It’s not just about taste: Immersive food experiences

When we sit down to eat, we don’t just experience the food through our taste buds. We take in the aroma of the food, feel the texture in our mouths, and experience the ambience of our surroundings. 

Food is a multi-sensory experience, and this edition of Weekly Bites covers three stories of brands and chefs that are taking the immersive aspect of food one step further. 

Food engages our senses to create an immersive experience, and tell us a story. These methods are not new — restaurants have been pouring sauce table-side, smashing salsa in a molcajete to the delight of diners, and pouring molten chocolate over delicate domes to reveal delicious surprises within. 

As the culinary industry grows and expands, new ways of creating immersive food experiences pop up. From elaborate edible centerpieces to perfume for your ice-cream and a new way to experience the dive bar, these three stories push the limits of what it means to have a multi-sensory food experience. 

The centerpiece is also the meal 

The way we set the table changes how we eat, whether it be a plated dinner, family style, or buffet. On many tables, however, there is a centerpiece meant to draw our eyes to the center of the table and encourage conversation. 

But what if the centerpiece IS the meal

Elaborate and whimsical edible centerpieces are becoming a trend. These large centerpieces are meant to encourage guests to eat collaboratively. The new trend comes out of a larger design trend away from minimalism and into abundance, perhaps reflecting some general anxieties about the decline of our environment and economy. 

These works of art always seem to have a wink and some cheek to them, and are somewhat theatrical. 

Edible perfume… for your ice-cream 

Edible perfume that you spray on your ice-cream… Yes, that exists now. 

Salt & Straw, the weird and sometimes very weird ice-cream brand has launched a line of edible perfumes for ice-cream. 

As delicious as it may be, ice-cream itself does not have a strong sense of smell. Tyler Malek, co-founder of Salt & Straw, wanted to change that. Malek had previously worked at Imaginary Authors, a Portland-based indie perfumerie. The idea started when Imaginary Authors set out to make a (regular, for-humans) perfume that smells like an ice-cream cone. That got Malek thinking about what it would take to actually reproduce edible flavors for an ice-cream perfume. 

The perfumes, which were released on National Ice-Cream Day, can be used directly on your ice-cream to create a unique aroma experience. The recommendation is to create a “dome of aroma” around the ice-cream by spraying your cone or bowl. Curiously, there are no instructions for the most popular mode of eating ice-cream — directly from the carton. Then, spritz each scoop to further enhance the aroma. Again, it’s unclear how you should apply this perfume when it’s just you, a spoon, and a pint of ice-cream on the couch. Perhaps each layer should be sprayed as you eat it? 

The brand also notes that you can wear the scent as a regular perfume. 

Your chance to taste a dive bar

When we say “dive bar,” it’s not only a (very clear) image that pops into your mind. It’s also the smell… of stale cigarettes and spilled beer. It’s the feeling… of sticky residue beneath your shoes as you make your way to the bathroom and back. It’s the sound… of classic rock and hacking coughs.

Apparently, Miller High Life has decided that all of the sensations of the dive bar should be encapsulated into a desert.  

Miller High Life has partnered with Tipsy Scoop (who makes boozy ice-cream) to create High Life infused ice-cream bars. According to the marketing materials, the ice-cream is, “delicious peanut swirl bringing the saltiness of the quintessential dive bar snack; a hint of tobacco smoke flavor reminiscent of that unforgettable dive bar scent; gooey caramel swirl to incorporate the distinct sticky dive bar floor feeling only the real ones know; a fun sprinkle of carbonated candy to provide the iconic Champagne of Beers effervescence in every bite; all dipped in dark chocolate to evoke the dark wood and dim lighting ambiance that all good dives share.”

Will this ice-cream be a disaster, or pure nostalgic genius? We’re unsure, but it does point to a trend towards creating immersive experiences in food. Ice-cream brands are known for being innovative in their flavors, but new flavors aren’t enough — consumers want to be told a story, and transported to a place. Even if they regret it after the fourth drink. 


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