Flavour tripping parties have been trendy for the last few year. They have been held in foodie destinations such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago and feature a new star: the miracle berry. This magical berry from West Africa has the ability to temporarily alter your sour taste buds while enhancing sweet tastes. What transpires is a taste sensation. What happens is that the miracle berry coats your tongue with the glycoprotein called miraculin, which causes everything sour to taste sweet.
In the winter of 2009, I had the opportunity to share this berry with my favourite foodie friends and I was certain it would knock their socks off and blow their minds. I invited a total of 14 people to my house for a unique and unforgettable flavour tripping event. I was very sly with my invite, saying that their taste buds would be challenged and instructing them to show up with one specific ingredient. With their curiosity piqued, my foodie friends brought a variety of items such as sweet and sour fruits and vegetables, cheeses, flavoured vinegars and grainy mustards, sour cream, Guinness beer, and candies. Really, I encouraged anything ranging from the typical sour items to the unusual, with the promise that this experience will change each of their item's flavour profiles.
The miracle berries came in a freeze-dried form, so they were like sugar pills. You dissolve the pill and wait for it to coat your tongue. The duration of the berry's effect varies and depends largely on how much a person eats or drinks. The miraculin will naturally dissolve over time and is shortened by heat, so keep that in mind for any hot main courses. Typically the experience with one tablet will last approximately 30 to 45 minutes. The trick will be pacing your dishes and drinks.
For us, sour items had the largest wow factor, and my friends especially went crazy over how lemon tasted like candied lemonade and limes were sweet and refreshing. One partygoer reported that his highlight was tasting grapefruit. The tanginess of the grapefruit was replaced by a refreshing sweetness. It was similar to coating the grapefruit with a layer of sugar.
Other reactions were that sour cream tasted like crème cheese. Goat cheese tasted smooth and silky like cheese cake and Guinness beer tasted smoother and similar to a chocolate milkshake.
I even fed my foodie friends Chinese bitter melon in a stir-fry. Bitter melon was a staple while I was growing up and it is definitely an acquired taste. It's strongly bitter in flavour and even in smell, so I actually had my friends taste it before their miracle berry experience so they had an idea of the flavor. Once they were all set up with the miracle berry, they tried the bitter melon again and it was definitely still bitter and most were very put off by the taste. One other thing I had served was rapini mixed with tart cranberries and lemon juice -- the outcome was that you couldn't taste the bitterness of the rapini or the tartness of the cranberries. The stir fry was much more pleasant. We did shots of balsamic and apple cider vinegars and they turned into apple juice.
If you ever host one of these parties, it's important to have a bottle of antacids on standby, as I know that the stomach can handle only so much acidity!
As a note, the miracle berry doesn't alter all foods, and some foods won't taste different. Lemons and limes, of course, were a huge change, but some things like radishes don't taste different. Also, in other foods, the changes were more muted or subtle.
My favourite part of this was watching my friends' reactions to a trickery of the senses. Thanks to all of them for keeping an open mind, for their healthy and adventurous appetites, and for living through the tummy aches, rawness of the tongue, heartburn and burps!