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Everything posted by Renka

  1. Today I baked my first goodie from The Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko (it has been sitting on my bookshelf for over half a year!). Dragon Devil's Food Cupcake I substituted Iron Goddess tea and pure vanilla extract in the recipe, and used dried Rainier cherries.
  2. Thanks VPF for the kind words and for your interest. As Rob said, it's found on my photostream (link is under the image). One day I'll get to the RecipeGullet... oli, I do hope you try this design. It's so easy to do, but it looks "fancy." Again Rob beat me to the explanation of how to do it. All the best and I'd love to see what you create! Kim, hats off to you and your gorgeous goodie! I saw the top frosting and went WOW. Of course Ling is a great inspiration for many a things (in fact, I forgot to credit her with the apple filling of my strudel... I was inspired by the perfect apple pie recipe she had sent me previously and instead thinly sliced up my apples for this ultra aromatic filling).
  3. Here are more baked goods from the past. This time it's featuring goodies that I found inspiration to create (i.e. the results of my tinkering/experimenting in the kitchen). Thankfully they all ended up tasty! Banana Diplomat Cake Light banana cake Crispy French Puff Pastry Vanilla Buttercream I was really pleased with this brainstorm as it sliced beautifuly for service! Cranberry, Raisin, Currant, Dried Apple, Walnut with Orange Rind Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread I love sourdoughs, fruit & nut, and full flavoured breads... this was one of my first loaves. Decadent Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse Torte My version of Feb 2005 Cover recipe from Gourmet. Chocolate-hazelnut sponge cake base with "Nutella" mousse, chocolate glaze finish, topped with a candied hazelnut. Lower-fat Banana Bread with Wild Blueberries and Walnuts An adaptation based on the Best Light Recipes. Low Fat Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Bread Healthier (using whole wheat flour) than the already lower-fat option from the Best Light Recipes and a combination of two things I like: blueberries and banana bread. Apple Strudel Inspired by the Glazed Apple Lattice Coffee Cake from Bon Appetit (October 2007), I wrapped a puff pastry exterior around sliced cinnamon-y apples (it also had nutmeg and cardamom). It was served warm after its top was brushed with apple jelly. Chocolate Banana Tart with Fresh Kiwi and Toasted Coconut Blueberry Bread Inspired by a post by The Foppish Baker, I used about 3 oz dried blueberries, and instead of water (for the poolish and bread dough) I used organic blueberry/cranberry/cherry juice. I also omitted the sugar in the recipe and the icing sugar dusting at the end, preferring to make a fruity bread more than a dessert bread. It reminded me of a toasty blueberry bagel, except it actually tasted like blueberries, and not sugar with synthetic blueberry flavour. Whole Wheat Cranberry, Raisin, Currant and Walnut Bread Although the base recipe is from DOUGH: SIMPLE CONTEMPORARY BREAD by Richard Bertinet, I used organic blueberry-cranberry-cherry juice (liking how my blueberry bread was more fruity in aroma when I used juice instead of other liquids). Coconut Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips This was based on the recipe by Cook's Illustrated... but I tweaked it, as usual. Roasted Ontario Tree Ripened Peach Frangipane Tart There's a reason why I love summer... Almond powder is a wonderful thing and I used it both in the filling and in the pâte sucre (a recipe from La Patisserie de Pierre Hermé). Mixed Berry Earl Grey Cake Pistachio Blueberry Banana Bread Besides blueberries and banana bread, I love pistachios. This is yet another variation of the banana breads mentioned above. Fig Ice Cream Cake I thought I'd do a pavola inspired dessert, light and refreshing enough for summer. The base is a thin meringue layer, covered with vanilla ice cream and sliced fresh figs. Brazillian Bolo Cake Trifle Leche Flan Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes Ice cream cones filled with rich chocolate cake, chocolate ganache layer, and vanilla buttercream frosting. I chose to colour the buttercream violet and yellow in honour of spring. Pear Clafoutis Chestnut Cream Cake Mango Coconut Bavarian Charlotte Mentioned in an earlier posts: White Chocolate Cashew Butter Cookies Made with chopped white chocolate from Bernard Callebaut (of Calgary!), cashew butter, an egg and no sugar (there was enough white chocolate to sweeten the cookies). Cobs Inspired Date & Coffee Loaf (low-fat) I really can't get over the date & coffee bread from Cobs (in Vancouver)... so glad I came up with a recipe (that's healthy too!) to mimic it.
  4. Santa brought me a new camera for Christmas. The food and I thank him! ← meredithla And we are thanking him for gifting you with one. Drool worthy photo indeed!
  5. Hi Randi, I only buy and eat stuff from bakeries or restaurants. At most, I might help cater (or host my own) an event . I have a little fun in my kitchen from time to time (actually it's quite often). It also helps to have frequent gatherings to attend, where I can bring treats, thus allowing me to play with different recipes (I think I'll post those next). If anything, it becomes almost half expected to show up with something each time (at least when a birthday rolls around or for our church choir practices)! Christmas is my favourite time of the year as I can make a tonne of treats and have them packed to go. It's become an annual event and it's almost cute/funny how those I know look forward to seeing what may be new each year. I'm going to miss that when I have less time to bake. LOL, if you come up to Toronto, let me know That may be another reason to "play."
