Known for its sauces transformed into “airs” and its “spherified” ravioli made from pea puree, molecular gastronomy-the trend generally defined as the application of scientific techniques and tools to cooking-is wide-ranging and a little mysterious.
On the one hand, it’s about chefs who use chemical powders and lab equipment to create new tastes and textures. But it’s also about the trompe l’œil food that looks like other food paired with surrealistic plating and surprising presentation. Lasers, meat glues, flash freezing-this stuff can be complicated.
But at Alpine Country Club, in American Fork, Utah, Executive Chef Emanuel Vidolin (“Well-Traveled But Not Well-Aged,” C&RB, September 2008) has found simple and unique ways to integrate these avant-garde techniques, thus enhancing his dishes and giving them a super-creative twist. He then features the new tastes at the Chef’s Table dinners he holds at the club, noting that those events are a great place to showcase the techniques for members who have reserved those tables, because they’re looking for more adventurous dining.
“I started playing with molecular gastronomy about a year ago,” says Vidolin, “At first I thought it was a bit weird-but I found over time that a large part of this style of cooking is motivated by the simple wish for the discovery and creation of new experiences. I wanted to create food that is increasingly satisfying for my members.”
Vindolin is incorporating some of the principles of molecular gastronomy in dishes like his brown butter dust and butter-poached halibut.
“Instead of brushing our steaks with butter like most restaurants do, we serve them with a side of browned butter that we’ve made into a powder,” he explains. “The powder melts in your mouth with a very intense flavor.”
Meanwhile, Alpine’s butter poached halibut is cooked sous vide with butter and spices. (Sous vide-French for “under vacuum”-describes a method of cooking in vacuum sealed plastic pouches at low temperatures for long times.) “The fish melts in your mouth,” says Vidolin.
“At a recent Chef’s Table, we served a deconstructed veal picatta,” he adds. “It was a Frenched rack of veal with crispy pancetta marmalade, lemon cloud, chardonay cream and parsley puree. The dish worked because we used these techniques in moderation without forcing them, and we focused on the flavors as the most important part of the dish.”