No, chef Bobby Benjamin and the crew at Flyte World Dining & Wine are not smoking in the kitchen. That's the vapor coming off their stores of liquid nitrogen. I stopped by the Eighth Avenue restaurant last week to find Benjamin & Co. dabbling in a little mad science, making frozen milk balloons and what can only be described as Dippin' Dots—of course, they would NEVER misuse that trademarked name—out of roasted parsnip puree.
Late Friday afternoon, they were still working the kinks out of a dessert homage to General Mills' Cookie Crisp cereal. (I'm sure they would NEVER misuse that trademarked name either.) Using a hypodermic syringe, Benjamin injected a balloon with milk, tied the balloon closed and bobbed it around in a bath of liquid nitrogen. When the über-cold liquid had frozen the milk to the interior of the balloon, he peeled the balloon skin away to reveal a pristine white orb, about the size of an ostrich egg.
He cut the egg in half to yield two marble-white bowls. Benjamin placed a pile of toasted oats on the bottom of a plate and balanced one of the bowls on the cereal. He then filled the bowl with crumbs from chocolate chip cookies from Sweet 16th bakery in East Nashville. As the milk bowl warmed, it began to soften and ultimately melt, producing a medley of cereal and cookies in milk. All that was missing was the erstwhile Cookie Jarvis. With a few more details, the dessert will be ready for prime time this week, when Benjamin plans to add it to the menu.
The tiny frozen parsnip BBs—not to be confused with the trademarked Dippin' Dots—debuted this weekend, atop blue marlin seared in a cast iron skillet, and presented with caramelized orange skin. A word of warning: make sure your Not Dots have warmed before you bite into them. For one thing, the flavor of the roasted parsnip comes out as the beads rise toward room temperature. But more importantly, you don't want to rip the skin off your tongue.
According to Benjamin, there were no nitrogen-based injuries at Flyte this weekend.