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Louisa Chu

El Bulli 2005 Reservations

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i would like to thank luisa for her original post...each year the date changes a bit, and i would have been unaware...

just received a gracious conformation for our requested dates, and i should add that every conversation i have had with luis garcia has been gracious and sincere.

(unlike the average maitre d'hotel i deal with in france...)

perhaps it is like bux suggested; that everyone who seriously tries, eventually has luck.

i also think flexibility and persistance really help.

quite a few times this season i called after 3pm, to check for last minute cancellations, and they do come through...of course this only helps if you live nearby.

[and to blakej: i seriously doubt writing in english is a problem, although if you call, i think spanish would be necessary]

again, thank you luisa...

t.

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Yes, many thanks Louisa! It was your reminder that lit a fire under me. Otherwise, I surely would have forgotten until it was too late.

Thank you again for looking out for your fellow egulleteers.

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Well, this is my third year attempting for a reservation (which I mentioned in my request, in what I hoped was a respectful and gracious manner), and on the 19th, I received an offer from Luis to dine on July 24th. Like you Butterfly, I also jumped for joy, and am truly looking forward to planning a trip to Spain for the occasion. We haven't been in Barcelona in 20 years, and never in other parts of Catalunya. I'm considering a week in Barcelona, and another week or possibly a bit more heading north and into the Pyrenees.


Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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In the meantime, while the 2005 season is still in the not so distant future, you may want to read http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=55979, and have a better idea of how elBulli became what is it now and what happened during what we can say was their most defining decade (1990 - 2001).


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Sometimes I think the best introduction to Adrià's food is no introduction at all. The first time we ate at El Bulli, there was a large group of hikers and bikers on a first class trip. All were used to living and eating well, but none were foodies and the ones we talked with after lunch (those were the days and I sometimes wish they gave up dinner rather than lunch, but clearly two such meals a day was too much for any kitchen) had never heard of Adrià. Not having the preconceptions that some foodies have about how food should taste, they were all delighted with their experience.

On the other hand, if you read here, you're long past that age of innocence and at the point where a little knowledge may not be enough. At this point, I think the more you know and understand the history of the place, the more you may enjoy your meal. Ignorance is bliss, but a little knowledge about an interesting subject just breeds discontent and a desire for more knowledge. Fortunately, there's a hell of a lot that's been said about Adrià and El Bulli on eGullet and it's not all on the Spain and Portugal forum. I believe there are a number of posts in the Media forum that are interesting. We should also appreciate Pedro's ongoing effforts to see that Adrià is not stranger to you.

It is fascinating how many of us have been to El Bulli or are going next year. The heads up at the right time to apply and the immediacy of this medium in getting that news to members and in allowing members to e-mail their requests is remarkable and certainly gave members a serious advantage for next year. I assume there are other members who have gotten a positive response and have not posted because they are more private about their travel plans or just don't want to jinx an even that's still six months away, but I suspect we will be filling this forum with El Bulli 2005 reports over the next year.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I got my long-awaited reply this morning. Not only was Luis as gracious as everyone has described, but I got one of the exact dates in May that I had asked for. :biggrin:

I'll certainly write up my experience once I get back - it's the least I can do for having gotten the tip on reservations. Thanks again!

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Perhaps requesting a specific date was a mistake. However I thought a Tuesday in late April would be a little easier to fill. Alas my trip will be sans El Bulli. We will try to contact them as we approach our departure date but are not holding out much hope. It will be our tenth wedding anniversary so a special meal will be had somewhere for sure. I also mentioned I was in the food biz in USA ,dont know if that helped or hurt or had no affect. Perhaps that Tuesday is booked by a couple of large parties. I will never know. To those of you lucky reservation holders, buon appetiitto.

David


David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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Perhaps requesting a specific date was a mistake. However I thought a Tuesday in late April would be a little easier to fill.

In the past few years at least, they've been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in April through June. See here.

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Perhaps requesting a specific date was a mistake.

