Archive for the 'Molecular Gastronomy' Category

Ice Cream Lab – Pasadena

Ice Cream Lab - Pasadena

I scream. You scream. We all scream for liquid nitrogen ice cream!

Ice Cream Lab, which first introduced its made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream in Beverly Hills in 2013, recently opened a second outlet in my neck of the woods—Old Town Pasadena. The Astronomer and I swung by to check out the new kid on the block during its debut weekend. We cannot resist an intriguing food and science mashup!

Ice Cream Lab - Pasadena

The opening menu, which was more concise than expected, featured four “Classic” flavors (vanilla bean, chocolate, strawberry, and cookies and cream) and three “Signature” specialties. All are made with either a custard or yogurt base.

Ice Cream Lab - Pasadena

Once we settled on our flavors, the shop’s “techs” used machines that looked like suped-up Kitchen Aids and -320 degree liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze the raw ingredients into ice cream. Very cool. Literally.

Note: The Astronomer, a scientist and proponent of safety, was surprised that the techs were not required to wear safety goggles and protective gloves. He feared for their eyeballs and exposed extremities.

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Longman & Eagle – Chicago

Longman & Eagle - Chicago

If I had to pick a favorite meal from this trip to Chicago, top honors would go to Chef Jared Wentworth’s Longman & Eagle. It’s a whiskey bar that happens to have really good fucking food. What more could I ask for?

Longman & Eagle - Chicago

Recipient of a Michelin star for four straight years and counting (2011 to 2014), Longman & Eagle is my kind of place.

The food is creative and delightful, while the mood is perfectly chill. Best of all, the fare is more than fairly priced. It’s impossible not to fall hard for L&E’s charms, especially with a few $3 whiskies working their way through one’s system.

Longman & Eagle - Chicago

Behind the stoves are Executive Chef and Partner Jared Wentworth and Chef de Cuisine Matthew Kerney. The forward food is sometimes dreamed up while under the influence:

I think smoking a little weed makes the creative process better, especially for food. But it’s all based in classical French techniques, and then I start putting twists on things from there. – Jared Wentworth

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Ink – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

Michael Voltaggio, the former Chef de Cuisine at The Bazaar by José Andrés and Executive Chef at The Dining Room at The Langham, and the winner of season six of Bravo’s Top Chef, opened his highly anticipated first restaurant in 2011 on a stretch of Melrose known more for its fashion than for its fare. Here at Ink, a minimally appointed space painted a shadowy shade of gray, Chef Voltaggio creates “modern Los Angeles cuisine” that marries molecular gastronomy with surprising flavor combinations and highly stylized plating.

Based on my lukewarm meals at both The Bazaar and The Dining Room, I wasn’t expecting the strongest showing at Ink. However, I was downright tickled to find that the food here was playful, beautiful, thoughtful, and very much delicious.

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

Diners can order family style from the a la carte menu, three to four dishes per person is recommended, or indulge in a four-course tasting plus dessert orchestrated by the kitchen. While the former allows for freedom, the latter features unique dishes not available on the a la carte menu. Since The Astronomer and I had plans for a second dinner later on, we went with the a la carte option.

Ink. - West Hollywood - Los Angeles

We sat at the “sushi” counter this evening since we didn’t have advanced reservations, which provided stellar views of the chefs making modernist magic with liquid nitrogen and thermal immersion circulators. I highly recommend snagging a seat along the counter for dinner and a show.

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Alinea, March 2012 – Chicago

Alinea - Chicago (March 2012)

I must admit that a part of me was relieved when I failed to get a reservation at Alinea initially. Not only would my bank account be more robust for it, but the awesome memories that I had of the restaurant from my first meal there would remain intact.

Less than 24 hours before boarding our flight to Chicago, I received a phone call from Alinea’s reservationist offering a table for two the following evening. It’s not every day that the opportunity to dine at one of the world’s best restaurants presents itself, so I took a deep breath and went for gold.

Alinea - Chicago (March 2012)

Just as soon as we arrived in the city, The Astronomer and I jammed it to our hotel, changed into prettier clothes, and headed off to Alinea. Upon walking through the restaurant’s fuschia-lit entrance, we were greeted by the hostess, who freed us from our winter coats and led us upstairs to our table.

Before I go on any further about the food and fun we had this evening, it must be said that the service at Alinea isn’t the warmest. Not every front-of-the-house team can strike the perfect balance between polished and inviting a la Eleven Madison Park, but Alinea’s all-male waitstaff left a lot to be desired. As these black suited gents presented each course, it felt like they had grown tired of and jaded by the theatrics Alinea is known for. As a result, our interactions were often awkward and sometimes humorless. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, on to the food and fun…

Centerpiece I

Alinea - Chicago (March 2012)

Even though the service left me wanting, the food mostly dazzled. This intriguing ice block was the first of three centerpieces to grace the table. I knew from previous experience that it would play a role in a future course, but in what capacity remained to be seen. I was hoping for an ice luge of some sort

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