Dinner Party

Arielle's Big Feast: The Big Day!

March 23, 2012

We want you to throw big parties, tell us about it, and win big (big!) prizes from Le Creuset. (Find out more here.) 

Finally the big day is here -- we give you arielleclementine's Big Feast! Catch up on her blueprint for the Science! themed feast, all about powdering olive oil (and bacon fat!), her adventures in spherification, and night-before prep.

Saturday (The Day of the Party!)

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This is it! After weeks of planning, tons of shopping, and two solid days of cooking, it's finally happening: Dustin's Science!-themed surprise 30th birthday party! The day of the party, we still had plenty of prep to do:

Eeee! Henry and I ate unseemly amounts of cream cheese frosting after decorating Dustin's birthday cake. 

Then we carbonated some grapes! Here's a video of me laying waste to some dry ice for this. Check out the video below (featuring Henry!): 


Preparing the marinade and slicing the beef for the herbed beef skewers.  We didn't combine the sliced beef with the marinade just then -- it only needs an hour to marinate.

Skewering cocktail sausages for our miniature corn dogs.  Texas represent!

An hour and a half before the party- time to fry! First up: miniature sage funnel cakes, inspired by a dish at Barley Swine, a fantastic Austin restaurant. 

Next in line for the fryer: mini corn dogs. 

Last but not least, fried pickles. Fun fact: these are Dustin's favorite, and earned him the nickname "The Pickler."

We need something green. But that was not to be. 

Checking the to-do list.  We have time for a break!

Molly, back at home with Dustin, sent a surreptitious text to let us know they were on their way- time to grill the pork belly and beef skewers! Have you ever grilled pork belly? Crazy, crazy flare ups.  I somehow managed not to completely incinerate it.

Helen lined up all the plates we would be using for the dinner, along with all of the components that didn't need to be kept hot or cold.  The just-cooked meat and fried stuff was kept in the oven at 170 degrees -- the lowest it would go. 

The last to-do! Putting together the petri dish course. 

Here we go!

SURPRISE! Dustin thought he and Molly were coming over to babysit!

Henry didn't care much for the surprise, but Dustin liked it! And he said he had no idea what we'd been up to! 

A toast! In test tubes, naturally. (They're hard to fill on account of all the foam!) Now we can eat!

The first course: Petri Dish.  Blood orange gelée with a smear of local chevre, pulverized pistachios, droplets of meyer lemon juice and olive oil, micro peppermint leaves, and sea salt.

It was a hit! Seriously- I've never seen Henry lick his plate before. 

The second course: Pipette.  These turned out great! Fellow Food52er Oui, Chef's herbed beef skewers are insanely good, and the horseradish cream in the pipette worked perfectly.  I don't know if people are going to be rushing out to buy pipettes for skewers, but it is a totally fun concept.  You get the perfect amount of sauce without having to worry about people double-dipping in a communal bowl. I kid! But really, I think this is a concept worth repeating.

The third course: Pop Rocks.  Korean Pork Belly Ssäm with pickled radish, short grain rice, and a sprinkling salt made with unflavored pop rocks, Japanese 7 spice, and sea salt. 

You guys! This was amazing.  Probably one of the most delicious and fun things I've ever prepared.  That pork belly is brilliant anyway, but the pop rocks were SO. FUN. The spicy-sweet salt on top really complemented the pork, and you could hear the pop rocks popping in everyone's mouths around the table. It was a multi-sensory delight.  I will definitely make it again- even if it's just for dinner with Andy and Henry!

Hooray! The first three courses were as good or better than I hoped they would be! Side note- I don't actually know what's happening in this picture, but I like it.

The fourth course: Flea Circus.  Miniature corn dog with spicy mustard, fried pickles with homemade buttermilk ranch, and funnel cake with sage and powdered bacon fat (click the link to see a video of my first attempt to powder bacon fat!). Are you drooling yet? The pickles and ranch were my favorite, with the cocktail sausage corn dog coming in a close second (I used Helen's recipe for the batter).  The funnel cake was good- the fried sage and bacon fat were amazing- but it lost its funnel cake-fluffiness during its hold time in the oven.  It was still tasty, just much crispier than I had intended.  I guess funnel cakes are best made à la minute!

The fifth course: Cheese Plate. I had to make the honey spheres (for topping the Iberico) table side, so I decided to make the powdered olive oil, which had been infused with garlic, at the table too.  That way everybody could see the science-y transformation. 

It worked! And it did so in spite of me completely abandoning the rigidly-precise spherification technique.  I just watered down some honey, spooned in some sodium alginate, and mixed it up with a fork. The spheres were perfect orbs of liquid honey, encased in an ultra-thin membrane. So hooray for taking a shortcut and having it work out ok! Sad note about the carbonated grapes (as seen in our video here), though- they had lost their carbonation :/ I just assumed they would stay effervescent, but they didn't.  If you're planning to try out this technique, it should probably be done right before you're planning to eat them- the grapes look really cool in the foggy bowl of dry ice anyway.