You might e-mail him again if there's any flexibility in your plans and take some solace from the fact that there are other great restaurants in the region. From experience, I'd have to say Can Roca, Can Fabes and Sant Pol, but I think we've been over this already. It seems as if those who were most flexible did the best in getting a reservation. I'm not sure if a range of dates just increased the natural odds, or if it was seen as a sign of understanding his problem and thus brought greater attention.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Perhaps requesting a specific date was a mistake. However I thought a Tuesday in late April would be a little easier to fill. Alas my trip will be sans El Bulli. We will try to contact them as we approach our departure date but are not holding out much hope. It will be our tenth wedding anniversary so a special meal will be had somewhere for sure. I also mentioned I was in the food biz in USA ,dont know if that helped or hurt or had no affect. Perhaps that Tuesday is booked by a couple of large parties. I will never know. To those of you lucky reservation holders, buon appetiitto.

David

Dear dfunghi: I know, as one of the other eGullet members has indicated, that el Bulli is closed both Monday and Tuesday evenings. TRY another day of the week! If you aren't successful--and I hope you are--El Raco con Fabes (Con Fabes) chef Santamaria is a true mycologist and a superb cook. Santamaria is a three star chef with both traditional and inventive dishes that will wow you. He is not Ferran Adria. Ferran will offer you a mind-blowing new dining experience. Read Pedro's most recent post on Food Media and News: El Bulli, Soler & Adria in Context for understanding Adria's unique culinary contributions.

Santamaria offers the best combination of food and lovely accommodations in the Catalunya area. Joan Roca is another outstanding chef not far from Sant Celoni. But your evening meal there, will not allow you to go upstairs to a lovely room, as you could at Con Fabes.

If you do get a reservation at el Bulli book a room at the Roses hotel, Almadraba Park. It is drivable to and from el Bulli. It is also a wonderful Costa Brava destination. Hopefully it is not too expensive. Sant Pau is another great restaurant destination but it is not as accessible to lovely overnight accommodations, As I have no idea what your itinerary is for that time frame, my various ideas are probably less than helpful.

Your fungi monaker caught my eye. I am an amateur mycologist. A chef with serious interests in foraging mushrooms always gets my attention. Your date for enjoying the best of the mushroom season in Spain is not April, but I am sure you already know that. Try Con Fabes for your anniversary dinner and spend the night in their wonderful newly created tiny hotel. You have a unique Spanish experience with a three star chef and a beautiful hotel for the evening. One of the first experiences as such that Spain can offer. Hope this is helpful.

We have been researching the best of Spain's culinary elite for almost 10 years. We visited El Bulli early in 1997 and have since been yearly afficionados. Unfortunately El Bulli no longer has lunches which limits its availablity to the clamoring public. I understand why. Good luck and hope my post has been useful. J Gebhart

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I officially baptize this thread the Louisa and Luis Thread and exort all those blessed with a reservation to make a point of rooting for those fellow eGulleteers who were unlucky, mentioning dfunghi and others as the correligionists they are and how we're a team that shouldn't really be broken up. Together we can overcome! We have nothing to lose but our reservations!(*gulp*) :)

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... your evening meal there, will not allow you to go upstairs to a lovely room, as you could at Con Fabes.

I don't want to go off on a tangent thread, but you've focused on a great difference between gastrotouring in France and Spain. It's been a subject of other threads and it's one of the reasons we often have a great lunch in Spain rather than a great dinner. In Girona, where we had dinner at Can Roca, we asked the desk clerks at our hotel for driving instructions to the restaurant which is a bit out of town. Pooled heads could not quite come up with adequate instructions or a map and for once we decided it was just as well to leave the car parked and incur the added expense of a taxi. Actually taxis are inexpensive in Spain, but I allow myself those extra glasses of wine when I'm not drinking. :biggrin: Sant Pau, (in Sant Pol) by the way, appears to be an easy destination by the electric commuter rail from Barcelona, but we noted that the town seemed underdeveloped in terms of public accommodation. Plenty of private homes and not very dense condo development though. Lesser, but still very interesting restaurants in the area seemed reasonable only at lunch as well.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I am happy to report that El Bulli was able to change my reservation and accomodate us. I am so psyched. I need to start planning now. Does anyone know Rafa's schedule and if they are open in August?


