"Come eat with your eyes, taste with your nose, and savor through your fingertips … explore how surprise and innovation can transform our experience of food."
~ Exploratorium, After Dark Presents: Gastronomy
We have a special weekend coming up, and it will involve eating - and a little bit of molecular gastronomy - which is the study and practice of using the different chemical and physical transformations that take place in foods as they are cooked and combined with various ingredients, to create new texture and flavor experiences. What a mouthful! As we prepare for just that, we thought it would be fun to take in the Exploratorium's monthly special "After Dark" event, where they open the Exploratorium just for grown-ups (21+) and have a special theme and exhibits, as well as all of the normal exhibits that are usually on display. It's a really cool opportunity to be able to "play" in the Exploratorium without feeling bad that you're hogging an exhibit that a kid could be enjoying. And like the CalAcademy's "NightLIfe" events (which we went to for the first time last year), they also set up a few bars, and even feature a few specialty themed cocktails. This month the theme for After Dark was "Gastronomy."
When we got there, it was a little after 6:30pm (the event runs from 6pm - 10pm, the first Thursday of each month). It was pretty crowded already.
The Exploratorium Store had a cool selection of items featured that were "gastronomy-inspired" - we spent quite a bit of time in there before heading out to see more of the exhibits.
There was a station where "Dippin' Dots" style ice cream was being made by dripping ice cream mixture directly into a vat of liquid nitrogen. These were "Kahlúa and Cream" flavored.
Some of the authors of the "Modernist Cuisine" had a cool display of cross-sections of different cooking environments, and they did a talk on how science-inspired techniques are revolutionizing the art of cooking. There was even a presentation on how a sharp knife is "more than meets the fingertips."
There was a presentation by "Cooking for Geeks" author Jeff Potter on how time and temperature matter in cooking. Check out all the eggs behind him! He was showing how eggs cook, for example, at different temperatures over different periods of time.
Man, people always crowd around when there's free food. Too bad for these guys it was just tofu ...
There were other tasty treats around, like Mealworm Toffee. Yeah, made with real mealworms ...
The hall was seriously packed. Can you find Nick?
Overall, this was a cool event, but it was just way too crowded. We felt like we didn't really get a chance to see as much as we'd have liked, because there were just throngs of people everywhere. We talked to one of the guys at the store, and he told us this was probably the busiest After Dark they've had (second busiest was "Sexplorations" - eh, I guess it makes sense then). I think it might have been cool to either have duplicate exhibits spread over the hall or maybe to split this event over two nights - I know that doesn't really go along with the format of After Dark, but with all the neat things they had to watch, touch, and taste, it would have been cool to be able to do more. It was fun though, and we became members (After Dark events are FREE for members!) so we'll definitely be coming again - I'm sure the less crowded events are awesome!
The Exploratorium is moving out to The Piers in 2013, and After Dark is going on hiatus in September of this year in preparation for the move. If you haven't checked out an After Dark event yet, you totally should. It's a great way to experience the Exploratorium - and these last After Dark events will be your last chance to do so in the original building!
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking