25 April 2012

Dave Arnold set to open new lab

It's been rumoured for a while, but now officially reported, courtesy of Grub Street, that Dave Arnold's cocktail bar, Booker and Dax, will be setting up a lab in a similar style to both your truly, Drink Factory and Momofuku, responsible for feeding the bar but also plugging a hole in bar only equipment.

"The original idea of Booker & Dax was to build equipment. The bar came first, but it’s an offshoot of the space we haven’t started yet...... however, that's set to change." 

The bar has found a 700 square foot space which will be home to pieces of kit not just for the bar but eventually for home as well.  

As you would expect the details of exactly what will be built in this, no doubt, magical space are being kept firmly close to the chest. However Arnold did hint that carbonation would be on the cards early.  

Arnold continued… "One of my eventual goals is to build something that’s in people’s homes." Good news for any home cocktail enthusiast and great news for the bar industry!

The Cocktail Party Effect Explained

We've all been there, a loud and buzzing cocktail party. For once it is not the volume of the music but the sheer number of conversations and background noise going on all around that impedes your conversation. You somehow manage to filter out the residual racket and focus in on your immediate conversation. With the aid of a humanoid robot, scientists have now found  new clues as to how we get around "The Cocktail Party Problem".

The study took place at NNT Communication Science Laboratories in Kanagawa Japan. Volunteers were asked to sit alone in a small room facing a speaker. Participants were then played a combination of two different tones. The tones first appeared as you would imagine a loud party would and the noise came as a mash of sounds. After a short few seconds participants were able to decipher one tone from another. 

The team of scientists then turned to their robotic assistant. The idea they were testing was, if head movements could reset the cocktail party effect i.e AFTER we've filtered the melange of noises does turning your head reset it. 

Sound reaches our ears in different ways depending on our head movements, and the robotic assistant with a humanoid head, had built in microphones designed to mimic how humans hear. 

Now the real experiment started. The participant and robot were placed in separate rooms and then the two-toned sound relayed from microphones in the robots ear canal. The researchers would then instruct the volunteer to turn their head at various point in the experiment. The robot would mimic these head movements which meant the researchers were able to isolate the consequences of head movements on the cocktail party effect. Variations ranged from - the source of the sound changing, only head movement changed, and some with both. 

Results showed that rapid head motion resets the cocktail party effect, however simply changing what we are paying attention to, i.e where our eyes are focused, does not. However, after being reset our brains begin to sift out the noise once again within a few seconds.

In short - a quick turn of the head makes us reset our perception of what we're hearing. 

One scientist from New York University, describes the research as being "highly novel" and cites the key results as being the most sup rising, he says

“If you move your head such that the acoustic stimulus at the ears changes, but the environment itself doesn’t, you wouldn’t have thought you would need to restart the process of interpretation,”.

So next time you need to tune into the conversation in the group next door or find yourself not listening, give your head a casual swivel and reset to tune in once more. 

Kofler & Kompanie Presents: Pret A Diner "Italians do it Better"

The pop up bar and restaurant launches on May 9th and is slated to run through till June 30th. "Pop up" may well be the wrong term as it is stressed that the event is a "dining experience". The bar will be run by 69 Colebrooke Row, who are taking applicant now. Visit their Facebook page HERE for details or email a C.V to melissa@69colebrookerow.com.

Kofler & Kompanie returns to 50 St James’s Street, in one of the most prestigious areas in London this May with the next instalment of the internationally acclaimed dining experience, Pret A Diner. This specific series of dinners, named Italians do it Better, will be spearheaded by Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli who will create traditional-style Italian menus.

Locatelli has also selected five other Italian Michelin-starred chefs and set them the challenge of creating fresh innovative style dishes, which will give guests a chance to compare old-world Italian cuisine to newer forward-thinking dishes. Marrying both concepts will be the authenticity, passion and, of course, the fresh ingredients of Italy. “There is a great wind of new young talented Michelin starred chefs that are revolutionising Italian food today, bringing their new creations to St. James’s under the umbrella of Pret A Diner." Says Locatelli. 

