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yellow truffle

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  1. On a couple of recent visits (one pre, one post, Michelin 3-star award), I was able to experience some of the more playful (read: off-menu) dishes that I have ever had in any fine dining establishment. Special Guests About a month ago, five of us were dining at the rear, long rectangular table (number 41), when about half way through, we had a pheasant dropped off at our table. It had been de-feathered, but still had its head and tail feathers attached to the body. It laid on snow and evergreen branches, all of which sat on top of a silver serving tray. Note that some of the branches burning and gave off a wonderful aroma. Nothing was said by the front of the house (FOH) staff, instead, we sat there for a while pondering what would come next. Were we to pick at it, sans utensils, like Ron's meal up-thread? Until this young man came along. Jeremy, a runner, who opens up by welcoming us and telling us that this pheasant had come from Indiana, and was just killed no more than 48 hours ago. Jeremy also tells us that this was made possible by he and his dog, who were hunting just the other day. The following day, Jeremy brings the pheasant to the restaurant, as a present to the Chef. Grant, thanks him, and tells him he knows just what to do with it. As Jeremy is talking, the other FOH staff clear the pheasant from the table. They bring in a copper-claded (I'm guessing a 5 quart) sauté pan. It was a cassoulet of the pheasant. As Jeremy starts to walk off, we were so amazed with this story, that we hoped that he would be able to try some of the cassoulet (if he hasn't already). The FOH staff starts to bring in the support items; bread, herbs, spices, garnishes, utensils, plates, etc. In addition, they have us make extra room on the table for another surprise. The surprise was a chair, and Jeremy. Chef Achatz also thought that it would be a great idea for Jeremy to join us. Now our table is seating six. We are then informed, that since this has been set up as family style, that we should serve ourselves. We decided to give that honor to the eldest at the table, me. While I was dishing out the cassoulet, everyone was enjoying a very nice bottle of Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux. The cassoulet was dense. Not only did it have the pheasant (in all forms), but it also had sausage, pork belly (and maybe other meat products further in). It was very rich and tasty. This dish allowed us multiple servings, and we thankfully took advantage of it. I could come to Alinea just for this dish. The Alinea Forest On a different visit to Alinea, we had the opportunity to try another off-menu item. This one also came midway through our meal, and was code named either "cheese and crackers" or "angelica branch." It starts with us finishing a dish at one of the round tables in front room of the restaurant (the 20s). The FOH staff asks us to move to another table, with no explanation. We then walk to one of the tables in the middle room (the 30s), where on the table are branches, leaves, burning candles, and dinner ware. The FOH gives us a very brief description on the dish (if we can still call it that), and no real instruction on how to approach eating it. So we treat like a cheese and cracker buffet table. We see something that looks like a cracker, and something that looks like cheese, and you can guess what happens next. We sat at the table for almost 30 minutes as we nibbled on what was in front of us. During that time, Chef Achatz was observing (from afar) us interact with the Angelica Branch. It was quite an experience to forage around for food in a restaurant. In the end there were still more cheese and crackers left on branches. For me, the Alinea experience (I can't call it dinner/meal anymore, because it is more than just the food), just keeps on getting more interesting. Grant is true to the definition of the name of the restaurant. He does not need to re-tool, re-conceptualize the restaurant. By definition and nature it just keeps progressing. I am glad that they got their well deserved Michelin 3-star rating. I am glad they continue to push boundaries. But most of all, I am glad to be able to experience it.
