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

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Alinea will change the way people look at restaurants forever

I am very interested to hear more on this. Could you please elaborate on how you predict Alinea forever will change the way people perceive restaurants. I am interested in how your perception of restaurants has changed from pre-Alinea to post-Alinea and how general people's perception of restaurants will change.


When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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The serving piece for the bison? Was that glass or some kind of acrylic?

The serving piece was made of glass and it has glass balls as the feet.

I think M. Ruhlman is correct; it's a votive candle holder from C&B.

=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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The serving piece for the bison? Was that glass or some kind of acrylic?

The serving piece was made of glass and it has glass balls as the feet.

I think M. Ruhlman is correct; it's a votive candle holder from C&B.

=R=

Here it is. Robyn

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the tastes were extraordinary and if they weren't they were always interesting. ...  did some courses miss--one or two did for me.  but shit, he's swinging for the fences on every one.  he, and every bit as important, the fifteen other cooks in the kitchen, are working at a really high and impressive level.  It's been four days since I ate there and I only find my respect for what grant and his partners and his staff have done increasing.

Thanks for taking the time to write your impressions and some specifics regarding the food. Your comments regarding the level of ambition and standards the team is aiming for and apparently reaching already are praise indeed.


"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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I feel like a caveman trying to ask questions about the operations of the Star Trek Enterprise here, so sorry if this is a stupid questions -- but are you saying the dishes cannot be served, if the guest is away from their seat? I'm confused by this comment about "...every time you leave the table chef needs to re-plate dishes..."

Once a dish is plated, it typically only has a few minutes before it dies: e.g. A tuile becomes soggy from soaking up sauce and collapses, foam settles, skin forms over a shiny sauce, ice cream melts, et cetera. With that in mind, there are a few reasons why a dish is not served if someone at the table goes to the bathroom:

1. The serving of the plate is part of the service experience, much nicer than just coming back to a plate at your table.

2. Part of the service code is to try and serve everyone at the table at the same time.

3. A plate sitting there on your table may be "dead" by the time you come back from the restroom.

I'll note that part of the server's job is inform the back of the house of any restroom breaks so that the kitchen doesn't plate related in the first place. Woe betide a server who does not do this consistently.

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Before we get too "off topic" with discussions of restaurant theory and philosophy, etc. I want to remind everyone that this thread is designated for discussion of Alinea and I will keep it pruned accordingly. Of course, brief discussion of some tangential aspects is bound to pop up, but I don't want it to dilute the focus of this thread.

The larger discussion, while quite interesting -- and possibly even important -- is one that should take place on a thread of its own, in our General Food Topics forum.

Thanks :smile:

=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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noambenami, thank you! Reading it now, it seems quite logical, considering the nature of the food...

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First, the pictures. Yellow Truffle did an outstanding job of capturing the overall essence of each dish, so I will slant the content of my photos with the purpose of providing a closer look:

01.jpg

SOUR CREAM smoked salmon, sorrel, star anise

02.jpg

DUNGENESS CRAB raw parsnip, young coconut, cashews

03.jpg

HEART OF PALM in five sections

04.jpg

ASPARAGUS caramelized dairy, egg, bonito

05.jpg

TURBOT shellfish, waterchestnuts, hyacinth vapor

06.jpg

EGGPLANT cobia, crystalline florettes, radish pods

07.jpg

FROG LEGS spring lettuces, paprika, morels

08.jpg

BEEF flavors of A-1

09.jpg

10.jpg

HAZELNUT PUREE capsule of savory granola, curry

11.jpg

PROSCIUTTO passionfruit, zuta levana

12.jpg

FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus

13.jpg

MELON gelled rose water, horseradish

14.jpg

ENGLISH PEAS frozen lemon, yogurt, shiso

15.jpg

FOIE GRAS rhubarb, sweet onion, walnut

16.jpg

BROCCOLI STEM grapefruit, wild steelhead roe

17.jpg

SNAPPER yuba, heavily toasted sesame, cucumber

18.jpg

19.jpg

LAMB NECK sunflower seeds, kola nut, porcinis

20.jpg

ARTICHOKE fonds d’artichauts cussy #3970

21.jpg

BISON beets, blueberries, smoking cinnamon

22.jpg

PINEAPPLE angelica leaf, Iranian pistachios

23.jpg

24.jpg

SASSAFRAS CREAM encapsulated in mandarin ice

25.jpg

STRAWBERRIES argan, lemon verbena

26.jpg

LIQUID CHOCOLATE milk, black licorice, banana

27.jpg

SPONGE CAKE tonka bean, vanilla fragrance

28.jpg

It would be impossible for me to describe every dish in gory detail so I will present you with some high level thoughts that I have after dining at Alinea.

