Sunday, March 27, 2011

partyin partyin yeah fun fun fun fun

proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aimreason,or pattern:

Hall & Oates:

Riesling:

Juan Munoz, Stone Hill Center @ The Clark Museum, Williamstown MA. 2010:

Juan Munoz, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. 2007:

Somewhere in Chicago, October 2010:

Chorizo Taco:

TIKI: 



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Alinea Dinner Feb 11 2011

Once upon a time I picked up a copy of the Alinea cookbook. It was big and bold and beautiful...and above all else, inspiring. At the time, there was very little information on this sort of hyper-modern cuisine and it served almost as a textbook for me. I still reference it often for ratios, flavor pairings, techniques, etc.. Needless to say, this book had a big impact on the way I think about food. Ive also become very...let say aware (obsessed) with the restaurant and I have closely followed its menu changes, developments, etc.. Like just about everyone on this planet, I have a great deal of respect for Chef Grant Achatz and admire the way he is always trying to outdo himself and seemingly never at the expense of the food (unlike many other contemporary chefs). Its all about the food with Chef Achatz. 

Anyway, the meal I had at Alinea had kind of a profound impact on me, as it has on many people. That being said, I took nearly two months to do this write up because I needed time to reflect on it. Ive discussed it with many friends, mentors, chefs, etc.. and ultimately - while the meal was inspiring in some ways - even encouraging to a young chef - it wasn't what I wanted it to be. I left feeling depressed. Nearly every course was excellent but...the 'magic' wasn't there for me. Was this because I followed this restaurant so closely that there were no surprises for me? Was it because I held it in such high regard that my expectations were simply impossible to meet? I don't know. 

So a few things before diving in - since so much time has passed, and my notes are MIA, things will be short and to the point. Also, there is a no flash policy at Alinea, which is totally OK by me - but the lighting at my table wasn't exactly friendly so the photos are a bit MEH. I used the HDR feature in some of the photos as it adds a bit of overexposure to lighten the photos. Otherwise, as always, the photos are untouched. There were also courses that I did not photograph. Some were because I forgot, some were because they literally placed in my hand and I had to eat them immediately. Seeing as how this restaurant is #7 in the world - a quick google search will probably turn up pictures of any course. 

The menu:

So my first THREE courses were edible cocktails. No pictures. 1 - Lemon, luxardo bitter, luxardo amaro, grapefruit. 2 - Apple, laird's apply brandy, grenadine, thyme. 3 - Squash, cynar, carpano antica, flor de cana 7 year. All three were one bite and they were all nice. Favorite was the squash one which had a pleasing foie like texture. 

Course 4:
 Golden Trout Roe, dijon, rutabaga, grapefruit, mustard seed. This was not the best start to the meal. Some bites were good. Lots of bites were extremely bitter. Unbalanced and ultimately unenjoyable. Pairing: Cocktail of Pierre Peters Brut with Chrysanthemum liqueur and bitters. This was nice but really just tasted like a glass of Brut to me. 

Course 5:
 Shrimp in three parts, gumbo flavors. The three parts were 'something' dusted legs (gumbo..flavor?), pudding filled head, tail with..stuff. This made up for the previous course. The legs were crispy and flavorful...would make a GREAT bar snack. The head with pudding was nice, though not as good as the legs. And the tail..was essentially the best piece of shrimp I've ever had. Pairing: Emmerich Knoll Kellerberg Riesling Smaragd, Wachau, Austria 2007. A late harvest Riesling...dry.

Course 6: 
 Halibut, black flavors - black pepper, vanilla, lemon, coffee. Parsnip. - Fun to see these black elements served in a completely white dish. Overall very nice. The standout was how awesome the coffee flavor worked with Halibut. Pairing: Testamatta Cicala del Giglio Toscana 2009

Course 7:
Professional Photo:
My photos:


 Rabbit parfait, rillette, consomme. Enlarge the professional photo for a good map of everything. This was probably the second best dish of the night. Everything was REALLY good. Pairing: Vinyes de Coster Igneus Mas Priorat Spain 2007. 

Course 8:
Hot Potato Cold Potato (black truffle, butter). This is one of Chef Achatz most recognized dishes. The server who delivered it hovered as he instructed me how to eat it, not leaving until I did. No biggy, but thats why there is no photo. Google image of hot potato cold potato turned up 4 million results. Dish was good. Nice contrast of temperatures. Flavors were strong and well balanced (maybe a little salty).

