Menuology: Feeding Ferran

By Erin Byers Murray | Boston Magazine |

No matter how far one progresses up the food chain, there’s always some bigger fish, somewhere, whose presence makes you dart about nervously. Such was evident earlier this winter, when Ferran Adrià—the chef whose obsession with foams and emulsions and whatnot put so-called molecular gastronomy on the map—breezed in from Spain to give a talk at Harvard. Following the session, he dined at Boston’s only real outpost for his highly scientific approach to cooking: Clio, whose chef, Ken Oringer, has long been an Adrià acolyte.

Suffice it to say Oringer, a celebrity chef himself, was anxious about the prospect of cooking for his idol. The standard Clio tasting menu simply wouldn’t do. With just two weeks’ notice, Oringer drafted a 31-course extravaganza meant to "bang him over the head with flavor and exotic combos." He used American ingredients uncommon to Spain, like maple and sassafras, and pulled out all his flashiest tricks, like taking domestic payusnaya (pressed caviar) and fashioning it into a thin leaf to garnish a fritter filled with potato-and-caviar liquid. For another course, Oringer whipped aged Parmesan into a frothy soup, embellished with shaved white truffle, blood sausage, and candy maple crumbles. Other creations, like the giant tairagai (clam) served in its shell, were strictly meant to dazzle.

By all accounts, the great Adrià was pleased, but there’s no need to take his word for it. Clio plans to feature pared-down versions of the payusnaya, Parmesan soup, and tairagai dishes on the menu through spring.