Jul 04 2007

Garish dinner photo of the week


The foam-as-food trend, invented a few years ago by that El Bulli guy in Spain, has hit Austin at last. Or maybe it’s been here all along and I’ve eaten it 46 times but because I have chemo-brain it slipped my mind. But in any event, the other night at Zoot — an upscaly joint on Lake Austin Blvd — there appeared before me the above-pictured plate: crisp pork tenderloin, creamed spinach, and shrimp fritters. Shrimp ‘essence’ is what Zoot calls that pinkish scum you see bubbling up in the middle, and for some reason it was sort of delicious. Its resemblance to the gross stuff you skim off a simmering pot of fish stock is purely coincidental.

To make tasty shrimp scum, put a shrimp in a juicer. Combine it with gelatin. Insert the result in a whipped cream canister, and blast it onto a plate with nitrous oxide.


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  1. Catherine Martell

    Not long ago, a restaurant proudly presented me with a plate of some elaborate frippery laced with lobster foam. But why would you want to befoam a lobster? Is it just to prove you can? Next they will be serving caviar-flavoured oxygen through one of those inflight masks.

    Mr El Bulli has a lot to answer for. As does Heston Blumenthal. I give you The Fat Duck’s tasting menu: nitro-green tea and lime mousse, snail porridge, almond gel, pigeon crackers, pine sherbert fountains, parsnip cereal, bacon and egg ice cream, tea jelly. I’m not making it up. Google the silly boy.

    In general, I am beginning to turn against all this Michelin-pleasing exhibitionism. I contend that, almost always, the less your food has been fucked about with, the better it will taste.

  2. Hattie

    That kind of food is the culinary equivalent of funny hats. But I’m hungry enough so it looks good to me.
    Why do I think I should make a souffle?

  3. thebewilderness

    Clearly a perversion of the cool whip concept.
    I live in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by acres of slugs, most of whom are illegal immigrants. No native of this area would accept a plate of food that contained a substance so clearly derived from slug slime. Just sayin’.

  4. Grumpybear

    Oh! I went to Zoot for my birthday last year. My friend works in the kitchen. Finally, I’ve been to a place that makes it into your blog!

  5. TinaH

    Next they will be serving caviar-flavoured oxygen through one of those inflight masks.

    Don’t laugh. I was at a convention last year that had an oxygen bar. No caviar flavor, tho’. How about vanilla? Cherry?

  6. rootlesscosmo

    But why would you want to befoam a lobster? Is it just to prove you can?

    I have a hunch that, besides the sheer novelty factor, trendy restaurants are trying to stay ahead of the foodies who buy restaurant-style gear and try to cook restaurant-style food. Forty bucks will buy you a perfectly good ice cream maker so (per today’s San Francisco Chronicle) the upscale ice cream places want you to know they have $2500 gadgets, plus “blast freezers” set to minus 25° F. and “tempering freezers” set to 15 or 20, etc.

  7. Hattie

    The souffle was excellent.

  8. Kelda

    Perhaps you can make the foam from the stock made from lobster exoskeleton? So it’s really a way of making the leftovers go further.

  9. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    That Bulli guy is WILD. I’ve seen his book and am blown away by all the effort he puts into creating substances that really shouldn’t exist. The man must be 1) bored, or 2) insane.

    I bought his book for my favorite chef anyway. He never tries any of the recipes; he just looks at the pictures and shakes his head.

  10. Catherine Martell

    Don’t laugh. I was at a convention last year that had an oxygen bar.


  11. Sara

    Can’t do foam. Can’t. Just can’t.

    I mean, unless it’s on a really perfect cappuccino.

  12. Dawn Coyote

    Zabaglione – mmmm, foam.

    Also, I’m planning to get a case of this to give out as Christmas gifts this year.

  13. The Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    My cat makes that foam stuff on the floor about every other week. He likes to garnish with pieces of minced, lightly digested aloe vera fronds.

  14. Rumblelizard

    My attention was recently drawn to a hitherto-undiscovered violent allergy to shrimp, as exhibited by suddenly swelling up and requiring a trip to the local emergency room after eating a nice shrimp pad thai. I am gutted about it, as shrimp was a favorite.

