry at all. My dad's venison steak was not too gamy like the venison I've had before. It had just the slightest hint that it was more than just beef. I would highly recommend both the venison and the duck to anyone ordering an entree.

Bone Marrow and Truffle Cheese Fondue, potato croutons

Pain Perdue, camambert cheese, candied kumquat, orange gastrique

Baked California, vanilla ice cream, blueberry sorbet, meringue

Grand Mariner Souffle, sweet & sour yuzu, creme anglaise

Following the beef, we had a course of bone marrow and truffle cheese fondue. I'm not sure what kind of cheese it was, but it came as just a streak on my plate paired with potato croutons. The croutons were extraordinary, soft but flavorful and even better when streaked with the truffle cheese. Next, the entire table received a pre-dessert of peach sorbet with orange foam on top of raspberry gel. I liked how each layer of the dish had a progressively lighter texture. My dessert was a pain perdue similar in texture to French toast, although the flavor was heavier than I preferred. My aunt's baked California with blueberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream topped with toasted meringue made an interesting presentation and a satisfying dessert. My dad's Grand Mariner souffle was sadly too sweet and I was not able to pick out the rest of the flavors. The check came with a cherry gelee and almond candy that was a nice post-dessert finish, as if I needed another course.

After the meal, I talked with Manuel, the maitre'd about the restaurant's recent renovations. He said that they've been open a few months, and recently the Michelin people were there taking pictures and getting copies of the menu. They're hoping for a star come August. Our topic of conversation shifted to the chef Peter Armellino and Manuel asked if I'd like to meet him. Chef Armellino came out and asked me if I was interested in being a chef. I responded that I wanted to be a food writer and he recommended Jeffrey Steingarten for me to read. Previously, he had worked as chef de cuisine at Aqua in San Francisco when it received its two Michelin stars, so I wished him luck for The Plumed Horse too. He was also Traci Jardin's sous chef on her winning appearance on Iron Chef America.

Chef Armellino and Me

Overall, I think the tasting menu made a satisfying meal and that it would have been more expensive eating the same things in the city. However, the ingredients were not too imaginative. As you can tell, they really liked their artisan foie gras. I think it's a reflection of the Saratoga community. The median age is much older than San Francisco and I think they expect to eat that type of food when going out. I have faith that Armellino will be a bigger name in time to come. He seems to understand his ingredients well. I just wish there were more variety of ingredients to understand.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cuando Vuelo, Vuelo a la Paloma Selestial

Paloma Selestial
Somewhere around Pico & Overland
$1.25 a taco

On the opposite spectrum of my Comme ça lunch, I went to my first taco truck the other day. Considerably cheaper, as reflected in the facilities, I think both are equal in terms of value to cost ratio. I'm paying less and getting less in terms of service and ambiance, but the food is still quality tasty. Now I know, being the food lover that I am, it's a great shame I have only just recently gone to a taco truck. I like to talk big about how I like food all along the price spectrum, but up until now, I just never found it convenient to go to a taco truck. I know where several are parked, but they've never been a destination in themselves rather than a convenience at best. Now I know better, a good taco truck is worth checking out.

Several months ago, the tacos were only $1 each. But seeing as how gas prices are outrageous, I suppose an extra $.25 per taco at a mobile kitchen is reasonable. I have a healthy appetite and four tacos were filling without weighing me down. I opted for the carne asada, lengua, cabeza and al pastor tacos. To be honest, when they came all on one plate, I was hard-pressed to distinguish between them. All come with cilantro and onions, but two had salsa and two had guacamole. Al pastor is a roasted pork rotisserie similar to a Middle-Eastern Shawarma . Lengua is beef tongue, very high in fat and chewy. Cabeza is meat served from the roasted head of a cow. I'm not sure what parts of the head, but I'll just leave it at that. Sometimes it's better not to ask.

Paloma Selestial means Celestial Dove, but I'd be hard pressed to figure out what makes this truck celestial or dove-like. It looks like all the other catering trucks, which are under new legislation that seems to have little effect, so you might have to look around to find it. It's usually next to the Pep Boys, so you can use that as a reference point.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Comme quoi? Comme ça, bien sur

Comme ça
(323) 782-1178
8479 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
$25 for lunch

Pardonnez mon Français. I had to get my brother to translate it and he only took a year of French. I tried to say "Like what? Like that, of course." Comme ça is David Myers' French brasserie on Melrose. It's a more casual take on the dining experience compared to Sona, Myers' other restaurant.

