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


BryanZ
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I just received news from Chef about a special program which Alinea will be running to celebrate their 1st birthday. During the week of May 3-7, a special retrospective menu, featuring 17 (or so) of the first year's best dishes, will be offered. Pricing will be $175, the same price as the Tour de Force.

This should be a great chance for anyone who wasn't able to make it to Alinea in the first year to taste some great dishes on which they would have otherwise missed out.

=R=

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

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I just received news from Chef about a special program which Alinea will be running to celebrate their 1st birthday.  During the week of May 3-7, a special retrospective menu, featuring 17 (or so) of the first year's best dishes, will be offered.  Pricing will be $175, the same price as the Tour de Force.

What a great idea! A culinary "Best of's!!" :raz: A edible reprise!! :laugh:

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Was at Alinea last night and loved the new dishes . . . fried yuba skin with prawns, (cup o') sweetbreads, skate, savory and sweet hazelnut cake. I'll post more details about those a bit later on. Additionally, Chef and crew continue to "evolve" some of the dishes which have been on for a while. Last night was probably my favorite rendition of the crab, where I think chefg has found the perfect balance between creamy and tart for the ribbon of sauce which accompanies it. Ditto for the candied beef cap, the duck breast/duck skin/foie gras, the chocolate ribbon dessert and several others. These dishes continue to be fine-tuned and were, impressively, even better than previous incarnations.

Also, and this was very exciting to a food geek like myself, the man himself, Ferran Adria, was in the house and seated just a couple tables away from us. It was very cool to see him there. He was very business-like, took lots of notes, etc. He definitely seemed to be enjoying himself.

Again, more menu details to follow.

=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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...also, and this was very exciting to a food geek like myself, the man himself, Ferran Adria, was in the house and seated just a couple tables away from us.  It was very cool to see him there.  He was very business-like, took lots of notes, etc.  He definitely seemed to be enjoying himself.

Again, more menu details to follow.

=R=

Ronnie, the Adria sighting must have been pretty exciting! I read (in the Time Out Chicago article about Madrid Fusion) that he was heading to Chicago in March, but I wasn't sure if it was 100% on.

Apart from Alinea and Moto, I wonder which other spots he is hitting?

Edited by VeryApe77 (log)
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...also, and this was very exciting to a food geek like myself, the man himself, Ferran Adria, was in the house and seated just a couple tables away from us.  It was very cool to see him there.  He was very business-like, took lots of notes, etc.  He definitely seemed to be enjoying himself.

Again, more menu details to follow.

=R=

Ronnie, the Adria sighting must have been pretty exciting! I read (in the Time Out Chicago article about Madrid Fusion) that he was heading to Chicago in March, but I wasn't sure if it was 100% on.

Apart from Alinea and Moto, I wonder which other spots he is hitting?

Rumor has it that he was at Moto (with Jose Andres) the night before.

=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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Was at Alinea...

Ditto.

Whether Chef G meant to or not, I found that a lot of the courses sparked my personal food memory bank - that is, tastes, textures and mouth-feels that reminded me of other eating experiences. Here's my personal palate's decoder:

Potato: This was probably the biggest "WOW" of the evening - it was like, well, a big hot potato with all the trimmings - but much better, and in one bite.

Fried Yuba course: (Spicy) pork rinds.

Skate course: A la meuniere

Hazlenut: This one was kind of straightforward - carrot cake. Neat and tasty brown butter ball.

Ham: Haute breakfast? Bacon ham, grits ("corn porridge"), grapefruit, hash (fried pork leg), fresh honey...

Chestnut: The Marsala wine pairing tasted just like Zabaglione... my favorite was the pairing with Burgandy puree with black truffle in the Brussels sprout.

Idiazabel: Chinese shrimp crackers (biased from the appearance and somewhat in the texture - although it didn't "grip" my tongue like Chinese shrimp crackers - I think it's because of the snow-soft dusting of Idiazabel on the outside)... tasted nothing like shrimp crackers, though.

