Oh Alinea it has been far too long. Still one of my absolute favorite places.
Oh Alinea it has been far too long. Still one of my absolute favorite places.
I’m not sure if I would ever get tired of Roister. I love these dishes so so much and love taking friends here for the first time.
Yet another place that I have missed terribly since I moved. So much so that I ate so quickly I forgot to photograph several dishes.
lotus root, dubu, seaweed, chili oil
beef tartare, nooruk, mustard green, myungran
sunchoke, oyster mushroom, black truffle, orange
octopus, kimchi, chorizo, parsley
So much about the reviews is accurate and so much is not accurate at all. I am certainly biased. For me it will never be the same as Chicago, but the views sure do help compensate.
Up the Ice Ante – oat, marcona almond, white peach, horchata
Heart of Stone – pistachio, peach, fresno, lapsang, bourbon
Loaded to the Gunwalls – mace, pineapple, hazelnut, batavia arrack
Always one of my favorites no matter whether lunch/brunch or dinner. This salad was addicting while it was on the menu, and the open faced egg sandwich is outstanding. Highly recommend.
If you haven’t been to Roister and live in Chicago we probably can’t be friends. Always excellent and dishes that are so much better than they read on the menu. The spicy cucumber salad I could easily eat once a day forever. And those grits may not look like much…but the scallop XO….amazing. Some others told me that the foie gras toast was too sweet. But as dessert is is perfect and evoked so many amazing childhood cinnamon toast memories.
anson mills grits, scallop XO, egg yolk sauce, parmesan
avocado toast, english muffins grapefruit, everything butter
spicy cucumber salad, pineapple-fish sauce dressing, lots of herbs
Foie gras, cinnamon toast, strawberry jam
Still my favorite restaurant a decade later. Somehow I am missing a few photos because I was enjoying myself too much to be bothered. Always an an amazing experience and always something new that is a complete surprise. On this visit, the spud. Perhaps not the prettiest dish in the era of instagram (despite best efforts which gave me a good laugh) but absolutely delicious.
spear | avocado, coriander
paper | langoustine, bouillabaisse, olive oil
crunch | rouille, nori
ink | olive, artichoke
garden | orange, sherry, tomato
black bass, shellfish, kuzu
kaffir lime, tropical fruit
steam | hamachi, rosemary, kombu
glass | blueberry, lapsing soughing, maitake
spud | truffle, midwest dairy
toast | gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel
smoke | veal cheek, pineapple, hearts of palm
rock | sweet potato, chocolate, miso
nostalgia | bubblegum, candy bar
The Office NYC will likely always feel a bit strange to me having spent so much time in the original. But the amazing friends I met there and all of the memories just can’t be replicated. So I am trying hard to think of it as something entirely new and not compare. At this point I have had several great experiences in this space. The food is gorgeous and with the expanded size comes an expanded menu plus some of my all time favorites the tartare and ice cream sundae. I wish I could write this with no prior history because I am just so curious what I would think. But mostly I am just bummed beyond belief that the minute my favorite place opened in NYC, I left town.
Hollywood was absolutely the most fun Next menu. The presentations were all fantastic and perhaps too much fun as I have never had so many missing photos.
Movie Quotes – Gone with the “Caviar”
Popcorn – meyer lemon, fennel, guanciale
The Breakfast Club – bento box, sandwich, soup, pixie stick
Cool Hand Luke – trout roe, kiwi, young coconut, turnip
The Wizard of Oz – fave bean, golden raisin, romanesco
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – octopus & scallop
Blade Runner – noodles, duck, pickled ginger
Jurassic Park – madeira, jambo, brioche
Star Wars – frog, Ethopian spices, yellow split pea
Ratatouille – byaldi
The Godfather – taro root, ricotta, olive
Horror – smoked pork neck, beet, garlic
Pulp Fiction – bulgogi big kahuna burger
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – foie gras, chamomile, sunflower
Marie Antoinette – rhubarb, raspberry, black tea
Missing: “Life is Like a Box of….” and Mary Poppins
I admittedly was prepared to dislike this menu based on the report of a dear friend whose visit predated mine. There have been a few Next menus that have been somewhat polarizing and this seems to be one of them. My expectations were greatly exceeded and I found myself enjoying the theme much more than I thought I would. With the Roman Cookery book it all made more sense. And it did not hurt to be dining with the best man in my life, my dad, who is still up on his Latin.
