The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon
1025 E Ball Rd | 714.817.4200 | www.theranch.com
The Oxford English Dictionary online defines “molecular gastronomy” as “The application of scientific principles to the understanding and development of food preparation.”
imply stated, molecular gastronomy is the premise behind artistic food styling and flavoring, when food meets science and incredible things happen, both on your plate and your palate. The concept is to take simple food and transform it into a surprise to the senses. The goal is to create mouthwatering, edible displays of art. Flavors may stay the same, but shapes, styles, textures and aromas take on a life of their own. Molecular gastronomy is artistic, it is exploratory, and it has had my attention for years.
The culinary process of turning everyday foods and beverages into pearls, foams and mousses, includes gelling, spherification, emulsification and powdering. All of these can be achieved using specialty tools and kits or having experience, talent and patience. Lots of patience.
Cooks at different levels have taken an interest in the fusion of food and art, with the common goal to create and enjoy multi-sensory dining experiences. The methodology includes exploring existing recipes while introducing new tools such as aroma spoons and silicon tubes, and unusual ingredients such as popping sugar and siphon whipping, and most importantly, new methods of preparing food and beverages. Old favorites become modern new dishes; however, the base flavors can still take you back to a particular place in time, before any transformation occurred.
Pastry Chef David Rossi of The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim was kind enough to bring me into his kitchen for a molecular gastronomy lesson and dessert tasting session. In between desserts and demonstrations, we talked about the past and future of molecular gastronomy, which Chef Rossi, along with many of his peers, prefers to call modern cooking, and he believes the methods are here to stay, especially in the dessert realm.
Chef Rossi, who trained in Italy, didn’t set out to specialize in desserts; however, with minimal coaching, he discovered molecular gastronomy and became a self-taught expert in the industry. Although versed in every culinary aspect of the kitchen, he has taken on the sweet side of The Ranch while his brother, Executive Chef Michael Rossi, oversees the savory side.
The award-winning Ranch is home to the sous vide 58-ounce Cowboy Ribeye, the 24-hour Braised Short Rib, and the slow-cooked Maplewood Smoked Chicken. All entrees are impeccably plated and served, and all of their kitchens, dining and banquet rooms are noteworthy spotless. While Chef created one dessert after another, I tasted, and we chatted about all things science.
Chef Dave Rossi started off making a deconstructed Milky Way With A Twist. If you close your eyes, you would think you were eating the candy bar itself. But open your eyes, you don’t want to miss out on seeing the intricacy that Chef brings to the plate. República del Cacao Chocolate and malted nougat are twisted together and plated next to Chef’s house-made salted caramel ice cream.
The following dessert was a deconstructed Sticky Toffee Pudding, made with Sassafras caramel, Valrhona Orelys Namelaka, served with the perfect complement of house-made pumpkin gelato. Different flavors and different textures were all carefully assembled to create a toffee pudding like no other.
Next on the menu was my personal favorite, a PBJ & Milk Chocolate Bar. The dessert is reminiscent of childhood flavors but created with an adult palate in mind. A sprinkle of celery micro-greens complemented the peanut butter, and the perfectly placed caramelized banana ice cream was the cherry on top. Perfectly designed, with a bit of science and a vision for the eyes, in every spoonful.
Four times a year the savory menu at the Ranch will change, offering dishes to complement the changing seasons. The dessert menu, however, maintains staple sweets and adds specialty desserts depending on what is currently available in the garden. This spring, Chef Rossi is introducing a new dessert that’s sure to please. A modernized variation of a Strawberry Cheesecake that tastes as fresh and as good as it looks. All desserts have incorporated Chef Rossi’s talents and years of experience including his studies abroad and work in a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy. He told me that consistency is critical, and I could clearly see that this is one of many facets The Ranch brings to their diners on a nightly basis.
I asked Chef what his favorite kitchen gadgets are and what recommendations he has for me, The Gadget Gourmet, and other experienced and experimental home cooks to use as we try our hand at new methods of food styling and upscale plating. His favorite tools are the Cryovac, Taylor Ice Cream Machine, Rational Oven and the Paco Jet at the restaurant. At home, he uses an Immersion Circulator for sous vide cooking and his Pellet Smoker. Both can be used independently, but when combined, fantastic, perfectly cooked meals emerge. Chef suggests home cooks start with basic powders like agar agar, xanthan gum and soy lecithin along with simple styling tools as they work on developing techniques. Options and creations are endless, and with time, knowledge and some trial and error, food science can be demystified, and new forms of edible art can be constructed in any kitchen.
Get Your Molecular Gastronomy On At Home
The team at MOLECULE-R sent me accessories, tools and additives so I can experiment and play modern foodie scientist at home. Visit The Gadget Gourmet on Facebook to see some of my creations. Are you ready to have some fun in the kitchen too? Check out all of the styling tools, volatile flavorings, mixes and additives they offer at www.moleculargastronomy.com and be prepared to revolutionize your basic dishes into a feast that will entice all of your senses, one artistic bite at a time.
Chef Dave Rossi’s Go-To Gadgets
Cryovac • Taylor Ice Cream Machine
Rational Oven • Pellet Smoker
Immersion Circulator • Paco Jet