    I am weeping softly as I contemplate this photo.

  15. stekatz

    Maybe I’m just having a particularly bad time with the patriarchy these days (Nigel troubles), but I could not give a rat’s ass about what some of these male celebrity chefs come up with for dishes since I’m sure every damn one of them has a wife at home taking care of all their shit so they actually have time to create new and better foams.

    Everyone ooo’s and aaaah’s over stuff like essence of chocolate cheesecake served on a won ton wrapper or some such nonsense. As if coming up with new ways to serve food that most people could never afford is somehow doing God’s Work. Mostly it’s just snobbery (now I’m not implying that a certain Spinster Aunt darkening a certain restaurant’s doorstep resplendent in her blue parka indicates that I feel she too is a snob. Said Spinster Aunt is the antithesis of snobbery).

    Here’s how one of those chefs could really impress me: come up with seven breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas seven days in row that a bunch of cranky, fussy, picky kids will actually eat while at the same time you’re cooking these culinary masterpieces you have to pay bills, do the laundry, do all the dishes, vaccuum, help with homework…ah, I’m sure y’all get my drift by now.

    That would indeed be impressive.

  16. Catherine Martell

    Ah, stekatz. Angry. I like. Remember: he is a chef; she is a cook.

  17. Ron Sullivan

    I wonder if spider tastes anything like shrimp. Or lobster, crab, crawfish, name-yer-arthropod.

    Sacrificing an obscene number of spiders to the foamificator might be a way to find out. Somebody IM the trendmakers, quick.

  18. ms.anthrope

    >>Here’s how one of those chefs could really impress me: come up with >>seven breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas seven days in row that a >>bunch of cranky, fussy, picky kids will actually eat while at the >>same time you’re cooking these culinary masterpieces you have to pay >>bills, do the laundry, do all the dishes, vacuum, help with >>homework…ah, I’m sure y’all get my drift by now.
    I second that, and add taking care of the daily tasks of an at home business! With small small humans underfoot! arg. I hate cooking.

  19. 'soup

    Enjoyed the entry (entree?), comments and since I’m CFO-ing today at work (creative fucking off) I also chased links to everyone’s blogs and snacked on them as well. Ah, time for a nap!

  20. Jerry

    Upon reading the phrase “shrimp foam” I immediately recalled this fictional restaurant: “Xenophage – Morally Indefensible Fine Dining”. Snail porridge? Pigeon crackers? Xenophage can’t be too far off.

  21. Vera

    Related news from elsewhere: here is a random frou-frou menu generator!

  22. Mar Iguana

    That dish looks rabid.

  23. Sara

    I think the Rev. BDL has put her finger on why I can’t do foam. It’s just so very biological looking — and not in a good way.

    Back when we had furry roommates, we saw stuff like that on our floors, too, usually on bedding, carpet or any light-colored, expensive, and yet recklessly discarded garments, and sometimes the foam bore green garnish, and sometimes it sported an assortment of garnishes best left unexplored.

    Yep, that’s the problem right there. Thanks, Rev.

  24. Joanna

    Every time I see something about El Bulli I immediately hear the intro chords to Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.

  25. Crys T

    “The foam-as-food trend, invented a few years ago by that El Bulli guy in Spain”

    Ahem: you mean that el Bulli guy in CATALUNYA.

  26. julia

    my mum was for many many many years a very good cook. she would never have called herself anything else. and she was proud in her modest way about it (ie. the task and the term – i have spent a lot of time thinking about how her having spent her formative years ‘below the stairs’ in england impacts on this). one of her most prized possessions continues to be a cookbook she won in 1943 for her top marks in “practical cookery” at school: the preface, i think, by jessie conrad.

    am just pondering how food/cuisine progress and change generally in people’s lives. my mum now has alzheimer’s, and all she wants to eat when i take her out is chips (french fries to some folks)!

  27. Emotenote

    I second Sara’s remark. This reminds me of a very expensive French beauty product which it was my job to hawk to expensive people. I was reading the label one day and realized that the main ingredient was the gross foam at the edge of the beach. It’s full of protein that I assume the French either thought was very good for skin, or (and most likely) they though this would be funny to put in a high end beauty treatment. Needless to say, I sold a great deal more of this product after this discovery since I did so with a smile.