The physical design of the restaurant is outstanding...one of the most enjoyable spaces I’ve dined in. As you enter on the ground floor, you proceed down a long hall that harkens to a contemporary rendition on Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of confined entry spaces to help narrow your focus as you enter a large room. As you head down the hall, you are sealed off from all noise and activity…at the end of the hall, a solitary metallic sculpture bristles, creating a perplexing noise which draws you down the hallway. As you come to the end, you discover a set of doors to your left that suddenly slide open to reveal the heart of the restaurant. The receptionist greeted us, quite impressively, by name. After meeting Nick, visiting with Grant, and taking a quick tour of the kitchen, we proceeded upstairs to the dining level. The long and narrow building is broken up into a series of small dining rooms. Most impressive is the generous space between tables. While enjoying this space I couldn’t help but be thankful that we weren’t packed in like sardines as is the case of the similarly shaped Charlie Trotter’s. Almost equally as impressive were the chairs. These things were incredibly comfortable (and that’s a definite requirement when you sit down to a 7.5+ meal.)

All of this is important to note because it illustrates an attention to detail that is rather impressive. The team has definitely utilized the nine months of down time to design this restaurant not just in a physical sense but also in a more robust conceptual sense. I get the feeling that not a single piece of service ware, paint color, or floral arrangement was chosen without first considering how it fits into the larger picture. A perfect example is the ginger sculpture that soon arrives to your table. Why put a flower arrangement down when you can use food as art? It provides a pleasant smell and is pleasing to look at but more interestingly, later on it becomes part of your meal (used on the Beef course.) Looking at established concepts in a new manner is really what Alinea is all about.

Any discussion about Achatz’s food must first be put into proper perspective. The style of cuisine that he’s developed relies heavily on the interrelation and progression of a series of flavors. Unlike the cuisine at more traditional restaurants where one typically evaluates each dish as a separate entity, when dining at Alinea one must continually keep in mind that each dish’s juxtaposition is quite important in order to understand it’s role and objectives. The resulting meal (in its entirety) is what Alinea’s statement is all about.

The meal begins with Achatz’s take on PB&J. It’s an interesting start to the meal...I get the feeling that the purpose of this dish is to ease the diner into the meal by presenting a universally understood (at least in this country) concept. The dish’s concept is so innately easy to grasp that even the most timid diner will be able to make a connection and understand what the restaurant’s vision is (examining established concepts in a new manner.) How’d it taste? Well, as one might imagine, it tastes like a well-refined, gourmet PB&J sandwich. The real interest is in the texture of the grape (which has been peeled and left on the vine.) Warm and gooey, the grape melts in your mouth, enveloping the other flavors into a unified whole.

Presenting contrasting textures to create interest is another favorite device that Achatz utilizes. The asparagus dish illustrates this quite well. You’ve got various elements providing at least six different textures: crispy fried egg whites (think, the outer edges of a regular fried egg); a soft, thin film of egg yolk; the crunchy grit of caramelized dairy; a slippery noodle shaped gelee of egg white; a creamy sauce of some sort; and the firm texture of the asparagus itself. Flavor-wise, you’re essentially tasting asparagus, egg, and a smoky accent from the bonito. But all of this is coming at you from a large assortment of textures…it’s a real trip.

I’d like to discuss the broccoli stem dish. Many people might wonder why Achatz would go to the trouble of serving what has been referred to as the offal of the vegetable world. I’m really curious why people would have a difficult time embracing this concept. Regardless, in order to fully appreciate this dish you need to experience the mouth-feel of a perfectly tender broccoli stem. What I’d previously thought was a tough, fibrous part of the broccoli plant was anything but that in this dish. The real reason to explore the stem is the fact that it provides a very delicate broccoli flavor in a uniformly tender texture. Broccoli’s more well regarded portion, the floret, is simply not going to provide you with the same delicate flavor, nor the same mouth-feel. Remarkably, what Achatz has done with this dish is taken the lowliest portion of the plant and cooked it in such a way that it exudes refinement and nobility. Add a paper thin wrapping of bread for some richness and textural contrast, a mound of broccoli puree for added intensity of flavor, grapefruit in 3 different forms for some contrasting bitterness, and a few precious pearls of steelehead roe for a wonderful earthy, brininess and you have a completely satisfying dish. To me, what Achatz has done with this dish is quite representative of what all chefs should strive for. Taking what is considered often considered mundane and transforming it into something that tastes luxurious is a skill few chefs can claim. So, why bother with a broccoli stem? The answer lies in the fact that any chef can throw a slice of foie gras or truffle on a plate and have a good shot at satisfying the diner. But taking on the challenge of doing the same with a broccoli stem forces us to think more about what the limits of food are and how we can approach cooking in a way that maximizes the potential of each and every ingredient.