Hosted at the iconic 50 St James’s Street, Pret A Diner "Italians do it Better" will be the final event within this beautiful Grade II listed building before it is closed for a full transformation this autumn. 2011 saw Pret A Diner host numerous series of experimental dinners spanning from a skyscrapper in Frankfurt, a coin mint in Berlin, a historic film casino in Munich, and down in the Old Vic Tunnels with Lazarides Gallery’s Minotaur exhibit during London Restaurant Week. In 2012, Pret A Diner aims to redefine what to expect from a dining experience by selecting the world’s best chefs, the most unusual locations and exquisite thought-provoking art pieces to turn blank canvases into unforgettable evenings. 

Overseen by Creative Director and Pret a Diner co-owner Olivia Steele, Pret A Diner will also be collaborating with the acclaimed Gazeli Art House on a cutting-edge exhibition of contemporary Italian artists, including Monica Bonvicini, Aron Demetz, and Jacopo Miliani. Gazelli Art House is a commercial art organisation dedicated to providing a new setting for the creation of contemporary art and delivering the message of the finest international artists to a wide audience of both new and established collectors.

To book, or for more information to to - http://www.pretadiner.com/

Recipes - Honeysuckle / Pine Cordial Gimlet

Featured in a brilliant round up of some of Londons finest cocktails, in the Evening Standard, we are very pleased to bring you two drinks, one The Zetter Townhouse and one from 69 Colebrooke Row. You can see the full list of all 30 drinks HERE


20ml honeysuckle liquor
Top Champagne
Champagne flute

Second is a personal Beefeater favourite which uses pine cordial to create an extremely original Gimlet. 

Pine Cordial Gimlet 

40ml Beefeater Gin 
20ml Pine Cordial 
Small coupette glass 

Flavour of the Week - Honeybush

Officially know as Cyclopia, but better know by its common name Honeybush, is a flowering plant who's leaves are used to make tea. The plant is not as common as many think and can only be found in specific parts of southwest and southeast South Africa where it is to Rooibos.

Traditionally the leaves are harvested, cut and bruised then left to dry naturally in the sun. More recently the process has become industrialised where the leaves are left in heated tanks for 2 - 3 days whilst they are oxidised, then air dried. Of the 23 species of Honeybush only 4 or 5 are widely used as household teas.

Oddly, certain varieties can be cultivated successfully however some have resisted and still must be harvested in the wild. The reason for this is not fully understood but some people think it is due to the involvement of birds or ants in geminating the seed.

The tea is reported to help reduce hunger pangs, and be host to a range of minerals and nutrients including calcium, nitrogen, zinc, sodium, magnesium, iron, and boron.

Flavour - Similar to honey, deep, fruity, fragrant, sweet

18 April 2012

3D Chocolate Printer

The printer was developed just under a year ago and was open to taking orders for designs either made at home or created within the University, however there is now a commercially available version you can buy online!

Named Choc Creator 1 sits on your desktop and is said to be "developed for creative users who love to experience new technologies, exploit broad technical settings and boundaries" The printer uses a syringe deposited in its head, which can be easily replaced or swapped for different flavours or colours of chocolate.

You can see a more in-depth look at the printer below, courtest of the University of Exeter.

Flavour Journal - Umami Ice Cream

With the release of the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science we saw a enormous wealth of information previously reserved for those willing to spend a reasonably large sum of money on The Modernist Cuisine. Admittedly the Journal lacks the packaging and photography that the Modernist Cuisine does, however both hold a wealth of information and one is free and one is not.

We can now add the Flavour Journal, or simply Flavour as it is better known, into that list. Flavour is a peer reviewed, open acccess, online journal that publishes interdisciplinary articles on flavour, its generation and perception, and its influence on behaviour and nutrition.

"We seek articles on the psychophysical, psychological and chemical aspects of flavour as well as those taking brain imaging approaches. We take flavour to be the experience of eating food as mediated through all the senses. Thus we welcome articles that deal with not only taste and aroma, but also chemesthesis, texture and all the senses as they relate to the perception of flavour."

