Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cheesecake and Ice Cream

If you're in the mood for hype, consider this profile of Chicago avant-chef Homaru Cantu in Fast Company mag, full of the kitchen genius's wild and wacky ideas for food and utensils. Cantu is doing things in the same aesthetics-of-gastronishment mode as Achatz, Adrià , Blumenthal, and Dufrense. For example, a dish he calls Donut Soup is "an elegant espresso cup containing a few ounces of liquid that tastes exactly like the inside of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, chemical aftertaste and all." But he is best known for his edible paper made of vegetable-based proteins and inks; at his restaurant Moto (warning: annoying website), the guests are apparently invited to eat the menus.

All this would be fine with me if he didn't have a plan "to change the world for the better" with his edible paper by shipping it off to feed the hungry masses of the Earth's poor nations. Problem: although the paper is light, small, and nutritious, eating it doesn't make you feel full. For this Cantu is contemplating inventing foods that expand in your tummy. Here's the money quote: "if you have time-release pills, you could have time-release cheesecakes." Surely there is a better way of helping the starving children of the world than by sending them boxes of time-release cheesecakes, but I guess you never know. Also, someone should send a memo to the Factory to let them know what tomorrow's competition is up to.

(Here's some more about experimental food.)


Ice Cream Vans Face Total Meltdown, puns the Times of London (via A&LD). A great article full of details I was glad to learn. Such as:

-British ice cream trucks play "Greensleeves" and "O Sole Mio."

-Local authorities in the UK are setting up "ice cream free zones" to protect children from the health hazards of the frozen treat.

-British ice cream vendors have a trade group called the Ice Cream Alliance to promote their interests. (I want to form an Ice Cream Alliance. Who is with me?)

-Gangs used to fight over ice cream turf:
By the 1980s the business had become so lucrative that gangs fought over the right to sell to certain streets. In 1984 a row between Glasgow-based gangs led to the murder of six members of the Doyle family, who had run the Marchetti ice-cream company.

-I don't know what this means, but I am delighted by it:
Depending on whom you believe, "99's" were first made by Cadbury's in the 1930s as a tribute to the King of Italy's bodyguard, traditionally composed of 99 troops; or a tribute by Italian café owners to Il Ragazzi del 99, a band of soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Piave River in the First World War; or named after the address of the Edinburgh-based Arcari ice-cream dynasty at 99 Portobello High Street
I guess it's not Gretzky or Nena, then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you grew up in Britain, ice-cream vans are very close to your heart. The prospect of them being banned is heartbreaking. Where are we going to get the finest ice-cream of them all: the 99.

Health warning: The actual realtionship between 99s and real ice cream, is at best tenuous.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheesh. I am so used to thinking of food in terms of actually feeding people that I am flummoxed by a lot of these avant garde food things. They are a whole different world of stuff.

Kind of interesting in a fun-house sort of way-I'd be up for trying most of it, as long as someone else was paying. I'm not against the idea of food as entertainment, but I guess this is just really not my sort of party. Too costly for what it is, for me.

Kind of like runway designer clothes that almost nobody wears the way they are shown-not even people who can afford them. Used to be that that stuff eventually influenced street level clothes.

But that doesn't seem to happen so much anymore. What am I blathering about, anyway?

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago, I was in Leeds, Yorkshire, visiting my sister, who was doing her grad studies at the university there, and hearing the neighbourhood ice cream trucks play "Greensleeves" ... what a strange experience that was. I also remember eating a lot of ice cream, esp. in chocolate-coated bars, that summer as I traveled through England and Scotland. The Brits and Scots sure love their ice cream treats! I'm not surprised about the turf wars, etc.

By the way, count me in for the Ice Cream Alliance.

3:42 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

"I'd be up for trying most of it, as long as someone else was paying" sums up my feelings pretty well too.

I'm eager to see which of these foods start to trickle down into more modestly-priced restaurants or into technologies available to the home cook. As long as the only way to try these things is to spend $200, it will remain an elite kind of food. But who knows, we might all be "cooking" with liquid nitrogen and turning liquids into powders within a few years.

I'm also eager to see more discussion that gets beyond marvelling at the novelty to think about what works or doesn't work about these dishes as things you eat. If the whole point is that no one has ever done it before, it's going to get old fast.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, Australia also has the icecream trucks (often called "Mr Whippy' vans) which play Greensleeves and sell soft serve icecream, jelly (jello) cups and other treats. There's also one called "Home Icecream" which has a cowbell sound that drives around selling boxes of icecream treats.
BTW: A 99 here is a softserve with a mini chocolate Flake (tm) in it. A choc 99 is the same but all dipped in chocolate which sets hard after a few seconds...

4:35 PM  

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