Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Tonic

Sometimes... in fact seldom, do I surprise myself. I say that because I rarely feel 100% satisfied with a product. I think it can always be better or that it is just average or that it can be tweaked and tuned more. But with this dessert, which I call the "tonic" (I generally don't like naming desserts because it always assumes that people will know what the hell you are talking about... descriptions are good), because it reminds me of a gin an tonic, I am very happy. It is so hard rock. It came from another idea that I had to make luminous desserts by adding quinine to them (quinine, the base ingredient for tonic water, seems to be in shortage and is hard to come by), but all I could get was tonic water. If you place them under a black light they become luminous. There is a perfect scientific explanation to it, but I have no idea or time to find out what it is... it just is. Well, it seemed hokey and to pull it off I would have had to ask my customers to take the dessert home, wait till nightfall or go into a dark closet, turn on the little black light flashlights I found for cheap, and eat their fluorescent dessert in the semi-dark. No way. I had to put a bomb on that. But the idea of gin and tonic was appealing, if only for the challenge of making it into a palatable dessert. You can't just make gin jell-o shots and call it good. Gin is one of these liquors that I have had very bad experiences with many years ago; for some it is tequila, for me it is gin, which I used to drink in Martinis (I long ago switched to vodka Martinis, which aren't true Martinis, but I really don't care... they are good). I cannot drink it or even smell it without feeling ill. But the flavors that make gin up are fascinating, especially the juniper berry.
The components to this dessert are as follows:
.Panna cotta (base, made of cream infused with toasted juniper berries, Mexican cinnamon, star anise, orange and lemon zest and licorice powder)

.Tapioca: cooked in tonic water and sweetened. Lightly dyed blue. Because it reminds me of the bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (the brand I used to drink). I used some blue food coloring, so what?

.Lime zest, dehydrated. Where I am from, gin and tonics are garnished with a lime wedge. Not sure about here.

The flavor was not stomach churning as I had originally thought; in fact it was one of the best desserts I think I have made, modesty aside. And the Altoids-like tin is pretty great... not the first to use a tin (Ferran Adria served his orignial spherified apple in a caviar-like tin), but a rather nice one it is. The stickers with the 3-d sea urchin give it a very graphic element which I think makes it beautiful. It makes me want to buy it and own it, and then eat it and keep the tin as a reminder of my having eaten it and its ethereal awesomeness, once harnessed, now gone.


  1. just wanted to say (and i know youve probably heard it plenty before) that i am a huge fan of your blog and work enclosed therein. today, upon discovering it, i read it from start to end (although, technically it is from finish to beginning), and truly felt excited about pastry and inspired all over again... so thanks for that. is there a way i can contact you directly with any questions?

  2. You can email me at I am glad you enjoy the blog; thank you for your kind words.