Sorry for the long absence folks! Let's get back to Alinea, the greatest meal I've ever had!
Where were we? Oh yes, I remember! The small pot over the fire....
The thing about Alinea is, always expect the unexpected. What you make an assumption about always throws you off to what's really there. Before we get to what's actually in that glorious pot, let's discuss what the very next dish was....
We were taken out of the dinning room for a surprise dish that was served in the kitchen. Again, because I have the aversion to cilantro, they customized my dish to have basil instead. We were escorted in a particular order to the kitchen, where a small croquette awaited us along with a sweet potato mojito drink they made right in front of us with shaved sweet potato ice.
It was like a potato palate cleanser but so much more. Not only was this delicious, but to get to see the kitchens of Alinea was by far one of the coolest things. Their organization, dedication and creativity are quite a thing to behold and only inspires even us humble home-cooks that strive for that kind of perfection on a daily basis.
Once we all had finished our interim dish, drank our mojito, we were escorted back up to the upstairs dining area to enjoy the next course (hint: it's still not what was in the pot)!
The next course was pork, which was served while our pot was still cooking on our table.
This dish, it looks so rich and trust me it was! This was pork with huckleberry branch and Maitake acorn tea glaze. This dish, no matter how full you may feel, was out of this world. It was served with a lovely wine, though not my personal favorite, "Meritaggio" Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2014 from Napa Valley, California. Don't get me wrong, it's a yummy wine, but out of all the pairings we experienced that night, this was not the best in my opinion. While this was being served, the fire was extinguished and the pot that was cooking was left to rest for a while. Much like Opera, the suspense continued. That leads me to our next dish which was called "Rossini" and came with a playful introduction:
For those who don't know, I happen to be a retired Opera singer, so this dish hit a special place in my heart. The words were not true to Opera form, but the dish was delicious and the sheet music was a bit of fun for this incredible meal. Much like Opera in general, this dish was as heavy as the composer tends to be (even though he wrote more light hearted operas than others). This was the most melt-in-your-mouth dish I've ever tasted.
A dish of wagyu beef, foie gras, woodear mushrooms and truffle. How can you possibly go wrong with this kind of combination? The beef was beyond tender, and the flavor was pure and perfect. Add to that the complexities of truffle and foie gras and there's not much I can say about this dish other than bravo Chef....this is perfection itself. The only thing that added to this dish was the wine pairing of Chateau Musar Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvginon 2002 from Lebanon. Lebanese wine, I've come to find, is absolutely stunning. The age of the vines, the climate, the soil all add to the robust flavors that this region produces.
You'd think after pork, and beef, and foie we'd be stuffed. You'd be right, except for a meal this divine, you don't stop for anything. You dig deep and keep eating because this food is the greatest you're gonna have.
After this, the waiter came out and finally revealed what had been cooking on our table all this time. Open the lid, there was nothing but a pile of salt in there! But, as they dug through the salt, a mass took shape. It was a yam...a yam that still had its skin on and had been cooking in the salt for all this time. As our waiter removed the yam from its salty bedding, they laid out several tools on our table.
This yam was carefully cleaned and cared for as the waiter removed the skin ever so gingerly. The yam meat was added to the wooden bowl and mixed with apricot, brie cheese cream and candied sage. It was served with one of the greatest brandy I've ever called Golden 8 Pear Brandy that is only sold in specific states (including NY) and produced in France.
This dish was delicious and seemed like a sweet enough dessert, I assumed we were finished after this...nope! The meal continued!
Not that we needed any more warmth and comfort, but the next course blew my mind in just the chemistry makeup of it. We were served a tamarind Mexican hot chocolate. Now, normally when you think of hot chocolate you think of a beautiful dark brown mix that is thick and creamy and decadent. What came before us took us completely by surprise...
The liquid was crystal clear. At first, I didn't even think there was liquid in the cups at first. It wasn't until I moved the log that I realized the liquid was clear and only accented the beauty of the cup itself. When I tasted the hot chocolate, my mind was blown. It tasted exactly as I hoped it would. It was only the appearance that threw me off. I couldn't believe it, but it is just further proof of the genius that is Chef Achatz. It was served with a delicious dessert that only added to the robust flavors of the hot chocolate
After this, we were served our last course which has been made famous. The popcorn truffles and apple balloon. The balloon, you take a small bite to suck all the liquid out (which was helium) then you eat the whole balloon including the string. It tastes exactly like biting into a granny smith apple. The flavors were amazing and true to form.
This meal, as I've said numerous times, was the best meal I've ever had. It's always changing, always evolving and I cannot wait to go back again for another memorable experience.