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Everything posted by nick.kokonas

  1. Thanks for the votes of confidence everyone. The book stores were supposed to hold them until October 15th. Given the size of the books it doesn't surprise me that they put them out early. I posted a few pictures in the Mosaic forums of the signing sessions and the sleeved edition. The book is the same book, but we had Grant, Martin, Lara and me sign each and every one of the first 3,500 off the line. Each was then shrink wrapped again and placed in a sleeve. They will ship out on the 8th or so and everyone should have theirs by the 15th. The Mosaic will get new content at that point as well and we will get out of beta and start more regular updates. It will also be open to the public at that point... just hit the sign up button. Finally, we will sell sleeved copies that are unsigned of the second edition at $ 75 through our website -- which is already being printed. The cost of the books, shipping, and the sleeves exceeded our projections, so while we can wholesale the book to Amazon and do just fine (and they barely take a mark-up at $ 30), once we add the sleeve we have to increase the price. So early buyers got a deal. We are fortunate enough to have sold out through our channels the 5,000 books we ordered for our outlets (3,500 of the limited ones + some regular copies for events and the restaurant) and 25,000+ wholesale orders. So we have editions 2 and 3 already ordered. I completely understand the frustration, if any, by people who ordered early and are getting them after the folks who paid less through retail outlets. If I had to do it again I would have ensured that our supply chain did not get ahead of schedule on the wholesale side. We are right on our schedule -- almost to the day -- and it is a live and learn type situation. That said, you will be getting a copy signed by Grant and the team that created the book....
  2. 1) Mosaic access will be open to all starting October 1. Two tiers of membership will exist -- book owner and visitor. Until then, you are seeing the beta version. 2) New content will be up at that time. In addition, sometime around there we will open the Postmodern Pantry... a hyperlinked version of our ingredient index where you can purchase hard to find items.
  3. Does this mean that chef Trotter now has to eat chef Tramonto's liver? or was it the other way around....
  4. TerraGusto is my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago at any price. Period. It is super casual, BYOW, and reasonably priced.
  5. Regarding reservations: We begin taking a calender month of reservations two months previous. So on March 1 we begin taking May reservations for the entire month, and so on. 1) The cost of the wine pairings begins about 2/3rds the cost of the given menu you are having. I approximate because it does vary from day to day slightly based on what bottles our Sommelier team is opening that evening. We also have reserve pairings available, and occasionally open some rare or older vintages that we pour by the glass supplement. 2) For the 12-course tasting it is usually around 8-9 different wines. For the Tour it is about 16 or so different wines. They are poured largely to the consumption of a given diner, rather than a set amount. There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant, ordering the pairings, and then getting a tiny pour of each wine, often not enough to carry you through a particular course. So our sommeliers try to gauge your intake and re-pour as needed. That said, with that many different wines we do not wish to over serve anyone... do try to pace yourself, especially on the Tour. 3) We have a fine list of over 650 different selections from around the world, beginning at about $45. For larger parties we often suggest purchasing a wine from the list if you have a particular favorite and we can insert it into the pairing, adjusting the cost of the pairing accordingly. Of course, you can always create your own pairings as well... though with 24 courses and Grant's combinations I encourage you to think creatively.
  6. actually, I find print to be way less reliable, personally. But the good news is that Chef Carlson does indeed intend to reopen Schwa. Let's hope that it's soon... I am getting hungry.
  7. We simply have not worked out the cost of shipping on such orders. We have had an amazing number of inquiries from around the world already and are working on a cost-effective solution to shipping overseas. The book will be heavy (literally!)... and I don't think anyone wants to pay more for shipping than for the book itself. As soon as we have that worked out we will respond to all of those inquiries and hopefully have a live shipping quote system on the ordering form itself.
