A couple of weeks ago a friend and I went on a culinary adventure hosted by the Robin Collective. It was an extreme garnishing class, which involved hearing about different ways to liven up a dinner or cocktail party. They provided this helpful graph illustrating the complex relationship between level of garnishing extremity and guest enjoyment.

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This is compelling evidence for the importance of garnishing. We started out with simpler arts such as napkin folding and making roses out of fruit peel.
My favourite part was a little bit of molecular gastronomy. I’ve been considering whether to get some sodium alginate and calcium chloride for a while. Before you ask, no I don’t have cancer and I’m not cooking up meth to fund my chemo. I live in a sensible country where you’re not financially penalised for becoming ill. Those chemicals are used for spherification and reverse spherification, which is the process that gives you those little popping balls you get in bubble tea. I love bubble tea so much.
We used spherification, which basically gives you little jelly spheres of your chosen liquid. First, you mix your chosen liquid with sodium alginate.

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Here you can see fruit juice rendered gloppy by the wonders of modern science. Next, you suck it up into a syringe. Molecular!

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Then you drop small amounts of the gel into the solution of calcium chloride.

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And then gently rinse the spheres to remove the salt.

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You’ll be left with some caviar (or frogspawn)-like spheres that look rather cool when floated in a drink.
It’s pretty easy to get hold of these chemicals now, so it’s something I’d consider if I had a lot of time on my hands and wanted to make my own bubble tea. For popping balls, you just swap the chemicals, i.e. you mix your liquid with the calcium chloride and drop into a bath of sodium alginate.
They also taught us that you can make sherbet by mixing equal amounts of citric acid, bicarbonate of soda and icing sugar. But I was overstimulated by all the pseudoscience at this point and forgot to take pictures. Citric acid is super sour. You can buy it in chemists but you may raise a few eyebrows as it is also used to cut heroin. Apparently.
We also learnt that you can change the contents of party poppers by squeezing their sides, removing the paper disc at the bottom, removing the paper streamers, adding your own stuff (eg dried herbs) and replacing the disc.
I love Anna’s popper face.

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