(This is my last Christmas post of the year, I swear.)
While snowed in this Christmas, I was lucky enough to catch Heston Blumenthal‘s Christmas special on TV. I’m already a huge fan and can think of nothing better than having dinner at The Fat Duck, but had I not been a fan before, I would have been converted. Blumenthal is one of the few people (aside from the Adria brothers) who can get away with the wacky stuff he does.
For instance: bacon ice cream. In a normal person’s hands, it’s probably disgusting. In Heston Blumenthal’s hands, it’s probably pure bliss.
You might be surprised to know that I’m not a fan of molecular gastronomy. I mean, come on – it’s the “science of deliciousness”. I should be all over it, right? Well, I could go on for hours about how it doesn’t work on many levels, but that’s not why I wanted to write this post. Another day, my friends.
Back to Blumenthal. He invited six of Britain’s biggest food critics (or maybe just super-foodies? I missed the first five minutes) to enjoy a traditional Christmas meal.
He started off with edible Christmas ornaments, filled with salmon mousse. Can you imagine walking into someone’s house and being offered an ornament from off the tree?
As if that wasn’t enough, he offered them soup from a shot glass. Based on the reactions, it was like the shot glass was divided in half – vertically – and half the soup was hot, and half was cold. If you aimed it just right, the temperatures would split down the middle of your tongue. I can only imagine the sensation.
That was only the beginning. What followed was a soup featuring gold, frankincense and myrrh. Guests received a soup bowl with a brick in the bottom, and when they poured some liquid over it, it dissolved into a cloud of edible gold leaf.
There was a whole segment where Blumenthal went to Siberia to visit a reindeer farm and brought back reindeer milk. He made caramelized French toast with paper-thin, candied pancetta and fluffy scrambled eggs on top, plus a dollop of reindeer-milk ice cream. I know it sounds suspect, but if you saw the plate you’d want it too.
I think my favourite was his chestnut veloute. Picture a bowl lined with finely ground hazelnuts, filled with goose confit, and covered with the smoothest of chestnut veloute. The veloute was served with a bell jar full of chestnut smoke. You read right: chestnut smoke. It was a full sensory experience, and Blumenthal’s playful take on “chestnuts roasting by an open fire”.
To top it off, the geese were raised on feed that Blumenthal and his staff made. He prepared the feed knowing that certain flavours in the feed would be reflected in the goose meat. Talk about respect for your ingredients: not only does he know where they came from and where they were raised, but he knows exactly what they ate.
I’m putting this on my list of Things To Do Before I Die: to eat at The Fat Duck. Heck, while I’m at it, I’ll add El Bulli to that list.