  8. To answer some of the questions posted: The book will comprise 4 Seasonal Tour menus of 25 courses each. Every dish will have the exact recipe used in the Alinea kitchen, along with at least one photo (more often, more than one including process shots). Between these sections will be informative essays by some great writers (TBA later...). About a year ago we started planning the book. The idea was to have Lara Kastner at the restaurant full time to photograph all of the new dishes as they were being made and evolving. Ordinarily, when producing a cookbook, the production team decides on the recipes that will be included, then hires a photographer, sets a schedule, and plates the dishes for the photo shoot. Lara, instead, erects a small studio (lights, backdrop, bounces, tripods, etc) in the front dining room 3 or 4 days per week and photographs the dishes as they are being created. To date she has taken well over a Terabyte of digital photography -- literally thousands of pictures -- of not only the finished product, but also the process in the kitchen, service staff, etc. This allows us to take some risks artistically that would normally not be possible due to a tight photography schedule. With a recipes like Grant's it was difficult to decide exactly how much information should go into the book. Which techniques should be expounded on graphically? How much detail do you include? Some of the dishes are just 3 or 4 steps. Others have more than 20 separate recipes that must be executed in order to plate one dish. It is tough to know where to draw the line -- the book could easily go 500 pages or more and never get produced. Our solution was to take this wealth of added information and create the Alinea Mosaic website that will be a companion piece to the book. Everyone who buys a book will receive a unique user ID and login password to the site. Process shots, recipes, sourcing and demonstration videos will be included on there and we will continue to update that site as we take more photos and create new recipes. We will have a section where book readers can ask Grant and the Alinea team questions about the recipes, post their own efforts, and generally discuss the techniques.... it should prove to be an interesting and very usable site. This did, however, pose some issues for some publishers. Based on early layouts produced by Martin at Crucial Detail, we were offered some very sizable advances. But we were also told that no way could we then include any overlapping recipe information on our own web site. Publishers were worried that it would cut into sales. I felt very strongly (and still do!) that quite the opposite happens. Ultimately, we found our best match with 10 Speed Press who understood our vision very quickly and have been amazingly supportive. We have decided to include both English and Metric measurements so that the ambitious home cook can tackle the recipes. We have also scaled the recipes for home use in most cases, figuring it is easier for the professional chef to scale up than for the home chef to convert down. But other than that the recipes will be exactly the ones used in the Alinea kitchen. The tempura batter recipe is worth the price of admission all by itself as far as I am concerned (my fried shrimp at home have improved immensely!). We decided to offer pre-sales based on the number of emails and phone calls we have received asking when the book will be available. Everyone who orders early will receive a special limited edition volume signed by chef G and the production team. They will also get early access to the Mosaic which will launch on Alinea's 3rd anniversary in May. The book will ship next Fall.
  9. Well, since you mentioned it... The Alinea Book is available for pre-order here. Early purchase gets you a limited edition copy signed by chef G and the book team, as well as early access to the Alinea Mosaic, the companion web site, that will have dozens of extras. The book itself will be distributed by 10 Speed Press (!) and will ship Fall, 08.
  10. nick.kokonas

    alinea's tricks

    that is incorrect. No air compressor is used. Mozz. curd is used and shaped. Eventually an ISI cannister is filled with tomato water and the mozz is tightly wrapped around the dispenser. The balloon is inflated carefully and the end is squeezed off. The "ghetto method" is often not far from the truth -- except that once you have to do 100 per night, more refined methods need to be found.
  11. I have long been an advocate for a place like TFL or Per Se, where demand FAR outstrips supply, for them to simply increase the pricing accordingly. Instead of 1.5 seatings, they could simply increase the price by 1.5 times or perhaps even more. If the Rolling Stones and Madonna (let alone Streisand) can sell $500 tickets, why can't Thomas Keller. Of course, then, they would be vilified in the press for "taking advantage" of their position etc. All I know is that when I have eaten at 2 and 3 star restaurants in Paris or London, it is often the case that the bill is double what I have paid at Per Se... I recall a 300 Euro prix fixe price for food alone at several Paris 3 stars, well above what could be charged in the U.S. without a column or two bemoaning the fact in the papers. Heck, appetizers at Le Meurice (my all time favorite hotel for service and a great restaurant) cost up to 115 Euros with the average app. going for roundly 70 Euro. Main courses such as a roasted fillet of turbot are 110 Euro. Of course, when I suggested this to a few U.S. chefs I know they looked at me like I was certifiably nuts. All one has to do is read the articles on the mandatory service fee "imposed" by chefs such as Keller and Trotter -- and how the writers misunderstood the real economics and purpose of them (ie. the freedom to pay the kitchen properly) -- to understand how difficult it is to price a restaurant such as Per Se properly.
  12. I was at City Hall for a council meeting where the mayor and city council commended the 2007 James Beard winners from Chicago, including Rick Tramanto and Rich Melman, Rick Bayless and his wife as owners of Frontera Grill, Art Smith, and Grant. In a press conference, the Mayor was asked his thoughts on the foie ban and his statement was that it was the "silliest" law ever passed by the council, and he contrasted it with some very sobering thoughts on the killings in Chicago schools this year. Chef Bayless also had some interesting thoughts, saying basically that so long as the bill is repealed soon, there will be no long-term, lasting harm to Chicago's dining reputation. Overall, I had the strong feeling that the Foie ban will be repealed soon, and it is my understanding that a vote on the repeal will be held fairly soon. I should also add that I have been to many restaurants that have served foie since the ban, including a few that had it on a verbal special. After speaking with several council members about the ban they all voiced their support for the repeal...
