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Everything posted by RyneSchraw

  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.
  16. As for the question of style/approach/voice/personality (all heavily related in my opinion) among chefs working in the avant-garde, I feel these things all do exist very heavily and defined. Lets just take Ferran Adrià and Grant Achatz for example-- while the two are similar in their usage of modern techniques, very large prix fixe menus, and small courses throughout the meal, that is where the similarities end. Adrià was born and grew in Spain, giving his cooking a perpective that is uniquely Spanish and uniquely his. His menu is practically devoid of anything which comes close to a traditional meat course (rabbit brains don't count!), and rather has a strong base of seafood, tapas, and Mediterranean flavors. I remember reading in the sorta famous Esquire interview how Ferran views a prawn head that is "intimidating, scary, and prehistoric" to the reporter, as just being plain "normal" to him--something his people have been eating for generations and generations. Achatz on the other hand grew up in the American Midwest (Michigan), and on his menus you will find the food he is familiar with: cheese and crackers, milk shakes, rootbeer, pizza, bacon and eggs, etc. It's a case of a chef cooking what he is comfortable with. No matter what techniques or similarities the two share, they are distinctively different chefs with very different food personalities. Which leads me to this interesting question: what would a review of El Bulli read like from someone who grew up in that region of Spain and who views eating prawn's brains as being a normal everyday thing as well. To an American the whole meal is foreign -- from location, to food, to technique, to format -- and for that matter seems to be more extraordinary, but would a Spanish person eating there find several "footholds" they could relate to along the way?
  17. This is definitely the traditional perception of food -- that it's basic function is to keep us alive -- however, I feel the highest level of cooking should, in fact, serve a completely different purpose. The food that Adrià, Achatz, Keller, etc. are doing is really only successful if it can entertain, bring forth emotions and connections and "touch something that is difficult to conceive without resort to metaphor," and finally send "a shiver down the spine." Obviously the food will also provide nourishment, but to chain the idea of cooking and eating down as only ever being "functional art" at best seems awfully unfair. Can we only ever use our senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch for the most basic purposes of survival? What about paintings, perfumes, music, and physical contact? Certainly these things all shift from the primary, base functions of those senses into something much more pleasureable and intellectual. There were a a few great ideas from josephreese's extraordinary review of the French Laundry that I think really touch on what Adrià was getting at in his quote about art: There you have what it's all about-- the ability for a plate of food being served at The French Laundry, or Trio (I've gotten this same sort of feeling about a lot dishes Chef Achatz has served me), or El Bulli to transport you to a place or image of somewhere you've never been, yet one which feels so familiar. For me that does a lot more than what most museum-worthy "modern art" could ever hope to do...
  18. mike is right-- trio got voted "Best Wine Program" in the city by Chicago magazine's Best Restaurants of 2002 issue
  19. My problem was that they forgot to bring the damn pommes frites we ordered!!! But still the food was excellent...i just think Michael Kornick deserves more from his waitstaff.
  20. Aurora is gonna kill me, but if you are really looking for the height of fine cuisine and something very unique, then your choices are going to be really limited. Trio seems to fit what you are looking for best, but i won't go into that here...check out some of the previous threads on Trio and Trotters and see what you think for yourself. As a curious note though, i've seen a decent amount of guests at Trio who decide not to wear a jacket and come in slacks and a dress shirt or fine sweater instead. The written policy is "business casual" which really means "no sneakers, no jeans, and no t-shirts"-- same thing they do at the French Laundry, el Bulli, and other high end but not traditional-French places. the environment remains formal, sure, but not in a stuffy way that takes the focus off the food. anyway here are a couple other options you can take: Les Nomades: haven't been, but am going in the next few weeks. very traditional french and this is definitely a very formal place (suit and tie required), but not as much so as during its former days as a private club. Nomades is hardly ever talked about, but when it is, the reviews are always wonderful and put it right up there in the top few Chicago has to offer. mK: a bit more in the mid-range with Spring and Blackbird, but the food is excellent none the less. dress is more casual. Carlos': way up north in highland park, so this might be out of the question. again i haven't eaten here, but have only heard great things about the food and service, which is said to be very warm and inviting and not stuffy at all. i'll be curious to hear where you decide to go and, of course, how it is... [edit: added links to various places]
  21. I'll never, ever, ever look at Kikkoman the same way again after this one...click here.
  22. She loved it! I think she worries beforehand that she won't like or get certain things, but in reality some of her favorites were the most "out-there" ones: lavender lozenger, basil comsommé and cilantro frozen yogurt to name a few. I've heard her on the phone a few times since Sunday telling people about these things. On the other hand, I don't think I could ever go with my dad..he's too cynical about high-end food and way too picky of an eater to bring to this kind of place. So you definitely have to pick the right kind of audience to go with.
