The Mist Project :: 16 Course Culinary Adventure

If you are even somewhat interested in food, you’ve probably heard the hype about the Mist Project, the limited time pop-up restaurant in Salt Lake City until the end of February.  Chef Gavin Baker boasts an impressive resume of restaurants from around the world, most notably The Fat Duck in London (named the best restaurant in the world in 2005).  He first conceived the idea for the Mist Project during Sundance in 2008 and revived it this year by featuring a different local chef each week.  The project will then migrate to San Francisco for the summer.

A light projector welcomes guests to the Mist Project.

The Mist Project is a 16-course culinary adventure, or “multi-sensory meal” as it’s described on the website, for $150/person (plus 18% gratuity).  Each night is limited to 36 guests and tickets must be purchased beforehand–although they sold out within a week of the first dinner.  I was lucky enough to not only get tickets, but to convince Guy to go with me.  (Thanks again, Guy, for joining me for such an amazing evening!)  It’s located in the old Metropolitan restaurant, which provides the calm, modern decor that perfectly compliments the food.  The courses varied from abstract to familiar, with plenty of surprises in every bite.

Guide cards to The Mist Project journey.

We arrived at our table to find a set of cards that would be our guide throughout the meal.  They are interpretations of the Chef’s original sketches and proved very useful when we couldn’t remember what we were eating.  We brought our own wine (they do not serve any there), which the wait staff took responsibility of pouring and decanting.  There were 3 or 4 people waiting on us throughout the night, cheerful and eager to answer questions and explain the dishes.  The whole evening was amazing and while I can’t remember all the details, I hope I can share enough to persuade you that the Mist Project is not just hype.

Ok, here we go!  Click on the pictures to enlarge them and click on linked words to read the corresponding Wikipedia articles. (I realized not everyone will know all the culinary terms so click if you’re curious about something.)
#1: Bread wrapped in linen.
Course #1: Bread.  The journey started with the very familiar: bread and olive oil.  One piece was olive walnut while the other was fennel seed, wrapped in linen and sealed with a mist clothes-pin.  No complaints about the bread, but nothing exciting.  I was glad to have something hearty to stop my stomach from growling.
#2: Spoon/forks with corresponding amuse-bouches.
Course #2: Spoons.  This is one of the few dishes that changes nightly and is created by the students/young chefs.  On the spoon of the first utensil was bone marrow with a croquet and the fork side had a candied watermelon; the other utensil had a mixture of greens and mushrooms and a white truffle on the other end (if I remember correctly).  These amuse-bouches were intensified bites of flavor that got my mouth excited for what was to come–the goal of a good amuse-bouche!
#3: Duck confit with feta, sweet potato & barley risotto; fois gras parfait; duck tea.
Course #3: Shot Glasses.  The first glass was filled with a duck confit, feta, sweet potato and barley risotto.  It was creamy in texture with a little chewy crunch (like rice pudding) and savory in flavor.  The test tube in the middle was fois gras parfait (fattened duck liver) almost liquid in form, but incredibly salty and savory.  The last shot was duck tea, comparable to a warm, comforting broth. This duck parade seems odd but somehow it all worked when put together.
#4: Pork belly with umami garnish, candied bacon popcorn, barley gelato.
Course #4: Sticks.  This was a roller coaster of mouth-feel and texture, starting with pork belly with umami garnish–chewy and mouth-watering, like bacon on steroids with a hint of honey–followed by a cone of popcorn, candied bacon, sage, dehydrated beehive and powdered bacon fat–light and airy, predominately tasting of sage and giving a dry feel in your mouth–and ending with barley gelato–shockingly cold with an herb-like taste.  Even though all the sticks were recognizable and familiar, they were surprising once they were in our mouth.
#5: Beets in every form topped with chlorophyll-honey bubbles.
Course #5: Beet.  Beet sorbet, roasted beet, pickled beet, red wine gelee (gel), meringue, truffle oil and goat cheese surrounded by yellow beet gelee and topped with chlorophyll-honey bubbles.  This was a mind-blowing crash course in texture, some parts perplexing, some good, others awkward.  The different intensities of flavor kept my mouth guessing but as a “texture person,” I think this was my least favorite course.
#6: Tuna tartar, avocado puree, cous-cous and salmon roe.
Course #6: Tuna. Rolled tuna/ginger tartar topped with intensified cucumber on a lawn of creamy avocado puree with a pomelo (a citrus fruit) soaked in yozu with a side of Lebanese cous-cous, tapioca, salmon roe and wasabi tobiko.  The tuna was light in flavor and the crunchy cucumber reminded me of a sushi roll, especially with the avocado cream added; the cous-cous mixture was a fun texture medley of soft, bursty and crunchy; and the pomelo was a surprising shock of tart, grapefruit-like flavor.
#7: Scallop with mushroom foam and apple fluid gel.
Course #7: Scallop. A giant scallop topped with a thyme, shallot and pancetta garnish hugged by mushroom foam and swimming in apple fluid gel.  Plus a surprise of choucroute underneath the scallop.  The foam was interesting because the rubbery texture is one of a mushroom’s most notorious qualities, so without that texture and only the flavor, it was a bit of a mind shock.  The slight apple flavor contrasted the crunchy, salty garnish and gave the bite an aura of coolness.  One of my favorites courses of the evening.

