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


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Robyn,

It has been 10 days since my first milkweed pod and I have not had any adverse reactions and Chef G was wearing his chef whites during our meal :laugh: .

Though I would gladly trade my milkweed pod course for another verbena course anyday.

Good Eating,

Molto E

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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the peeled-grape thing sounds like a lot of fun to me.

I know the PBJ is no longer on the menu, but unless I missed something, this is the only time in 10 pages I've seen the word "fun" on this thread.

Are people having fun?

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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the peeled-grape thing sounds like a lot of fun to me.

I know the PBJ is no longer on the menu, but unless I missed something, this is the only time in 10 pages I've seen the word "fun" on this thread.

Are people having fun?

We had a blast. I wouldn't have gone back otherwise. :smile:

For some people, the idea of spending 4-5 hours with one's loved ones/friends, eating course after course of inventive, uniquely imaginative and delicious food (paired caringly with over 15 wine and spirit selections) while seated in a purposefully comfortable throne in a strikingly beautiful and comfortable space (complete with secret door), while being waited on by a world-class team of knowledgeable and good-humored staffers is the very definition of fun.

Freaks! I say those folks are all freaks!! :biggrin:

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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For some people, the idea of spending 4-5 hours with one's loved ones/friends, eating course after course of inventive, uniquely imaginative and delicious food (paired caringly with over 15 wine and spirit selections) while seated in a purposefully comfortable throne in a strikingly beautiful and comfortable space (complete with secret door), while being waited on by a world-class team of knowledgeable and good-humored staffers is the very definition of fun.

Freaks!  I say those folks are all freaks!! :biggrin:

=R=

But does all the dissection — not to mention photo- and note-taking — take away from the enjoyment of the meal? If chefg is trying to guide diners a progression that engages all their senses — waxing and waning throughout the meal — doesn't that disrupt the flow and energy?

And, perhaps this is another question, but if the meal is so cerebral, are you thinking so much about each component of the dish that it deadens say, your visual sense or sense of smell?

As an example, you know how when you're driving and you're looking for an address, you have to turn down the music? You're concentrating on several things at once. Would you be able to savor the taste of the PB&J and enjoy the company of your friend in the passenger's seat at the same time?

And thanks for the biggrins... I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I'm seriously curious.

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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But does all the dissection — not to mention photo- and note-taking — take away from the enjoyment of the meal? If chefg is trying to guide diners a progression that engages all their senses — waxing and waning throughout the meal — doesn't that disrupt the flow and energy?

And, perhaps this is another question, but if the meal is so cerebral, are you thinking so much about each component of the dish that it deadens say, your visual sense or sense of smell?

I haven't been to Alinea yet, but I did eat at Trio twice, so I think I can speak to the experience of eating ultra modern cuisine. The second time at Trio we were four people at the kitchen table, and it was one of the funnest meals of my life! There were time were laughing so loud I was worried that we were disrupting the chefs!

The foremost word I've used to describe chefg's food to people is "whimsical" - he has a sense of humor and it translates to his food. When you're along for his ride, it's an exhilerating, exciting and enjoyable trip.

In terms of your specfic question about senses - if anything, I think all of your senses are enhanced. Here's why. So many of chefg's courses play off of senses that we don't usually engage all that much in eating - he does a LOT of stuff with aromas for example. So even when you're eating a course that doesn't specifically play to your sense of smell, you're still more aware of that sense than usual, because you've been reminded of its possibilities.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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But does all the dissection — not to mention photo- and note-taking — take away from the enjoyment of the meal? If chefg is trying to guide diners a progression that engages all their senses — waxing and waning throughout the meal — doesn't that disrupt the flow and energy?

I don't take notes or photos, so I personally cannot answer that question. But as a lover of food, analysis is always part of the process, whether I'm dining at Alinea, chowing down at The Wiener's Circle or eating my own cooking.

And, perhaps this is another question, but if the meal is so cerebral, are you thinking so much about each component of the dish that it deadens say, your visual sense or sense of smell?

For me, the meal at Alinea isn't cerebral, it's sensual.

As an example, you know how when you're driving and you're looking for an address, you have to turn down the music? You're concentrating on several things at once. Would you be able to savor the taste of the PB&J and enjoy the company of your friend in the passenger's seat at the same time?

Absolutely. Sharing the experience at Alinea -- course by course -- with one's dining companions is a large part of why dining there is so enjoyable. It's fun to compare reactions to each course. And the courses aren't served in such rapid-fire succession that discussion isn't possible. Service is comfortably paced, which lends itself to interacting not only with one's tablemates but also with the staff.