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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Disclaimer: I am not a rich businessman and do not have any connections what so ever.

I am in as well!!! I actually got the date I requested in May, our anniversary date, even though I made it clear that any day in May should be fine. The way this worked out was as follows. I had sent an e-mail in April of 2004 requesting some information about when the 2005 reservation season starts. I got a very polite response informing me that no more requests are being accepted anymore.

I saved the response and replied back to it on Oct 18 2004, with a reservation request for a specific date in late May or any day in May actually.

On Nov 22nd I recieved another polite and very apologetic reply from Mr. Gracia for taking so late to reply and informing me that I actually have reservtations at 7:30PM for the specific date I requested!!

Seriously, dealing with the folks at El Bulli is easier than dealing with many mediocre retsaurants' reservations people in Houston.

Now, the juggling starts to plan the trip and take days off from work and find a baby sitter...

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I am happy to report that El Bulli was able to change my reservation and accomodate us. I am so psyched. I need to start planning now. Does anyone know Rafa's schedule and if they are open in August?

John,

Rafa is open every day except Monday if I'm not mistaken, and he will close if the day's catch is not worth opening the restaurant. Regarding August, I'll try calling him tomorrow and will let you know.

Silly.


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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I am happy to report that El Bulli was able to change my reservation and accomodate us. I am so psyched. I need to start planning now. Does anyone know Rafa's schedule and if they are open in August?

John,

Rafa is open every day except Monday if I'm not mistaken, and he will close if the day's catch is not worth opening the restaurant. Regarding August, I'll try calling him tomorrow and will let you know.

Silly.

Thanks, Silly. I appreciate it.


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 am happy to report that El Bulli was able to change my reservation and accomodate us. I am so psyched. I need to start planning now. Does anyone know Rafa's schedule and if they are open in August?

John,

I am so glad you were able to get a reservation. :biggrin:

I'm really looking forward to hear your opinion of El Bulli.


Robert R

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I am happy to report that El Bulli was able to change my reservation and accomodate us. I am so psyched. I need to start planning now. Does anyone know Rafa's schedule and if they are open in August?

John,

Rafa is open every day except Monday if I'm not mistaken, and he will close if the day's catch is not worth opening the restaurant. Regarding August, I'll try calling him tomorrow and will let you know.

Silly.

Thanks, Silly. I appreciate it.

John, you can start dreaming about grilled San Pedro (John Dory) fresh from the boat, bright red tuna, mouth-watering espardenyes, cigalas and percebes.

Rafa is indeed open throughout August, given it is high season in Roses and the Costa Brava (didn't think of it before, fairly common sense once you think about it :blush:).

I recommend you call early the day you want to visit to make sure he is indeed open (as I said in my previous post, he won't if the day's catch is no good) and let him know you're coming.

Enjoy!

Silly.


Edited by Silly Disciple (log)

We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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Thanks again Silly! Rafa's is indeed at the top of my list for that trip right behind El Bulli.


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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Congratulations to everyone who's won an El Bulli reservation so far - and it really is winning a lottery - but Buon Provecho to all nonetheless!

If you are going to Roses, you must also go to SnackMar/Las Golondrinas. The chef/co-owner was the chef of El Bulli Catering - and is a good friend of both the house of Adria and the house of Rafa. The menu includes a rotation of El Bulli's greatest dishes. It's right across from Rafa's - and in fact it was Rafa who called the chef to tell him the space was available. Las Golondrinas was the name of the bar that was on that site for 30 years or so - so they kept the name for locals. They've only been open since July - and remain undiscovered by the El Bulli destination diners - but on most nights you'll find El Bulli staff and sometimes Rafa's himself there - for a post-service plate and drink.

