Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alinea - Courses 19-24

19. Sweet Potato - bourbon, brown sugar, smoldering cinnamon

Picture from Flickr (thefleeg)

The elements of a sweet potato pie were skewered on a smoldering cinnamon stick, and deep-fried like tempura. Although Michelle tasted a bit of baking soda or baking powder in hers, this was a tasty bite. I wasn't able to taste much sweet potato, but I suppose that's not unlike real sweet potato pie. Warm, crispy, and comforting, just like (somebody's) mom used to make it. Kinda.

20. Bubble Gum - long pepper, hibiscus, creme fraiche

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

There were three elements inside a tube: bubble gum flavoured tapioca, creme fraiche, and hibiscus gelatin. Nope, no actual gum. We were instructed to suck the whole mix into our mouths, and when we did it felt and sounded quite silly in a good way. Although it was quite sweet, this dish was pretty light and playfully contrasted different textures. Needless to say, this is the best version of bubble gum flavor (think bubble gum fluoride) we've ever had.

21. Spice Cake - persimmon, rum, carrot

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

Here they placed the plate on top of an inflated pillow, which caused the pillow to slowly deflate, releasing aromas of brown spices (cinnamon, nutmeg). The dish itself contained a lot of components: chunks of spice cake, dried crunchy spice cake, dried persimmon, tip of a carrot, and an ice cream (possibly caramel flavored). There was also a sphere of encapsulated rum (like the butter in the king crab dish). Michelle wasn't a big fan of the texture of the persimmon (it was kind of gooey), but she was really pleased that they used what she thinks is the best part of the carrot - the inner core. All of the elements were very well-made and tasted good together or alone.

22. Mustard - passion fruit, allspice, soy

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

On a small flat spoon was a disk of dijon mustard sorbet topped with passion fruit and freeze-dried soy. The notion of a Dijon sorbet (that's not a typo) sounded a bit strange, but the combination of mustard and passion fruit was actually a pretty interesting. After a few seconds , the mustard flavor became more intense and was a nice, sharp wake up call on the tongue.

23. Chocolate - prune, olive, pine

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

The main component of this dish was a sheet of Valrhona dark chocolate ganache, which was served with a variety of accompaniments: pine ice cream, prunes, drops of prune puree, dried olives, cocoa nibs, and pine-nut soup. There was also a mysterious cream underneath the sheet of chocolate that they didn't describe. The pine ice cream was another element that sounded strange but actually tasted quite good, and it worked nicely with the prune and chocolate. Otherwise, there was a bit too much going on, so this wasn't a completely successful dessert.

Birthday "Cake"

Photo from Flickr (moonrat42)

Michelle had told the restaurant that we were celebrating my 30th birthday, so they brought a small surprise just for me, which at first was a chocolate dome on a small dish. Then the server poured a hot vanilla cream onto the chocolate, melting and opening the dome revealing the cake (which was more like a cookie) and some vanilla ice cream. The elements were simple, but the presentation was quite neat, and it was a nice addition.

24. Dry Caramel - salt

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

For the last course, we were served a powdered caramel in a shot glass and instructed to shoot all of the caramel and hold it on our tongue for a few seconds. What resulted was a really interesting transformation into a chewy caramel. There was some salt sprinkled into the shot glass, which added a nice dimension to the caramel. A great ending to a fantastic meal.


That's it's, folks! Thanks for following along on our lengthy, tasty journey. If you're ever in Chicago for a visit, and you want to thank us for putting you up, I think you know what to do. :)

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