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

Napa – 9/7/16 – Meadowood

I had no idea that a 3 Michelin star restaurant could be so polarizing.  I dined at Meadowood  in close proximity to several friends whose opinions I trust and had most to all of the same dishes I had.  They loved it, yet I was completely disappointed.  I utterly disliked many of the dishes and the menu as a whole.  To start with the positives, the eggplant foster was absolutely amazing.  And the squab and pasta courses I wished were 3 times as large.  But the menu overall  was just too many soft textures with no contrast.  A few things like this may have been fine, but far too many dishes could have qualified as baby food.  Teeth not necessary.  The braised cucumber in a damp rye is definitely the worst bread course I have had this year.  I suppose I just didn’t get it but nothing about this was a good idea.  Fermented squash juice squeezed over halibut sounded somewhat awful but was just completely flavorless.  And broth has to be the worst trend of the past few years.  I was so excited when lamb arrived but it was so fatty that I couldn’t find one decent bite of meat.  Not even a final bite of babka could save this dinner.  I wanted to love it and I will note that service was impeccable but I guess its just not for me.


okra flower

oyster okra seed caviar

eel smoked over cabernet staves beef tongue

braised cucumber rye dried albacore

tomato clam caviar

roasted gwen avocado walnut oil

sunflower pasta spot prawn chanterelle

halibut fermented squash

steamed potato cod purslane brandade

coal seared squab berries mustard

lamb broth


lamb plum pestled marigold

buffalo milk yogurt cultured with rose overripe melon

eggplant foster

candied peaches

chocolate babka

Napa – 9/6/16 – The French Laundry

With apologies to my still single friends and family, I fear that any wedding I attend in the future will be a disappointment. This was exactly what I would want for my own wedding, but since it has already been done I suppose I will have to stick to my Carrie Bradshaw city hall plan. Everything about this day was completely perfect from the weather to the ceremony in the courtyard, to the salmon cornets that I sadly have no photos of.  And of course being lucky enough to have such amazing friends who let me be a part of their wedding party.  While I had high expectations, serving an entire restaurant at once is challenging and I anticipated some service hiccups. However I could not have been more impressed. I would never have known that this was a wedding and not just a regular dinner or lunch service. Service was just completely impeccable. The food certainly was as well, so much so that I still cannot pick my favorite course. The classics are classics for a reason. Oysters and pearls, the hen egg custard and coffee & donuts will never ever get old. The others were equally as good.  And when was the last time anybody had a memorable wedding cake?  After two decades TFL is as good as ever and is further evidence that so many ‘best’ restaurant lists are pretty useless.

“Oysters and Pearls”
“Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar

Hen Egg Custard
with a ragout of Perigord truffles

Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras “Rillette”
piedmont hazelnut “Genoise,” Yountville figs, watercress and concord grape jelly


Extra Virgin Olive Oil Poached Gulf Coast Cobia
stewed garden squash, fino verde basil, nicoise olives and french vermouth

“Beets and Leeks”
Alaskan king crab, slow roasted beets, horseradish scented leek “mousseline” and garden sorrel

Cornbread Stuffed Thomas Farm Squab
brentwood corn, hominy, applewood smoked bacon, black winter truffle and “sauce mignonette”


Charcoal Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte de Boeuf”
roasted garden eggplant, lobster mushrooms, ginger scented broccoli pure, crispy barley and miso “hollandaise”

“Manchego”
Schmitt family farm apples, marcona almonds and buttered shortbread

Lemon Coconut Cake
K&J Orchards peaches and nectarine sorbet


Coffee and Donuts