This is the course Rob talked about most in the days following our dinner. The meat was skate, and the preparation was fairly traditional, save for one detail. Instead of a lemon, browned butter, and caper sauce, Alinea served it with powdered lemon, browned butter, and capers. That's what the swirls are on the plate.
According to Rob, this is one of Chef Achatz's signatures. He freeze-dries foods and then powders them. You probably can't tell from the picture, but there was extra browned butter powder on the fish, as well as a little wedge of the powder on the left side of the plate.
Rob thought the swirls in the plate were meant to be the Alinea symbol, which is the top part of a paragraph symbol (¶) and is meant to represent "a new thought." But, looking at the picture, I think the swirls were just swirls.
Now you can see how we were able to eat twenty-four courses (plus one) and not be too stuffed. This course was a single white asparagus spear, served in five variations.
The first bite was simply the head of the asparagus. Next to that was a bit wrapped in very thinly sliced chorizo, which was divine. I couldn't identify the next three or the sauce, but they were all good. (I especially liked the way the sauce was squeezed across the top and allowed to ooze down between the spears, like mud oozing through toes.)
Finally, the last bite was a hard-cooked quail egg yolk -- though not too hard so as to be dry, of course. I think the little green bits at the front of the plate were the buds off a stalk of green asparagus.