"Flavour emphasises work that investigates the flavour of real foods and encourages contributions not only from the academic community but also from the growing number of chefs and other food professionals who are introducing science into their kitchens, often in collaboration with academic research groups."

Still at a very early stage there are only 5 or 6 articles published at this time, however be sure to keep an eye as this is bound to grow and host some quality content. I've picked out a study below and condensed it to some of the most relevant pieces of information.

You can see all the articles and read any of them in their entirety from the link below.

Seaweeds for umami flavour in new Nordic cuisine
Full study available HERE


Use of the term 'umami' for the fifth basic taste and for describing the sensation of deliciousness is finding its way into Western cuisine. The unique molecular mechanism behind umami sensation is now partly understood as an allosteric action of glutamate and certain 5'-ribonucleotides on the umami receptors. Chefs have started using this understanding to create dishes with delicious taste by adding old and new ingredients that enhance umami. In this paper, we take as our starting point the traditional Japanese soup broth dashi as the 'mother' of umami and demonstrate how dashi can be prepared from local, Nordic seaweeds, in particular the large brown seaweed sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) and the red seaweed dulse (Palmaria palmata), possibly combined with bacon, chicken meat or dried mushrooms to provide synergy in the umami taste. Optimal conditions are determined for dashi extraction from these seaweeds, and the corresponding glutamate, aspartate and alaninate contents are determined quantitatively and compared with Japanese dashi extracted from the brown seaweed konbu (Saccharina japonica). Dulse and dashi from dulse are proposed as promising novel ingredients in the New Nordic Cuisine to infuse a range of different dishes with umami taste, such as ice cream, fresh cheese and bread.

Summary for practical use

The primary stimulatory agent in umami is the chemical compound glutamate, which is found in large amounts in the Japanese seaweed konbu, which is used to prepare the soup broth dashi. We have explored the potential of local Nordic seaweeds, in particular sugar kelp and dulse, for dashi production and have discovered that dulse is high in free glutamate and hence a good candidate for umami flavouring. We describe methods by which to optimise the umami flavour using sous-vide techniques for extraction of the seaweeds, and we demonstrate how dulse dashi can be used in concrete recipes for ice cream, fresh cheese and sourdough bread.


Although umami was suggested as a basic taste in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda[1], umami only caught on very slowly in the Western world [2-5]. Being a verbal construction to describe the essence of delicious taste ('umai' (旨い) is delicious, and 'mi' (味) is essence, inner being or taste), the term 'umami' was coined by Ikeda to signify a unique and savoury taste sensation that should be ranked as the fifth basic taste along with the four classical basic taste modalities: sour, sweet, salty and bitter.

There are several reasons for the slow acceptance of umami as a basic taste in the Western world. First, in contrast to Japanese cuisine, there is no single common ingredient in Western cuisines that provides as clean a sensation of umami as dashi, whereas Western cuisine has kitchen salt (sodium chloride) for salty, ordinary table sugar (sucrose) for sweet, quinine for bitter and acid for sour. Second, cultural differences imply fundamental differences in taste description and codability of taste

Materials and Methods

Sous-vide water extracts from seaweeds

Two types of water were used for seaweed extracts: ordinary tap water (Copenhagen, Denmark; water hardness = 20°dH) and filtered, demineralised soft water. All extractions were based on 10 g of dry seaweed in 500 ml of water placed in a plastic bag sealed under vacuum pressure (sous-vide) at 98.5 kPa in a Komet Plus Vac 20 (KOMET Maschinenfabrik GmbH, Plochingen, Germany) and immersed over a period of 45 minutes in a water bath at the prescribed constant extraction temperature.