vinum ex atro candidum facies (honey, cabbage, apple, grape)
herbal rusticae (melon, herbs, liquamen)
cuminatum in ostrea et conchylia (kamut pancake, oyster, pomegranate)
isicia ex sphondylis (mussels, saffron, lardo)
patinam de rosis (rose, white asparagus, rosemary)
aliter tubera elixas et asperso sale gusti de cucurbitis (beets, black truffle, chicken skin)
pisam coques (smoked mascarpone, beans, mackerel)
panem (beef fat, poppy & fennel seed)
isicia de sculls vel de cammeris amplis (shrimp, olives, walnut)
aliter porros (leek, cabbage, butternut squash)
pullus farsilis (quali, spelt, lovage)
embalm in cervinam assam (venison, chestnut, laurel)
sales conduits ad multa (oxtail, turnip, horseradish)
aliter car duos (artichoke, carob, citrus)
gaius octavos gustan de praecoquis (goat cheese, honey, fennel)
domum felix (mastic, taffy, lavender)
There are a multitude of reasons that Alinea continues to be my favorite restaurant. As many times as I have been there I am always completely surprised by something new. And I always think back to my first visit quite a long time ago which was the first time I dined alone at a ‘nice’ restaurant. I was so nervous that my hand shook until I had finished my initial glass of champagne. But the experience was perhaps the beginning of my career as a ‘professional’ in conquering a very long tasting menu and I have never felt uncomfortable dining alone since.
I am not sure that I will be able to return to the dining room after this dinner at the kitchen table. I saw the space on my last visit but seeing it and sitting in it are quite different. Just completely fantastic especially with a great group of friends. I very much enjoyed again the dishes that I had previously – especially the scallop, corn, butter that I want several bowls of. While it is not a substitute for black truffle explosion, the gruyere/black truffle/pumpernickel was delicious and filled the void. And perhaps my favorite of the night was the very understated parmesan/pea/jamon iberico. Until next time….
osetra, king crab, condiments
quince, parmesan, date
scallop, corn, butter
cider, orange, maple
parmesan, pea, jamon iberico
kuzu, pompano, shellfish
pork belly, curry, banana
rosemary, hamachi, kombu
blueberry, lapsang souchong, maitake
gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel
short rib, bitter cocoa, cassis
wagyu, rice, myoga
sweet potato, chocolate, miso
bubble gum, cake, banana
chocolate, cherry, bourbon
sesame, brown butter, gold
Yet another fantastic brunch at mfk. I am always baffled as to why this place is not packed at this time of day. Chicago friends you really need to put it in regular rotation!
ceviche, poblano guacamole, squid ink tostada
shrimp and cucumber aguachile, jicama, avocado
chioggia beets, basil, aged goat cheese, orange yogurt
roasted and chilled cauliflower, almond, red onion, xato
pqm bread service, caramelized shallot butter, radishes
seafood fideous, toasted vermicelli, piperade, saffron
albondigas pork & veal, grana padano polenta, tomato jam
Next: French Laundry
Having the Next French Laundry menu to look forward to helped me to get past the letdown of my French Laundry meal a week before being over. Its amazing that the dishes on this menu are 20 years old. They are delicious and still completely relevant. The French Laundry influenced dozens of chefs since it opened and fine dining has evolved in many ways. I love the evolution but at the same time I would eat these dishes everyday if I could. This was absolutely lovely and one of reasons I love Next for allowing me to experience what was before my time.
