The Robin Collective have recently been inspiring everyday dinner party holders to take hosting to the max, with the help of ‘extreme garnishing’. We went to the collective’s HQ in East London to dabble with bubbles and explosives!
Our hosts, Robin Fegen and Brandy Wright, were like edgy science teachers; I got the feeling almost immediately that extreme garnishing would be more experimental than gourmet. This made me slightly regret not having dinner…
We started the evening with ornate napkin folding, a lighthearted exercise and something (the only thing) that I excelled at. Unfortunately the process has since been lost to the dark recesses of my memory, but it involved turning a Manta ray in to a suit jacket. Or something.
To test our taste buds, we were given a small tab of Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). PTC aims to highlight a responsive genetic make-up to taste by either leaving your mouth with a bitter tang, or nothing at all; if you are the latter then you’re unresponsive to flavour. We were either a super group, or bunch of liars, as the majority were able to pick up on bitterness.
In order to create Chinese-style restaurant decorations, Brandy guided us through fruit carving (floral melons and rose tomatoes, to be exact). I thought this would be a doddle and that it was about time I put my art degree to good use, but sadly my melon ended up looking somewhat like it had been sat on.
We moved swiftly on to making flavour pearls, making us all feel like molecular gastronomes. Robin had already created a blue liquid gel flavoured with chilli and ginger, which was morphed into spherical balls and added to our cocktails. It resembled a burst of curry in our glasses of fruit sangria – a combination I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend!
The second round of taste bud testing involved taking a ‘miracle’ Mberry tablet. They contain no sugars or additives, but turn sour, acidic, and bitter flavors amazingly sweet through a naturally occurring phenomenon, and even made sipping on vinegar a sweet – and unsurprisingly unsettling – experience.
Perhaps the most edible experiment of the night was using ground citric acid to make flavoured sherbet. I went safe with banana & strawberries, but more adventurous examples included cheese & banana, cayenne pepper & malt, and pepper & apple. The cayenne pepper & malt was a weirdly tasty combination.
With the night drawing to a close we used party poppers to shower our fellow gastronauts with dried parsley, and left the building to watch Robin blow up someone’s melon using explosive sugar. A bizarre and fitting end to an unusual evening.