Tag Archives: food science

The Manhattan Project

VTR - Barrel-Aged Manhatten by Edsel Little (CC BY-AS 2.0)

VTR – Barrel-Aged Manhattan by Edsel Little (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you were wondering what to drink while you watch Manhattanhenge, the choice is obvious – a Manhattan, preferably barrel-aged.

As I grew into manhood, my father promoted a strong set of core values in me – politeness, gratitude, compassion, kindness – as well as respect for a good glass of whiskey and Winston Churchill. What, you may ask, does Winston Churchill have to do with this classic whiskey cocktails and science? Glad you asked.

The most common Manhattan origin story states that it was created in 1874 at New York’s Manhattan club for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother. That was the same year Winnie was born. I doubt he, of all people, would discourage the notion that helping coordinate the creation of the Manhattan cocktail in utero may have been early practice for coordinating the Allied victory in WWII. At the very least, the Manhattan and Winston are akin to each other. Watch out Jagermeister! Continue reading

Molecular Gastronomy != Food Science

My brother assures me that the title of the post is nerd for “Molecular Gastronomy Ain’t Food Science”. I hope this is true. He’s a very convincing liar.

The term molecular gastronomy has gone from niche jargon to a standard phrase in discussions of food. In many ways, molecular gastronomy is synonymous with modern cuisine. I find this ironic, because  it is anything but modern. Techniques have been honed and the array of available chemicals has expanded, but that is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind.

Two hundred yeas ago, if we wanted to make something like an aspic*, you would boil down pig skin to extract the gelatin. Today, we can buy a packet of powder from the store. The source of gelatin, be that a vat of boiled pig skin or a convenient sized packet), does not make the molecular processes that occur during the cooking different. Continue reading

Movie Food I: Mickey, Beanstalks & Jell-O

Imagination is one of the key tools in any great chef’s arsenal. The ability to imagine something new and different is the first step in creating it. Along those lines, these posts are a salute to some of my favorite fictitious foods from television, books, and movies. No surprise, Disney movies claim a few of those spots.

Disney’s Mickey and the Beanstalk
In this Disney short, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald find themselves at the top of the beanstalk and roaming across the Giant’s opulent table. While everything looks delicious, watching Goofy swim and eat his way out of a jello mold sparked a memorable food dream for me.

What are your favorite made up foods?

ChocolateFest: The Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate

Mmmmmm Chocolate by Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA)

Mmmmmm Chocolate by Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA)

Last weekend, I participated in Portland’s annual ChocolateFest. If you’ve never been to a chocolate festival and you like delicious things, I would recommend checking one out sometime. The Portland ChocolateFest, which I have been told is one of the largest in the country, is what I imagine a farmers’ market would look like if Willy Wonka put on farmers’ markets. As you might suppose, ChocolateFest is flush with sweet treats, confections, and rich sugary goodness, which is why I decided to highlight the other side of chocolate in my cooking demonstrations. The following recipes (along with the usual scientific and culinary snidbits), presented to both the denizens of this year’s ChocolateFest and the loyal patrons of this pub, are what I like to call The Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate. Continue reading

Eggnog – Alcohol & raw eggs make the season bright

My father is a very clever man. Long ago, as a Christmas Eve was coming to a close and we were preparing to plate up our milk and cookie offering to Santa, my dad stopped us with a suggestion. Arguing that, because our name was near the end of the alphabet, we were going to be one of the last houses Santa visited. Therefore, the jolly old elf would be very cold and tired of milk. Instead, we should leave him some bourbon to warm him up. It didn’t take long for our young minds to realize that a warmed up and happy Santa was much more likely to leave us better loot. As it happened, Dad had some of Santa’s favorite bourbon (parents know these things), which by amazing coincidence was also my dad’s favorite. I would hazard to say that this was the creation of our family’s traditional Christmas drink: alcohol.

In the spirit (or spirits) of my family’s holiday tradition, this post is going to celebrate my personal favorite Christmasy holiday drink: eggnog. Continue reading