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 – 9/16/16 – Smyth

The dining room at Smyth is one of my favorites of the year.  Perfectly informal is the best description that I can come up.  It is inviting in the same way Noma felt to me, as if you are at a dinner party hosted by a friend with an amazing house and decorator.  The highlights for me were the brioche donut of sorts fried in beef fat (extras should be offered for a supplement…please?) and the outstanding dessert of egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with yogurt meringue.  I’m looking forward to checking out the Loyalist downstairs later this month!

The farm potato

Tomato ice, seaweed, oyster

Smoked & dried beet with scallop

A salad of duck and herbs with roasted squid

Dungeness crab & foie gras with scrambled kani miso

Aged carrot roasted

beef and brioche

Squab, pineapple sage, grapes and peas

Slow cooked saddle of lamb with kelp marmite

Milk chocolate, huckleberries, and preserved shiitake mushroom

Sage honey tart

Egg yolk soaked in salted licorice with yogurt meringue

Frozen tomato mousse, noyaux, and spicy flowers

Chicago – 9/15/16 – Au Cheval and Roister

Au Cheval
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.

Roister
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

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

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 – 12/6/2014 – 42 grams and the Office

42 grams
I was very fortunate to have made this reservation prior to the release of the 2015 Michelin Guide. Once again I had a truly fantastic experience at 42 grams and a huge congratulations to Jake and Alexa on their 2 stars. So well deserved! I can’t wait for the next menu.

Crispy snacks – pecorino crisp, Vidalia onion parchment, fish-n-chip

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Perky toe crab – tomatillo, avocado, jicama, toastada, espelette pepper

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Mojama de Atun – frozen sweet pea, seabuckthorn, apricot kernel, oxalis

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Flavors of the Sea – red spot prawn, smoked roe, caviar, phytoplankton, sea vegetables

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Green Curry – white sturgeon, jasmine rice, chicken skin, cashew

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Skuna Bay Salmon – tea smoked with fallen pine, matsutake mushroom, spent grain, dash

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Cultured Barley Porridge – pig heart, jowl, enoki, grains, grapefruit, mugolio

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Veal Sweetbread – foie gras, black truffle, ash-baked eggplant, ground cherry

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A5 Miyazaki Wagyu – bone marrow, beef tendon, umeboshi, baby boo choy

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Matcha Green Tea – sesame, yuzu

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Tart – kalamansi, oxalis blossom, honey

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Sweet – candle, tamarind, brown butter, roasted banana, hazelnut, bubblegum hyssop

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Coffee

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The Office
As usual amazing off menu drinks by the lovely Julia Momose and more glassware that I covet. And I somehow managed to make room for a Wagyu tartare nightcap.

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