What Is This?S

About 30% of our new hires walk into the kitchen knowing exactly what this is.

One of our investors took a trip to Amsterdam, well, just because. And he met these guys, Storz und Bickel, who happened to engineer the world's best "herbal" vaporizer, the Volcano. And while testing it out, he thought that it was the perfect solution to Grant's problem of finding a way to deliver the aroma of coffee or lavender to the guest, flavoring the dish through olfactory alone.

He was right—it is perfect for creating the aromas of herbs without also creating the burnt, acrid smell that would occur if you simply lit them on fire. It also made capturing the scents incredibly easy. Alinea has four or five Volcanos now, and uses them almost every day.

That is actually how Alinea helped Storz und Bickel prove a legitimate use for the vaporizer, for importation into the US. See, we really do use it for the herbs that are listed on their website. What do you use it for? You're welcome.

Pillow full of lavender vapor, providing aroma for a plate of elaborately prepared English peas:

What Is This?S

Nick Kokonas co-founded Alinea with Grant Achatz in 2005, and works with the chef on Alinea-related projects, recruiting innovators to challenge and improve every aspect of the cooking and eating experience. A finance guy and web-oriented angel investor by trade, Kokonas got his start back in his teen years writing business software on an Apple II. You can grab the gorgeous Alinea cookbook here, or just visit Alinea's home page.

Taste Test is our weeklong tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl-Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.