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The Alinea Project - General Discussion

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#61 nick.kokonas

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 11:37 AM

Chef,

It's still weeks before the opening, yet you and Alinea received a "special mention" in Travel + Leisure Magazine's list of "Best New American Restaurants 2004"...

CHEF TO WATCH During his three-year stint heading the kitchen of Trio, the Thomas Keller-trained wunderkind Grant Achatz got it all: four stars from the Chicago Tribune, the title of James Beard Rising Star, and fans who clamored for his infusions and outré ice creams (olive oil, anyone?). At Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110; dinner for two $125), due to open next month [January, 2005], Achatz will experiment with savory truffle bonbons (frozen on the outside, liquid inside), freeze-dried strawberries encased in foie gras tempered with cocoa butter, serving them in an equally cutting-edge space. Curious for a taste of the future? Start calling for reservations.

...does such coverage make you feel any additional pressure? I thought it was particularly exciting to see Alinea make the 2004 list when it won't even open until 2005 :smile:

=R=

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Unfortunately, Travel and Leisure got the reservation line wrong -- they must have simply called information and gotten our office number. The actual reservation line number is: 312-867-0110

#62 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 17 November 2004 - 11:53 AM

Unfortunately, Travel and Leisure got the reservation line wrong -- they must have simply called information and gotten our office number.  The actual reservation line number is:  312-867-0110

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Nick, I've gone back and corrected every instance of it on this thread.

Good luck tonight! :smile:

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#63 nick.kokonas

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 02:42 PM

Chef Achatz and some of the Alinea staff were happy to participate in the 6th Annual Food and Wine Entertaining Showcase, held yesterday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Chef G and Martin Kastner used the expanded "antenna" serviceware piece that was improved upon with the addition of Bird's Eye Maple bases added since the Harvest Moon event. It holds 20 antennas at once, each with its own base mechanism.

Posted Image

Crispy Strawberry / Foie Gras / Licorice Root was prepared and served to at least 500 patrons. It was very well received.

It was also wonderful to watch the guests interact with the serviceware. People were gently instructed to push the "puck" away from them, thereby lowering the strawberry into perfect position. This interaction produced great reactions ranging from surprise, to delight, to confusion, to giddiness. One lady ate 3 in a row -- boom boom boom -- and then demanded to know "who is the person responsible for this -- I need to know!".

Posted Image
Here you can see the antennas at various heights and the motion involved

These events have provided welcome relief from the insular nature of the jobs we are currently working on. After all, it is really all about the food and the patrons...

Posted Image
Left to Right: Martin, Nick, John, Grant, Curtis, Ryan

#64 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 02:49 PM

Nice! Thanks for the pics, Nick.

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#65 Jake

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 03:08 PM

Beautiful! Glad it was so well received.

Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

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#66 docsconz

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 03:15 PM

Dining should be fun. This looks like fun.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#67 jschyun

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 08:20 PM

ChefG:  How would you feel about doing a pre-opening night for eGulleters?  My wife and I both enjoyed a tour de force at Trio ("He's really cute!" my wife gushed) and we'd definitely make the trip up to Chicago for such an event.

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This is a great idea...my wife and I would fly out from California for this.

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I totally missed out on Trio, but I am definitely flying out from California to see the new place. Very excited! I'd love to see Chicago too, never been.
I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.
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#68 tan319

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 08:39 PM

Congratulations on the event!
Looks like it went off great.
Love the delivery system for the C.S.F.G.L.R. , sounds like a great flavor combo.
2317/5000

#69 Puck Confit

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Posted 19 November 2004 - 05:21 PM

Phenomenal! Seeing Chef Achatz's creations (and all the Alinea staff that are involved) truly do make me giddy. It is like watching the passing of the torch so to speak in the evolving periods of food and dining. Sort of like witnessing the changing of classical art movements, such as Baroque to Rococo

Rock on.

#70 K8memphis

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Posted 22 December 2004 - 10:43 AM

Chef Achatz,

When dealing with possible new employees for the kitchen what are a few main points or ideas that make you take interest and agree to grant them a stage? While on the stage how do you normally judge who does and who does not get an opportunity to stay with you longer.

