High-Tech Cocktails with Nils Norén and Dave Arnold at the French Culinary Institute

"It's hard to say who starts the thinking and who finishes their thoughts."


Nils Norén.

In the hallowed halls of the French Culinary Institute, Nils Norén and Dave Arnold part busy seas. People slow their paces by a microsecond or three to allow themselves the amusement of getting pulled into their antics. It's rare to witness the collapse of hierarchy in a classroom setting, even more rare to see adults giddy and at play. Yet at Norén and Arnold's High-Tech Cocktails class earlier this month, grown women giggle as men bounce like boys.



Two-handed suave Dave Arnold.

Arnold is a dead ringer for Kyle MacLachlan and interrupts his seriousness with spontaneous grins.


Chilling stemware with liquid nitrogen

Norén, on the other hand, is the anchor, the stalwart, the placid calm. If Arnold paints in broad expressionism, Norén paints with tighter precision. It's hard to say who starts the thinking and who finishes their thoughts.

The class' instruction and ingredients have already been covered by other excellent accounts. So to describe briefly, a tally of what we ate:



From left to right:

1. Pork rind "Cracker Jacks"
2. Vacuum-infused pineapple
3. Malt-blanched fries


And a tally of what we drank, from left to right:

1. Liquid nitrogen-chilled flute
2. Gin and juice
3. Cold buttered rum
4. Long Island bubble iced tea
5. "Swedish Invasion"


And more:

1. Gin + celery
2. Scotch + dry roasted Planters
3. Vodka + Harold McGee's red vanilla
4. Vodka + habanero
5. Vodka + dill pollen

Bonus: Skål Photo Shoot

Manic joy spreads, assisted by inebriation. Following the end of class, Norén and Arnold invite us to the skål lab to take part in their ongoing efforts to revive the classy Swedish toast.


Nils Norén.


Dave Arnold.

We skål with aquavit distilled of vodka and caraway seeds. We sign release forms and without rue, I kiss my chance at public office goodbye.

But as I leave the building, the muggy air reminds me of just how dulled I feel. In a chaste but no less drunk version of the walk-of-shame, I bobble over to Duane Reade for water, straining attempts at mock composure. Why did I think science would make alcohol less devastating? Yet to borrow the words of the inimitable Nina Lalli: the hangover was totally worth it.



20090622-skalouttakes.jpgFor more amazing adventures with Norén and Arnold, be sure to sign up for:

Magic Potions: Hydrocolloids 10/15/09 – 10/16/09

Sous Vide Intensive 9/24/09 – 9/25/09

Harold McGee Lecture Series: Using the Scientific Method in the Kitchen 11/4/09 – 11/6/09

How to Skoal with Style and Grace
Slice skåls!
Dave Arnold and Johnny Iuzzini Create a Drinkable Swedish Chef