  13. and to think that the Alinea staff just thought you were a lightweight !
  14. here's a funny little story... a couple comes into Alinea at about 7:45 for a 9 PM reservation to see if they can get a table early. We are full up and they can tell we really are so they go next door to Boka for a few drinks -- which is what we usually recommend as we love Boka. They come back at 9:00 ready for dinner -- and I mean they really need food at this point! Halfway through the meal and the wines the lady-half of the couple is falling asleep or just plain falling. They cut their meal a tad short and get a cab out of there. The servers note on the reservation that they arrived drunk, got drunker, and left. The next day we get an email from the gentleman asking for a refund as his wife got "sick" when she got home -- clearly from some sort of food poisoning. hah! Morale of the story -- take it easy before the wine begins to flow. We are generous with our pours and always give more if it means finishing a pairing with a course. But if you have to have a drink beforehand go to Boka... so that we can check out the size of your bar-tab before we email you back!
  15. The talk should last about an hour and be followed by audience comments and questions for both Mr. Ruhlman and Chef Achatz. It should be an interesting and open discussion.
  16. wow ron... as a fan of anything fried it seems weird to say this, but I feel like I need a cholesterol check just reading this post!! I must be getting old!!!
  17. We do have an email list, though it has been used very infrequently thus far. Feel free to submit your interest to: info@alinearestaurant.com note: add my name to the email list. The 12 course menu does contain "less food" from a pure weight standpoint, but not by much.
  18. On any given night, fully 1/4 of the restaurant is filled with patrons to whom $50 represents a significant difference. For many customers, it is their very first experience with a tasting menu. Making such a change would be more impactful than you might imagine. While we get a great number of "foodies" who have travelled in for the occasion, we also get a great number for whom Alinea is a completely new and different experience.
  19. There is indeed a variance in dishes between the 12 course and the tour... to a greater or lesser extent depending on seasonality and changes in the menus. Since the menu at Alinea changes completely 4 - 5 times per year, offering 2 completely distinct menus that do not draw on past dishes would be quite difficult to say the least. The current set-up allows for timely innovation of dishes while insuring the highest quality of preparation. Moving to one menu is an ideal for many reasons. However, we feel that at present, most of our diners enjoy having a choice between the 12-course tasting and the Tour. Part of that choice involves the amount of time dinner takes -- not everyone is willing to spend 3+ hours at the restaurant -- and the other part is financial... a $50 difference between menus. It is possible that at some point in the future we would be in a position to offer one menu of an intermediate length at a price point between the two current menus. But I believe that that is still some time away. We are planning several special events during the next year that will offer that type of format for a few nights, however.
  20. 15% of $700 is more, but there are far fewer patrons. The economics of a small, degustation restaurant work out more or less the same, is my point. I have been to Japan, spent about 7 weeks travelling the country with my wife who speaks fluent Japanese and has lived there for about 1 year in total, part of that with a family in Kyoto during college. The experience at Masa is wholly authentic. I suppose some of my surprise is that they made no accomodations for the American palate -- desserts etc. Which, of course, is precisely the point! Soy sauce was offered at one point... in a dish so shallow it held only enough to get a hint of it on any nigiri. We were told when it was appropriate to further season the sushi. None of my comments were meant as negatives... as a dining experience, this was top 5 lifetime.
  21. The whole idea is that ordinarily, we do not decide at all. By turning only 1/3 of the seats, it rarely becomes a problem -- and so diners themselves decide how long to stay. However, at times it becomes evident that a 3.5 to 4 hour tour is not possible. The overriding concern for your dinner, on the other hand, was the large number of tours that would have begun at the same moment, probably due to the very traffic problems you mention. Again, it was an unfortunate circumstance and one we try very hard to avoid. I hope, however, that you enjoyed your meal overall.
