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El Bulli Comes to the United States, and Not a Minute Too Soon

El Bulli Comes to the United States, and Not a Minute Too Soon

: The Bazaar
: 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
: A+
: Olives, Caviar & Tomato Heart Cones, Tempura Avocado, Ottoman Carrot Fritters, Organized Caesar, Watermelon Tomato Skewers, Sea Urchin Buns

The Bazaar, located in the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, was the first restaurant by José Andrés outside the Washington D.C. José Andrés is a culinary legend in Spain and the United States and is a disciple and close friend of Chef Ferran Adrià, of El Bulli fame. He started to bring some of El Bulli’s “molecular magic” to the US when he opened the six seat Mini Bar on the second floor of Café Atlántico. This concept has been expanded with the opening of Bazaar.

The menu is split into two sections: Traditional Tapas and Modern Tapas. The traditional is a solid run-through of traditional Catalonian tapas, while the modern is the experimental— the magic of food and science that one would expect at a place called The Bazaar by José Andrés. While Andrés’ “modern” masterpieces borrow from El Bulli, they truly are a personification of a chef who has embraced both his past and his present. You’ll find the airs, foams, tomato hearts and spherification, but at the same time, the dishes are characterized by an American sensibility. There are riffs on Caesar Salad, Tacos, Cheesesteaks, Shrimp Cocktail and Caprese Salad.

Indeed, Bazaar might be called, El Bulli Americana. It might also currently be one of the best restaurants in the States.

“To Be a Man Here, You Have to Go to the United States.”

The real origins of the Central American refugee problem are economic. So is the solution.

Daniel Reichman is professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester and author of The Broken Village: Coffee, Migration, and Globalization in Honduras.

Ten years ago, I visited a one-room schoolhouse in a remote village in Honduras—a community with no electricity, where most families eked out a living as small-scale coffee farmers. I asked a group of students who, if anyone, planned to migrate to the United States. I expected a few hands to go up. Instead, every single child in the room raised his or her hand.

These children were not fleeing gang violence. They lived in a placid—though desperately poor—little hamlet where gangs were but a distant symbol of urban delinquency and danger. Like most of the Hondurans who have migrated to the United States in the past 15 years, they were motivated by economics, not the threat of gang violence.

These children were members of a generation raised to believe that migration to the United States is the most viable path to a secure future. Faced with limited economic opportunities at home, rising expectations for material wealth and constant communication with relatives in the United States via cell phones and social media, migration has become woven into the fabric of life in Honduran communities. As one 16-year-old Honduran migrant told me, “To be a man here, you have to go to the United States.”

The Obama administration’s plan to classify thousands of young Honduran migrants as refugees—while clearly a positive step—ignores the long-term realities of Honduran immigration, which is overwhelmingly driven by economics. Politically, the refugee plan is the best way for a divided Congress to, in effect, legalize some undocumented immigrants from Central America, and for this reason alone, advocates of a more open immigration policy should applaud this strategy. However, the president’s response—let alone Congress’s more attenuated offering—fundamentally ignores the economic forces that drive the bulk of Honduran migration, begging the question: Why are we willing to open the door to Honduran refugees fleeing violence, while offering almost no hope for economic migrants seeking opportunity?

Between 2000 and 2010, Honduras transformed from a country in which U.S. migration was relatively insignificant to its current position as the second most migration-dependent country in the Americas, after Haiti. In any given year, between 15 to 20 percent of Honduran GDP comes from money sent home to families by migrants, almost all of whom live in the United States. To put that in perspective, the entire manufacturing sector in the United States accounts for about 12 percent of our GDP.

He Might Be a Prophet. That, or the Greatest Chef in the World.

This story was originally published in Esquire's July 2001 issue.

1. On the Nature of Happiness

One night last summer I went to dinner at El Bulli, a Michelin three-star restaurant famous for serving some of the world's most curious food. It's a long distance from where I live, so I had to fly to Paris, then south to Barcelona. From there, I drove another three hours north to a busy beach town near the French border called Rosas, then turned onto a neglected, potholed road that led up a mountain&mdashhouses falling away, the stunted Johannesburg trees bent like old, shadowy men. On the other side was a forgotten inlet with a few boats bobbing at anchor, lights starring the water&mdashreds and greens and whites blurring on the surface of the Mediterranean.

If getting to El Bulli for dinner required crossing six time zones and a certain pilgrim's leap of faith, actually getting in was even harder, as the restaurant rarely has an available table. I followed some stone steps from a dead man's curve in the road down to the restaurant, a low-slung, whitewashed villa, where I was met by the smell of consommé and chocolate, rosemary and bacon, licorice and seawater. I passed the great lit window through which El Bulli's kitchen appears as a gleaming space-age chamber.

On the other side, forty white-coated chefs moved in a silent, surreal symphony, chopping and sautéing and mumbling to themselves, a ghostly machine. Black-coated waiters poured in and out with trays of strange, brightly colored concoctions: glowing lollipops and wobbly gelatin cubes and a plate simply dusted with colored spices.

Amid the hurly-burly was a short, commanding man with dark, springy hair who wore old black shoes and a beaten red wristwatch. I watched him prowl the length of one silver counter, then turn on a heel and dive in among his pastry chefs, who were streaking what looked to be green paint over transparencies. He corrected the brushwork, then nosed his way to a bank of burners, took up a strainer, and inspected a yellow orb of yolk that he removed from boiling water. He slipped it into his mouth, nodded his approval, then spun to a station at the head of the kitchen to point out some deficiency in what appeared to be a dollop of bright red foam.

This man's name was Ferran Adrià, and I instantly recognized him from photographs I'd seen in cooking magazines. It was said that he was opening a new culinary path, finding a new sea route, searching for India. And he was brash. He'd brazenly declared that it was over for the French chefs (in cuisine, that's a little like announcing that it's over for Jesus Christ) and that he and his food were the future. From him, it wasn't so much a boast as a truth he held to be self-evident.

It was also said that despite having money, he possessed no home, no car, no television, no mailbox, no stove of his own. During the six months that his restaurant was open, he supposedly slept nearby in a tiny, furnitureless room. The rest of the year, he lived out of hotels or at his parents' small house in the Barcelona barrio of his childhood, in the very room in which he grew up. And like a child, he could be whimsical. Once, he flew to Brazil in response to an invitation from a very rich man who'd faxed a page with only three words: I am hungry.

I'd come a long way for dinner. But my intentions were pure. Aside from all the hype about Ferran Adrià&mdashwhen asked recently, five of the world's greatest chefs picked him as the greatest of all&mdashI'd heard that his food could accomplish one simple thing: It could make you happy. So how far was too far to travel for that? And, I wondered, what in the world does happiness taste like?

I entered El Bulli and sat. No silverware on the table, no menu. I didn't ask for a thing, nor was I asked if I wanted anything. A welcome drink suddenly appeared, teeming in a small martini glass, a pomegranate-colored liquid that was announced as a whiskey sour, though who knew what it was. Around me were others like me, bound by hunger, expectant. Everyone had traveled some distance to be here everyone was about to travel farther. I saw dishes jet by but couldn't name a single one of them. There were white spoons filled with a green jelly and topped with what seemed to be caviar, there were foams of green and yellow and pink, and there was a plate that, by my best estimation, was covered with orange worms.

The warm sea lapped just beyond the patio, and a kind of reverent hush was disturbed by the occasional tinkling of silverware and wineglasses. I noticed a woman sitting at a nearby table. She had put something into her mouth, and now her whole body shook slightly, as if she was having a fit of hiccups. She sat with her head bowed, her shoulders moving up and down, until she looked up at the man she was with. She had tears in her eyes, and when she met his gaze, she started laughing&mdashunafraid laughter that made him laugh, too.

I noticed another man who I'd later learn was an American molecular biologist and a devotee of El Bulli for years, who considered Ferran Adrià a prophet. With each new course, he stood up and somewhat awkwardly switched seats, claiming later that the only way the meal made sense to him was by changing his spatial relationship to the food.

Was this madness or heaven? What kind of food makes people weep or sets them moving around a table like the hands of a clock?

When my first plate arrived, I was a little frightened. I'd never been to a restaurant where a chef completely decides what you're going to eat and drink. At El Bulli, choices were left to Ferran Adrià, el jefe maximo, and the food was delivered in bits and combinations that didn't look like food at all, accompanied by instructions from the waiter: "This is a childhood memory. Take in one bite." Or: "This is trout-egg tempura. Two bites, quickly."

It came down to a question of faith. And I suddenly felt the presence of this man, Ferran Adrià, somewhere in the shadows, holding the fork in my hand, guiding it to the plate, impaling a mound of caramel-covered, sweet-smelling tenderness that had been introduced as "rabbit apple," and lifting it to my mouth, which, despite my misgivings, had been watering in anticipation of this very moment and watered still, now that the moment was here.

2. On Hunger

If I was hoping to discover what happiness tastes like, I needed company. I'd persuaded my wife, Sara, to join me in Spain with our baby boy and a couple of friends, Melissa and her husband, Carlos, who would help translate. In the months leading up to the trip, Sara and I had lived in the blur of new parenthood. We'd passed each other in the middle of the night, as if underwater, handing off Baby. We'd changed Baby's diaper twenty times a day. We'd gauged every second of our ticking lives by the general well-being of Baby, by every hilarious burp, flickering smile, and pleasing snore. I can't say I'd tasted a thing I ate during that time, nor do I remember a single dream, as meals and sleep came in desperate spasms. So, we'd arrived slightly zombified, our former lives figments of our former imaginations.

It was August, high season on the Costa Brava, and we stayed in the last two rooms available in Rosas, at a German-run hotel, rooms that might have made a good alternate setting for Pamela and Tommy Lee's honeymoon video&mdashshiny pillows and mirrors everywhere, and a shower with glass sides that could be viewed from the bed.

Out on the beach in front of the hotel was a whole galaxy of overripe, topless bathers and lingam-hugging Speedos that made us feel that much more pale and alien. The arrangement was simple: Carlos, who was the portrait of gallego smooth in a goatee and ponytail, would join me, who was Spanishless, each day with Ferran, who was Englishless, in hopes that we would make it back to toast the sunset with wine and cheese and the rest of our posse.

