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  1. I'm so sad to hear this. My thoughts and my family's thoughts are with you Chef. We know you'll recover from this one... Ryne
  2. Chef- I believe you are back at work today, so this is likely a little late to the discussion. Hope your vacation was relaxing though! I have to say that I'm glad to see the quote above because I think that even as early as 2002 (when I first became aware of your cuisine) you had a strong enough personal aesthetic and style to transcend being defined solely by traits such as era of technique, regional ingredients, nationalism, modernism, menu size, utensils, previous kitchen experience, cost of a meal, etc. that might overtake the identity of lesser chefs. Simply put, yours is sort of an "open-to-anything cuisine", and it can afford to be, because no matter what is brought to it, whether it be some type of lost and forgotten vegetable or herb (to sound like Veyrat for a second) or a cutting-edge synthetic sugar, it will be processed and sent out into the dining room as a Grant Achatz dish before it is anything else. So I think it would be a shame for this identity to get too tied up with only the pursuit of what is new, and for the personal/artistic aspects to become secondary and lost to some type of modern food arms-race. (Although I think it's clear that when it comes to most of the media covering food these days, this is all that they seem to be interested in portraying. So on some level it must be accepted as a natural consequence of the times.) Having said that though, most of what goes on at Alinea seems to have followed a very natural path from dishes you were doing a Trio. In a way this relates to the discussion that has been going on on this thread about creating a Restaurant X for your classic dishes. I'm not sure I see the point of the idea. I guess it depends on what people feel makes a dish a classic in the first place? Was it the dish in its entirety- the flatware used, the way it was plated, and the exact form each various ingredient was in? Would people want to find it again at a new restaurant exactly the way it was in 2003, or would they expect some type of twist? Or is it simply the pairing of two elements, like beef with sassafras (this was done at Trio three times I believe) or lamb with a cardamon-coffee reduction, that has left an imprint and should be repeated? A quick look at the current TDF and I can't help but see a couple "classics" of yours in some sense, updated and being served. A bite of the Pork with grapefruit and Ohio honey must be a very similar experience, I imagine to the sous-vide poached breast of Wisconsin Poussin with tart lemon puree and honey I was served during my first meal at Trio. Black Cod with lemon, parsley and caper powder is working with a similar flavor profile to the one Roasted Alaskan Halibut with orange, parsley and picholine olive had years ago. The cassis dessert replaces the strawberry/rhubarb pairing from a dish that was on the closing menu at Trio with a current/beet one, while keeping the supporting elements of goat's milk and violet. And I have been told that the Kumquat is your version of a martini, and it certainly wouldn't be the first cocktail that you have deconstructed and reinterpreted. Now I admit that for a first time diner who wants to try the B.T. Explosion or lobster with rosemary vapor, what I have pointed out above might not have any consolation value, so my opinion can't account for their perspective. But from my own point of view it makes me happy and excited to think that I might be shocked to find at Alinea one day some type of classical French preparation that no other chef in the world (that is, except for Bernard Pacaud) still cooks and serves at their restaurant. Looking forward to it sometime Chef!
  3. The link you are thinking of was to Terra Spice Co. who are indeed in Indiana. I've never ordered from them because I'm a somewhat close to one of The Spice House shops, so I usually just stock up there when I am driving through Evanston. One note is that neither of these places list Thai long peppercorns in their stock on the websites, but that doesn't probably doesn't rule out the possibilty of them being able to source them for you. I'd email or call Terra and hopefully you'll get lucky. Edit: I didn't notice until just after I'd posted that the previous post from Judy covered all this with her link below. Sorry for the repeat info then...
