Sunday, July 22, 2012

5 Molecular Gastronomy Highlights - Moto

Adding fog to marshmallows

Food science. I never really understood it until I ate at Moto in Chicago.

They will give you food they call "food". Appearances are not what they appear to be and they will cook things unconventionally. It is not uncommon to see a blow torch, oxygen tank, fish bowl, or steamer at your table. You will be surprised. You will be amazed.

Take it for what it is. Moto is not a place where you will get a 12 ounce steak or whole lobster. You will get bits and pieces of the cow and sea but nothing more. Moto is all show and tricks. I was fine with that and was pretty full at the end of the meal. Not stuffed, but satisfied. I've been eating non stop in Chicago anyway.

We did the tasting menu in the lab downstairs and it was spectacular, complete with a tour of the kitchen. The experience was really something. 

Top 5 highlights of our meal included:

Savory Corn Ice Cream
5.  Reconstructed Corn- Savory corn ice cream popsicle complete with kernels someone placed one by one with a tweezer. You would have never known it was not a corn on the cob until you finished the whole thing. Completely edible. No cob! It's ice cream!

Cheese from France
4. Zen Garden- Time to play with your food! The gravel was cheese and the rocks were chocolate. The garden came with a little wooden rake so you could make your own design and have an "Om" moment.

Chicken Noodle 
3. Kentucky Fried Pasta- The chicken was dehydrated and crumbled into flour. They made a noodle out of it. The skin was served crispy on the side. There was a biscuit. Powdered buttermilk gravy. A specially designed fork entwined with a fresh rosemary sprig. It smelled amazing. Tasted great too. Dehydrated chicken noodle. Who does that? Forreal?!

2. Egg Drop Soup- They created a solid membrane around mango puree to make it look like an egg yolk. I learned how to do this food science trick at a friend's house and it is not easy at all. Hats off to the crew at Moto. They are skilled in what they do.

Ready to be lit on fire
1. Acme Bomb- A Valrhona chocolate bomb complete with a marshmallow wick which they lit on fire. Once the wick melts away you pop the chocolate bomb in your mouth. Death by chocolate! It's rich and delicious if you love chocolate, especially melted hot chocolate. The center of the chocolate bomb was liquid graham cracker. And you live. 

The meal was spaced out and we were not rushed out the door. The staff was friendly and we had a great time exchanging banter with them. Moto is in a desolate industrial area. Since we were tourists without a car, Moto called us a cab. It was 5 star service all the way. They even tweaked their menu for our guests who could not eat nuts. Usually the substitutes are bland but Moto did not disappoint. We were drooling over the risotto dish they got. Everyone wins at Moto. For a first time experience at a food science restaurant, I was blown away.

945 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

Monday, July 2, 2012

Subway Ride

NYC Subway
It’s raining and I’m thankful that the subway entrance is just a few feet away from my office. I pace a few steps, look across the street at Pottery Barn, Zara, and just as my neck turns and my eyes gaze upon Banana Republic it’s time to collapse my umbrella and make my way down two flights of stairs. Just as I swipe my unlimited card through the turnstile, the 6 train opens it’s doors and a sea of people are released. The majority of them are headed towards the N line. It never fails. The crowd bottlenecks at the top of the stairs and they come to a halt as they wait their turn to proceed. It’s like merging on a highway. True veterans swiftly move in. New comers stumble into their blind side and disrupt the flow. 

Today I am straying from my routine commute. I have to detour into Brooklyn to feed my sister’s cat while she is on vacation. I take baby steps down the stairs to hop on the 4 or 5 express train. I’m scared of slipping. I wish there was an escalator. I make my way down and find an empty pillar to wait by. I stare up at the electronic sign and am thankful the next train will arrive in two minutes. The doors open, I grab on to a pole, and within five minutes I am at my transfer point.

Union Square is one of the busiest subway stations next to Grand Central, 34th Street, and Times Square. I patiently wait to climb the stairs. Without fail, like salmon, there is always one person who defies the crowd and goes against the stream. I shake my head and wonder what rush this person is in that they can’t wait two minutes for the crowd to dissipate.

Typical Hipster (posted at
I have calculated my ride well. If you ride the same routes long enough, you know which subway car to ride in so that when you exit, you are closest to where you need to go. I turn the corner and part ways with the suits and ties. Perhaps I am the most conservative person walking in the crowd. The woman next to me has half long hair and half shaved head. The man in front of me is wearing cutoff jean shorts and his arms are covered in tattoos. I can count not one but two people in neon. Typical footwear includes platform shoes, Toms, and oxfords. I feel like I should be wearing Ray Bans even though it’s not sunny.

All aboard the L train. I’m in the thick of things. We stop at 1st Avenue. A petite man walks in. He looks like he is going to take a stroll in the Hamptons despite the fact that his clothes don’t quite fit right and were probably bought at a second hand store. The train is extremely crowded. He pushes his way past me and settles on a spot right in front of me. Hampton man throws his duffle bag man purse over his shoulder. It presses against me. People who blatantly ignore subway etiquette and refuse to put their bags and backpacks down are one of my biggest pet peeves. I shake my head and do my best to not mutter out loud, “Hipster.”   

It takes less than 10 minutes to reach Bedford Avenue. The majority of the wannabe fashion plates step off the train.

I reach my stop further along the L line and am relieved to see the weather has stopped pouring buckets of rain. It’s just a little bit misty. I pick up my pace and as I walk past the bodega, I feel a sting to my hand. I lift and turn it slightly to see a black and white powdery substance on my knuckle. I have no idea what it is. I turn around and see a woman walking quickly with a cigarette caressed between her fingers. She had just burned and ashed me. I curse Bushwick and continue on with my business.

It is three hours later and all I want to do is go home. I know I am going to wait 10 minutes for a train so I pull a book out of my bag. I sheepishly hide what I am reading but the bright blue jacket cover gives it away. Mockingjay. It is a sign of the times and I, too, have been sucked in.

I get to Sixth Avenue where I transfer to the F train. It is late, almost midnight, and there is a group of teenagers yelling at the top of their lungs. I look at them in annoyance and wonder why they aren't home. Isn't it a bit late for a field trip? I have a sudden flashback to when I was eleven. I was in New Jersey visiting for the Summer and my grandmother scolded us children and instructed us to stay quiet on the subway. "It's not nice to yell," she said as she tried to instill manners in us. I didn't understand at the time what the big deal was. Now I do. The subway door opens and I hurry in to a car far away from the school kids. Peace and quiet. I sit and read a few pages. My eyes shut and I allow myself to sneak in a few minutes of shut eye. I'm confident I will wake up at my stop. I always do.