Of the 10 courses designated as “small bites”, the Escoffier inspired Artichoke dish was the most instantly rewarding. Served in what was described as the “anti-plate” (a plate with no bottom) this small sphere showcased a deliciously warm, deep fried crispy exterior surrounding a firm yet rich artichoke heart that was filled with, if I recall correctly, foie gras and truffle. (for full disclosure, I need to let you all know that I did not take detailed notes so please accept my apologies ahead of time for any mistakes in this post…and after enjoying a meal that featured 20 different wines, there will undoubtedly be a few lapses in my memory :D ) As you might imagine, popping this in your mouth and biting down released an immediate richness that was incredibly gratifying to my palette.

A lot of people have been curious about the Beef Flavors of A-1 dish. Essentially the dish attempts to deconstruct A-1 sauce to some of its core flavors and present them in various forms on the plate. Not having grown up eating A-1 sauce, I can’t be a great judge as to whether this dish successfully pulled that off. But I want to touch upon another aspect. Even the most inventive concepts are rendered worthless if basic execution is not upheld. In this case, the piece of beef on this plate was one of the most incredible specimens of red meat I’ve ever indulged in. First, cooked en sous vide, this meat had an incredibly tender texture which retained plenty of juices. The second step of grilling the meat, imparted a tremendously intense charred flavor and aroma which had no hint of bitterness or over-grilling. It was truly the best of both worlds and is a great example of a perfectly treated piece of meat. So, here’s where Achatz’s outstanding level of execution plays such a tremendous role in a dish’s success…even though I can’t relate to the A-1 concept, the quality of preparation made this one of my most favorite and memorable dishes of the evening. Besides, any dish that includes potato fried in rendered beef fat cannot help but be good. :D

Continuing with this issue of execution, I find it incredible that I cannot classify any of the dishes as failures. Each and every one of them was soundly structured, well thought out, and executed to a high degree. Sure, my palette would have lead me to increase the onion flavor and reduce the sweetness of the Foie Gras dish as well as reduce the number of sunflower seeds in the Lamb Neck dish. But these are my personal preferences and are not indicative of a failed dish. What brought the success of Alinea’s menu more into focus was the fact that the following evening we dined at Moto. Moto’s Chef Cantu should be highly commended for also taking on the challenge of exploring food through a new set of glasses (albeit in a significantly different way than Achatz). However, I would classify nearly a third of the dishes I had at Moto as, at the very least, significantly flawed. (factors included improper proportions, basic salting issues, unclear concepts, and monotonous flavor profiles.) Since the validity of a chef’s culinary “statement” hinges primarily on whether the food was even prepared correctly in the first place, it is gratifying to see the lengths that Achatz has gone to refine and perfect each and every dish on his menu.

It will be interesting to watch how other people interpret Alinea in the coming weeks. Speaking with Chef Achatz after the meal, he indicated that they are still working on finding the proper portion sizes for The Tour menu. I have to say that after 28 courses of food and 20 different wines, I was absolutely stuffed by the end of our 7.5 hours...more so than any other meal I can remember. Fortunately, I would much rather be served an abundance of food (which I can decline should I see fit) than end up leaving the restaurant still hungry (which has happened to us at other restaurants several times in the last year.) To their credit, Alinea will customize your meal on the fly, pairing it down should you become too satiated. Also, their wine pairing is quite flexible. If you find yourself at your limit of alcoholic consumption, you can let them know and they will end your wine service and charge you only for the wines you consumed. And I must highly stress that, due to Alinea’s eclectic and lengthy menu, choosing the wine pairing is pretty much the only way to go. I can’t imagine trying to choose a few bottles that could span the meal as well as the course by course pairing. And much credit goes to our sommelier/server, Joe Z., who not only knows his wines, but provides vast amounts of information in such an approachable manner.

