Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Cooking with IBM Watson Part 2

Not many people can say they’ve had a chance to attend a dinner party where the menu was created by a cognitive computer system, but my colleagues and I made it happen!rsz_1img_7399

The Dinner Party

After hours spent in the kitchen, it was finally time to enjoy the fruits of our labor with an IBM Chef Watson themed dinner party! Allow me to tell you what’s on our special menu…

Pre-Dinner Drink: Party Bourbon Punch

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timg_7359The punch proved to be the perfect way to start off our meal, and received a resounding thumbs up from all dinner party guests. Not too sweet, this cognitive cocktail is deliciously dangerous.

“Refreshing, light summer cocktail. Maybe add a cherry for garnish.”- Cassie

“Yummy! Would be great at a summer party!”- Jan

“So good, already planning a derby party in my head!”- Jeneé

 

 

 

Salad: Grilled Corn and Nectarine Salad with Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

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Watson deserves a pat on the back for this dish. Light and summery with an ethnic twist thrown into the spice selection, there were no critiques from anyone. The salad was so good I couldn’t stop eating it! But really, who wants seconds when there were thirds and fourths to be had?

“Crisp, light, refreshing, excellent favors!”- Cassie

 

“Probably going to make this again this week!”- Charlie

“Surprising flavor mix. Amazing.”- Kelsey

Soup: Mango Gazpacho

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My gazpacho was one of the two dishes created using inspiration from the IBM Watson with bon appétit web app. Colorful and crisp veggie components with the sweet and tangy mango base continued the nice summery theme set by the punch and nectarine salad. However, Watson’s raw output didn’t seem to take into account how thick the consistency would be with the heavy mango base and high volume of veggies. Though it lacked the professional polish put on the recipes from Watson’s cookbook, the gazpacho still received a positive response from the group.

“I’m not a gazpacho fan but I like this one. Love the citrus flavor.”- Cynthia

“This is really good. Probably would not make as a soup or standalone course but I think this would be great on grilled fish or chicken!”- Jan

“Refreshing, sweet and flavorful.”- Kelsey

Appetizer: Roasted Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

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The generous pairing of cheese and fresh tomato made this appetizer quite popular. Everyone’s taste buds seemed to enjoy the sweet and savory appeal that the fresh tomato, mozzarella and egg offered. If you love traditional Neapolitan pizza and savory tarts and quiches, this just might be the perfect marriage!

“Tomatoes pack a juicy punch. Delish!”- Cassie

“Like the flavors, would use more eggs to perfect dish.”- Cynthia

“Tasty! Great Flavors.”- Kelsey

Entrée: Fennel-Spiced Ribs with Tangy Apple-Mustard Barbeque Sauce

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The appetizer round was certainly a tough act to follow, but Watson’s fennel-spiced ribs didn’t disappoint. Who could’ve imagined that Watson would’ve been a contender in the BBQ arena? I know for a fact that BBQ purists would consider a recipe cooked up by a computer program to be akin to sacrilege. However, the rub and tenderness spoke volumes and rendered our party temporarily speechless as we devoured our portions.

“It was like Memphis dry rub got wanderlust and decided to visit the Middle East and Asia. Different, but I liked it.”- Caitlin

“Great flavor, amazing texture!”- Charlie

“Amazing! Love these. The mix of spices and flavors is outstanding. I never make ribs, but I’d make these.”- Jan

Entrée: Michael’s Italian Roast Duck

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Charlie’s ambitious recreation of Chef Michael Laiskonis’ take on Watson’s duck recipe was by far the most complex dish presented at our little soirée. I’ve had duck prepared many ways, but this was something new for my palate to experience. The rich, earthy flavor of the duck and mushrooms contrasted nicely with the fresh herbs and the bright sweetness brought in by the apples and cherries. Everyone enjoyed experiencing the variety of flavors, but general consensus showed a lack of interest in taking on the mammoth task of recreating this complicated dish ourselves.

“Very different. I like the surprise of flavors, but just a bit too much going on at once for me.”- Caitlin

“Delicious blend of fennel and apple. Goes really well with the duck. I might try making if I felt very ambitious.”- Jan

“Really interesting, a little on the sweet side. I like the tomato-ginger.”- Jeneé

Dessert: Blackberry-Cherry Cobbler with Honey Whipped Cream

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­­What a delicious take on cobbler this turned out to be! Watson’s cobbler was a crowd pleaser and left everyone eager to recreate the dish themselves. The pastry part was denser than a traditional cobbler topping, more biscuit-like, but worked well with the ample amount of juices in the filling. Marjoram is not your traditional cobbler additive but the piney citrus undertones paired nicely with the berry filling.

“Filling would be great over ice cream.”- Charlie

“Love cobblers — not a berry fan but this combo was really tasty.”- Cynthia

“I liked it. Not too sweet.”- Jeneé

Dessert: Cocoa Cookies

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Having baked these cookies I don’t mind coming right out and saying they were a bit of a fail. Lack of polish is to be expected with untested recipes derived from the Watson bon appétit web app (especially one’s with the highest level of surprise factor possible.) I thought the taste of the cookies was good, rich and chocolaty with a light floral note form the almond extract. The consistency, however, was odd. They had a powdery yet almost sticky texture and lacked the proverbial “cookieness.” These cookies were a great example of how polarizing a Watson recipe can be. Some were very adverse to the richness of flavor and odd texture, while others enjoyed it. Only one person opted to make the recipe as-is again. Personally, I’d tweak it to achieve a less radical cookie experience.

“Very chocolaty — great if you like really dark chocolate.”- Cynthia

“The texture of these is nice but the cocoa is a little overpowering.”- Jeneé

“Very rich, take small bites because these are dense!”- Kelsey

Final ThoughtsIMG_7422

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at Chef Watson’s culinary expertise. Not being constrained by ethnic or cultural bias, Watson has an amazing aptitude for aggregating and analyzing data to create unique, flavorful and pleasing dishes that challenge our pallets to expand beyond what we’re used to. Where Watson struggled was discretionary adjustments regarding particularly polarizing ingredients, availability of rare ingredients and execution modifications to further a recipe’s success. Fortunately for us foodies, IBM’s cognitive design means that Chef Watson will only get better at its craft as it consumes more and more culinary data.

Chef Watson, while awesome, is just a singular application of Watson’s cognitive computing ecosystem. As Ginni Rometty boldly predicted at IBM’s World of Watson event, “In the future every decision mankind makes, every decision, it’s going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson, and as a result our lives in this world are going to be better for it.” If these innovative and delicious dishes are any indication of what’s to come from cognitive systems, I’d say the future looks incredibly appealing!

Hungry for more? View pictures and recipes on our Facebook and check out part 1 of our blog series for a look behind the scenes and into our kitchens to see our trials and tribulations while cooking, and to get some human tips on how to make the recipes work better!

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