Magic is the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Magic is also wonderful or exciting like in a magic moment. Magic is also the reason you may never skip chemistry class. “The MAGIC, (Most Attractive Guy/Girl In Class) in chemistry class is so fine, I’ll never skip again.” Magic is also what happens when you mix tapioca maltodextrin with oil-say what? Molecular gastronomy, hardly an appetizing word, is magic at work; only on food. And what magic it is.
A few weeks ago Manservant and I headed downtown to rewind, relax and unwind…at Rewind Bar in the 1515 Restaurant at 15th and Market in Denver.
We were ready to rewind our day and start over again. Rewind delivered. Paula and Gene Tang, our warm hosts, have owned and operated 1515 Restaurant for almost 20 years. But resting on their laurels is something that Gene and Paula don’t do. Reinventing their bar space, which is also the entrance to their upstairs restaurant, was several years in the making, but a near perfect transformation has now taken place. Think brick walls, cozy nooks and an LED lit bar that changes color. Yeah, it is a whimsical way to redefine a cultured space. I can’t wait to check out the patio this summer, when the windows are thrown open, too!
Gene-the chef and business owner who hails from Hong Kong, decided that the molecular gastronomy scene is lacking in Denver. After reinventing his downstairs bar space he decided to have some fun, not only with his cocktails, but his menu. You’ve got spherification, emulsification, gelification, transformation and probably other “cations”, and things I can’t even pronounce, let alone spell. However, the two good things I’m good at are eating and drinking, in which case Gene has me covered.
Strawberry Lemonade with strawberry “caviar” and shattered raspberry mojitos made with liquid nitrogen shattered raspberries, are just two of the drink choices to be had. Social Hour is the ultimate deal with $5 martinis and choices from lavender to chai. Oh my! Each Monday, Rena, unveils a new drink which is like chemistry in action. Too bad my high school chemistry teacher didn’t have experiments like these! Manservant loved the bourbon basil old fashioned, which my friend Barb recreated on her site.
Moving over to the “eatification” side found me face to face with a giant mozzarella ball blown up with CO2 and scented with garlic air, and then plopped on a beautiful caprese salad.
Lounging too long was not in the repertoire and thankfully Gene took us on a tour of his knock out space. (I may never have wanted to get up otherwise!) Up the stairs we went where we saw his elegant dining room and his killer wine cellar. What a gorgeous space that has not escaped the eyes of Wine Spectator from which he has received an award of excellence for the last 15 years. Gene assured me that there were also many choices in the “my budget” range! Then it was down the stairs to see his private dining room which would make the perfect dining space for anyone who needs to impress a special group.
We totally enjoyed talking to Gene and Paula. They have a daughter who works at the embassy in Shanghai…always a good contact to have, should Alex Odie San China Boy need it! And their other daughter lives in Philly. Plus they gave us some names of a few Chinese restaurants we’ve never been to. How small a world is that?
Last but not least, it was back to Rewind where we finished the evening with Cherries Jubilee. Can’t find that many places anymore. Maybe it took a bit of rewinding to remind us that old school food and new school ideas can totally transform an old space into something quite magical.
Gene and Paula, being the great hosts that they are, sent us each home with a lovely bottle of wine and a small packet of tapioca maltodextrin. Being the great chemist that I am, I researched what to do with this. Not having much to go on, I learned that mixing tapioca maltodextrin with things high in fat, creates these cute little oil pearls. After cooking them briefly the pearls became almost nutty and tasted of the garlic flavored oil that I used.
They are very light and fluffy and keep in a covered container for at least a week. Sprinkled on top of a salad creates a rich experience when you don’t want oil floating all over the plate. I tried this salad with and without the pearls and it was much better with. Our guests might think these were sprinkles of cheese, but that is the illusion of magic, shall we say?
Inspired by: Rewind Bar
2 packets of Tapioca Maltdextrin (These totaled about 3/4 of an ounce.)
Olive Oil of your choice (I used a garlic olive oil)
Variety of Tomatoes
Marinated Mozzarella Balls
Good Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil Crumbs
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper
Combine packets with enough olive oil to make a very thick paste. This shouldn’t be more than 2 T of olive oil. Using your hands drop small balls into a hot skillet. I kind of used a thin spatula to turn them over to get them to brown. They are very light. Remove from heat and store in a tightly covered container.
Line a platter with some arugula.Slice a few pretty tomatoes and arrange decoratively on top of the arugula. Intersperse some basil. Squirt a few dabs of basil paste around the platter. Top with a few balls of mozzarella. Drizzle with a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with pine nuts and your olive oil crumbs. Grind a little fresh pepper over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. (We samples this with and without the olive oil crumbs. We loved the olive oil crumbs!)