  2. I love hearing about food auctions. The Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo has almost daily auctions on tuna, that can cost about as much as a small car. White truffles auction out at over 6 digits. These, of course, are commodities, and can be resold to make a profit. But what about those auctions where it's not about a product, but an experience. You have the ones where you can win a dinner cooked by a celebrated chef at your house for a small private party. Here you can chat it up with the chef and possibly get involved in the meal preparation. Sounds like fun and could be exciting, but what about a more holistic experience. There is guest chef for a day program held at Charlie Trotter's. This is almost like living a chapter in Anthony Bourdain's, Kitchen Confidential (albeit a boring chapter). Not only do you get to see the inner workings of the kitchen/restaurant, but they make you work as well. Now Alinea comes out an auction of their own. As seen on the Word Play Gala (list of auction packages): The last two two items seem like standard prizes, but the first two caught my interest. Talking to Nick, I was able to get more detailed information... This is pretty cool. The winner will be able to use any of the cooking tools (PacoJet, Volcano, immersion circulator, anti-griddle, etc.) and service-ware (think Crucial Detail) -- "the whole Alinea" (with supervision, of course). This experience is sure to be priceless, and one that will be hard to replicate. I don't know about you, but I can already image what I want to vaporize in the volcano, pulverize in the PacoJet, chill out on the anti-griddle. And then there is the planning on what to hang on the bow, stand on the squid, and sandwich between the cork presenter. This is just some amazing, outside the box thinking that these guys are known for. Now can who is interested in pooling together some cash. You have till next Friday (April 24), and you don't even need to buy tickets to go to the gala. Maybe they will toss in some chefs uniform for you to wear. What can you hang on the bow? I think you can pretty much vaporize anything. And of course, you can stuff what ever you want to in the Hearts of Palm.
  3. Really? Link please (sorry Josh, too lazy).
  4. If you are looking for traditional Japanese ramen, then I would highly suggest going to Mitsuwa grocery store in Arlington Heights. In the food court is a ramen only restaurant, Santouka. They have a wide variety of ramens, with various bases and ingredients. If you go there for lunch on a weekend, be prepared to wait. This is the busiest restaurant in the court and everything is made to order. Don't know how it compares to Ippudo, as I have not been there. Mitsuwa Marketplace 100 E Algonquin Rd Arlington Heights IL 60005-4618 (847) 956-6699 Store: Sun-Sat: 0900-2000 Restaurants: Sun-Sat: 1100-1930
  5. Now if you were lucky enough to have made it Wired fest, on October 1st, then you would already have a cookbook.
  6. Not yet for me. ← Still waiting on mine, as well. =R= ← I believe that if one pre-ordered from Amazon ($30) or somewhere other than the Alinea website, they may get the book earlier than the supposed release date of the 15th of October. There have been a couple of reports of people getting them, and some have already posted un-boxing photos. Just remember that ordering from the website gives you a signed (actually a few signatures) version, as well as access to the mosaic. IMHO, the $50 option is a price performer, if you wish to actually read and use the cookbook. The forum section of the site can be a useful resource to aid in recreating some of the Alinea dishes. You also get "bonus recipes, demonstration videos, supplementary images, and a behind the scene perspective." It's like a membership to a dynamic and never ending cookbook. Which makes me wonder if there will be a second Alinea cookbook. Also, since I ordered a couple of books, to give a gifts, I wonder if the recipients will be given access information to the mosaic, as well.
  7. prasantrin Your assumption, in how we were seated, is correct. Entering the tatami room, you take about 2-3 steps up and onto the floor, which becomes the seat, of the tatami room. Your legs hang into a sunken cut out space, the height of those 2-3 steps. A leather wrapped cushion and back rest is provided for your comfort. I don't too much about the servicewares. I do know that a local (Chicago) designer, Martin Kastner, has been commissioned to do a few custom pieces. You might know him from doing those Alinea pieces. And thanx for clarifying the name of the traditional Japanese garb.
