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BryanZ

[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 2)

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Course 16. PORK grapefruit, cornbread, ohio honeycomb

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Wine 10. Domaine des Baumard Savennières "Clos du Papillon," Loire 2002

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Course 17. KUMQUAT aquavit, picholine olive, caraway

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Wine 10. Domaine des Baumard Savennières "Clos du Papillon," Loire 2002

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Course 18. CHESTNUT too many garnishes to list

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Wine 11. Vercesi del Castellazzo “Gugiarolo” Pinot Nero Bianco, Oltrepo’ Pavese, Lombardia 2004

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Course 20. DUCK quince, onion, pillow of mace air

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Wine 13. Clos Vougeot Grand Cru “Musigni”, Gros Frères & Soeur 2001

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Course 21. KOBE BEEF yogurt, squash, smoked paprika candy

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Wine 14. Domaine de la Solitude "Réserve Secrète," Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000

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Course 22. SWEET POTATO bourbon, cinnamon fragrance

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Wine 14. Domaine de la Solitude "Réserve Secrète," Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000

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Course 23. GINGERBREAD sunchoke, raisin, melted butter

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Wine 15. Barberani “Calcaia - Muffa Nobile,” Orvieto Classico Superiore 2002

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Course 24. APPLEWOOD muscovado sugar, fenugreek

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Wine 15. Barberani “Calcaia - Muffa Nobile,” Orvieto Classico Superiore 2002

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FOOD NOTES

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The HOT POTATO uses simple ingredients that work together to make one tasty dish. The finish is smooth and light and does not linger in the mouth. The rosé (Henri Billiot Grand Cru) is a good combination. It works great as a starter - lets keep it there, shall we. Last time I had this it was also the first course, but they used a different rosé (J. Aubry).

The MANGO made a return to the menu and this time they got it figured out. The first time I had this was in early October, and I found the flavor to be a little strong on the sesame side - the flavor lingered sesame for a while. This time the balance was just right. Everything at the same level. This was really great. I like this one.

Another dish that took a turn for the better was the SALSIFY. This version was lighter and more delicate. I enjoyed the small amount of sauce and the roe magically clings to salsify defying gravity. Whereas before the sauce was a lake and the roe was found swimming in it. Even though the salsify was a larger one piece portion, the strings of salsify worked better and produced a more even texture (image below is from two weeks prior).

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The cheese puff of IDIAZABAL was the best so far. They added a layer of lightly shaved fresh cheese on one side and brushed the other side with a light coating of maple syrup. This extra step of shaving the cheese was a welcome addition, whereas before it was just the puff. Our server offered us moist towels to clean our finger, but trust me, you wanna lick your fingers after this one. It is like eating a bag of Cheetos Cheese Puffs, but with real cheese, and fancy hardware.

Things that look familiar are the LAMB and BLACK COD. They reminded me of the BISON and DOVER SOLE respectively.

Although the honeycomb is not the centerpiece for this evening, the chef still has the PORK dish. You know the one where the server drizzles some honey over it. This time, the honey has been pre-drizzled by the chef. Hey now, I have seen this done a few times already, do you think I could have a go at it next time around. The previous version was called OPAH. I have had it with the fish and with the pork and I say the pork version was better - the pork always wins.

Another winner is the CHESTNUT. Alinea's description is kinda weak for this item, "too many garnishes to list." So I too will be brief. "Too good to describe in five words." For those that to know the ingredients, check out docsconz's post. It's the same thing, and same wine as well.

Our YUBA was different from docsconz. Instead of grapefruit, the chef used orange and instead of tuna, shrimp. I don't know jesteinf, I think our's sound better.

YUZU was an enjoyable and a great intermezzo/palate cleanser. The Japanese citrus fruit was used to flavor the curly shavings of ice strings. This is a very time sensitive dish. Wait too long and the shavings of ice start to break apart on their own. "Forget the camera, take the yuzu."

Another of the intermezzo/palate cleanser course, was the KUMQUAT. This was served, not by an acupuncture needle, but from a larger knitting sized one. The liquor had sponged into the citrus fruit creating Alinea's version of a martini with olives. This was tasty, but I prefer the BURDOCK.

