Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Magic Caprese Salad and the Rewind Bar




Magic is the  power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Magic is also wonderful or exciting like in a magic moment. Magic is also the reason you may never skip chemistry class. "The MAGIC, (Most Attractive Guy/Girl In Class) in chemistry class is so fine, I'll never skip again." Magic is also what happens when you mix tapioca maltodextrin with oil-say what? Molecular gastronomy, hardly an appetizing word, is magic at work; only on food. And what magic it is.

A few weeks ago Manservant and I headed downtown to rewind, relax and unwind...at Rewind Bar in the 1515 Restaurant at 15th and Market in Denver.

lodo-denver-bar-rewind

 We were ready to rewind our day and start over again. Rewind delivered. Paula and Gene Tang, our warm hosts, have owned and operated 1515 Restaurant for almost 20 years. But resting on their laurels is something that Gene and Paula don't do. Reinventing their bar space, which is also the entrance to their upstairs restaurant, was several years in the making, but a near perfect transformation has now taken place.  Think brick walls, cozy nooks and an LED lit bar that changes color. Yeah, it is a whimsical way to redefine a cultured space.  I can't wait to check out the patio this summer, when the windows are thrown open, too!

Gene-the chef and business owner who hails from Hong Kong, decided that the molecular gastronomy scene is lacking in Denver. After reinventing his downstairs bar space he decided to have some fun, not only with his cocktails, but  his menu.  You've got spherification, emulsification, gelification, transformation and probably other "cations", and things I can't even pronounce, let alone spell. However, the two good things I'm good at are eating and drinking, in which case Gene has me covered.

molecular-gastronomy-drinks

Strawberry Lemonade with strawberry "caviar" and shattered raspberry mojitos made with liquid nitrogen shattered raspberries, are just two of the drink choices to be had. Social Hour is the ultimate deal with $5 martinis and choices from lavender to chai. Oh my! Each Monday, Rena, unveils a new drink which is like chemistry in action. Too bad my high school chemistry teacher didn't have experiments like these! Manservant loved the bourbon basil old fashioned, which my friend Barb recreated on her site.

Moving over to the "eatification" side found me face to face with a giant mozzarella ball blown up with CO2 and scented with garlic air, and then plopped on a beautiful caprese salad.


The upstairs dining menu is French influenced, and also influences the bar menu which is evidenced by the escargot and scallops, that we also sampled. Manservant totally drooled over the Colorado 7X Waygu beef, that was cooked over a hot stone in individual slices. Lest one think that the food is a bit on the fancy side, I didn't get to try the mussels and fries or the poutine or the French Onion soup; which of course gives me a reason to go back. And if I do want something from the upstairs menu I can get that at the bar, too! Most everything is local, which Paula and Gene pride themselves on.   

Lounging too long was not in the repertoire and thankfully Gene took us on a tour of his knock out space. (I may never have wanted to get up otherwise!) Up the stairs we went where we saw his elegant dining room and his killer wine cellar. What a gorgeous space that has not escaped the eyes of Wine Spectator from which he has received an award of excellence for the last 15 years. Gene assured me that there were also many choices in the "my budget" range! Then it was down the stairs to see his private dining room which would make the perfect  dining space for anyone who needs to impress a special group.


We totally enjoyed talking to Gene and Paula. They have a daughter who works at the embassy in Shanghai...always a good contact to have, should Alex Odie San China Boy need it! And their other daughter lives in Philly. Plus they gave us some names of a few Chinese restaurants we've never been to. How small a world is that? 

Last but not least, it was back to Rewind where we finished the evening with Cherries Jubilee. Can't find that many places anymore. Maybe it took a bit of rewinding to remind us that old school food and new school ideas can totally transform an old space into something quite magical.
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Gene and Paula, being the great hosts that they are, sent us each home with a lovely bottle of wine and a small packet of tapioca maltodextrin. Being the great chemist that I am, I researched what to do with this. Not having much to go on, I learned that mixing tapioca maltodextrin with things high in fat, creates these cute little oil pearls. After cooking them briefly the pearls became almost nutty and tasted of the garlic flavored oil that I used. 


They are very light and fluffy and keep in a covered container for at least a week. Sprinkled on top of a salad creates a rich experience when you don't want oil floating all over the plate. I tried this salad with and without the pearls and it was much better with. Our guests might think these were sprinkles of cheese, but that is the illusion of magic, shall we say?


