Alinea Experience Chicago

There is a fascinating documentary on Netflix “Chef’s Table” highlighting the life and career of Grant Achatz (Chef’s Table, Season 2, Episode 1). The show features Chef Grant Achatz and his restaurant Alinea. Chef Achatz battled tongue cancer which caused him to loose his sense of taste for a period of time. I was hesitant to watch the show at first, thinking it would be a sad story, but it turned out to be an amazing saga with a happy ending.  The culinary masterpieces he serves in his restaurant defy the imagination and showcases the talent of the creative chefs at this restaurant. Since opening the restaurant in 2005, Chef Achatz has become well-known for his deconstructions of classic flavors, meaning that what you think you are eating may not be at all what you are actually eating. This show enticed us to hop on a plane to Chicago to dine at Alinea, a three star Michelin-starred venue, rated number 34 on the top 50 restaurants in the world list.  The restaurant takes its name from the symbol alinea (prominent in the restaurant’s logo). You may remember it as the “new Paragraph symbol” used in manuscripts. Image result for alinea symbol

Chef Achatz also wrote a book about his fascinating life and career: Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat.  Grant Achatz(Author), and business partner Nick Kokonas(Author)

Our Chicago experience began with a leisurely brunch  at our hotel…

Alinea bloody maryalinea brunchalinea salad brunch

Boody Mary brunch at Michael Mina’s Margeaux Brasserie … Croque Madame, Butter Lettuce Salad with laclare farms chèvre, shaved radish, crème fraîche dressing.

Then off to a Chicago River boat architectural tour. I loved how the large buildings reflected in the glass on the skyscrapers that lined the river.

Alinea buildings

alinea montgomery ward

One of our favorite parts of the tour was the history of the Montgomery Ward Mail Order House.  The warehouse was as long as 2 1/2 football fields and at one time had its own post office branch. Due to the expansive length of the building the employees wore roller skates to pick merchandise off the shelves in the warehouse to fill catalog orders. When the warehouse closed they found dozens of pairs of roller skates stashed away in the building. The skates quickly sold on e-bay.

Spoiler Alert!  Alinea is all about illusion. If  you do not want to know the secrets that are served at this fabulous restaurant please do not read any further.

The centerpiece of our dining table was a silver bowl full of Kieffer limes.

After a few courses had been served by our fabulous waiters and sommelier  (pictured below), hot liquid was poured over the centerpiece to create a misty “dry ice” effect that floated over our table. Dreamy and so romantic!

The Alinea menu in the form of a word-search puzzle was posted on our table. Later that evening a complete menu with wine pairings was given to us to take home.

First Course – Smoke: Osetra, Sunflower, Onion, Lemon and Terrarium: Iceberg, Avocado, Herbs

Wine Pairing First Course:  Château La Nerthe “Clos de Beauvenir” Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhône Valley, France, 2010

We found the premium wine flight that we chose to accompany our dinner to be extraordinary.

Second Course: Glow: Lemongrass and Kaeng: Scallop, Mustard, Chili

The lemongrass “test tube” was a palate cleanser. They glow in the dark! You put the red end to your mouth and suck it down just like a jello shooter.  It has a citrus taste, very refreshing.

The dish that was served with the Lemongrass Glow was Scallop fried ramen on scallop pasta – shaved scallop that resembled pasta that was hidden underneath the fried ramen. So your eyes were telling you that you were eating pasta but your tongue was telling you that you were eating scallops. In my opinion the “simple presentation” of the scallop pasta was one of the most memorable.

Wine Pairing Second Course:  Domaine Marcel Deiss “Altenberg de Bergheim” Grand Cru, Alsace, France 2010.

After the first course we were whisked away to the kitchen where one of the chefs prepared a cocktail in a   hand-cranked, cast-iron contraption flown in from Amsterdam. This “cocktail machine” shakes four shakers at a time. Chef Achatz  looked for the shaker for three years before he acquired this one. There are only 30 of them in the world.

We were seated on the second level of the restaurant so we walked through the first floor dining room to get to the kitchen.

When we returned to our table from the kitchen, the Kieffer lime centerpiece had been replaced with a bowl of fire.

Photo of me and my husband at our “table on fire”.

Third Course: Ink: Octopus, Scallion, Black Lime

Ordinarily octopus would not have been my favorite bite, but the preparation of this octopus made it taste like a tender Japanese inspired steak, yum!

Third Course Wine Pairing: Turley “Dragon” Zinfandel, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California 2016

Imagine our surprise when the fire in the middle of the table was extinguished and out comes a potato. The potato had been baking in the heat of the fire as we enjoyed other courses.

There were many more surprises to come  – it was an 11 course dinner.  will feature them in my next blog post…until then…bon santé!

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For Bourbon Lovers On Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving gives us the  opportunity to use earthy, rich, spicy flavors in our food and cocktails. Think smokey, honey, cherry, bourbon and a twist of winter citrus in front of a roaring fire.

alcohol bar black background close up

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First, the appetizer…

mushrooms

Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms With Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce

Makes 10 appetizer servings (2 stuffed mushroom caps per serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

1/2 pound mild pork sausage

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced red onion

Place vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Place pan over medium heat and add sausage. Brown sausage and crumble in pan.  Add red onion and cook over medium-low heat until onion is soft and transparent.  Remove from heat.