Speaking of service, it is almost unbelievable how on the ball the service was on the restaurant’s third day of operation. It speaks to how well Achatz is regarded by his staff that he was able to retain many of the former Trio employees who worked at that restaurant during his tenure there...it was great to see so many familiar faces. Doing so has obviously made the opening of Alinea a much smoother process than it might otherwise have been. There were a couple minor hiccups but, regardless, the overall service was extremely polished and equivalent to some of our finest dining experiences.

Courses to watch (my top 10 dishes in no particular order)

DUNGENESS CRAB raw parsnip, young coconut, cashews

ASPARAGUS caramelized dairy, egg, bonito

TURBOT shellfish, waterchestnuts, hyacinth vapor

EGGPLANT cobia, crystalline florettes, radish pods

FROG LEGS spring lettuces, paprika, morels

BEEF flavors of A-1

FINGER LIMES olive oil, dissolving eucalyptus

BROCCOLI STEM grapefruit, wild steelhead roe

ARTICHOKE fonds d’artichauts cussy #3970

BACON butterscotch, apple, thyme

For those of you clamoring to hear further descriptions of the food, let me tell you that, even in my wildest dreams, I would never be able to craft the words necessary to do justice to Chef Achatz’s cuisine. All I can say is that if the pictures pique your interest, if you’re an adventurous diner, or if you’d like a dining experience that is not found anywhere else that I know of then you need to visit the restaurant and savor Alinea for yourself. The cool thing is that due to the uniqueness of this cuisine, everyone will have their own slightly (or drastically) different interpretation of what the restaurant offers...I look forward to hearing from others.


View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:

FineDiningPhotos.com

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I'm interested in the timing too though...if one had a reservation for, say, 9:30 and ordered the tour, would they (and the kitchen and serving staff) be there until 4:30? Or did you just have very leisurely meal, Yellow Truffle?

9:30 for the Tour, huh. You might want to take a disco nap before going, you could be in for a long night. I am sure the kitchen will do their best to make you comfortable, and the following day they would have disclaimer on start times for the Tour menu when making reservations.

Not to worry, my reservation is for 8 - this was purely a hypothetical!

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Last night's meal at Alinea was as good a meal as I've ever had in Chicago--or any other city for that matter. We did the 12-course menu "one" (although they treated us to a couple extras from the tour menu, so I think it was 14 courses). Highlights? Uhh...everything! The dungeness crab/raw parsnip/cashew/etc. dish was one of the best things I've ever tasted--an instant classic on par with ChefG's famous (and, sadly, retired) black truffle explosion from Trio. The frog leg/morel/nasturtium/paprikka/etc. dish was also just stunning and beyond words.

Our meal was exactly three hours--the pacing was perfect. I can see why several people have commented on the chairs; they are amazingly comfortable and I wouldn't have any qualms about tackling the 30-course tour.

It sounds trite to refer to something as "indescribably good"...but that's my verdict and I'm stickin' with it.

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Has anyone had one of the smaller menus? I have reservations for Thursday and I think I would feel a bit rushed on a week night ordering the tour. Previously at Trio I've experienced both an eleven course and the tour and I was astonished both times. The anticipation is killing me.

My question was just answered - Thanks!


Edited by rhinopias (log)

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I also have to say, with no disrepect intended to anyone at Trio (pre-Atelier), that the desserts at Alinea were transcendant and I felt matched the meal way better than most of the desserts I remember from the closing menu at Trio.  They were boldly flavored but, for the most part, light in body.  Ethereal would probably be a good description.  The Pineapple was like a dream, the Sassafrass Cream was a tasty and sweet adventure on a plate and the Sponge Cake . . . well, it was so good that even though it was the last course, we were all sucking dry the glasses in which it was served.

That would be thanks to Alex Stupak, former pastry chef at Clio in Boston. I was there the night he left and was able to enjoy what I was told was the last dessert he ever made there. Damn Alinea for stealing him away from Boston!

So who wants to take me to Alinea?


Andrew Baber

True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me

to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check

If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

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The Gentleman Gourmand

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I'm loving the reviews and the pictures - thanks everyone! I can't wait until I can make it to Alinea myself. I told my husband this weekend that it's what I want for my birthday, but October is a long way away!

One question - what's up with the Alinea website? I understand minimalism and all, but a little more content would be nice.

http://www.alinearestaurant.com


Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I only decided to try this after I heard that they were booked solid until September....

