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Preparing to Eat a Tasting Menu


Derek J
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I'm eating at Alinea in a couple weeks and could use some advice on how to prep for the sheer volume of food and alcohol coming my way. How do you get your body ready for the onslaught? I plan on skipping lunch, but is that enough? I've heard of people chugging lots of water in advance to expand your stomach without filling up on food. Is that a good idea? Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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When we had dinner at Alinea, I didn't find the amount of food overwhelming -- yes, there are a lot of courses, but they're spaced out and each one is small. In any case, I never find that skipping meals is a good idea -- either I'm so hungry I eat way too fast too soon, or my stomach rebels and I don't want to eat much at all. The idea of drinking a lot of water seems odd to me; I'd just be way too full. So I guess my advice would be to eat a light breakfast and light lunch and don't worry.

If you get the wine pairing, though, make sure you drink plenty of water during dinner -- they pour very generous tastes.

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I haven't been to Alinea specifically, but usually, the portion sizes are such that, even with many courses, you leave comfortable, but not stuffed. The posts I can find about Alinea seem to suggest that this is the case here. I wouldn't suggest skipping lunch - just have a light lunch, at least 5 hours before your reservations. You want to be hungry enough that dinner seems appetizing, but not famished.

One thing to consider if you're worried about drinking too much, is to buy a bottle of wine to share, or wine by the glass, rather than doing the wine pairings. For me, seeing how a wine changes across the various courses is sometimes more interesting than having a wine specifically paired with each course.

Edited by Will (log)
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I've dined at Alinea before and found it to be perfectly satisfying but not too much food... That is, until the final "

" course.

Don't feel compelled to eat the whole thing. We didn't finish and I didn't see any tables who did.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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Agreed, tasting menus are never that overwhelming to the stomach (and I fill up fast).

I do find a glass of wine with each course kind of unmanageable (read: I get drunk so fast it's ludicrous), however, but many places offer you various options for the wine/beverage selection (e.g. options of 3, 5, or 8 wines, or a juice menu instead); Alinea may be one.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I've never found tasting menu to be too challenging to finish. The courses are small and come at a leisurely pace. My last tasting menu was a ten course menu (plus an additional 4-5 amuse) at Meadowood in Napa Valley and it was very filling and satisfying but not excessively so.

As other folks have pointed out the wine pairings more than the food can be a challenge. I've learned that it's ok not to finish every last sip -- easier said than done sometimes!

I would not not skip lunch -- just go a little light. If you know you're getting the wine pairings you definitely don't want to start a tasting menu on a completely empty stomach.

Oh, I'm jealous by the way -- have fun!

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Agree with much of what has already been mentioned. I have my miniature gastric-bypass stomach to contend with, but still manage to enjoy lots of tasting menus. Haven't been to Alinea, but maybe my minibar meal would be closest to that as far as quantity of food.

As hard as it is to leave anything on the plate, definitely do not feel compelled to eat every scrap...for me this is especially true with meat courses, the solid proteins fill me up really quickly.

In the past year what I've started doing is politely asking if I could have a little more time in between courses whenever I feel like I'm starting to get too much too quickly. I can see that being an issue if you're dining with a group and not everyone needs the extra time, but all of the places I've eaten have really worked with me. I try not to be a pain with it...I ask way ahead of time of the next dish being fired, I do realize I'm tinkering with the clockwork going on in the kitchen. But it has really, REALLY helped me....when you get a tactical nuke like the Foie Gras BLT at Eola in DC dropped on you, you need some recovery time, lol.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Thank you to everyone for the replies. I feel much more at ease. I've had visions of being too full to get past course 10 -- the horror!. I am doing the wine pairings, but I will limit myself to sips rather than gulps as I go.

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I find that I can get "killed" with a tasting menu that has 6-7 or more courses. I start strong, but then fade. Especially when I hit the heavier meat courses. I always TRY to eat it all. Leaving wine in the glass? Criminal!!

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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As a small person and not much of a drinker I can easily end up face-down in my plate mid-meal with wine parings. Our resolution is for my husband to order the wine pairings, and then we share each glass. This only works with someone with whom you are willing to share spit.