Sensory perception

Because the present paper is not intended to be a quantitative study of the sensory perception of umami flavour in the seaweed extracts and the dishes flavoured by the extracts, we have not used a formal panel of professional tasters but employed a subjective and qualitative measure of taste sensation by integrating statements from experimenters and colleague chefs who are very experienced in evaluating and describing taste. The subjective analysis was carried out by a minimum of five qualified chefs who are considered trained tasters. In the case of the dulse ice cream, the tasting was part of a master's degree thesis on the complexity in food (Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark) that was favourably received by a tasting panel of 60 persons. In addition, we registered responses from a large number of individual tasters on different occasions when the dulse-infused dishes were presented and tasted.

Amino acid analysis

All chemicals used were from Sigma-Aldrich (Copenhagen, Denmark) and of HPLC quality or better. Amino acid analysis was performed using the Biochrom 31+ Protein Hydrolysate System amino acid analyser (Biochrom, Cambridge, UK). Prior to analysis, proteins were precipitated by addition of trichloroacetic acid, and lipids were extracted with hexane. The amino acids were identified and quantified by comparison with pure amino acid standards with a major focus on glutamic acid, aspartic acid and alanine in their deprotonated states.
Examples of dishes flavoured by dulse

Ice cream with dulse

600 g of dulse-infused milk (infuse at 20 g of dulse/litre of milk)
100 g of cream
80 g of trimoline (inverted sugar syrup)
35 g of sugar
24 g of ColdSwell cornstarch (KMC, Brande, Denmark)

Place the dulse and milk in a plastic bag under vacuum and seal, leaving it in a refrigerator overnight to cold-infuse. Strain the dulse and blend it into a fine purée, and preserve to be added later. Dissolve the sugar and trimoline in a small amount of warmed milk. When cooled, add the milk to the rest of the components, mix thoroughly and freeze the mixture in Pacojet containers. Just before serving, the ice cream is prepared in the Pacojet by high-speed precision spinning and thin-layer shaving to produce a creamy consistency of the ice cream.

The dulse ice cream was conceived to demonstrate the culinary versatility of seaweed in an often unexpected fashion. We chose a low-fat base of almost all milk used, allowing the flavour to emerge. Although there was initial reluctance among some tasters to the idea of seaweed ice cream, the vast majority responded with satisfaction upon actually consuming the ice cream.
The colour of the dulse ice cream is a very pleasing light mauve. The flavour is delicate, light and floral. Some tasters have compared the dulse ice cream with Japanese green tea ice cream, which is indicative of a nuanced, acceptable flavour profile.

We also observed an improvement in texture of the dulse-infused ice cream, which is creamier and smoother than the same ice recipe without dulse. This change in texture is likely caused by the polysaccharides released from the dulse.

Contribute to Cocktail Science

Our friend, collaborator and contributor Kevin Liu, who writes at Science Fare, has just released a few slides from a new project and would like your feedback!

The book is described as "written from one mixed drink geek to another." Contributions are open and the project is looking for ideas, input, stories or anything else that might be interesting and could be included, from anyone who enjoys their mixed drinks. The slides below will give you a good idea of the direction the project is taking, however you can see more by clicking HERE.

The aim is to not only make something that is visualy stimulating and easily understood by both scientist and bartender alike but to make it fun and informative to someone not involved in either profession.

Full version HERE

Whisky Stones...Really Worth It?

Made from soapstone and stored in a freezer, the stones chill your drink just enough to take the harsh edge off without diluting. One company described it as chilling without "closing down the flavours".

The product has been doing the rounds for a short while now, however many people initially expected the stones to go the way of most drinks fads and into the history and hazy memory books of people who thought them novel. Well they haven't if anything they seem to be growing in popularity. They do however seem to be drawing a line in the sand when it comes to opinion though.

The vast majority of bartenders and whisky purists are firmly of the opinion, single malts should be enjoyed either neat or with a splash of water. Dale DeGroff is even quoted as saying "It's idiotic" he carries on to point out the fact that zero bars, unless in an ironic manner, are using the stones.

Some argue the stones are trying to fix a problem that doesn't really exist. When was the last time someone sent back a scotch with the complaint "the temperature to dilution ratio is completely off. I want it X degrees in temperature but with only X amount of dilution." An odd complaint to say the least.

