A couple of weeks ago, Marcia and I were lamenting the lack of molecular gastronomy restaurants in San Francisco. What is molecular gastronomy, you ask? It is a branch of cooking where chefs use physical and chemical processes of cooking to create different, creative dishes. For example, they might use sodium alginate and peach juice to create faux caviar, which they would serve on top of oysters. Or they might print a menu out on edible “paper” that you are expected to eat. Or they might use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. (Here is an article on the subject if you want to know more.) While there are only a few restaurants in the world that specialize in this cuisine, somehow it seemed like one them should be near me. This doesn’t seem to be the case, however.

I don’t have access to liquid nitrogen or edible paper, but I was interested enough in this to experiment with some of the easier-to-understand concepts. Therefore, the Molecular Gastronomy Dinner Party was born. We invited 10 friends to my house and treated them to a multi-course meal with molecular gastronomy-like twists. We served the meal tapas, or small plates, style.

It sounds very complicated but it really was just us having fun. At some point, Marcia looked up at me and said, “We are playing restaurant!” And that is what it was. We were pretending to have a restaurant and all our friends were the guests.

photo by Justin Watt

Marcia in my kitchen

Everyone who came helped out by making some food, loaning us their silverware or glasses, or by cleaning up. Sous-chefs! Here is how the party went:


Reversed Martini. Kyle thought this one up. Since vermouth is a traditional aperitif for fancy dinners, we had vermouth aperitifs with olives touched (barely!) with gin. It was a twist on the American martini, which is gin with a touch of vermouth and a side of olives.

Deconstructed Pesto, which Justin and Stephanie made for the party.

Dinner Part I:

Drink: Champagne Cocktails with Creme de Casis “Bubbles,” which you can read about here and here. With the champagne, we toasted everyone’s accomplishments since everyone I know seems to be getting promotions or moving or making other life changes. We also had non-alcoholic ice tea.

photo by Justin Watt

Zucchini “Spaghetti.” Raw zucchini cut to look like spaghetti, tossed with olive oil, garlic, parmesan, pepper, basil, and fresh tomatoes. Everything came from the garden.

Nasturtium Flower, Grapefruit, Spinach, and Roasted Beet Salad.
photo by Justin Watt

Vichyssoise. A vegetarian soup (also from the garden) served in shot glasses. Here is Leona drinking it.

photo by Justin Watt

Salmon with White Chocolate Wasabi Sauce and Faux Caviar. The caviar are tapioca pearls that I soaked in soy sauce and vinegar and then rinsed in oil. This dish surprised me. The flavors were pretty good. (Did I mention that I hadn’t made any of these dishes before?)

Jalapeno Fire and Ice. We have a bunch of jalapeños from the garden, so we prepared them two ways: One, I made a spicy salsa and served it with veggie chips. Two, I made a jalapeño sorbet, which we served in frozen limes.

Dinner Part II:

Drink: Champagne Bellini with Peach Foam. Marcia got this cool contraption that lets you make foam using a pressure valve of some sort. I don’t know how it works, but it’s neat. We made the foam by mixing egg whites, peach syrup, and fresh peach juice together and poured it on champagne.

Veggie Bruschetta made by Krista

Cuban Cigars that Marcia made. The ingredients of a Cuban sandwich wrapped in phylo dough to look like a cigar.

Duck with Pear “Onions.” This was the only dish I didn’t come out as well as I would have liked. I had this plan to cut pears to look like onions and stack it on a duck breast. It didn’t work out, so I just ended up sautéing a duck in pear/onion sauce and serving it. It tasted fine.

Cheese Plate arranged by Troy

photo by Justin Watt

Fig from the cheese plate

After all this, we hung out and eventually had dessert: Strudel that Avi made and “Coffee and Cream,” Italian coffee ice served in coffee cups and topped with whip cream.

Then we played Rock Band.

photo by Justin Watt

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this dinner party sounds insane and you would never put yourself through something that elaborate. I confess that the next morning I woke up and thought, why did I just have a giant dinner party with all that weird food? I guess sometimes I do random, complicated things and drag my friends along with me. However! I the party was a big success and very fun. And I am so very grateful to Troy for helping with the dishes:

photo by Justin Watt

6 thoughts on “Molecular Gastronomy Dinner Party

  1. marcia

    The salmon was my favoritest. playing restaurant is delicious.

  2. Stephanie

    The Vichyssoise and the zucchini noodles I think were my favs!!! But everything else was also delicious!
    Thanks for coming up with that fantastic idea (and for inviting us!) 😉

  3. Jo

    I’d love to know more on how to actually make these dishes! Especially the “faux caviar”! Recipes please!

  4. joy

    Hi Jo. Thanks! Well I can tell you I got the faux caviar dish from Top Chef. Here’s the recipe: http://recipes.mt.bravotv.com/top_chef/season_4/episode_4_1/soy_tapioca.php.

  5. Liat

    Thinking of having this type of dinner party in a small apartment with my tiny kitchen, but you guys make this look less insane. You are also the first web page I come to when I type molecular gastronomy dinner party in google search. Kudos.

  6. joy

    Thanks! Yeah, it’s not that common of a thing to do. It was a lot of work, but it was fun.

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