Fire And Ice: Richard Blais wields liquid nitrogen, dragon fruit and Skyy vodka

12 May

Fresh off taking the title of “Top Chef All-Stars,” Richard Blais wowed a group of roughly 60 diners with his legendary cooking skills for the launch of Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit at the Andaz hotel in Midtown Manhattan last month. After watching the master of molecular gastronomy compete through two full seasons of the Bravo television series, I couldn’t wait to actually taste his food. Blais made more than one joke about his hair’s resemblance to dragon fruit, saying, “I think that’s why Skyy hired me.”

When I entered the open kitchen area where the event took place, Blais was in the middle of demonstrating his technique for creating crème fraîche pearls (similar to those he made on the finale of “Top Chef All-Stars”) using liquid nitrogen.

The lemony pearls topped an oyster swimming in an Asian pear and sriracha mignonette.

After the demo, I got myself a Blaisin’ Dragon cocktail, made with Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and fresh lime, lemon and orange juices, garnished with a pineapple wedge. It was dangerously delicious.

Next I tried the Burrata Bruschetta, topped with micro basil and diced dragon fruit, which reminded me of kiwi, but less sour and a little firmer. The creamy Italian cheese paired well with the mildly sweet fruit.

I cleansed my palate with the tropical and effervescent Sparkling Seduction, mixing Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, guava purée and Prosecco.

The third hors d’oeuvre comprised crispy fried rabbit foot served in a spoon atop diced dragon fruit and topped with micro basil. It was chewy and sweeter than I expected.

I washed that down with the Red Dragon, a blend of Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and pomegranate, lime and lychee juices. The Martini-style drink was vaguely reminiscent of a Cosmopolitan, but way cooler—especially when surrounded by a fog of liquid nitrogen.

Meanwhile, Chef Blais whipped up some frozen vodka in a mixer using liquid nitrogen. Pro tip: Don’t scoop a giant spoonful of sub-zero vodka slush and immediately shove it into your face. Allow the temperature to rise a bit, or you’ll end up “burning” the roof of your mouth as though you’d taken a bite of super hot pizza fresh out of the oven. Not only do you become immediately drunk, but your mouth goes completely numb and remains so for about three days. You’ve been Blaised!

We then sat down for dinner and were served the Muddled Dragon, a twist on a Mojito with Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, muddled mint, fresh lime juice, lemongrass simple syrup and club soda. It was also supposed to incorporate liquid nitrogen, but they ran out. Too much molecular madness, I guess!

The light and refreshing cocktail nicely complemented the first course, which featured fresh hamachi doused in Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit and smoked mayonnaise, accompanied by fried clam strips, red and yellow beet cubes, sliced radish and pickled celery. The clams added a crunchy texture to the raw fish, and the vegetables contrasted the salty mayo.

The Dragon’s Cup arrived next. A take on the Pimm’s Cup, the drink combined Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, muddled English cucumber and strawberries, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. Its subtle sweetness and crisp cucumber flavor provided the perfect backdrop for the main dish.

For the entrée, Blais presented a gorgeously cooked piece of Alaskan halibut slathered with fava bean purée and topped with pickled glasswort. It was served over a brown butter foam with peas and diced carrots. I now understand what all the fuss was about—I could’ve died happy after eating this dish.

Then I tasted the dessert: cornbread with candied dragon fruit, pistachio ice cream and caramel syrup. The combination of savory and sweet was a match made in heaven, or wherever you go post mortem.

Let’s hope that the afterlife has cocktails like the Magic Dragon, which mixed Skyy Infusions Dragon Fruit, orange Curaçao, Rooibos tea simple syrup, kaffir lime leaves and vanilla bean. I daresay it was the best drink of the night.

As for Richard Blais himself, he couldn’t have been nicer. The “Top Chef” champion chatted with me for a few minutes, as I gushed about rooting for him throughout both of the seasons on which he competed. He joked, “You’re still rooting for me, right?” Of course, Richard. After all, you let me take this picture with you.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

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