  6. Another splash of photos of past bakes. Here are some of the cakes that I've made. La Bête Noire from September 2006's Bon Appétit Damien Pignolet's Eve's Chocolate Cake This cake was the talks, especially since it's a flourless chocolate cake that is topped with its own raw batter (the mousse that sits at the top). It is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder and grated chocolate. Light New York Cheesecake from Cook's Illustrated Coconut Pineapple and Honey Cake Tiramisu from The Silver Spoon Seriously, can you resist this? Flo Braker's Triple Layered Devil's Food Cake Payard's Apple Pound Cake Rich Chocolate Cupcake with Caramelized Hazelnuts Cap Alice Medrich's Low-Fat Chocolate Marble Cake Flo Braker's Apricot Pound Cake The filling was made from unsulfurized Blenheim California apricots. Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake Flo Braker's Chambéry Lemon Torte New York Style Cheesecake
  7. Ah, a procrastinator after my own heart. I'm just glad you took the pictures and posted them, no matter how long after baking the pictures were posted! Suprisingly, I saw cherries at Costco the other day! But at $25/kg, I decided to pass (I assumed they weren't very good cherries, though if they had been good, I would have bought them!). I'll look for some dried cherries. I'm making some shortbread cookies this weekend, too! I've already made the dough, but then I saw your picture and recipe and thought, "Crap! Why didn't she post this earlier!" But no worries, I can't do any kind of cookie dough piping right now (It's only 7C inside my apartment, so I can't get the dough soft enough to pipe), so I'm not that angry with you. More, more! (Like you haven't posted enough...there's never enough!) ← prasantrin: Ha ha. If I get in trouble for bombarding this thread with too many old pictures, I'll have you to thank for it. Anyway, one cannot do with too many shortbread cookies (and I'm sure neighbours or coworkers would welcome extras (you can even do a taste test! I find those fun)). I like this simple recipe and find that it's quite popular. jumanggy: Firstly, oh my gosh, your cakes and desserts look so wonderful. I love how you push yourself to try things that are above and beyond the simple home baker. Super impressive stuff. Secondly, to answer both yours and Kim's question, the Mayan Chocolate Cookies are like rich chocolate cookies (with ground espresso and chocolate chip studded in the batter) but with a surprising "kick." Cookie lovers would be savouring the delicious goody, but will notice a little heat at the back of their throats when polishing off the last crumbs that stems from the pinch of cayenne pepper that was added to the batter before baking. Thirdly, do try out the Fudgy & Crackly Brownies recipe. It's a spin off of Julia Child's and again well received. It may not look as impressive as many of your plated desserts, but it's taste and texture speaks volumes for itself. BTW Kim, thanks for another kind comment. I hope that the next series of photos may be just as delicious. Rob: Congrats on being hired to have fun!! Your cake looks great. I hope to pick your brain one day about how to do proper pipping with icing. In the meantime I'm eyeing your Madras Curry Marshmallow! As usual you bowl me over with the unique flavour combos you come up with. Where do you get your inspiration?? (loved your revelation about soap for that last one )
  8. Here are some more past bakes. Again, these are not that recent (i.e. this week), but still delicious. First off, cookies: Biscuits Très Gingembre Containing: Organic candied ginger Toasted Oats Fresh ginger root Cookie inspired by Seattle's Macrina Bakery and Café's Chocolate Chip Cookies with Dried Apricots and Espresso. Containing: Bittersweet Callebaut Chocolate Chunks Organic dried apricots and pears Macadamia Kona Coffee White Chocolate Cashew Butter Cookies Melt-in-your-mouth Shortbread Cobs Inspired Date & Coffee Loaf (low-fat); Thick and Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies; Soft and Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookies White Chocolate, Cranberry and Macadamia Nut Cookies Matcha/Green Tea Shortbread Crackly & Fudgey Brownies and Mayan Chocolate Cookies Fudgey Brownies; Peanut Butter and Callebaut Dark Chocolate Cookies; Melt-in-your-mouth Shortbreads Finally with Chinese New Year coming up, these might be a tempting treat (although ignore the pig on the lucky pocket for 2007 ): Chinese Almond Cookies Hope that's enough sugar for this morning.
  9. Kim: Yup, fresh blueberries. It makes all the difference, especially when freshly baked (they're so plump and burst with natural jammy sweetness). Brigid Mary: Thank you so much for your kind words. Now I'm curious about your banana walnut bread! It's real bread bread vs. the typical loaf, right? How was it? I love bread crusts and am curious to hear how yours turned out (and if fabulous, would you mind sharing the recipe?).
