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#1
Posted November 17th 2007, 7:29am
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 . . .

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Breakfast Radish & Horseradish Knot
This tasty bread had a wonderful, almost bagel-like texture.


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Black Truffle Explosion . . . romaine, parmesan
If chef Achatz has a signature dish, this is it. Glorious!


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Beef Heart . . . fig, long peppercorn, celery root
Scrumptious beef heart, in deconstructed, Asian-style-salad form.


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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!


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Roasted Quince . . . foie gras, candied fennel, sweet spices
Here, a 'cover' is crafted from foie gras fat . . .


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Warm, roasted-quince juice is poured over the top . . .


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After a short while, it begins to melt through the foie fat . . .


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and all the elements combine into an intensely rich broth, packed with chunks of foie gras and citrus accents.


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Cranberry . . . frozen and chewy, lemon, parsley
Delightful on the palate . . . prepping it for subsequent courses.


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Pineapple . . . bacon powder, black pepper
Another bridge bite, introducing crisp pineapple and smokey notes.


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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.


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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.


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Tagliatelle . . . white truffles, parmesano reggiano
White truffles are shaved over the pasta at the table.


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White truffles in November. Perfect.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Red Pepper Bread
Partial Milk and Honey roll on the left; both of these bread pairings were terrific.


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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.


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Maytag Blue . . . ginger, pear, tarragon
Delectable cheese "course" which made my mouth tingle.


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Transparency . . . of raspberry, rose petal, yogurt
Loved this "essence" of raspberry. The yogurt powder and candied rose petals were wonderful accents.


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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 . . .


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Next, Guava soda is also poured onto the plate . . .


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It all adds up to a dramatic, delicious and refreshing dessert.


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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.


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No, it didn't fall on the carpet! :P


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Chocolate . . . passionfruit, lemongrass, soy
70% chocolate and passionfruit are combined with salty soy, which highlights the chocolate wonderfully.


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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!

=R=

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Last edited by ronnie_suburban on May 23rd 2008, 10:24pm, edited 3 times in total.
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#2
Posted November 17th 2007, 8:24am
Ronnie,

Stunningly beautiful pictures, almost dreamlike; unbelievable.

Does the Maytag Blue actually contain the cheese of the same name, or is that a visual “joke” of some kind. I tend to think the latter (as the cheese itself is now somewhat outré and so unlikely to be used -- or maybe that's part of the humor). And on the subject of “jokes” (and I use that term in the most respectful way), the caramelized onion roll (like the other breads) almost looks “normal,” but I got to believe something surprising was inside…or was it?

Actually, many dishes here are funny (the foraged waygu, the pork belly on a pedestal, the little bean solar system), and looking at them I realized that the Alinean vision is in many ways comic.

Seems like Achatz is experimenting with offal (sweetbreads, heart); I don’t recall such items being on the menu before, and in a way it’s also funny that such “lowly” foods should be given such ethereal presentations.

Thanks for helping start my day with a larf.
_______________________________________

“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#3
Posted November 17th 2007, 9:14am
Seems like Achatz is experimenting with offal (sweetbreads, heart); I don’t recall such items being on the menu before, and in a way it’s also funny that such “lowly” foods should be given such ethereal presentations.


There's a very memorable section in The Soul of a Chef where Ruhlman talks about Keller using offal. I wonder if Achatz is taking some cues from that usage/time period, or if maybe it's just his turn to try organ meats.

Either way, I know what's going on my Xmas list this year, but I don't know if I've been nice enough for this. Amazing report, Ronnie.
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#4
Posted November 17th 2007, 9:41am
Stunning Ronnie, simply stunning.
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#5
Posted November 17th 2007, 10:01am
You had mentioned the seasonal aspects to some of the courses but I found it curious that some courses featured ingredients that clearly are not in season?
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#6
Posted November 17th 2007, 10:07am
mkiss wrote:You had mentioned the seasonal aspects to some of the courses but I found it curious that some courses featured ingredients that clearly are not in season?


Burning leaves, cedar branches, toasted hay all seem seasonal, but it would get boring, don't you think, if Achatz pulled the autumnal theme through every dish?
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“We all have to stand before the kitchen gods.” Chef Jacob Sahaya Kumar Aruni
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#7
Posted November 17th 2007, 11:10am
Ronnie,

Fantastic pictures as always. Sounds as if you liked the meal? :lol: All that it did for me was make me very, very hungry.
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#8
Posted November 17th 2007, 12:05pm
David Hammond wrote:
mkiss wrote:You had mentioned the seasonal aspects to some of the courses but I found it curious that some courses featured ingredients that clearly are not in season?