cornet of atlantic salmon
black trumpet mushroom soup
gulf shrimp and avocado salsa
blinis with peppers and bottarga
barbecue eel with sesame and yuzu
black truffle custard
oysters and pearls – sabayon of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and golden osetra caviar
tomato salad – yellow tomato sorbet, basil infused oil and brioche crouton
agnolotti – butternut squash, quince and madras curry
pompano “amandine” – orzo, pole beans and preserved meyer lemon
atlantic cod – clam chowder, celery and bacon
sweet butter poached lobster – pommes maxim, melted leeks and beet essence
five-spiced lobster – port poached figs and moulard duck foie gras
“roulade” of duck breast – creamed white corn, huckleberries and chanterelle mushrooms
rabbit “saddle” – applewood smoked bacon with pruneaux d’agen, caramelized fennel and fennel oil
“pot au feu” – beef short rib with root vegetables and sauteed bone marrow
lamb – thyme, tarragon and dried beans
chaource – red plums, chive oil and lolla rossa
roquefort – trifle with french butter pear relish
“verjus” sorbet – peach butter and mint infused oil
“coffee and donuts” – cappuccino semifreddo with cinnamon sugar donuts
Of course now that United’s fares from EWR to ORD have been cut in half there is talk of Au Cheval coming to New York. This burger was my reward for the dozens and dozens of trips I have made to Chicago, especially those early morning flights to be there by 11am when it opens for lunch.
A seat at the hearth at Roister may be my new favorite place in Chicago. In a way the plating is deceiving as some of these dishes are dark and are not necessarily made for today’s instagram age. And while looks can be deceiving, menu descriptions can be as well. Oysters are one of the very few foods that I genuinely dislike. I have been trying to train myself to like them for 2 years now but was set back by an unfortunate episode of food poisoning. When Chef Brochu kindly sent out a gift of the smoked oysters my stomach sank. I was dining with my mother, the only person I know who dislikes oysters more than I do, and who would be of no help in eating these. I made her try one and she admitted it wasn’t bad at all (which is a very high compliment). I happily ate the rest as they were completely delicious. I love having my mind changed about an ingredient. The fries I likely would not have ordered myself as bonito and tofu are not ingredients I particularly enjoy but a friend ordered them on a previous visit and I had to have them again. Then there is the chicken that I still think about. The leftovers are the first thing I have ever taken in a doggie bag from any meal while traveling. I cleaned out half of the hotel mini bar and we ate the rest for breakfast. It may have been even better.
Tomato bread – mayo, shallot, pecan oil
Aged cheddar rillettes – truffle, cauliflower, fry bread
Chow chow mein – aged cabbage, noodles, relish
Cucumber – melon, smoked creme fraiche
Smoked oysters – garlic butter, breadcrumbs
Yukon fries – soy dusted, bonito flakes, tofu mayo
Whole chicken & chamomile – braised, poached, fried with sunchokes
Hushpuppies – corn crema, sour corn, manchego
I knew that my first trip to the newly renovated Alinea would feel very strange but I was hoping that the Miami pop-up would have somewhat prepared me. I tried my best to be in the moment and not compare to the past. But while I understand the desire and need for change, as I rearranged my bedroom constantly as a kid, I still love the old space. I think it is much better to experience the Gallery without knowing what to expect so I am going to keep this very brief. I will say that it started off amazingly well, as all good things should, with caviar and champagne. Looking through my pictures and thinking back through all of these courses, this was a much much better meal than I may have given it credit for at the time. But I attribute that to my consistent feeling of immediate depression whenever a meal at Alinea ends. The redesigned table dessert course was fantastic and someday I hope to live in a home with a wall worthy of a Thomas Masters piece.
Communal – osetra, king crab, condiments
Shaker – gin, green tomato, chartreuse
Roll – cucumber, feta, caper leaf
Paper – scallop, corn, butter
Crunch – shio kombu, nori
Contrast – tomato, watermelon, parmesan
Sangre – blood peach, green peanut, iberico
Swirl – apple, yuzu, lemon verbena
Fry – icefish, daisy mandarin, radish
Yellow – pork belly, curry, banana
Glass – maitake, blueberry, lapsang souchong
Petal – onion, purple allium, black pepper
Toast – gruyere, black truffle, pumpernickel
Bon Bon – mango, almond, cinnamon
Chicken – palo santo, pineapple, mezcal
Bone – wagyu, rice, myoga
Cloche – cheeks, chamomile, melon
Nostalgia – fennel, dark chocolate, lemon, strawberry
Paint – cherry, white chocolate, bourbon
Gold – sesame, brown butter, feuilletine
Each time I have visited mfk I just can’t understand why it is not absolutely packed. Somehow it has remained Chicago’s best kept secret. Suffice it to say I love everything on this menu. Ok maybe not the sardine butter but the ceviche could just keep coming all day long.
