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Feast Your Eyes

June 1, 2009

Featured in The Washington Post

Feast Your Eyes

By:Blake Gopnik

Sunday, May 17, 2009

'Foodjects' Exhibition Shows That New Spanish Culinary Delights Are Well Served With a Dash of Design

A question for Emily Post: What is the proper dish for serving caramel popcorn, curried, compressed, then cold-cooked in liquid nitrogen? Some possible answers, in the form of suitably radical housewares, recently went on view in a touring exhibition called "Foodjects: Design and the New Cuisine in Spain."

Curated by Spanish designer Martín Azúa and funded by his government, it's the latest in a series of one-country shows hosted by Apartment Zero, the design store and studio in Penn Quarter. In celebration of the shop's 10th anniversary, its standard merchandise has been pared back, making way for a huge table laid with all kinds of inventive dishes, utensils, kitchenwares and ingredients. (They were specially shipped in from Spain; only a few are for sale.)

On opening night, chefs from nearby Minibar, Washington's center for "molecular gastronomy," were serving snacks that included that frigid popcorn (a dry-ice fog drifts out your mouth when you eat it) as well as virtual olives (olive-shaped gel caps filled with fresh-squeezed olive juice) and beet tumbleweeds (fine threads of the vegetable, deep-fried and rolled into a crispy tangle).

As they ate those artworks from the gustatory cutting edge -- Minibar founder José Andrés is considered one of its patron saints -- visitors got to contemplate design objects that tried to measure up. A few were nothing more than old-hat modern: housewares in stainless steel or silicone that would have counted as "futuristic" back when Camembert and crepes suzette were novelty dishes. At least 10 of Apartment Zero's foodjects, however, managed to match good looks with a conceptual heft worthy of this era, when ambitious chefs are as likely to know about surface tension and chemical bonds as stocks and papillotes.

-- Enough already with fascist oenophiles who insist there's only one right glass for every wine. The "Coporrón" glass, by Martín Azúa and Gerard Moliné, hybridizes a standard red-wine "balloon" (you'd call it a copa in Spanish) and a traditional porrón jug, used to pour wine into your mouth from a height. The stream's contact with the air, and the way it hits the tongue, should change the taste of any beverage. Why not transform the experience of drinking a great Bordeaux? Or a cognac, for that matter. Read the full story