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[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 3)


Lenski
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a question or three about the wine pairings - there is no discernible info on the alinea website about wine at all.

1) How much are the pairings?

2) How much wine do the pairings consist of? Obviously with the tour I am assuming there are not 24 different wines, so are the courses/wines matched in a way that one glass of wine complements three or four courses? Or are some courses unpaired? Or are there actually 24 wines?

3) Is there an extensive wine list (bottles/glasses) outside of pairings to choose from? And are these wines listed anywhere online?

We will be visiting Alinea this summer and I just want to know what I'm getting into.

Thanks!

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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Regarding reservations: We begin taking a calender month of reservations two months previous. So on March 1 we begin taking May reservations for the entire month, and so on.

1) The cost of the wine pairings begins about 2/3rds the cost of the given menu you are having. I approximate because it does vary from day to day slightly based on what bottles our Sommelier team is opening that evening. We also have reserve pairings available, and occasionally open some rare or older vintages that we pour by the glass supplement.

2) For the 12-course tasting it is usually around 8-9 different wines. For the Tour it is about 16 or so different wines. They are poured largely to the consumption of a given diner, rather than a set amount. There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant, ordering the pairings, and then getting a tiny pour of each wine, often not enough to carry you through a particular course. So our sommeliers try to gauge your intake and re-pour as needed. That said, with that many different wines we do not wish to over serve anyone... do try to pace yourself, especially on the Tour.

3) We have a fine list of over 650 different selections from around the world, beginning at about $45. For larger parties we often suggest purchasing a wine from the list if you have a particular favorite and we can insert it into the pairing, adjusting the cost of the pairing accordingly. Of course, you can always create your own pairings as well... though with 24 courses and Grant's combinations I encourage you to think creatively.

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Regarding reservations:  We begin taking a calender month of reservations two months previous.  So on March 1 we begin taking May reservations for the entire month, and so on.

1)  The cost of the wine pairings begins about 2/3rds the cost of the given menu you are having.  I approximate because it does vary from day to day slightly based on what bottles our Sommelier team is opening that evening.  We also have reserve pairings available, and occasionally open some rare or older vintages that we pour by the glass supplement. 

2)  For the 12-course tasting it is usually around 8-9 different wines.  For the Tour it is about 16 or so different wines.  They are poured largely to the consumption of a given diner, rather than a set amount.  There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant, ordering the pairings, and then getting a tiny pour of each wine, often not enough to carry you through a particular course.  So our sommeliers try to gauge your intake and re-pour as needed.  That said, with that many different wines we do not wish to over serve anyone... do try to pace yourself, especially on the Tour.

3)  We have a fine list of over 650 different selections from around the world, beginning at about  $45.  For larger parties we often suggest purchasing a wine from the list if you have a particular favorite and we can insert it into the pairing, adjusting the cost of the pairing accordingly.  Of course, you can always create your own pairings as well... though with 24 courses and Grant's combinations I encourage you to think creatively.

Thanks so much. That answered all of my questions! Can't wait to eat there.

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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Not that Nick needs me to give him propers, but:

2)  For the 12-course tasting it is usually around 8-9 different wines.  For the Tour it is about 16 or so different wines.  They are poured largely to the consumption of a given diner, rather than a set amount.  There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant, ordering the pairings, and then getting a tiny pour of each wine, often not enough to carry you through a particular course.  So our sommeliers try to gauge your intake and re-pour as needed.  That said, with that many different wines we do not wish to over serve anyone... do try to pace yourself, especially on the Tour.

One of the many remarkable features of a Tour at Alinea is the tasting. The sommelier seemed to learn quite quickly who was having how much of each, and I'm quite sure each of us had just the right amount of every wine served. The pairings themselves were impeccable, and, as Nick says, were always enough to carry you through a particular course -- or courses, as sometimes the wine would bridge one course to the next, transforming in your mouth as it did so.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I can't imagine even the most knowledgeable wine person being able to pair wines better than Alinea's staff. Even if you're familiar with the wines on the list (unlikely, given its length), the food is so unpredictable --and I mean that in the best possible way -- you're as likely to miss as hit, just because you'll have the wrong target in your sights.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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  • 1 month later...
I am interested in dining at Alinea next week. Is this too short notice for a reservation? What night would be idea (Thursday, Friday, Saturday)?

Thanks.

Waiting list only.

Really? You know this for a fact? What is the general lead time necessary? What are the chances of getting in if I'm on the waiting list?

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Is it worth it to go to Alinea if you can only do the Tasting menu, and not the Tour? I know it's subjective, so I am asking everyone's opinion. I would return to do the Tour but not anytime soon. Probably not for years.

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Is it worth it to go to Alinea if you can only do the Tasting menu, and not the Tour? I know it's subjective, so I am asking everyone's opinion. I would return to do the Tour but not anytime soon. Probably not for years.

Some Alinea is certainly better than no Alinea.

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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I agree with John. However, the Tour, at least my last time in December, was nothing short of spectacular.

