By now, you’ve surely heard of Le Whif, the breathable chocolate that offers all the taste of cocoa without the calories. I was never a total convert. To me, it felt a bit like inhaling a packet of Swiss Miss. But I could see the personal and market appeal. Experience flavor without calories, microparticles of food that can stimulate your senses without gluing themselves to your gut.
Now, the (mad?) Harvard scientist behind Le Whif, David Edwards, has teamed with food designer Marc Bretillot to expand the idea. The sequel is called Le Whaf, a virtual eating experience aimed at the cocktail crowd.
It’s essentially a carafe filled with an ultrasonic-generated cloud of something--strong flavors like warmed orange soda and port wine both work well, I’m told, as does parmesan or mushroom broth. The diner approaches the cloud and sucks it in with a straw, which fills their mouth with flavor. But whereas many beverages are laden with calories, a whole “glass” of Le Whaf cloud consists of just 40 microliters of origin liquid, or the equivalent of 1/8,872th of a 12oz soda.
“The year of our first exhibition of Le Whif in 2008, I wondered whether we could do something similar with liquids. I had started a biopharmaceutical company called Pulmatrix in 2004 and we often used nebulizers to deliver drugs to the lungs,” Edwards tells Co.Design. “We needed to make large volumes of aerosol clouds and I wondered if we could 'taste’ these rather than breathe them. I began to experiment with existing nebulizers and 'special straws’ that worked sort of like Le Whif. It eventually required pretty powerful ultrasound generators, but with the right straw, the effect was great.”
But no one wants to eat through a nebulizer, no matter how many calories they save. So Marc Bretillot crafted the current Le Whaf carafe that’s slowly making its way into some high-end restaurants. If it looks part-decanter, part-science experiment, that’s likely intentional, as the cloud can be poured into glasses much like one would serve wine (the difference being, of course, that wine isn’t generally consumed through straws).
As for the “cloud” itself, that is of particular note--and really, it represents the core of the product. Edwards clarified that Le Whaf is not a vaporizer, which is used in modernist cuisine globally, but “a literal cloud of liquid in your mouth.” It gets a bit confusing, but that difference is key to how Le Whaf is ultimately consumed.
“Vapor is gas, like oxygen or nitrogen. A cloud is droplets of liquid suspended in air/gas,” he explains. “A cloud of champagne in the air is mostly air. Vaporized alcohol in air is likely mostly alcohol.”
If Edwards were selling vaporized cocktails, they’d get people “quickly inebriated,” but Le Whaf drinkers will stay stone sober. In fact, overindulgence of any sort with Le Whaf is fruitless. It’s “pretty impossible” to consume a whole meal of calories or get a buzz. Yet to Edwards, it’s right in line with mankind’s long relationship with food.
“Actually eating habits have been changing since the beginning of time. We have been eating less and less, more and more frequently,” he says. “In a very real way, Le Whaf carries to an extreme a tendency inherent in the evolution of cuisine.”
That is, so long as you still remember to actually eat dinner.
[Hat tip: Lost At E Minor]