In general what types of responsibilities does a competent long term stage get to take on and how is he compensated for his work?

I am sure you attract a great deal of very talented applicants with the setup of the kitchen and the integrity levels of the work but I am curious as to how you weed these down to a more elite few.

Thanks

#71 C_Ruark

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Posted 04 January 2005 - 02:59 AM

Chef Achatz and Mr. Kokonas...

Happy New Year to you both. The aniticipation regarding Alinea's opening must be at a fever-pitch.

I have a few questions...

1 - What's happening at Alinea right now in terms of printing menus, configuring dining spaces, hiring/training staff, etc.? What big hurdles are left?

2 - Would it be possible to post an interior and exterior photo? When should we look for a website update?

3 - In the Alinea, Grant Achatz's new restaurant thread, Chef you briefly discuss how your preparation methods "[are going]" to (and by now have) impact Alinea's kitchen design and organization. To quote a June 10th posting on that thread...

"As I see it now the team will be composed of at least 15, probably closer to 20 with the presence of externs and long term stages. I am included in that count, as my role is a very involved one in day-to-day prep and service. Under me there will either be three sous chefs OR two sous chefs and a pastry chef. That is yet to be determined. All other staff will be at a chef de partie level, we will not utilize commis at Alinea. Nor will we give classical titles to the cooks such as saucier or garde manger, as the cuisine will not follow those predetermined guidelines."


Can you bring us up to date on the general organization of the kitchen brigade?


As the big day approaches, best of luck to you and the Alinea team.

Kind regards,
- CSR

Edited by C_Ruark, 04 January 2005 - 02:59 AM.

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#72 docsconz

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 09:12 AM

What's the latest? Any idea of an opening date? How are preparations coming along?
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
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#73 nick.kokonas

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 08:56 PM

Thank you all for your questions. Sorry for the delayed response...

Everything is moving along very well with the development of Alinea. There are so many different aspects of development occurring simultaneously that it is hard to summarize the progress... but here is an attempt.

The Restaurant Build-Out

While there were early fits-and-starts in construction, it is now progressing at a rapid pace. The entire interior of the building was gutted down to the concrete and brick, and we have replaced all of the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. We are adding several stairways, ducts, etc, so major concrete cutting and steel reinforcement of the structure was done. At this point we are pressing forward with the kitchen installation, framing, and finish work.


Web Site

We have finished development of Phase II of the Alinea website and are simply awaiting some photographic scans to be completed before we launch it -- likely by the end of January. Unlike the trailer, this will be a site that includes photos of the food, detailed menus, and bios of the staff and the creative team. As construction finishes, we will add interior and exterior shots of the restaurant itself, as well as update the content as Alinea evolves.


Reservations

We have decided to open the reservation book on February 7th for dates beginning in May. We believe that we will likely be open before then, but certain time constraining issues remain vague at best... licensing, permitting, etc. If we do open before May, we will post that information on our website, and of course, here on eGullet. If you have emailed us at the info@alinearestaurant.com email, or called our reservation line, you will be receiving an email this week with more details, and will be getting another email in early February before the reservation book opens.


Chef Achatz and the team continue to develop new dishes weekly, some of which will be posted on our website. In addition, the menu and wine list design are complete, the interior furnishings are all in production, and the staff is largely in place. It is an exciting thing for all of us to see how plans made nearly one year ago have begun to take real form.

#74 docsconz

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 08:20 AM

Chef Achatz and the team continue to develop new dishes weekly, some of which will be posted on our website.  In addition, the menu and wine list design are complete, the interior furnishings are all in production, and the staff is largely in place.  It is an exciting thing for all of us to see how plans made nearly one year ago have begun to take real form.

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Thanks for the general update, Nick.

What are some of the latest innovations? What is the current status of some of the dishes that have already been introduced to us in their natant phases? I miss the regular information. :smile:
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#75 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 09:25 AM

There was a very nice metion by Jeff Lyon about Alinea and our project in this week's Chicago Tribune Magazine:

"ChefG: I have a question regarding the seafood sponge." So starts an e-mail to red-hot chef Grant Achatz, who has a dialogue going with fans on www.egullet.org.

