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« Schwepped away: homemade lemongrass ginger ale | Main | Spit or swallow? Dinner at Lai Wah Heen »

February 20, 2006

Shock-olate, Part I: Molecular gastronomy at DC Duby

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Do you sometimes feel like your husband or boyfriend just isn't listening?  You make salient point after witty remark for several minutes in a brilliant speech, only to discover that he's riveted to the TV watching Olympic luge and -- perhaps even worse -- has completely no idea that you've said anything?

Yeah, that happens to us too.  As you may recall from previous posts, Rob is a man given to impulse food buys, while I tend to be a bit more practical.   I'll even check the fridge and cupboards before heading out to purchase special ingredients for a specific recipe, and he... well, we are now the proud possessors of three tubes of wasabi, four packages of pickled ginger, and tons of nori seaweed for sushi.  (Yesterday's discovery: dried seaweed can indeed go bad!  Who knew?)

Molecular gastronomy has been a hot topic in this household lately, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised when Rob surfed onto the website of DC Duby, the Vancouver-based pastrymakers and chocolatiers who use food science to create unique sweets.  After all, they've been the focus of a recent TV show and a magazine story.  I was in the room with Rob when I saw his eyes glaze over.  He was clicking on all sorts of items and putting them into his virtual shopping cart.  I had to act fast.

"No.  Stop," I said, as he continued clicking.  I leaned in.  "No.  Don't get that yet."  No response.  I put my hand on his.  "No."  He jumped, because he had forgotten I was even there. "But, this is so cool -- I have to buy this!" came the reply.

With a sigh, I informed my sweetheart that I didn't want him to order all these goodies because I had already ordered them for him for Valentine's Day.  A box of Harvest Collection chocolates, the Wild Sweets cookbook, and a "Science Kit" (but more about that in another post) were on their way at that very moment.  I was assured of his attention then.

Here are our thoughts on the first chocolates we tried.  It's a big box, so there's more to come later!

Red Pepper, Raspberry and Vodka Emulsion (pictured in foreground at top):  We both enjoyed this, but we experienced the pepper component differently.  Rob didn't taste it, and I did.  The raspberry flavour was dominant. 

Yellow Pepper, Mango and Vodka Emulsion (pictured in background at top):  This chocolate was the flip-side of the red pepper one, in that the fruit was very subtle and the pepper was strong, resulting in a piece with a savoury top note, whereas the red pepper chocolate had a sweet top note.

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Rhubarb Stilton Emulsion and Port Wine Reduction (pictured above): This had a very subtle Stilton taste throughout that contrasted nicely with the sweetness and richness of the port.

Apricot Chanterelle Emulsion and Plum Wine Reduction (pictured below):  Rob's favourite.  The first sensation is the surprise of the plum wine reduction exploding in the mouth, quickly followed by the sweetness of the wine, then the earthiness of the chanterelles asserting itself. Rob mused, "I kind of think of this chocolate as a mixture of fruit and soil."    Like the others, this was a very structured flavour, and the juicy qualities of the fruit and wine are deepened by the chanterelle "backbone."

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As you can see, the chocolates themselves are visually stunning. The Dubys emphasize presentation, and the care shows in both the product packaging and the product itself.  The packaging is sleek and the chocolates are vibrant and appealing.

The broader question with most food prepared using the methods derived from molecular gastronomy is: does it taste good or is it merely a culinary stunt?  Let's be honest, paring mushrooms with apricots is interesting, but it does not intuitively sound like a delicious product.  We were reassured to discover that, of the four chocolates we tried, there was no combination we found distasteful. All were good, and the apricot, chanterelle, and plum chocolate was really delicious.

We do have some context for our concerns.  On a trip to Barcelona last year, we sampled several varieties of chocolates from Cacao Sampaka (the site is only available in Catalan and Spanish), the chocolate shop of Albert Adria, Ferran Adria's brother and a pastry chef of considerable renown.  Most of the chocolates were good, including some unconventional flavours like anchovy and hazelnut, balsamic vinegar, and one called simply "ahumado," or smoked.  We were, however, decidedly unimpressed by the black truffle, and found the parmesan chocolate to be downright awful -- thus the concern before sampling the Dubys' creations.

We have more chocolates to eat, so we'll be adding another post soon with further impressions of DC Duby's molecular sweets.

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Comments

Michelle

Right there with you, Rachel! My boyfriend gets absorbed into playing Playstation games and I could even stand next to the TV naked and he might not notice, much less pay attention to anything I have to say! Lucky man, that Rob; wish I would have gotten his Valentine's Day present! These are really cool - I can't wait to see what you two do with the science kit!

Suebob

I am kind of on Rob's team in that I buy the same wacky ingredients over and over. For instance, I have six types of very fine cinnamon I just couldn't resist...and I had forgotten I had all the rest...How much cinnamon do I need? LOTS, apparently!

I have a post on my blog about the John and Kira's chocolates I got for V-day. The flavors weren't as exotic but some were different - star anise, bergamot, lavender.

I tried some fabulous chocolates at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in San Francisco (and some horrible ones too). I posted about that, too.

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