    PS Has anyone ever had the eggs (out of shell) dropped from a high-up into boiling water? They look just like scrotum. Breakfast was not a happy affair that day.

  28. Rumblelizard

    Ron, I (perhaps mistakenly) attributed my last episode of swelling up in allergic reaction to the bite of a very large spider. However, I’d also had shrimp that night. I didn’t put two and two together, because I’d had never before had any problems with shrimp at all, in a lifetime of eating them whenever I could. So I jumped to the conclusion that it was the spider. This most recent allergic reaction was much worse than the first one, and subsequent testing by an allergist confirmed: it was the shrimp.

    The allergist suggested that if I was curious about whether I was also allergic to spider bites, that I catch and kill one of the spiders that bit me, mash it up, and rub the resultant spider ook into a scratch on my arm. I wish I was kidding.

  29. goblinbee

    Julia, what does ‘below the stairs’ mean?

  30. rootlesscosmo

    “Below [the]stairs” was the servants’ area–kitchen, pantry, coal-cellar etc. The BBC series “Upstairs, Downstairs” was about a wealthy London family and their very large staff of domestic servants–kind of a Social History soap opera. I watched it regularly in, what, around 1971? (My god, am I that old? Yes.)

  31. sophie

    Foam is a perfectly natural accompaniment to shelled creatures (snails anyway). They make their own.

    Take a handful of clean snails. Throw them in freshly boiled water. But don’t do it unless you’re planning to eat them – that would be wasteful.
    They’re also very nice lightly roasted over hot embers. But no foam – it evaporates if there was any.

  32. Ron Sullivan

    Rumblelizard, you have my profoundest sympathy. I looooove shrimp, even though I know it’s evil. (Shrimp farms are awful, and destroying coastal mangrove forests to build farms is only one reason. Wildcaught shrimp are rarely much better, though some Gulf shrimpers use turtle-savers in their nets. /sermonette)I’ve given up swordfish and even (sob) shark but have only managed to cut down on the shrimp.

    The doc’s suggestion there would be icky and harder to do right than the doc might think: how would you know you got the right spider? But it would probably work as a test. Thing is, if you tested positive you’d want at least a dose or three of epi on hand, and ideally some professional help, eh?

    What it would also test is the strength of your anti-barf muscles.

    Sophie, anything that murders snails is A-OK by me. They’re not chow; they’re the Enemy! I don’t care if they’re hemaphroditic; I blame the patriarchy. Or at least the French.

  33. Rumblelizard

    Ron, I thank you for your sympathy. I adore shrimp, and of course now that it’s forbidden, it’s all I can think about. Menus abound with delicious shrimpy options wherever I go. *sob* I also have to carry an epi-pen around with me for the rest of my life, because it was found that I am severely allergic to many other things, including grass (!), cats, mold, tree pollen, and any number of other commonly-found things. And that’s just the stuff they tested me for.

    It’s entertaining to know that at any moment one might swell up, keel over, and die if one doesn’t stab oneself in the thigh with a mighty dose of epinephrine and hustle off to the emergency room.

  34. Esther

    Hey, Crys T

    Hello there, dear. I just drop a line here to show how amused I am to realize how famous Ferrá Adrià is (The Bulli Guy) at the US, nice to know. El Bulli is some fancy place where you can not get a table until 2015, so you can spend some insane amount of money to have, so they say, among the best meal of your life. Never tried, to my disgust.

    My point is that the dude cooks for people from all over this planet we call home, including fellow Spaniards, like myself, Castillian, for that matter. So Crys T, take no offense, but Ferrá Adrià is SPANIARD, makes a living in SPAIN cooking for SPANIARDS. Since this is a fact, I will not discuss any further. But please, give these girls a breake an visit some Spanish politial blog instead. Some dudes are making big money by creating artificial political issues. Don´t buy it. Think big. Nationalism is narrowminded. Free your mind, sister.

    I am some brand new blamer here, writting from Spain, Europe, The Earth. Lawyer, single, cohabitating with some Nigel I deal with.
    I try to learn, grow and get further. I win some, I lose some, but remain true to myself.



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