Let’s just say trying to explain how a partnership between connoisseurs of fine gelato and a major air fragrance company may work to anyone elicits some pretty intriguing reactions. However, given Gelato Messina’s rather unique and quirky approach to producing their flavours, it makes sense they’d take inspiration from Airwick’s new Life Scents range, don their molecular gastronomy hats and have at it in the name of science. The unlikely duo has poured months of hard work into a pop-up lab which only fortunate winners of a facebook competition via Airwick Australia will be able to experience. Sessions will be held between the 19th and the 21st of November, making it a super-elusive and exclusive affair.
Winners can expect a cosy set-up bathed in soft blue light, highlighted with professional grade equipment used to generate the tonnage (yes you heard right) of ice-cream produced by the forty five chefs onsite, for distribution to various Messina locations. Introductions from Messina’s Director Declan Lee and Airwick’s Brand Manager Matteo Piovan are followed by a run-down of the six course menu created with the assistance of leading academic food scientist Patrick Spicer. Lovingly explained, the interactive components of each dish are geared toward creating a sense of enchantment and encourage fervent discussion.
Inspired by Airwick’s ‘Winter Moments’ fragrance of baked pear, pie crust and vanilla the first course is pre-empted by a sweet smelling mist and the crackling sounds of a fire. Safety goggles are handed to each diner more for theatrics than to shield them from any harm the beautifully sculpted toffee pear in front of them could present or the dry ice infused pear consommé poured over it. A couple of sharp taps with a spoon reveals deliciously creamy vanilla isomalt nestled on crumbly shortcrust. Given the intricacy of the reveal it’s a shame the dish didn’t deliver on what should be a winning flavour profile, its only saving grace that sticky, crunchy toffee shell.
The first palate cleanser fares better, perfectly shaped discs of sous vide compressed rock and honey dew melon showcase the fruit’s natural sweetness. Swimming in watermelon juice, the wise decision to include local gin distillers Archie Rose’s quality spirit in the scoop of smooth lush Gin and Lime gelato sitting atop rounds out the dish perfectly.
Second course dubbed ‘Mystical Garden’ the fragrance of which was inspired by the perfumers of Singapore, is a standout construction of fresh raspberry sorbet encased in soft rose tinged marshmallow. An OH&S warning probably should come attached to this dish and a bit more caution towards guest’s pyromanic tendencies when handed garden gloves and a mini blow torch. An impressively realistic edible fondant stem is used to skewer these fluffy delights which are lightly singed with the blowtorch before meeting their inevitable fate.
A precious frost speckled ball of white peach sorbet nestled in a petri dish dabbed with dots of tarragon and blackberry puree constitutes the second palate cleanser. Kudos to the Messina chefs for their ability to compact intense peach flavour into that one little ball and for complimenting it so nicely. The dish does well to carry on the theme of impeccable visual statements one can expect throughout the night.
Given this was the first attempt at executing a session it’s only natural that not everything would quite take-off. For third course ‘Lush Hideaway’, guests were led into the lab kitchens to tug on blindfolds and patiently hold out a hand for their measuring tube full of a special ‘drink’. Texturally the most intriguing dish of the lot a coconut fibre solution in which pearls of raspberry and mint are suspended is a struggle to gulp and chew through. Whilst the intent is there unfortunately execution doesn’t quite live up to the concept. A demonstration of how the pearls are created and suspended in the solution does however save this experience.
This side trek was the perfect distraction for set-up of the grand finale. ‘Paradise Retreat’ a stunningly ornate and almost completely edible chocolate tree dotted with coconut petals, chocolate soil, cherry sorbet nuts and spritzed with almond blossom aroma. No hesitation is spared by patrons, madly scooping their prizes and depositing them into individual serving pots. The most gobsmacking of all the courses on offer, the best part are those cherry sorbet nuts coated in almond crunch settled in the chocolate soil base. Given after five other sugar filled courses it’s a guaranteed struggle to make anything else fit, but these crispy moreish little morsels are definitely worth any belly clutching agony.
Yes there are a few little things that need to be ironed out in terms of execution but overall Messina and Airwick have delivered on their challenge and should to continue to push and experiment with the pop-up. A great deal of thought and care has been injected in each course resulting in something eye grabbing, incredibly delicious and most importantly really fun and engaging.
The Air Wick x Messina Edible Life Scents pop-up dessert degustation will take place at the Life Scents Lab in Sydney from 19th to 21st November. Entry is via a competition run over at Air Wick Australia’s Facebook Page