One night early on, while we sat drinking red wine on the balcony off our room as the sun set on the Mediterranean, skittering in goldfish-orange to the horizon, a man in the adjoining room came out on his balcony, too, in white briefs and a tank top, with his own bottle of wine, just to breathe the warm air. He told us he'd driven sixteen hours to get here from Italy, that his brother, who owned a restaurant in Naples, was apprenticing at a famous restaurant, and that he and his own family had arrived to taste the delicacies of the great head chef who worked there.

"You're not talking about El Bulli, are you?" Carlos asked, and the man smiled.

"You've heard of it, too," he said. "My brother tells me that Ferran Adrià does the impossible."

"And your brother likes working in the kitchen?"

"He's exhausted," the man said. "Fifteen-hour days, seven days a week. If it weren't for Ferran Adrià, he'd probably go home right now. But in twenty, thirty, forty years, they're going to say Ferran Adrià was the best that ever was, and it's going to be an honor for my brother to say he chopped his vegetables."

He paused and offered us some of his wine, which we accepted. "It's a good wine," he said, poking his nose into the goblet and inhaling. "Not so overpowering. It's a bit of a secret." He admired the label, then said, "If you'll excuse me, I'm finally eating there tonight." Then he disappeared into his room of shiny pillows to prepare for his own trip up the mountain and down the other side to El Bulli.

We stood with our glasses full of wine, our faces lit a most otherworldly orange, and&mdashwe couldn't help it&mdashwe stared at the place where he'd just been standing, our envy framing the void, our hunger filling it.

3. On the End of the World

Ferran Adrià often speaks of moments that mark a before and an after. For most, a dozen of these eurekas in a life is a lot. For Ferran, not a day passes that he doesn't assume he is on the verge of yet another one, that the world he's made for himself will simply explode under the weight of the new one rising from it.

His very first before-and-after came in 1985, when he was twenty-three. He was not yet the kind of strange celebrity he is today, recognized on the street or in restaurants or at parties as a modern Willy Wonka, as the supposed savior or destroyer of cuisine. It was this young and unknown Ferran Adrià who was standing in his kitchen, staring at yet another order for partridge. How many times had he made this dish? Hundreds? Thousands?

There was nothing haute or nouvelle about the partridge dish. It was a plato typico, a common plate, escabeche de perdiz, made by every chef at every restaurant in Spain. It was simply an obligation to have it on the menu. The finished product looked as if it had been electrocuted at altitude, in midflight, and then had fallen two miles to the plate, battered and charred. But on this one particular evening, Ferran Adrià found himself suddenly incapable, frozen by some internal pause button.

How to deal with this sad bird? With the sameness of every day, of making every plate again that he'd already made before, by copying, copying, copying the recipes of dead or dying French and Spanish chefs? Wasn't there something greater, some secret waiting for release in this food? Perhaps Ferran Adrià had no right to see the partridge for what it wasn't, or for the multiplicity of what it could be, but if eating is as necessary as laughter or a sob, then where was the emotion in having charred partridge delivered to your table?

So he began to play with the bird. He plucked the wings and pinched some meat from the bones, which gave tenderly between his fingers. He removed the partridge from the partridge, as it were, and peppered the meat and swirled it with vegetables, some asparagus shoots and zucchini and finely shaved carrots, some leeks and onion at their most succulent. Then, on a whim, he tossed in some local langosta, lobster. Because it pleased him. And without another thought he sent it out to the dining room. A deconstructed partridge. No, a deconstructed, Mediterraneanized partridge. Vaya!

But the greatest surprise came when it wasn't sent back, as the faceless diner put fork to bird and bird to mouth, participated in the deconstruction, and actually liked it.

And with that began the revolution, the alchemy, the culinary miracles. He experimented with gazpacho, vacuuming it into a liquidless, cold dish. When people ordered gazpacho expecting gazpacho, they suddenly did a double take at what appeared before them in a bowl: a sculpture garden of beheaded tomatoes, slivers of cucumber set like juju sticks, peeled whole onions &hellip but where was the soup? And while other chefs certainly improvise from time to time, or as a last resort, Ferran Adrià couldn't help himself. It was jazz music, abstract painting. Dervishly, pathologically, he began changing everything.

One day he got to thinking about ice cream, why it's always sweet, why, when confronted with it, your entire body prepares for that great blast of sugar and cool cream&mdashnot an unpleasant sensation, especially on the hot Costa Brava, but nonetheless the same sensation triggered by the same food&mdashand so he set out to obliterate the sameness of ice cream. And he did, mixing a batch, cream and milk and ice, but then, at the last moment, substituting salt for sugar. Vaya! What he tasted in his mouth felt like something cool and mineral, as if it had been scooped from the dark side of the moon.

Now he saw the whole world in his kitchen: the autonomous march of history repeating history, the tyranny of that repetition. Chocolate: Why not add another texture, another taste to the tongue? He made some rich dark chocolate and smeared it with

Japan&mdashstreaks of green wasabi that suddenly gave it a kick, a delicious burn that transformed the idea of chocolate into chocolate of some higher power. Bread: Why not make it explode? After baking bite-sized spheres of bread, he took a syringe and infiltrated the spongy interior with warm olive oil. He saw a simple croquette and injected it with seawater. People put them in their mouths expecting the expected&mdasha little crunch, some chew, air&mdashand were suddenly dealing with a burst and flood, victual chaos, palatal dyslexia, a tilting universe.

Once, when Ferran Adrià was back in Barcelona for the winter, he bought a truckload of perfectly ripe tomatoes. He had no idea what he was doing. He and his brother, Albert, took the tomatoes back to their workshop, where Ferran dumped them on the floor and impulsively grabbed a bicycle pump. He stuck a tomato with it and furiously began pumping. For a moment, Albert regarded his brother quizzically, and the tomato itself seemed impervious until &hellip it exploded everywhere! Covered in red gook,

Ferran fell upon the wreckage, sifting through it, and triumphantly lifted one shard aloft.

A fine, pinkish spume bubbled along the line where air had forced a fissure. He tasted it, a tomato without body&mdashearth salt and juice, which suddenly disappeared like sparklers.

After that, the brothers spent the afternoon blowing up tomatoes to see what more there was to discover.

It was air that created this tomato foam, but then how could you make it in the kitchen? You couldn't very well have someone in a back room blowing up tomatoes with a bicycle pump, could you? And also, the foam bubbled for a moment, but then flattened and quickly vanished. The brothers were stymied. Ferran felt that finding the key to making this foam would be like discovering a new planet.

After some experimentation with an old whipped-cream canister, and with the addition of the perfect proportion of gelatin, they finally happened upon it: a tomato foam, straight from a metal canister, that could stand on its own! A fine, floating, airy thing that tasted like &hellip like &hellip some new mesospheric formation they called cloud. And the tomato was just the beginning. Soon there were curry and beet clouds, strawberry and apple clouds. Once in your mouth, they bubbled, effervesced, and evaporated, leaving a tingle of taste. His foam was soon being copied by nearly every innovative young chef in Paris and Milan and New York and made Ferran Adrià famous, as much for striking out a new direction in cuisine as for the whimsy of how he'd done it. But today at his restaurant, less than five years later, Ferran is almost dismissive of those foams, using them sparingly. "It's not so conscious," he told me in his kitchen. "It's just that we opened a path and now that path is open. We may not serve any foams next year. Most restaurants are museums, but not El Bulli." I asked him what El Bulli was all about, then. He considered for a moment, then gestured at the white-coated chefs chopping like sped-up metronomes. "El Bulli is crazy," he said. "It's the drunkenness of all the new things that can be."

4. Aphorisms from the Professor

"Painting, music, movies, sculpture, theater, everything&mdashwe can survive without it," Ferran said. "You have to eat, or else you die. Food is the only obligatory emotion."

"The taste of a lemon is incredible!"

"There are eight degrees between warm and cold."

"You must always eat with two hands."

"I prefer to spend my money on a bottle of champagne at the Ritz in Paris than on a pair of shoes. I'll always remember the champagne. I'll never remember the shoes."

"The prawn head is Spanish."

"In the end everything already exists we're not inventors of anything. But this is the definition of creativity. It's seeing what other people don't see."

"Laughing brings out the good in food. It's good to laugh. If you don't laugh, you're going to magnify. And if you magnify, you're going to die."

"The important thing is the miniskirt, not what color it is."

5. Concerning the Effect of Tomato Hearts on Wedded Discourse

One afternoon Carlos and I took the long drive into the mountains along the Mediterranean toward El Bulli. Up there everyone vanished, the sky came closer, the sea glittered differently. If it was treacherous to drive the hairpins and potholes, it was suddenly much easier to breathe. Later, when I would ask Ferran to describe the perfect meal, he stressed that there had to be magic in arrival. That it had to be a place hard to get to or somehow earned. That the journey, more than any appetizer or cocktail, would remind you of your hunger.

Now it was time to eat. Carlos and I had been invited to have lunch in the kitchen so we could taste and watch at the same time. We were seated at a wide wooden table before a couple of wine goblets full of light. We were asked if we had any allergies, which we didn't, and then came the welcome cocktail, what the waiter called a "hot-cold margarita." When I picked it up, the glass was partly warm and partly cool to the touch, since some part of the drink had been heated and some chilled. The margarita was like no other either of us had drunk before, tangy and airy, and the temperature difference, the movement from hot to cold, created a tumbling sensation in our mouths, a tequila wave with a triple sec undertow, ending on one arctic, sweet note. We were startled into smiles.

And though whimsy has made Ferran Adrià famous, one soon realizes that a meal at El Bulli is driven by cold logic, coordinated through the phalanx of chefs at their various stations. Each guest eats roughly two dozen dishes, and if the diner simply rises to go to the bathroom, he can break an almost sacred rhythm that Ferran feels is crucial to the meal, to the variations in temperature and texture that help give his food its character.