Speaking of mixing liquor with food. The SWEET POTATO is a hands down winner. The bourbon resides at the bottom of this morsel, which because of the cinnamon stick handle, the bourbon is the first flavor you encounter. The whole item just melts in your mouth. I wonder if this could be done with the PHEASANT.

Other dishes that were noteworthy are the: NIÇOISE OLIVE, DUCK, GINGERBREAD, PLANTAIN, and MARCONA ALMOND.

The wines were also amazing. Six-teen different flavors were to be had this evening. I was a real fan of Delaforce "Curious & Ancient" 20 Year Tawny Port. This was paired with the PLANTAIN and the MARCONA ALMOND.

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The food highlight of the evening was the saving of the black truffle. A simple dish of pasta with butter sauce is the base for the truffle garnish. The shaving is done, not with a Crucial Detail designed gadget, but with a MicroPlane. Talk about gratuitous, they finished off the whole truffle for our table. This was unexpected and so over the top (see image above).

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I must say though that this was a strange dish to see in the menu. It seems to lack the details and complexity of the other dishes that one has had at Alinea. But this dish was fun. It was fun just to have the basic flavors and not try to deconstruct every ingredient that went into the dish. It was fun to savor the flavors. Chef went old school with that one, unlike the previous BLACK TRUFFLE dish where the chef used the eye and had flavors of hazelnut, banana and cocoa (see image above), which was served two weeks prior.

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ENVIRONMENT NOTES

The staff was very relaxed, but professional this evening. They kept their distance and yet were very friendly. During the evening we were treated with live music, played at a comfortable level not to disturb whisper conversation. They were stationed at second floor vestibule area, but they roamed around a couple times.

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Prior to the midnight hour, Joe (the server, not the sommelier) walks out with a jeroboam sized bottle of Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne. Already a little loopy, one can't help but feel giddy when it comes out and they start pouring it for each table. And like a kid at Christmas we were eyeing that glass and counting the minutes until we can give it a try.

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In addition to the above mentioned, flamenco dancers performed at each of the three dining rooms. Dressed in a vibrant red silk fabric, their dress brought an highlight color to the sort of muted color palate of the interior.

The countdown was given by the guests and at midnight... nothing happened. I was expecting laser beams to come out of the LED fixtures, saffron confetti to come out of the ceiling and pure oxygen pumped into the room (perhaps scented with Galangal). Instead, the guests were giving each other hugs, shaking hands and toasting glasses. What was also interesting was the staff was also greeting each other with merriment.

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LAST NOTES

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No parting gifts this evening. Recently the restaurant has been bottling up the left over honey and giving it to their guests as a take home present. I was sort of hoping that they may do that with the black truffle, but they finished that at our table. I was hoping for perhaps a quarter bottle (0.2L) of the Perrier Jouët, Fleur de Champagne (do they even make it at that size). But so was not the case.

Sidebar: The Alinea logo on the cover of the honey take home bottle seems a little strange. The script font does not seem to jive with the Alinea esthetic. It sort of reminds me of the Trio logo. Although both logos use a script type face, they are very different.

Nine in the evening seems late to begin a 6.25 hour dinner, but I was ready. Took the obligatory disco nap to make sure I could last the evening at full force. It seems that that the staff (front and back) also had their mini naps, because they handled the evening flawlessly.

Overall, I thought that the food was better than when I was last there, two weeks ago. Things have improved greatly. In fact, I enjoyed this experience most out of the five other Alinea experiences. Thanx goes out to those that were able to make this happen. Not just the big boys, but the little guys (and girls).

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PHOTO NOTES

We were seated in a difficult place (taking notes Chris) because the camera was facing the LED lights. LED lights have a different color temperature than the other lights in the space. In fact there were using at least three different light sources. The very bright light blue LED lights when balanced to the incandescent, gives a slightly pinkish white color. I have had great results from the red LEDs (back of the house). But really, I'm here for the food.

For 2006, I am coming armed with an electron microscope.

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Thanks, Anthony, for taking the time to shoot those great pics and share them here with us (again). The NYE menu was slightly different than it was during our mid-December visit but I do see a lot of similarities.