Course 9:

 Short Rib, olive, red wine, blackberry...other stuff. This was the spring roll course where my table's centerpiece (a flag of sorts) became the wrap for a...roll. I never really thought much of this course, reading about it online for a while. Seemed a bit hokey to me. But it turned out to be really flavorful. I put a bit of all of the garnishes in the roll. The short ribs were awesome. Looks like a lot of stuff to wrap up but it wound up being about 2 bites (as most of the dishes at Alinea were). Pairing: Quinta de Vicosa Alentajo, Portugal 2005. 

Course 10:
 Smoked Hamachi, west indies spices, banana, ginger. Served on bay laurel. All I remember was the weird tingling sensation after eating...like after eating sour patch kids. Weird.

Course 11: 
 Canard a la Cussy. The Escoffier course. This was my favorite of the night, and got me SUPER excited about Next's opening Escoffier menu. As much as I doubt I'll make it into Next while this menu is being served...I really hope I get to try it! So good. Duck breast, duck confit, foie, cockscomb, red wine reduction. This course really made me wish I brought my copy of Escoffier to Chicago with me. Pairing: Maison Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2004

Course 12:
 Venison, cherry, cocoa nib, eucalyptus. Good but forgettable. The eucalyptus was VERY fragrant and nice. 

Course 13:
 Black truffle explosion. This is probably Chef Achat's most famous creation. It is a black truffle stock that is encapsulated then used as the filling for a ravioli, which is garnished with romaine and parmesan. People unanimously love this dish...and while it was great...it was over so quickly it was hard to..savor. The impression wasn't lasting? Its hard to say what I'm trying to say but...well yeah. It was good. 

Course 14:
Foie gras, macadamia, birch, orange. I had to think a bit about this one to remember it. It was served in a bowl with a round bottom so I couldn't set it down to take a picture. I remember the macadamia soup/broth to be the standout...it was really really good. 

Course 15: 
 Yuzu snow. I understand the cleansing of the palate thing but this was a total throwaway.

Course 16:
 Sweet potato, charred cedar, burbon, pecan. What this boils down to for me was sweet potato pie. Flavors of thanksgiving dessert. I don't know. While the whole thing was a bit sweet, it was really good. The burnt cedar added a smell that really transported me to fall/winter dinners/desserts at my aunts house in rural Connecticut. I've had lots of dishes at different restaurants that try to use aromatics or other tricks to add another element to dishes to try and help recall memories with foods...and this was by far the most successful one I have come across. It really hit the mark, and consequently was the most memorable dish of the evening. Pairing: Nittnaus Riesling Beerenauslese, Burgenland, Austria 2002. VERY sweet wine.  

 Course 17:
 Lemongrass, dragonfruit, finger lime, cucumber. Okay...too sweet though.

Course 18:
 Course 19:
 Course 20:
 These three were served at the same time. They were 18: Bacon, butterscotch, apple, thyme. 19: Nutella, bread, banana, chocolate. 20: Pineapple, ham, freeze dried cherry, clove. All three of these were throwaways for me. I guess if I had to pick one, the bacon was the best of the three. Pairing: AE Dor Pineau Francois 1, Pineau de Charentes

Course 21:


Chocoalte, blueberry, honey, peanut. This was the plated on the table by the chef course. It sucked. The mousse was the best part. Everything else was out of balance...too sweet...weird flavors..whatever. This course broke my heart. One of the reasons I so greatly admire Chef Achatz is that he seems to always take good food over theatrics. This course was all theatrics. I would much rather have something thoughtful put together in the kitchen than have a shell of a dessert plated in some spectacle at/on my table. I was really disappointed with this.  Pairing: Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles, Spain 1982

So in the end...there were highs and lows of the meal. I guess more highs than lows...but really the meal as a whole lacked the pizazz I was expecting/hoping for. Even with the good..everything was so microscopic...so short lived..that it lacked the lasting impact needed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sphincter says what?

