Second Thoughts on Alinea

February 05 2007 - 1:01 PM

These past two weeks have been a gastric-dream. It definitely would mark the end of my New Year’s Resolution had it anything to do with diet. Between December and January I have indulged in enough meals to go toe-to-toe with the fromager at Cityzen in D.C. who apparently toured Chicago’s acclaimed restaurants- from Alinea to Trotter’s to Tru in about 3 days. What’s funny is that some real special flavors, at least as far as I can tell in Chicago, live in the smaller out of the way places where, on that budget, you could eat for months instead of one night. That is where you want to be. That takes some work beyond reading Gourmet’s top whatever lists…

But what makes any gourmet (Gourmet or otherwise) food tour interesting is that there becomes a context that’s 90% of the time otherwise missing. That’s why Alinea really bothered me and I wasn’t sure why. It was out of context or I was out of context. It wasn’t the price and it wasn’t that I was full or not full. But after several wonderful meals out I think I am beginning to understand Alinea and what makes it so special.

I was in the U.K. last week and ate at La Noisette. The chef, Bjorn
van der Horst, compiled a great tasting menu. In D.C. I had a great
dinner at Citronelle and then what might be the best-tasting tasting
menu courtesy of Eric Ziebold at Cityzen. While I was mulling over the
cheese course I realized that I understood Alinea. Where I really
enjoyed Cityzen, that experience helped me enjoy Alinea.

I saw the menu at Citizen and then, course by course, the food came
and the explanation was given. I got it. Rabbit consome with ham hock
and foie gras mousse and carrot and celery had the taste, more or less (definitely more – it was mind-numbing),
that I expected. It was wonderful. I read about it and had a sensory
reaction. I can explain it to you and you kind of can get the flavor of
it. It made me hungry. Alinea didn’t make me hungry so much as excited.
I had very little idea what to expect flavorwise and I have a very hard time explaining it having eaten it.

I could eat 100
fancy dinners and I could have courses like that Rabbit
Consome but I would likely never have the flavor experiences like the ones
at Alinea.

This being said I feel even more strongly about where I was at before. Having a second
taste at Alinea. Alinea is unusual but good unusual. The flavor is as
strong as the presentation. You’ll never have that flavor again. Ask for another taste!

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