However, this past week I was up in Chicago, and had reservations for Alinea. For those of you who don’t know about Alinea, Gourmet Magazine ranked it in 2007 as the #1 restaurant in America. Seeing that I was going to be up in Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to eat at this once in a lifetime place (hopefully twice when my wallet recovers). I made reservations for three, and my two good friends Babicz and Liz accompanied me that evening to the most extravagant and wonderful meal I’ve ever beheld.
Not only was the food amazing, and dare I say revolutionary, but the architecture and ambiance, along with wonderful wait-staff and sommeliers, made the night unforgettable to say the least.
While the wait-staff certainly could have been arrogant if they chose, they were wonderfully attentive and constantly cracked jokes with us, told little anecdotes, and seemed genuinely concerned that we were having a good time, and our needs were met (actually surpassed).
The only drawback is in my wallet. The total experience cost me about $300. That’s $195 for the tour, about $40 for the glasses of wines, some tax here and there, and about $50 for tip. It was totally worth the money, but my walled is indeed lighter than before.
Thanks to Liz’s camera and picture savvy prowess, I have a photo essay of the night’s 24-course tour.
This was one of the neatest things we ate/drank all night. Out waiter asked us reminisce on cracker jacks while this was in front of us. Surprisingly, the liquefied caramel corn tasted EXACTLY like caramel popcorn. Most intriguing.
While the presentation was quaint and pretty, the black truffle in this ravioli was rather over powering. If you’ve never had truffle, this will certainly let you in on the secret as to its taste.
This was another fun and playful dish that combined sweetbreads with cauliflower. The fried cauliflowers adorning the various bits and pieces were conceivably they crunchiest things on the planet. The swimming pool in the middle was made of toasted hay (for horses?) and accompanied by “burnt sauce.” Now hay is rather strange, but burnt sauce? It was quite peculiar, because our waiters warned us that if we tried the black dots by themselves, they would simply taste like burnt (and they did). The magic was their combination with the other elements on the plate, creating complexities akin to toast, and caramelization.
This was one of the most fun dishes of the night. A moving ensemble, raspberry reduction was dusted with dehydrated yogurt powder, and adorned with rose petals. The crispy glass pieces moved back and forth on our table until we couldn’t resist any longer and stopped their pendulum motion to break them into millions of pieces.
Another deliciously fun course, which merged bacon with butterscotch, twisted apply twine, and thyme. These flavors all melt beautifully, and the trapeze afterwards was so much fun to tinker with.
One of the first “desert” or sweet courses, the center focused persimmon, and carrot, with a blob of ginger liquid. Off to the side was a curry with complimented the dish nicely, and cleansed the palate from the sweetness of the persimmon. This dish reminds me of a apple crisp with a persimmon spin. As for the ginger ball, once again, the delicate skin holding the liquid contents burst in mouth, gushing spicy ginger liquid all over the palate. The finishing kick here, was a sailboat looking winter spice “Listerine strip,” which we slipped off its mast and dissolved on the roof our mouth. I wish I could freshen my breath with these everyday.
A truly hands free dining experience, we were asked to lean forward and bite a licorice cake, with orange and hyssop, covered in muscovado spun sugar from a wire. The licorice flavor was deep but not overpowering, while the spun sugar cracked and crunched heavily in our jaws.
This had to be the messiest, and most playful dish all evening. We were persuaded to break the chocolate coated “cake,” which contained a liquefied brioche, and a chocolate covered egg yolk, into a pomelo pool and mix it up with gellified smoke. The flavors were peculiar, and unique. This dish was very original, and pushed the boundaries of what I would consider “desert.”
Finally, we ended the night with some coffee. Colloidal coffee, five ways that is. Each cube of gellied coffee was adorned with different flavors. First, saffron, followed by sassafras, Chinese almond, red chile, and some other I forgot. Maybe lavender? You decide. Or better yet, go to Alinea, and experience it yourself!