braised oxtail & potato croquettes, charred tomato aioli
ceviche, poblano guacamole, squid ink tostada
bread, sardine butter, breakfast radishes
roasted & chilled cauliflower, xato, almond, pickled onion
poached shrimp, green papaya, cucumber, sugar snap peas
seafood fideous, toasted vermicelli, piperade, saffron
Unfortunately Roister was not yet open for lunch by this trip as I was hoping so we were forced into Plan B which was a Roister and Next doubleheader. Maybe it doesn’t quite count doing the a la carte menu vs. the Roister menu but there always has to be something to strive for the next time (no pun intended). We were not able to order the larger dishes that I wanted the most (actually willing and able but would regret it later on) but I still think that we did pretty well. As Roister seemed to be so long in the making there was a part of me that feared it would fall short of expectations. But of course I should know better. It was exceedingly difficult to not finish absolutely everything and think about anything other than when I could get back here again.
Yukon fries – soy dusted, bonito flakes, rice vinegar, tofu mayo
Baja hiramasa – black sesame, raspberry, tarragon
Grilled asparagus salad – macadamia nut dressing, fennel, rice
Gulf shrimp toast – red crab butter
Carolina gold rice – hoisin glazed carrots, mushrooms, thai basil
Foie gras – black walnuts, pretzel, marshmallow
Strawberries & milk – jam, gummies, shortbread crumb
We had to exit the West Loop for a bit of the evening to enjoy some fantastic cocktails from the lovely Julia Momose.
Next South America (Peru)
There is not too much I can say about each visit to Next that I haven’t already said before. But this was easily my second favorite of all of the Next menus and if I lived in Chicago I would certainly be back for the other country iterations. This was a completely seamless transition to Chef Tomaska and I can’t wait to see what he does with the next menu.
Raspadilla – chicha morada, cassia, leche
banana & passionfruit
corn & chocolate
lime & orange
mackerel, kombu, peanut, cactus fruit
casabe, canchita, solterito de queso
empanada, rocoto relleno, anticucho
escabeche de camaron
paiche, gooseberry, coconut, pork
gallina, humita, pina, salsa criolla
guava & picarones
chocolate, rhubarb, dulce de leche
Because one is never too full for a black truffle explosion.
I loved this place so much on my first visit and couldn’t wait to come back. For once I did not have to do any of the ordering which was completely amazing as it is always my role. Because of that I have no idea really what any of these dishes are. Perhaps I knew a month ago but now I haven’t a clue (well except for the beans which I insisted upon and which I could eat every single day).
Alinea Miami at the Faena Hotel
Perhaps it has taken me so long to complete this post because I haven’t been able to sort out what to even write. I was prepared to be completely disappointed by this dinner as when Alinea popped up at EMP in NYC I was completely thrown by having Alinea food in a different space. Until then I had not realized how much the physical space was a part of the experience. Also looking at some pictures from the pop up a month prior in Madrid many of the dishes were ones I had already had. But I do often say that its best to have low expectations so that you can only be pleasantly surprised. Then of course there is the Faena hotel which is completely over-the-top in every way. And I must digress for a second to note that the service is truly fantastic. Before beginning dinner I visited the hotel ladies room which had a multitude of stalls and every garbage can was empty and all toilet paper folded into perfect points. Alinea standards and suddenly it somehow all made sense. I love how the dining room light fixture reflects in the majority of my photos as it perfectly sums up the experience and in a way was good preparation for Alinea 2.0. I was completely surprised by how local parts of this menu felt as I simply didn’t think there was time to reinvent too much. Of particular note, of the many versions of this menu’s beef dish that I have had, this was far and away my favorite. I truly hope this wasn’t my last BTE or hot potato/cold potato, but if so they went out in style. Very much looking forward to the next chapter.
