I nside Momofuku Nishi's tastefully spare dining room, I'm sipping a cold Narragansett lager and reminiscing about fulsome pork feasts past when the Impossible Burger arrives. It's topped with a wilting slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and secret sauce, on a squooshy house-made bun. I stop and examine the patty, studying the gray-brown char of its exterior, and the hints of fleshy pink beneath. It looks almost exactly, mouthwateringly, like beef.
Which it isn't. It is the debut product release from Impossible Foods, which has raised hundreds of millions in venture capital from the likes of Bill Gates and GV with the goal of making meat from plants that's so good it renders food animals an obsolete technology. The company’s website is heavy on burger glory shots and artsy photographic references to the Impossible Burger's ingredients, but buried in an FAQ page lives a complete list. Textured wheat protein (aka gluten), coconut oil, and potato protein dominate, but the killer app is something called heme: a compound that endows the plant patties with the trademark red, bloody complexion of raw meat, and supposedly unlocks the flavor of sugars and amino acids. "We discovered that heme is what makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and taste gloriously meaty,” the website proclaims.