Monthly Archives: November 2018

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

Photo by Prem Pal Singh on Pexels.com

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

food cherries fruits sour

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

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