#8: Mystery.
Course #8: Guest Chef.  Unfortunately this one was skipped!  We aren’t sure if it was an oversight by the waiters or not, but we didn’t realize it until the next course.  The card is disappointingly fitting… but it obviously didn’t dampen our spirits at all.
#9: Lamb, sweet breads, yogurt sphere.
Course #9: Lamb. Lamb loin on sherried tomato gel and a caper raisin puree with fried sweet breads and a “reverse sphere” of curried yogurt.  This was a delicious mixture of flavors with only a few textures: the meatiness of the lamb and the crunchiness of the sweet breads (culinary speak for throat or gullet) plus a little coolness from the yogurt orb.  This was my first experience with sweet breads and I loved it!  Another favorite.
#10: Braised short ribs layered with potato mouse and chorizo crumble.
Course #10: Short Rib.  This was a play on the classic meat-and-potatoes dish.  Short ribs cooked sous vide for 100 hours, making it the most tender meat I’ve ever had, layered with potato mousse, a light air of potato flavor, topped with a rye and chorizo crumble to add a salty crunch.  Wonderful!  (And the fork was so cute)
#11: Beef and can of beans on heated slab with edible coals, ash and broccoli.
Course #11: Campfire.  Next a giant sizzling platter arrived with soy- and coffee-cured beef slices cooking on a 500-degree granite stone rubbed with beef fat and a metal can of baked beans, all surrounded by broccoli, salt- and ash-baked celeriac, pine nuts, edible ash and edible coals.  The flavors were so familiar but the execution was not, making the dish a perfect dichotomy of the entire night.  I’m not sure what the edible coals were, but they reminded me of charred Sour Patch Watermelon candies without the sour punch.
#12: Frozen spiced apple granita with creamy meringue.
Course #12: Intermezzo.  Spiced apple cider granita (a semi-frozen Italian dessert) topped with a layer of Eau de Vie (fruit brandy) and finished with a fluff of unsweetened cream and meringue.  The granita was cool with a fizzy crystallized feeling while the fluffy topping was warm and airy.  Guy said it was like the perfect apple pie, which shocked me because I’ve never had apple pie. (Don’t hold it against me; fruit is not my favorite.)  A perfect segue from meat courses to the dessert courses.

#13: Vanilla meringue, passion fruit inside a sugar sphere on cocoa butter.

 

Course #13: Sunrise From My Plane Window.  Clouds of soft vanilla meringue on a sky of blue cocoa butter spray and a hand-blown sugar sphere sun with a passion fruit mousse and lychee center.  The sun had the physical properties of an egg, with the sugar shell and the gooey center.  Whimsical, sweet and delicious.

#14: Edible portrait with bubbling floral juice.

Course #14: Palate Cleanser.  A white chocolate photograph (that tasted like what was pictured) in a graham crumb biscuit frame with a shot of bubbling floral juice.  The edible photograph featured the artwork of Adam Finkle that was on the walls (slightly visible on the wall beyond Guy).

#15: Chocolate forest.

 

Course #15: Edible Forest.  Chocolate trees filled with cherry marscapone ice cream and a cherry covered with chocolate sauce table-side by the waiter, in a soil of chocolate cake, pistachio sponges, candied hazelnuts and a powdered sugar snow/pistachio dust.  Chocolate cake is my favorite so this was above and beyond wonderful for me.  Everything in this course was familiar but somehow chocolate was made interesting and new.

#16: The finale was a chocolate log with bite-sized treats.

Course #16: Mignardise. The journey ended with a chocolate aspen log on a soil of edible chocolate, assorted truffles, a miniature cookie, a cheese from Beehive Cheese Co. and a surprise that looked like a rock (bottom right-hand corner).  The rock was hard as glass at first bite but morphed into a gummy-like candy once in my mouth.

At the end of the four-hour dinner we had experienced so many flavors, tried so many new things and been re-introduced to so many familiar tastes that it was almost overwhelming.  Even with all the hype and anticipations, The Mist Project still exceeded my expectations.  Everything–from the decor, to the waiters, to the food, to the presentations–was outstanding. Thank you, Gavin Baker and the Mist team, for not only sharing your passion with Salt Lake City, but for showing the culinary world that Salt Lake City is not to be overlooked.  Oh, and please come back soon!

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1 Comment

  • Howdy! I was one of the servers that assisted you throughout the night. You guys were a pleasure to serve! SO sorry that you we skipped the “mystery” course!! Thanks for the kind words and great photos!

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