El Bulli 2003-2004 Hardcover – Sep 5 2006
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Now for the good. This book is more of an inspirational journey than a cookbook. It chronicles a team of chefs journey outside of the realm of the known. Ferran Adria has reached the pinnacle of traditional cuisine, got the elusive third Michelin star, and instead of cashing in by opening cloned 3 star restaurants (like Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller) has decided to venture out and explore.
The book is part of a series of books obssessivly annotating this journey. As an example of the depth of the obssession lies the tools the team created: To the young team yet unaware of the rigorous language of food science - mere words seemed inadequate to describe the products and procedures they had invented. So with a semi-deranged, Tolkien like fastidiousness, a philosophy, a methodology, an alternative supportive language (along with rune like icons)and even a map were created.
This tome is obssessive compulsive creativeness at its best. Like a Peter Greenaway film, it attempts to establish its place in a made-up chronology of food evolution. But just as cinema will never resemble a Greenaway Film, haute cuisine, while taking up some of Ferran's creation, will never become elBulli.
As for the recipes? These techniques, while (somewhat) annotated, are difficult to master for the home cook. As an example, I am still waiting for my Airs to emulsify properly. I'll get there, but it will take time and lots of thrown away food. But I'll keep trying. As for my pasta less raviolos? They are getting much better thanks!
While these food creations are not intended for the home cook, the likes created by these two remarkable chefs and the Molecular Gastronomy movement that they helped to create have made these once unheard of ingredients slightly more available to the general public. There are various resources out on the internet that are reasonably priced ([...] comes to mind) for anyone who dreams of replicating what they see.
Even if you haven't the patience or the talent to perfect these now classic techniques, this book is an invaluable addition to anyone's private collection simply for the historical wonder of this ever-changing craft. The photos and memiors are incredible to read and the production value is just outstanding. A must own for any enthusiast.
Again, this is really for professional chefs . Adria does give details about his spherification techniques and there are some photos and description of the technique . What I did not see mentioned was how important it is to control the pH of the reaction . The more acidic the solution, the less readily will the spherification process proceed. There are also questions of taste and flavour if one alters the pH of the reacting solutions. In Australia, the simplest of these techniques are being trialled by some Chefs
to give variety to their meals. Remember that Adria has a team of chemists etc in his laboratory attached to the restaurant so that his recipes are exactly quantified and will work for him .See my 1997 comments. For the money, I would not recommend these books to the non professional chef (except as a wonderful coffee table book) and they will certainly make professional chefs think (especially about plating) but the latter should not expect too much success without the aid of a scientist , preferably a molecular gastronomist. The 2004 book deals mainly with his use of liquid nitrogen and I refer you to my previous comments in El Bulli 1997 etc