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Absolutely.  Sharing the experience at Alinea -- course by course -- with one's dining companions is a large part of why dining there is so enjoyable.  It's fun to compare reactions to each course.  And the courses aren't served in such rapid-fire succession that discussion isn't possible.  Service is comfortably paced, which lends itself to interacting not only with one's tablemates but also with the staff.

Not mention the other diners in the room: Who are these other people who'd make a reservation 60 days in advance? Can they possibly like food/dining as much as I do? What's with the rail-thin supermodel-type who's gone to the restroom three times in three hours?

I can think of fewer things I'd rather do for several hours that don't involve a llama and a goat. It's definitely my idea of FUN. :biggrin:

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For some people, the idea of spending 4-5 hours with one's loved ones/friends, eating course after course of inventive, uniquely imaginative and delicious food (paired caringly with over 15 wine and spirit selections) while seated in a purposefully comfortable throne in a strikingly beautiful and comfortable space (complete with secret door), while being waited on by a world-class team of knowledgeable and good-humored staffers is the very definition of fun.

Freaks!  I say those folks are all freaks!! :biggrin:

=R=

But does all the dissection — not to mention photo- and note-taking — take away from the enjoyment of the meal? If chefg is trying to guide diners a progression that engages all their senses — waxing and waning throughout the meal — doesn't that disrupt the flow and energy?

And, perhaps this is another question, but if the meal is so cerebral, are you thinking so much about each component of the dish that it deadens say, your visual sense or sense of smell?

As an example, you know how when you're driving and you're looking for an address, you have to turn down the music? You're concentrating on several things at once. Would you be able to savor the taste of the PB&J and enjoy the company of your friend in the passenger's seat at the same time?

And thanks for the biggrins... I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I'm seriously curious.

Liz is right, of course, and in no way obnoxious. That's why I find the pod people fair game for satire and even frontal attack. It's hard to think of a great meal that is not, quite simply, delicious. Along with that comes one or more of: cerebration, celebration, humor, visual beauty, the sacramental, admiration and gratitude for what one is eating, a sense of historical and cultural connections, etc., etc. Great meals don't have to be fun, but great hypermodern meals do; every fine dinner I've had by Ferran Adria, Grant, Jose Ramon Andres in D.C., Wylie Dufresne, and the other hypermodern cooks are full of fun and often witty. Ferran walks around the diningroom during dinner watching to see if his customers get the jokes; if they're too serious, they probably won't get another reservation. The pod people can forget about it.

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Liz,

Alinea is more than fun, it is delicious. Ronnie S. is dead on in his observations of a night at Alinea. This forum is the place for dissection of the meal, but while dining at Alinea the only method of dissection is with fork, knife and spoon. The photos take 10 seconds to take and that does not interfere with my experience at all. I do not take notes after the meal the diner is presented with a copy of the menu and that with the pictures refreshes the memory after 27 courses with wine pairings :wacko: . Perhaps Chef G can give his take on the "Milkweed Pod" course as it seems to have raised many questions or maybe that was the point. Jeffrey, I would like a "Herbed Tuscan Fries" course, but that is for another thread.

Good Eating,

Molto E

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Thanks for all the opinions. I'll have to try for myself! I really can't wait. I think it'll have to be in late spring of 06, though, before I make it to CHI.

lj

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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Regarding the documenting of these types of meals (and others), Janet Rausa Fuller has an interesting piece in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Photographing meals and posting them on the Internet has become common practice among foodies like Marty, who say they just want to have a concrete remembrance of what they ate and share it with others.

FYI, the "Marty" in the above quote none other than our own yellow truffle.

Picture this: Haute cuisine as theater

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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As I don't think anyone else has pointed it out yet, I thought I should mention that there was an interview with Grant Achatz on All Things Considered this weekend. Not a ground-breaking piece, but a good listen all the same.

Link here

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As I don't think anyone else has pointed it out yet, I thought I should mention that there was an interview with Grant Achatz on All Things Considered this weekend. Not a ground-breaking piece, but a good listen all the same.

Link here

LOL! I was just getting to that. Definitely a fun piece.

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Interesting that Jennifer Ludden chose this piece for her fairwell story as host of ATC. Sounds like she had fun doing it.

One thing I noticed from the landing page:

Related NPR Stories

Naked Dining in Manhatten

Is there something about Alinea I'm not aware of...? :huh:

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the peeled-grape thing sounds like a lot of fun to me.

I know the PBJ is no longer on the menu, but unless I missed something, this is the only time in 10 pages I've seen the word "fun" on this thread.

Are people having fun?

I have never had so much fun in a restaurant. 4 hours, by myself. I was delighted and "tickled" with every course. It was also fun to watch other diners react.