Once you start to look at who is actually buying the stones, you realise bars and bartenders aren't the market they're aimed at. The stones have become a gift for 'tough to shop for' Dads, or Uncles. They're for friend's Husbands who you don't know too well, however you do know they're a fan of scotch. The suppliers say they are breaking into younger markets. Young professionals who enjoy the drink but not the stigma. This simple addition creates an identity for them as the forward thinking Scotch drinkers not bound by the choice of simply neat or rocks.

What the stones do not cater for is the fact that dilution AND lowering temperature actually releases more flavours within whisky that you wouldn't be able to taste without it. The classic phrase, "water opens up whisky" is actually completely true. The simplest way of understanding this effect is via the diagram below, (courtesy of khymos). Essentially alcohol over 20% forms micelles which are so tight they actually trap flavour within them. Add dilution and cooling, the whisky becomes more soluble and a lower % of alcohol. This loosens the chains and increases the release of flavour.

It seems the stones have a high novelty value and make a great gift, however when it comes to flavour their purpose appears to be lacking. It's unlikely many bars will be serving up whisky with rocks anytime soon however thinking outside the box for a second, how many other drinks are ruined by dilution or loose desirability as their temperature rises..... A martini that stays cold for an hour, or a long drink that you can sip on slowly without it becoming a watery mess by the time you hit the bottom of the glass….. Not so good for whisky but potential in other areas maybe?

Harold McGee Imbibe Article

Friend and Drink Factory collaborator Harold McGee continues his travels around and through the culinary and cocktail world often being the voice that bridges the gap between the art and the science.

He recently spoke with Imbibe, on his ongoing work and analyse of coffee and cocktail. The article features how Harold went from philosophy, astrology and literature to the kitchen. His first encounter with Audrey Saunders and the now infamous egg white in cocktail questions. All leading to his work with Tony C and some of the worlds top chefs.

"Mixing a drink is not rocket science. It does, however, involve a mishmash of chemistry and physics, with a dash or two of biology, all compiled and enhanced with the mixer’s culinary skills. These skills are the tools that bartenders bring to the equation—but the science? That’s where Harold McGee comes in......."

Click HERE to read the rest of the article

Flavour of the Week - Mulberries

Similar to raspberry and blackberry in look and taste, mulberries grow on the Silkworm tree, part of the genus morus. Species are identified by the colour of the flower buds and leaves rather than the colour of the berries. It is not uncommon for a single morus plant to have many different coloured berries.

The tree's require a warm temperate climate and are native to Asia, Africa and the Amercas. There are currently three defined species that are universally recognised.

-The white mulberry (Morus alba) - native to eastern and central China.
-The red or American mulberry (Morus rubra) - native to eastern United States.
-Black mulberry (Morus nigra) - native to western Asia.

Mulberries also have various health benefits. They are home to many minerals and vitamins including vitamin A, E, C, as well as being a good source of iron and antioxidants.
There has also been a steady rise in the popularity of mulberry tea, which lends itself very easily to infusions and flavouring of spirits and drinks, and has a very distinct flavour.

Flavour - Succulent, tart, sweet, fruity

11 April 2012

Barrel Aged "Bouillon" Cubes....

A while ago we asked "Is this the end of oak aged whisky?" The answer was no. It was a reference to a technique, chemist Orville Taylor, had developed to artificially "age" whisky for 6 months in the space of a few hours. Now the technique has not been perfected and at the moment it is still being used to make bad whisky taste better, or to create bespoke flavoured spirits for bars and hotels.

I came across another technique, from Boston Apothecary, which is simpler and may actually prove more effective for many purposes. The technique goes…

The majority of sensory attributes (flavours) that a barrel transfers to a spirit are not volatile at the normal boiling temperature of ethanol and water. The means these attributes can be removed and turned into dried barrel essence or flavour. After this process a solvent can then be added, un-aged fruit brandy or aromatic bitter work well apparently, to re-create the same character of barrel ageing. We are yet to experiment with this however presumably the solvent can be any spirit you wish to have the characteristic of ageing.

