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Jun 12, 2006 11:03 PM

Decoding Ferran Adria DVD

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I just got through watching this DVD and have to say it's terrific - I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Ferran Adria and El Bulli - and everything that implies.

It's done by Tony Bourdain, and he's at his best here - not at all smarmy, but clearly a traditional bistro chef that starts out very skeptical.

But he warms up to Adria right away as he starts the journey in a Jambon Iberico specialty shop - where the owner gets into detail on the various hams. Adria's point is that this is transformation - from pig to ham - and for all his application of science and new, unheard of techniques, that's what they do - transform the food.

The next segment is in the lab - where several examples of their work are shown and explained. They take a peach and prepare it to look and feel like pan-fried foie gras, but of course, it tastes like a peach. They show several other techniques and showcase their own designer who has come on board to make serviceware appropriate to the new foods that come out of their kitchen.

The next is a course by course analysis at El Bulli, followed by a wonderful segment at Adrian's favorite traditional seafood place in town (near Barcelona).

From the carrot foam, to the skinless green pea ravioli, the fine cotton candy on a whole fish bone, the apple caviar, and on and on... just incredible essences of food and flavor with new textures and unexpected combinations. As Tony said, it's anti-fusion - it's individual taste and smell recombined in ways that are absolutely brand new. (At one point, a rosemary twig is held under the nose while an item is eaten - the smell is enough to provide the desired effect while the rosemary flavor doesn't totally overwhelm the food.)

Tony really does this piece justice, and although I'm a fan, I'd say to his detractors that they should give this a go - it's very informative and fun to watch.

So, when is smell-a-vision coming?

I couldn't find this on Netflix, so I ended up buying it. I'm just as happy - I would have bought it sooner or later anyway. Here's the link to Amazon:


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  1. Thanks for the review. Amazon says it ships within 1 to 3 months. How long did you have to wait for it?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Darren

      I got mine in a week, but I don't remember what they stated for time when I ordered it.

    2. Should I look for it in the science fiction or the comedy section of my local video store?

      BTW, Les Blank pioneered smell-o-vision when he premiered "Always for Pleasure" in San Francisco. He walked up and down the aisle fanning a freshly made bowl of red beans and rice during a key scene in the movie. (Thankfully he also had the RB&R on sale in the lobby after the film.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gary Soup

        That's wonderful. Someone should make a "cult" movie following out of that - something in the way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the more recent attempts at some level of participation/performance with The Sound Of Music. What if a theater (or set of theaters around the country) showed Tampopo and piped in appropriate ramen smells throughout the movie. Or Babette's Feast with a new smell for each course.

        The IMDB list for Les Blank includes a film called, Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (Directed by Werner Herzog) - I can just imagine the smell-o-vision on that!

        1. re: applehome

          The smell-o-vision for "Garlic is as Good As Ten Mothers" is exactly what you would imagine.

          Back in the early 80's, I worked at a movie theater that showed this film (on a double-bill with "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe").

          One night, I got to be the official smell-o-rama person. I stood in the the back of the theater sauteing garlic in an electric skillet. Half-way throught the film, I took the skillet up and down the aisle and fanned it to waft the scent to each row.

          And wasn't there a "Scratch and sniff" card for one of John Waters' movies? Too bad the Ferran Adria DVD doesn't have one of these!


      2. The Travel Channel has been running a promo for this film -- it runs July 3.

        1. I'm an old chowhound (so glad you guys are back and more user friendly!) and admittedly sometimes pretty jaded...this show blew me away. I think that's what Adria is aiming for...I invite any and all to join in discussing this show and its subject, very intrigued by the reactions it inspires. I've written in my blog and begun a discussion on Suite101. and the personal blog is http://leatherdistrictgourmet.blogspo... - I look forward to using this new site a lot!