  10. Why of course I mind! I mind that you didn't share any of those delicious sweets with me! And I'm sure you have more pictures in your backlog--post those, too! Even though I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, this one really speaks to me! It forced me to look up the recipe on the internet (I'm a big fan of Emily Luchetti recipes--I've never tried one that hasn't been a success--but I have none of her books!), and now that I have it... Where did you get your cherries for this recipe at this time of year? I don't even think I could get frozen cherries in Japan right now (though if I could, do you think I could use those if I drained them well?). Do you think some sort of dried cherry substitution would work for the brownie? I could soak them in kirsch to plump them up if I had to. No cherry garnish, though. ← prasantrin: You're so funny! But thanks for being so nice about the baked goods. I'll make sure to post more as soon as I can upload them. I agree with you on recipes from Emily Luchetti. I also tend to do a lot of PH and Flo Braker. I have to crack open my other dessert cookbooks soon. I have to confess something though, the Black Forest Brownies were baked when cherries were still available in the supermarkets. However I did see some (sold for only an arm and not the leg) this weekend at an Asian grocery store. No comment on how fresh they were. If you still wanted to try the recipe with the cherries in the batter, I would go with the dried cherries option (and of course, adding any leftover kirsch soaking liquid to the brownie batter) vs. using frozen cherries. It's less messy. Holy smokes girl, you've done yourself proud! I didn't know about PH's florentines and I will definitely try them. I love the crust on your banana bread. I can almost feel the crisp texture in my mouth. You've also done a great job of photographing everything. What exactly is it that you've placed on top of the Coconut & Chestnut Cream Tartlets? It looks like a little chocolate chunk that's been dipped in cocoa to take off the shine but I'm not so sure that's what it is. ← Thanks CanadianBakin' for your kind words. Seriously, it slipped my mind to post the images to this topic. You really should try the PH Florentines. I know that Fanny has baked up similar ones which would probably be a little less time consuming, but all the same delicious (she would know, lol, she has first hand experience with PH!). The treats are great on their own as I've been known to sneak a whole bunch for my own consumption before any chocolate dipping or drizzle. In regards to the chocolate peg on top of the Coconut & Chestnut Cream Tartlet, it was store purchased (Callebaut). I just popped them in the oven at the same time that I baked the tartlets and out came the nice shine.
  11. Some of the sweets from the holiday parties/packages a few weeks back: Not pictured here are some tartlets that were filled with caramel, covered with 72% chocolate and topped with a peg of candied orange peel Fig-Orange & Amaretti Tartlet with Pine Nuts (I used the amarretti I purchased from Pasticceria Marchini from my trip to Venice and Dalmatia's Fig Spread with Orange) Coconut & Chestnut Cream Tartlet Swiss Bettinas (walnut and caramel) Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Clusters Boxed: The final packages that were ready to go (after a week devoted to baking 85 dozen minature sweets) :
  12. More of those baked treats... Chocolate cupcakes filled with surprises (aka a chunk of bubbly chocolate or fruit & nut chocolate) topped with chocolate, peanut butter or coconut buttercream A personal fave: Perfect Blueberry Scone from Cook's Illustrated ... and a look inside that scone. Sesame Cookies Flo Braker's S'More Squares And my annual holiday (or any day) bake from La Pâtisserie de Pierre Hermé: Pierre Hermé's Sables Florentins
  13. I have such a backlog of things I've baked the last while, that I hope you don't mind if I post up some "recent" bakes. Eggless Chocolate Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting Banana Coconut Bread Gluten- & Dairy-free Peanut Butter Cookies Pierre Hermé's Suzy's Cake Emily Luchetti's Black Forest Brownies with Mocha Ganache
  14. Just thought I'd add my two cents on a recent visit to Trevor. Images can be found here: Trevor Kitchen and Bar I only stopped by for a very quick meal. Of the two entrees and the side that I ordered I was pleased with my order, and would gladly return to Trevor to try many of the other delicious sounding menu items (including an appetizer at the very least). In case anyone's interested, my dining companion and I ordered the "Grilled Venison Tenderloin" (the rib chop was not available that night) and the "Savoury Crumble Crusted Lamb Shoulder" which were both nicely prepared. I also agree that the "Chestnut & Root Vegetable Hash" was tasty. The service was courteous and friendly; the kitchen skilled enough to know how to treat good ingredients well. Nothing over the top, just very good sophisticated fare. This would be a fine establishment to host private gatherings, take a date out to, or just for a great place for good friends to dine at. Endy_, I didn't notice any really loud music pumping and I was there around 7:15pm on a Sat night. Perhaps they've toned town the noise since your past visit or maybe there's a difference in speaker volume between the bar and the dining room?
  15. Gordon, If you knew the price of that plate (note, it was two orders!), you wouldn't be so jealous!!!
  16. Thanks Gordon for the report. I'm glad to hear that they've worked on the improving the elements for dishes (i.e. using soy sauce powder versus granita for the sashimi starter; serving the chocolate bar vs. the chocolate soup) and cooking their duck better compared to the dinner I had there in April. I'm also glad you had the frozen parfait as I found it quite pleasurable when it was a lavendar tower. Suppose there's also some truth behind the wait for new or hyped restaurants before the public should go. Perhaps my dinner there was premature as my impression was less than enthusiastic? (Either way, I suppose my meals with the MG superstars outside of T.O. have spoiled me.)
