Frosting the night away

The weather in Cairo has been erratic lately, but on Wednesday the 24th, it was unusually cold in the Grill restaurant at the Semiramis InterContinental on the Nile. To welcome the new general manager, Michael Koth, the kitchen introduced a new cooking technique in the world of fine dining: liquid nitrogen cooking.

The event, dubbed "-196˚C", featured live cooking demonstrations at the Grill, which is famous for its contemporary French cuisine and amazing view of the Nile and the Opera house. For the occasion, it was transformed into an ice-inspired venue with blue lighting, a laser show, and foggy vapor.

Eager guests were sent through the restaurant’s igloo entrance, where two lovely ladies stood with start-up drinks as the chefs to began the liquid nitrogen cooking demonstration to the sounds of cool lounge music.

With a liquid-nitrogen-cooled mojito in my hand, I roamed the restaurant, trying the food and enjoying the company of friends. "-196˚C" is the official temperature at which liquid nitrogen freezes food and the chefs demonstrated this by dipping a small fruit brochette of blueberries, strawberries and blackberries into chocolate fondue and then in liquid nitrogen, frosting the chocolate on the fruits. This was then repeated with different sauces, like coconut, vanilla and mango juice before the crowd finally tasted the frozen layers of chocolate and sweets.

The chefs explained that this fun and creative style of cooking can be used in various ways: imagine a cocktail chilled without the watery taste of melting ice or vanilla ice-cream, frozen before your eyes. Maybe the shrimps and cherry-tomatoes with the egg-white sauce were a miss, but still, it was fun to watch the cold nitrogen fumes sweeping through the air around the shrimp before eating them.

Normally, I would not be caught dead at such an event–I am more of a downtowner who would shun such a high-class occasion. But I have to admit that I was impressed by the hospitality of the restaurant staff, the hotel managers, and the friendly ambiance that surrounded the place. For two or three hours, a selective crowd from various segments of Cairo society enjoyed a night of frosting food and interesting conversations. The well planned evening managed to put everyone in the right mood for the right balance between fun and networking.

Unfortunately, this event was one night only. Such an expensive cooking technique–no matter how exciting it is–can’t be marketable on a day-to-day basis in Egypt. But Chef Eric Heurtel and Chef Karim Mahbouli, who brought the frosting idea to this event, are available to "frost" your private occasions, if you care to treat your guests to such an innovative cooking method.

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