The New Ways
When FCI hired Arnold, the plan was to build him a lab, which has yet to happen-he has his closet and a cubicle, and he scavenges most of his equipment used. ("I picked up a really good vacuum controller for cheap because some sucker listed it in the wrong category!") He´s now in the market for a centrifuge, figuring that it will speed up the juice-clarification process, and he particularly dreams of getting a deal on a 3-D rapid-prototyping machine. Budget is an issue, not to mention the storage constraints of the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife and two young sons on the Lower East Side.
Down the road, Arnold is hatching plans to open the ultimate high-tech cocktail bar with pastry chef Iuzzini, focusing not on the retro, golden-age drinks favored by most mixological temples but on an ultra-modern paradigm: still wines and juices carbonated to order with tongue-tingling intensity; rows of magnetic stirrers merrily whirling people´s drinks in a chilling bath; rotovapping herbs and fruit for intense flavors; bourbon with soft, sweet nitrous-oxide bubbles; extremely cold drinks without the corruption of ice, super-chilled cocktail stirrers. . . . "There are always new things you can do that are really delicious that no one is trying," Arnold says, "because they´re so hyped up on getting back to some other place."
To his mind, this kind of problem-solving isn´t any sort of radical culinary departure. "People ask, "Is this a fad?´ I hope that the idea of trying to use everything at your disposal to make something better is never considered a fad, you know?" As Dufresne puts it, "I mean, an oven is technology. At one point, people were throwing sticks at animals and holding them over a spit, and that was a huge breakthrough."
McGee harkens back to Arnold´s relentless quest for the perfect G&T. "He has this ideal of the french fry, the gin and tonic, so many things, and he´s always trying to get to that ideal," he says. But ultimately, McGee ventures, he himself would probably prefer the old-fashioned kind: "For me, a gin and tonic is a tall drink that you sip. It´s not a martini; it´s a drink to quench your thirst. So I kind of like the standard one, with some Schweppes. I like the bursts of acidity from those little lime bits."
Of course, he knows, "if I were having this conversation with Dave, he would be saying, "Well, if you like those little bursts of acidity, we can put some gelatin pearls in there, infused with Clearlime, so that whenever you bite one . . ."
Ted Allen is a frequent judge on Top Chef and Iron Chef America, the food and wine expert on Queer Eye, and the author of The Food You Want to Eat.
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