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Add panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese to sausage. Stir to combine all ingredients. Whisk egg into sausage mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well combined.

 20 baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed and center (stem side) hollowed out with a spoon.

Stuff  mushrooms with sausage mixture, gently pressing sausage mixture into the hollowed out stem end of the mushroom and mound the mixture on top of the mushroom.  Place stuffed mushrooms in a shallow baking pan. Bake stuffed mushrooms in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.

While stuffed mushrooms are baking, prepare Aged Gouda Cheese Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/4 pound aged Gouda cheese, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon medium Peri-Peri Sauce or your favorite hot sauce (more may be added to taste – but add carefully…more can always be added, but once it’s in the sauce it cannot be removed!)

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour.  Whisk in one half of the milk.  Add red chili flakes, aged Gouda cheese, Peri-Peri Sauce and the rest of the milk. Stir to combine all ingredients.  Continue to heat over medium low heat and stir until cheese melts. Once the cheese melts remove from heat.

Once the mushrooms have finished baking, remove from oven. Place mushrooms in individual ramekins.  Pour aged Gouda cheese sauce over the mushrooms. Place ramekins under the broiler until the cheese sauce is lightly browned and bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Old Fashioned

It is so easy and delicious to mix a cocktail with hand-crafted Bittermilk Cocktail Mixes (available on-line or at Fresh Market).  We’ve invited friends to Thanksgiving who love Whiskey Sours so I am going to surprise them with Bittermilk Smoked Honey Whiskey Sours served over an ice sphere with  Fabbri Amarena Cherries. These cherries are a dark red variety with a sweet and slightly bitter flavor that are preserved in a rich syrup made from the juice of the same fruit. They are sold in a decorative pottery jar on-line or locally (Roanoke, VA) at Tinnell’s Finer Foods. Seriously delicious!

We’ve revived this old classic by smoking honey over bourbon barrel staves. Bitter orange peel and lemon make for a slightly tart and smoky cocktail. Honey adds a nice frothy head when shaken vigorously. Mixes best with bourbon but swap it out for tequila to make a slightly smoky Honey Margarita. Shake equal parts Bittermilk No.3 + Whiskey with heavy amounts of ice. Fresh Lemon Juice, Water, Bourbon Barrel Smoked Georgia Honey, Florida Golden Cane Sugar, Fresh Orange Peel

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Maharajah Curry Red Lentil Sausage Pepper Soup

Maharajah Curry Red Lentil Sausage Pepper Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + a little extra for frying sausage
  • 3 teaspoons Seasonality Seasonings Maharajah Curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 19 ounces mild Italian sausage
  • 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or more if needed)

Directions

Put olive oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Add onion and peppers. Stir and saute for 4 – 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the peppers are cooked.  Add curry powder and salt.  Stir and remove from heat.

Pour a little olive oil in a saute pan.  Add the sausage (any casings removed) and fry until the sausage is completely cooked. If there is a lot of fat in the sausage, drain the fat.  Add the sausage to the onion and peppers mixture in the large pot.  Add the petite diced tomatoes and stir. Add the red lentils and stir. Return to medium heat and add chicken broth. Stir and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add more chicken broth if needed if a lot of the stock is absorbed during the cooking process.

 

lentil soup in bowl

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Riedel Performance Wine Glass Seminar

Love these Riedel decanters💗

foodwineclick

The Riedel Wine Glass Seminar
The Riedel family has been in the glass business a long time, since 1678 to be exact. They have also been through many ups and downs, including losing everything during World War II. Still, they recovered and never lost their commitment to glass.

In 1973 Georg Riedel introduced the Sommelier wine glass featuring thin clear glass, a wide bowl with a narrow opening at the top, thus inventing the modern wine glass. In 1986 they released the Vinum series of affordable, machine made crystal. And in 2004, Georg’s son, Maximilian designed and marketed the “O” line of stemless drinkware.

Over the years, Riedel have turned the basic concept into the art of matching the wine glass to the wine in order to best show both the aroma and flavor of the wine. There is no better way to experience this first hand than to attend…

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Magnolia Table Bacon And Gruyère Biscuits

photography of fruits on a tray

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Today I picked the last of my summer herbs out of my garden since a frost is coming tonight and they will be long gone by morning. I chopped the herbs. Then I mixed chives, oregano, and parsley into fresh creamery butter and added black pepper, a dash of salt and some  Nanomi Togarashi (Japanese hot spice available in Asian markets) to make herb butter to go with my bacon and Gruyère biscuits.

Optimized-magnolia bloom

To make my biscuits I used the Magnolia Table Bacon And Gruyère Biscuit recipe from the cookbook Magnolia Table, a collection of recipes for gathering. I tried making the biscuits in the shape of spoons in a new spoon cookie tray I recently purchased.  I was not too crazy about the shape of the biscuits but the taste was delicious! The biscuits are buttery, savory and crispy. You will love serving these on your holiday table!