"The plate is a song," he says. "If the harmony is too slow, the person who receives the plate isn't receiving what the chef intended. There's a rhythm that's hard to explain, but it changes everything." Ferran's sense of time, then, guides the journey of every morsel from kitchen to mouth, and once there, he wants you to taste it as he does. And that occasionally requires spoken instruction. "The feeling of cold and hot is very different in one bite than in two bites," he says. "Sometimes, two bites makes all the difference."

Because much of what's eaten here seems without context, the meal itself, the rush of these dishes, builds a new context in which tastes emerge with shot-glass intensity from a nebula of cool mists and jellies. The idea is that a new dish will be launched every five minutes, no more than ten seconds after it's ready, and in those intervals between dishes, a guest will experience both sensual and psychic liftoff, to be repeated five minutes later. In theory, this makes the meal two hours long, though often people will linger a couple hours longer at the table.

"We are inviting fifty people into our home every night," says Ferran. "It should be the greatest event of their lives."

The trick, of course, is to translate the ideas of Ferran's fertile mind into living dishes, up to two hundred different ones in a night. Further, each dish must be prepared en masse, then delivered to the table according to a nearly-impossible-to-achieve Ferran standard. And the fear of not reaching that standard is what drives the dizzying, obsessive pace in the kitchen.

From our vantage point, it was all just an endless rush of plates passing to and fro.

Suddenly, a tray crowded with goodies appeared before us, and another, and another&mdash what Ferran calls first and second and third "snacks," which are meant to be fun and lighten the mood before the main courses. None were recognizable.

There was dried quinoa in a paper cone, and, when I tilted it back into my mouth, the quinoa lightly pelted my tongue and echoed in my ears like a fine rain turning crunchy. There were also seaweed nougat (salty and sublime), deep-fried bits of prawn (so light they disintegrated before they could be rightly chewed), and strawberries filled with Campari (every cell cloying, the strawberries more strawberry because of the liqueur). No sooner would one marvel cease, one of us sputtering, What was that?, than the next bit of Martian food would arrive. It all ended in a strange, caramelized cube that

I lifted with my thumb and forefinger and gently slid onto my tongue. Only after shattering it between my teeth did the object reveal itself: yogurt bursting from its candied shell in a warm, smooth flood.

Ferran shuttled between our table and his capos&mdashthe white-shirted generals running the kitchen&mdashand an endless drift of guests that came back to meet him. There was a famous wine critic who produced a rare Japanese spice. Some fabulously rich people shook Ferran's hand and gushed, "You don't see this every day," and Ferran said,

"No, this is every day." A photographer from a Danish magazine, a tanned woman with very blond hair and long legs, wearing a sheer pinafore and a light-blue bikini underneath, climbed onto a table and started taking photographs. And for a second, everything stopped, sighed &hellip then resumed in double-time.

"Where the hell are the tapiocas?" a capo yelled at the hunched-over chefs on the line. "We're going to get punished here. Let's go!"

It was hard not to feel a little ridiculous, supping on delicacies while people worked at breakneck speed to get them to us. But we didn't overanalyze this because the main dishes, fourteen in all, began to arrive. And each dish was &hellip was &hellip how to explain it?

In Ferran Adrià's restaurant, nothing is for certain once his food crosses the Maginot Line of your mouth. He feeds you things you never thought existed, let alone things you'd think to eat: a gelatin with rare mollusks trapped inside (it was so odd, the cool, sweet jelly parting for salty pieces of the sea, that it tasted primordial and transcendent at once), tagliatelle carbonara (chicken consommé solidified and cut into thin, coppery, pastalike strands that, once glimmering on the tongue, dissolved back into consommé that poured down the throat), cuttlefish ravioli (the cuttlefish sliced with a microtome, then injected with coconut milk, another sweet explosion that seemed to wrap the fish in a new sea), rosemary lamb (we were told to raise sprigs of rosemary to our noses as we munched on the lamb, both of us now with rosemary mustaches, the smell of rosemary becoming the lamb as if the two were the same) &hellip and it went on like this.

I will tell you: We were happy. We were served an eighty-year-old vinegar pooled in an apple gelatin with ginger, and vinegar has never tasted so gentle, so perfectly between sweet and sour, with a trace of gin, so unlike vinegar that it redefined vinegar. I would drink that vinegar every day, if I could, to start every day with a little pucker and smile. There was dessert, too &hellip a first dessert and a second dessert and then more snacks. At the end, when we went to him, Ferran waved us off, saying, "Today you eat, tomorrow we'll think."

And so Carlos and I drove back down to Roses and the hotel. The clouds appeared as purple-lit dirigibles, and more light beamed across the sea in silver flickers. When we returned to the hotel and took a swim (the sea tasting like something made by Ferran Adrià) and sat down for some sangria on the terrace, when I tried later to describe the meal to Sara, I couldn't find any words. There were no words that came to mind. But I tried.

I tried to describe one dish in particular, an amazing, complicated thing, really. It was monkfish liver served as a pâté and, floating on top of it, a froth of soy foam. On the plate, in orbit around this foie-soy structure, were quasars of orange, lemon, grapefruit, and, finally, what stopped me, what I startled at, tomato hearts. They were just the guts of the tomato, really, its oozing seeds and essence.

What I meant to tell my wife, but couldn't, was that when I ate the substance of liver and foam with some grapefruit and then scooped the heart, naked and dripping, into my mouth, I'd felt, in all my happiness and weird heady lightness, something else, too: an undercurrent of impermanence, some creeping feeling of danger and fear. All of it in this single bite that slid down my throat. I might have grimaced as I swallowed it I might not have. But when I looked up, I met the gaze of Ferran Adrià, who stood across the kitchen, watching, and I wondered whether he thought I didn't like what I was eating. Or whether he knew exactly what I felt, had searched for that expression on my face, because he knew what it was to eat a heart, and he'd felt it, too.

6. On the Ahistorical Conundrum of the Great Ferran Adrià

It's as likely that he'd have ended up a car mechanic as a chef, if not for the pleasure of beer. After quitting high school and moving to Ibiza with the full intention of living the party life, Ferran took a job washing dishes to pay for his cervezas. Up until that moment, he had subsisted on beefsteak and french fries. That's all he ate that's all he wanted.

But working in restaurants, he slowly indoctrinated himself into a multifarious world of taste, its bombast and truths. And by the time Ferran left Ibiza at twenty, he had decided: He would learn everything he could about cuisine, and through cuisine he would know everything about the world. He read Escoffier and Larousse. He made the recipes of dead chefs with zealous devotion. He had a friend who was working up the coast from Barcelona at El Bulli, a two-star restaurant with a loyal if somewhat limited clientele, and, in 1983, he hitched three hours north with the thought of picking up some quick money. Eighteen years later, he's still here. Ferran is thirty-nine now and no more than five foot five in black stocking feet.

He has a hairless chest with no muscles, exactly, and a bulging belly. (This vision appeared to me one day when he changed into his chef's whites without thought of anyone else in the room.) He does, in fact, possess almost nothing of his own. He never cooks for himself or friends and always eats out, usually traveling the world two or three times a year to eat, except for Christmas Day, when he cooks with his brother for their parents at home. Though he could buy them a Mercedes, and would, they don't want one. It would change the context of their lives, he says, and they're happy with their lives.

In the kitchen, Ferran Adrià is demanding, withering, Napoleonic. His dissatisfaction may manifest itself like a flash thunderstorm. But he's almost preternatural to watch, like Picasso captured on film, changing a strawberry to a rooster to a woman in a few brushstrokes.

Even now he dreams of a day when a restaurant will be less a museum (serving the same, same, same) than an experiment (serving the new), when a computer screen will bring the revolution into all of our homes, Ferran greeting us after work with a fifteen-minute recipe for his chicken curry, a succulent, deconstructed confusion of solid curry and liquid chicken that turns chicken curry on its head.

And yet, it's odd: For being one of the most self-actualized men I've met, he is also one of the most ahistorical. When I asked him to describe the best meal he'd ever eaten, he said he erases his memories so he doesn't live for a moment he can never bring back. When I asked about his grandparents, he could recall nothing about them. "I think my grandfather died in the Spanish Civil War," he said. "Ten times&mdashten times I've been told, and ten times I've forgotten. Since I didn't know him, it's as if he never existed."

When I suggested that it's a bit strange not to know the first thing about your grandfather but then to be able to quote a recipe by Escoffier from 1907, he said, "Not at all. My life is kitchen, kitchen, kitchen. History doesn't interest me, the kitchen does."

Politics? "I'm in the center. It doesn't play into my life."

Religion? "Do I pray when someone's sick? Yes. Otherwise, no."

Mentors? "I came as a virgin to the kitchen."

When I asked if it troubled him when people didn't understand the invention and game of his cuisine, he said, "Some people come here and see God a few come and see the devil. The truth is relative."

The truth is relative? "I mean that only the tongue tells the truth. History doesn't tell it, religion doesn't. All that concerns me really is what the food tastes like. I am the chef, so I have to ask: Does it amaze me? Is there a before and after? If there is, then good. Let's eat."

7. On Taste

"The difference between a grand chef and a magical chef," Ferran said, as we whizzed down the mountain, "is that a magical chef knows not just what he's eating, but how to eat."

"And how does a magical chef eat?" Carlos asked. Ferran's eyebrows rose at that, and an "Ahh" passed his lips. Then he grinned and said, "You are about to see."

We had asked Ferran to pick his favorite place for lunch in Roses. He had us park and led us down an alley that spilled into another alley that opened onto a walking street outside a place called Rafa's. The restaurant, named after its owner, was a simple, traditional, open-air seafood grill with wooden tables. And Rafa himself seemed plainly hungover. While we sat, he disappeared into the back, then reappeared with a red bandanna that he wrapped deliberately around his head, ears jutting out. And once he'd knotted it, he was suddenly transformed. "Okay," he said in a gruff voice. "Okay." Samurai Rafa.

"There's nothing like this place," said Ferran, pleased. When the waitress read the day's menu, when she was through reciting twenty or so items, Ferran looked at her and simply said, "Yes," and then clarified, "Yes, all of it. A little bit of all of it. And whatever else the chef has." She looked over her shoulder at Rafa, who nodded slightly and winked. And then the dishes came, each plato reflecting the way food has been served in Catalonia for hundreds of years. Tomatoes slathered on peasant bread. Sliced prosciutto on a plate. Succulent anchovies, lightly peppered, in olive oil. A small mountain of
tallarines, tiny, buttery clams that we pried from their shells with our tongues, the empty shells piling like fantastic, ancient currency.