  4. Although I'm not completely sure about the herbacious tasting drink (it could have been a dry vermouth like Noilly Prat or Lillet, b/c I have seen Trio use these as aperitifs before, as they commonly do in France), I can definitely set you up with the peppercorn/port drink. Trio's been using it as one of their house drinks for at least the last year and calling it "Vya con Porto" Basically you take a bottle of white port (they use Dow) and add Vya sweet vermouth to taste and roasted Thai long-peppercorns. Vya is a high-end vermouth made by California-based Quady winery (www.vya.com will tell you the whole story) and is pretty strong stuff (flavor wise I mean), so add a small amount first, and then add more if you like. I guess the same would go for the peppercorns, but definitely heat them up a bit first to bring out the flavor. The spiciness that hits the back of your throat when you drink this is what it's all about, so don't go too light on them. A side note is that Trio's other house drink, the Trio Royale, adds the same Vya sweet vermouth to a Kir Royale. Really, I think it's great stuff and if you like vermouth at all or vermouth-based drinks then Vya is worth trying, both the sweet and dry versions. Compared to cheaper $5-7 a bottle vermouth, it's like comparing Angostura bitters to the real Italian amaros--Fernet Branca or Averna.
  5. I ate at Charlie Trotter's last Monday night with the unactive (or wait...is it reactive?) Awbrig and had an excellent time. Everything was on...the food was done perfectly, service was great (Awbrig requested his favorite waiter, Christian, who was really cool), the upstairs dining room was comfortable and small, and Awbrig was fun as [word edited out to make this post suitable for young children] to dine with. We did a late seating at 8:30 and opted for a smaller menu (10 courses instead of 15), but got a lot of brand new dishes that were not on the regular menu and that the waiters hadn't even seen before. There were a ton of tight dishes throughout the night, and I now understand why I've heard so much about the vegetables at Trotter's--- they were done absolutely perfect. The cauliflower, mushrooms and the baby carrot salad were the standouts of vegetables and they actually took the spotlight way away from the fish or meats at times. Needless to say, I was impressed. If there was one disappointment of the night though, it was that the talented (and cute, which I can say, right?) pastry chef, Della Gosset, had gone home by the time we got into the kitchen for a tour. I wanted to gush to her about how awesome the Thai chili profiterole with curry ice cream and warm mango was, but apparently she and the chef de cuisine, Matthew Merges, start their days early -- really really early actually, for a restaurant where the hot-line is still usually up and cooking well past midnight -- at 6 a.m. Anyway, here are the courses we ate: Bento-box amuse (going clockwise from lower left-hand corner): Tempura of Conch with Thai Vinaigrette Salad of Artichoke & Hearts of Palm Seared Pacific Katsuo with English Peas, Hijiki Seaweed & Wasabi Salad of Tiny Carrots, Haricot Verts, Fennel & Radishes with Arugula & Swan Creek Ricotta Steamed Maine Line-Caught Halibut with Sunchoke, Fava Beans, Cauliflower, Citrus-Chervil Vinaigrette & Iranian Osetra Caviar Grilled Japanese Hamachi with Sweetbreads, Turnip Confit, Vidalia Onions, Morel Mushrooms & Sage Infused Morel Mushroom Consomme Whole Roasted Squab with Escargot & Roasted Cauliflower Triple Seared Wagyu Style Beef Strip Loin with Boudin Jamison Farm Lamb Loin with Sweetbreads, Braised Kale & Roasted Porcini Mushrooms Passion Fruit, Blood Orange, Lychee, Kiwi & Mango Sorbets Thai Chili Profiterole with Curry Ice Cream, Warm Mango & Cilantro Flourless Chocolate Cake with Sweet Cream Ice Cream, Banyuls Soaked Cherries and Coffee-Chocolate Sauce Mignardises Chocolate-Coffee Tuile with Espresso Sauce being prepared for the kitchen table in pastry (we didn't get to try this one...) [edited, edited again (not by me), re-edited, and plans have been made to edit once more sometime tomorrow for the course descriptions. so there.] EDIT by Jason Perlow, broken image links removed
  6. Having lived near Chicago my whole life, I'm pretty doubtful that are any good places to get grits around here (or maybe this is a wrong assumption?) But either way, I think Anson Mills in South Carolina (link here) has a great product and always call them up when I get a craving.
