Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

chefseanbrock

[CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 1)

Recommended Posts

I've always appreciated Docsconz's perspective on food and dining from his posts in the NY forum. That he continues to gush about Alinea in comparison Per Se and wd~50 (probably my 2 favorites in the city) is a testament to how revolutionary Alinea really is. Thanks to his spectacular post, I'm even more excited about my visit to Alinea later this month.

One general about the restaurant itself, is it better to sit upstairs or downstairs? Is one markedly better than the other that I should try to request a table on either floor?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've always appreciated Docsconz's perspective on food and dining from his posts in the NY forum.  That he continues to gush about Alinea in comparison Per Se and wd~50  (probably my 2 favorites in the city) is a testament to how revolutionary Alinea really is.  Thanks to his spectacular post, I'm even more excited about my visit to Alinea later this month.

One general about the restaurant itself, is it better to sit upstairs or downstairs?  Is one markedly better than the other that I should try to request a table on either floor?

Thanks Bryan for the comliments and the confidence.

Both times that I have been at Alinea I have sat upstairs in two different rooms. While that clearly has worked for us, I have no reason to believe that therre is any significant difference as the downstairs room is equally attractive. I have no doubt that you will be treated very well and enjoy the restaurant immensely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can anyone describe the Idiazabal and Mastic? What exactly is it or are there any similarities to something else?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can anyone describe the Idiazabal and Mastic? What exactly is it or are there any similarities to something else?

Idiazabal is a spanish cheese. At alinea it is somehow fried and made very crispy and puffy. It is served with a light maple syrup glaze and is also slightly smoked. I wasn't crazy about it, but it was cool.

Raw mastic is a resin from a mediterranean evergreen. Alinea infuses a rich sauce with this piney stuff in a wonderful dessert of matsutake mushroom cake, rosemary and pine nut gelee.

The mastic is the white creamy sauce being poured tableside.

There are photos of both the idiazabal and mastic dishes on alinea's website.

For the record, I agree - Alinea, for my tastes, is the best restaurant in North America.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was wondering if anyone had any info on the menu or special New Year's Eve plans at Alinea?

P.S. I can't wait for my reservations on Thursday. :laugh::biggrin::smile:


Edited by babern38 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

docsconz.

as always, i have enjoyed "meeting up with you for dinner" on egullet. we have similar tastes, preferences and experiences. thanks for the update! i look forward to trying achatz's new menu the next time i'm in chicago! my last (and only) visit was in july of this year.

u.e.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
docsconz.

as always, i have enjoyed "meeting up with you for dinner" on egullet.  we have similar tastes, preferences and experiences.  thanks for the update!  i look forward to trying achatz's new menu the next time i'm in chicago!  my last (and only) visit was in july of this year.

u.e.

U.E. the feeling is mutual. I will look forward to your take on this restaurant next time you go.

Reading the beansbeans blogspot take on Alinea linked to by sneakeater just goes to show how different people can have different takes on a similar experience. Her read was obviously totally different than mine as I sense her culinary interests are. I don't believe one is any less or more valid than the other, but the difference is interesting, nevertheless. I do think it helps to dine at Alinea with the proper spirit and frame of mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just read the beansbeans review. I came away with two things:

1. Either this "Scott" is a jerk or beansbeans has a strong tendency to overdramatize. The service at both Trio and Alinea has been charming. There is definitely a bit of humor in it but I found the pacing and the delivery excellent and not overwrought.

2. Both her and her friends were sick when they went to the restaurant. That would, frankly, invalidate any review for me off the bat. Reviewing a restaurant when one is ill is like having sex when one is miserable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are people who more than agree with Beans. In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part: "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...." I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything). Robyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

Have you been? Alinea is far more than hocus-pocus. It is great food presented extremely well in a very fine atmosphere. It also has a lot of humor, which is something I think a lot of people do not understand. You are correct, though Robyn, a lot of people share that opinion - mostly those who haven't been. The same is true for El Bulli. Of course there are those who have been who fel that it isn't worth the hype. If people are not into having an open mind with the food that is served they will not like either place. if people are into creativity and willing to explore with an open mind, it is my strong opinion that they will love either restaurant.

As for the criticism that people leave Alinea hungry - tell that to my wife (this is not directed at you, Robyn). She would beg to differ and has almost kept me from the tour because there is so much food. Besides these restaurants are not about quantity. they are all about quality and creativity and leaving feeling comfortable and not super-saturated.

Well said, Doc. The humor in the Alinea experience seems totally lost on some people and yet it is one of the reasons that I'm hopelessly addicted. (And the mind-boggling tastes and sights, perfect service, best-ever wine pairings and supreme comfort a'int too shabby, either!) And since GM Joe Catterson has figured out who "Pugman" is, if I ever do have any criticism, I'll have to make up a new alias!

BTW: I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs and I've never left Alinea feeling hungry. Last visit a few weeks ago (12-course), I left VERY full because my size 0 companion couldn't finish some of the final courses and I greedily mopped up every last molecule!