  17. I also prefer my bananas with the side ribs streaked with green, as I find them not too sweet in this state. However it is the texture - slightly firm and dense - that I enjoy the most, as the banana is firm and not mushy; the peel doesn't leave a mealy mess. The only drawbacks to underripe bananas are the sticky peel and the aftertaste that can be left on the teeth. I second DCP with the comments regarding bananas that have tended on the yellow side. When a banana is pure yellow, I leave it to ripen (get spotty and brown/black) for banana bread.
  18. Just got this in my email from Bistro Bakery Thuet: "Chef Thuet has also procured the restrictedly exclusive Wagyu beef from Japan. This delicacy is offered, for the first time in Toronto, at Bistro Bakery Thuet. The Japanese Wagyu has found a perfect home in the kitchen of Chef Thuet. It is offered as a meaty counterpart to our Ahi tuna tartare as well as a Striploin grilled to rare served with truffled mashed potato. Wagyu beef is also available at Atelier Thuet in our retail department for $180.00 per lb." Happy eating!
  19. Just a heads up/FYI to all the coffee lovers in T.O., Matthew Lee (aka Barista Matt) has set up shop at the intersection of College and Bathurst, where you can find the only Synesso and Clover machines in the city, as well as supplies of Intelligentsia's Black Cat. With many events scheduled in the near future, those who are serious addicts may want to take note of the Esmerelda coffee (world's most expensive coffee) cupping that is scheduled for mid-October (supply is limited). Personal bias or not, to experience some truly wonderful brew make sure you stop by Manic Coffee and see what everyone's starting to rave about (last I heard, Matt's already met up with a number of publications reporting on the shop).
  20. Closest was Canoe who did a starter plate of all their seafood starters. We shared between 4 and they brought it out on a 2 level platter. Good and interesting but not that fantastic amount of food in your picture. My personal favorite was the soused scallops with popcorn. Most inventive dish and the butter popcorn worked really well with the citrus / scallop combo. ← Thanks for the rec. It's been some time since my last visit to Canoe, so I'll keep that in mind.
  21. Vaughan, Does it count that I'm a relocated west-coaster? I would certainly say, without a doubt that Vancouver excels in Asian cuisine (unless you want high end dim sum, then Lai Wah Heen is good. But then, I make it out to Kirin on Cambie more than I do at LWH, even though I live in T.O.). Same goes with Japanese cuisine, unless you want to head to Sushi Kaji (think Tojo's without the "original creations" attitude. ). I've mentioned Mother's dumplings to another dumpling lover who seemed to highly enjoy her experience. If you wanted to try experimental/molecular gastronomy/fun cuisine, might as well head to Chicago or Europe, basically anywhere but here, as it is something new to the T.O. market. I'll be honest, there are very few people that I know personally who have tried Colborne Lane (myself included) who love it. It's still in the refining stages (my excuse for them) and I'll leave it to you if you want to be a guinea pig. More refined and well executed is Splendido, that's if you want something that's Canadian cuisine (I'm thinking a little mix between Lumiere (style), West and Parkside (a dinner in Ling's company, she was recognized, so I'm not sure if that might have skewed the dining experience ), if I could be so bold to suggest). It's one of my faves in the city. I've also had a great experience at Via Allegro. It's a little out of the way (who am I kidding, it's far), but it's great for food and value. I'd equate it to Vij's but obviously it's Italian not Indian, you are able to make reservations, and it's priced a little more. However, you will come out just as happy and satisfied. I know Perigee is much loved on this thread, and it is decent. I've just been spoiled with visits to i.e. French Laundry, Avenues, etc. so it's difficult for me to speak biasly. But Chef Riley is doing good stuff there. Have you been to Mistral in Seattle? It's kind of along those lines. If not, you might want to try out George. That's decent, and not far from where you're staying, too. I've not (yet) tried One but have heard good things. Many love JK Wine Bar and it good for a drop by meal, or one where you can dine in the company of others. If you want to eat local, this might be where you'd like to try (for a complete immersion in this concept, maybe try out Eigensinn Farm next time). However, giving me the option, I'd happily trot (in Vancouver) to Guu for a dose of good Izakaya fare. Good luck with your choices here. You are certainly not without options. Update: Just to further Jake's comment below. Chiado's is decent too, especially due to their fresh selection of fish. Even though you're coming from Vancouver, the selection could be very different from what you can get out west (their skatewing is decadent!). Other than that, I still can't get over that tower at Blue Water in Yaletown. Now that is worth a repeat performance. Warning, this is a plug for Vancouver dining (I hope my friend doesn't mind that he got caught in this picture): ^^ Does anyone know where in T.O. you can get a beautiful thing like this??
  22. Oooh Le Pain Quotidien is supposed to be opening up in T.O. soon. It looks like there may be a saving grace for a decent baguette in this city. (Yes, I'm very much into bread, and have probably tried all that is available in any city I visit. However I'm picky with my breads. If everyone here is rooting for the baguettes then I really can't wait until they open! How does it compare to ACME though?)