 

Bacon And Gruyère Biscuits

1/2 pound thick-sliced peppered bacon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, but into cubes

3/4 cup milk

8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 2 cups)

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2.  Arrange the bacon slices on a baking sheet. Bake until crispy, about 20 minutes. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels and transfer the bacon to the paper towels to drain.  Set aside.
  3. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, garlic salt, salt, and white pepper. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter on top of the flour and pulse until the dough resembles coarse pebbles.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the milk and Gruyère. Crumble the bacon into the bowl. Mix with your hands just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix.
  6. Use a 4 ounce ice cream scoop to drop uniform biscuit mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the edges are crispy, 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan on a rack.
  7. Biscuits are best the day they are made, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Warm in a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Makes 6 biscuits.

Note: To make smaller drop biscuits to serve as hors’doeuvres, use a 2 ounce scoop and bake them for the same amount of time as instructed above.

Please read my wine and recipe blog posts on the Roanoker Magazine website: https://theroanoker.com/blogging 

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Happy Champagne Day! Celebrating With Tapas

Happy Champagne Day!

close up of beer in glass against black background

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We will be celebrating Champagne Day all weekend! Our celebration began last evening as we enjoyed tapas with wine pairing at Rockfish Restaurant in the Grandin Village, Roanoke, Virginia. Every third Thursday of the month they offer a flight of tapas paired with a wine flight. https://www.rockfishfood.com/. The theme last evening was Italy.

Our evening commenced with a glass of bubbly at home…

(Photograph by megapixie.com)

Then on to Rockfish…Our first tapa was Gouda, caramelized onion and spiced apple.  This tapa would be easy to recreate at home. It was served with Prosecco di Valdobbiadene.

Italian Tapas

Oyster Rockfish, fried with arugula puree, fennel apple slaw.

Tapas were originally designed to place “on top” of the wine glass to keep away flies.  The Oyster Rockfish was paired with Broglia Gavi La Meirana. This lovely white wine is like “Pinot Grigio” on steroids.  It has a lively lemon lime acidity that is a perfect pairing with seafood.

Swedish style meatball paired with Montevento Montepulciano. The rich berry jam notes in this wine complemented the tangy tomato flavors in the meatball sauce.

My favorite tapa of the evening was the Duck Pastrami, bourbon mustard and pickled onion.  Paired with Langhe  Nebbiolo.

After devouring the tapas we were still a bit peckish, so we ordered a cheese plate that was accompanied by delicious Rockfish flatbread crackers.

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Lemon Pots de Crème With Almond Brittle Sprinkle

lemon pots de creme

Viva La Local! Please visit the Roanoker Magazine Behind the Page blog:

https://theroanoker.com/blogging/behind-the-page/viva-la-local/

to find new Virginia products offered in local Roanoke grocery stores.  Love supporting local!

sliced of citrus lemons

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Lemon Pots de Crème is one of my favorite desserts because I can make them the day ahead, refrigerate the ramekins, then garnish the desserts right before serving. This recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine with my additions of the sweetened whipped cream (add a little powdered sugar to the cream) and almond brittle sprinkle.

Ingredients

  • Finely grated zest of 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved (or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
  • 10 large egg yolks
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish
  • Candied citrus peel or candied flowers, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  • Put a large pot of water on to boil for the water bath. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put eight 6-oz. ramekins in a large roasting pan or baking dish with high sides.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the lemon zest, juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes; set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla seeds and pod (if you’re using vanilla extract, don’t add it yet) and bring to just below boiling. Remove from the heat.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Gently whisk a ladleful of the hot cream into the yolks and then whisk the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the cream. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the reserved lemon syrup and strain immediately through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. If you’re using vanilla extract, stir it in now.
  • Divide the mixture among the ramekins in the roasting pan. Pull out the oven shelf, put the roasting pan on it (be sure it’s stable), and pour enough boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with a sheet of foil (simply lay the sheet on top, don’t crimp the edges) and bake for 25 to 45 minutes—start checking early—until the custards are set about 1/4 inch in from the sides, the centers respond with a firm jiggle (not a wavelike motion) when you nudge the ramekins, and the centers of the custards register 150° to 155°F on an instant-read thermometer (the hole left by the thermometer will close up as the custards firm). Let the custards cool to room temperature in their water bath. Remove the custards from the bath, cover them with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Garnish with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and candied zest or flowers, if you like.

Make Ahead Tips

Custards may be baked up to two days ahead and refrigerated, covered with plastic.

Garnish

Lemon Zest

Almond Brittle:

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

Slice butter into several slices and place it on a baking sheet (with sides so butter won’t run off sheet).  Place in oven and allow the butter to melt.  Remove the baking sheet from oven and sprinkle the almonds on the butter. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the almonds.  Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 3 – 5 minutes. Watch carefully because the almonds will burn easily. Remove from oven and stir the almonds. Return to oven for more toasting if needed.  When the almonds are toasted remove from oven and allow to cool.

Place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each  pots de crème and sprinkle with crumbled almond brittle.  Sprinkle a little lemon zest over the almond brittle. Serve chilled.

close up dark drop of water droplet

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