Rachel Forrest

Food Writer. Portsmouth NH

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For some people, the idea of spending 4-5 hours with one's loved ones/friends, eating course after course of inventive, uniquely imaginative and delicious food (paired caringly with over 15 wine and spirit selections) while seated in a purposefully comfortable throne in a strikingly beautiful and comfortable space (complete with secret door), while being waited on by a world-class team of knowledgeable and good-humored staffers is the very definition of fun.

Freaks!  I say those folks are all freaks!! :biggrin:

=R=

But does all the dissection — not to mention photo- and note-taking — take away from the enjoyment of the meal? If chefg is trying to guide diners a progression that engages all their senses — waxing and waning throughout the meal — doesn't that disrupt the flow and energy?

And, perhaps this is another question, but if the meal is so cerebral, are you thinking so much about each component of the dish that it deadens say, your visual sense or sense of smell?

As an example, you know how when you're driving and you're looking for an address, you have to turn down the music? You're concentrating on several things at once. Would you be able to savor the taste of the PB&J and enjoy the company of your friend in the passenger's seat at the same time?

And thanks for the biggrins... I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I'm seriously curious.

Liz is right, of course, and in no way obnoxious. That's why I find the pod people fair game for satire and even frontal attack. It's hard to think of a great meal that is not, quite simply, delicious. Along with that comes one or more of: cerebration, celebration, humor, visual beauty, the sacramental, admiration and gratitude for what one is eating, a sense of historical and cultural connections, etc., etc. Great meals don't have to be fun, but great hypermodern meals do; every fine dinner I've had by Ferran Adria, Grant, Jose Ramon Andres in D.C., Wylie Dufresne, and the other hypermodern cooks are full of fun and often witty. Ferran walks around the diningroom during dinner watching to see if his customers get the jokes; if they're too serious, they probably won't get another reservation. The pod people can forget about it.

I agree that the great "hypermodern" - I like that term- meals need to be fun as well as delicious. It doesn't hurt for more classicly minded meals to inject fun into the mix as well. While other meals in other restaurants may have been as fun as Alinea, I have never had more fun in a restaurant - and for about five hours at that. Even better, my kids had a blast too.

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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From the Phil Vettel review ChefGEB mentioned above:

. . . It seems silly to suggest that a three-month-old restaurant has matured, but that's the sense I get from Alinea these days. The restaurant has lost the jittery atmosphere of its early weeks and has mellowed into a calm, self-assured and highly polished operation. Alinea has found its rhythm, and what a spectacular rhythm it is.

Alinea plays to perfection

Congrats to the entire Alinea team!

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Anyone see Chicago Mag's review/comparison of Alinea, Moto, Per Se and WD50 this month? Alinea came out on top! I was not familiar with the author.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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I can only imagine that this is a very interesting comparison, but really, although all these restaurants have some similarities, they are really like comparing apples to oranges to bananas to strawberries. The most similar stylistically are Moto and WD-50. The one most unlike the other three is Per Se. That one is the most traditionally luxurious and the most classicly based. The least expensive of the group is WD-50, which I believe provides the most bang for the buck. Alinea is probably the best overall mix of inventiveness, style, luxury, whimsy and great food and service. Moto is great, but would be number four for me on this list. Of course with this list that is hardly major criticism.

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 can only imagine that this is a very interesting comparison, but really, although all these restaurants have some similarities, they are really like comparing apples to oranges to bananas to strawberries. The most similar stylistically are Moto and WD-50. The one most unlike the other three is Per Se. That one is the most traditionally luxurious and the most classicly based. The least expensive of the group is WD-50, which I believe provides the most bang for the buck. Alinea is probably the best overall mix of inventiveness, style, luxury, whimsy and great food and service. Moto is great, but would be number four for me on this list. Of course with this list that is hardly major criticism.

I have to agree with doc on this. Comparing these restaurants is not the purpose for their being. Others should compare themselves to these places - raising the bar all over. I also wanted to say, for those who can honestly compare the four restuarants, WOW Im jealous! Cheers - Congrats to Chef and his crew!@

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Congrats to everyone at Alinea for the 4-star review in the Chicago Tribune! Now maybe you'll finally get some customers in the place :wink:

I'm already having withdrawals, since it's been three weeks since my last "ChefG fix". Guess I better make a res.

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Anyone see  Chicago Mag's review/comparison of Alinea, Moto, Per Se and WD50 this month?  Alinea came out on top!  I was not familiar with the author.

The author is Dennis Ray Wheaton, who, if I'm not mistaken, is the lead restaurant reviewer for Chicago Magazine. It is a great piece and makes me unhappy that their content isn't available in real time, on-line . . . although, I can understand the reasoning behind that decision.

=R=

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

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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