  23. At this point knew that Chef Achatz had successfully challenged all my senses and pre-conceptions of any- and everything familiar with food that I'd acquired after all these years. I was glad that Charlotte was there with me because we were both similarly blown away by how unpredictable and increasingly confused we seemed to be with each passing course. So when we were presented a little cube on the end of a linen roll, we knew just to eat and savour. PINEAPPLE bacon powder, black pepper: Up close: Pineapple and soft bacon nougat like candy was surrounded by a crisp sugar crust. 'Nuf said. LAMB date, mastic, rosemary aroma: View #2: This is where that sprig of rosemary from our table setting came into play. Given a pair of chopsticks, our server placed the pair on the rosemary contraption, before removing the sprig and placing it in a small hole at the back of a hotplate, built especially for this course. The rosemary was supposed to impart an aroma to our meal as we consumed the three morsels of sous vide coins of Elysian Fields lamb (Pennsylvania) that were differentially prepared. On the small table like hotplate closest to us was a coin of lamb that had mastic cream (from the evergreen tree), the center was a piece with fresh dates and pickled sherry vinegar, while the piece placed furthest from us was dressed with red wine braised red cabbage. We were supposed to allow the bites to sizzle and sear at our table to allow for a sort of interactive dining. Can we say Korean BBQ influence? Very cool: VENISON encased in savory granola: Cross section: Granola made from a mixture of oats, dried cherries, puffed rice, fried onions, cinnamon and all spiced surrounded a medallion of New Zealand poached venison. Accompanied by oatmeal nage, celery root purée, cherry and red wine reduction, wonder root (baby chives). The flavours transported me from being within the confines of a luxe and refined restaurant to the rustic woods. Granola takes on any traditional bread crumb/nut crusted venison, while the sweet flavours of the dried fruits, vegetables and spices provide warmth to the game meat. I really like game and even though the ingredients in this course were not wild, their appearance together in this form was novel and sophisticated. RASPBERRY goat milk, red pepper taffy, pistachio: A frozen tempered raspberry purée draped itself across a barren landscape while blanketing dabs of goat milk pudding and tapioca. The only change of colour is provided by pistachio in three forms: as a tuille, brittle and purée. Little pink puddles of lavender pudding seem strategically placed on the lower corners of this plate, while raspberry cones filled with red bell pepper taffy are sticky and chewy. Fragrant, tart and smooth this course provided us with a surprise of a soft, juicy and delicate fruit confection that collapsed around a delightful unctuous, thickened custard. LICORICE CAKE spiced with hoja santa leaves: Garnishes: Sweet potato cream on the unwrapped cake: Again appeared another licorice item, and although hesitant, I was wonderfully surprised at how tasty this dessert was. Licorice cake is perfumed with anise and sasafrass flavours by its Mexican hoja santa leaf covering. We were instructed to unwrap our licorice cake parcel to expose the leaf and consume only the cake with our four garnishes: a sweet potato cream, a cooked Bavarian chiffonade of licorice leather, a muscavado sugar jelly, and a confit of orange rind and Xtabentún (a Mayan anise and honey liqueur). CHOCOLATE bergamot, cassia, figs: Course 21 was something I couldn't partake in due to my allergies. However I did get the notes regarding its components. I'm sure, as a prior chocolate lover, I would have licked the plate clean, however Charlotte found it a little too rich and had to give up part way. Okumare (Venezuelan), warmed slate of chocolate mousse, black mission figs, black tea and bergamot herbs. BUTTERNUT SQUASH grapefruit, honey, brioche: Just for me Honey and brioche purée pools below buttery crisp toasted brioche crumbs and a quenelle of raisin-verjus sorbet. This all sits atop a chilled brioche soup which is also accompanied by grapefruit segments, and butternut squash topped with a confit of grapefruit rind. I was very flattered to be served a course designed just for me (due to my cocoa allergies)! Rather, I was told, this was the debut of this particular course. When asked how it was, I said it was nice. Reality is, it still needed some work, particularly the wedge of butternut squash, which was still firm and should have probably been roasted and caramelized vs. boiled. We got 2 wines to consume with this course: Recioto di Soave, Vigna Marogne, Tamellini, 2001– a thick and sweet wine that had a great nose. Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, 2005 – a sweet Italian white wine that was amazing/delicious. CARAMEL meyer lemon, cinnamon perfume: Our last taste came to us on "the squid"! It wasn't the legendary PB&J (technically we got that in the hamachi course), but a cinnamon sugar dusted tempura caramel ball stuck on the end of a cinnamon stick. We were told to pull the cinnamon stick-caramel ball off the squid and to eat the caramel bit. Warm melty caramel with preserved meyer lemon rind was punctuated with the firey aroma of our aromatic utensil. Yummy, fun and wonderful with our teas, this was a great end to a wonderful evening. (Side note: As we were the last to be in the house at this point it time (it was closing in on 1am), we were able to intensely speak with Olivia (she's awesome) about the restaurant, the cuisine, and the celebrities who had recently started to give the restaurant their attention (celebrity clientele). We were told our area of the dining