Chicago – 1/28/17 – Alinea Kitchen Table

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

cornbread, nori

cider, orange, maple

yuzu

parmesan, pea, jamon iberico


kuzu, pompano, shellfish

pork belly, curry, banana

rosemary, hamachi, kombu

blueberry, lapsang souchong, maitake


mastic, concord

*foie

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

Chicago – 9/2/16 – Alinea

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

Miami – 2/20/16 – Blackbrick Chinese & Alinea Miami

Blackbrick Chinese
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)

Chicago – 10/4/15 – Next Terroir

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

Chicago – 10/3/15 – Nico Osteria, Green River & Alinea

Nico Osteria
I’m pretty sure I swore I’d stop blogging about my trips to Nico because there have been way too many.  But I just can’t help it.  Still my favorite brunch in Chicago with consistently fantastic crudo, pasta and cocktails.  And it is always lovely to see familiar faces.


Rock fish crudo
 Rigatoni with a northern ragu
 Gem lettuce, caper berries, fig-balsamic vinaigrette, parmesan
 Salumi & Cheese – La Quercia ham, mortadella, milano salami, goat cheese

Green River
This was only a brief stop for pre-dinner cocktails which of course were fabulous.  More comments on our lunch two days later in a future post.  

Alinea
I’m fairly certain that I’ve been to Alinea more times than any other restaurant.  First world problems my brother would say.  I suppose I am fortunate but also need to stay home long enough to become a regular anywhere in NYC.   Still my favorite restaurant in the US and I can’t imagine that anything will knock off black truffle explosion as the best bite of all time.  On every visit I’m completely blown away by something and wonder how they will top it the next time, but they always do.  This meal Chef Davies’ trout dish was my favorite hands down.  I can’t wait to see what Alinea 2.0 has in store.

Peach – basil, murray river salt
 Bocadillo – bread, jamon iberico, manchego
Gilda – guindilla de ibarra, anchovy, olive
Jamon iberico – cantaloupe, salt, espelette
Tortilla – potato, onion, egg
Patatas Bravas – paprika, chile, garlic
 Strawberry – tomato, pumpernickel, burratta
 Char Roe – english pea, olive oil, chamomile
 Brook Trout – uchiki kuri squash, thai banana, blis
 Graffiti – matsutake, maitake, parsley

Unagi – pickled plum, white sesame

Corn – uni, nori, togarashi

Totoro Kombu – hamachi, ice fish cracker

Percebes – smoke, seawater, ash

Chicken – shishito, lily, kombu
 Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter
 Wagyu – matsutake, ginger, black garlic

Black Truffle – explosion, romaine, parmesan

Olive Cake – extra virgin olive oil, black pepper
  
Lamb – caper leaf, grapes, olives

Bacon – butterscotch, thyme, black pepper
 Parsnip – honey truffle, vanilla, orange
Balloon – helium, green apple (missing a photo)
Tropical Fruit – rum, vanilla, kaffir lime

Chicago – 2/15/15 – Next : Bistro

2015 is certainly off to a good start for Next.  I was super excited about this menu when it was first announced.  As I started seeing photos pop-up online from my many friends who were able to get there before me I knew I was going to love it.  I think the menu substitutions were a super smart idea from the restaurant’s perspective.  There are very few Next menus that I have done more that once but I left this meal already trying to figure out when I could return because there were too many dishes I desperately want to try.  The beef tenderloin was amazing….four of my favorite components on one plate is hard to beat.  And I very much enjoyed the beverage pairings for this menu…perhaps next time I can just have a dish of the armangac soaked prunes please??

Ceuf a la Beran (chicken custard with crispy chicken skin and chives)

Soupe de Poireaux et Pomme de Terre de Jules Gouffe (jules gouffe’s potato and leek soup)

Foie Gras Au Torchon (foie gras with brioche toast points, huckleberry, murray river salt, and black pepper)

Aile de Raie Meuniere avec des Capres et des Choux de Bruxelles (skate wing with capers, brown butter, lemon, and brussels sprouts)

Tarte a l’Oignon Caramelisee avec Gruyere et des Anchois (caramelized onion tart with gruyere and anchovies)

Tournedos Rossini aver use Puree de Pommes de Terre (beef tenderloin with foie gras, black truffle, and potato puree)

Escargots de Bourgogne avec du Pain et du Beurre Maitre d’Hotel (burgundy snails and herbed butter topped with bread)

Champignons Sauvages (wild mushrooms)

Prune Armangac, Punt E Mes, Angostura

Pear brandy, Cocchi Rosa, Grapefruit

Patisserie du Jour

Assiette de Fromage

The Betty

A huge thank you to the consummate gentleman John Schafer for escorting us down the street to the Betty in our inappropriate heels on extremely snowy and icy sidewalks.   Very big shoes to fill at Next!  I love all of the new additions to the West Loop.  Love the space and the vibe at the Betty and my drink was quite good.  Looking forward to going back!

Life During War Time – genever, green tea syrup, aperol, fennel bitters, bitter lemon soda