Famously experimental, endlessly inventive, internationally celebrated chef Heston Blumenthal is a man in love with Christmas.
For the uninitiated, much of Blumenthal’s infamy comes from his fondness for bizarre ingredients, unusual mixing of flavors, and outlandish presentations. Signature dishes at his London restaurant Fat Duck include snail porridge and sardine-on-toast sorbet. His sweet and savory bacon-and-egg ice cream is credited with setting off America’s bacon craze.
Blumenthal endorses the notion of dining as an immersive, multi-sensory experience. He’s papered his dining room with rolls of lickable wallpaper tasting of tomato soup and shrimp cocktail, and sets the table with oak moss on a bed of dry ice to waft a woodsy aroma in anticipation of earthy dishes like truffle toast and foie gras. A seafood-themed dinner included five kinds of edible seaweed, trout-flavored candy, brewed-shrimp beer, and a table side iPod playing the sounds of crashing waves and distant seagulls.
And then there’s Christmas.
He’s traveled to the Middle East in the footsteps of the three wise men to cook with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and to Siberia to milk a reindeer for holiday ice cream; he’s filled a town plaza with a six foot high flaming plum pudding; but until this year he’s never served Christmas dinner at Fat Duck. Blumenthal is kicking off the new tradition with plenty of his trademark sensory magic.
The centerpiece of the meal is going to be an edible Christmas tree festooned with lollipops of salmon, salad, and mulled wine and draped with edible tinsel crafted from jellied turkey. Edible ornaments will crack open to reveal contents like prawns and pig’s head terrine, and drifting snow will taste of Roquefort cheese. Something Blumenthal won’t be including are his infamous white chocolate-dipped dormouse lollipops that received a sensational public drubbing during a 2009 nationally-televised Christmas special.
If all this sounds like so much flash and gimmickry, remember that Blumenthal is considered one of the world’s greatest living chefs and his restaurant has been consistently awarded three Michelin stars. The Queen has bestowed him with the Order of the British Empire and his own coat of arms, and he’s been recognized for his contributions to the science of gastronomy with numerous honorary degrees. He’s playful, but his cooking is mighty serious.
Alas, no leftover turkey for sandwiches the next day.