  22. When booking a reservation at Alinea, we always ask whether the guest is familiar with the menu formats, and whether they are interested in the Tour. If they are, we make a note of it on the reservation with a tag "requests Tour if available". On the night in question, Alinea served 87 people. With 66 seats that night (due to table configurations), the "turn" of 21 people means that at about 9:30 or 10:00, plenty of tables would be available. What becomes a problem is staging long degustation menus when reservation times become pushed together. Diners often make reservations at 5:00 PM to get a spot, but then show up at 5:37 (as happened this time). Others who have a 9:00 PM on a Sunday, decide to try their luck at 8:00 (we account for this as well, ahead of time). While the seats are available, properly pacing the meals for the entire restaurant then becomes impossible and standards are lost. When this occurs, we let people know that the Tour is not available. Many times we also then include, for free, several items off of the Tour menu (in this case, the 12 course menu became 15). We try to do all of this without going into all this detail. We make every effort to accomodate -- but when we simply cannot do so and do so well, then we limit the number of Tours that are available. Of course, we try to do this all politely and I realize that it can come off as overly stern or unaccomodating. For that I apologize. If diners insist that they simply must have the Tour and we cannot accomodate that request without ruining the experience of others, then we are at an impasse that becomes uncomfortable for everyone. It does not happen often. It should be noted that the average "Tour Time" for that evening was just over 3.5 hours. It is precisely for this reason that ultimately, Alinea will likely have only one menu of 16-20 courses. During our anniversary week we had one menu, one seating, and the feedback from clients was excellent. In the meantime, we have been serving as many as 30+ Tour menus per evening. Problems such as this are, thankfully, rare. We never want our guests to feel in any way rushed and we book the room appropriately. If you were made to feel unwelcome in any way, that is a terrible error which I very much regret.
  23. No doubting the man's abilities and the ingredients, but I'd be smiling a lot too I charge that much.... ← I think in general there is a great misunderstanding among the dining public about the margins in the restaurant industry. Generally speaking, a well run restaurant -- even one that charges several hundred dollars per customer -- brings about 10 % to the bottom line. Could it be 15% -- sure. It could also be 8%. I would be surprised if Masa does substantially better than that -- with the exception that the lease at AOL - TW could be a different sort of deal. Food costs usually run about 35% in a fine dining restaurant -- so that would put Masa at about $122 per person. Did I eat that much food. Probably. I certainly had enough Toro to choke a horse. Plenty of quality caviar too. Fish that flew first class from somewhere... fish of types I have never even heard of. Floral... that is a funny one. No one expects the floral arrangements to cost what they do -- but they are thousands per month. Plus maintainance. Staff. Usually another 35-40% of revenue.... Masa may have this one beat a bit since he has a relatively small salaried staff of chefs. I counted 6. Dish washers and such were out of site, but there can't be too many. Rent. I am sure the AOL TW deal is unique given the ambitions of their "food court"... but what would a lease there usually cost... $100 per square foot triple net? I don't know NYC pricing, but Michigan Ave. in Chicago approaches that, so that is not an unreasonable guess. I could go on, but my point is basically this: if you want the best of anything, it usually costs that much for a reason. Incremental improvements cost more than anyone would guess. Add another degree or two on top of that and it is not crazy to see how such an experience can cost $350. Is it worth it is a completely subjective question that is up to the individual diner to decide -- there are a million different answers to that question, as it is a personal one.
  24. Count me among those who found Masa to be an ethereal experience. Much has been written about the restaurant, the price, the fish, the wood on the sushi bar, etc. So I will only give my impressions: -- The place feels very small. In fact, it is downright intimate, though the sushi bar is expansive given the number of seats. -- I would never sit at a table there. Only the bar. -- You can actually feel the fine grit of saw dust on the sushi bar. I assumed that they must sand it every night. I asked. They do. -- It is very, very quiet. Two guests on the other end had a bit of laughter going on, but it felt out of place. The only negative at all was that it felt like a stern experience. While enraptured with the food, I felt like I had to speak in hushed tones. Even the waitress who poured the sake did... -- Masa smiled a lot. He was having fun. But he was quiet, too. -- The non-sushi courses were universally excellent, especially the soup. -- The nigiri was the best I have ever had -- and we had a lot. I didn't count, but 15-18 pieces for sure, maybe more. -- The Toro Maki Roll was the size of a quarter pounder with cheese. OK not quite, but it was huge. -- I was expecting traditional japanese desserts of some sort. There were none. -- The meal ended abruptly -- "this is your last course". OK. Gotcha. All in all I would not hesitate in the least to go back -- in fact, I will go back as soon as possible. Is there equivalent sushi in NYC? Probably... but not in that setting. It is indeed a jarring experience to re-enter the world of Time Warner. Next time I will linger a bit longer over some tea and stroke the dust of the bar for a bit longer. Maybe they will cut another fish or two...
  25. Ok, confession time. Two products I never want to see changed... 7-up and Tropicana. Low brow, sure. But don't mess with those two, please. The new 7-up is depressing.... I want all-not-natural old 7-up... I am a junkie just like some people who drink diet cokes all day. there, now I feel better.
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