  7. It's also true that several Native American tribes used various elements of evergreens in their cooking: needles, bark, boiled the sap down like maple syrup, etc. Also Cassia Bark Cinnamon comes from the small Evergreen Laurel Tree that originated in Burma, as well (got that one off Google.) But really, I don't think the issue here is actually about the using evergreens in cooking or about the food being done at Trio anymore, is it? When things like this... ...are being said, I start to interpret that opinion, in more general terms, as: "No other culture's food---whether it be Korean, Japanese, Native American, or African---has any place (and is actually 'inappropriate') when being served at a fine dining restaurant." To me it's the elitist French view, the one that claims traditional French food is the end of the road of sorts---the highest pillar of cooking that man will ever reach blah blah blah... I love French food, but I couldn't disagree more. Now if someone were to actually go and sit down and try a dish with evergreen vapor, and then decide that they didn't like it at all, it would be completely different story and an extremely valid one. But, to argue that pine is not 'real cuisine' because it tastes and smells like pine is backwards, in my opinion. A kola nut tastes and smells like a kola nut, but it also played a huge role in African culture as an important food that was traded (along with animals and yam seeds) among Nigerian tribes for hundreds of years (got that from Things Fall Apart.) All I really would like to know is what makes any of these ingredients or techniques from other cultures any less valid or important than, say, a sautéed piece of foie? Really? [edit: add link]
  8. Jesus Spencer--you've been taking shots at this dish for over a week now, but you still haven't gone in and tried it!? That, to me, is a bit presumptuous, not to mention unsettling. I had lunch at Trio yesterday---ditched school with three friends and sat at a table next to Chef Achatz and Debera Pickett---and although this item wasn't on the lunch menu, it was sent out to our table as a compliment from the kitchen. Instead of Swan Creek rabbit we received sauteéd frog legs, but the rest of the dish was the same (wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, wild ramps, evergreen vapor...) It's a very earthy and rich dish, and also an excellent one. To me the standout (and dominant) flavor came from the morel mushrooms, which were unbelievably flavorful. The frog legs were wonderfully cooked and very tender, but not chewy like they can be sometimes. The evergreen vapor was very subtle and really only provided another layer of complexity. I think Spencer is missing the point---the vapor isn't supposed to remind you of Christmas morning, but rather add to a very earthy combination of flavors (all from the forest) and to show that pine can be a valid ingredient. A couple quick questions for Spencer: -What is it you find so objectable about pine/evergreen as an ingredient? -How is it any less valid as a foodstuff than rosemary, white truffles, matsutake mushrooms (from the pine forests of Japan), or foie gras? -How is using a smell to affect people any different than using taste or texture? And if it's "presumptuous" for the chef to be the one to choose that smell (or taste or texture) than who should? Apparently you feel this should be left up to the customer who's never actually eaten in the restaurant. I guess my point is this: if you are going to say things like "it's not about the chef, and what he likes" and that "ultimately it's about the customer and what he/she likes," then you have to realize that it's not always about YOU and what YOU like. You may love foie (I do as well), but I know a lot of people who won't touch the stuff. And I've met people who have disliked rosemary, truffles and mushrooms as well, so the fact that you think you "dislike" a dish that utilizes evergreen (that for all we know, you might actually enjoy it if you do, in fact, ever try it) doesn't really say much at all.
  9. In my opinion, it takes a lot more skill as a chef to get diners to appreciate the use of pine as an ingredient, as opposed to say fresh caviar, foie, or truffles. The latter are all widely-accepted luxury foodstuffs, but whats to say the former is any less viable as an ingredient? Or duck blood for that matter (for blood soup)? It's fine that you may not enjoy something, but to completely dimiss it as a joke seems a bit presumptuous.