The atmosphere was ethereal and tranquil. It was restrained and dignified but not pretentious. Natural lighting against a stark black and white motif and defined stripes just appealed to me. The waiters dressed stylishly, individually unique but similar enough for a sense of uniformity. I just felt at home in the restaurant.

Marshal and Thi were treating me to a celebratory graduation lunch. That said, the prices were a little high for a normal lunch. Coming here would definitely be an event, not a casual meal. The bread came out warm and so delicious that it is worth a trip in itself. Thi speculated that it came from Myers' bakery Boule, but wherever it was from, we helped ourself to a second loaf. Even carb-phobic Marshal had a fill of it. Marshal's entree was the beef tartare, a good balance of savory and tart. It was not as good as Fraiche's tartare, but still delicious on its own right. Thi's braised beef paleron sandwich was too salty, but plenty hearty.

Duck confit

Since I've only recently started eating French food consistently, I had wanted to try duck confit. I ordered it for lunch and was somewhat disappointed. From what I understand, it was done well, the skin was crisp and the meat flavorful, but it lacked the buttery smoothness I expected. I don't know if I just don't like confit or if Comme ça just didn't do it as well as I hoped. The red cabbage and red wine over spatzle was a little bitter and didn't help balance the duck well enough.

Comme ça cake

Dessert was a visual treat as much as a taste sensation. This is the Comme ça cake, designed by Myers' wife who is the pastry chef. Sure, it doesn't look like a cake, in fact it looks more like a turtle. But that's just the smooth chocolate coating made of the blackest chocolate I've ever seen. Once i broke through that ebony exterior, the moist cake was delicate in flavor and not too sweet. All too often a perfectly fine dessert has been ruined by an over-zealous addition of sugar, but this cake understood balance in flavors. The green mound is pistachio ice cream with bits of crushed pistachios spread over the top. Thi said she tasted a little tea mixed into the cake; I agree that it definitely had something special. Whatever it was, this was not your typical chocolate cake.

All in all, I had a great time here. We even got a quick glance at Myers who came through the front door halfway through our meal. He sported a pony-tail and shades making him look like a rockstar. But I guess that's how celebrity chefs are treated nowadays. In the back, a vendor was trying to sell the bartender absinthe, so possibly look out for that in the future. I just need to work on my French pronunciation before I tackle my next French foodventure (pronounced Com Sa, by the way).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm Running Late to My McMeeting

So I'm driving up the coast of California for a family road trip when we stopped at the American pit-stop to refuel. Yet this wasn't your run-of-the-mill McDonald's, it had gone through a little misguided remodeling. Entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a cheerful employee with a tray of samples. It's not like this is a food court menu, we've all grown up Ronald. The McGreeter was strange enough, but the sign behind her was even more peculiar. Yes, that's right. You can rent out this McConference room for your next board meeting. Of course it's not for kids' birthdays, unless your kid enjoys meeting rooms. Personally, I would've liked my birthdays to involve some sort of combination of ball and pit.

That's when I realized that this entire McDonald's deviated from the plastic furniture and red and yellow motif. I understand catering to the diverse clientele, but maybe clientele is too strong a word. Who wants to have a meeting that smells like French fries? In international McDonald's the brand is slightly skewed to reflect the culture. In China, Ronald is known as Uncle Ronald. There is also a country that features a Mrs. McDonald as the wife of Ronald McDonald because a lonely adult man who hangs out with kids is slightly offensive in that culture--not that Americans have problems like that. The menus are always a point of cultural flux, as any kid who found pizza at a Canadian McDonald's can tell you. McD's in India serve lamb burgers because of prevailing Hindu reverence for beef.

I am impressed by McDonald's evolving identity. They know how to perpetuate their brand and stay fresh, even giving Starbucks a run for its money with the new line of McDonald's coffee. Recently, the Hacienda Heights store has been redesigned with feng shui in mind to reflect the Chinese population. But perhaps I'm a little biased; I do have one share of McDonald's stock given to me for my tenth birthday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meat--the Only Way to Celebrate: Lawry's the Prime Rib

Lawry's Cut

Lawry's the Prime Rib
(310) 652-2827
100 N La Cienega Blvd,
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
$37 for prime rib and spinning salad

Caught up in the fervor of graduation from UCLA, it didn't even occur to me that my graduation dinner would be legitimate blogging material. This explains the embarrassingly poor picture to showcase Lawry's famous prime rib. Seeing as how it was a graduation dinner of fifteen relatives, there were plenty of people with much better digital cameras who could've snapped me a picture. I guess dealing with the commencement ceremony and a throng of relatives just left me a little fried.

