Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alinea wrapup

I'd wish I had several more Alinea posts, though perhaps you patient readers are tired of them, only because it would mean that I could relive the meal a little longer. Alas, all great things must come to an end...

18. SWEETBREAD - cauliflower, burnt bread, toasted hayAnd here came the second large dish of the night - I had read about this one in a slightly different form. What do you think of when you hear sweetbread? The innocent me prior to my research thought it was a bread that was sweet, but my good friend Google revealed instead that it's veal thymus or pancreas. When the dish came, I was a little hesitant, but hey, if I'm going to ever try sweetbread, where better than at one of the best restaurants in the world? I didn't have the heart to tell my dining buddy that it wasn't just "veal" like he thought. So what's sweetbread like? It's not sweet and definitely not breadlike, not quite meat like, but incredibly tender and delicious in this dish. The sweetbread bits are the two pieces in the top left and bottom right corners. Accompanying the sweetbread was fried dehydrated cauliflower interspersed with burnt bread, toasted hay and vermouth pudding dots. They weren't so great on their own (we were even warned about trying the burnt bread on its own), but swipe the sweetbread through those puddings and then dip into the chestnut cream pool in the middle - absolutely delicious. Above the chestnut cream sauce is a breaded cauliflower stem topped with a roasted chestnut with a small onion to the side. I love playing with my food :)

19. TRANSPARENCY - of raspberry, rose petal, yogurtWhat a great way to start the desserts - this is just fun. A metal clip holds an impossibly thin sheet of raspberry glass candy, which is dusted with a dried yogurt and rose petals. The smell of roses was delightful...almost as delightful as making the candy rock back and forth in the metal clip.

20. BACON - butterscotch, apple, thymeI do get my cravings for sweets that lead to my impulsive tiramisu or frozen yougurt buys, but generally I enjoy savory more than sweet. But combine sweet AND savory and I'm in heaven, which is where this dish put me. The piece of bacon was suspended on a wire that rocked back and forth (when you play with it like I did). A mango fruit leather sticks to the bacon with lines of butterscotch and a sprinkling of thyme. Bacon just rose to an entirely new level. Another signature Alinea dish.

21. PERSIMMON - carrot, red curry, spice stripI wasn't the biggest fan of this dish to begin with, but it certainly grew on me the more I ate. By the end, I found myself wanting to lick the plate, but some odd sense of manners I was suppose to have restrained me. A little sailboat looking creation sits to the right of the plate, really a wax half sphere with a needle holding a listerine like strip. We were instructed to place the strip in our mouths to infuse our senses with spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc). Then, dig into the dish, which reminded me of an fruit crips. Off to the side was a small amount of red curry, which mixed with everything else was good. Then there was the ginger orb - I was too chicken to take that in one bite since ginger tends to be strong. Instead, I had fun popping the bubble and mixing it with the rest of the dessert. My hesitation for this dish came from not being able to really identify by sight the different ingredients, other than the red curry and the ginger orb.

22. LICORICE CAKE - muscovado sugar, orange, hyssopI really don't like licorice, but I'm glad I didn't list that as a restriction because I liked this cake. It arrives on a little antenna, threatening to poke your eye out. Then they announce that you really don't need utensils to eat, you just lean forward, open up and eat. Hands free. How fun...How awkward. I cheated a bit because I didn't want a metal wire sticking out of my eye. The cake had a strong licorice flavor accompanied by the crunch of the spun muscovado sugar.


23. CHOCOLATE - egg, pomelo, smokeIn theory, I liked this one a lot, especially coming savory with sweet. In reality, it was a bit challenging for me with just a bit too much going on. First there was a fruit jelly string (I forget the flavor) that arches over a bit of "smoke" gel. Accompanying the fruit string was a chocolate baguette crisp that arches over a chocolate covered egg yolk. Then, smoke foam just barely rest on a liquid brioche covered in chocolate crust. Finally, a pool of pomelo sauce with flecks of pomelo surrounding a bit of chocolate fudge. Break open the chocolate yolk and liquid brioche, mix it all up and enjoy. Creative to say the least...

24. SWEET POTATO - bourbon, tempura, cinnamon incenseI wish we had been served the pumpkin version of this, but this was still pretty good. A lightly tempured sweet potato with bourbon served on a burning cinnamon stick. Perhaps thinking about it a little too much, but this kinda closed the loop for me, bringing me back to the vanilla bean served as the first course.

25. COFFEE - five waysFive removable prongs each topped with a bit of coffee gelee, each with a different garnish. Almond, caramel/salt (my favorite), cayenne pepper, star anise and saffron - a great way to end the meal.

Despite the way I could go on and on about Alinea and how it has redefined the way I look at food, I'd only caution you to not try to have too high of expectations if you make it to Alinea, lest you have my type of Gary Danko experience.

After eating at Alinea, I went on a bit of a web rampage, just looking to learn more about the restaurant and the chef - there is a LOT out there. Alinea is set to have a cookbook out in Fall 2008, which I have preordered and I'm sure I'll be sharing my opinion of when it is released. Plus, on eGullet, Chef Achatz shared information about the development of the restaurant, the serviceware and some of the dishes.

Linkage -
http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/restaurants/070413/
http://www.skilletdoux.com/2006/07/alinea.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhB_Beh36ss
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7t0EPGKpdM&feature=related
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/453830

The awesome serviceware -

Other Alinea experiences -
http://www.meshsf.com/blogs/2006/05/do-you-believe-in-magic-alinea-chicago.html
http://peacelovefood.com/?p=22
http://chadzilla.typepad.com/chadzilla/2008/02/alinea-tasting.html
http://iscreamtruck.blogspot.com/2008/03/journey-to-alinea.html
http://www.gastronomicfightclub.com/blog/food/2005/06/alinea-chicago.cfm

2 comments:

tonyleachsf said...

always wanted bacon for dessert... yum!

p.s. none of the links at the bottom are clickable :)

Chu on this said...

Fixed :)