Methodologies can range from the expensive and hi-tech rotavapor to a much simpler and cheaper version described by Boston Apothecary as...

"a comeau vacuum aspirator (acquired for $75!) attached to a vacuum flask ($15) heated by a hot plate (a stove on low with a double boiler might substitute well)."

The most essential part of the process is to create an artificial vacuum that can reduce the boiling point of water to the level that flavour compounds and volatiles will not be de destroyed during an evaporation.

Obvious advantages are the cost. The lab equipment comes to a reasonable £100 - £200 and the alcohol costs run at an equal ratio to each other i.e 700ml of Bourbon will artificially flavour 700ml of solvent.

Now, this is obviously not on the way to replacing the ageing process of a spirit. It does, in-fact, rely on that process for it to even exist. What it does do is describe a simple "hack" and a cheaper alternative to a system which is out of many people price range. Further from that it opens up doors for adding an aged flavour to products whose flavour profile may be undesirable in the base form and creates more opportunities for bespoke products behind a bar.

New Beefeater 24 Cocktail - Vivace

As the final video is our series we are continuing our operatic theme from last week and we are very happy to bring you the Vivace. The drink was inspired by the musical term that indicates the tempo and orchestration should be lively which is reflected in the the flavour profile, many created specifically for this drink.

Cubed Ice
40ml Beefeater 24
20ml Pineau des Charentes extra vieux and Habsicus*
2.5ml Homemade Pomegranite Syrup
3 Dashes of Homemade O.j Bitters
Dbl Strain into a small Coupette
Garnish with a mandarin twist

*Correct ingredient, video will be amended shortly

Flavour of the Week - Rhubarb

Ok, so maybe not the most exotic or adventurous choice however an essential and diverse flavour regardless.

Considered to be a vegetable by pretty much everyone, Rhubarb is infact a fruit in the US, according to a New York court in 1947. Unlike the physical reasoning for a tomato being a fruit, rhubarb changed classification due to a reduction in regulation and tax duty between the two categories.

Although in warmer climates, rhubarb grows throughout the year, it must be cultivated artificially in more temperate climates such as the UK. Methods used to encourage growth range from simple greenhouses with temperature regulation to placing a bucket over the plant. It is harvested during spring time and is ready to consume immediately after harvesting, although be careful of the leaves as they are toxic.

Most notable for their coloured stalks that can range from a deep red, light pink or light green similar to celery. The colour is affected by the variety of rhubarbs but also the technique which is used to cultivate the vegetable.

Used widely in cooking for everything from pies to ice-cream, it is a good choice for deserts as it's tart flavour can be balanced with other sweeter ingredients or sugar.

Flavour - Tart, tangy, rounded

04 April 2012

New Beefeater 24 Cocktail - Operetta

Continuing our series of films we now have the third in our series. This time round we have moved from the bar into more familiar Drink Factory settings of the lab. The drink is named Operetta and takes Beefeater 24, a pomegranite reduction, maraschino and homemade o.j bitters as it's ingredients.

Operetta Recipe
Cubed Ice
40 ml Beefeater 24
40 ml Pomegranite reduction
2.5 ml Maraschino liqueur
3 Dashes Homemade O.j bitters
Dbl Strain into a small coupette
Garnish with an O.j twist

Here's what Marcis had to say on the process and creation of the drink.

"This drink is based on a pre-prohibition cocktail called the Opera made with gin, Dubonnet, Maraschino and orange bitters. In many ways it is a lighter more playful version of the original drink, in the same way as an operetta is a lighter more convivial version of an opera. I replaced the Dubonnet with a pomegranate evaporation made by processing pomegranate juice through the rotorvapor, this concentrates the acidity and fruitiness of the pomegranate much the same way as chef does when he creates a wine based reduction. However the rotorvapor has the added bonus of being able to do this in a vacuum allowing reduction to occur at very low temperatures, thus preserving the integrity of the juice – ie, it does not cook the flavors. The pomegranate evaporation works in much the same way as vermouth, it is both sweet and dry at the same time, combining well with the citrus in Beefeater 24. I also create some bespoke orange bitters that are paired exactly to the flavor profile of Beefeater 24, using the same orange peel as Desmond uses at the distillery."