  10. I'll definitely second mike's recommendation of Sun Wah BBQ Restaurant. We took the purple/red line el there from evanston, an easy way to avoid the traffic, and had an excellent meal of roasted duck, bbq pork, spiced ('with a lot of ginger,' mike pointed out) beef tripe, won ton soup, and those awesome hard boiled eggs soaked in salt water. All the food was great, but the duck in particular was exceptional---so tender with a very crispy skin and still on the bone. i guess i see mike's point about how some people may be put off by the place itself or the distinctive smell -- of chinese food cooking and duck being roasted -- when you walk in, but i'm your average white American male, ages 18-49 (i even lie about my age sometimes ), and i'll be back here eating a $3.95 combo plate in no time at all.
  11. Yes, many congratulations to Chef Achatz! He deserved this award last year, so I'm thrilled to see him finally bring it home. We are really lucky to have him (and Trio) so close to Chicago! Here is a link that appeared in the Metro section of the Trib. yesterday (you may need to register, but it's free. maybe not worth the trouble though, as it is just a recap of the Beard Awards.) Also here is a link to a great in-depth article about Chef Achatz from NewCity Chicago---a free publication available around the city and suburbs (my friends picked up a copy for me at Kafien in Evanston). The entire text is online, but if you find the magazine it has a huge picture of chefg on the cover, which is pretty cool. (edit: link Trib. story)
  12. roast rack of lamb with ketchup!? oh god... i would be concerned even if the "ketchup" were in quotes, but the fact that it is not just scares the hell out of me. it does, however, bring up the point that even though surprise (relating to texture, temp, combinations, etc.), irony, reference, and humor can all play an equal part in "modern cuisine," it is TASTE that should be the final measure of a dish. and i am sure that Adrià, Achatz, or Keller would agree. so putting ketchup on lamb may be shocking, but not very smart---and lets all hope it's not actually the future.
  13. Two other sheep's milk cheeses from the Pyrenees that are definitely worth checking out are Bleu de Basque and Erhaki. Bleu de Basque is a strong blue with lots of veining. Erhaki is one of my favorites-- a really great cheese. I would imagine that along with sheep's milk cheeses you would be able to find some goat's milk as well. Both do really well up in the mountains, whereas the cows like it a bit lower.
  14. Went to the Pita Inn yesterday for lunch with a few friends. We all loved the food and had an excellent time. It was filled with people, but not overly crowded, and we easily found a place to sit. But now I can see why they don't need to raise the prices. Ordered the business lunch special (Shish Kabab, Kifta Kabab, Shawarma, Falafil served with rice, salad and Pita bread), and also got a yogurt salad and fresh squeezed lemonade. All for only $6.30 or something like that! The yogurt salad was fresh tasting (it's really just plain yogurt, chopped cucumber, and mint) and worked good as a sauce for the meat inside the pitas, kinda like with the cucumber/onion sauce on gyros. I recommend going with a combo dish the first time you eat here, to find out what you like best. I enjoyed it all though, so I'll probably just stick with this. Oh, and the Vegetarian Falafil patties--made from ground chickpeas, vegetables and various spices, and then deepfried--were exceptional. Very crispy and flavorful! You could almost just order a plate of these for a meal...
  15. I definitely agree with this. In my experiences the "middle" has always seemed a bit confused and because of it, a bit disappointing. This kinda makes sense though, as the "middle" is geared toward the masses, and the masses have always been a little confused about what they are going for, what is 'it' now, and what they really want. So you may have a chef who is genuinely passionate about what he is doing, but then end up sitting in a dining room with servers who care little about the food and are only there only to get a paycheck. Or you may get a super-trendy place in the city, with a bar as big as the dining room, and then get served mediocre food-- because what hip, 20-something person actually cares about the food? (Generalizations, generalizations, yes, I know!) And for the successful middle places there are always a few strong pros, which help let everyone forget about the cons. This is exactly why they are a safe bet for a lot of people, weekend after weekend. Personally, I find safety through the extremes. Too much of the low can be depressing, while too much of the high can be pretentious, but a balance of the two can be wonderful. Once you remove all the confusion surrounding the food -- the consummerism, the trendiness, the lack of connection, etc. -- then what you're left with can be great food and a great love of the food.
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