Burning leaves, cedar branches, toasted hay all seem seasonal, but it would get boring, don't you think, if Achatz pulled the autumnal theme through every dish?

Yeah, it was a theme that ran throughout the entire meal, which was supported by many elements, such as those mentioned above by Mr. Hammond, as well as ingredients like quince, parsnip, squash, nutmeg, pumpkin, navy bean, white truffle, offal, etc. In fact, there were elements of autumn in all but a few of the dishes we enjoyed.

In many of today's top kitchens, ingredients are also sourced globally. That allows chefs to routinely reach out to various, trusted sources around the world in order to complete their menus. So while not every ingredient is seasonal, the predominant theme is plain to see.

David, as for the Maytag Blue, it is actually used in the dish. It's the thin white layer underneath the translucent disc on top. Also, the breads were not filled with any surprises but they were all very intensely flavored. They do look fairly conventional but their appearance is a bit deceptive.

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#9
Posted November 17th 2007, 5:20pm
Ronnie, you should teach a class in on-location food photography. Your photos invariably look better than what comes out of professional studios under controlled conditions.
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#10
Posted November 17th 2007, 9:59pm
Amazing!
It's hard for me to comprehend how someone can create these dishes.
Thanks for the report!
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#11
Posted November 17th 2007, 11:19pm
Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments about the pictures. Alinea's food is genuinely beautiful. I just brought the camera and pushed the button. The kitchen did the rest.

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#12
Posted November 19th 2007, 12:35am
The composition and lighting of your photos are amazing - what type of camera and flash do you use? Thanks for sharing! Did the restaurant mind your taking so many pictures?
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luvtoeat
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#13
Posted November 19th 2007, 12:42am
luvtoeat wrote:The composition and lighting of your photos are amazing - what type of camera and flash do you use? Thanks for sharing! Did the restaurant mind your taking so many pictures?


I'll be surprised Ronnie used any flash. Most of those images seem done in natural light. I do agree those are fabulous photos.

I was at Alinea a few months ago. In the dining room where I was seated, there were two tables with cameras. Nobody used flash at either table.

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#14
Posted November 19th 2007, 12:55am
Cathy2 wrote:I'll be surprised Ronnie used any flash. Most of those images seem done in natural light. I do agree those are fabulous photos.


You're right - it looks like no flash was used in these photos, but just wondering what equipment Ronnie uses, camera, lens, flash. Thanks!
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luvtoeat
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#15
Posted November 19th 2007, 9:41am
Ron - these are gorgeous. Are we going to get Anthony's POV too? I see he had his big gun out too. ;)

Grant's work is more breathtaking than ever. If his medium were not food there would be absolutely NO question that he is one of the great artists working today.

Were the white truffles shaved over *just* pasta - nothing else?

Thanks so much again.
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#16
Posted November 19th 2007, 10:44am
luvtoeat wrote:
Cathy2 wrote:I'll be surprised Ronnie used any flash. Most of those images seem done in natural light. I do agree those are fabulous photos.


You're right - it looks like no flash was used in these photos, but just wondering what equipment Ronnie uses, camera, lens, flash. Thanks!

Thanks again, for the kind comments. I use a Canon 20-D with a 17-85 mm lens...no flash. Alinea is so accomodating, they'd probably find a way to allow flash in the dining room if a patron asked but I try to never use flash. Not only is it potentially disruptive to the other diners in the room but it doesn't produce the best images, anyway.

Louisa Chu wrote:Ron - these are gorgeous. Are we going to get Anthony's POV too? I see he had his big gun out too. ;)

Grant's work is more breathtaking than ever. If his medium were not food there would be absolutely NO question that he is one of the great artists working today.

Were the white truffles shaved over *just* pasta - nothing else?

Thanks so much again.

I'm not sure about Anthony's images. He jumped on a plane to France for 2 weeks the morning after our meal, so it'll be a while before they appear, in either case. He certainly has a better eye than I do and he was sitting on the brighter side of the table, so I hope he does post them because they should be superior to mine.