room was called the "Rock Star" as the table where The Barenaked Ladies sat at was the same one that U2, etc have all dined at. Very cool. We were also graciously given a tour of the rest of the restaurant, including a trip to the kitchen where we met Chef Achatz. I did gush in my gratitude for the special course. What a great way to cap off a super culinary trip to Chicago.) Overall Impression: Refined and whimsical, a frightfully amusing stimulation to all the senses, a night out at Alinea challenges what you once thought was the known with the possibilities of the unknown. Chef Achatz turns an ordinary amuse into much play involving custom made utensils and dishware, allowing the diner to interact with their food. He uses herb gelees to dress a dish, whips you around with foams, makes dehydrated pop-rock like chips from lime juice, and employs puddings and powders and smoke made tableside to enhance flavours beyond those imaginable. From tickling the senses in a quaint yet multi-component hot potato cold potato start, to a substantial kobe beef entree and lamb served three ways on a hot searing stone, to a lozenge of chestnut puree served on an ice dish that zips of licorice the kitchen never ceases to amaze and please. Next a tight roulade of quince and proscuitto teaming with complex honey and bitter orange flavours comes threated on a wire suspension pole, appearing like a microphone stand teasing you to speak to your food as it is speaking to you. Desserts come in slews to overwhelm and amuse the senses never once detracting the impressive course that their predecessors claimed. If you are fortunate enough to have Jason, Oliva or Eric walk with you through the evening, or dine next to real rock stars at the "Rock Star" table, then it is assured that your evening will be highly memorable. Alinea 1723 North Halsted Chicago (312) 867-0110 Thanks for joining me on reliving my 3 evenings of 20+ courses tasting menus in Chicago, thanks also to all the chefs and wonderful servers who made the evenings lovely. Looking forward to visiting the windy city again in the near future.
  24. CARROT smoked paprika, orange: Served in another shot glass, an orb of smoked paprika and cocoa butter shell (think smoky spicy white chocolate) sat in orange water. This was a refreshing palate cleanser, seemingly simple, lightly sweet, where a cool gush of carrot juice was waiting to escape from within the fragile orb. KOBE SHORT RIB beets, cranberry, campari: Soft, supple confit of Kobe short rib was blanketed by a beet and campari film (think fruit roll up like sheet), then decorated by a trio of baby roasted golden beet, beet pate de fruit, and sautéed beet greens. A raw fennel salad was strewn on a crispy beet ribbon which was strung across the tops of the beet toppers. Dotting the plate like scattered gems were various sized dollops of caramelized fennel puree, fennel sauce, and cranberry jelly. I could see the effort that the kitchen made in order to put this plate out, taste wise, aside from the rich, buttery tender piece of beef, I can't remember much else. WHITE TRUFFLE explosion, romaine, parmesan: A warm white truffle cream interior wrapped by an al denté exterior, tasted both briney and salty. Everything was topped with a slice of white truffle, roasted romaine and parmesan cheese. Besides the little bite of luxury, it was the dishware that caught my attention. A bottomless vessel, allowing your course to "float," that locks your spoon in place until you lift it away from its case. SQUAB huckleberry, sorrel, long peppercorn: I love my game birds and so I was curious about this next course because I was wondering what flavours Chef Achatz would be pairing with the squab. We were each given a beautiful blank canvas of a plate at the heart of which was the gorgeous plating. On a long pin was a perfect cube of ice wine vinegar pate de fruit, coated on one side with crushed Thai long peppercorn, which was fun to eat (via the pin). On the plate itself was a perfectly pan roasted slice of squab, fried squab skin that was toasty/nutty like peanut butter, a Thai long peppercorn cream custard, all on a silky rillettes reduction that was sticky, salty and buttery. Decorating the briney, almost foie gras like slice of squab were a quadruplet of tart huckleberries in buttery sauce, as well as a small pile of variegated and micro sorrel. Rich and satisfying, perfect petite portion. Yum. FOIE GRAS spicy cinnamon, apple pâte de fruit: This cute little amuse came on its own pedestal (something I recognized from images of different small bites I had previously come across from other diners) which had me a little excited. What we got here instead of hollowed out hearts of palm, etc. was a spicy cinnamon puff with foie gras torchon piped inside it. This was all capped with apple pate de fruit. We were instructed to bring the pedestal to our mouth and eat the whole puff in one bite (sorry, no innards picture). In one sentence, this little treat was everything sweet, smooth, luscious and creamy surrounded by a thin airy shell of meringue. Oh la la. CONCORD GRAPE frozen and chewy: Reminding me of the frozen flapjacks course at Moto, Chef Achatz does his own spin on things by taking a thickened puree of concord grape and searing it on a cold -30F griddle. The block was dusted with powder sugar and placed on a metal pick (I think it's pretty) that we were instructed to use to pop the treat into our mouths. LOL, I was instantly reminded of those Japanese grape gummies or a thick cold fruit roll-up. CHESTNUT Blis maple syrup: I had been anticipating the thirteenth course because I'm a chestnut lover. Served on an ice dish was a frozen lozenge of chestnut purée that was indented like a thumbprint