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


BryanZ
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I was wondering if anyone who has eaten this can describe it for me. I'm fascinated by the combination of chocolate and avocado, but even moreso when they are both combined with mint. Is the avocado represented in a sauce, the ice cream, etc? How's the lime introduced (if other than just a sprig on the plate)? And is it a chocolate cake? Thank you in advance.

By the way, I have to also say this is one of my favorite food photographs I've seen. Very nicely done.

alinea04_43.jpg

Edited by avant-garde (log)

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

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avant-garde.

i believe the version of this dessert course that i had was a bit different - there was no avocado involved in my presentation. that being said, i think i can speak to the chocolate "twist" - it was like a dense mousse, or a very light ganache. to be sure, it was very rich, but not cloyingly so. the (whitish) sorbet, if same as mine, is a chufa sorbet - which has a mild milky-sweet root/earthy flavor - described as similar to coconut.

i'd be interested to know what the small green leaves on the plating in avant-garde's picture are.

u.e.

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avant-garde.

i'd be interested to know what the small green leaves on the plating in avant-garde's picture are.

u.e.

Just wanted to clarify that I did not take the photo in case it appears that I did. And thank you for the info...I'm anxious to see what others have to say in addition to your comments.

"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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i think i can speak to the chocolate "twist" - it was like a dense mousse, or a very light ganache.  to be sure, it was very rich, but not cloyingly so.

It sounds a lot like the Chocolate Mousse Cake at Au Coquelet Cafe in Berkeley, CA.

96030366_ca5f4b8e06.jpg

Chocolate Mousse Cake A.K.A. "Chocolate Butter"

Cutting through this "cake" is very similar to cutting through butter that is chilled, but not cold - firm, yet yielding. In the mouth it has a slight chew, but mostly melts smoothly over your tongue. It's a very dense, yet light mousse that borders on being ganache. This dessert as a whole is just a paradox.

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To go into more detail about the description ulterior epicure provided, when I had it the "sorbet" was actually a lime ice cream. This of course, puzzled me, so one of the servers explained that normally ice creams cannot be made with acidic flavor bases as they cause the dairy to curdle. Chefs Stupak and Achatz found a way to somehow neutralize the pH (I think) so that a legitimate lime ice cream (not a sorbet) could be created. The milky, citrus-y flavor combination is quite enjoyable. I'm guessing they used some kind of food-safe pH buffer or something like that to prevent curdling.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Hm, regarding the lime ice cream, I don't know that it needs to be that complicated (although it probably is, given Alinea's strong perfectionist tendencies.) You can usually add acidic components to an ice cream made from just heavy cream. I do this with my Seville Orange creme brulee, although it requires a bit more work since the acid can prevent the custard from settling. The trick is in making sure the texture and mouthfeel of the ice cream remain light.

One possible trick to use at home could be to use some sort of acidic lime powder and add it to the custard when its being churned...I've never tried that, though.

Whatever the case, I'd love to know how Alinea does it.

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No, I'd say that the chocolate in that dish is a bit like a slightly dense chiboust, with a bit of added tensile strength (don't remember the chemical they use for that) to allow the sheet to be twisted into shape.

yes, agreed, although snekse's guess at a consistency wasn't far off either. it was like eating near-room-temp. butter. in terms of fabric - silky - would be the perfect discriptor.

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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Before we get too off track I just want to say that I'm really only interested in the basics of the dish. The molecular aspect of the cake and ice cream are not that important to me for where I'm going with my inquiry.

I suppose one could easily steep kaffir lime leaves or the zest of a lime to impart flavor into an ice cream and hopefully eliminate a great deal of the acidity aspect. I doubt that's what has been done here, but... I only asked about the dish because the presentation kind of makes it hard to determine what is what.

Ultimately, and I probably should have said this before, I mostly want to know about the avocado element of the dessert since I can't really make it out. I can't tell if it's in the form of a sauce, a pulp, or something else.

I've thought about making a flourless chocolate cake and taking a simple syrup pureed with tons of fresh mint to make an intense little sauce to dot on the plate. But now all I have to do is figure out the avocado part of this to see how I could interpret it into my own dessert.

"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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I remember there being little green dollops around the plate which was the avocado flavoring. I was really surprised to find that the avocado had a slighlt minty flavor. It was mint without the "burning" or tingling. very cool to the palate and amazingly paired with the chocolate. I think the little green leaves are just mint leaves.

We were told that the chocolate merely had "thickeners" added to it so that they could bend it into the shape you see. This was one dish that, when viewing the photos before eating there, I didn't see how it could be that original, but it was extremely tasty.