Where did you hear this? I'm pretty sure they only just opened the reservation book for July last week.


-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I only decided to try this after I heard that they were booked solid until September....

Where did you hear this? I'm pretty sure they only just opened the reservation book for July last week.

Last night, GM Joe Catterson said they will take reservations up to three months in advance. Which tells me that they're not even taking September reservations yet. Whatever the case...book a table now, because it's only going to get crazier.

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Talking about every single dish, would a little too much and I don't have knowledge base to articulate each item, instead I will talk about some of my favorites and hope that others will pick up my slack and fill in the blank. But let me say that I enjoyed everything.

The BACON was top on my list. This was such a wonderful combination of sweet and savory in one bite. The server brings out the bow (as discussed in the Alinea Forum) and hanging from it is the bacon, sliced thin and dried. This was covered with semi-solid, gooey butterscotch and a confetti of apple. You take the bacon strip and pull it from the bow, tilt your head back, and lower in down into your mouth, similar to the PB&J dish. First, your are hit with the sweetness of the apple and butterscotch, then a finish of the slightly salty bacon. He went the full 180 in flavor range in one bite. This was a wonderful transition to the sweet part of the meal and I really loved it. I only wish that there could have been more than one bite to enjoy this dish.

The ENGLISH PEAS is also up there. First the server brings out a small bowl with a green thick liquid, slightly warm, but not steaming. Then another server comes by and places a white disk, that just covers the green liquid. As the waiter explains the dish, you see the yogurt melt into the pea soup. Very nice. As you dig in, all the elements have mixed together, without any mixing done by the guest. The soup was silky smooth and the frozen lemon was crunchy and not that citrusy. The shiso herb added a sort of light and fresh aroma to what I thought would be a heavy dish. I thought this to be the prettiest of the dishes.

The BEEF dish was simply amazing. For me, the idea of using A-1 steak sauce on anything, is to mask the bad or poorly prepared item. Usually the sauce is so overpowering that you forget about what you are eating and just taste the sauce. Don't expect this to taste like the A-1 sauce. What we have here is deconstructed version of the sauce and an amazingly prepared meat all on one plate. Rather than reconstructing the ingredients of the A-1, the chef showcased all of them individually, giving them equal billing. I enjoyed tasting the elements that make up A-1, and found it weird to know what actually makes up the sauce. The meat was well prepared and enjoyed it last. It's like having two dishes for the price of one.

The HEART OF PALM came out in five, square pedestal, dishes and were arranged in order, of the weight of the filling. First was the vanilla pudding with avocado topping, followed by fava bean, with meyer lemon topping, then bulgar, plum pudding and can't remember the last one, but it was very intense. There were utensils brought out for this dish and one had to treat it, "as if you were taking a shot." The heart of palms were very crisp and provided a nice contrast to the pureed filling. It is an interesting experience when the skin (HOP) does not change and only the filling grows in flavor intensity.

In the end, my young and inexperienced palate, found all the dishes to be mind blowing. I had throughly enjoyed the experience of the wild, yet tamed ride of flavors, aromas, textures, presentations of both the food and wine, although, there were some dishes that were more memorable than others. Everybody was very professional and not pretentious. The whole evening was extremely comfortable, from a physical and emotional level. Everything was so much fun and I had an exciting experience. There is so much to learn over at Alinea. Thanx to all involved.

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. . . The HEART OF PALM came out in five, square pedestal, dishes and were arranged in order, of the weight of the filling. First was the vanilla pudding with avocado topping, followed by fava bean, with meyer lemon topping, then bulgar, plum pudding and can't remember the last one, but it was very intense. There were utensils brought out for this dish and one had to treat it, "as if you were taking a shot." The heart of palms were very crisp and provided a nice contrast to the pureed filling. It is an interesting experience when the skin (HOP) does not change and only the filling grows in flavor intensity. . .

The last 2 were filled with prune and pumpernickle puree respectively. I'm sorry but I cannot remember the toppings/garnishes for either of those 2 at the moment.

=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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[The last 2 were filled with prune and pumpernickle puree respectively. I'm sorry but I cannot remember the toppings/garnishes for either of those 2 at the moment.