Fried salsify: Curly fries - um, Hardee's vintage - circa 1986. :laugh:

Last night was probably my favorite rendition of the crab, where I think chefg has found the perfect balance between creamy and tart for the ribbon of sauce which accompanies it.

Can't say that I agree... :sad: Creative for sure, but lacked *spark* for me. Although, I'd be curious to find out what the "ribbon" of malted cream was made of (or rather, the method and ingredients). Care to step in, Chef G?

Ditto for the candied beef cap

Unless my memory fails me - I don't believe I had the pleasure... I'll have to look back at my menu.

the duck breast/duck skin/foie gras...

Perhaps my favorite course.

Desserts: Sorry Chef Stupak, nothing really clicked with me... they were good, but didn't really excite me. The More Chocolate (last) course: Tootsie rolls!! My favorite was the strawberry.

ronnie, others, can't wait to hear your details/thoughts.

u.e.

P.S. Confirmation - nada on the Candied Beef Cap that ronnie mentioned - didn't make it onto my menu.

Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Last night was probably my favorite rendition of the crab, where I think chefg has found the perfect balance between creamy and tart for the ribbon of sauce which accompanies it.

Can't say that I agree... :sad: Creative for sure, but lacked *spark* for me. Although, I'd be curious to find out what the "ribbon" of malted cream was made of (or rather, the method and ingredients). Care to step in, Chef G?

I'll elaborate here with the caveat that ultimately, I'm wholly prepared to agree to disagree about it . . . such is the nature of personal opinions. I've had this dish 3 times. The first time, the ribbon of sauce had a vanilla flavor (IIRC) and there was a lot of it. I liked it quite a bit and the crab was delicious, tender, crabby tasting. There were accents of passionfruit in the dish which I liked but didn't love. The second time, the dish had been "inverted" somewhat. The crab was still delicious but the blanket was now passionfruit, not vanilla, and was way too tart for my taste. I thought the powerful-tasting sauce overshadowed the crab. Last night, the sauce was back to a mellower flavor; not vanilla per se, but malted cream as was mentioned above. This was my fave of the 3 renditions I had because not only was the sauce delicious in and of itself, but for me, it also amplified the best attributes of crab's flavor. I also liked the fact that the tarter notes had once again been sent to the background.

Desserts: Sorry Chef Stupak, nothing really clicked with me...  they were good, but didn't really excite me.  The More Chocolate (last) course: Tootsie rolls!!  My favorite was the strawberry.

We are definitely on different pages here. I loved the twisted chocolate ribbon last night very much. First of all, it wasn't as "dark" as previous incarnations, which, for me, is a boon. The cola nut syrup was a great accent as were the chupa (sp?) nuts. I enjoyed this set of accents a lot more than the lime, which never sent me swooning. I also loved the frozen-then-tempered cookie dough with olive oil. It was rich, sweet, grainy and irresistable. The powdered peanut butter was also deep and delicious. The "tootsie rolls" were served on a very cool serving piece, but they didn't do much for me. Again, I don't love darker chocolate and fruit with chocolate -- especially dark chocolate -- is just not my bag. I know that makes me some sort of foodie infidel but I can live with it. :wink::smile:

=R=

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

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I'll elaborate here with the caveat that ultimately, I'm wholly prepared to agree to disagree about it . . . such is the nature of personal opinions.

Yes, ronnie, sorry I disagreed in a less "gentle-personally" way... caveat goes for me too! :wink:

I've had this dish 3 times.

:shock: Wow - your baby-sitter must have made a killing this past year!! :laugh: I looked back at my notes and pictures from my last visit and I had no "ancestor" or prior incarnation of this malted crab dish... in fact, I didn't have crab at all on my first visit.

Last night, the sauce was back to a mellower flavor; not vanilla per se, but malted cream as was mentioned above.  This was my fave of the 3 renditions I had because not only was the sauce delicious in and of itself, but for me, it also amplified the best attributes of crab's flavor.

While I can't attest to the prior versions, I agree that the malted cream did play nicely with the sweetness of the crab - however, I found myself second-guessing whether the crab was naturally sweet, or "sweetened" by the unctuous malt cream that seemed to be of a similarly silky texture...