I just cannot say enough about how delectable some of those dishes were . . . the yuzu, the chestnut, the yuba, the duck, the gingerbread, the smoked applewood, the nicoise olive, the bison with juniper aroma and so many of the others were all so distinctive and satisfying. Your pics have brought on a bunch of great memories. And the pairings we enjoyed at our mid-December meal, created by Joe Ziomek (the server/asst. sommelier), were also my favorites of all our meals at Alinea.

I went to Alinea 4 times in 2005 and when I think about the evolution which took place between my first visit and my most recent visit, it truly impresses me. To the eye, there are many common elements, but flavorwise, the focus continued to tighten as the months passed. It's a dynamic which I'm having trouble putting into words. It has to be tasted, I think.

All over town there are places turning out tremendous and innovative food. Yet, I feel that Grant could pretty much replicate any of it. But the same cannot be said in reverse. Very few folks -- if any -- could even being to approach what he does. Beyond the cooking, even the plating and presentation would challenge many accomplished cooks. What's exciting to me is thinking about how new this place is and how young Grant is. On another thread someone wondered where Alinea would be in 5 years. I'm wondering too and as much I dread getting older, I cannot wait to see for myself.

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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The photos are as great as ever, YT. I loved the commentary as well. I am very jealous of those of you who get to go to Alinea with such frequency. I will have to find a way to get there again in the not-too-distant future!


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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Those pictures are fantastic.

I have thought about my meal everyday for the last 2 weeks and can't help but smile every time. The more I reminisce, the stronger I feel about all my experience at Alinea. It truly is an amazing restaurant that I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Sorry to get off the NYE discussion, but I was curious about the plate/bowl used for the hot potato.

I think I read somewhere that the bowl is made out of wax and is remoldable?

I'm just wondering if there is a reason for this as opposed to having a hard plastic bowl?

Also, I also loved that Curious & Ancient Port. I don't recall ever having a port with such a light red color. But then again, I'm still young. :rolleyes:


Edited by babern38 (log)

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Those pictures are fantastic.

I have thought about my meal everyday for the last 2 weeks and can't help but smile every time.  The more I reminisce, the stronger I feel about all my experience at Alinea. It truly is an amazing restaurant that I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Sorry to get off the NYE discussion, but I was curious about the plate/bowl used for the hot potato.

I think I read somewhere that the bowl is made out of wax and is remoldable?

I'm just wondering if there is a reason for this as opposed to having a hard plastic bowl?

Also, I also loved that Curious & Ancient Port.  I don't recall ever having a port with such a light red color.  But then again,  I'm still young. :rolleyes:

The bowl for the hot/cold potato is made of food grade parafin wax and discarded nightly. As for the Delaforce "curious&ancient" 20 year old tawny, it has a slightly sweeter(think brown sugar or maple and more rosey color).


"mmmmm purple" Homer Simpson

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Sorry to get off the NYE discussion, but I was curious about the plate/bowl used for the hot potato.

I think I read somewhere that the bowl is made out of wax and is remoldable?

I'm just wondering if there is a reason for this as opposed to having a hard plastic bowl?

Mindbender is correct; the bowl is made from food grade paraffin wax. This is another Crucial Detail design. Martin designed a four part molding system that we use to cast the bowls daily. As part of one of the chef’s mise en place he is required to make 90 wax bowls each day.

The use of wax was chosen for a couple key reasons. It allows us to pierce the bowl with the stainless pin used to keep the hot potato separate from the cold potato. The soft feel of the wax itself is very nice in the hand and on the mouth, and the translucent qualities of the thin wax are aesthetically appealing on the dark table.


--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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Sorry to get off the NYE discussion, but I was curious about the plate/bowl used for the hot potato.

I think I read somewhere that the bowl is made out of wax and is remoldable?

I'm just wondering if there is a reason for this as opposed to having a hard plastic bowl?

Mindbender is correct; the bowl is made from food grade paraffin wax. This is another Crucial Detail design. Martin designed a four part molding system that we use to cast the bowls daily. As part of one of the chef’s mise en place he is required to make 90 wax bowls each day.

The use of wax was chosen for a couple key reasons. It allows us to pierce the bowl with the stainless pin used to keep the hot potato separate from the cold potato. The soft feel of the wax itself is very nice in the hand and on the mouth, and the translucent qualities of the thin wax are aesthetically appealing on the dark table.

For a brief moment, I thought the bowl was also edible. Sorry about that missing bite, chef :rolleyes:

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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