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It's not the quantity that's the issue so much as the variety. One degustation won't be a problem. Come back when you're doing, say, a dozen or more in the space of a week, averaging 20 courses a day of very rich or at least very complex food. After day four or so, that gets a bit much.

Enjoy yourself. Altho' I've learnt--and this is a personal thing, as I can't and don't drink a lot of alcohol--that I can't do matching wines. For a course or two, sure. But no more.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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As a small person and not much of a drinker I can easily end up face-down in my plate mid-meal with wine parings. Our resolution is for my husband to order the wine pairings, and then we share each glass. This only works with someone with whom you are willing to share spit.

Most places I've been to are willing to split a wine tasting for you if you ask. I did a single tasting split between 3 people once and found that was the perfect amount of wine.

PS: I am a guy.

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I think I'll just ask them to give me half of what they would usually pour throughout. I am not a heavy drinker. On the other hand, my hotel is only a mile away and cabs are plentiful...

As for the water-loading thing, I believe I read somewhere that the Man vs. Food guy preps himself by drinking large quantities of water the day before an eating challenge to expand his stomach.

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I think I'll just ask them to give me half of what they would usually pour throughout. I am not a heavy drinker. On the other hand, my hotel is only a mile away and cabs are plentiful...

As for the water-loading thing, I believe I read somewhere that the Man vs. Food guy preps himself by drinking large quantities of water the day before an eating challenge to expand his stomach.

I think you are overestimating the amounts of food you will get served at a tasting menu. We often go for tasting menus and very rarely are we afterwards too full to not get some late night drinks and/or snacks.

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Yeah. 10 or 20 courses sounds like a lot, but the reality is the actual quantity of food is probably on par with the average 3-4 course meal. It's spaced out even more, too--unless you eat quickly, in which case a lot of restaurants will speed things up, it can be spread over 3-4 hours.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I also keep coming back to Anthony Bourdain's description in Medium Raw of how he felt after eating at Per Se. IIRC, he was basically bloated and half dead during the cab ride home (after which he wrecked his toilet). As someone mentioned above, maybe that's only a problem if you're eating like this regularly or the chef sends out a parade of extra courses.

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The only time I've struggled was at Pierre Gagnaire where I made the mistake of eating a couple of hours beforehand. Nowadays I tend to excercise beforehand as well, that way I go in hungry and there's no chance of not managing to finish - the only problem is alcohol tends to go straight to your head that way!

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Sorry but, assuming you're a man, this is pretty drama queenish.

I've eaten dozens of tasting menus (although not at Alinea). Most leave you full but not Thanksgiving stuffed and some leaved you sated.

If you're a man (which I assume judging by your username), just show up reasonably hungry and leave the hysterics at the door.

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Sorry but, assuming you're a man, this is pretty drama queenish.

I've eaten dozens of tasting menus (although not at Alinea). Most leave you full but not Thanksgiving stuffed and some leaved you sated.

If you're a man (which I assume judging by your username), just show up reasonably hungry and leave the hysterics at the door.

Well... to be fair, if it's a first-time experience (which is my impression, based on the mention of 'sheer volume'), and his only idea about it is that created by Bourdain, who evidently went out of his way to create the impression that tasting menus approximate the sorts of banquets that supposedly preceded Roman orgies, he's going in without having any idea of how much food is going to be involved, and I can understand not wanting to find himself rolled off to the sidelines, halfway through.

By now everyone has pretty much set the record straight on the amount of food actually likely to be involved (didn't someone post their images of a dinner at Alinea? All I found was this review without images, but I know it isn't likely to exceed, say, the amount that Steven and co. had, at elBulli, and that was manageable).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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FWIW, I am a man, but my fiance read this thread and said I am insensitive and kind of a jerk like most men, so I'm not worried about the queenish comment. :wink: Oh, and yes, this will be my first foray into fine dining and tasting menus.

Edited by Derek J (log)
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I've dined at Alinea before and found it to be perfectly satisfying but not too much food... That is, until the final "

" course.

Don't feel compelled to eat the whole thing. We didn't finish and I didn't see any tables who did.

I spoke to some friends who dined at Alinea a few weeks ago and their experience mirrored mine.

The portions were enough to leave you satisfied but not large enough to be uncomfortable, until the dessert course.

They tried valiantly to finish the tabletop dessert, came close, but ultimately failed.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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