cookie with a small puddle of maple syrup from Blis. Sea salt and star anise dusted the top of the lozenge. A pin was also stuck into the lozenge to aid our consumption of the pellet. I have to confess, I was mildly disappointed, as it really was like a lozenge! The anise was very strong (especially on the bottom of the tablet) and tasted much like licorice (which I don't like!) and mildly of creamy chestnut. I found the play of a cool licorice lozenge amusing, but in the end I really wanted something very chestnuty. LADY APPLE cheddar, eucalyptus, olive oil: Frozen lady apple mousse, thin sugar tuille with tougarashi, *thick* extra virgin olive oil jam, supple sweet onion marmalade, and soft custard of sharp white cheddar. A very Vicks Mentholatum-lie opaque gel of eucalyptus and sage was also offered along side the mousse that alone was too strong, but together with all the other components created a great partnership. This course was minty, refreshing and a great palate cleanser. Wine: Müller-Catoir - Scheurebe Spätlese, Germany 2005. I was recommended a wine pairing for this course which I took (far be it for me to refuse the advice of excellent servers (much love to Jason, Olivia and Eric)) that was sweet, crisp and had a nice long finish. QUINCE prosciutto, orange, juniper: Up close (it's tough to get a good pic of a moving object. But notice the detail): A tight roulade of thin proscuitto and quince came suspended on the tip of another fun Alinea contraption. Brushed with honey, butter orange, the lollipop was also topped with some braised mustard seeds, fried proscuitto slivers, the skin of juniper and cilantro. Before Charlotte and I got this course, we overheard the fun some other patrons at the "Rock Star" table were having (i.e. giving a thank you speech to the chef and his crew for a wonderful meal thus far) – we later (i.e. me, as my back was towards that table) discovered that they were The Barenaked Ladies (in case you missed the blurb above). Brining the bouncing disk to my mouth was really comical (I'll confess, we giggled like girls), but when I finally dove into it I found it soft and light, perfect balance of sweet and salty, slightly toothsome yet delicate. I loved it. SHELLFISH gooseberries, horseradish, celery ice: To tell you the truth, I didn't like this dish. Don't get me wrong, it was innovative and playful. Who else could make use of a shellfish sponge, top it off with celery ice and leaves, decorate the plate with gooseberry coulis and brothy horseradish sauce? Even after following the directions of mixing and matching each component to garner a variety of taste sensations all I could think about was how this was really the sea on a plate. It was very salty – very briney and was like trying to eat gritty flecks of salt. I had a hard time trying to try various taste combinations, because in any way, it was like having dirty sea water. Kudos to the chef for his creativity. HAMACHI buttermilk, blackberry, green peanuts: Besides chestnuts and sweet potatoes, I also love hamachi. After the previous dish, I was really looking forward to something that was familiar and that I knew would taste yummy. Was I in for a shock! To clarify, this dish wasn't *not* tasty, but it certainly was not anything I was familiar with (i.e. being sashimi, grilled, or as a tataki of sorts). I found a humble bar of lightly seared hamachi crusted with peanuts (possibly seared by a blow torch) on a lovely rectangular plate surrounded by scatterings of young peanuts, droplettes of rich cassis, white buttermilk pudding and chunky blackberry sauce, as well as fine tarragon leaves. Imagine my surprise when things tasted like PB&J!
  25. On to the final instalment in this dining adventure; thanks for your patients everyone. I promise the next set of photographs is well lit. (Just a plug - I'm off to a little part of nothern Italy this weekend. All I'm going to say about the trip at this point is that I'm looking forward to the "culinary adventure" that awaits, especially after all the good things I've heard about the good eats from food aficionados and those who are not. ) The evening after Moto, I had reservations to dine at Alinea in the company of Charlotte, an LTH forum member and also someone who Dr. Fine had helped met connect with. Ironically, we had an initial scare because Chef Achatz was supposed to be at the Food & Wine Expo, but he made it back in time. Now I see why I couldn't get an earlier seating (which was good, as the expo was held from 6:30-9:30; my reservation was at 9:15pm). These pictures of the "other" dining rooms were taken at the end of the evening when Charlotte and I got a little tour of the empty premises (except for us, our servers and Chef Achatz) by our kind servers before we left at 2am! The dining room downstairs (where Chef Achatz was doing a bit of work): The narrow hallway dining room upstairs: The upstairs front dining room : View from our table: The dining area Charlotte and I sat in was termed the "Rock Star" room. It's that dreaded one upstairs in the back. Apparently groups such as U2, etc. have all sat at that table. The night we dined, the room was filled with three tables of Canadians, where the entertaining and funny group sitting behind me at the" rock star" table were great throughout the evening. At one point I reasoned that it was because they were well liq'd up, until I realized after a couple glances that they were the Barenaked Ladies! I mean, at one point in time we all chimed in about who was Canadian (ironically, only Charlotte at my table was *not* Canadian- a Chicagoite. So as to not feel left out, I made Charlotte an honourary Canadian for the evening) and I didn't clue in when they just said they were from