  23. I took my mom to Trio last Sunday night for an excellent meal at 6:00 p.m. It was the first time since last July that I'd started the meal in the dining room before the sun had set, and a dim blue-grey light came in through the front windows and mixed with the warmth of the dining room, which was the first reminder of the night that the days are getting longer and that spring is right around the corner. I sat facing my mom and the wall, so my principal view of the night was one of the huge cognac-dyed mylar sheets by artist Pavel Kraus (owner Henry Adaniya's brother-in-law) that are never boring to look at and fit in, alongside the food, perfectly in the otherwise calm dining room. In fact the artwork, at times, doesn't just work with the food, but also seems to resemble it perfectly and possibly be the inspiration for the way it is presented (see below for an example). However this connection between food + art is never loudly announced or shoved in your face at Trio, but rather just left in the air for the guest to figure out. For example, not once during the night did any of the staff come up to me to ask if my "dish tasted like the color yellow," or whether it "tasted like paint" for that matter, or whatever they are doing at the other places. Pavel Kraus piece Maine Diver Scallop with Orange Rind Vapor And about that food... There was no way I was going to get my mom to go for the TDF, as that would have required sitting in a chair and without a cigarette for a couple more hours than she would have liked, so we decided to go with the 4-course tasting menu a few extras added on. Of the 10 different courses brought to the table, the only repeats were the amuse, the intermezzo, and the ending lassi. The fact that this occured, after having gotten 18 new courses in the kitchen three weeks before, really amazed me. Here is how the meal went (please feel free to ask if you have any questions): “Caramel Popcorn” amuse Salad of Razor Clam Chowder - A deconstructed clam chowder turned into a salad. It was served chilled with the little slices of razor clams, whitewater littleneck clams, chilled potato, Vermouth-thyme gelée cubes, and finally a single, large oyster cracker that had to be cracked open to sauce the dish. My mom and I both loved the floralness and freshness the Vermouth-thyme cubes added to the sweetness of the razor clams. It was cool to see a traditionally thick, warm, and hearty soup served in a refreshing way for springtime. Also, when I asked whether the sauce was frozen or made solid somehow, before they put it inside the huge puff of an oyster cracker, one of the servers told me instead how they use hypodermic needles to inject it inside. But he then added how Chef Achatz wanted me to believe he baked the cracker around it, anyway. CHILLED PURÉE of ENGLISH PEA SOUP eucalyptus ice cubes, pepino melon, meyer lemon - A very cool soup, literally. Served in a bowl, with all the soup held up in a large glass cylinder; the cylinder is removed and the soup pours out. Again, both of us loved this soup, but especially the freshness of it. The floralness of the eucalyptus sorbet, with the sweetness of the melon, and the tartness of the Meyer lemon (1/2 lemon, 1/2 orange cross, that really tasted more like a lemon here, but has an orangy nose and can be eaten like an orange) gave this dish an incredibly refreshing feel to it. You could literally taste spring in the air. SESAME TEMPURA of JOHN DORY bananna, wild mushrooms, fenugreek - Incredible fish course. Provided my two favorite elements that go with fish: crispiness and sweetness. The sesame tempura batter gave an initial crunch and nuttiness, with the tenderness of the John Dory, a delicious, spiny, olived colored fish with a black spot on it's side, providing contrast. It took me a few bites before the banana hit and the sweetness with the texture of the fish went out very mellow. BREAST of WHITE PEKIN DUCK lavender, rhubarb, foie gras - We ordered this course special from the 8-course menu as an extra, and I'm very glad we did. You start by eating a waffer-thin lavender lozenge, resting all the way at the right-end of the plate with some lavender flowers, which had a very sweet and mellow floralness and continued on with the theme of spring blossoms thoughout the meal. My mom really loved this part of the dish. We were both surpised at how the duck was served, looking almost more like lamb with a pinkish color, rather than the expected somewhat greasy chicken-like appearance (my only idea of duck before this). It was served on a bed of red-wine candied rhubarb with a little bit of duck confit and a few thick slices of extremely fresh, chilled foie gras au torchon on opposite sides on the plate. The duck was excellent, very tender, but my favorite part was taking a little piece of the candied rhubarb and popping it in my mouth with an entire slice of foie. Can't go wrong with that... ELYSIAN FIELDS FARM LAMB artichokes, carrot purée, smoked paprika aroma - Big chop of Elysian Field's Farm Lamb served with the bone. A dab of carrot purée, artichoke hearts, and some yellow carrots to go with it and on the right side were a few slices from the loin of the lamb with crushed toasted almonds on top that had been poached sous-vide and were medium-rare all the way through. And then the smoked paprika, very fragrant stuff, much more so than what I have at home, was poured over a couple of hot rocks in a little bowl on the plate. Very good preperation of the lamb-- I really like when they pair it with root vegetables to provide contrast with the texture of the lamb and to add a bit of sweetness. Artisan and Fermier Cheeses - Seasonal Fruits and Candied Nuts - Clochette, Erhaki, Piave Vecchio, and Bleu d'Basque served with strawberry, kumquat, apple, and candied walnuts. My mom ordered a glass of 1995 Oremus Tokaji (5 puttonyos) since she loves the stuff, and I though it paired really well with the sheep's milk cheeses from the Pyrénées-- the Erhaki and Bleu d'Basque. They have a great cheese program at Trio, and I'd definitely recommend not overlooking it. SHERRY VINEGAR SORBET basil consommé, mandarins - Very interesting, even though I'd had it before. The kitchen is able to get the most creative with the little courses and it reallt shows here. The sherry vinegar definitely cleared the palate and the basil consommé and mandarins together were very enjoyable. My mom was amazed at the idea of using basil this way. We each got different desserts and then switched halfway through... PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE haas avacado, cilantro, corriander - Incredibly creative dessert. The pineapple upside down cake with a warm slice of roasted pineapple on top was delicious, but the really amazing thing was the cilantro frozen yogurt surrounded by haas avacado purée. There were also little discs of cilantro gelée. All in all, an awesome use of savory spices in a sweet course, and just a very neat dessert to have. TRIO TARTE TATIN porter ice cream, winter fruit compote, chèvre anglaise - Another upside down dessert by definition. Winter fruit was rasins and prunes and was very sweet and tasty, Madeira-caramel sauce, and porter ice cream was probably our favorite part. Haven't had a chance to really try any porters (dark brown beer made by blending a mild ale, brown ale and stale ale), and I thought the ice cream tasted almost like a rum. And the chèvre anglaise (like a cream anglaise, but with goat cheese), which was left in a bowl to be poured over the dish by the dinner, was ethereal and very creamy indeed. PASSIONFRUIT LASSI cumin foam - Traditional Indian dessert made with mango and yogurt, but here it was made with passionfruit with a spicy cumin foam on top. I'm a big fan of passionfruit and the warmth and kick of the cumin foam provided a nice balance to the coolness and tropical flavor of the lassi.
