My mind, body, and appetite almost collectively shut down Wednesday night when Grant Achatz of Alinea fame showed up as the guest judge on Top Chef. I wrote about Alinea a little while ago; though I have never been to the restaurant itself (I've never even been to Chicago), I have been enamored of molecular gastronomy for a while now. There was a fantastic article about it last year in the New York Times called "Food 2.0: Chefs as Chemists" (the link should be foot-noted) with which I completely credit my infatuation. The article mainly focused on Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 in the Lower East Side, but I've had a special culinary crush on Achatz ever since I stumbled upon him.
I think my fascination with molecular gastronomy is rooted in a deep appreciation for the whimsy and intellect that seem attributable to that kind of conceptual cooking. Suddenly, food is no longer food; food can't be divvied up into convenient pigeonholes. Molecular gastronomy is its own realm, not necessarily in terms of taste but undoubtedly in terms of thought. It seems as though every dish I've heard of -- from the knot foie that was mentioned in the Times article to the potato-and-truffle dish that quickly stole my heart -- is infused with a certain vivacity and wit. Tongue-in-cheek, refreshing... I like it all.
Now, of course, I just need to taste it, since all my observations are purely speculative...
Raphe and I went back to Mahony's today and it's quickly rising into my canon of favorite po-boy shops. I realized today that it has a unique inviting quality; Domilise's still trumps them all in terms of flavor, but I go so rarely because the atmosphere there is dark and almost intimidating. At Mahony's, I feel more than welcome to hunker down, watch a football game with my little brother, and ask to have the rest of the onion rings wrapped up (they make for surprisingly good leftovers when they're toasted!). My sandwich comprised of grilled shrimp with fried green tomatoes and remoulade... mmmm. I'm living on the edge and stepping out of my po-boy comfort zone! And, today, I'm quite glad I did.
Now I get to look forward to cozying up with M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating -- my poetry teacher told me about her and I am SO excited to delve into Gastronomical Me. She has everything at this point to suggest that I would desperately want to befriend her if she was still alive. Maybe I'm flattering myself, but she sounds like a kindred spirit.