Tony C Announces his First Book - Drinks

It has been a long time coming however.......

Ebury Publishing are delighted to announce Drinks by drinks pioneer, expert alchemist and cocktail genius Tony Conigliaro. Tony is the man behind the award-winning bars at London’s Zetter Townhouse and 69 Colebrooke Row, and he’s one of the key figures in the renaissance of London’s sparkling eating and drinking scene. Tony invented the fêted Twinkle cocktail, now on bar menus all over the world, as well as the sublime Vintage Manhattan.

This will be his first book – a ground-breaking, contemporary cocktail book. With 50 cocktail creations and evocative photos that distil the essence of each drink into images, Tony’s innovative work on perfume, sense, colour, taste, texture and memory will be captured on paper for the very first time. Tony has updated and improved classic cocktails with the knowledge he has gained from years of travelling the globe and studying the science of flavour and perfume. Flavour charts will show taste sensations in beautiful graphic form.

There is much more information to come, including official release date, photos, and excerpts., stay tuned for updates.

A Look into the Gastrovac

I should preface this with the statement "this is not cheap" it is one of those pieces of equipment you really have to use regularly and in practical ways to get your moneys worth. That being said if it is used in the correct manner, as an investment, it is a sound one.

A big part of the attraction a Gastrovac holds is it's sheer diversity. It can be used to sous vide, vacuum, cook, to infuse, and fry all in one machine. It was designed and built by Torres ad Javier Andres of La Sucursal restaurant in Valencia, who teamed with a group of scientists from Valencia's Polytechnic University. What set these two chefs apart was there approach. They said that while other chefs were trying to make one food taste like another they were trying to make food taste more like itself, bringing out it's natural deliciousness.

Another notable advantage, especially for the drinks world, is the sheer volume of liquid the Gastrovac can hold up to 8litres in its pot at one time.

It is dubbed "a compact appliance for cooking and impregnating in a vacuum." The official stance on how it works is…. " by creating an artificial low pressure, oxygen-free atmosphere, the gastrovac considerably reduces cooking and frying temperatures, maintaining the texture, colour and nutrients of the food. Moreover, the Gastrovac creates the sponge effect: when the atmospheric pressure is restored, the food absorbs the liquid around it, allowing infinite combination of food and flavours." So it is not just for making food taste more like itself, you can infact make a pineapple taste like a cherry, an apple taste like chocolate and so on....

There seems to be a key theme running amongst everyone who owns a Gastrovac. They stress the importance of experimenting with the machine. Luckily several years on since its release there is a lot more information published so you won't be starting entirely from scratch.

In more easily understood English the Gastrovac cooks under vacuum conditions using the temperature control of induction. Similar to a rotavapor it means you can boil water at 40c or fry oil at 80c. This has two effects. One, you can retain nutrients in food because the temperature is lower meaning more flavour. Secondly, you can cook more delicate products such as flowers who's volatiles would be burnt away and flavour lost at normal temperatures.

Now, despite the sheers and unbridled joy that comes from eating something boiled at 40c. the Gastrovac is becoming better known for its "sponge effect". You can achieve the same effect within a Vacuum machine, however the Gastrovac has the advantage of allowing you to cook at the same time.

Simply explained the sponge effect happens when the pressure in a vacuum is returned to normal. The liquid within the Gastrovac will rush into and be absorbed by the food infusing and flavouring it.

One school of thought states that you can cook chicken in broth, with bones, herbs, etc then return the vacuum to normal. The chicken will absorb all of the flavour surrounding it, creating, what I am assured, is a taste experience like no other.

