The next restaurant adventure was Alinea. Knitting content will reappear in my next post. (That's fair warning to all who feel that meat and potatoes [or just potatoes] are all that is needed to hold body and soul together.)
The menu was printed on paper this time. It declared that you could have one of three options: the six course menu (for weenies who made reservations here by accident), the twelve course menu (the most popular: hint hint) or the twenty-five course menu (which takes five hours to eat). We took the hint, and chose the Mama Bear menu.
Glassware was Ravenscroft for the aperitif wine, and Spiegelau for the rest of the wines. I have NO idea why I am including that factoid. I took COPIOUS notes, based on the questions from the Moto post, and, well, my OCD took note of the glassware.
Cucumber mango, several aromatics (picture too blurry)
This was a rolled thin slice of English cucumber, gently vinegared, with mango in the center, saffron and spices sprinkled on the outside. It was a small mouthful with the gentle cool crispness of the cuke serving as a foil for the unfolding taste of the spices. Then it was gone.
Wine: Lillet blanc
Hearts of Palm in five sections
This was presented in professional fashion on five little plates. Each. And it was my profession, not theirs. The waiter called it vertebrae.
Hollowed-out sections of hearts of palm, filled, from right to left with: a. vanilla pudding topped with avocado, thai chili, lime zest b. fava bean puree and preserved lemon c. toasted bulghur with garlic mayonnaise d. prune with nicoise olive e. black summer truffle with pumpernickel crumbs on top
Wine: 2003 Pinot Auxerrois, Vieille Vignes, Albert Mann (Alsace)
You picked up the vertebra, and flipped the little guy into your mouth. I liked the fava bean puree the best.
Litchi with horseradish, chervil juice, oyster cream
This was scrumptious. The pile of grey is Osetra caviar. The green is the chervil juice reduction. I cannot imagine someone having the job of making, and then reducing chervil juice. The cream was infused with oyster.
Wine: 2002 Dirler Pinot Gris Reserve (Alsace)
The intermezzo at this point was bread and butter. It seemed like an odd place to present this. Two butters were offered: cow butter from Wisconsin, goat butter from Quebec.
Lobster with chanterelles, ravioli of coconut powder
The ravioli (behind the basil leaf in the upper right corner) was made of carrot powder and coconut powder, rolled, and filled with more essence of coconut. Lobster consomme was spooned over the assemblage, and the lobster cheeto crisp adorns the plate. There was sweetness, spice, and tangy aromatics according to my note.
Wine: 2003 Spatlese Trocken, Muller-Catoir, Bergergarten, Pfalz (Germany) .
Sole mosaic of mostly traditional flavors
Dover sole guigonettes (those crimpy longer pieces) were served with cauliflower cooked in brown butter, with banana spears, and powders: caper, parsley, lemon, banana. The chef loves powders. He manages to catch the essence of flavor in the dried form, and serves them with moist foods that release their flavors. The fish was perfectly cooked. The flavors all melded together. You look at the sole. Then you look at the banana. You say, "Huh?" But it works.
Wine: 2000 Movia, "Veliko Bianco", Goriska Brda (Slovenia)
This was certainly a first for me - a Slovenian wine. It is grown near the Italian border, and is a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and a second remote grape.
Pork dijon, orange, California laurel branch
This was pork belly tempura, served in a "dish" the server called 'the squid'. I had to ask why, so he lifted the upside-down shuttlecock and mimicked a squid swimming horizontally. I guess you had to be there.
The warm, crispy, citrusy sweetness matched the sweetness of the pork belly. The laurel? Slighly aromatic, and fun to play with between courses.
Wine: 2003 Gaja 'Rossj-Bass' Chardonnay, Langhe, Italy
I'm not a fan of Gaja wines. He charges too much money for what is simply a potable beverage, and I have seen him be a sexist pig. But the man knows how to make really good wine. This was one of them.
Lamb with fig, pernod, pillow of anise air
This is where the chef, Grant Achatz, enters the realm of the supernatural. He fills a plastic bag shaped like a pillow with anise-scented air. The waitstaff puts it into a linen casing that is structured like a pillow case. Then they poke two holes in the plastic bag, so that the weight of the plate s l o w l y releases the anise air.
The lamb is braised, and coated with panko and coffee. The foam was called a "pernod nage". It had the flavor of anise, and was ethereal in its existence. If you touched it with a fork, it disappeared into liquid form. The fig was also poached with fennel. The little squares near the fig were braised fennel. This was one of my favorite dishes.
Wine: 1999 Barbera d'Alba, 'Affinato in Carati', Paolo Scavino, Piedmont (Italy)
I want to worship at this man's vinous feet. This was the best wine of the evening. Each pour was two ounces, and I ended up leaving at least half of each pour.
Bison with truffle, pistachio, sweet spices
I was flagging at this point. The notes became perfunctory.
Matsutake with pine nuts, mastic, rosemary
This was a steamed cake of matsutake mushrooms. Mastic infused the cream. My only experience with mastic was associated with what my father used to adhere tiles to the bathroom walls. It turns out it is an edible, exotic resin from the island of Chios. It's the creamy substance poured over the cake.
Wine: 1978 Sercial Madeira, Vinhos Barbeito
Tonka is a tree from central Africa. I think chefs delight in one-upping each other with exotic and undiscovered delicacies. We knitters are not much different: we want to be the first to use the newest, sexy yarn, or the first to finish Eris.
Wine: Pineau Charentais, "Cuvee du Petit Buis", Lheraud
We are in the home stretch now.
Chocolate with avocado, lime, mint
This was pliable chocolate cream, with lime ice cream, avocado puree, mint-infused chocolate sauce, and cocoa crumbs. It was delectable.
Wine: Moscato rosa, Alto Aldige, with creme de cassis
Chicory with peanuts, milk chocolate, wild rice
Liquid chicory, in a chocolate shell. Crispy wild rice coated the shell. One bite. Sweet coffee/chocolate essence flooding your mouth.
Wine: None. Thank god.
The waiters' black-clad, slender bodies glided effortlessly back and forth through the evening, explaining, instructing, presenting. As we left, we asked to see the kitchen. The man with his hand on his hip on the left is the boss, Grant Achatz. I don't think he has hit 30 yet.
The DH looked back to the Moto pictures. Both chefs are creating food in the style of Ferran Adria of Barcelona. The food at Alinea was better. But the pictures at Moto show wide, delighted grins on our faces. Moto was more fun.
In the next post, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.