With each dish, Ferran distinguished himself, for the act of eating was a full-on, full-contact orgy. His mouth, with its thin, quick lips and athletic tongue, worked frenetically. And at times, he didn't just eat the food, he wore it. He took the fresh prosciutto, fine, bright prosciutto that smelled like &hellip well, like sex &hellip and rubbed it on his upper lip (the same as sniffing wine, he said, or eating lamb with a sprig of rosemary beneath your nose). His fingers were soon bathed in olive oil and flecked with pepper, dancing quickly from plate to plate, so quickly, in fact, that our own fingers began to dance for fear that the food would vanish.

Platos came and went. Crustaceans arrived, various shimmering shades of orange, pink, and purple, just scooped from boiling water, with waggling antennae. Ferran picked up a prawn, one about the length of his hand, that looked like a shrunk-down lobster. Its shell was covered on the outside with small white eggs (a prawn that I would have studiously avoided altogether), and he began to lick the eggs with such ferocity that I decided I must have been missing something important and went digging for an eggs-onshell prawn myself.

While I don't consider myself a delicate eater, next to Ferran I felt effete as hell. Particle by particle, cell by cell, he imbibed and inhaled and ingested until particle by particle and cell by cell he seemed changed by the food itself. Even when he sipped his cold beer, it was as if he were gulping from a chalice, washing everything clean. Now he held his prawn before me, its creepy black eyes staring into mine, and asked what it looked like. Face to face with the prawn, I was speechless. "It's intimidating, it's scary, it's prehistoric," Ferran said for me. "But in this context, it's normal. For generations, we've been eating prawns. If tomorrow someone puts a spider on the plate, then everyone's going to say it's crazy. But I don't see the difference. For you to understand what the ocean is, you have to understand something that Americans would think is crazy. You have to suck this &hellip"

He suddenly tore the head of the prawn from its carapace and held it in the space between us. "You mean the head?" I said, stating the obvious, stalling for time, processing a simple thought: I don't think I want to eat the head. It doesn't seem like something I want to eat.

"Yes, the head," said Ferran. "If I can describe in one word the taste of the sea, it's sucking the head of this prawn. At home, my parents sucked the head. I tasted it and comprehended it. Just suck it."

He took the head, put the open end to his lips, and crushed the shell until everything in it (brain and viscera, bits of meat and shell) had been expelled into his mouth, caramel-colored liquid dribbling down his chin. He savored it for a long moment, his eyes closed, and he seemed to have reached some kind of ecstasy. When he opened his eyes, it was my turn. I started tentatively, but there was no tentative way to crush a prawn head and suck it dry, so I just began crushing and slurping, juice running down my chin now. It was a profound and powerful taste, oddly sublime, the thick liquid the essence of this thing was, yes, salty, but also deeply evolved. It was cognac and candy, bitter and sweet, plankton and fruit. It was the whole chemical history of the world in one bite.

"This is taste," said Ferran. "Not the taste, it is taste. You can't explain this."

He went on. "In a restaurant like this, we can eat the head. Spanish people find it provocative. They have an affection for it," he said. "At El Bulli, no, people are not prepared to eat the head. Ninety-nine percent of the people won't eat the head. It's not permitted in high cuisine." He took another prawn in his hand, pulled off the head, and crushed it. This time the caramel-colored liquid pooled on the plate before him.

"But if I pour this over food in my kitchen, I've changed the context. I can do this and people will eat it. People will eat it and taste the Mediterranean. This is what I look for. This is what I search for. This potency. Double the potency. The depths of the sea &hellip" He sat back for a moment, considered. Then he reflexively leaned forward, swiped a finger through the puddle of prawn nectar, brought it to his mouth, and licked it.

8. Aphorisms from the Professor, Sequel

In the kitchen, scribbling in a notebook marked SISTEMA CREATIVO: "Anarchy is fine but only after logic."

Before we said goodbye one night: "There's more emotion, more feeling, in a piece of ruby-red grapefruit with a little sprinkle of salt on it than in a big piece of fish."

To me, spoken conspiratorially: "The perfect meal: Have a reservation so that you can look forward to being there. In a secluded place, where there's a certain magic in arriving. Four people, everyone on a level playing field gastronomically. There shouldn't be a leader. Equals. When the food starts coming, concentrate on the dish, then speak about the dish. You have to laugh a lot. For me, it would be better to go with my partner because I like to have a woman by my side."

At the end: "Until I can serve an empty white plate on a white tablecloth, there's a lot to be done."

9. On Mexico

During my August sojourn at El Bulli, Ferran invited me to return to Barcelona in the winter to watch him, his brother, and a third young chef, Oriol, at the workshop, where during their off months, they like to experiment wildly. It is located in a very old building in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona just off the Ramblas, which, when I arrived, was brightly lit with Christmas lights. I climbed a worn stone staircase that led through an enormous set of carved wooden doors, and then the workshop appeared like a modernist's dream: a cool, high-ceilinged space with pine floorboards and white walls and Omani rugs. Upstairs, a library houses hundreds of cookbooks, as well as everything&mdashshelf after shelf&mdashthat's been written by or about Ferran Adrià.

From a balcony on the second floor, it's possible to look down on the kitchen as if from a luxury box, witnessing the consternations and elations of Albert, Oriol, and Ferran. Albert is a fairer, younger version of his brother, and Oriol, at twenty-seven, is simply a madman, according to Ferran. On this morning, Oriol had just returned from the market while Albert was in hand-to-hand combat with a food processor known as the Pacojet.

It was this device that broke one day in the kitchen at El Bulli, prompting Ferran to see what would happen if they ran frozen chocolate in it, broken. From that came something called "chocolate dust," very fine dust devils of chocolate&mdasha kind of vanishing chocolate, something between solid and air&mdashthat Ferran seized upon as a wholly new substance.

The group was working on about thirty things at once, among them "basil cylinders" (flavored ice frozen in the shape of a perfect emerald cylinder, to be filled with a yet undetermined ice cream, perhaps Parmesan), something called "sponge ham" (a complete mystery to everyone), and a bowl of foie gras and apple foam, into which the diner would pour a broth, disintegrating everything to a soup for which they were also seeking a third and fourth ingredient.

"We're going to be much more interactive this year," said Ferran. He showed me a morsel of grilled chicken on a white plate and then seven spice holders (marked MEXICO, INDIA, JAPAN, MOROCCO, et cetera). "With this dish, you decide the end of the film," he said. "We give you the chicken, and you decide the spice." Oriol and Albert had spent much time trying to refine each of the spice mixtures, making sure that a full octave of taste was present in each, the best curry from India or wasabi from Japan, and that each complemented the rest.

Now it was time for Ferran to try. Oriol and Albert crowded around him as he approached the plate, staring solemnly at the nugget of chicken. He picked up the container marked MEXICO and shook a bit on his finger, then sampled it. He said nothing. Then he shook it over the chicken, the specks raining down in a red shower, and then he grabbed another shaker and shook it, too.

"Look out, uncle, that's salt!" said Albert, appearing stricken.

"Don't get dizzy here, I know," said Ferran, concentrating. He popped the chicken into his mouth and chewed. He stared into the middle distance. His eyebrows rose and fell as if registering a series of gustatory sensations. He considered it for a long time, then after a while longer, he shook his head emphatically &hellip . No. "It's not Mexico," he said.

Albert looked flabbergasted. "For me, it is!"

"It's not. You taste tomato, cilantro, but it's not Mexico."

"It's my Mexico," said his brother.

"It needs more, but I won't call that Mexico."

Both brothers glared at the plate, at the specks of red spice left on the white porcelain. Disappointment lingered for a moment, then suddenly it was converted to forward motion again. Ferran cocked his head, then Albert did, too, noticing his brother's shifting mood.

"That would taste good on clouds," Ferran said. "You'd taste the spices individually, eating it off a cloud. Try India on that. Let's try it!"

Albert pushed Oriol toward the refrigerator, Oriol produced a bowl of apple foam that he'd made for the foie soup and dolloped some into a bowl, Albert shook India onto the highest peaks of the lather, and Ferran spooned it up. Though there was nothing solid in that spoonful, his mouth moved as if he were chewing. His eyes began to light, but still he didn't speak. His eyebrows followed the taste and texture up and down, and when it was over, he looked up. "That's beautiful," he said reverently. "That's really beautiful."

Albert took a spoonful, and then Oriol. And each had the same reaction, the same facade of skepticism giving way to some new quizzical appreciation for the taste in his mouth, and then a grin. "Uncle, that's good," said Albert. Oriol just nodded his approval vigorously. Now Ferran handed me a spoon, and I tried, too. Each spice of India (the cocoa and lemongrass, the lime and curry) seemed to burn down individually, while the cool apple spread out beneath it, lifting it from the tongue. It felt like the Fourth of July.

Before I could say anything, though, we'd moved on. To a quail egg. And now we were crowded around a pot of boiling water. The quail egg, which was the size of a small Superball, had been Oriol's obsession throughout the morning. I'd watched him crack egg after egg, drain them between brown-speckled shells until he was left with only the miniature yolks, and then boil them for five, ten, twenty, thirty, sixty seconds, each time removing the golden globe of yolk with a metal catcher, cooling it for a moment, and then tasting it&mdashjust to see what he got each time. After some consultation, it was agreed that the ten-second yolk was the best, sublime even, somewhere between raw and cooked but tasting like neither, the liquid inside warm and already swarming down the back of the throat by the time it touched the tongue. In fact, Ferran was afraid to do more to it. >Oriol suggested covering the yolk in baked Parmesan, and he crumbled some over it. Ferran let a drop of olive oil fall on it, then spooned it up.

And this time there was no doubt his response was immediate. "It's a natural ravioli!" he said, nodding, Yes, yes, yes. "We can serve it just like that." He turned and walked away, turned back again. He could hardly contain himself. Again, everyone tried.

