Oh, hello there! I guess you’ve come to read about the final courses of my dinner at Alinea! Fabulous. If you missed the first two parts, click here for part one and click here for part two. Now, enough with the small talk- let’s get on with the show!
So after the Black Truffle Explosion, the waiter came out with a veritable shit-ton of silverware. At first I was confused, but as he placed each spoon and fork in front of me, I quickly realized that each one had a different bite on it.
The waiter explained that this course was inspired by a Joan Miro painting that the chef had seen at the Tate Modern art gallery in London. He also revealed that one of the bites was squab and another was foie gras, but that was it. We had to figure out the rest…(?!?!) So the square on the left was the foie, the fork above it was a green olive with some kind of herb, the next spoon seemed to be balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and the next one I think was crumbled pancetta with something else. This was tough! The brownish-red spoon tasted like fruit leather on a spoon, and the orange one next to it? No idea. The top right was the squab and below it was a rectangle of beet (maybe), then finally on the bottom was some kind of sweet noodle. The best bite was absolutely the squab. It was perfectly cooked, it was simple, and it was identifiable (which always helps).
The next course was a little bit startling, primarily because it was on fire. It was a flaming cinnamon stick with a deep-fried piece of brie on the end. There were also caramelized onions and Anjou pears inside. Just the sound of this dish made me salivate, and it tasted just as good as I had hoped. I mean, deep-fried cheese with a hint of sweetness? <<Insert Homer Simpson drooling noise here.>> The only thing that was a bit much was the smoking cinnamon, which smelled great at first, then turned into an overwhelming campfire smell.
The next course was ginger five ways. The pieces were so small that my camera refused to focus on them, so I apologize for the blur. I’m not a huge ginger fan, and every part of this dish was ginger, so for the sake of brevity, I’m just going to say it was gingery. Good enough? Ok.
At that point, I looked away for second, and when I looked back, there was a full-on winter scene in front of me. There were fir branches, liquid nitrogen-dipped stones, peppermint snow, a variety of different sweets, and a mug of “hot chocolate” sitting on a stump. Resting on the bed of peppermint snow was a cherry jam/sauce, a square of honey, a blood orange segment, and a gingerbread marshmallow. While the whole thing was beautiful, it was all too sweet for me. I’m more of a savory kinda gal, and the peppermint snow combined with already sweet ingredients was just a bit much. And the hot chocolate tasted like chicken stock with chocolate in it. Bizarre.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the waiter put a balloon in front of each of us! The balloon was made of green apple taffy and was filled with helium. Apparently, the chef had been working on this concept for over seven years. We were told to suck out the helium, say something ridiculous (yes, they actually told us to do this), then eat the balloon. While it was a fun idea, the taffy was super sticky and got all over us. And, once again, the sweetness was overwhelming.
Now, for the final course! After clearing our table, the waiter rolled a silicone tablecloth over the table (although he tried to convince us that the silicone was dolphin skin). He then placed a lingonberry sauce, a butternut squash sauce, a stout sauce, and some flower petals on the side. Next to it lay a couple of spoons, a pitcher of liquid nitrogen, and a hollow chocolate sphere. After waiting a moment, a chef came out. He dotted and swirled the sauces all over the table, then sprinkled the flower petals around. Finally, he placed the chocolate sphere in the center, poured liquid nitrogen in it, then smashed it to pieces. The end result:
Talk about modern art! Inside the chocolate sphere, there was some cotton candy, “french toast” pieces, lingonberry and cream cheese logs, and a heck of a lot of other things that we couldn’t figure out. Amy and I had a great time picking through the contents and eating off the table, especially as we were now sufficiently tipsy. The chocolate sphere was definitely the best part, but the sauces were fantastic, too. As a whole, though, it was too sweet (notice a theme here?) and VEEERY large. We managed to make a pretty good dent in it, though.
And, with that, the meal had ended! We were there for around three hours, and each spent around $500, including the meal, the wine flight, tax, and tip. I realize that 500 bucks is a ludicrous amount to spend on a meal, but it was my birthday, it was a once in a lifetime thing, and I had just found out that afternoon that I got my dream job! I think I had more than a couple reasons to celebrate.
This was definitely an experience. I have never such carefully and creatively prepared food in my life. Some of the courses were outstanding, and some didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but the whole thing was surprise after surprise, which made it a whole lot of fun. Would I do it again? Eh, maybe. I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather spend $500 on, but I’m definitely glad I did this.