Playing around with some webmaster tools lead me to read some search queries that lead to this site. Here are some interesting ones...in no particular order:

Fat kid eating cake
Fat kid eating chips
Fat kid eating chocolate
Fat kid eating chocolate cake
Fat kid eating ice cream
Fat kid eating pie
Fat kid with glasses

Im sensing a trend here....
Others worth mentioning:

Coconut man moon head and pea
Paper plate astronaut
Henry Hudson early life
Eclair pizza
Blood composition
Beef twinkie
Im not so good

Saturday, March 19, 2011

FRANKS N DAWGS N GUM PASTER FLOWERS

Had a hankering for hot dogs earlier this week but felt like something a little more than the standard. I had been meaning to try Hot Dougs for a while but decided that it was a bit far from where I was. I remembered hearing about a similar place with consistently shorter lines that was worth checking out...so I made my way over to Franks 'N' Dawgs on N Clybourn in the Lincoln Park/DePaul area. Once we were properly introduced to the menu by the owner, Alex Brunacci, we proceeded to order a ridiculous amount of food:

1 - Spoiled Brat - Bratwurst, Braised Red Cabbage, House Beer Mustard, Roasted Red Pepper Relish, & Parsley
2 - Truffle Mac'n'Cheese Dog - Bratwurst, Truffle Mac'n'Cheese, Parmesan, Brioche Bread Crumbs, & Thyme
3 - Brunch Dog - Pork Loin Breakfast Sausage, Cobb Smoked Bacon, Fried Egg, & Maple Mayo
4 - Triple Truffle Fries - Yukon Gold Waffle Cut Fries, Truffle Oil, Truffle Butter, Truffle Salt, & Freshly Chopped Herbs
5 - Lyonnaise Fries - Hand Cut Fries, Braised Pig Cheek, Arugula, Poached Egg, & Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette
6 - Cloe Slaw - With Raisins & Caraway

Heres the spoiled Brat & the Slaw:

The Truffle Mac'n'Cheese, Lyonnaise Fries, Brunch Dog, & Truffle Fries:

Close up of the Brunch Dog:

And the Lyonnaise fries:

& the Mac'n'Cheese Dog:

So everything was super extravagant and really awesome. The buns are really something else...apparently they are made daily. I know its a bit silly to wax on about a hot dog bun but these were seriously solid. Each hot dog was really good. A fried egg on a sausage? YES. Truffle Mac & Cheese on a hot dog? Why didn't I think of this? So good. The Lyonnaise fries were a bit soupy, which is okay. They were good but a bit salty. We did finish everything. And also had a couple peanut butter and jelly macarons from Vanille (sold at Franks N Dawgs). It was awesome. Can't wait to go back.

This past week we worked on gum paste flowers. Here are some roses:

And some toppers...with roses, carnations, daisies, 'blossoms', and foliage:

Lilies and Orchids:

Annnd thats it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alaska 2008

So southern Alaska is a LOT like upstate New York, except for the snow capped mountains, ice bergs, and glaciers. Hah. The towns are very touristy and like what you would see on boardwalks or in towns like Lake George.

Tracy Arm Fjord

Ketchikan

Somewhere..?

I think this was just outside Juneau


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Noodles by takashi


Working a CE class at school this week means Ive been grabbing lunch downtown. Had this shoyu ramen which was alright. I definitely liked the udon at takashi better...I know these are two different things but they're similar enough to compare. The broth lacked a bit of depth, but the garnishes (bamboo, Bok Choy, fishcake, egg, pork, other stuff) and noodles were nice. For the loop I'd say this was a solid.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SCHOOL

Mango Mousse Cake:

Almond dacquoise, apricots, mango mousse.


Uncle Hansi's Cake:

Pate sucree (sugar cookie..ish), rum soaked raisins, chocolate chips and a pound cake like cake. All brushed with a rum fondant. I love this thing. Heres what it looked like before it was cut:


We started tarts today and made what was honestly the best fruit tart I've ever had. Never been crazy about baked fruit tarts for whatever reason but this was GOOD. Crust so flaky it barley stayed together, filling was mission figs & sour cherries with almond cream. I ate the whole thing before I could get a picture. Sucks for you! Should be a fun unit!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

moar


In an attempt to keep content on this thing updated regularly Im going to start randomly posting pictures that have been lost in the bowels of my computer. It'll be fun, I swear.

A few years ago I had a phone with a photo stitching feature. I found that taking panoramas of peoples heads was...fun:

(as with all pictures on this blog, click to enlarge!)