"That's it," he said, on the verge of levitation. "We can try other things with it, but that's it!" He turned to me. "This is when I'm happiest. Finding the egg."

And here's what it tasted like: It tasted like a first&mdashthe first time you dove into an ocean wave or made something good or touched her lips. The first time you jumped from fifty feet, that feeling in the air when you forgot the gorge was beneath you, air and sun rushing, and you kept falling, and you opened your eyes and you were in the bright, underwater lights of a kitchen in Barcelona before an elfin man with hair springing from his head, quail yolk in your belly, and you could think of only two words to say, but you said them at least two times before you stopped yourself.

"Thank you," you said, laughing. "Thank you."

10. On the Pleasures of the Table

On the last of our August days in Spain, Ferran said simply: Bring your wife and arrive by nine. Of course, I did as told. Being here had done our family good. We had swum.

We were tan. Back home, phones were ringing, bills were piling, office workers were shooting each other dead, but the higher we climbed the mountain, the easier we could breathe again. It was the simplest thing.

Ferran had reserved us a table on the patio, beneath a stone arch and a nearly full moon. Even before the meal began, we experienced the odd sensation of being alone for the first time in many months, without Baby. The calm was almost exotic.

I had no doubt that somewhere back in the kitchen, Ferran knew everything that transpired at our table. While I at least had some vague sense of what might be coming,

Sara was a neophyte. We barely got past "a childhood memory" (the dried quinoa) before she was smiling. By the time we spooned up our "cloud of smoke," we were both simply untethered from any concerns but those of the table. Taste became our cynosure, night a thing to be eaten with stars and moon. Ferran Adrià revealed himself in every bite now.

"It's as if he's climbed inside my mouth," Sara said, laughing, taking a second nibble of trout-egg tempura, caviar grazing her lip and disappearing on her tongue.

"Is that good or bad?" I asked.

"It's good and better," she said. "But it's &hellip disorienting. To have someone in your mouth, which is fine by me because really, it's"&mdashher face brightened&mdash"so

Next, in a rush, came corn ravioli with vanilla, wasabi lobster, sea urchin with flowers of Jamaica&mdasheach one of these dishes weaving the unexpected with the vague outline of something we recognized. At some point, I'll be honest, I ceased to actually taste the food so much as feel it through Sara, who for the first time in months was no longer someone I passed at 3:00 a.m., but my wife, sitting across a table in a pink sundress, lit by a candle, hair falling to her shoulders, lifting a little against gravity. She closed her eyes, letting Ferran's chocolate dust settle and liquefy in her mouth.

And what did happiness taste like? Let me tell you. It tasted like seaweed and air. It tasted like watching your wife shorn of worry or care. It tasted like watching her face pass through every expression of surprise and mirth on the high road to euphoria, eating delicacies that she'd never eaten before, that exist nowhere else on earth.

Afterward, having finished champagne, having discussed nothing but food, having sat there until the restaurant was nearly empty and the moon had reached its apex and begun its descent again, we went to find Ferran, but he was nowhere to be found.

Somewhere down in the real world our baby boy was sleeping, and we were told Ferran had gone to bed, too, up in his furnitureless room. It was possible. Or maybe he was respectfully absent, so as not to be embarrassed by what would have been our inevitable gushing. Either way, his nonpresence here was strange. His kitchen was silent and empty, the counters gleaming. The Pacojet sat unplugged in the corner the silver foam canisters stood neatly in a row.

I imagined him in his room then, his head on a pillow or bent quietly over a book, his ever-moving mouth silent, his ever-darting eyes giving in to night, the sorcerer at rest.

Of course he'd had no intention of checking with us after our meal. After all, what was he going to do with our happiness? It was ours. And so we kept it to ourselves as we traveled back down the mountain, passing the Johannesburg trees that made their own music in the wind, passing through the night into town, to our sleeping baby boy and each other, our world having ended and begun again.

10 Exotic Foods You Should Eat While You're On Vacation

If you're squeamish about the idea of trying new foods, consider this: Not only do new tastes stimulate your palate, they can create new connections in your brain. Sampling exotic foods may actually improve your mind. It will most definitely broaden your culinary horizons and expand the way you think about food, and maybe even give you some ideas for making dinner at home. If you shy away from trying anything you worry you might not like, you eliminate the chance that you'll discover something new that you absolutely love.

Should you avoid any exotic foods? Yes. Anything endangered is not worth the threat to the species and the environment. For example, shark fin soup is considered by many to be a delicacy -- but between 73 and 100 million sharks are destroyed each year just for their fins [source: Heimbuch]. And more than a third of shark species are endangered. The United Nations is currently working to ban shark finning around the world.

But don't worry, there are still plenty of unusual dishes you can sample without worrying about sustainability issues. Prepare for experimentation by sampling new flavors at home before you travel. Pick up a new ingredient (a new spice, herb or grain) at your grocery store, or a new kind of fruit or veggie at your farmers' market. Do a little research about how to prepare these new items, and then cook and sample them to see what you think. Visit a new restaurant -- perhaps one that serves an ethnic cuisine you've never tried before. And when it's time to travel, keep an open mind and enjoy. Here are a few ideas, listed in no particular order, for what (and where) to try.

10: Southeast Asian Fresh Fruit

Southeast Asia is a treasure trove of native exotic fruits, and sampling them while you're there -- when they've been plucked fresh from a tree or bush, and not canned and flown thousands of miles -- will impart the most delicious taste experience.

Just a few of the many to taste include lychees, which are quite fragrant and have juicy, creamy, translucent white flesh and bright red, leathery rinds the rambutan, an oval-shaped fruit with mildly sweet and tangy white flesh surrounded by a spiny red rind and the mangosteen, which has a thick purple rind surrounding segments of luscious, slightly acidic flesh.

9: Fresh Oysters at the Waterside

Eating an oyster at a restaurant is nice (if it's a good oyster, that is), but the flavor is explosive when it comes straight from the salty water and you eat it moments after it's been plucked and shucked, while you can actually smell the salty breeze blowing off the water. Before you douse them with condiments (such as cocktail sauce, horseradish or even lemon juice), try at least one straight up, straight from the shell, so you can clearly taste the sweet creaminess and sharp saltiness of the waters from which it came. Try fresh-from-the-water oysters when you're vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, coastal New England, northern California or Canada's Prince Edward Island.

8: Exquisite Parisian Restaurants

No matter what your personal preferences dictate, there's no arguing that French cuisine is incredibly influential -- and that when it comes to super-fine dining, it's tough to rival the very best restaurants in Paris. Certain eateries -- including Guy Savoy, L'Arpege and Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee -- are perennially elegant, ethereal and unforgettable. Book a table if you can, and don't even think about ordering a la carte (if that's even an option). Sit back, relax, and let the courses and the wine come. You'll taste things you couldn't have imagined. You'll be there for hours on end. You won't mind.

Fugu is what the Japanese call some species of blowfish, also known as puffer fish. Its worldwide status as a delicacy derives mainly from the fact that eating it is risky. If prepared incorrectly, fugu can be lethal because parts of it contain tetrodotoxin, a poison that causes severe paralysis and respiratory distress, and can kill victims within hours. But it has a sought-after delicate flavor, it's a reported aphrodisiac and trying it gives you serious credibility as a culinary adventurer.

In Japan, chefs train for years to learn to prepare fugu properly -- and need a special license to do so. Which means eating it in a reputable restaurant is a (relatively) safe prospect. If you want to try it, make sure you're eating in a restaurant with a certified chef who has been extensively trained in the removal of the toxin-containing internal organs.

6: Truffles in France or Italy

Truffles are a prized gourmet ingredient. These fruiting bodies of fungi reside underground at the base of trees, and they emit an odor that attracts animals, which is why pigs and dogs are best at finding these hidden treasures. Though chefs around the world wait patiently for their shipments during truffle season (generally late fall until mid-winter), truffles do lose intensity of flavor when they travel.

If you prefer earthy black truffles, head to Perigord, France, and trust a local chef to cook them well (cooking enhances the flavor of black truffles). For white truffles, which are more pungent and almost garlicky in flavor, go to Alba, in Italy's Piedmont region, and have raw white truffle shaved over a bowl of pasta or risotto.

Cultivation of the cacao tree first took place in Mexico, and it's there that the tradition of roasting and grinding cacao and turning it into a drink began. In fact, the drink is centuries old. Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, had the opportunity to sample xocoatl -- the Aztec word for the bitter drink -- when he visited Montezuma II's court in 1519 [source: Encyclopedia Britannica]. The Spanish kept chocolate all to themselves for nearly 100 years before the secret got out and Europe fell in love with hot chocolate. In doing so, though, the Europeans changed it, adding sugar and vanilla, among other flavors. It's a lot closer to what Americans know as hot chocolate. But the beverage would hardly have been recognizable to the Aztec.

Authentic Mexican hot chocolate is complex and redolent with cinnamon and other spices. It's often sweetened, but it's a far, far cry from sugary prepared hot cocoa mixes. If hot chocolate is on offer at a traditional Mexican eatery -- or in a local's home -- accept it with pleasure and be prepared for a unique and soul-warming experience.

4: Eco-friendly Caviar in California

Caviar is one of the first things that comes to mind when people ponder "exotic" foods. But Russian sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, the source of the world's most revered caviar, has been overfished and the sea has been polluted. Imported wild-caught caviar is also heavy with unhealthy mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Does that mean you should skip caviar, and give up all its associations with the good life? Nope. When you want to celebrate and occasion or a vacation with caviar, opt for caviar from farmed sturgeon in the United States. There are several outstanding producers in California, such as San Francisco-based Tsar Nicoulai, so consider sampling caviar on your next visit to the City by the Bay.

3: Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants

Molecular gastronomy brings food and science together, transforming ingredients into unforgettable taste sensations (think liquid ravioli, vegetable foams, foods in bubble and balloon form). El Bulli, near Barcelona, Spain, topped the S. Pellegrino list of 50 best restaurants enough times to earn Ferran Adria the title chef of the decade in Restaurant Magazine.