Caprese Salad
Serves 4
Inspired by: Rewind Bar
Ingredients:
2 packets of Tapioca Maltdextrin (These totaled about 3/4 of an ounce.)
Olive Oil of your choice (I used a garlic olive oil)
Arugula
Variety of Tomatoes
Basil
Basil Paste
Marinated Mozzarella Balls
Good Balsamic Vinegar
Pine Nuts
Olive Oil Crumbs
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper
Directions:
Combine packets with enough olive oil to make a very thick paste. This shouldn't be more than 2 T of olive oil. Using your hands drop small balls into a hot skillet. I kind of used a thin spatula to turn them over to get them to brown. They are very light. Remove from heat and store in a tightly covered container.
Line a platter with some arugula.Slice a few pretty tomatoes and arrange decoratively on top of the arugula. Intersperse some basil. Squirt a few dabs of basil paste around the platter. Top with a few balls of mozzarella. Drizzle with a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with pine nuts and your olive oil crumbs. Grind a little fresh pepper over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. (We samples this with and without the olive oil crumbs. We loved the olive oil crumbs!)


A Few More To Try:
Cap'n Crunch Meat Loaf
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
Chinese Noodles with an Angry Egg
Chinese Sloppy Joe

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23 comments:

  1. I did OK in high school chemistry, but it wasn't really my thing. Probably because at that time I was less interested in covalent bonding and more interested in other kinds of bonding. But I digress. :-) This look great -- chemistry I can sink my teeth into. And that sounds like a terrific recipe. Really fun read -- thanks.

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    1. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure I took high school chemistry-though I was very good at bonding!

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  2. I love a Caprese salad and now need to try my hand at making olive oil crumbs. I tried making balsamic pearls a couple years ago, but they were a total flop!

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    1. These were very easy to make and so fun to use. Plus they taste great!

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  3. How fun was that!Salad looks beautiful..I have made balsamic pearls in oil..will check this out..wonder if my retired chemical engineer husband has some;)

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    1. These are kind of fun tricks to have up one's sleeve! Bet your hubby would be great at this!

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  4. Sounds like such a fun evening and a great recipe!

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    1. It was fun, Karen! And I even got a date out of it, too!

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  5. Love dining at creative places like this, Abbe. The meal is full of surprises, all of them good. Your Caprese Salad sounds wonderful. Never heard, let alone used, Tapioca Maltdextrin. You've piqued my interest, though. I need to go shopping! :)

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    1. It was a first for me too, John! But now there might be a second!

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  6. That salad is way to pretty!! I love olive oil and balsamic on my tomato salads, so this sounds perfect:-)
    Did you use maltodextrin for flavor?

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    1. The maltodextrin has no discernible flavor. It is merely for the oil to have something to bond to. http://www.molecularrecipes.com/techniques/converting-high-fat-liquids-powder/ Check this out! Thanks so much!

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  7. You know what you dish has very vibrant color and the dramatic touch

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  8. I love those gorgeous tomatoes!! A fantastic salad, Abbe.

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  9. I can't wait to experiment too; I'm thinking I'll try those strawberry pearls in champagne...no surprise there right? This was a fun use...your salad looks lovely!

    I am picky about what invitations I accept to go into downtown and feel like I won the lottery with this one. The food and atmosphere were wonderful and the added bonus of having such gracious hosts was the icing on the cake. Good seeing you and 'manservant' (gee, I almost typed his real name!).

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  10. What a lovely salad! I never heard of maltodextrin. Does it make a difference in the overall flavor? Quite interesting!

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  11. Goodness, what a dining experience. So many restaurants in Denver and never enough time. Lovely salad and I love that beautiful strawberry lemonade with the strawberry caviar. What is the caviar? Thanks for sharing Abbe.

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  12. This sounds like my kind of restaurant! It's hard to find places like that around me. Your salad is also beautiful and you taught me something. I had no idea MAGIC could refer to a cute guy in class :)

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  13. Hi Abbe, beautiful salad, love all the colors of your tomatoes, they look amazong. What a wonderful place to have dinner and drinks.

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  14. Yum! I love being inspired by meals out. The restaurant sounds wonderful.

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  15. Gosh we never get to go out - and I wish we had a place like this to unwind. Thanks for the lovely review!

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  16. Beautiful salad Abbe! Love the simple, light and delicious. That place is wonderful to have drinks and unwind- thanks for the review.

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  17. This is a very unique and delicious Caprese salad, Abbe! The olive oil crumbs sound amazing and I'm going to try to find those packets when I shop next. I can't wait until I can pick some tomatoes from my garden which will really make this even more special!

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