=R=
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#76 Shalmanese

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Posted 19 January 2005 - 06:07 PM

Web Site

We have finished development of Phase II of the Alinea website and are simply awaiting some photographic scans to be completed before we launch it -- likely by the end of January.  Unlike the trailer, this will be a site that includes photos of the food, detailed menus, and bios of the staff and the creative team.  As construction finishes, we will add interior and exterior shots of the restaurant itself, as well as update the content as Alinea evolves.

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Please a humble request, if your phase 2 website contains flash, background music, an intro screen, a menu which you can't copy and paste or no contact details/menu/directions/prices, then fire your web designer and start back on phase 1.

It would be a shame for a team to have gotten everything else so RIGHT about how people think and play with their food to fall down and fundamentally misunderstand what people want from a webpage.
PS: I am a guy.

#77 docsconz

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 06:27 PM

I have my reservation! Now the serious waiting begins. Any suggestions for comfortable, but not overly expensive nearby hotels?
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#78 jjj23jjj

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 05:02 PM

I have my reservation too! Sunday May 15th for myself and two of my chef buddies! I agree with docsconz about the wait! 3 months! Nooooo! :unsure: I'll second docsconz question. Any decently priced hotels nearby???

#79 bentherebfor

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 06:40 PM

I'm happy to report that I have my reservation as well. May 29th. I honestly don't think I am going to make it.
Some people say the glass is half empty, others say it is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?

Ben Wilcox
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#80 docsconz

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 06:32 PM

I'm happy to report that I have my reservation as well. May 29th. I honestly don't think I am going to make it.

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I hope you mean that you won't be able to survive that long, not that you intend not to go! :laugh:
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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#81 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 09 February 2005 - 10:35 PM

Joe Catterson, with whom many of us have conversed this week, won the Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence last Friday:

Joe Catterson of the soon-to-open Alinea was named best sommelier for his work at Les Nomades . . .

Click here and here for more details.

=R=
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#82 phaelon56

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 02:31 PM

I have my reservation too! Sunday May 15th for myself and two of my chef buddies! I agree with docsconz about the wait! 3 months! Nooooo!    :unsure:   I'll second docsconz question. Any decently priced hotels nearby???

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I suggest considering Priceline or Hotwire and sticking to the 4* category. You should be able to get something between $50 and $110 per night depending in whther it's HW or PL and what part of downtown you're staying in.

Having previously stayed for a weekend in an area not far from where Alinea is located (sort of at the south end of the Loop), I'd suggest staying a bit further north towards Wacker Drive or even up by Lincoln Park or North Michigan Ave. where it's much livelier and more interesting at night and on weekends. This is assuming that you'll make a weekend of it and do a few things other than just the meal.

Not sure if the restaurant can make car service arrangements but it is best to check that out. Chicago has a very god public transportation but cabs are not always easy to find in some neighborhoods and I don't think you can call for cab service - they must be hailed on the street (Chicagoans please correct me if I'm wrong or my info is outdated!).

Egullet member "thereuare" has a great web site called Better Bidding that explains how to bid intelligently and get the lowest possible prices using services such as PL and HW. It's well worth a visit to do some quick research before your visit.

#83 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 02:56 PM

I agree with Owen that using a 3rd-party, internet conduit would be a very good idea. You'll likely get a bargain on a room in a desirable area.

Neighborhood-wise, I would suggest Gold Coast, River North or the Loop. These locations are only short cab rides away from Alinea (Lincoln Park) and they both offer lots to do if you're coming for a 2-3 day visit. Lincoln Park is also a great neighborhood (for stuff to do) but I can't think of any hotels there off the top of my head.

As for cabs, they are definitely "callable" and most any restaurant will be happy to call one for you. And, in most cases, if you take a cab to a destination, the driver will be happy to give you a business card with information needed to arrange your return trip.

Since I live here, I'm not the best source of information for someone coming in from out of town. That said, I'll do what I can to answer any questions about visiting Chicago.

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#84 jesteinf

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 03:01 PM

I have my reservation too! Sunday May 15th for myself and two of my chef buddies! I agree with docsconz about the wait! 3 months! Nooooo!    :unsure:   I'll second docsconz question. Any decently priced hotels nearby???