The price of $37 includes a 10 oz. prime rib and their famous spinning salad and mashed potatoes. A waitress in a pale brown maid's uniform comes table-side to prepare the salad, which is just a mixture of greens, beets and other miscellanea mixed with a French dressing. The spinning is in the preparation, which creates a stainless steel centrifuge to spin the leafy bits. It did not suit me. As I expected, the salad was overdressed for the occasion; it came suit and tie when I would've liked biz cas instead. As for the maid costumes, my boss T pointed out in the office that they could be hot if they were on the right waitresses. Unfortunately, sex appeal is not Lawry's strong suit; that is assuming you don't count meat as sexy, something I certainly do. But that is not to say that the wait staff was incompetent. On the contrary, they were polite and professional.

One person out of my fourteen guests opted out of the red meat and had a salmon entree instead. Seeing as how this is not Lawry's the Salmon, I will also opt out of reviewing their fish. People, please come here for their namesake. The prime rib is carted out to the table like the salad and a special carver cuts the specific portions and doneness that you request. I had the Lawry's cut, at 10 ounces, plenty of meat ordered medium-rare. In general, always order meat at a doneness below what you think you would enjoy. It can always be sent back to be cooked longer, but it can't be uncooked. The exception would be medium-rare, asking for a rare steak usually results in asking for it to be taken back as well. If you're ordering it well-done, you shouldn't be eating steak.

(Beef Digression)
Prime rib has taken on many meanings nowadays, but it supposed to refer to a standing rib roast of prime USDA quality. In the US, grading is actually voluntary by the breeder, but most tend to do it to sell their beef for higher prices. The grade is based on the amount and distribution of marbling (the presence of veins of white fats). Choice is the grade most common in supermarkets, select is the lowest retail grade. Anything lower than select is ground up and made into processed meats such as hot dogs and dog food. At the top of the ranking is the prime grade, only about 2% of beef receive this rating.
(/Beef Digression)

My beef indeed had the strong flavor of a dry-aged rib roast. It went best with Lawry's freshly made horseradish. Personally, I have grown to love the tast of horseradish on rare beef, but even those who haven't developed that taste enjoyed the creamy horseradish that was much milder in flavor. I would've forgotten completely about the mashed potatoes if it weren't for my sad photo; they were that unmemorable. The creamed corn was unbearably sweet and did not go well with the rest of the plate. I tried some of the creamed spinach too, but neither was very good to me. The beef also came with Yorkshire pudding, a fluffy treat made from the pan drippings of the roasting prime rib. Okay, maybe knowing how it was baked makes it slightly less appetizing. I had a piece of my cousin's strawberry trifle resembling a shortcake that was light and fruity.

I came out of Lawry's actually a little disappointed. I wasn't sure why; after all, it was exactly what I expected--solid prime rib, decent sides and dessert. Most of all, the high-backed chairs and aged decor made me feel like a king. Also, I'm pretty sure kings always ate large quantities of meat. When I got home, I realized what bothered me about the dinner was the name of the restaurant. What makes this Lawry's the Prime Rib? That makes it sound like this is the best prime rib available. And although I enjoyed my dinner, if this is as good as beef gets, I think I just lost faith in a carnivore lifestyle.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Japanese Maid Waitresses and Tartare Tartare: Destinations in Culver City

Fraiche Restaurant

Living on the West side, I find myself frequenting Santa Monica when looking for restaurants. Granted, there are some great ones like Father's Office and The Counter, interestingly both burger restaurants, but I have been overlooking another Food Destination as well--Culver City. For the longest time, the only thing of interest has been the film studios, formerly Columbia-TriStar, now Sony. Now, the downtown area has been revitalized with many new restaurants and boutiques that are worth an adventure on their own. I have discovered great lunch and dinner places sure to satisfy the taste explorer.

Rooibos Tea at Royal/T


(310) 559-6300
8910 Washington Blvd.
Culver City
$10 per person for lunch

I didn't know what to expect when I got in the car to go to Royal/T. When I arrived, I realized this huge building, 100,000 square feet, is more art gallery than cafe. The place looked like a converted warehouse with high ceilings and open rafters. Large Plexiglas walls separated exhibits of contemporary, mostly Japanese, art. Art majors would love this place. The cafe is located, not much more than a counter and a few tables. They do not skimp on quality here; the glasses were double-walled bodum glass that break easily and don't come cheap. I believe the flatware was Wedgwood as well. For this set-up, the food was not extraordinarily expensive.

