By Scott Sinemus
Carbonated chocolate ice cream!Something from Willy Wonka? NO!Alton Brown!! I recently had the unique opportunity to experience the Edible Inevitable Tour with a VIP package our friend Bob set up for us. Autographs, meet & greet, amazing seats, and access to the lounge before and during intermission.
We decided to make a weekend event of it and booked the Stay, Valet & Breakfast Each Day package at the Fairmont in Pittsburgh. It was a great deal, and I don’t believe there is a more dog friendly hotel in the city. Upon arrival, our Presidents Club Concierge told me I won the bid for a suite upgrade for $25; however, for just a little more we could have the Presidential Suite, as it was still available! Who could say no to that; especially after she said there would be so much more room for Basel to run around in . . . boy was there ever! From the marble foyer, kitchen, massive living room, dining room, bedroom and immense marble bathroom with shower, soaking tub and a television in the mirror! The wall of floor to ceiling windows made for one of the most breathtaking views of the city I can remember. It was more spacious than the ground floor of our house; so Basel definitely had the extra running room.
It had been ages since we’ve stayed over in the ’burgh for a function; so, feeling nostalgic, we made reservations at The Carlton for dinner Saturday night. I am pleased to report it is still very good dining, and the wine list is as spectacular as ever.
Sunday we had an early dinner at the Capital Grille because we needed to be at the meet & greet by 7:00. It has been a very long time since I’ve been able to say that every single morsel of food exceeded any of my expectations. The 24 oz dry aged Porterhouse was so tender I was literally able to cut it with my fork, and the flavor was phenomenal. Everyone’s meal was an extreme delight; truly the perfect way to send us off to meet Alton.
We’ve had the tickets since June of last year. I tried not to be too anxious because the last time I was to meet Alton at the Greenbrier several years ago, he had to cancel his appearance at the last moment. I was, of course, devastated – it was the heyday of Good Eats, and I was entranced by his ability to meld fun, science and cooking together so seamlessly.
I’m almost pleased now that I missed it. The performance of this first stage tour was beyond compare. When there was a mention ponchos would be required as our seats were in the “splash zone,” I knew it would be. The press release before the show touted it as part stand up, part multi-media lecture, part music and part food experimentation: those four parts made for a whole lot of fun!!
There were two cooking spots where a member of the audience was selected to be his assistant (alas it wasn’t me). The first was the Jet Cream, an impressive contraption to say the least: several five-gallon water bottles linked together with fire extinguishers at each end. After the audience selected chocolate as our flavor, the fun began. Goggles, lab coats, ponchos being thrown into the splash zone . . . I could barely sit still.
When the valves were turned, I could feel the rumble of the carbon dioxide churning and freezing the chocolate milk into carbonated ice cream!Moments later I could smell the chocolate in the air as I felt tiny frozen flakes falling on my head. I was overwhelmed. How is it possible to be in 2014, and we are just now figuring out how to make carbonated chocolate ice cream?!?!
The second experiment came after a subtle driving rock tribute to Spinal Tap about Easy Bake Ovens. I’ve met several male chefs in my life that also asked for an easy bake oven, even though they were geared for girls. No matter your gender, who wouldn’t want to bake a cake in your bedroom? Just like Alton and my other chef friends, I modified the oven with bigger bulbs to bake whatever I could fit through that tiny slot. The Mega Bake used so many massive lamps, lighting at the Benedum had to be turned down to use it. The conveyor belt used a ship’s wheel to roll it back and forth. We could feel the heat four rows from the stage. The second lucky volunteer got to make pizza in under five minutes that smelled and looked delicious.
The show ended with Alton picking up an acoustic guitar and playing a lullaby about cooking that he sang to his daughter while she was growing up. It was cute and clever, and the perfect way to close the performance.
Although I didn’t get the one on one time with Alton that I got once with Julia [Child], it was still an absolute joy to meet one of my idols. Now all I have to do is begin to collect all the parts needed to make the ice cream!