Unfortunately for would-be visitors, Adria closed the restaurant and converted it into the El Bulli Foundation -- doing food research, not food service. But many of El Bulli's greatest hits appear on the menu at La Alqueria restaurant at El Bulli Hotel Hacienda Benazuza, near Seville. And Adria, who's lecturing about molecular gastronomy at Harvard University and working with his foundation, isn't going to stop cooking anytime soon.

Molecular gastronomy fans can try The Fat Duck in Bray, United Kingdom, and Pierre Gagnaire's eponymous restaurant in Paris -- Gagnaire and The Fat Duck's Heston Blumenthal are considered among the top chefs at the intersection of food and science [source: This].

El Bulli Comes to the United States, and Not a Minute Too Soon - Recipes

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”

Today: A nuclear deal with Iran is essential to President Biden’s foreign policy. So why did one of America’s closest allies just try to blow it up? My colleague, White House reporter David Sanger, on the difficult diplomatic triangle of the U.S., Iran and Israel.

David, describe what happened in Iran last Sunday?

Well, Michael, it’s still a little bit mysterious to us, but here’s what we do know. There’s a giant nuclear fuel enrichment site called “Natanz” in Iran, and that plant is basically like a military base. It’s surrounded by barbed wire. There’s anti-aircraft all over the place, right? There’s a number of different buildings, but the central one looks almost like a warehouse. And deep underground, 25 feet underground, is something called the “centrifuge hall.”

This is where these giant, silvery machines stand in neat rows, spinning away at supersonic speeds, turning uranium gas into an enriched product. If you enrich it to just, like, 3 percent enrichment, you can use it for producing nuclear power. But if you keep going, you can use it to build a nuclear bomb. And that’s why this has always been a place that the U.S., Israel, the Europeans, everyone is focused on. There are probably more satellites looking at this building at any given time than any other spot on Earth. And a week ago Sunday, in the early morning hours, when there was no one around —

An explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility destroyed an internal power system. It could take up to —

Some kind of giant explosion ripped through the system and appeared to take out the power grid that keeps massive amounts of electricity flowing to these machines.

It happened just hours after Iran launched a new set of brand-new advanced centrifuges for faster uranium enrichment.

We don’t know if that explosion was caused by someone placing explosives down there. That’s the most likely theory. The second theory is that there was some kind of a cyber attack that might have actually gotten to this power supply. In any case, the explosion was huge, and it did take out the power supply. And when the power supply stops at a centrifuge facility, these spinning rotors inside these centrifuges come to a crashing halt, taking out the centrifuges themselves.

Now, one of the lawmakers has said that several thousand centrifuges have been destroyed. Now, Iran is saying —

And by the Iranian account, 60 percent or 70 percent of the centrifuges down there were destroyed in seconds.

So whatever happened in this closely watched, very important haul of centrifuges, it inflicted a tremendous amount of damage to this facility.

That’s right. And the Iranians came out and announced it right away, and they had two things. They said —

And what we are hearing from different sources, it confirms that Israel was behind this incident.

— and this was the Israelis.

The Israeli press is full of reports describing Israeli responsibility for it, so I don’t think there’s any doubt that it was the Israelis. But the fascinating part of this, Michael, is that the Israelis decided to do this alone and just give sort of cursory warning to the Biden administration. They called basically moments before this was going to happen to say something big was going to happen to the Iranian program, but they didn’t give Biden enough time to get in the way of it.

Well, tell us the story of how Israel gets to that point where coordination is no longer possible, it no longer happens and the U.S. and Israel are no longer on the same page when it comes to Iran.

Well, Michael, with President Obama, a huge philosophical gulf opened up between the Israelis and the Americans over how to best achieve their long-term goal — their shared goal — of keeping the Iranians from ever being able to have the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Obama’s view was the only lasting way to go do this is to strike a diplomatic agreement, one in which Iran was lured back into the West, knew it could sell its oil, had economic prosperity going, and that there was a future. And his bet was that over time the Iranian leadership would pass away, and there was a shot at getting a new, more liberal regime.

The Israeli view was the complete opposite, that you could never trust any kind of diplomatic agreement that you reached with the Iranians, and that the only way to solve a problem like this is to periodically go back and do what the Israelis call “mow the lawn.”

It means you go in, and you bomb or destroy a set of nuclear facilities, and when they grow back up, you pull out your lawn mower and you go bomb it again.

You keep doing this until they get the idea that whatever they build, you will destroy.

That’s a major philosophical difference. So how does that start to play out?

The White House released this photo tonight, showing President Obama on the phone with Iranian President Rouhani. It’s the first time leaders of the two nations have had direct contact since the Carter administration.

So, Obama uses continued harmful sanctions on Iran to get the Iranians to sit down and negotiate a new nuclear deal.

The key players are now in Geneva, talking over Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama sends a team out to negotiate with the Iranians. They meet in Vienna. They meet in Geneva. They meet all over Europe. And by early 2015 —

The Iranian foreign minister claimed the Iranians are close to reaching a nuclear deal with the United States.

— it’s becoming pretty clear they’re getting near a deal.

We are very close. Very close.

Netanyahu is again speaking out against any potential nuclear deal —

And the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is beside himself —

Netanyahu says Rouhani is, quote, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

— and decides that the only way that he can assure Israel’s own security is to stop this deal from happening. So he was furiously lobbying behind the scenes, enraging Obama.

And then he actually came to Washington —

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Thank you, America. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Israel.

— and at the invitation of the Republican leadership, addressed a joint session of Congress —

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

The deal now being negotiated, that deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons. Lots of them.

— to denounce the president of the United States’ leading piece of diplomacy around the world.

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Netanyahu had a few arguments. The first was —

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Iran has proven, time and again, that it cannot be trusted.

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Iran was also caught, caught twice — not once, twice — operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn’t even know existed. Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about.

— that the Iranians hid a bomb project in the early 2000s that the United States and others uncovered, and that that project has never really gone away. Secondly, he was saying —

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Iran’s goons in Gaza, its lackeys in Lebanon, its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights are clutching Israel with three tentacles of terror.

— you don’t live in the neighborhood. We do. Iran doesn’t have missiles that can reach New York and Chicago, but they sure have missiles that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And his third argument was —

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.

— at the end of the day, you’ll never know if your agreement will be too short-lived to give you a permanent guarantee that the Iranians could not build a weapon.

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could produce many, many nuclear bombs.

And, you know, he had a point here, because the main parts of the agreement, as they were emerging in this negotiations, allowed the Iranians to do more and more work by 2025. And by 2030, there would be no limits at all on the amount of nuclear fuel that Iran could produce.

archived recording (benjamin netanyahu)

This is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it. [APPLAUSE]

It was completely strange to have a foreign leader come and basically denounce a U.S. diplomatic effort in front of the Congress, with applauding Republicans, and some applauding Democrats, and one man missing. Vice President Joe Biden did not show up in Congress that day, because he would not be seen sitting behind the prime minister of Israel, politely clapping as the Israeli prime minister tried to dismantle the administration’s main diplomatic achievement.

But of course, the deal did ultimately get agreed to, and for the last year of Obama’s presidency, it was going into effect with constant criticism from the Israelis. But then Donald Trump gets elected, and suddenly, things look very different.

Right, because of course he rescinds the nuclear deal, which, I’m sure, makes Israel quite happy.

Yes. By the spring of 2018, he pulls out of the deal. He reimposes sanctions. The Iranians start producing nuclear material again, a year later, because they’re going to put pressure on Trump, just as he’s putting pressure on them. And then, of course, Trump loses. And, suddenly, back in office is a man who had supported the deal, Joe Biden.

He had offered to the Iranians back in February to start up talks and get back into the deal, both sides going into compliance. There was sort of silence from Tehran for about six weeks. But then, about a week and a half ago, they began to meet in Europe, back in Vienna. And so they were beginning to make some diplomatic progress. And then the explosion hits.

So what Israel did at this nuclear facility, it may not just be “mowing the lawn,” as you described it. This may also be a clear effort by Israel to try to derail the U.S.-Iran efforts to bring back these nuclear talks, to blow up these delicate negotiations.

That was the first thought of everybody in Washington. Here, Netanyahu has approved an operation that threatens the first big act of international diplomacy that Biden is attempting. And the big question that was hanging over this was, would the Israeli strategy succeed? Would the Iranians simply walk away from these talks that have been so carefully and laboriously put together by Biden’s team?

David, how should we think about Iran’s reaction to this Israeli attack and how it will affect their willingness to re-engage nuclear talks with the United States?

Well, the main thing to remember, Michael, is that there is no single Iranian view of these talks, just as there’s no single American view. The talks were opposed in Iran from the beginning as well, by hard-liners, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — the core of the military — because they were afraid that the agreement put too many constraints on their nuclear program, and that Iran, like any other country, should have the right to enrich uranium.

So, to the hard-liners in Iran, this was just another humiliation. Remember, they’re not looking at this explosion in isolation. They’re remembering that in January of 2020, Donald Trump killed their most revered leader, General Soleimani, in a drone strike. And then there’s a faction in Iran that basically wants to say, hey, we reached an agreement with the United States in 2015, and then you elected Donald Trump and he blew it up.

And now we’re going to reach another agreement with Joe Biden, and anybody wanna tell me what happens in four years, especially if a Trump-like figure emerges as the next president, and they dismantle the whole thing again? The Americans are unreliable negotiating partners, because they can’t guarantee that any agreement that they reach with one American president will carry through four years later to the next. So that’s one side in Iran.

The other side is the group of people around President Rouhani, the foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the original 2015 deal, who believe that, unless you get the deal back in place, you’re never going to get the American-led sanctions lifted. And thus never get oil revenue flowing, and never get prosperity back to the Iranian people, or at least the Iranian elites.

So, just to summarize, David, Iran, in the aftermath of this latest attack from Israel, sees the world in the following way. It has a potentially not very reliable partner in these negotiations in the United States, because we pick new presidents every four years, who may or may not like this deal. Iran has its own domestic political and economic divide about whether or not it’s a good idea to participate in these talks. And looming over all of this is the fact that Israel is just going to keep finding ways to attack Iran and its nuclear program, regardless of what’s going on with the U.S.