A problem that I think people might have if they do not have the Tour is to see what they are missing if the other tables are having the Tour.

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A problem that I think people might have if they do not have the Tour is to see what they are missing if the other tables are having the Tour.

I went recently and had the tasting. Immediately after I left, I planned on going back for the tour. The problem with the tasting is that you don't get the classics such as hot potato or truffle explosion (at least I didn't when I had it). I would say if you're not sure you're going to go again, go for the tour. On the other hand, it was an amazing experience.

josh

josh

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Is it worth it to go to Alinea if you can only do the Tasting menu, and not the Tour? I know it's subjective, so I am asking everyone's opinion. I would return to do the Tour but not anytime soon. Probably not for years.

What if I said no?

I think you would still want to go.

I think you should go, regardless of which menu you do. FWIW, having done the Tour twice, I suspect that I would like the Tasting more.

“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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A problem that I think people might have if they do not have the Tour is to see what they are missing if the other tables are having the Tour.

I went recently and had the tasting. Immediately after I left, I planned on going back for the tour. The problem with the tasting is that you don't get the classics such as hot potato or truffle explosion (at least I didn't when I had it). I would say if you're not sure you're going to go again, go for the tour. On the other hand, it was an amazing experience.

josh

Oh you misunderstood. I cannot do the Tour since it's not offered during the dates I am visiting. I was asking if I should do the Tasting or nothing at all (and wait for my return to Chicago to do the Tour, whenever that may be)

Is it worth it to go to Alinea if you can only do the Tasting menu, and not the Tour? I know it's subjective, so I am asking everyone's opinion. I would return to do the Tour but not anytime soon. Probably not for years.

What if I said no?

I think you would still want to go.

I think you should go, regardless of which menu you do. FWIW, having done the Tour twice, I suspect that I would like the Tasting more.

Good point ulterior epicure. I probably would go. Seriously though, the reason it's even a legit question is i am only there for about 2 days (less than that even). With two nights to dine, Moto booked for Friday, and no bottomless money pit to draw from, eat or not eating at Alinea is a real decision. I always want to eat the biggest tasting available but it's not possible this trip and I don't know when the next is.

Thanks to everyone for your advice. I will go for the Tasting.

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When I was in Chicago last September I snagged a reservation for the tasting and I was grateful for it. I was served the menu and they are very generous with additional courses. We were given the truffle explosion and a foie gras dish and numerous others. We also split one wine pairing between both of us and the pours were very generous. We did talk up the wine guy and the servers and that can certainly help to show your interest and appriciation.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Warning: this post is loooooong and contains many photos...

For a long while, I have read the reports on this thread with great envy. Last Sunday, my husband, Keith, and I finally made it to Chicago (after plenty of airport drama) and to Alinea. We had extremely high expectations, and the tour did not let us down. Some of the courses have been reported previously, but I believe some of the dishes have not yet made their way onto this thread.

1. Steelhead roe (coconut, lime, vanilla fragrance)

This made for a very tasty first bite, with the salty roe, cool coconut, and the vanilla finish from the bean. A champagne cocktail with Roussanne, spiced mead, and curacao paired with this extremely well.

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2. Yuba (shrimp, miso, togarashi)

As described previously, the miso mayo was a great dipping sauce for this crispy stick. The prawn was very shrimpy, in a good way.

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3. White asparagus (licorice vinegar, honey, meyer lemon)

The little balls were tapioca (flavored with tarragon, perhaps), and the lace-like topping was made with honey. Normally I'm not a fan of asparagus, but I really loved this dish, and the wine pairing was one of my favorites of the night (Alois Lageder Moscato Giallo "Vogelmaier").

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4. Spring garlic (parsley, lemon, chicken)

The cold jelly cubes were chicken, parsley, and lemon flavored, and the hot soup was made with garlic and bay leaf. I'm still dreaming about the soup :wub:

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5. Ice fish (shellfish, horseradish, parsley)

So pretty, it seemed like a shame to eat (not that it stopped me!). The tiny ice fish were fried, and served on top of a horseradish mousse. Additional toppings included asparagus, clams, dried garlic (I think). The paired wine was Fonthill "Sea Air" Verdelho, which went perfectly with the fish and shellfish.

At the back, you can see the bread pairing with this course: herb marigold biscuit. I really liked the variety of small breads served throughout the meal.

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6. Short rib (Guinness, peanut, fried broccoli)

The short rib was delicious, and I really liked the dollops of broccoli and peanut custards. I didn't get much Guinness flavor, but I really didn't care :raz:

This was served with an oolong bagel, nice and hot.

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7. Hot potato (cold potato, black truffle, butter)

Yes, it absolutely is as good as everyone says...

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8. Pork belly (smoked paprika, polenta, pickled vegetables)

The little empty pedestal is where the pork belly was before I gobbled it up... :laugh:

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9. Chicken skin (truffle, corn, thyme)

Described as an adult chicken nugget, this was probably our least favorite dish of the evening. While tasty, it was a bit too much like crushed up chicken-flavored corn nuts.