The sixth course: Periodic Table Cake.  Molly made the cake, I decorated it, and we all devoured it.  There's just nothing like a moist chocolate cake with cream cheese icing.

Cake face!

The final course: Miracle Berry. This course was my attempt to recreate the one Chris Jones created on Top Chef. Slice of meyer lemon, deconstructed cheesecake (no sugar) with graham cracker crumbles and blackberry segments, and Pellegrino with lemon and lime. It had to be the last course because the effects of the miracle berry can last up to two hours.

Oh boy was this fun! When I bought the miracle berry tablets, some of the reviewers said that they didn't work, so I was a bit worried.  But they were amazing! The lemon was like an intense and very sweet orange.  The cheesecake, which was just cream cheese folded with whipped cream, vanilla, and lemon juice, was also delicious.  And the Pellegrino reminded me of a cherry limeade.  Honestly though, just tasting the lime from the Pellegrino glass might have been the tastiest thing on the plate- it was one of the most delicious pieces of fruit I've ever had.  If you're planning a miracle berry tasting party, make sure you've got a big sack of limes on hand!

And that, friends, was the dinner. It was an absolute blast, and the birthday boy seemed to really enjoy it.  Looking back on it, I am sure this is the most involved meal I've ever cooked, and definitely one of the very best.  I was really happy that I spent so much time planning and thinking about the timeline.  It was really great to have all the cooking done ahead of time so I could just plate the next course as soon as we had finished the last one.  

Huge, huge thanks to Helen, who is not pictured in any of the photos (sad face) because she tirelessly documented the whole process.   No exaggeration- Helen took close to 1500 pictures over the course of two days! Thanks, Helen!! 

Fun fact: After dinner, we geeked out by solving a series of science-themed puzzles that my husband, Andy, created, which culminated in the creation of an icosahedron that spelled out "Happy Birthday Dustin!"

Hooray for Dustin and Molly! We were so happy to get to celebrate Dustin's 30th birthday in such a grand fashion! I hope it was as fun for him as it was for me!

If you'd like to see more, we've put up an album of our 300 favorite pictures.  Thanks for reading!

Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our first Big Feast, Arielle will win, in the color of her choice (flame, cherry, fennel, or cassis): a 4 1/2-quart round French oven, a 10 1/4-inch iron handle skillet, and a 2 3/4-quart precision pour pan. Pitch us your Big Feast at [email protected] for a chance to win $500 in Le Creuset booty.

le creuset dutch ovenle creuset iron skilletle creuset sauce pan

Inspired to play with molecular gastronomy at home? Check out a very cool Molecular Gastronomy kit from Molecule-R, available in the shop now! 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ms. T
    Ms. T
  • mollycumming
  • fiveandspice
  • Midge
  • Lori Lyn Narlock
    Lori Lyn Narlock
I have always loved food. My favorite books as a kid always featured food (eg. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies- so much candy!) and I loved cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet. I started cooking the Thanksgiving dinner for my family when I was 13 years old. I have food52 to thank for inspiring me to come up with my own recipes, as well as for introducing me to a community of fantastic cooks and their amazing recipes. I try my best to cook locally and seasonally, and I tend to prefer straightforward, simple recipes where the ingredients get to shine. I live in wonderful Austin, Texas with my husband, Andy (a video game programmer) and my son, Henry (an 8-month-old who loves to eat).