Of course Royal/T is also the first Japanese maid cafe in Los Angeles. For those of you aren't familiar with meido kissa cafes where the service staff dress as French maids, this has been a phenomenon in Japan catering to those who want to feel pampered in a high tea environment. In fact, Royal/T does offer a high tea option for around $20, which includes choice of tea, finger sandwiches and simple sushi rolls. Although the target audience is intended to be women wanting to indulge in princess fantasies, that's like saying that the target audience of Victoria Secret is only women shopping for fashionable underwear.

Spicy Tuna Tartare and Royal Tea

I ordered a delicious tuna tartare with radish sprouts, a spicy mayo blend, and avocado on a crispy slice of toast. Since this is a tea house, I ordered their house Royal Tea from their extensive tea menu. The Royal Tea is a black tea brewed in soymilk with a hint of fruit. Although it was refreshing, my friend's rooibos tea was much more fragrant and complex in flavor. Rooibos, pronounced "roy-boss," is an herbal tea from African that is naturally decaffeinated. I smelled the flavors open up at across the table as our maid poured it for my friend. Fragrances of strawberries filled my nose, and the taste was impeccable. A small cube of raw sugar made the experience even more satisfying.

Although this was a fun experience, I would feel awkward going there without female accompaniment. Despite its fantastic art, great food, and attention to quality, Royal/T is just not somewhere you go with the guys. I also would like to note if you do visit, bring your iPod and plug it into the Porta-Party in the back for your personal dance party.

Corkboard Menu

9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City
$50 per person

Seeing as how I already put up the exterior photo of Fraiche at the beginning of this post, I
used a picture of their corkboard menu with insignia for this section. It was either that, or this picture of their bread.

Four Types of Bread with Tapenade

Fraiche has been on my try list for quite some time since I kept hearing about how popular this place was. The new "it" restaurant, serving rustic French and Italian food. I decided to come here with my girlfriend to celebrate my graduation from UCLA. I made the reservations online, came 15 minutes early, and was seated at a comfortable table outside with no problem. The restaurant interior is actually not that big; they have several tables for patio dining with appropriate heat lamp climate control. Maybe it was the hanging lights, or maybe it was the friendly staff dressed in pink shirts, but I felt at ease in the restaurant. Actually, it was probably just the older crowd than the usual places I eat at.

Beef Tartare and White Corn Soup

The dinner started with a bread plate of four different types served with a simple, but tasty tapenade. The olive spread was a refreshing change from the all-too-common butter. I started with the beef tartare as my appetizer. Now I haven't had beef tartare enough times to really compare, but compared to everything else I have ever eaten, this dish definitely ranks among the most memorable. Prepared with bacon Sabayon, chives and accompanying a side arugula salad, it had all the complexity in flavor and texture that made me smile after each bite. Good thing this was my graduation dinner, because I truly thought I had to work for four years to deserve something so delicious. The chewy beef contrasted nicely with the crunchy toast, keeping my tongue busy as I worked my way through the flavors. My girlfriend had the white corn soup with basil cream and a floating corn fritter. The soup was delicate and sweet, the corn flavor dominant but not overwhelming. Visually, the cream swirling around the fritter looked almost tranquil or balanced.

Monkfish and Lamb

Going on the recommendation of a friend, I ordered the monkfish Francaise with spinach and potato puree in a white wine reduction. Now I didn't know it at the time, but fish prepared a la Francaise means coating in an egg batter and pan-roasting. Unfortunately, I have a disdain for egg, and the flavor detracted from the fish. The potato puree saved the dish however, it was smooth and velvety, rich with surely the pound of butter they used to make it. The lamb spezzatino was a stewed lamb with gnocchi. The gnocchi resembled my potato puree in texture, but the lamb was nothing spectacular. Actually, for the amount I'm paying, I expected a bit more.


For dessert, I ordered the Paris-brest, which was something that resembled a puff pastry filled with almond praline chantilly cream and topped with saffron golden raisin sauce. Now I couldn't figure out if saffron was just to describe the color of the sauce, or if there was really saffron in the sauce. Either way, I didn't like the sauce. The pastry itself was sweet and not too rich. The spun sugar topping was also a visual treat.

