AS co-founders of the wicked London burger restaurant, MEATliquor, Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins are a mischievous double act. So it was with some trepidation that I agreeed to spend five hours in the air with them on a flight to New York recently.
The mischief began in the airport lounge where before midday we had already sampled raspberry cocktails, wine, burgers and goat?s cheese cannelloni ? the idea is that we would taste them again in the air. Two hours later, my once perky eyes were beginning to cloud over as Giles Looker, MEATliquor?s drinks consultant insisted I try out different variations of his all-time favourite cocktail, the margarita. Papoutsis and Scott, meanwhile, got down to sampling the in-flight champagne.
?Red wine and coke is our go-to drink on most flights,? explains Papoutsis, who in the past has tended to mix his own concoctions. ?It?s known as a Kalimotxo in Basque country or a Rioja Libre in Rioja. It?s a good way to make bad red wine drinkable: it?s refreshing and the sugar slows the intake of alcohol into your bloodstream so you don?t get woozy as you might with neat red wine.?
As research for their new ?anti-cookbook?, The MEATliquor Chronicles, Papoutsis has been researching the factors that affect your sense of taste for some time. While he admits he isn?t planning on producing airline food any time soon, he is fascinated by the idea of it, having recently discovered that on the International Space Station there is a black market in Tabasco sauce: ?It?s one of the only tastes that actually works in that environment,? he says.
?Burgers would be hard to do well in the air ? you have to bear in mind that you?re limited to very few cooking techniques up there. You can?t do anything that produces smoke or a flame, for example, so grills and griddles are out, and deep-fryers full of boiling oil probably aren?t the best idea at 30,000 feet either. Water boils at a lower temperature due to the fact that there?s less pressure, so it?s a challenge to do something like a really good boiled egg or pasta.?
When I taste the goat?s cheese pasta again, the texture is a little drier but the flavour remains intact. Given the confines of the airline cabin I am impressed with Virgin?s efforts. But what is the verdict elsewhere? Papoutsis tries duck rillettes followed by ?a beautiful piece of flank steak, braised on the bone for that extra umami flavor. Both dishes eminently suited to serving in the air: There?s obviously a lot of time and effort gone into choosing the dishes and a lot of attention paid to seasoning and spicing so they both tasted pretty much exactly as I?d expect them to on the ground.?
?The idea of doing airline food really fascinates me ? we?ve spent a lot of hours working and cooking in confined spaces with the MEATwagon [his street food wagon] so there?s a certain similarity to the problems we face. The science and tech behind it really appeals to my geeky side.
Virgin has gone to great lengths to choose wines that would taste good in the air ? including their on-board champagne. With wines like that, we didn?t need to drink Kalimotxo?s. Besides, Giles was plying us with all manner of delicious cocktails from the on-board bar??
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