By now, the story of [modernist restaurant] elBulli has become part of modern cooking lore: how the combination of science and culinary curiosity created a real revolution in cooking, with high-tech equipment borrowed from the mass-produced-food industry for the purpose of wild, semi-surrealist picture-making. And how, at the height of this fame, Ferran announced that he would close the restaurant in 2011 and devote himself to “a foundation for pure research in cooking.
[Dessert with Ferran’s brother Jordi:]
“Yes, there’s one I’m working on. I haven’t really . . . perfected it yet. You see, I’m a big fan of F.C. Barcelona”—the soccer team—“and I wanted to make a dessert that would re-create the emotions Lionel Messi feels when he scores a goal.” Messi is the great Argentine striker who stars for Barcelona. “I feel I’m close. Could I try it out on you at the end of lunch?” […]
Finally, the server arrives with the Messi dessert, as Jordi fusses anxiously in the background. He presents half of a soccer ball, covered with artificial grass; the smell of grass perfumes the air. On the “grass” is a kind of delicately balanced, S-shaped, transparent plastic teeter-totter—like a French curve—with three small meringues on it, and a larger white-chocolate soccer ball balancing them on a protruding platform at the very end. A white candy netting lies on the grass near the white-chocolate ball.
Then, with a cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile, the server puts a small MP3 player with a speaker on the table. He turns it on and nods.
An announcer’s voice, excited and frantic, explodes. Messi is on the move. “Messi turns and spins!” the announcer cries, and the roar of the crowd at the Bernabéu stadium, in Madrid, fills the table. The server nods, eyes intent. At the signal, you eat the first meringue.
“Messi is alone on goal!” the announcer cries. Another nod, you eat the next scented meringue. “Messi shoots!” A third nod, you eat the last meringue, and, as you do, the entire plastic S-curve, now unbalanced, flips up and over, like a spring, and the white-chocolate soccer ball at the end is released and propelled into the air, high above the white-candy netting.
“MESSI! GOOOOOAL!” The announcer’s voice reaches a hysterical peak and, as it does, the white-chocolate soccer ball drops, strikes, and breaks through the candy netting into the goal beneath it, and, as the ball hits the bottom of a little pit below, a fierce jet of passion-fruit cream and powdered mint leaves is released into your mouth, with a trail of small chocolate pop rocks rising in its wake. Then the passion-fruit cream settles, and you eat it all, with the white-chocolate ball, now broken, in bits within it.