Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Alinea - Courses 7-12

7. Six Flavors - frozen

This course was a very fun palate cleanser and quiz: 6 teeny balls of frozen concentrated flavors on a pin. We were told to let them melt on our tongue (they were frozen together in one piece) and to try to detect what they were, which came first, etc. The colors were indicative of the ingredients, and you might guess that the 6 balls represented the 6 tastes. This was quite a fun and creative break, and we got most of them with some prompting from the server. We both had different experiences, probably due to where we had placed it on our tongues, etc. I found the strongest flavor to be the umami taste, and neither of us discerned the spicy one. Amazingly, the chef recovered from tongue cancer last year (you could imagine how devastated he must have been initially). As a result of his treatment, he temporarily lost his sense of taste, and tastes reportedly came back one by one (for a while, he could only taste sweet). We thought this course might have been inspired by his recovery and subsequent testing of his taste buds. In hindsight, we really wish we had asked for another serving so we could try it again (next time, next time...)

Clockwise, from the top left (we think...): mango (sweet), overbrewed matcha green tea (bitter), yuzu (sour), seaweed (salty), cayenne (spicy), and dashi (umami).

Photo from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

8. Wagyu Beef - powdered A-1, potato, chips

This was both of our first tastes of wagyu beef. As you can tell (that's not our picture, but a good representative), there was a lot of marbling (let's call a spade a spade... the meat is mad fatty). It came on a plate alongside small piles of salt and pepper. At the top of the photo, you'll note the small, clear packet, that held powdered A-1 sauce. The ingredients comprised anchovy, tamarind, raisin, and clove. It was nice that we could try to wagyu just as is, and then adjust the seasoning as we saw fit. I (Michelle) have just started to eat steak again (after swearing off of red meat in junior high), and this was so rich I was quite glad the portion was small. (In the photo, there are two pieces, but we only had one.) To complete the "meat and potatoes" theme, the beef was accompanied by a cube of potato custard encrusted in potato chips. This was creamy, salty, and utterly delicious.

Photo from Flickr (consumatron)

Earlier in the meal, the servers had brought out a "centerpiece" which was a small black vase. We could tell it had dry ice in it because some frost formed on the outside of it. When the wagyu was brought out, they also poured some hot water in the vase. The white smoke that came pouring out was a nice visual effect, but the real purpose of it was revealed when it hit our nostrils. Strong scents of rosemary and beef (rendered beef fat) perfectly complimented the wagyu. Dinner and a show!

Photo from Flickr (consumatron)

This course was served with a knotted "dinner roll."

9. Yogurt - pomegranate, cassia
10. Bacon - butterscotch, apple, thyme
11. Transparency - raspberry, rose petal, yogurt

Next we were presented with 3 individual courses served simultaneously, which we tackled in the order suggested by the server. We started with a 'shot' of yogurt, which was actually a ball of thin sweet yogurt encased in a yogurt shell (with a texture similar to the chocolate ice cream topping that turns into a shell), floating in a pomegranate juice. 'Cassia' was also included but we aren't really sure what that is/was. This was nice and light, and made us wonder how the yogurt ball is made. We were sure to keep our mouths closed for this one!

Photo from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

Next was a thin, crisp-chewy piece of bacon hanging from a metal trapeze contraption, with a drizzle of butterscotch and thin ribbons of dried apple. You can't really go wrong with these flavors together, and a lovely, delicate presentation doesn't hurt. At this point I asked the server about the serveware, as we found the pieces beautiful yet functional. He said that the metal pieces and some of the ceramics are designed by and made specifically for Alinea, a collaboration between the chef and this artist.

Photo from Flickr (Eric Rolph)

Lastly in this trio, was a glassy sheet of yogurt powder-dusted raspberry candy, held by yet another cool contraption (kind of a round 'clothespin'). The candy cracked when we bit into it, and melted quickly on the tongue. I liked how the sweet and savory bacon was bookended by two 'red' fruit flavors.

Photo: LTHforum (ronnie_suburban)

12. Hot potato - cold potato, black truffle, butter

The next course has been an Alinea staple, so it was one of the few that Brian knew about going into the meal. A small, round dish held a cold, creamy potato soup. A pin was threaded through a hole in the dish, and suspended on the point of the pin were small cubes of parmesan and butter, and a hot potato sphere topped with a large shaving of black truffle. We were instructed to pull the pin out "like a grenade," which introduced the hot potato to the cold potato. Downing it all in one slurp, it melded together in my mouth like a rich, creamy, earthy mushroom chowder. I loved the flavor, but after the potato and cauliflower custards that we had enjoyed earlier in the meal, I was a little disappointed that the potato sphere wasn't creamier (Brian thought it was just fine). However, the juxtaposition of temperatures was an interesting and creative touch.

Bottom line (and this would be reiterated later): black truffles rock.

No comments: