For his cookbook debut, Homaro Cantu could easily have gone the shiny, coffee-table paperweight route.
The little-known African berry temporarily re-sets your taste buds to taste sweet in even the most sour, bitter things. Cantu has been experimenting with it at moto and iNG, offering at the latter a kitchen table miracle berry menu. By the fall, he says, he's going to transition iNG to a miracle berry menu-only restaurant.
His obsession with the fruit goes back about six years, when a customer asked Cantu if he could somehow help her friend, who was in chemotherapy, taste again. What he came up with: a miracle berry-infused paper strip that allowed her to taste food as it should taste.
He still makes those strips -- about 500 "doses" weekly -- and sends them to chemo patients gratis. At home, the berry is part of his two young daughters' diets. "Every day after school, they ask for miracle berry and a lemon," Cantu says. Once while gardening, curious about how grass tastes with miracle berry, he and one of his girls tried it. Her response: "It tastes like basil."
Developing recipes for the book has been a bitch. There's a reason why cookies have sugar -- to add sweetness, but also texture, aroma and color. It took Cantu's team six weeks to figure out a sugarless cookie.
Cantu's ice cream recipe has 800 fewer calories than the average recipe, "and it's good enough to have at Ing or moto," he says.
The 150 or so recipes in the book are mostly sweet, and all require that you eat the berry (in tablet form) beforehand; its effects last for 30 to 45 minuts. Cantu says those who buy the book will get a discount on the berry tablets.
His plans for miracle berry are bigger than his backyard, and his diet book (due out next spring). The fruit and the tablets are expensive, but if he can get the prices down -- which he believes he can if the inhalable form he's developing comes to market -- Cantu says this could be the "silver bullet for obesity."
With miracle fruit in the mix, soda is merely soda water and lemon juice. Who needs sugar in it, or anything? "Why try and fight the big soda companies when we can just empower the end user to make it themselves?" Cantu wonders.