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If you are going to Roses, you must also go to SnackMar/Las Golondrinas. The chef/co-owner was the chef of El Bulli Catering - and is a good friend of both the house of Adria and the house of Rafa. The menu includes a rotation of El Bulli's greatest dishes. It's right across from Rafa's - and in fact it was Rafa who called the chef to tell him the space was available. Las Golondrinas was the name of the bar that was on that site for 30 years or so - so they kept the name for locals. They've only been open since July - and remain undiscovered by the El Bulli destination diners - but on most nights you'll find El Bulli staff and sometimes Rafa's himself there - for a post-service plate and drink.

My mind is trying to put things together and reach some understanding because the "El Bulli's greatest dishes" and SnackMar/Las Golondrinas seem a paradox. Perhaps my mermory is failing here, but if I remember well what I saw across Rafa's, that place doesn't look like the best place to open a restaurant including elBulli's dishes. Can you tell us a bit more, Louisa?

Now that I think of it, perhaps elBulli doesn't look like the place to serve elBulli's dishes either . . .


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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If you are going to Roses, you must also go to SnackMar/Las Golondrinas. The chef/co-owner was the chef of El Bulli Catering - and is a good friend of both the house of Adria and the house of Rafa. The menu includes a rotation of El Bulli's greatest dishes. It's right across from Rafa's - and in fact it was Rafa who called the chef to tell him the space was available. Las Golondrinas was the name of the bar that was on that site for 30 years or so - so they kept the name for locals. They've only been open since July - and remain undiscovered by the El Bulli destination diners - but on most nights you'll find El Bulli staff and sometimes Rafa's himself there - for a post-service plate and drink.

My mind is trying to put things together and reach some understanding because the "El Bulli's greatest dishes" and SnackMar/Las Golondrinas seem a paradox. Perhaps my mermory is failing here, but if I remember well what I saw across Rafa's, that place doesn't look like the best place to open a restaurant including elBulli's dishes. Can you tell us a bit more, Louisa?

Now that I think of it, perhaps elBulli doesn't look like the place to serve elBulli's dishes either . . .

There are actually two places across from Rafa. One is the one you're probably referring to, Pedro, which is a big, typical touristy, restaurant offering paella, etc. with a little hotel above it, and then there's Las Golondrinas to its right, a small place with just 4 tables inside, a big screen above the counter with "webcam" images of the kitchen and sliding doors.

Silly.


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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It sounds as if SnackMar/ Las Golondrinas is fairly small. Anyone have any ideea about reservations either for there or Rafa's? I did a Google on SnackMar/Las Golondrinas and didn't come up with much. I also googled the names separately without much response.

As always, I appreciate the help and information.


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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SnackMar/Las Golondrinas is in fact that place with the sliding doors and kitchen-cam/plasma-screen. It's very modern/minimalist - the only place like it there - and in all of Roses. You cannot miss it.

They have not yet built up their website - but here it is - http://www.snackmar.com - I don't have the number with me - but I'll try to rustle it up.

Rafa's reservations - you can only make them as early as the day before. I have a few posts on my site about Rafa's - just search http://www.movable-feast.com for Rafa's.


Edited by LKL Chu (log)

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SnackMar/Las Golondrinas is in fact that place with the sliding doors and kitchen-cam/plasma-screen. It's very modern/minimalist - the only place like it there - and in all of Roses. You cannot miss it.

They have not yet built up their website - but here it is - http://www.snackmar.com - I don't have the number with me - but I'll try to rustle it up.

Rafa's reservations - you can only make them as early as the day before. I have a few posts on my site about Rafa's - just search http://www.movable-feast.com for Rafa's.

John,

I would think making a reservation at Las Golondrinas as late as a week in advance should be enough. I'll try to get you his number.

And, as Louisa said, you need to call Rafa the day before or the same day you're planning on visiting.

Silly.


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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