The much-anticipated Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, NY is now open, and we recently experienced the inaugural exhibit firsthand. In “Flavor: Making It and Faking It,” attendees are invited to sniff, taste and see their way through a series of interactive history lessons in reproducing food flavors and smells. Items such as vanilla and MSG are highlighted through photos and display cases that tell the story of how the ingredients were produced and received by the public over time. The exhibit notes, for example, that synthetic vanillin was once largely derived from cheap sources such as wood pulp.
Flavor tablets are dispensed from candy machines around the space, offering a glimpse into a flavorist’s (or flavor chemist’s) job in creating products with artificial or natural flavors. From vanillin to seaweed, guests can try a tablet and see which ingredients they’re actually digesting versus what the tablet tastes like.
The most fun albeit bizarre item in the space is the Smell Synth, a large multibutton machine that lets guests and their friends work together to press a variety of buttons that emit smells. When more than one button is pressed, a different scent combination is produced through a tube that resembles an elephant’s nose. The museum offers several suggested flavor combinations and encouraged a smell scavenger hunt of sorts the day we perused the space as the Smell Synth can produce more than 50,000 scent combinations.