The only place where I've felt that the portions were too small was at Avenues (tiny courses and an incongruously large dessert). That was some time ago and may not represent the current experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are people who more than agree with Beans.  In naming Butter (in Chicago) one of the year's best new restaurants in the November issue of Esquire - John Mariana wrote in part:  "Chicago is presently in the grip of a few hocus-pocus chefs trying to make headlines based on things like burning incense next to a dish of venison...."  I subscribe to Mr. Mariana's on line newsletter - and think he's far from an idiot when it comes to food (although we certainly don't agree about everything).  Robyn

This has already been discussed exhaustively . . . here.

Thanks,

=R=

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well said, Doc. The humor in the Alinea experience seems totally lost on some people and yet it is one of the reasons that I'm hopelessly addicted. (And the mind-boggling tastes and sights, perfect service, best-ever wine pairings and supreme comfort a'int too shabby, either!) And since GM Joe Catterson has figured out who "Pugman" is, if I ever do have any criticism, I'll have to make up a new alias!

BTW: I'm 6'2" and 200 lbs and I've never left Alinea feeling hungry. Last visit a few weeks ago (12-course), I left VERY full because my size 0 companion couldn't finish some of the final courses and I greedily mopped up every last molecule!

The only place where I've felt that the portions were too small was at Avenues (tiny courses and an incongruously large dessert). That was some time ago and may not represent the current experience.


echo doc and pugman. my one experience at alinea wasn't "perfect" - but i didn't expect that... an athlete and one with a naturally high metabolism, i left alinea satisfied.

as for avenues - i will agree that some of the portions were downright small, but i found the main fish and meat courses to be generous. the dessert was large, but i didn't think disproportionately so (based on one 7-course meal).

u.e.

[Moderator note: This topic continues in [CHI] Alinea – Grant Achatz – Reviews & Discussion (Part 2)]


Edited by Mjx Moderator note added. (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Similar Content

    • By ElsieD
      I got an e-mail this morning about the Modernist team's next project - pizza! 
       
      Modernist Pizza is Underway!
      After taking on the world of bread, we’re thrilled to announce the topic of our next book: pizza. Modernist Pizza will explore the science, history, equipment, technology, and people that have made pizza so beloved.

      Authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya, with the Modernist Cuisine team, are currently at work conducting extensive research and testing long-held pizza-making beliefs; this quest for knowledge has already taken them to cities across the United States, Italy, and beyond. The result of their work will be a multivolume cookbook that includes both traditional and innovative recipes for pizzas found around the globe along with techniques that will help you make pizza the way you like it.

      Modernist Pizza is in its early stages, and although we’ve begun to dig in, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Although we can’t guarantee when it will arrive at your door just yet, we can promise that this book will deliver the complete story of pizza as it’s never been told before.

      In the meantime, we would love to hear from you as we continue to research pizza from around the world. Contact pizza@modernistcuisine.com to tell us about your favorite pizzerias and their pizza. Connect with us on social media to get all the latest Modernist Pizza updates.
    • By Tempranillo
      I have been tasked with putting together a team for a new kosher barbecue event in Arizona, happening sometime later this year. The event was supposed to be in mid-April, but the venue decided to cancel. The organizers are busy looking for a new venue, and have assured us that this will happen.
       
      Many details for the event are not quite settled yet, so, I am trying to prepare for all sorts of contingencies beyond the usual concerns about putting out good food. What is known is that we will be following the KCBS kosher rules. As far as I can tell, there were 10-12 such events held last year across the US. So, it's a pretty small world. I don't think there's a kosher championship ladder like the other barbecue events have, either. I think it's a good time to get in, get practice and see where it takes me.
       
      Now, I've been reading and watching videos online with all sorts of info on smoking/cooking for competitions. I have watched some of the TV shows, and one documentary. It's been kind of a mixed bag in terms of usefulness. No one has posted much about kosher barbecue, so I am making changes to recipes and procedures and running a lot of tests. I currently have access to my home kitchen which is small but adequate, the stove is electric and unremarkable and about 7 years old. It does maintain temperature well, and can be set to run anywhere from 140°F to 550°F.  I also have access to an outdoor kitchen at a friend's place, with a relatively large charcoal type grill. At most of the kosher barbecue events the event organizers provide smokers/grills plus meats and many ingredients to ensure that everything is truly kosher. If needed, my team sponsor is prepared to purchase a grill/smoker which I will need to research once I know I will need it.
       
      I should note that I am not Jewish and did not grow up around any kosher households, so I am also studying some of the finer points about running a kosher kitchen and learning about kosher ingredients. Modern competition barbecue is an odd mix of modernist techniques and ingredients, right alongside ordinary-folk foods like margarine, and bottled sauces.
       
      For reference, the 4 categories for kosher events are: Chicken, Beef Ribs, Turkey, and Beef Brisket -to be served in that order.
       
      So far, I have been running smokeless tests on chicken and beef ribs. Mostly learning to trim the chicken thighs (what a nightmare!) and seeing what happens at certain temperatures and times. I know things will be different with real smoking happening, but I want to see some baseline results so that I know what to strive for. I do have a bunch of thermometers, and have got some basic ideas about writing a competition timeline.
       
