For me, I am pro, but with some caveats.
As with any style of cooking, it is about elevating the ingredients. Sous vide cooking, very low constant temp immersed in circulating water, for example, can make a short rib both meltingly tender AND perfectly medium rare, heretofore impossible. So if someone has that on the menu, I am in. The ability to manipulate texture, especially in contrasting temperatures, is very interesting and when done well, can enhance the experience of eating a dish. The classic El Bulli trick of taking the purest essence of olive and sperifying it so that it LOOKS like an olive, but explodes in the mouth with olive flavor is exciting, and works with the food.
HOWEVER. The people who just put foam on everything like a garnish of cat gack, the people who are more concerned with showing off knowing a technique than they are with the food, that I find annoying. There are many many fewer people doing Molecular Gastronomy WELL than one might imagine from the preponderance of powders, liquid nitrogen ices, and caviar-ed EVERYTHING that pop up on menus everywhere.
Not everyone can be Grant Achatz, whose Alinea continues to be one of the most exciting meals I have ever had the pleasure to experience. And I'm less and less interested in the food that looks like something else...I actually don't find the idea or visual of eating dirt or cigar ash appealing, even if it does end up being delicious. (Dirt Cake with Gummy Worms is exempted from this, of course, because chocolate trumps everything.)
But like many other trends and techniques, I had never had much desire to "try that at home". My parents will remember cringingly my unimpressive C- in high school Chemistry. And I don't want to fuss that much over my food. But there is something to be said for the proverbial gift horse.
Culinary Imports sent me some of their products to play with, and I have to say, it can be fun, and there are some applications for the home cook.
The main thing I find cool to work with is that sperifying effect, making "caviar" is actually pretty cool, and they feel fun to eat. I'm a bubble tea kind of girl anyway. And I miss Freshen Up Gum.
This is Balsamic Vinegar "caviar" floating in olive oil. An enormously fun way to re-imagine a caprese salad for a dinner party, instead of dousing your beautiful white cheese with liquid, strewing these glistening dark balls over the top is both show-stoppingly gorgeous, but also makes the experience of the salad new and fun. Ditto over strawberries or vanilla ice cream for an elegant and unusual dessert.
Our best applications were for cocktails, for which we enlisted our best mixologist pals, C&H. The caviar trick allowed us to add a punch of flavor without diluting the original drink. Since we are on such a Negroni kick, we made some Aperol caviar (a bitter liqueur) and floated them in our classic Negronis. The drink remained the same, but now and again with a burst of extra flavor, totally fun.
Frankly, a lot of the rest of it, foams and gels and glow in the dark and DIY pop rocks...it is a bigger pain than it is worth for the kind of cooking I do. But I will give Culinary Imports a lot of credit, they have made the process MUCH more accessible for people who do want to play at home. They have worked to make the chemistry easier, with a measuring system that doesn't require a scale or an advanced degree. Their kits come with everything you will need and recipes to start you off, which make them a potentially awesome gift for the uber-foodie or mixologist on your list.
Not at all interested in food-science projects? CI will not leave you in the cold. Perhaps their single best product? Pumpkin seed oil.
This bright green oil has a mild nutty flavor that is really delish! We tried a riff on pesto, replacing the traditional basil and parsley with arugula and mint, and replacing the olive oil with pumpkin seed oil...fantastic. It works very well on salads, especially grain salads like wheatberry or quinoa. And it is very good for you.
And Culinary Imports wants one of you to try it for free!
Yep, they have donated a 16 oz bottle for one of my fabulous Chickens.
SO...comment below with your opinions or experiences with Molecular Gastronomy, pro or con, or a tale of what you want to make with Pumpkin Seed Oil, and one of you chosen at random will get this prize. Winner announced next Monday.
Yours in Good Taste,