  24. Oops! I read Steven's point about Adrià wrong the first time around (it's always amusing to go back and read one's own posts a few days later, especially if they were typed up at 2 am.) Anyhow, it makes much better sense now ...sorry. As to Adrià being a product of the Costa Brava region in Spain, I think it's almost more a matter of him being supported by that region. There are definitely a lot of Spanish influences in the food he does and he is frequently compared (creatively) to Spanish artist Salvador Dali, who I think lived 30 or so minutes from where el Bulli is located, but I think it more comes down to the fact that Adrià couldn't have done what he has if he had been doing it out of France in the late '80s/early '90s. At that point his style of cooking was entirely unique and he was the only one doing anything close to it, so it had to be somewhat isolated from the mainstream of fine dining (which was of course French then, and still French now). As to whether a lot of that creativity was fueled on by his location and environment, I'd be curious to find out...maybe this is touched on in the el Bulli 1998-2002 book, because all I really have read is that he started washing dishes so he could continue to hang around the beach and drink beer and eventually moved into the kitchen with no previous interest in food at all, and here he is today, completely self-taught and doing, well, what he does... And even after the inevitable happened -- the success and influence of Adrià's style causing it to spread into the mainstream and to other chefs and other restaurants around the world, with Adrià himself playing a huge part in that by being so open about sharing his knowlege -- he continues to move forward and maintain a style that is uniquely his, while also inspiring a lot of young chefs to go on after their stages or meals at el Bulli and do something that is uniquely theirs. Maybe this is Adrià's real genius and what makes him so exceptional, rather than any of his individual technical breakthroughs? I really can't say...still need to eat there, or at least see the cookbook and new menus (which will hopefully will be on eGullet shortly after the place reopens this year...) Either way, in these cases I think it is true that it is the personality of the chef that defines regionalism (although it does seem hard to call it that, since we aren't talking concrete regions anymore.) Instead of the specific dishes or ingredients of a certain location, we are really talking about a specific mindset here, which is why in the end "avant-garde" is so much more fitting than, say, French or Spanish.
  25. I think avant-garde is as accurate as it's gonna get. It also emphasizes what is most important in the kitchen at Trio---not that it has a French foundation or even global influences, but that it is completely devoted to forward thinking. Sure it does not actually describe the food, at least not enough to the point where someone who knows nothing about it could even begin to picture a dish, but it does give a good idea of what the mindset behind the food is. And in the end, this is probably a better thing to do than set them off-course by describing it as French...besides, the menu is printed on the site so that should help anyone who still feels somewhat lost. Hmm...I've never eaten any of Adrià's food, so can't say if he's a genius or not. Can any artist really be called a definite genius, to the point where everyone will agree, when all of the arts deal so much with taste? I can see a lot of people, the traditionalists, calling these guys heretics instead. It's definitely a matter of opinion. On the other hand, I'll certainly agree that he is a product of his environment, just as much as Mozart was a product of Austria in the late 18th century, but that shouldn't make him any less of a genius if you felt he was one in the first place. Everyone needs some initial force to push them into doing what they end up doing, and being surrounded by a lot of creativity certainly helps. But as much as this particular movement is taking place and being nurtured in a few select locations (Spain a big one right now), it really doesn't seem to have any boundaries. To say it's over for the French chefs, as Adrià famously did after getting his third star, might be a bit inaccurate. The days of traditional French cooking being in the spotlight may be almost through, sure, but thats not to say a place as avant-garde as Trio or el Bulli won't open in France in a few years, or Japan, or Italy for that matter. I think it will be interesting to see how far and fast this spreads, with the leaders of the pack continuing to define, evolve, and popularize the movement as they have been doing for the last couple of years.
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