the east. I had the chance to chat with Steve and Tyler. Apparently Steve's very much into dining and was the one responsible for organizing the group's dinner at Alinea that night. We discussed a bit about Toronto's restaurants. Steve also told me to watch for his column on this and other experiences in Wine Spectator magazine. The BNL were in Chicago because they were on tour (concert the following night). They insisted we stay for the concert, but I hinted that I didn't have tickets. Yes, Charlotte and I have a picture with the Steve and Tyler, we also have one with Chef Achatz, but we'll leave those off this post and for our memories. Anyway, I know you're all here to see and read about the food, without further ado... The Tour with my *personalize* version on the left (you can note the difference in the second last item): Again I'm going to mimic the menu with the title of each dish. Decorative sprigs of rosemary (serving as our table decore and used in a later course): HOT POTATO cold potato, black truffle, butter: On presentation alone, Charlotte and I were sold. A custom pin skewered cubes of parmesan cheese, butter, a piece of chive and a chunk of butter poached potato that was topped with a truffle slice. This was all suspended above a little wax saucer of rich potato truffle soup. We were instructed to pull the pin out from beneath the saucer and to allow all the components to fall into the soup before downing it like a shot. Once the concoction hit our palates we sensed the cold soup against the warm potato cubes. This course made us giggle. Giggling for two girls at dinner is a good start to a fun night. KING CRAB vinegar, aromatics, rice: Alaskan king crab leg is embedded within a slice of rice wine vinegar gelee. The terrine is delicately decorated with saffron threads, tougarashi, black pepper, fresh slice of ginger, and parsley. As a sort of deconstructed seasoned sushi, this artful presentation was served along a nub of sushi rice topped with Osaka seaweed. The warm gelee was tart and perfectly balanced the sweet meaty crab leg. Each bit of spice was like a new and fun taste sensation. TROUT ROE cucumber, coconut, bonito: Hand harvested trout roe from Michigan (courtesy of Chef Achatz's friend – I suppose it's always nice to have your own source of trout roe. We were informed that it costs $7000/10kg. We each got a generous spoonful of that 10kg) was piled next to a glob of coconut pudding, a dollop of avocado puree which sat below cilantro gelee, topped with lime rocks/chips and a huge cloud of cucumber foam. The roe was delightful and dense, popping with sweet lusciousness in the mouth. I found the coconut pudding a little too heavy and thick, overpowering the other components of this dish. The rich avocado puree was actually really salty, while the lime rocks were like dehydrated meringue chips and tasted of candied lime. I understood that the other flavours were to heighten the fresh brininess of the roe, but I found them competing and wasn't too fond of this course. MEDAI radish, coriander, poppyseed: Our fourth course was presented in a rounded bowl that had to be held by hand as it didn't have a base that could be set on the table. On the lip of the bowl was a notch that allowed for the tines of a fork to balance on. This was important as a cube of Medai, a Japanese butterfish, was set on top of the tines and painted with a lemon-tea-butter sauce. Above this was a sprinkle of coriander, candied tumeric and radish sprouts. We ended off things with the coriander spiced milk that was in the bowl (for me, it was soy milk). I don't remember much more about this course, except for the fact that the fish was rather dense and salty. MATSUTAKE mango, peanut, yuzu rind Action shots are fun to take. Here's a series for you to scroll down for the complete presentation. View 2 - So you can see the mango ravioli: From the start, this course amused both Charlotte and I. Charlotte a great lover of Matsutake mushrooms was looking forward to sampling this dish, while I was thrilled to be able to capture the "slow" plating and presentation on "film." We were given a blank white canvas where a clear cylindrical vessel was centered, containing a Matsutake puree, sautéed Matsutake, and dehydrated Matsutake stacked one above the other. Above the thick and moussey puree was a thin layer of soy sauce froth and beans, then tucked behind that a raw mango ravioli filled with peanut powder (dehydrated peanut oil) that we were instructed to eat all in one bite. This course embodied everything that could be salty, musky, and viscous. The final touch with the yuzu rind was really very nice as it sweetened each bite ever-so-slightly and provided a lovely contrast to the aforementioned components. RABBIT cider, roasted garlic, smell of burning leaves Under glass: The pairing: Our rabbit course was hidden beneath a cloud of smoke that was trapped by an upturned shot glass. We were told that this dish represented Autumn, and that the chef had the smoke of burning oak leaves poured into the vesicles before it was placed on a piece of rabbit loin that was cooked in olive oil and thyme. Apple cider puree and shredded brussel sprouts accompanied the rabbit which waded in pool of garlic emulsion. We were also given an amber liquid of rabbit consumée that we were instructed to sip with the course that had both the essence of thyme and oak leaves. I was instantly reminded of applewood smoked bacon; everything was so lovely and oaky. The consumée was like a full bodied savoury wine with oak notes. I think the chef did an awesome job here, in both the presentation, the amusement factor and for capturing the spirit of the season.
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