I also liked the fact that the tarter notes had once again been sent to the background.

Hmmm, do you mean "more tart?" (as opposed to tartar?)... remind me, what provided the tart notes in this crab dish? The apricots?

Re: desserts

We are definitely on different pages here.  I loved the twisted chocolate ribbon last night very much.  First of all, it wasn't as "dark" as previous incarnations, which, for me, is a boon.

Ey, but therein lies our difference... the darker the better! (I nibble on 100% at home...).

The cola nut syrup was a great accent as were the chupa (sp?) nuts.  I enjoyed this set of accents a lot more than the lime, which never sent me swooning.

There was a lime "incarnation?" :shock: Sorry to have missed that!! (or are you referring to the little chocolate-lime "dot" in the last "More Chocolate" course?

I also loved the frozen-then-tempered cookie dough with olive oil.  It was rich, sweet, grainy and irresistable.

Ah, thanks ronnie - I see that I overlooked a whole page of notes. This sweet course that you described ("Sable") pulled up another food memory: Sandies - those pecan cookies - except this was in a paste form - crunch provided by the toffee nougat.

Oh, and while I'm on my over-looked page:

I did have beef: Kobe beef. ronnie, was this what you meant by "Candied Beef Cap"?

...and two other courses did dredge up some food memories.

Sweet Potato course: Churros - with a little umphhh from Jim Beam. :wink:

Cassis course: I swear this course reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what... I'm tempted to say "red velvet cake" - but I'm afraid appearances (the red beet sponge cake) might be skewing my tastebuds... really liked the goat milk ice cream.

The powdered peanut butter was also deep and delicious.

While I'm not sure what you mean by "deep," I found the 1971 (?) Pedro Ximenes quite delicious - the teetotaler that I am!! :blush:

The "tootsie rolls" were served on a very cool serving piece, but they didn't do much for me.

Maybe because there wasn't much to begin with? (Not that I'm complaining - after 24 courses, but just that there really was only five little dip-n-dot's-sized chocolate balls that made up this course. Couldn't really taste the eucalyptus one, but the strawberry and lavendar were nice) Gives a whole new meaning to "finger food." :raz:

Again, I don't love darker chocolate and fruit with chocolate -- especially dark chocolate -- is just not my bag.  I know that makes me some sort of foodie infidel but I can live with it. :wink::smile:

Well, ronnie, if we were ever to raid a chocolate factory, at least we'd have no problems splitting the loot! :laugh:

My mom likes white chocolate - to me, that's blasphemy - but to each his/her own! :wink:

u.e.

p.s. BIG apologies for my rather unhelpful "laundry list" of courses and dearth in descriptions. I know it is frustrating for those of you who have not had these courses. I have been very busy :sad: and have been slowly plowing through (organizing) my photos and notes from my recent foodie travels. :smile:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I think we're limited (by software) to only 10 quotes per post or the code fails, so I'm going to reply to u.e.'s latest post here.

Yes, ronnie, sorry I disagreed in a less "gentle-personally" way... caveat goes for me too!

No, not at all. I just didn't want you to think that I was refuting your take on any of this.

Hmmm, do you mean "more tart?" (as opposed to tartar?)... remind me, what provided the tart notes in this crab dish? The apricots?

Yes, I'm referring to the more tart elements. It was the passionfruit, I think, which was very acidic.

There was a lime "incarnation?"  Sorry to have missed that!! (or are you referring to the little chocolate-lime "dot" in the last "More Chocolate" course?

The last time I had this dish, the chocoloate was about 2 'f-stops' darker and one of the main accompanying elements was lime (can't remember if it was sorbet, ice cream or gelato).

While I'm not sure what you mean by "deep," I found the 1971 (?) Pedro Ximenes quite delicious - the teetotaler that I am!!

The P/X bite was not on last night. By deep, I meant very aromatic, with a deeply roasted element.

