Seattle may be a hub of the modernist cooking movement—Modernist Cuisine mastermind Nathan Myhrvold works in a lab in Bellevue and three of his professional progeny are now fomenting a revolution in culinary education in the heart of Pike Place Market. But if you’re the sort who enjoys experimenting methylcellulose and gellan gum and other ingredients in the modernist cupboard, it’s damn hard to actually find these things in a store around here.
Enter Marx Foods. After owner Justin Marx opened a storefront extension of his online emporium for exotic foodstuffs last year, he had a few people stop in to ask if he carries these types of ingredients.
Marx turned to local food bloggers Scott Heimendinger (aka Seattle Food Geek) and Linda Miller Nicholson (aka Salty Seattle) for counsel on what ingredients they would most like to see on his shelves. Is there a more science-appropriate word than "ingredient" for this type of thing? I feel like my mom when she says "hook up with" to mean "make lunch plans."
Recently a selection of about 20 items, from sodium alginate (for spherifying liquids into cunning little balls) to tapioca maltodextrin (for turning fats into powders), hit Marx’s shelves. The selection covers basics like spherification, reverse specification, turning liquids into gels, and creating assorted foams and powders, says Marx. While his store doesn’t carry much in the way of equipment, he did stock a few basics like a gram scale and a spherification kit.
Marx says so far the items coexist happily with previous items like dried chilies, squash oils, and uncommon meats. “It looks like a bunch of powders in stand-up pouches, like a collection of baking soda,” he says. “People who don’t know don’t pay any attention, but people who do know get really excited about it.”
Since this shop is all about teaching customers how to use its unusual ingredients, the Marx Foods team is busy boning up on its modernist techniques and how they can play nice with the pantry products. Marx even had the ChefSteps.com guys over to the shop. He’s carrying the guys’ first retail product, a meat rub, and went on the record declaring his man crush for them. Here's the online rundown of the modernist ingredient selection.