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Small but mighty, the Inventing Room's food cart is a mainstay in the street-food scene

It was a hot summer day when I first encountered the magic of the Inventing Room. I'd hiked several blocks from the office to Tiri's Garden, the downtown lot where a gaggle of mobile vendors had started making regular stops. Ian Kleinman's cart was among them, that day serving everything from space foam to a chai slushie. I settled on one of the simpler sweets: caramel ice cream, blended with sea salt and topped with peanut butter pop rocks.

Made with liquid nitrogen, the ice cream was smooth, creamy and deeply buttery, its richness offset by the bite of salt. It spread slowly across the tongue and lingered there, a mouthful of silk save for the occasional explosion of a pop rock against a tooth or tastebud. This was the best kind of molecular gastronomy, shock-and-awe-inducing without forsaking flavor for flash.

Kleinman became fascinated with molecular gastronomy during his tenure as executive chef of O's Steak and Seafood, experimenting with powders and foams and olive-oil sprinkles, unveiling dishes for diners that challenged the senses and expanded the idea of what dinner could be. When he left the Westminster restaurant, he did a brief consulting stint with H Burger — he exited just four days after the restaurant opened — before deciding he wanted to focus on food entertainment, allowing guests to experience the magic of the kitchen firsthand and then eat the results.

And so the Inventing Room was born. From that tiny mobile kitchen, Kleinman proffers some of the most interesting sweets in Denver. He thinks about balance in constructing his offerings, masterfully playing sweet off of savory, creamy off of crunchy, warm off of cold. And each dish has a wow factor, incorporating a delightful element of surprise.

In warm weather, the cart was fully integrated into the street-food scene; now the Inventing Room makes appearances at everything from kids' birthday parties to high-profile fundraisers. This winter, it will serve the Convention Center, bringing those same treats to private functions, trade events and shows at the Wells Fargo Theatre. And in keeping with the season, Kleinman says he'll soon roll out some savory dishes, starting with a tomato-red-pepper soup with rosemary bread.

I can't wait.

 
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