So, David, what does Iran ultimately decide to do?

U.S. officials tell The New York Times they don’t know if Iran will show up tomorrow in Vienna.

So, talks were supposed to begin last week in Vienna.

The big question tonight is, will Iran make a distinction between the United States and Israel?

And the Americans flew out, and the Europeans all appeared.

And, in fact, so did the Iranians.

Today, Iran and the United States resumed indirect talks in Vienna to revive that agreement, days after —

It wasn’t like they ignored what happened on Sunday.

I assure you that Natanz will definitely, in the near future, progress with more advanced centrifuges.

They’re making brave statements that when they go build back, they will do build back better, with new, improved centrifuges that run much more efficiently.

Iran warned it will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, the highest level yet, but still short of weapons-grade.

They announced that they were going to begin to purify uranium at a much higher level, 60 percent of enrichment, which essentially means one step short of what you need for a bomb. So they’re trying to create their own form of pressure on the United States, but they just moved forward.

All eyes are on Vienna, with many sides hoping that despite the incident at Natanz, there can still be a breakthrough.

So, if these talks between the U.S. and Iran continue, as it looks like they probably will, did Israel accomplish what it set out to do here?

So, Michael, I think that the Israelis would regard this as a partial success. They don’t seem to have managed to have derailed the talks, but they proved that they can get inside Iran’s most secret nuclear facilities and do great damage. If the Israelis think that they can conduct these bold operations deep inside Iranian territory, that may be all they want.

But it feels like this “partial success” comes with a pretty significant cost. And the cost is real damage to the relationship between Israel and the United States, and that’s a pretty sacred relationship to both countries.

It is, and what they’re counting on — what the Israelis are counting on — is that the relationship is so deep, that the ties between the U.S. and Israel are so strong, that it can tolerate some independent action here. That the Israelis can simply say, including to their constituency in the United States, we’re here to defend our interests. That’s the essence of what the Israeli state is all about. It’s about creating a Jewish state in the Middle East that will survive, and that, at the end of the day, the United States will forgive any action that Israel regards as fundamental to its survival.

Well, that’s interesting, David, but that’s a pretty significant wager on the part of Israel, and I have to imagine that this could get complicated quickly. Because at the end of the day, how sustainable is it for the United States and Israel to be seeking the same goal, which is to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but doing it in ways that directly undermine the other? How long can that possibly last?

You know, it’s a fascinating question, Michael, because I don’t think it’s sustainable.

You could argue that, this week, both strategies are working. The Israelis set back the program and the negotiations went on, and I have no doubt that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is going to survive. It’s been through a lot before, and it’ll be through a lot in the future. But eventually, they’re going to have to settle on a common strategy. And that means eventually, one side is going to have to back away in favor of the other.

Here’s what else you need to know today. The suspected gunman accused of killing eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis on Thursday night had legally purchased two semiautomatic rifles used in the attack, just a few months after the police had seized a shotgun from him. The police had seized the rifle last year after his mother raised concerns about his mental state. But for reasons that are still unclear, the 19-year-old man was not subject to Indiana’s red flag law, which bars people from possessing firearms if they are found to be a dangerous risk.

And the health of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader who survived an attempted poisoning last year, appears to be rapidly deteriorating, prompting his daughter to publicly demand that he be allowed to see his doctor. Navalny has been on a hunger strike for weeks, contributing to his poor health. But the government of Vladimir Putin, the subject of Navalny’s criticism, has refused to let his doctor visit him in prison, raising fears that Navalny could soon die.

Today’s episode was produced by Austin Mitchell, Rachelle Bonja and Robert Jimison. It was edited by Dave Shaw and Lisa Chow, and engineered by Chris Wood.

El Niño is here, and it’ll be ‘one storm after another like a conveyor belt’

A satellite image shows the sea surface temperature in October, with the orange-red colors indicating above-normal temperatures that are indicative of El Niño.

The strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean is becoming even more powerful, setting the stage for an unusually wet winter in California that could bring heavy rains by January, climate experts said.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said El Niño is already strong and mature, and is forecast to continue gaining strength. This El Niño is expected to be among the three strongest on record since 1950.

“It’s official. El Niño’s here. It’s a done deal,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “So at this point, we’re just waiting for the impacts in California.”

Generally, El Niño doesn’t peak in California until January, February and March, Patzert said. That’s when Californians should expect “mudslides, heavy rainfall, one storm after another like a conveyor belt.”

“January and February are just around the corner. If you think you should make preparations, get off the couch and do it now. These storms are imminent,” he said. “El Niño is here. And it is huge.”

Potential rain from El Nino.

On Nov. 4, sea surface temperatures in a benchmark area of the Pacific Ocean west of Peru hit 5 degrees above average, outpacing the abnormally warm temperatures seen at this time of year in 1997, which developed into the strongest El Niño on record.

El Niño has already caused major effects across the world, fueling an active and unusually powerful hurricane season in the eastern Pacific Ocean, including Hurricane Patricia, which hit Mexico last month.

Chile, home to one of the world’s driest deserts, is now blooming with flowers from unusually high rainfall. But in other regions, El Niño means drought, which is already being reported in Indonesia and the Philippines. Earlier this week, the United Nations Children’s Fund warned that “11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water due to El Niño in eastern and southern Africa alone.”

Marilyn Lane tries to shut a door as a wave rushes into her Solimar Beach home during a January 1998 storm.

(Alan Hagman / Los Angeles Times)

Snow forms a backdrop to the Hollywood sign after an El Niño storm in 1998.

(Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)

Waves crash into homes along Broad Beach in Malibu .

(Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)

The Ventura County Fairgrounds is flooded after an El Niño storm.

(Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Wood lines San Buenaventura State Beach as a crew cleans up the debris left behind by the storms that accompaned El Niño earlier in this year.

(Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

A surfer throws up his arms after catching a double-overhead wave at Cloudbreak, south of the Seal Beach Pier.

(Al Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Ventura River overflowed after heavy rains in 1998, closing the 101 Freeway for several hours.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

An apartment building in Ventura collapsed after heavy rains in 1998.

(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

Andy Harvey, a Ventura County sheriff’s search and rescue team member, swims to a partially submerged vehicle that washed down the Ventura River during in 1998. The vehicle turned out to be unoccupied.




Trump Administration Says That Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave

Omar Salinas has Temporary Protected Status, which is granted to U.S. immigrants from countries crippled by disaster or war. The Trump administration has announced that it will end the program.

By definition, T.P.S. is temporary, meant to be temporary. It’s not meant to be forever. We are fighting all together for these T.P.S. to be approved again so we can stay in this country. [music] Good morning. We have a full-time staff of about 12 people. And over 50 percent would be T.P.S. We’re just together more than we are with our families at home. And we spend a lot of time together. We work hard together. And we generate money for our lives, to live, and to eat, and to buy homes, and to have cars. And so we’re all really close. I don’t really have trust in the government anymore. I really wonder who they’re really looking after and the long-term effect. Without T.P.S., quite frankly, I really don’t know how I would run my business. Hey, Jose. Everything O.K.? I don’t remember where they are going. So I’m going to have to look at the email. O.K., bye. Thanks. Jose and I started to work together about 21, 22 years ago. And we’ve been working together since. There are times when businesses can be difficult and you worry about the next day. But I’m not worried about being kicked out of my country, or where I live, and where I’ve lived for 25 years, or even longer. I just can’t even possibly — I can’t imagine. I just can’t. Hey. Hi. How are you? Good. How are you? You’ve been here a while? Thank you. Yeah. You see this one tree here? We’re going to take that out. What, this one? Yeah. And one of those are going to go in there. My name is Morel Salinas. Or in Spanish — [speaking Spanish] My family, they came to the United States because El Salvador is like really dangerous right now. There’s a lot of bad people. And they came here because they wanted to live a better life. And they wanted to have a wonderful life with their children. It’s really beautiful here. I feel very safe. I am afraid because my family might not stick together. My biggest present for Christmas is to keep my family together. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re hoping for the best, because our kids are going to be — I don’t know how can we explain it to them. Because ending that program, they’re probably going to be looking to deport us back to our country. If that ever happens, we’re going to be probably trying to hide from immigration and stay here. We are celebrating Christmas like we always do. It’s been 23 years already. Oh my God, Mommy, Barbie. Oh my God, a clock. I always wanted a clock. I got Barbies. Look at this. I love this. Oh, wow, there’s bad guys. There’s so much. Yes. I’m going to open the one that’s going to be for all of us. Huh, oh my gosh. Thank you, Mommy.

LOS ANGELES — Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, government officials announced Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

Homeland security officials said that they were ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.

Salvadorans were by far the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, which shielded them from deportation if they had arrived in the United States illegally. The decision came just weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and it suggested that others in the program, namely Hondurans, may soon lose them as well. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year.

Immigrant advocates and the El Salvadoran government had pleaded for the United States to extend the program, as it has several times since 2001. A sense of dread gripped Salvadorans and their employers in California, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere.

“We had hope that if we worked hard, paid our taxes and didn’t get in trouble we would be allowed to stay,” said Veronica Lagunas, 39, a Salvadoran who works overnight cleaning offices in Los Angeles, has two children born in the United States and owns a mobile home.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: U.S. Ends Protections for Salvadorans

But the Trump administration has been committed to reining in both legal and illegal immigration, most notably by ending protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, beginning in March unless Congress grants them legal status before then.

And despite its name, the administration says, the Temporary Protected Status program, known as T.P.S., had turned into a quasi-permanent benefit for hundreds of thousands of people.

The Department of Homeland Security said that because damaged roads, schools, hospitals, homes and water systems had been reconstructed since the earthquakes, the Salvadorans no longer belonged in the program.

“Based on careful consideration of available information,” the department said in a statement, “the secretary determined that the original conditions caused by the 2001 earthquakes no longer exist. Thus, under the applicable statute, the current T.P.S. designation must be terminated.”

The ending of protection for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans leaves fewer than 100,000 people in the program, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 1990.


