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The Alinea Cookbook

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Moderator's Note: These posts about The Alinea Book have been split off from the Alinea restaurant topic in the Heartland forum. -- CA

I wonder when the book is coming. :wink:

Funny enough, just read this earlier today from gothamist.com:

"Visionary Chicago chef Grant Achatz made a special appearance on a cookbook panel that also featured Jeffrey Steingarten, editor Ann Bramson, and literary agent Lisa Queen. Achatz is currently being treated for a rare form of squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth, but remains iconoclastic as ever. The chef explained that he will self-publish the Alinea cookbook next year, and that it will be distributed by 10 Speed Press."

The entire article can be found here.

http://gothamist.com/2007/09/21/report_gothamis.php

And for those not lucky enough to have the Art Culinaire, you can see screenshots of the article on Alinea's website:

http://www.alinea-restaurant.com/pages/pre...print_main.html


Edited by chrisamirault (log)

"A woman once drove me to drink and I never had the decency to thank her" - W.C. Fields

Thanks, The Hopry

http://thehopry.com/

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Well, since you mentioned it...

The Alinea Book is available for pre-order here.

Early purchase gets you a limited edition copy signed by chef G and the book team, as well as early access to the Alinea Mosaic, the companion web site, that will have dozens of extras. The book itself will be distributed by 10 Speed Press (!) and will ship Fall, 08.

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This is, of course, great news. I've already placed my order.

Nick and Grant, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect in the book? From the website, I can see that "book" is not really accurate; the multimedia materials of the Alinea Mosaic seem to transcend the boundaries of bound pages.

Also, what have the production steps been leading up to this point? We've talked a bit about the challenges high-end cookbooks face before (click here), and given that you're self-publishing but using 10 Speed Press to distribute, it seems that you might have some interesting information along those lines.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I placed my order as well. Who did the photography?


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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To answer some of the questions posted:

The book will comprise 4 Seasonal Tour menus of 25 courses each. Every dish will have the exact recipe used in the Alinea kitchen, along with at least one photo (more often, more than one including process shots). Between these sections will be informative essays by some great writers (TBA later...).

About a year ago we started planning the book. The idea was to have Lara Kastner at the restaurant full time to photograph all of the new dishes as they were being made and evolving. Ordinarily, when producing a cookbook, the production team decides on the recipes that will be included, then hires a photographer, sets a schedule, and plates the dishes for the photo shoot. Lara, instead, erects a small studio (lights, backdrop, bounces, tripods, etc) in the front dining room 3 or 4 days per week and photographs the dishes as they are being created. To date she has taken well over a Terabyte of digital photography -- literally thousands of pictures -- of not only the finished product, but also the process in the kitchen, service staff, etc. This allows us to take some risks artistically that would normally not be possible due to a tight photography schedule.

With a recipes like Grant's it was difficult to decide exactly how much information should go into the book. Which techniques should be expounded on graphically? How much detail do you include? Some of the dishes are just 3 or 4 steps. Others have more than 20 separate recipes that must be executed in order to plate one dish. It is tough to know where to draw the line -- the book could easily go 500 pages or more and never get produced.

Our solution was to take this wealth of added information and create the Alinea Mosaic website that will be a companion piece to the book. Everyone who buys a book will receive a unique user ID and login password to the site. Process shots, recipes, sourcing and demonstration videos will be included on there and we will continue to update that site as we take more photos and create new recipes. We will have a section where book readers can ask Grant and the Alinea team questions about the recipes, post their own efforts, and generally discuss the techniques.... it should prove to be an interesting and very usable site.

This did, however, pose some issues for some publishers. Based on early layouts produced by Martin at Crucial Detail, we were offered some very sizable advances. But we were also told that no way could we then include any overlapping recipe information on our own web site. Publishers were worried that it would cut into sales. I felt very strongly (and still do!) that quite the opposite happens. Ultimately, we found our best match with 10 Speed Press who understood our vision very quickly and have been amazingly supportive.