Maybe because there wasn't much to begin with? (Not that I'm complaining - after 24 courses, but just that there really was only five little dip-n-dot's-sized chocolate balls that made up this course. Couldn't really taste the eucalyptus one, but the strawberry and lavendar were nice) Gives a whole new meaning to "finger food."

They were little but by that point, I was so full, it was a blessing :wink: And I really meant to refer to them as mini tootsie-pop drops.

Well, ronnie, if we were ever to raid a chocolate factory, at least we'd have no problems splitting the loot!

You are clearly a glass-half-full kinda' guy :biggrin:

=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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...also, and this was very exciting to a food geek like myself, the man himself, Ferran Adria, was in the house and seated just a couple tables away from us.  It was very cool to see him there.  He was very business-like, took lots of notes, etc.  He definitely seemed to be enjoying himself.

Again, more menu details to follow.

=R=

Ronnie, the Adria sighting must have been pretty exciting! I read (in the Time Out Chicago article about Madrid Fusion) that he was heading to Chicago in March, but I wasn't sure if it was 100% on.

Apart from Alinea and Moto, I wonder which other spots he is hitting?

Rumor has it that he was at Moto (with Jose Andres) the night before.

=R=

I have it from a very reliable source that chef Adria -- along with chef Charlie Trotter -- were chef's guests for lunch at Avenues earlier today.

Way to go chef Bowles! :smile:

=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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to answer elrushbo's question from the closed discussion on alinea:

both of my "tour" dinners took around 6 hours.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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Ronnie, was Juli Soler -- Adrià's partner and co-owner of El Bulli -- with him?

No. My "sources" tell me it was his wife.

=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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to answer elrushbo's question from the closed discussion on alinea:

both of my "tour" dinners took around 6 hours.

u.e.

The current running average is 4 hours 23 mintues...some have finished in 3 hours...it solely depends on how fast you eat, if you or a member of your party gets up alot during the meal, which wine program you choose, and if you are taking photos.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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The current running average is 4 hours 23 mintues...some have finished in 3 hours...it solely depends on how fast you eat, if you or a member of your party gets up alot during the meal, which wine program you choose, and if you are taking photos.

ahhh, yes, i failed to mention that both of my tours involved pairings and, of course picture taking, which does take up more time - although, we kept our "physical tours" to a minimum - surprisingly only one bathroom break for me on each visit.

u.e.

chefg, as an aside, curious to know what was in your "malted cream" ribbon on the crab dish.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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to answer elrushbo's question from the closed discussion on alinea:

both of my "tour" dinners took around 6 hours.

u.e.

The current running average is 4 hours 23 mintues...some have finished in 3 hours...it solely depends on how fast you eat, if you or a member of your party gets up alot during the meal, which wine program you choose, and if you are taking photos.

I am very new here, I will get used to the format soon, if this question is better placed in another forum, then sorry...that said, your response to my question is much appreciated. You'll time the courses based on how fast diners eat? Very interesting, your service must be awesome. That kind of attentiveness is not always seen. I'm taking my dad to Alinea in June-will we have the option of deciding between the tasting and tour menus at the restaurant? I got the impression from calling Alinea that you have to reserve a table for the tour in advance.

I'm curious as to how often you make menu changes, some places do it most every day, but I cannot imagine having as many dishes as you do and changing it all the time. You gotta have some time to yourself! Any hints as to what's going to be on the menu during June?

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I have reservations for the anniversary "retrospective". Any speculation as to what dishes will be chosen as best of the year? I missed the squab, watermelon, foie gras dish in the summer, and I'd love to see this on the menu. I think the hearts of palm will make a showing considering all the press and talk about it when the restaurant first opened.

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I have reservations for the anniversary "retrospective". Any speculation as to what dishes will be chosen as best of the year? I missed the squab, watermelon, foie gras dish in the summer, and I'd love to see this on the menu. I think the hearts of palm will make a showing considering all the press and talk about it when the restaurant first opened.

Hearts of Palm were back on this past Thursday night -- but with 5 new fillings. It'll be interesting to see if they appear on the anniversary menu and if they do, in what form.

=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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I think the hearts of palm will make a showing considering all the press and talk about it when the restaurant first opened.

