I'm staging at Alinea this week.
What is a stage? A stage is a professional courtesy and privilege in which a chef allows you into a kitchen to learn - and in the best cases exchange ideas with staff.
What is Alinea? The restaurant of chef/owner Grant Achatz in Chicago - and inarguably one of the most important gastronomic epicenters in the world today.
When asked what he calls their cuisine, co-owner Nick Kokonas says he likes Jeffrey Steingarten's "hypermodern" descriptor - but he'd previously used "exploratory" - but generally eschews a label.
Some of the striking tastes I had last night during service were the fish opah done as bacon; actual bacon itself - Nueske's from Wisconsin - sliced transparently thin and cooked shatteringly crisp in a hot dehydrator.
From pastry chef Alex Stupak came a smooth pumpkin custard set with gellan on a hidden pate sablee, filled with liquid coconut cream; and and a dried caramel powder made with tapioca maltodextrin that turns chewy in the mouth.
Family meal was green salad with vinaigrette; baked potatoes with sour cream, chives, bacon, and a bacon and eggs mayo; blanched broccoli; carrot cake with cream cheese frosting; and a huge tub of iced coffee. I also brought a box of assorted Chinese pastry snacks from Richwell Market in Chinatown - including pastry-wrapped thousand-year-old egg.
Above you see honeycombs on wooden pedastels. They are placed on the table for diners to observe during dinner. They are the only table adornments. Previously a pierced and sliced hand of ginger was used similarly. With the honeycombs, for the opah course the metal sleeve is placed over the honeycomb and then pressed until honey drizzles out on to the plate. A mesh screen filters the honey from the comb and a sliding metal plate stops the flow. These serving pieces are one of the many collaborations between the chef and industrial designer Martin Kastner.
If you have any questions please post in comments.
1723 North Halsted
Chicago, Illinois 60614