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10. Mango (soy, foie gras)

A thin tube made of mango (and soy?) filled with foie gras. Yum.

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11. Rhubarb (ginger, basil)

Taken as a shot, the ball was filled with ginger rhubarb juice, and the green liquid was made from basil. Very refreshing.

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12. Transparency (raspberry, rose petal, yogurt)

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Before our next course arrived, our servers brought over some new centerpieces, and instructed us not to touch them...

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13. Fava beans (lavender, banana, pecorino)

This arrived in a glass cylinder, which our server removed to let the contents ooze out. I loved the contrasts of textures and temperatures, and the banana and lavender went surprisingly well with the other flavors in the dish.

Also, this was served with a bacon donut with maple sugar. No, I am not joking, and yes, I'm now talking in a Homer Simpson voice.

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14. Carrot (smoked paprika, orange)

Boo, blurry photo. This was another nice palate-cleansing shot.

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Those centerpieces were still there taunting us...

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15. Lobster (peas, ramps, mint vapor)

Possibly the best lobster dish ever. Butter-poached, with ramp custard and sweet peas. The mint aroma really did add to the experience of this course. A couple bites in, our server arrived with a surprise: a lobster cracker with similar flavors as the main dish, just presented in a different manner.

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16. Wagyu beef (black truffle, potato, Blis Elixir)

About time! :smile: A plate arrived with a cube of confit potato wrapped in a thin layer of truffle, then was topped with the thin slice of beef and dressed with a vinaigrette.

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17. Lamb (mushroom, red wine, diverse embellishments)

We were encouraged to explore the different components of the plate. There was a lot going on, with mushrooms, beets, lentils, leeks, cayenne, fried fish (I'm 95% sure), and yogurt. Everything was delicious, but I'm not sure it all should have been on one plate together.

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18. Black truffle (explosion, romaine, parmesan)

Wow. That was incredible.

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19. Bacon (butterscotch, apple, thyme)

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20. Strawberry (violet, nicoise olive)

The bonbon, coated in white chocolate, was a bit tough to get off its dish. The saltiness of the olive complemented the sweet components very well.

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21. Persimmon (carrot, red curry, spice strip)

First, we ate the spice strip (sort of like a listerine quick dissolving strip). This course also had persimmon cake, pistachio crumble, fig paste, and a ginger ball.

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22. Dry shot (pineapple, rum, cilantro)

This tasted exactly like a Thai style salad, only in dry powder form. The flavors were amazingly intense.

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23. Chocolate (egg, pomelo, smoke)

Bacon and eggs with chocolate, I believe. There was a smoke-flavored gel, some tea components, and the round chocolate ball contained a runny egg yolk. The chocolate geode-like thing also had some cream inside. This was such a fun dish, and I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't been about to explode.

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24. Sweet potato (bourbon, tempura, cinnamon incense)

A lit cinnamon stick stuck in a ball of fried sweet potato pie filling. What a great way to end an incredible meal.

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If I had to complain about one thing, it would be the price of the wine pairings ($145 per person). Several of the pairings were excellent, and all were at least good, but I was expecting more for the cost.

In any case, this was certainly the best meal we've ever had--there was a ton of laughing and oohing and ahhing. The staff was friendly and attentive, the food was delicious and fun, and we would definitely go more often if it were closer to home. If you've made it this far, thanks for reading along!

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Nishla--I was just rereading your Italy trip yesterday, so I had to read about your Alinea experience, too! I very much want to do the Tour, but I don't think I handle all that food! I had a hard enough time with Sweet&Savoury's 3-course (larger portions, but still, only 3-courses) dinner, so I think Alinea's Tour would send me into a coma...The food looks so good, though!

Great pics, too! May I ask what kind of camera you're using?

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Those dishes are insane...so many components. I would be sitting there asking what every little thing was.

At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since. ‐ Salvador Dali

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Nishla--I was just rereading your Italy trip yesterday, so I had to read about your Alinea experience, too!  I very much want to do the Tour, but I don't think I handle all that food!  I had a hard enough time with Sweet&Savoury's 3-course (larger portions, but still, only 3-courses) dinner, so I think Alinea's Tour would send me into a coma...The food looks so good, though!

Great pics, too!  May I ask what kind of camera you're using?

Thanks for the compliment...my camera is a cheapo point-and-click I got at Costco. I think it's a Fujifilm Finepix F20. It does have a "macro" mode that allows it to take pretty good shots in lower light settings without flash. I know nothing about photography, so I asked my cousin to pick the cheapest camera he could find that would work for food photos :wink:

Those dishes are insane...so many components. I would be sitting there asking what every little thing was.

That was part of the fun, trying to guess what everything was and tasting different bits in combination.

The centerpieces you couldn't touch......what was up with them ?  :huh:

The "centerpieces" were frozen slices of wagyu beef. As they thawed, they changed color and appearance, and were finally used in the wagyu/potato dish.

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