As for the truffles . . . yes, white were shaved just on the pasta and then the black truffles appeared in the Explosion. In the past, I've managed to weasel additional truffle courses out of the kitchen at Alinea by claiming it was for "research." This time I decided not to play that card. :wink:

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#17
Posted November 19th 2007, 12:11pm
What was the pineapple course?
It's hard to get a sense of scale
in that picture. Looks like a
couple cellophane-wrapped
packets on an ironing board.
:lol:
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#18
Posted November 19th 2007, 2:13pm
SCUBAchef wrote:What was the pineapple course?
It's hard to get a sense of scale
in that picture. Looks like a
couple cellophane-wrapped
packets on an ironing board.
:lol:

That course consists of melt-in-your-mouth pineapple "paper" wrapped around bacon powder, seasoned with black pepper. It's a nifty and delicious little bite. The server presents them on that thin white board and, in theory, each diner takes one of them. :wink:

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
Avatar

#19
Posted November 19th 2007, 2:21pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:
SCUBAchef wrote:What was the pineapple course?
It's hard to get a sense of scale
in that picture. Looks like a
couple cellophane-wrapped
packets on an ironing board.
:lol:

That course consists of melt-in-your-mouth pineapple "paper" wrapped around bacon powder, seasoned with black pepper. It's a nifty and delicious little bite. The server presents them on that thin white board and, in theory, each diner takes one of them. :wink:

=R=



It is an intense wonderful flavor. I remember that bite swirling in my mouth for several minutes, basically until the next course arrived.
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#20
Posted November 19th 2007, 2:29pm
What's next...?

An Array of Porcine Preparations
injected between your "little piggies"?

An Exploration of Chicharones
in a transdermal patch?
:lol:
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#21
Posted November 19th 2007, 2:44pm
SCUBAchef wrote:What's next...?

An Array of Porcine Preparations
injected between your "little piggies"?

An Exploration of Chicharones
in a transdermal patch?
:lol:

I've always hoped for some sort of culinary slingshot, which would deliver food, launched from the kitchen, directly into my mouth. :lol:

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#22
Posted November 19th 2007, 3:11pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:I've always hoped for some sort of culinary slingshot, which would deliver food, launched from the kitchen, directly into my mouth. :lol:
Hmm...
Maybe an elevated kitchen
and zip-lines attached to each
customer by a lip-ring:
"The Ultimate Food-Runner".
:lol:
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#23
Posted November 19th 2007, 3:51pm
How about personal face masks with tubes leading to the kitchen through which the diner is sent a stream of aerosolized food essences. Each diner could have a pair of lcd goggles displaying corresponding 3d images of the dishes they are tasting.
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#24
Posted November 19th 2007, 4:09pm
Seriously amazing pics, Ron! Thanks for sharing.

d4v3 wrote:How about personal face masks with tubes leading to the kitchen through which the diner is sent a stream of aerosolized food essences. Each diner could have a pair of lcd goggles displaying corresponding 3d images of the dishes they are tasting.


:) Easily approximated at home, especially in winter when windows are shut. Lots of (good) smells from the kitchen and LTHforum on my computer screen...
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#25
Posted November 19th 2007, 4:45pm
Ronnie - What lovely memories your photos bring to mind! We enjoyed many of these dishes during our visit to Alinea in October. Also, I am glad to hear that Grant is doing well.
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#26
Posted November 19th 2007, 5:18pm
NancyEsq wrote:Ronnie - What lovely memories your photos bring to mind! We enjoyed many of these dishes during our visit to Alinea in October. Also, I am glad to hear that Grant is doing well.

Yeah, the man's an inspriration, to say the very least.

=R=
_______________________________________

"When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak. But as you get older, you have to move onto the cheaper cuts..." --M. Gustave

I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider

Twitter: ronniesuburban
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#27
Posted November 19th 2007, 8:16pm
Wow, wow, wow! Your photos are fantastic! It brings back great memories. That pumpkin pie course...I want that NOW.
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#28
Posted November 20th 2007, 3:19am
Cool! You should have included a dime in the photos for scale, LOL!!!
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#29
Posted November 20th 2007, 5:09am
RiverWester wrote:Cool! You should have included a dime in the photos for scale, LOL!!!


Well, you know Ronnie likes to cut corners. :wink:
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Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#30
Posted November 27th 2007, 2:50pm
ronnie_suburban wrote:
Louisa Chu wrote:Ron - these are gorgeous. Are we going to get Anthony's POV too? I see he had his big gun out too. ;)

I'm not sure about Anthony's images. He jumped on a plane to France for 2 weeks the morning after our meal, so it'll be a while before they appear, in either case. He certainly has a better eye than I do and he was sitting on the brighter side of the table, so I hope he does post them because they should be superior to mine.

Great pictures Ron. Thanks for sharing. The menu looks very appealing. Though I have to agree with Louisa, I'm very interested to see YT's photos. Hope he has fun in France and all, but his Alinea pics are always a great deal of fun to look at.
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