All in all, I have a fairly positive impression of Fraiche, pronounced "fresh" by the way. I didn't mention that to sound pretentious; I just made the mistake myself when I talked to the hostess. While the entrees failed to meet my expectations, I would definitely go back someday, just not soon. There are so many other places to try. And after this experience, some of those places might just be in Culver City. Honey Kettle and Ford's Filling Station, here I come!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Creepy Crawlies for Green Cuisine

Scorpion scaloppine/Photo credit: TIME

Looking through my weekly TIME magazine, I found an article in the Life section by Bryan Walsh reporting from the Richmond, Virginia Broad Appetit Food Festival. Premier entomophagists (the scientific term for eating insects) David George Gordon from Seattle and David Gracer from Providence faced off in a Bug Cook-off promoting the using insects as food. While the idea of eating insects may gross out most Americans, considering insects as food is not so far-fetched in many areas of the world. In Colombia, leaf-cutter ants are eaten in lieu of popcorn at movie theaters. In my own personal experience in China, I've eaten congee cooked with sandworms (as an aside, I had my reservations about it, but I didn't want to offend my guests). Locally, you can get insects at Typhoon in Santa Monica. Don't order the scorpions though, they're so small you can't taste anything. Supposedly a good scorpion tastes vaguely like crab. The truth is, insects are a viable food source.

Now as to why insects are so environmentally friendly, just consider how difficult it is to get rid of insect infestations. The ability of insects to reproduce and survive adverse conditions also make them easy to cultivate with very few resources. They do not need to generate any body heat, so more of their energy goes towards creating edible body parts rather than metabolism. Plus if you've taken Biology 101, you know that the lower on an organism is on the trophic structure, the less energy it takes to raise.

Waxworm, Queen Atta ants and Stinkbug Salad/Photo Credit: TIME

Now why would we turn from our familiar chickens, cows and pigs to something that we typically squish underneath our shoe? By now I think most people are familiar with the impacts of our modern agricultural practices on the environment. Most people think of carbon from cars and factories when they envision global warming, but methane from cows is also a significant green house gas. Insects are also disproportionately nutritious. They are low in fat, but high in protein. Waterbugs have four times the of iron as the same amount of beef. Caterpillars served in Africa have slightly more protein than an equivalent amount of chicken.

As to the gross factor, you have to divorce yourself from the ideas that bugs are dirty or creepy. I know this is the hardest part, especially when you're envisioning crunching into the exoskeleton of a hand-sized beetle. But try to take an objective look at some of the crustaceans we eat (by the way, people who are allergic to shellfish are typically also allergic to insects). A lobster or a shrimp do not look particularly appetizing. It's only a cultural construction. Perhaps if they were in another form. Consider this bread made of a flour of ground up cicadas:

Photo Credit: Sunrise Land Shrimp

So for those of you who are genuinely concerned for the environment, recognize that your eating habits do constitute a huge strain on the planet. Be a little adventurous, try something new. Embrace cultures that have already looked to the sustainable ingredients--insects.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Does Molecular Gastronomy Constitute Cooking?

I ran into two articles in the NY Times that I thought would be worth sharing for my food conscious readers.

The first article about the miracle fruit describes Synsepalum dulcificum, a native West African fruit with the appropriately named protein miraculin. This protein binds with taste buds and accentuates the sweetness in acidic foods. After eating the fruit, people have described such diverse reactions as vinegar tasting like apple juice or even cheap tequila tasting like top-shelf. The fruit is rather expensive, $2 a berry, but the taste-altering effects lasts for about half an hour. It might be worth buying a few of them to try. sells them thirty at a time for $90 shipped.

The second article describes the conflict between Spanish chefs over the use of molecular gastronomy in culinary creations. Specifically, three-Michelin star Santi Santamaria has targeted Ferran Adria for his use of chemicals and other scientific techniques in the kitchen. Santamaria has criticized the use of things like methyl cellulose and xanthan gum as catering to the "media spectacle" rather than "healthy eating." In response, Adria has claimed that many of the ingredients are natural or approved by the EU health standards.

Innovations such as parmesan snow, "boiling" chilled sauces, and olive sphere caviar have been a recent phenomenon in haute cuisine. Adria is the head chef of El Bulli, recently rated the best restaurant in the world. In fact, the previous holder of that title The Fat Duck in England is also a molecular gastronomic restaurant. Although this marks a departure from traditional cuisine emphasizing wholesome natural ingredients, this type of culinary innovation is not new. Science has had a place in kitchens since the advent of mass-produced foods. Look on the back of most packaged foods nowadays and tell me if you know half of what the ingredients are. Whether this science belongs in fancy restaurants is the question.

Personally, I believe that food is constantly evolving. It's a fool who thinks they can be a truly great cook without understanding some fundamental kitchen science. Would you try the miracle fruit? How about a chemical distillation of that specific protein as an ingredient? Where do you draw the line?