Ms. T. March 29, 2012
This is so fun and inspiring! I wonder what your friends will do for YOUR next birthday to pay you back? Thanks for sharing :)
arielleclementine March 29, 2012
thanks Ms. T!! i actually had my own idea of a fantasy birthday this year- each guest baked me their favorite birthday cake and i got to sample all of them and award prizes! hooray for cake!
mrslarkin March 29, 2012
omg i am so stealing that idea!!
arielleclementine March 29, 2012
hah! i highly, highly recommend it. i gave awards with appropriate prizes such as: $10 gift card to a local ice cream shop for the most delicious cake, a bouganvilla for the most beautiful, novelty toys for the most fun, and a used sandra lee cookbook for the 'aw, honey! you baked!' award. yessss.
mollycumming March 26, 2012
What a fantastic party and feast Arielle! Beautiful food, beautiful photographs. And, of course, beautiful Henry!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thanks so much mollycumming!! i'm excited to meet you in person and eat a ton of mozzarella!!
fiveandspice March 26, 2012
Arielle, this is completely awesome! What an amazing and inspirational feast!!!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thank you fiveandspice! it was such great fun :)
Midge March 26, 2012
What a jaw-dropping feast! I am so impressed by our creativity, organization, and stamina. Wow!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
what a lovely compliment! thanks so much Midge :)
Lori L. March 25, 2012
This is amazing. The food...the creativity...the sheer amount of work it must have taken and then photos of everything! Wow. Really, awesome in the true and literal sense.
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thanks so much lorinarlock! it really is fun to have pictures of all the details to look back on!
Lori L. March 25, 2012
This is amazing. The food...the creativity...the sheer amount of work it must have taken and then photos of everything! Wow. Really, awesome in the true and literal sense.
BlueKaleRoad March 25, 2012
I am in awe - I love your creative and inspiring science-themed menu! The photos and video to document this experience are terrific. You all look like you are having so much fun and your baby is just adorable.
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thank you BKR! and thanks so much for your compliment for baby Henry!
Burnt O. March 25, 2012
My mind is blown. I may steal some of these ideas for a Ph.D. dissertation party I'm hosting next weekend - specifically the petri dish idea, and perhaps the dry ice and fruit combo. Where did you buy the petri dishes and pipettes?
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
oh what fun! thanks Burnt Offerings! i bought the pipettes from a teachers supply store (so cheap!) and the petri dishes were from this website (http://www.sciencestuff.com/prod/L-p-Empty/1001-10) which is headquartered in Austin, so they let us go to their HQ to pick them up. both are available on amazon if you don't mind paying for expedited shipping. if you end up trying the carbonated fruit, i would recommend cutting the grapes in half, or use other skinless fruit (pineapple, strawberries, etc). you might also opt to put the fruit directly on the dry ice, without a wooden cutting board in between- even freshly carbonated, the grapes were only mildly tingly- i'll make these changes next time! happy cooking and have a great party!
Bevi March 24, 2012
What a labor of love! And Henry is so cute - His striped pants are too adorable!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thanks Bevi!! we call those his freddy krueger pants!
Robin O. March 24, 2012
It is so obvious that you have a passion for food and for life!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
that is so kind of you to say, Robin O'D! i certainly had a blast working on this project!
gluttonforlife March 24, 2012
Brava!! You are a dynamo! I had a great time just reading about it and am even inspired to try my hand at a few things like the honey and olive oil (and to finally stage a gathering for the consumption of my long-hoarded miracle berries!)
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
oh what fun! thanks gluttonforlife!! the honey and powdered olive oil were really fun techniques, and the miracle berry was super entertaining! thanks so much for reading :)
BoulderGalinTokyo March 24, 2012
Thank you for letting us share a very memorable 30th Birthday! A surprise for him, but also a wonderful surprise for food52+ readers. Excellent plan, excellent solutions for when a glitch snuck in, cutest little baby, a wonderful photographer. WHAT A PARTY!
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
thanks so much, BoulderGalinTokyo! i'm thrilled that you enjoyed it!
mrslarkin March 23, 2012
Best. Feast. EVER!

Searching around the web for things to do with celery, I came across a cool idea: Stick grapes in a cream whipper thingy and charge it up with CO2 cartridges to make fizzy grapes! Similar in theory to your dry ice technique, but still have to eat them up quick-like.
arielleclementine March 26, 2012
eeee! thanks mrslarkin!! i read about that carbonation technique, but i don't have one of those iSi canisters- are they super great? on an unrelated note, we may be on to something with carbonated celery! ;)
ATG117 March 23, 2012
This was utterly fabulous and a pleasure to read. DId you take the video yourself?
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
that's so nice of you to say, ATG117! my dear sister Helen (helenthenanny on food52) took both of the videos in addition to taking all of the pictures! couldn't have done it without her :)
susan G. March 23, 2012
What a spectacular gift to Dustin, and to all of us peering through Helen's camera lens! What fun it was to follow your adventure.
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
thank you so much susan g! i'm on cloud nine after so many kind words :)
duclosbe1 March 23, 2012
What a fun feast! I'm so happy it turned out so well. Yeah SCIENCE!
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
haha! hooray for Science indeed! thanks so much forester_lady!!
jenniebgood March 23, 2012
I loved following your adventures! It's been totally awe-inducing! AC -is that a Hoosier in one of the pix above - I LOVE it!
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
thanks so much, jenniebgood! i had to look up 'Hoosier'- down in Texas we call it a kitchen hutch - but yes, it is! i got it at a city-wide garage sale for $70!
creamtea March 23, 2012
What a grand success! And you are so poised. I usually look like a wild woman--like I stuck my finger in a socket--just before the guests arrive.
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
haha! thanks creamtea! i had a lot of help- otherwise i'd have looked quite a bit more flustered!
deanna1001 March 23, 2012
Spectacular! Thanks for making molecular gastronomy look achievable and even fun! Your friends are very blessed to have such a grand good cook in the kitchen (and lab...)
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
thanks deanna1001!! i'm going to have to practice the techniques a lot more before i feel really comfortable with them, but it's neat to think about incorporating this stuff into future meals!
sygyzy March 23, 2012
This looks amazing! Everything looks delicious and everyone is having such a great time. Congrats on a job well done!
arielleclementine March 23, 2012
thanks so much sygyzy! and thanks for your comment about the carbonated grapes on the video too- i had read a bit about the technique you mentioned, but don't have an iSi cannister. i think cutting the grapes in half would have helped the carbonation levels with the dry ice technique too, though!