      The chicken perplexes me in several ways. First, some of the competition cooks recommend boning while others recommend bone-in. Second, I see some folks injecting and brining, while others maybe do a quick half hour marinade, and even others are full-on modernist with citric acid under the skin, etc. Third, the braise vs non- braise chicken where some people load up their pan with a pound of butter, margarine or a couple cups of chicken stock while others do not. Fourth, The bite-through skin is driving me insane. Some people swear by transglutaminase to reattach the skin for a better bite. Catch is, only some types are kosher, and I can see having issues explaining it. I have tested an egg white egg wash which seems to attach the skin pretty well without showing. I think I need to go for longer times to get more tender skin. Today I did a pan (with olive oil) of six as follows: one hour at 220°, one hour under foil at 230°, then glazed and 20 minutes on a rack at 350°. It was only partly bite-though and the taste-testers wanted more crispiness. I tried showing them pictures and explained that it wasn't ever going to be crispy, that we're looking to go even softer. I am going to run tests on longer cook periods and see how it goes.
       
      I want to ask people about the whole swimming in margarine thing which is in voque right now. people claim it makes the chicken juicy. I know that meat is mostly all about temperatures. I can see how the margarine acts like duck fat in a confit and helps prevent some oven-drying after hours and hours in the oven, but, in the end, isn't it just an insulator?
       
      I've been making corned beef and other brisket dishes for over 20 years, so, I think I have a good handle on that. I will practice it in a couple of weeks. I simply don't need as much help on this item.
       
      The turkey scares me. On TV, I see people dunking it in butter before serving it. This obviously is not kosher, and I don't want to do it with margarine I don't want to present anything in a competition made with margarine, there has to be something better! -Either cook the bird better or find a better dip, like maybe a flavorful nut oil or a sauce. That said, unlike ribs or brisket, it is not traditional to dunk turkey in a sauce.  I went with some friends to a chain place called Dickies to do a little research and their turkey breast was odd and kind of hammy. Not like Virginia ham, more like ham lunchmeat. It was very moist and unlike any turkey I have ever eaten. Ok, I admit to not being very fond of turkey, so my experiences with it have been a bit limited. I am assuming it was brined. Given the limited amount of time we will have (about a day and a half) to cook, I am planning on just cooking the breast. Other than that, I am open to suggestions. The internet has been least informative on the topic of turkey. People's videos and such just show rubbing the whole bird and letting it roast for a few hours. Any tips at all would be appreciated.
       
      Whew! Thanks for reading all of this, I look forward to any advice you can give.
    • By flippant
      I've had the CSO for a number of years now, but have yet to actually bake bread in it.
       
      Reading through the Modernist Bread thread on this forum I see many of you are using the CSO to great effect, which is heartening.
       
      To that end, I would like to know about your experience baking bread in it – what sort of extra equipment you use (pans, cast iron? etc), what breads work the best, any corrections you find yourself making, or anything you feel might be useful to someone else using the CSO.
       
      Thank you!
       
       
    • By Rho
       
      The space race trickled into kitchens in the 60s and 70s, including one curious tool that's faded away in the years since: the thermal pin, a heat pipe skewer that can halve cooking times for roasts:

       
      Heat pipes are thermal superconductors, transferring heat 500-1000 times more effectively than solid copper (some people in the sous vide thread have discussed copper pins). They're hollow tubes with the air evacuated and a small amount of working fluid, often water. The usable temperature range is limited by the triple point and the critical point, with additional constraints near the edges. Water is effective from 20C-280C /70F-530F, which comfortably spans most cooking temperatures.
       
      Modernist Bread has an excellent section on how bread bakes, including a diagram of the internal heat pipes that develop, summarized here. (click for a good photo!)
       
      Sous-vide solves the overcooking side of the gradient problem, but it's still limited by total heat diffusion time-- doubling the size of a cut quadruples the time needed for the center to reach temperature. Heat pipe pins should make larger cuts practical, or normal cuts cook faster. Here's a graph from "The heat pipe and its potential for enhancing the cooking and cooling of meat joints", showing average temperatures over time for 1kg joints of meat convection baked at 190C/375F for 110 minutes (foil removed for the last 30 minutes):

       
      Thermal pins were sold commercially from 1956 to about 1990. They're listed occasionally for about $20 on ebay. They even made potato baking racks with heat pipes-- though now you can easily par-cook a potato in the microwave and finish it in the oven.
       
      I don't know why production of thermal pins stopped, or what fundamental problems limited their usage. It seems like pans and commercial griddles would be improved by adding heat pipes to spread heat throughout and avoid hot or cold spots. Perhaps roasts fell out of favor as the culture of entertaining shifted away from monolithic centerpieces to smaller, more precisely cooked portions.
    • By philie
      Hey there, i hope to find some help in the wise hands of yours. after some research i am still having some problems concerning glazing:
       
      For a party i would like to make some cubes and rounded savoury cakes and foams out of silicone forms that have a ready bottom and a colour glazing. 
      Somehow i just do not manage to find a steady glazing ( one that does not run ) and is for texture reasons preferably hard or crisp that does not include sugar or syrup.
       
      can you help me or lead my way in a certain direction?
       
      thanks very much!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×