=R=

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. . . The HEART OF PALM came out in five, square pedestal, dishes and were arranged in order, of the weight of the filling. First was the vanilla pudding with avocado topping, followed by fava bean, with meyer lemon topping, then bulgar, plum pudding and can't remember the last one, but it was very intense. There were utensils brought out for this dish and one had to treat it, "as if you were taking a shot." The heart of palms were very crisp and provided a nice contrast to the pureed filling. It is an interesting experience when the skin (HOP) does not change and only the filling grows in flavor intensity. . .

The last 2 were filled with prune and pumpernickle puree respectively. I'm sorry but I cannot remember the toppings/garnishes for either of those 2 at the moment.

Prune filling and plum topping? Or is it the other way around. Help.

I know the pumpernickle one had some black truffle, because it was my favorite...

Thanx. I had that written down, but I just could not believe it. Very intense.

Also, I think the bulgar was with a garlic mayo.

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Prune filling and plum topping? Or is it the other way around. Help.

Also, I think the bulgar was with a garlic mayo.

Prune filling on number 4. Again, not sure about the topping. Pumpernickle puree on number 5 and yes, definitely truffle was present although, I'm not sure if it was the topping or not. Number 3 was bulgar (and garlic?) filling with a garlic chip as the topping, IIRC.

=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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It seems that the bubbles' position on a left to right basis may have something to do with the relative sweet/savoriness of a particular dish.

the 'bubbles' are a graphic description of the menu progression on a sweet/savory scale and also illustrate the size of the portions

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the 'bubbles' are a graphic description of the menu progression on a sweet/savory scale and also illustrate the size of the portions

Martin, can you tell us more about the donut porcelain dish used for the ARTICHOKE. Was this a custom job? I noticed the chef did not have a folded napkins in any of the presentations.

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Any discussion about Achatz’s food must first be put into proper perspective. The style of cuisine that he’s developed relies heavily on the interrelation and progression of a series of flavors. Unlike the cuisine at more traditional restaurants where one typically evaluates each dish as a separate entity, when dining at Alinea one must continually keep in mind that each dish’s juxtaposition is quite important in order to understand it’s role and objectives. The resulting meal (in its entirety) is what Alinea’s statement is all about.

jeffj,

I am very grateful for your jaw-dropping photography and insightful description of your visit to Alinea. Those of us who are too far away have you, yellowtruffle, Mr. Suburban and others to thank for offering a window on this truly historic culinary event. It has caused much reflection on the possibilities for food in the future. Very fascinating.

johnnyd


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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Very positive ink from metromix.com (today):

From the dollop of frozen organic sour cream--dressed with shavings of frozen smoked salmon and a sorrel leaf, served in a specially created dish--to a tender prime ribeye cube, served with the deconstructed flavors of A-1 sauce, each dish was like a little food fantasy.

Achatz rockets

=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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Martin, can you tell us more about the donut porcelain dish used for the ARTICHOKE. Was this a custom job? I noticed the chef did not have a folded napkins in any of the presentations.

yellow truffle,

The piece is called Antiplate. Grant Achatz asked me to design a service piece for foods prearranged on a spoon (traditionally presented propped up on a napkin). The goal was to keep the focus on the food as well as make the removal of the spoon very easy and natural. The pieces currently used at the restaurant are essentially a prototype run.

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      I picked up enough boneless short ribs to make 3 meals for my Sweetie and me. One meal will be pan-braised tonight. One has been vacuum-sealed and is in the freezer. My question is about seasoning, sealing, freezing, then defrosting and cooking at a later date. I'd like to season and seal the 3rd meal's worth. Can I use a dry rub on the meat, then seal, freeze, and cook at a later date? Does anyone else do this?
    • By newchef
      So I've now found myself at the water's edge of Modernist Cuisine.  Specifically, using sodium citrate for emulsifying all kinds of cheeses.  What I'm after is making an emulsified Parmesan sauce as well as another emulsified cheese sauce (most likely using Cheddar or Colby) that I can freeze and use later.  I'm a single guy and am no stranger of tweaking recipes for freezing but I haven't done it for modernist stuff yet.  I'd love to make a big batch of cheese sauce, freeze it into ice cubes for up to 3 months or so, and then take a few cubes out to thaw on a weeknight and toss with pasta, drizzle over veggies, etc.
       
      I looked at the modernist cuisine FAQ and saw this specific post about the cheese sauce that is "probably" freeze-able because it uses something called carageenan.  Has anyone been able to freeze sauce and keep it frozen for, say, a few months?  And not have to use carageenan?
       
      Thanks!
    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      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.
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