It provides temporary lawful status and work authorization to people already in the United States, whether they entered legally or not, from countries affected by armed conflict, natural disaster or other strife. The homeland security secretary decides when a country merits the designation and can renew it for six, 12 or 18 months.

There is no limit to the number of extensions a country can receive. Countries that have received and then lost the designation in the past include Bosnia and Herzegovina, which endured a civil war in the 1990s, and Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola crisis. El Salvador was one of the first countries in the program because of its civil war that designation expired in 1994.

The administration is giving Salvadorans in the program until September 2019 to get their affairs in order. After that, they no longer will have permission to stay in the country, forcing them into a wrenching decision.

Ms. Lagunas said that she would remain in the United States illegally, risking arrest and deportation. But she would lose her job of 12 years without the work permit that comes with the protection. Her family would lose medical insurance and other benefits.

“There is nothing to go back to in El Salvador,” she said, speaking in Spanish. “The infrastructure may be better now, but the country is in no condition to receive us.”

Types of Arrhythmias

  • Atrial Fibrillation = upper heart chambers contract irregularly
  • Bradycardia = slow heart rate
  • Conduction Disorders = heart does not beat normally
  • Premature contraction = early heart beat
  • Tachycardia = very fast heart rate
  • Ventricular Fibrillation = disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart

The normal heart is a strong, muscular pump a little larger than a fist. It pumps blood continuously through the circulatory system.

Each day the average heart beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through the body. In a 70-year lifetime, an average human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times.

Ringo Starr Can&rsquot Bring Himself to Practice Alone

He is, however, reveling in Zoom interviews, praising Taylor Swift&rsquos approach, and falling back in love with the EP.

In lockdown, Ringo Starr has a new appreciation for doing interviews. &ldquoI get up in the morning,&rdquo he says over Zoom from Roccabella West, his home studio in Los Angeles, &ldquoand I beg my publicist to give me people like you to talk to!&rdquo The inconceivable fame that comes with being a former Beatle has sometimes made him seem reticent in conversation (&ldquoIn some people&rsquos minds, we&rsquore still those people from Hard Day&rsquos Night,&rdquo he once said to me, &ldquolike the boys that never grew up"). But in our current circumstances, he says that &ldquoit keeps me going.&rdquo

Though he celebrated his 80th birthday last year, Sir Richard Starkey has had no trouble with keeping himself going. He had to cancel two tours last year with his All-Starr Band, but he hasn&rsquot wasted his pandemic time, recording a five-song EP, appropriately titled Zoom In, which comes out this Friday. The tracks range from the roots reggae of &ldquoWaiting for the Tide to Turn&rdquo to the solidly rocking &ldquoTeach Me to Tango,&rdquo produced by studio whiz Sam Hollander, who&rsquos worked with folks like Panic! at the Disco and Katy Perry.

The project was mostly assembled in the room he&rsquos currently sitting in, and an adjacent guesthouse where his drums are set up. A few musicians came by to record their parts, but mostly it was done by sending tracks around digitally&mdashincluded the sing-a-long choir (which features everyone from Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl to Chris Stapleton and Jenny Lewis) on the first single, &ldquoHere&rsquos to the Nights.&rdquo

But while he remains addicted to the road, Starr has resolved himself to limiting his contact (beyond Barbara Bach, his wife of forty years) to the minimum. &ldquoI have several friends, and we hang out,&rdquo he says. &ldquoI know they&rsquore as serious as I am. I&rsquove been to three other homes in a year and they&rsquove been to mine. It&rsquos the same crowd, we just go and sit somewhere else.&rdquo

Even with the enforced solitude, he still can&rsquot bring himself to practice the drums without a band present. &ldquoI don&rsquot practice,&rdquo he says. &ldquoI could never do it, it&rsquos just something that&rsquos not in me. I practiced with bands in Liverpool.&rdquo

Starr looks astonishingly fit for an octogenarian, in a black zippered pull-over, his hair a little longer than the usual close crop and a bit tousled on the top. Behind him on the screen, a couple of painted Ringo cut-outs are visible (one with a Santa hat), and an acoustic guitar hangs on the wall, with a Rubber Soul-era photo of him embossed on the front.

In addition to Zoom In, Starr recently put out Ringo Rocks, a fat photo book chronicling thirty years of touring with the All-Starrs it&rsquos worth noting that soon, he will be affiliated with this group four times longer than his stint with the Beatles. This summer will see the hugely anticipated release of Get Back, for which Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) has recut the footage shot for 1970&rsquos Let It Be movie.

Starr expresses excitement about the side of the Beatles that the new film will show, since Let It Be was such a downer, a sour eulogy for the greatest band of all time. &ldquoNow we&rsquove got some of the other part,&rdquo he says. &ldquoIt wasn&rsquot all&rdquo&mdashand here he groans. &ldquoIt was up.&rdquo

How are you holding up?

Many days, well. But odd days, I&rsquove just had enough&mdash&ldquoI want to do this, I want do that.&rdquo Last year was pretty hard, because I had two tours booked. So I was like &ldquoOh, man, I want to be on the road, I want to play, I want to be out there &lsquoPeace-and-Love&rsquo-ing.&rdquo And that&rsquos not going to happen, but that&rsquos how I reacted. And then I just got over it.

And what did we know? Last March, I told everybody that we&rsquore cancelling the tour in May and June, but we&rsquore going to do it exactly like that next year. In June last year, we thought it would all be over. But you&rsquove just got to get into that space of, this is it.

You spent lots of time as a kid in the hospital. Has this time made you think about that isolation?

Yeah, I had TB, which in those days meant you spent eleven months in hospital. And we sort of conned our way out so that I could have my fifteenth birthday out of hospital, because I had my fourteenth birthday there. So no, I&rsquom not like, &ldquoOh, I&rsquoll be back in hospital.&rdquo But I can&rsquot even visit hospitals, I hate them. I remember one time Barbara was having a procedure and she was in there getting better afterwards and I&rsquom trying to wake her up&mdash&ldquoCome on, let&rsquos go, let&rsquos go!&rdquo

But there is a fear factor. I don&rsquot dwell on it or live with that fear, but I suppose I&rsquom like everyone else‑we all think if we&rsquore going to get [the virus], we&rsquore going to get the death one. I know people, and family members, who had it, and it&rsquos a very small portion where it&rsquos the end, but in my head, that&rsquos where it goes.

Does doing an EP take you back to the early days?

I just loved collecting EPs, that&rsquos what it took me back to. I have a huge collection in storage somewhere. But I just didn&rsquot want to do a whole album. I feel I&rsquove finished making whole albums. And how crazy because this is what I&rsquom like&mdash&ldquoI&rsquom doing just these four tracks, that will get me off, that will be enough.&rdquo And I was in here last week and had this idea for a track and I thought, &ldquoMaybe I&rsquoll make another EP and have it out by October.&rdquo Maybe now I&rsquoll be the EP man.

But you don&rsquot need an album. Everybody&rsquos streaming. The Beatles are on every streaming site known to man. And we do pretty good!

You keep up with the kids.

Well, we keep up with some of the kids. I was shocked when I was told we did a billion streams. I&rsquom like, &ldquoWhat? A billion streams?&rdquo And then you look at what Drake&rsquos doing! Fifty billion!

Do you check out the new stars, the Billie Eilishes of the world?

I love Billie Eilish! We have her brother [Finneas] on "Here&rsquos to the Nights.&rdquo But I&rsquom not following them now like when it was, &ldquoOh, Ray Charles, I&rsquoll go anywhere to buy a record.&rdquo It&rsquos not like I buy their records, I may buy a track on iTunes&mdashI go to iTunes, it&rsquos the only way I know!

There&rsquos a lot of good bands out there, but nobody&rsquos doing anything. A lot of people are on that stepping stone to a bigger career, it&rsquos got to be a downer for them. It&rsquos really tough. Taylor Swift is the only one who&rsquos doing well. She likes to play by herself. I love her. I love Miley&mdashshe went through many stages of life in front of us, and that&rsquos what it&rsquos like. So there are a few, and a few incredible bands out there, but we&rsquore all on hold.

&ldquoHere Comes the Sun&rdquo is now the most streamed Beatle song by a distance. Why do you think that&rsquos become the most popular one?

I didn&rsquot know it was number one number one, but it well deserves it. It&rsquos a beautiful song, it&rsquos a beautiful arrangement, the drums are great (laughs). I don&rsquot know, you can never tell, can you? It just became the song. And it&rsquos not a bad song to become the song, either.

What was great was in the intro to that song, before we did it, George said, &ldquoHey, Ringo, I&rsquove got this song, it&rsquos in 7/4 time.&rdquo I said, &ldquoWhat are you telling me for? I&rsquom 4/4 or 3/4, you know that.&rdquo He had gotten a bit Indian on me. We played it and I had to work out that [sings the drum pattern]&mdashthat was seven beats. So I worked it out.

You think of that song as so simple, just a strummy guitar, but especially with the new remasters of the Beatle albums, you can hear all the layers of stuff that&rsquos going on.

I love those remasters, because one, now you can hear the drums and two, you can hear everything else. I always smile because the first thing that was remastered was Yellow Sub. And Paul and I went to EMI in London, and we&rsquore sitting there, and we&rsquore going, &ldquoWho played that? What&rsquos that?&rdquo &lsquoCause we hadn&rsquot heard it since the day we did it.

How is progress on the Get Back movie going, and how involved have you been?

Well, I was more involved two years ago. Peter would keep coming in to LA and I had some talks with him. I&rsquove never really liked the original one, it was too miserable. The only good thing Michael Lindsay-Hogg did was&mdash which we suggested&mdashhe filmed us on the roof. We went through, &ldquoLet&rsquos go to Egypt, let&rsquos go on a mountain,&rdquo so we went on the roof. And if you look at the roof thing, it was seven or eight minutes in the original, and now it&rsquos 43.

So Peter&mdashwho got 56 unused hours, for Christ&rsquos sake&mdashwhen he was in LA he would come over with his iPad and play me pieces he&rsquos found. And I said, &lsquoLook at us, we&rsquore laughing, we&rsquore having fun,&rdquo and we did. It wasn&rsquot all related to that one bad moment. That part did happen, but there was a lot more joy.