  8. Following are the courses for the first night of the tatami room: Escolar (course 1) Mussels (course 2) Tuna Kampachi (course 3) Oyster Sake (course 4) Ishidai (course 5) Fluke Caviar (course 6) Sashimi (course 7) Asparagus Egg (course 8 ) Clam Jamon (course 9) Kampachi Foie Gras (course 10) Heart of Palm Grapefruit (course 11) Tomato Santa Barbara Prawn (course 12) Ebi Potato (course 13) Wagyu Beetroot (course 14) Aori Ika Lobster (course 15) Chanterelle (course 16) Dashi Junsai (course 17) Strawberry Rhubarb (course 18) Macaroons (course 19)
  9. After having experienced the first night of service at L.2O, we had the pleasure of being the first guests at the tatami room, June 26. The tatami room is set up as one of the possible four private dining rooms. The main difference between this and the others is the menu. Whereas all rooms in the restaurant will follow the main dining room menu, the tatami room will have its own special menu. All the dishes are not exclusive to the tatami room, but there are some dishes that may never end up in the main menu. In the end, we ended up with 19 dishes and 12 (very generous pours) glasses of wine. The tatami room is quite a unique experience for most diners, and especially for myself, as I have never had a formal kaiseki meal, dined in a tatami room, or been in a ryokan. At the entry to the restaurant, you are greeted not only by the normal entourage, but in addition, a server/captain dressed in a kimono. Christina leads us through the main dining room to a corner opposite from the entry, between the kitchen and the dining room. Here the tatami room is set up as two rooms of a six and two-tops. The room can actually transform itself to accommodate different sized parties. Once inside the room, another server, Mona Lisa, enters the room and brings in our drinks. From this point forward, these two ladies are the only ones who we have contact with, and enter and leave from an entrance different than ours. After the drinks are brought out, they bring us the first five dishes as one serving. These small dishes are very light in flavor and easy on texture - a powerful way to start thing off. The following plates that come out are as single serving dishes, but each starts to increase its weight and intensity. Caviar topped dishes, plates laced with gold specs, foie gras, lobster, and Japanese imported beef are just some of gratuitous preparation/ingredients used in the body of the savories. A gradual decline into the sweet courses is made with pickled mushrooms, and junsai. This rare Japanese ingredient was such a treat to have, as I had only heard about it. It is a small herb-like stem, encased with a clear gelatinous texture. Tasty and different -- an acquired taste for sure. The desserts, or more realistically dessert, is a well prepared serving of strawberries and cream. IMHO, Chef Gras and his team have done well in trying to balance a traditional kaiseki experience with westerners in mind. The food was very tasty, and not overwhelming. The staff knelt at the opening and closing of the sliding door. The room is beautiful, warm and comfortable. Although, I found it a little tight getting into the sunken table, especially for the portly gentleman. As we were the first diners of the tatami room I was not expecting it to be 100%, but were pretty close. As things get honed and start to work themselves out, this might be one of the most sought after private dining venues in the city. But it sure does not come cheap.
  10. Thanks, Kai. Chicago has many memorable restaurants, and I don't think you will go wrong this one. Just make sure that whatever restaurant you decide on, that you make reservations way in advance to lock in your seating. The four and twelve course menus came with a few extras that were not counted into the overall package -- note that on my visits, we tend to order a few extras. We also ended up sharing a few of the desserts, such as the soufflé, so it might look like another course. Remember that these extras (amuse, pre-desserts, mignardise, etc.) are usually one bite courses. Now we just had the tatami room experience, which is based on a Japanese kaiseki. The actual number of courses have not yet been established, but we eneded up getting having 18. The wine program is totally customizable. There are; wines by the glass, bottles, and wines paired with you meal -- our tatami room experience, we had wine, sake, and beer paired with our meal. I can't really comment on the prices (don't have the receipts in front of me). But if cost is a concern, perhaps you can ask for half pours -- the regular pours are generous and I usually cannot consume every glass presented.
  11. Thanx Doc. We've got a seat for you when you are in town.
  12. Obviously YT has been there more than me so I would defer to his opinion, but I thought that the tasting got a bit overwhelming by the end of the savory portion of the menu. Next time I will definitely go for the 4 course (and maybe add a course). I would agree with Josh. For a solo guest, I would suggest that you do the four-course. Although the 12-course is doable, it does get a bit long. Especially since 4 or 12 is rarely the actually number you get. Think around 2 amuse, 1 pre-dessert, and 2 mignardise. Therefore that 4, may be 8+, and the 12, at least 16.After having said all that, if I was a solo diner, and don't get to Chicago often, I would go with the 12, and prepare for a long night. Remember that the menu should change seasonally. If you bring your posse with you, get the four. Make sure you bring guests who are willing to share plates, then get different ones, so you can cover a lot of bases. In my experiences, the 4-course ended up being 15, with two extra orders, and took 6 hours. The 12-course became 23, with three extra orders, taking almost 7 hours. Note that this was with me, which usually adds a little more than most diners. I am sure the staff can accelerate the service to accommodate your schedule.