I hope this helps and is accurate. I could be wrong. Guess I just have to go back :biggrin:

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re: the chocolate ribbon's chemical - it might be transglutaminase. I know WD-50 has used it (scallops into cous cous!) and it's available commercially.

I don't think so - transglutaminase's primary use is for binding proteins, there are versions for fish and others for meat. I don't think it would have the desired effect, actually, it probably won't have any effect.

A more likely, and interesting, culprit would be a combination of a bit of gelatin with liquid sorbitol, which would prevent the gelatin matrix from ripping when twisted and might allow the use of a minimal amount of gelatin - for maximum flavor release. Dunno. Wish I had a tenth of the knowledge the folks at Alinea have.

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Yeah, TG is unlikely in this dish, unless of course there was dairy in the chocolate ribbon (which is actually quite likely). TG can work with milk proteins like casein (I think) and bind them to some extent. I'm mostly familiar with the more "basic" meat applications, however.

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Too bad "Celebrity Death Match" isn't on anymore...they could have Chef Achatz vs Chef Cantu!

Chef Cantu could bring his laser and some liquid nitrogen, Chef Achatz could use the smoking leaf! Maybe someone here who is good with computer animation could make this battle for us!

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For the folks at Alinea.

Where do you source your butters?

u.e.

[edited to add: Also, can anyone please tell me what was with obscure garnish that came with the lamb in the Eucalyptus leaves? I think the server said something that sounded like "Acquajinta" :unsure: - but that's a rough phoenitic approximation/reproduction. Thanks! ]

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“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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For the folks at Alinea.

Where do you source your butters?

u.e.

[edited to add: Also, can anyone please tell me what was with obscure garnish that came with the lamb in the Eucalyptus leaves?  I think the server said something that sounded like "Acquajinta" :unsure: - but that's a rough phoenitic approximation/reproduction.  Thanks! ]

The obscure flavoring in the lamb dish is "akudjura", which is an Australian bush tomato, which is known to have similar flavor components to sun-dried tomato with more of a caramelized flavor with a hint of chocolate. The two butters are sourced from different places. One is an unpasteurized goat milk butter from Quebec, the other, cow from Wisconsin.

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Tour, Mar 9, 06

HOT POTATO cold potato, black truffle, parmesan

PINE NUT radish, balsamic, olive oil

SALSIFY parsley, smoked salmon, steelhead roe

DUNGENESS CRAB malt, chanterelles, dried apricot

MUSSEL chamomile, cucumber

SKATE caper, lemon, and brown butter powders

PEAR celery leaf & branch, curry

LAMB akudjura, nicoise olive, eucalyptus veil

SWEETBREAD braised pistachios, ham, vermouth

IDIAZABAL maple syrup, danish salt

APPLEWOOD muscovado sugar, fenugreek

HAZELNUT carrot, raisin, melted butter

YUZU pine, black sesame

YUBA prawn, miso, orange

PORK grapefruit, cornbread, ohio honeycomb

CHESTNUT too many garnishes to list

DUCK persimmon, onion, pillow of mace air

EGGPLANT sugar, coriander, poppyseed milk

KOBE BEEF yogurt, squash, smoked paprika candy

PINEAPPLE tamarind, thai basil, chinese sausage

SWEET POTATO bourbon, cinnamon fragrance

SABLE jasmine, toffee, banana

CHOCOLATE kola nut, chufa, date

PEANUT BUTTER fleur de sel

COFFEE mint, buckwheat, passionfruit

MORE CHOCOLATE five aromatics

I'm not going to go in depth on every dish because I'm a horrible food writer. I will say that this was the most amazing meal I've ever had. Chef Achatz (who was away on personal business on the night I went) and his crew do a fantastic job all around. The food, the service, everything was fantastic.

The only things that didn't really click with me were the desserts, apart from the hazelnut cake and the MORE CHOCOLATE courses.

Edited by fryguy (log)
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The obscure flavoring in the lamb dish is "akudjura", which is an Australian bush tomato, which is known to have similar flavor components to sun-dried tomato with more of a caramelized flavor with a hint of chocolate. The two butters are sourced from different places. One is an unpasteurized goat milk butter from Quebec, the other, cow from Wisconsin.

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woot, Woot, WOOT! I have a reservation for 8:45 on Thursday the 20th of April for Alinea! I am unbelievably excited! I've been wanting to do this ever since the restaurant opened and missed out on the chance last time because I didn't plan far enough ahead :(.

PS: I am a guy.

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