What would a Modernist Cuisine dinner be without a little liquid nitrogen action going on? Chef Naomi Pomeroy gets in on the fun.
BELLVUE, WA — Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer turned maestro of modernist cuisine, has held less than a dozen invitation-only dinners at his Intellectual Ventures laboratory. The exclusive guests have included the likes of Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, David Chang and Jose Andres.
In June, I was lucky enough to join that illustrious list when I was invited to be part of a very special dinner. What made this dinner so epic was not only the fact that it was Myhrvold’s largest dinner party to date, but that all the guests were women.
The wizard-genius behind it all, Nathan Myhrvold, stops by each table to explain the dishes.
The Modernist Cuisine team hard at work on the one-of-a-kind dinner.
A reminder that you are dining in an actual science laboratory.
Twenty-one female chefs and four female journalists sat down to a marathon 35-course dinner that lasted six hours. The guest list was as follows:
Joanne Chang: Flour and Myers + Chang, Boston
Ashley Christensen: Poole’s Downtown Diner, Beasley’s, Chuck’s, and more, Raleigh, NC
Amanda Cohen: Dirt Candy, NYC
Dominique Crenn: Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
Lauren DeSteno: Marea, NYC
Kerry Diamond: editorial director of Cherry Bombe
Sara Dickerman: writer for Epicurious.com
Renee Erickson: The Walrus & the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, and more, Seattle
Elizabeth Falkner: formerly of Corvo Bianco, NYC
Katie Hagan-Whelchel: ad hoc, Yountville, CA
Maria Hines: Tilth, Golden Beetle, and Agrodolce, Seattle
Carolyn Jung: writer for Food Arts
Anita Lo: Annisa, NYC
Emily Luchetti: Marlow, Park Tavern, and The Cavalier, San Francisco
Carrie Nahabedian: NAHA and Brindille, Chicago
Melissa Perello: Frances, San Francisco
Naomi Pomeroy: BEAST, Portland, OR
Iliana Regan: Elizabeth, Chicago
Ruth Reichl: author of “Delicious!”
Karen Shu: ABC Kitchen, NYC
Nancy Silverton: Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
Ana Sortun: Oleana, Cambridge, MA
Christina Tosi: Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC
Anne Willan: founder of École de Cuisine La Varenne, Santa Monica, CA, and France
Three big round tables were set up in the lab, where everyone could watch the cooking going on.
Course #2: Elote — a take on Mexican street corn with freeze-dried corn, crema powder and chile aioli.
Course #5: Tofu — only made with soy milk and heavy cream. Sesame seeds and Asian pear dot the top. A syringe of ponzu sauce is alongside.
Now that my story on the dinner published in Food Arts this month, my editor finally gave me the approval to blog about it. Believe me, it was torture not to be able to do so sooner. Read my story in the September issue of the magazine to find out more about what prompted Myhrvold to host such a dinner, plus the reaction to it by the women attendees.
Course #6: Squid — squid jerky on top and uni underneath. An intense dish.
To get a look at more of the astounding food — loaded with humor, irony and thrills — continue scrolling down.
I finally got back to my hotel room at 1 a.m. — so stuffed that I don’t think I was hungry until dinner time the next day. Crenn was one of the few — if only — chefs able to finish every single bite on her plates. As she deadpanned proudly, “I am French.”
Course #7: Binchotan. A play on Japanese charcoal used for grilling.
It looks like a stick of charcoal….
It turns out to be foie gras.
Course #8: Steak Frites. A tiny cup of intense beef mousseline with one perfect French fry balanced on top, its ultracrisp exterior the result of the potato being placed in the same type of ultrasonic bath used to clean jewelry to create bubbles on the tuber’s surface before frying.
To get us in the mood for this course.
Course #9: Give Peas a Chance. What looks like peas in a pod is actually a silky pea puree made by spinning frozen Green Giant peas in a centrifuge.
Myhrvold delights in telling everyone how the pea dish was created. Chef Renee Erickson looks on with disbelief.
Course #10: Pistou. The pea liquid left over from spinning the peas in the centrifuge is made into a broth that tastes of sweet, sweet peas.
Course #17: Spaghetti Vongole. Or is it? The “noodles” are actually geoduck. It’s flavored with walnut marmalade and miso powder. One of my favorite dishes of the night.
Course #18: Salmon. The flesh is as lusciously soft as custard. The skin is made into a chicharron.
Course #20: Quail Egg. Not really. It’s actually a mock raw egg made out of passion fruit.
Course #23: Omelet. It’s made with two batters, one with powdered mushroom.
Course #24: Beef Stew. Myhrvold wanted to make a rare beef consomme. The brilliant magenta color was set with the help of carbon monoxide.
Showing off the gorgeous roast chicken.
Course #25: Roast Chicken. The skin is shatteringly crisp and paper thin. The chicken is brined by injecting the flesh so it never touches the skin. The chicken is hung for three days upside-down before roasting.
Course #27: Pastrami. Seriously, the best and most tender pastrami — ever. The beef is brined for four days, then smoked for six hours.
Plating the pastrami dish.
Shaving what looks like black truffle.
Course #31: Truffle. It turns out to be chocolate made to look like a truffle, complete with striations. It’s served with coconut ice cream and almond nougatine.
Course #32: Onion. They look like little ice cream cones. But what’s inside is actually an onion soft-serve.
Course #33: Pistachio. The famed pistachio ice cream. Only it contains no dairy whatsoever. It’s made with nuts, sugar, and hydrocolloids. The taste is bold. The texture beyond smooth.
Course #34: Breaking Bad. It’s the course everyone is most curious about. One chef joked that Myhrvold surely must be making crystal meth for the crowd — because if anyone can make it easily, it would be him.
It’s actually bourbon and vanilla that’s heated. A cocktail — if you will — that you inhale, but don’t sip. You get all the flavor with no calories consumed. Pastry Chef Christina Tosi demonstrates.
The team gets a round of applause at the end of the epic meal.