We have decided to include both English and Metric measurements so that the ambitious home cook can tackle the recipes. We have also scaled the recipes for home use in most cases, figuring it is easier for the professional chef to scale up than for the home chef to convert down. But other than that the recipes will be exactly the ones used in the Alinea kitchen. The tempura batter recipe is worth the price of admission all by itself as far as I am concerned (my fried shrimp at home have improved immensely!).

We decided to offer pre-sales based on the number of emails and phone calls we have received asking when the book will be available. Everyone who orders early will receive a special limited edition volume signed by chef G and the production team. They will also get early access to the Mosaic which will launch on Alinea's 3rd anniversary in May. The book will ship next Fall.

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Are we in the UK going to be allowed to Pre-order?


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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That is an amazing price for the type of book this sounds like it's going to be! I would pre-order, but I'm not in the US. What's up with all this chauvinistic patriotism? :hmmm::biggrin:

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That is an amazing price for the type of book this sounds like it's going to be!  I would pre-order, but I'm not in the US.  What's up with all this chauvinistic patriotism?  :hmmm:  :biggrin:

We simply have not worked out the cost of shipping on such orders. We have had an amazing number of inquiries from around the world already and are working on a cost-effective solution to shipping overseas. The book will be heavy (literally!)... and I don't think anyone wants to pay more for shipping than for the book itself.

As soon as we have that worked out we will respond to all of those inquiries and hopefully have a live shipping quote system on the ordering form itself.

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I agree with all the acolades for Grant, but I do not like the sticky website for ordering the book. I was checking it out , and was unable to close it without placing an order. I had to shutdown my computer in order to close the window.

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I agree with all the acolades for Grant, but I do not like the sticky website for ordering the book. I was checking it out , and was unable to close it without placing an order. I had to shutdown my computer in order to close the window.

I am sorry to hear you had an unpleasant experience while visiting the site. There is no 'sticky' element built into it and I believe your experience is an issue specific to your machine. However, if there are others experiencing similar problems, please PM me, including your OS/browser information, and we will do our best to resolve it.

Martin Kastner

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I agree with all the acolades for Grant, but I do not like the sticky website for ordering the book. I was checking it out , and was unable to close it without placing an order. I had to shutdown my computer in order to close the window.

I am sorry to hear you had an unpleasant experience while visiting the site. There is no 'sticky' element built into it and I believe your experience is an issue specific to your machine. However, if there are others experiencing similar problems, please PM me, including your OS/browser information, and we will do our best to resolve it.

Martin Kastner

I just surfed there on my MacBook Pro using safari and have zero problems. I also had no problems ordering my copy!

I thank you all for offering this amazing book.

The only problem with my order is that I will have to wait so long :-)

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I haven't had any problems with the site. A part from envy at our American cousins having access when I don't.

My card is waiting for the shipping info!


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Wahoo! $87 poorer! :biggrin:


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Ordered mine... looks like the U.S. monopoly has ended. :raz:


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I just placed my order as well (I was going to hold off until the website came up, but in the end I couldn't resist).


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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It looks like there will be a few recipes on the website, which I think is brilliant. It'll give me a chance to get my feet wet before the book comes out.


Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Any chance of a paypal function? I don't have a credit card, only Solo at the moment. I imagine maestro would be ok, but i dont have that.

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Any chance of a paypal function? I don't have a credit card, only Solo at the moment. I imagine maestro would be ok, but i dont have that.

It's now on pre-order at Amazon.co.uk, if that helps (and probably cheaper, once the postage costs are added), though that obviously means no pre-launch website access.


restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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The countdown begins. One week until the Alinea Mosaic should be opening for those who pre-ordered from the site. I haven't received any information other than my order confirmation since I placed the order so I'm assuming everything is still on track.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I preorderd too. What do we get again, full content or extra recipes?


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

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      Broccoli stems after cooking
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      Ready for plating

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      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

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      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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