Monday, September 28, 2009

Flavor tripping

Overheard at the Crepe Cellar's flavor-tripping party Sunday night in NoDa: "It's like high-def TV for your mouth."

In case you missed the turn-on, tune-in, drop-out event: At the door, trippers each got one tablet made with the West African berry Synsepalum dulcificum. They were then guided to sample from the buffet and perhaps order a drink -- to get a tasting baseline -- then to let the tablet dissolve in their mouths for four to seven minutes.

The tablet recalibrates tastebuds, rendering nearly everything (at least in my case) sweet: A shot glass of lemon juice was like drinking a melted lemon Italian ice, times 10; a lime wedge became wet candy; wine turned to, well, Mad Dog or maybe Annie Green Springs. (As owner Jeff Tonidandel put it in an e-mail: "Maybe you can save some money if a $2 pill can make a $2 wine tolerable.") Sort of like being 15 again, tastebud-wise. Hot peppers turned sweet, but a shot of Tabasco burnt like blazes going down, just as it would normally. (I should have sipped it, not shot it, since the taste difference is all in the mouth. I'm almost recovered now, thanks for asking.)

Brie in pastry tasted like -- more buttery Brie in sweeter pastry. Sweet potato chips with Gorgonzola sauce were only slightly sweeter and more mellow. Cheeses were definitely the oddest morph -- not really sweet, but not exactly more subtle, just ... weird. Perhaps the best thing about the night was patrons' adventurousness: We talked to folks just there for kicks, and one man who said his Type 2 diabetes might be easier to live with if he could "indulge" his sweet tooth with this sort of experience occasionally. (I'm told researchers are examining the possibilities.) All in all, a funky success.

Tonidandel said the citrus fruits and the special beverages -- grapefruit margaritas and sea breezes and more, made without simple syrup -- were the biggest hits. If the Cellar does it again, check it out.