  13. Thank you. Really the writings are not that great. The food photos are much better. Thanx John.
  14. Following are some other images that my dining companions were having. Santa Barbara Shrimp (red pepper, raspberry, cucumber) Lamb Loin (rhubarb, tomato, cubeb pepper, zucchini) Hawaiian Sea Bass (green olive, lemon, white grit) Rhubarb (dessert)
  15. The Foie Gras amuse was atop a half sphere of raw tuna and served with brioche toast points on a toast rack (I just love toast racks). The buttery smooth foie provides a wonderful contrast to the tender tuna, that brings a wonderful combination to the second one bite'r. The Monk Fish Tail is another new item on the amuse and it does not disappoint, with a tomato meringue and concassé. This time around, Chef brings out the Oyster (winter point variety) amuse with Ossetra caviar and a lemon grass gellee. Speaking of Ossetra caviar, we had another go at their caviar, tuna and avocado dish. Same great taste as before, but twice the price from opening night. Definitely worth getting as a splurge item. If these amueses have not enticed you, their bread service sure will. This has not changed from opening night. Now the big'ies. The Shellfish Platter was chosen, from the a la caret menu, as a substitution for my first course. This dish is a display of "shock and awe." On one, Martin Kastner designed dish, Chef brings 12 (that I could count) different shellfish items. From what I can recall they are; sea urchin, winter point oyster, penn cove oyster, maine lobster, santa barbara shrimp, stone crab, soft shell crab, hokkaido scallop, mussels, little neck clams, and octopus, all of which are topped over a lemongrass oyster foam. The items on this dish change depending on availability, so your mileage may vary. It was enjoyable trying out various shellfishes and the portion was just right so as to not make one jaded by the experience. If you are a shellfish aficionado, this one is for you. Burrata Cappelli, a fish course with clams and mint leaves. This already wonderful combination is brought together with a broth of Jamón. The flavor combinations were very refreshing - spring like. The cappelli is so very light and delicate that the texture is reminiscent of a folded gnocchi. For me the experience of the dish was, the flavor and texture of the fish, followed by slight hit of the Nepitella mint, and finishing with the smooth subtle flavor of the broth of smoked Spanish ham. And for the last savory dish, the Miyazaki Wagyu Beef blows everything out of the water. L.2O has a focus on seafood, but has not left the land lover out of the picture. Last time we had the Pork Belly as an extra course, and that experience left me wanting to try out Chef's other non-fish items. This Japanese beef was just out of this world. First of all the quality is superlative. And the technique was, IMHO, one of the best that I have ever had. This small portion, maybe 4-6 ounces, was just seared and then plated with the garnishes (which although tasty, paled in comparison to the beef), and sushi (vinegar'ed) rice. The searing was done so well that each bite seemed to have a very thin crispy skin to it. Even tough there was a layer of fat at the outer most part of the meat, the fat marbled itself into the rest of the cut. Every bite was succulent. After the display of savories, and before the desserts, the kitchen brings out some pre-desserts (intermezzo). The Chocolate Effervesce was a one bite item that had a 'pop-rocky' finish. Refreshing, but a little too bitter (almost medicinal) for me. My dessert was the Chocolate Raspberry. Made with Guanaja chocolate, this dish has over 10 components of chocolate and raspberry. Of the items that I could recall; raspberry gelee, raspberry sorbet, raspberry meringue, dark raspberry ganache, and cotton candy. And just incase you were still hungry, they have the mignardise. A pistachio Macaroon and a Canelé. The macaroon was sooo good, that I was having a Ratatouille flash back moment to the Champs-Elysées, eating a macaroon by Pierre Herme. The Canelé is a traditional pastry item from Bordeaux, with a caramelized outer shell. Tasty, but I could have had another go at the Macaroon. Once again, another great L.2O dining experience. I was glad to go back and try out items that I had not had before, confirming the Chef's creativity and talent. This time around Doug was our sommelier, who provided us with a few great selections. As the restaurant's (somewhat) dynamic menu allows the diners to make their own tasting totally custom, the wine pairing program is catered similarly, with the sommelier providing a few recommendations throughout your meal. In fact, a few of us were having a junmai ginjo sake (can't recall the label), midway through our savory courses. Pretty tough on the FOH folks, but they pulled it off quite well. Our captain was Christina who performed her job in the most professional and expeditious manner. In the end (after being in the restaurant for 6 hours), she presented us with menus and breads for each of us (I believe these were ordered by our dinner host). L.2O is a restaurant that is very professional, but has the ability to change gears and cater the experience to the diner. In the end we had a lot of fun, even though we were there for a while (at no fault of the restaurant). It has been said that dining with me adds an extra 30% time to your dinner... well I sure did not want to disappoint.
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