Would you like some pepper with that iPod?
When I was at the Fat Duck a couple of months ago for dinner, one of the dishes we were served on our Tasting Menu was not food at all. Rather, what came on a small square plate were two shiny new iPod shuffles. They were intended to accompany a dish that was perhaps even more bizarre than the gadgets themselves.
Heston Blumenthal, the chef, said he wanted to experiment with using sound to enhance a dining experience. Hence the iPod, playing the soothing sound of the sea breeze and waves gently caressing the seashore. The dish itself was dubbed Sound of the Sea, with different components on the plate representing something from the seaside. No Seagulls' poo or oil spill residue though, instead we had sand made of tapioca infused with miso, with medallions of Monkfish liver (Ankimo) in a seawater foam. There were also some bits of Abalone, clams, and Samphire, which, appropriately enough, is sometimes called Sea Asparagus.
Was it a gimmick, you asked? Well, of course it was. If you were averse to gimmickry you might not want to go to the Fat Duck in the first place. Ultimately, the concept was fun, the dish tasted good -if a bit odd- and we giggled like two kids in a sweet shop. Unfortunately I still couldn't quite decide if my taste-receptors of all things from the seaside were hightened in the presence of the iPod whispering music of the bay into my ears. I was too distracted by the look of envy from other diners in the room –alas the Seaside dish at the time was still under development and we were one of the lucky few that day who got to play Guinea pigs.
By the way -If you still had to ask- no I didn't take any pepper with my iPod.