On the other hand, one example cites adding fruit to a wine broth or sweet sauce, then returning the vacuum to normal creating fruit infused with the sauce or wine.

One idea follows the initial train of thought for the machine, i.e making food taste more like itself whilst the other takes a more "modernistic" aproach, and makes food taste more like other food.

While ideas may still be slightly sparsely dispersed throughout the internet the kind people at Chefs Tools have these to share....

Strawberries keep their shape and consistency at 45c for 20 minutes. Depressure 10 times throughout the 20 minutes when cooked with any jus syrup or wine to infuse flavour.

Pineapple's cooked at 55c for 45 minutes creates an almost transparent product when cooked with any jus, syrup or wine.

Impregnating chicken instead of marinating for 2 days. Place the chicken, plus marinade into the gastrovac. Set to an ambient temperature and depressurise every so often to drive the marinade into the chicken. Sounds a bit like chicken infused with chicken.....

As we mentioned, half the fun of a Gastrovac is experimenting. That being said we are still well within the experimentation process, however expect some finalised and official Drink Factory recipes to be released in the future.

The Reason Behind Beer Goggles

We've had various "well obviously" moments from scientifici studies over the past few months, and this may well be another one. Although there is one small result that may still surprise a few people.

Released this week is the astonishing news that scientists have found a reason for the fabled beer goggles. Now, we all know they exist and they effect some more than others so lets not getting into pointless stories about waking up next to.....and so on. However before we get into the results there are a few things we should all know.

Facial symmetry is attractive. People who's faces mirror each other are more attractive than people who's faces do not. It is thought this is a product of evolution, and amongst other cues is a sign of good genes and therefore good breeding and strong children. We also know that attractiveness increases after a few drinks, regardless of whether they are beer goggles, or expensive champagne goggles, the effect is the same.

Volunteers at Roehampton University entered into a study where they were given 20 photographs of peoples faces, some of which had been manipulated to change the symmetry. Participants were then asked to rate the photos before and after consuming alcohol. Results showed that people's ability to recognise symmetry was impaired as the drinking increased.

Interestingly it was actually women who made the most mistakes and thus were affected by beer goggles the most and not men. This is maybe the most interesting thing to take away from the study, as more often than not stories of impaired partner choices have come from male friends and rarely females.

Dr Lewis Halsey had this to say on the research

"What we have shown is that people's ability to detect symmetry is part of the explanation for the beer goggle effects.

"The consequences could be considerable. A lot of people say they met their partner when they were drunk. Are their marriages shorter or longer lasting? Does it change the nature of the relationship?"

Flavour of the Week - Champa

Champa is a fragrant flower derived from India where it is often used in incense and perfume as well as being found in products such as candles and soaps. Found growing upon the Magnolia champaca tree, which is said to be so fragrant that it can be smelt several blocks away.

It is most often used as a part of Nag Champa, best known for its woody, sweet incense flavour popular throughout the world.

The flower itself, Golden Champa, is known as the "flower of paradise" and is famously seen in many films behind an Indian woman's ear where it offers a delightful fragrance. Many people describe it as being a mix between neroli, ylang and tea but with perfect nuances and a scent all of it's own. Champ is easily available as both a hydrosol and an absolute.

Flavour - sweet, warming, fragrant, delicate, leafy note

The Evening Standard Attends Rum Masterclass

If you haven't been able to attend one of the Drink Factory or 69 Colebrooke Row masterclasses just yet, and wondered what it all entails, wonder no more!

This past weekend saw Marcis take 25 attendees through the history and cocktail tales of Rum. The group were offered a short but concise look into what separates rums, based on geography, climate, and distillation followed by both practical training on how to make and then taste various rum cocktails.

"I’m spending my Saturday in a tiny bar in Angel, sipping on a Mojito, with a man called Marcis by my side."

"The deliciousness of my Mojito is all the more surprising because I made it myself. This is 69 Colebrook Row – a masterclass in cocktail creation, and Marcis is the mixologist with the moves......."

To read the full article click HERE