One of the most interesting books that we’ve seen, that somehow is still avoiding a place on our shelves, is Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. It’s largely the price tag that has kept us away, despite the reflexive salivation that occurs anytime we’re near a copy. The photography is astounding, and though you might not be able to make many of the items without some specialty equipment or ingredients, it’s still a lot of fun to think about.
That’s where Molecule-R’s new kits come in handy. We saw them at a show earlier this year, and have been excited to try out their products. Cleverly packaged, they make incredibly gifts for any adult who is growing bored of the same old recipes and products, and will encourage experimentation among even the most accomplished bartender.
The Cuisine R-evolution kit includes a helpful DVD that includes around 50 recipes, a few utensils (pipettes, a slotted spoon, three silicone tubes, some measuring spoons, and a syringe), and fifty packets of additives. You’ll get ten each of agar agar, which is similar to gelatine for gelification, calcium lactate and sodium alginate (for spherification), xanthan gum which serves as a thickener, and soy lecithin for emulsifying (creating foams). Of course, most of these items aren’t found in your basic kitchen cabinet, so are handy- and are pretty flexible as well. We tried a few attempts- gelification is easy, since you can take different liquids and play around. But foams were complex, and required an immersion blender, patience, and a little practice. Spherification was tough- creating those nifty dumplings of, say, deconstructed olives, takes some real work and prep time, since you’re essentially running a tiny chemical lab and have to pay attention to proportions, timing, and very carefully handle the end product lest it ‘pop’. Fun, to be sure- though our results don’t have us anxious to start a Fat Duck competitor any time soon.
But it isn’t just foodies who can appreciate modernist cuisine- you, too, can create crazy cocktails! We’re not talking about bitters (though they did gel well, and work great in combination). The Cocktail R-evolution kit includes four of the same ingredients- but swaps out agar agar for cold soluble gelatin instead, which is more flexible for use with chilly beverages. The DVD only includes 30 recipes, but are really easy to modify of course, and that’s a good part of the fun. Spheres and foams are… much less common on drinks that in cuisine in our experience, and made us a bit nostalgic for Orbitz. Our results here were decidedly more mixed (pun intended), perhaps because these were more about appearance and less about flavors- the textures were often annoying to our sippers, and we could rarely achieve the bright colors that are called for (perhaps some food coloring would help).
At $60 for each kit, they are perfectly priced to be a solid birthday or even wedding gift. We wished for an iPad app to help us, since we do enjoy using the tablet in the kitchen. Also, don’t forget dessert: we enjoyed one of the extras that is available for purchase- popping sugar, carbonated light brown crystals that are kind of like Pop Rocks without the flavor. Add to ice creams, dessert sauces, or on cakes for an extra pizazz- it was a definite hit, and is available for just under $30 (though you get more than a pound; smaller quantities would be nice and definitely sufficient).