Using that logic, I would expect to see the PB&J, something served on a pillow of scented air and something served with smoldering aromatics.

Based on longevity of certain dishes, I'd expect to see the Sour Cream on the retrospect since it seemed to be one of the dishes that remained on the menu for the greatest length of time.

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I have reservations for the anniversary "retrospective". Any speculation as to what dishes will be chosen as best of the year? I missed the squab, watermelon, foie gras dish in the summer, and I'd love to see this on the menu. I think the hearts of palm will make a showing considering all the press and talk about it when the restaurant first opened.

Hearts of Palm were back on this past Thursday night -- but with 5 new fillings. It'll be interesting to see if they appear on the anniversary menu and if they do, in what form.

=R=

We brought back the hearts of palm for Ferran, that is why it was served this past Thursday.

We are in the process of compiling the list of total "unique" dishes created here thus far...right now we have combed thru August - October and ended up with 75. That means there are at least 50+ from May/June July,and at least that many from Nov-through the end of 2005. My guess is we will hit 275 or so

by the time May 2006 rolls around, which comes out to over one dish per service. When I say unique dishes I mean we will not count protein swaps or minor ingredient changes...for instance Black Cod replacing Skate....or Morels swapping out for Shiitakes. Anyway, the way were are deciding are as follows:

1.Personal poll of the staff -kitchen and FOH (their personal opinions plus their observance and communication with the 16,000 or so guests that have dined at the restaurant in the first year)

2. Blog research-- several hundred foodies have dined here and posted several hundred reviews/comments on their favorites within various sites.

3. Critic/food writer responses -- printed media opinions

4. And the only limiting factor seasonality...being that it will be in May, tough to do dishes like Bison on the Juniper Branch, or the chestnut in spring.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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We brought back the hearts of palm for Ferran, that is why it was served this past Thursday.

darn! missed one of my favoirte courses i've had. just curious - what new "fillings" were featured?

We are in the process of compiling the list of total "unique" dishes created here thus far...right now we have combed thru August - October and ended up with 75. That means there are at least 50+ from May/June July,and at least that many from Nov-through the end of 2005. My guess is we will hit 275 or so

by the time May 2006 rolls around, which comes out to over one dish per service. When I say unique dishes  I mean we will not count protein swaps or minor ingredient changes...for instance Black Cod replacing Skate....or Morels swapping out for Shiitakes. Anyway, the way were are deciding are as follows:

personal vote for the beef cap "a-1!" :wink:

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I just received news from Chef about a special program which Alinea will be running to celebrate their 1st birthday.  During the week of May 3-7, a special retrospective menu, featuring 17 (or so) of the first year's best dishes, will be offered.  Pricing will be $175, the same price as the Tour de Force.

What a great idea! A culinary "Best of's!!" :raz: A edible reprise!! :laugh:

u.e.

Shouldn't the entire regular menu be "best of's? Especially at that price!

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Shouldn't the entire regular menu be "best of's? Especially at that price!

1. While there were quite a few dishes that I wouldn't say were "best of's" for me, in all fairness to Alinea, chefg and his staff, I don't think that they, nor any diner, could possibly expect for all twenty-something dishes to please everyone. Sure, the price is high, but I don't think they've held out any promise that they can deliver 20-some "best of's" on every menu - I don't know of any restaurant that makes such a claim, and I would be certainly weary of any that would.

2. When you've created dozens of dishes and courses, like chefg and his staff - there is bound to be a list of the top x number of dishes... if every dish were a "best of,' "best of's" dinner would involved every dish created. This is just not feasible...

3. All that being said, I have been to quite a few restaurants where I could swear that everything I had could be a "best of." But, none of them have maintained that record at 20-plus courses in one meal... I wish, but doubt that any restaurant could do that for me - unless I was able to pick my own faves from a menu I was familiar with... and even then, there maybe the "sophomore jinx" at play - that is, I may not experience a familiar dish the same way as before, or that the dish might not be prepared exactly the way as the first, second, x time I ate it...

...all this IMHO.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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