Hot Dog – welcome to Chicago
Osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
Guiso De Maiz – chorizo, tomato, pumpkin seed
Snapper – bouillabaisse, miro june 2, 1973
Moqueca – tiger’s milk, coconut, citrus vapor
Crab – cucumber, vanilla, green curry
Pig Ear – tamarind, watermelon, szechuan
Siam Sunray – lemongrass, chili, soda
Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter
Duck – ginger, yogurt, gold
Rose – on roses
Beef – chimichurri, lettuce cores, red onion
Black Truffle – explosion, parmesan, cabbage
Bacon – butterscotch, apple, thyme
Balloon – helium, green apple
Chocolate – banana, fernet branca, dulce de leche (Photo truly not representative of how this looked when plated but we got to talking and parts started to melt before I was able to take a picture)
Where else to start a whirlwind one day tour of some of my favorite places in Chicago than at Au Cheval? I know I have had burger blinders on for years and have largely ignored the rest of the menu venturing only as far as the raw vegetable salad. A huge thank you to our server who told us that the beef cheek marmalade could be ordered as a side dish. How I have lived without this I don’t know. Next time I may thrown caution to the wind and add it to my burger.
beef cheek marmalade and toast
cheeseburger with egg and bacon
Some travel days call for a double lunch, and not only a double lunch but going big with the large seafood tower. After visiting Swift & Sons a few weeks prior I was looking forward to checking out its more casual inner restaurant. Fantastic hospitality. How we ate this all I don’t know.
Chicago Athletic Association
For years before the Chicago Athletic Association opened as a hotel, I looked at the amazing facade from across Michigan Avenue on many of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s walking tours. I just love everything they have done to maintain the original details and character and can’t help but walk through whenever I pass it. Unfortunately the cocktails in the grand lobby were far from fantastic, but ambience almost made up for it.
Sidecar and Negroni
As anybody who reads this blog likely knows, Aviary is my favorite place in Chicago. Not only have I met many people here who have become incredible friends, but I am always blown away by something new on the menu. I am always nervous bringing somebody new here, afraid that they won’t like it as much as I do or I have talked it up too much. But when the person gets it and is as excited about the experience as I always am, these are the best visits of all. Many, many pictures missing somehow.
This was an absolutely frigid day which made the Next Alps menu the perfect dinner. A very fun menu separated into six sections – the French farmhouse, the German beer hall, the warming yurt, the top of the Swiss mountain, intro to Italy and Austrian sweets. While there wasn’t necessarily one stand out dish for me as there has been on previous menus, anytime you can have raclette is special and this is definitely a menu that I would happily repeat.
gratin of Beaufort and trumpet crozets
tourton of salsify and apple
gateau de St. Genix avec du beurre de chevre
pork belly schnitzel with cherry and black walnut
pretzel, sausages and pickles
Raclette with potatoes, fermented mustard greens, chestnuts, and black truffles
Augustiner Brau Edelstoff lager
chocolate with black truffle and milk crisp
preserved summer berries with cognac and honey
smoked arctic char with cauliflower and juniper
goulash of beef and Barolo with sour cornbread
bitter green salad with pomegranate and fennel ice
pie spiced ice cream
apple strudel with clove and cinnamon
And as if this wasn’t enough in one day, missing from the photos are cocktails at Grace as well as post dinner in the Office.
I tend to have the highest expectations for the final menu of the year, likely as they always have the highest price tag. And while I try hard not to compare menus, this was overall one of my favorites. I don’t think that there was a stand out dish, but I genuinely really enjoyed every course which has not been the case on every menu. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of all of the wine but I assume much has changed by now (and there was a lot of it!). I’m always somewhat sad when a year ends after having these meals to look forward to for 10 months but on to 2016.
Char roe with rye and creme fraiche
brussels sprouts with beer and flax seed
caramelized onion with chicken skin and heart
prosciutto with honey and lemon
crostini with nasturtium and parmesan
Sturgeon with scallions and iterations of peanut
Consommé of barley with arugula and montasio
Squab with beets and fennel
Pear with blue cheese and fresh moss
Potato chips, caviar, popcorn
Lion’s mane, bison, truffled soil
Hamachi, ginger, fermented gooseberry
Snail, artichoke, eucalyptus aroma
Lamb, olive, valley wind
Molasses cake, cottage cheese, bay
Tea cookie, flan, caramelized white chocolate