I had the great pleasure to experience Alinea's newest menu this past Wednesday. Chef Achatz was in the house, intense as ever, after a couple weeks off for treatment. It's been said that 'half of cooking is thinking about cooking' and it was abundantly clear that chef Achatz had had some time to 'think about cooking' during his absence from the restaurant. The meal we enjoyed was the most tightly composed progression I've experienced in my many trips to Alinea. The delicious courses delighted our senses, evoked unforeseen emotions and captured the essence of the season masterfully.
What follows are some images I captured at our meal, with a few comments . . .
Duck . . . butternut squash, banana, Thai flavors
I loved this delectable and complex bite. The duck was intensely flavorful with a satisfying and surprising density. The butternut squash soup in the bowl was luscious and ultra-buttery.
Rainbow Trout . . . cucumber, kombu, coriander
It was unusual that we were already on 'knife and fork' with course #2. It was an exciting indication of the intensity that was to follow.
Yuba . . . shrimp, miso, togarashi
I loved this crispy yuba stick with the succulent shrimp wrapped around it. It's being held in place in its stand by a delicious miso mayonnaise.
Beans . . . many garnishes, pillow of nutmeg air
It's actually navy bean puree, paired with a bunch of delicious accompaniments. The puree was deceptively light and pairing little bites of it with each of the other elements on the plate was great fun; a fantastic tasting game on a plate.
Caramelized Onion Roll
Bread service at Alinea has evolved into something truly distinctive and unique. During our meal, we were served 4 different baked-in-house breads, which were all delicious and successfully highlighted the courses with which they were served.
Sweetbread . . . cauliflower, burnt bread, toasted hay
A great combination of flavors; especially the roasted cauliflower . . . the little black dots are actually dollups of burnt-bread pudding.
Breakfast Radish & Horseradish Knot
This tasty bread had a wonderful, almost bagel-like texture.
Black Truffle Explosion . . . romaine, parmesan
If chef Achatz has a signature dish, this is it. Glorious!
Beef Heart . . . fig, long peppercorn, celery root
Scrumptious beef heart, in deconstructed, Asian-style-salad form.
Pork Belly . . . smoked paprika, polenta, pickled vegetables
Barbecue in a bite. The belly, smoked paprika and tiny nuggets of pickled vegetables arrived in orderly fashion on the palate and their distinctive notes faded slowly, just as they were delivered, one after another. Fantastic!
Roasted Quince . . . foie gras, candied fennel, sweet spices
Here, a 'cover' is crafted from foie gras fat . . .
Warm, roasted-quince juice is poured over the top . . .
After a short while, it begins to melt through the foie fat . . .
and all the elements combine into an intensely rich broth, packed with chunks of foie gras and citrus accents.
Cranberry . . . frozen and chewy, lemon, parsley
Delightful on the palate . . . prepping it for subsequent courses.
Pineapple . . . bacon powder, black pepper
Another bridge bite, introducing crisp pineapple and smokey notes.
Brook Trout Roe . . . corn, Blis maple syrup
The roe and the syrup are both from Blis in Michigan. A fantastic pairing. I loved the way the maple and corn married up and accompanied the roe.
Apple Cider . . . walnut milk, cinnamon, vegetable ash
A variation on a dish that's been around for a while. This time around it was mostly sweet, which I appreciated, given its position in the progression.
Tagliatelle . . . white truffles, parmesano reggiano
White truffles are shaved over the pasta at the table.
White truffles in November. Perfect.
Scallop . . . parsnip, orange, chamomile vapor
Here the outside bowl is filled with hot water, which causes the chamomile vapors to rise. The scallop was perfectly cooked and the savory custard which surrounded it was simply delicious.
Hot Potato, Cold Potato . . . black truffle, butter
Another Achatz signature dish, which never gets old. At its core, it's perfectly distilled comfort food in component form.
Kuroge Wagyu . . . matsutake, cedar branch aroma
Tender wagyu beef capped with a delectable matsutake pudding. I loved the "foraging" aspect of this dish, which required a bit of hunting under the leaves to find the bite.
Red Pepper Bread
Partial Milk and Honey roll on the left; both of these bread pairings were terrific.
Lamb . . . in cubism
Here, delicious and tender lamb in 2 forms sits atop a gorgeous configuration of 9 different sauces. Atop the medallion at the back of the plate, elements of each of the sauces are delicately arranged. It was fun tasting the sauces and trying to identify them, although even with the provided clues, I was only 6/9.
Maytag Blue . . . ginger, pear, tarragon
Delectable cheese "course" which made my mouth tingle.
Transparency . . . of raspberry, rose petal, yogurt
Loved this "essence" of raspberry. The yogurt powder and candied rose petals were wonderful accents.
Guava . . . avocado, brie, key lime juice
Here, Key limes, which served as our 'centerpiece' for most of the meal, are finally incorporated into a course, as they are squeezed over the dessert . . .
Next, Guava soda is also poured onto the plate . . .
It all adds up to a dramatic, delicious and refreshing dessert.
Licorice Cake . . . muscovado sugar, orange, hyssop
The antenna, a service piece which goes all the way back to Trio, is used to deliver this complex and chewy bite.
No, it didn't fall on the carpet!
Chocolate . . . passionfruit, lemongrass, soy
70% chocolate and passionfruit are combined with salty soy, which highlights the chocolate wonderfully.
Pumpkin . . . brown sugar, pie dough, burning leaves
Talk about seasonal . . . elements of pumpkin pie are combined, dipped in batter and deep fried into one delicious bite, which is accompanied by the take-you-back aroma of burning leaves. Awesome!
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