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Molecular gastronomy exhibit at Le Laboratoire

August 7, 2008

Sorry for the delay… I’ve been having a lot of technical difficulties. Blogging is hard work!
Anyways, I promise that this is my last post on Paris, and it’s going to be a short one. I’m getting so behind on what’s been going on in Beijing that I absolutely need to write this. Now. It feels a bit like an obligation, what with the food-science fad going around. I had the amazingly good fortune to eat at Moto this year, and for my birthday my parents got me a giant encyclopedia on the science of cooking.
This was probably the best excursion our Culture and Cuisine class ever went on (the Paris and the Avant-garde classes also went). Anyways, by the Louvre, there is a small space called Le Laboratoire that combines art and science; I don’t even know if I would classify it as a museum. It has a small glass door with its name on it, but aside from that, it would be easy to miss when there are places like Angelina in the area.
The current exhibit is about what else… food, organized by Thierry Marx, molecular gastronomist and chef. When you buy tickets for the expo, you can sign up for any amount of dishes to try (obviously, you have to pay). Assuming that all teenagers eat is dessert (not true), we were signed up for the dessert course.
Before we ate, we explored the space: the room was dimly lit by various neon lights and other awesomely cool gadgetry. About half the space was filled by screens and machines explaining how caviar-like balls of mango gel were formed: I still don’t completely understand, but here’s a picture of the machine. You can see for yourself.
Next to this strange apparatus was a coffeebar, where waitresses served espresso shots with something called the whif, which allegedly allowed you to “inhale the essence of chocolate without eating it.” So basically, chocolate drugs? We tried two flavors, both of which came in brown plastic tubes that reminded me of those blowpens from the 90’s. We inhaled and initially coughed, as though smoking cigarettes, but in my opinion this was a bit of a hoax: these were really just tubes filled with cocoa powder that some guy decided to breathe into his lungs instead of dissolve in milk. It still felt cool though, and it tasted good: the flavors were orange and caramel, and they went great with the espresso.
As for the food, we were served dessert on a narrow, rectangular plate divided into three sections: one with the mango beads that we had seen formed earlier, one with “grapefruit essence,” and one with a perfectly geometrical square of pudding. The pudding was made of layers of raisins, cassis, yellow cake, and was dusted with orange powder. Although I loved the tartness of the cassis against the sweet, rather bland cake, the powdered orange reminded me exactly of those dissolve-in-water vitamin C tablets. Not a good thing. On the other hand, the mango beads exploded in your mouth, leaving nothing but the cool flavor of fresh mango. The grapefruit essence was basically fruit juice in mousse-like form. If I ate it in a restaurant I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it, but considering the fact that you could have food like this at some exhibit, I was pretty into the whole thing.
The other courses were a tomato mozzarella salad with olive oil basil beads and some sort of chicken dish.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ariel Zeitlin Cooke permalink
    August 8, 2008 10:05 am

    Dear Lida, you write so nicely and so evocatively. I can’t wait to read more! Love, Aunt Ari

  2. Kevin permalink
    August 9, 2008 1:49 am

    Molecular gastronomy sounds really interesting.

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