View Post


I suggest considering Priceline or Hotwire and sticking to the 4* category. You should be able to get something between $50 and $110 per night depending in whther it's HW or PL and what part of downtown you're staying in.

Having previously stayed for a weekend in an area not far from where Alinea is located (sort of at the south end of the Loop), I'd suggest staying a bit further north towards Wacker Drive or even up by Lincoln Park or North Michigan Ave. where it's much livelier and more interesting at night and on weekends. This is assuming that you'll make a weekend of it and do a few things other than just the meal.

Not sure if the restaurant can make car service arrangements but it is best to check that out. Chicago has a very god public transportation but cabs are not always easy to find in some neighborhoods and I don't think you can call for cab service - they must be hailed on the street (Chicagoans please correct me if I'm wrong or my info is outdated!).

Egullet member "thereuare" has a great web site called Better Bidding that explains how to bid intelligently and get the lowest possible prices using services such as PL and HW. It's well worth a visit to do some quick research before your visit.

View Post


As a Chicago resident, I have to jump in on this one.

There aren't really any hotels in the same neighborhood as Alinea. Your best bet would be to find something at the North end of Michigan Ave. or in the River North neighborhood. I've stayed at the Embassy Suites in River North before I moved to the city and it's pretty nice.

As for transportation, cabs are the way to go. Alinea is located extremely close to the Steppenwolf theatre on a pretty active stretch of Halsted at the southern end of Lincoln Park. I've never had trouble hailing a cab in the area.

BTW, I've got my reservation for May 28th. I don't think I've ever been this excited about a meal before.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/


#85 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 03:24 PM

BTW, nice article in this month's Food and Wine! Just arrived today and it is great to see the press getting a head start on the story!

#86 nr706

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Posted 10 February 2005 - 04:36 PM

As for transportation, cabs are the way to go.  Alinea is located extremely close to the Steppenwolf theatre on a pretty active stretch of Halsted at the southern end of Lincoln Park.  I've never had trouble hailing a cab in the area.


Another data point - Alinea is only a couple of blocks from the North/Clybourn El stop (although it's not really an El - it's a subway at that point). Easy access from downtown via the Red Line. Probably faster than a cab, but might be a bit declasse for someone dining at Alinea.

#87 phaelon56

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 09:16 AM

As for cabs, they are definitely "callable" and most any restaurant will be happy to call one for you.


Unless you're stranded at 10:30 PM on a very funky corner of the South Side in front of the 24 hour Walgreen's where I was :laugh: That's probably why they told me that cabs were not "callable". As a matter of fact, most cabs won't even pick you up on the street in that location unless it's a cabbie who works that side of town regularly (I finally got lucky after trying for an hour and got myself to the Checkerboard Lounge in time for the second and third sets).

#88 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 11 February 2005 - 09:40 AM

As for cabs, they are definitely "callable" and most any restaurant will be happy to call one for you.


Unless you're stranded at 10:30 PM on a very funky corner of the South Side in front of the 24 hour Walgreen's where I was :laugh: That's probably why they told me that cabs were not "callable". As a matter of fact, most cabs won't even pick you up on the street in that location unless it's a cabbie who works that side of town regularly (I finally got lucky after trying for an hour and got myself to the Checkerboard Lounge in time for the second and third sets).

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Sounds like you made the best of it but yes, the south side can be a whole "nuther" story. . . :wink: :smile:

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#89 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 22 February 2005 - 02:28 PM

Some more good Alinea buzz from Monifa Thomas in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Achatz, a past winner of the prestigious James Beard Award for his work at Trio in Evanston, won't be accepting reservations for June until March 1.

"I can't even think of the last time a restaurant opened in Chicago with this long of a wait," said restaurant consultant Izzy Kharasch, president of Deerfield's Hospitality Works.

"It's not normal at all," said Carolyn Walkup, Midwest bureau chief for Nation's Restaurant News.

Chicagoans apparently starving for Alinea

=R=
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#90 JWest

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Posted 07 March 2005 - 11:24 PM

Chef-

Who will be doing the presentation of the food durring service?

Edited by JWest, 07 March 2005 - 11:25 PM.

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