A NEW BEGINNING
With the weather getting down to the normal averages and autumn finally arriving in Chicago, Alinea is beginning to introduce their new fall creations. Last Saturday we were fortunate enough to experience some of their tasty dishes. Of course there are changes, some of which can be noticed prior to the first course arriving at the table.
The major change is in the number of items on the Tour menu. Previous Tour dinners at Alinea, brought in upwards of 26 courses. Now they have the Tour set at 24. Fret not. Although there is a reduction of courses, we did not walk away less sated, in fact we were feeling quite full at around the third quarter of the meal. Towards the end, one of our guest were unable to finish some of the dishes. No worries here, as the others at the table took turns at the leftovers. Such a faux pas, I know, but I don't think they have doggy bags.
There is also a change in the rhythm of the meal. The old Alinea meal cycle took on a traditional format (ie. appetizer, first and second courses and dessert) in 28 courses. The new format is taking the once long meal and breaking it into two short meals, similar to that at Trio when Chef G was at the helm. Upon talking to the chef, he felt that the 5-8 desserts at the end was a long stretch. Two meals for the price of one, that sounds like a great deal.
A new centerpiece is also introduced. As with the previous centerpiece, ginger sliced longitudinally, the fresh honeycomb, is used for one of the dishes to be had later in the evening. The honeycomb was placed onto a pedestal of an exotic, heavily grained, piece of wood. It sat for most of the evening and it slowly released thick gooey honey onto the table (a detail that should be soon worked out, I hope). The pedestal and the uber-chic honey extractor/mechanism was used for the 15th course, OPAH
(please refrain from putting fire to saganaki). Buy not these tools from Willams Sonoma. This item is another creation of Alinea's product design guru, Martin Kestner.
New serviceware is also bought into play, from plates to cordial glasses and another MK (the designer, not the chef) piece. The modern looking fancy sheet music holder, is used for the 8th course to hold the Spanish cheese puff. The masculine looking item is weighty and heavily machined. A much better alternative than the previous holder.
FYI, when making reservations, have your credit card handy. Just another one of those changes.