The Watson Dinner Party

About two months ago, I was given access to IBM Chef Watson.  You may remember Watson as the computer which beat all the Jeopardy contestants in 2011.

How Watson works is you enter an ingredient, then Watson suggests other ingredients which might go well with it.  When I played with it, I was getting kind of crazy recipes.

Watson suggested as my first recipe:

The directions were:

  • Broil grapes coated with honey and shallots
  • Add rice vinegar
  • Add chives afterwards.

And for the first try, it tasted pretty good.  It was kind of different, but not too crazy.  For the second recipe:

The directions basically said to:

  • Stir fry diced chicken thighs with:
    • Avocado
    • Mushrooms
    • Diced turnips
    • Sugar snap peas
    • Strawberries
    • Mint

Now this recipe tasted really weird.  Like it wasn’t bad, nor good.  It kind of got me wondering how Watson pairs their ingredients.  From browsing their Watson Facebook page, one of the IBM Engineers stated:

In fact, we rely on the “flavor pairing hypothesis” mentioned in this paper, but aim for synergies rather than contrasts, which this paper refers to as the ‘western’ preference. It would be interesting to see if we could have a knob or slider that lets you decide what your preference is…. I’ll put that on a future back burner…

For me personally, I had two major problems with Watson.

  1. As the engineer stated, the flavor pairings were kind of odd to me.  I personally prefer more of an Asian pairing which has more contrasts.  For example, Vietnamese food is a balance of sweet, salty, and umami.
  2. The Watson website ingredient combinations were way too crazy.  I really needed to pair down the additions.

However, I was still adamant in throwing a dinner party around Watson, and I really wanted to incorporate local and in season farmer’s markets fruits and vegetables.  I then played around a lot with tangelos and saw

Capture4This was really intriguing because in salsas, you usually add some acid like lime or lemon juice.  But adding a tangelo (which is a combination of a tangerine and grapefruit), added a really interesting mellow orange flavor to the salsa.

After playing around and experimenting for about a month, this is what I decided on the final Watson dinner party menu.