Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Fat Duck meets El Bulli...in Wonderland

Mention the name Heston Blumenthal and the words FOOD and CHEMISTRY spring to mind. Taste, aroma and flavour perception seem to be what modern cooking is all about these days and there can be no doubt that he is a genius alchemist at the cutting edge.

Les Cafes Confidences with Heston Blumenthal

So how fortunate we were to hear him speak for an hour at the Omnivore Food Festival this week. Especially as he talked about his latest creation inspired from his favourite childhood book, Alice in Wonderland. The dish entitled The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is Blumenthal at his creative best and took two years to develop.

Mad Hatter's Fob Watch
Photo : Micaela Frow taken from slide show c. Heston Blumenthal

For the exact description of the recipe you’ll have to get a copy of The Big Fat Duck Cook Book (which will be hard as it has already sold out!). It is so complex it defies me attempting to explain but the first stage is the production of the Mad Hatter’s Fob Watch.

Photo : Micaela Frow taken from slide show c. Heston Blumenthal

The Mad Hatter’s Fob Watch (stages of production involve freezing, spinning the stock out to leave a flavourless ice and straining through muslin - enough said) is an intense broth tea bag that is then wrapped in edible gold leaf.

The Mock Turtle Soup
Photo : Micaela Frow taken from slide show c. Heston Blumenthal

The Fob Watch Tea Bag is placed into a teapot and the resulting bouillon then poured over the rest of the dish to form a Mock Turtle Soup flecked with gold. Unbelievable? Well his next project will include employing a magician to help him in his cookery.

If an hour with Heston Blumenthal, sorry Sir Heston, isn’t enough to blow your mind then how about a presentation from probably the most influential chef in the world. Ferran Adria is the inspiration behind the Spanish restaurant El Bulli.

Introducing the legendary Ferran Adria at OFF4

With over 2 million booking requests for only 8000 covers per year and no waiting list this is the restaurant to head for if you can’t get into The Fat Duck. Ferran speaks from the soul and his life is dedicated to researching new dishes, flavours and methods of presentation many of which were influenced during his culinary visits to Japan. In fact the idea for El Bulli, he says, came from visiting a restaurant in Japan that had only one table and could not be booked in advance.

Preparing a dish entirely comprised of seeds. The creation of life.
Photo : Micaela Frow taken from slide show c. Ferran Adria

Dining at El Bulli has been called Art in 4 Acts and is an entirely different dining experience extending to the waiters advising how to eat each dish and a preferred order to gain maximum flavour. Eating with your hands is encouraged as it is more ‘thoughtful’ apparently.

Preparing a dish entirely comprised of edible flowers.
Photo : Micaela Frow taken from slide show c. Ferran Adria

A rare opportunity as Micaela gets to chat to Ferran Adria of El Bulli

Adria's dishes are inventive colourful, minimaliste, inspired and if meeting Ferran doesn’t make you feel good, then I’ll eat my hat.

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