Sexy Food: Dinner of Your (Wet) Dreams

If sexiness was linked to brain size, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold would be the sexiest man alive. Don’t know this wunderkind who lives just across the water in a Bellevue fortress? Take a look at his quick stats:

• Began college at age 14

• Had PhDs in theoretical and mathematical physics by 23

• Fellowed under Stephen Hawking at Cambridge

• Worked with Uncle Bill as CTO of a little company called Microsoft

• Founded the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory — a patent and research company that explores everything from solutions to global warming to malaria to pasteurization in third world countries to post-modern cooking.

Myhrvold’s sex appeal for me stems from the fact he created a five-volume, highly contentious, larger-than-life culinary tome entitled Modernist Cuisine. It is destined to become the most important cookbook of our time.

Yours truly spent the evening with Dr. Myhrvold, his team (including Franco-American adonis Maxime Bilet), and a few members of the national press last weekend at the lab where Modernist Cuisine was born. We had 26 courses, ranging from Snail Custard featuring foie gras custard and basil-fed sous vide snails to a loosely interpreted mash up of two-Italian dishes “Bagna Cauda” and “Spaghetti Vongole.”

The noodles for the vongole were made of geoduck siphons cut into spaghetti-like strips. The broth combined geoduck juice, caramelized garlic and anchovy. The dish represents the best of so-called Northwest-modern cuisine — a nod to the old world using Northwest ingredients in a way made possible by refined, contemporary technique.

The lab itself is a cavernous former motorcycle machine shop and the occasional confused Hells Angel sometimes wanders by. Between courses, guests were free to roam among the contraptions such as roto-evaporators, freeze-dry machines, and the famous spark machining tool the team used to cut all the pans in half in order to obtain hemispheric images of food cooking. I am about 90 percent certain there is a time machine in the lab, but on that Myhrvold remains mum.

The word of the night was “man-sized.” The geoduck Myhrvold casually swung perilously near our wine glasses during a show-and-tell traipse through the tables was perhaps the most literally “man-sized” dangling appendage, but when it comes to research gadgets, Myhrvold goes big.

Take, for example, the centrifuge. Most people would not associate centrifuges with cooking, but the Modernist Cuisine lab makes a strong case for their necessity. Explains Myhrvold, “In the case of pea puree the centrifuge yields two extremely unique products: grean pea juice and pea ‘fat’ which has the intense flavor of peas and the texture of butter.” To my mind, making butter from peas is akin to making wine from water, which is the personification of unctuous hotness, indeed.

If you’d like to get your hands on five volumes of unrestrained food porn, it will set you back $466.62 (current price on Amazon.com). For 2,400 pages of full-frontal foodity at its best, it’s not such a bad deal. Want detailed information about the evening, the man, the book and the lab? Head over to SaltySeattle for my full account.