Monday, May 7, 2007

Temple of Food

[Tyler] All last night, I dreamt about our dinner at Alinea. Processing the experience in my dreams, the restaurant became a temple where the gods were worshipped by the joyfulness of their subjects eating delicious food. In the real restaurant (as opposed to the dream Alinea), there was a flower decoration that loomed over our table. I asked the server if it was made out of banana leaf, and she said, "No, it's actually a dried palm. I think it looks like an elephant head." In the dream, it became an elephant-headed god that watched us eat.

I think that's a pretty good metaphor for my experience at Alinea. It was almost holy. Everything was focused on experiencing the flavors of the foods and wines to their fullest -- like we were celebrating the lives we've been given, and celebrating the lives of the plants and animals we ate throughout the course of the meal. The whole atmosphere was one of quiet reverence, but with a celebratory overtone. Sort of like a good church on Sunday mornings.

Is that too woo-woo? Well, then let me just say the food was fabulous, and the wine-pairings were phenomenal. My favorite course came early in the meal (remember, each course is at most six bites). It was a chantarell mousse, flecked with tiny pieces of candied carrots and itty-bitty slices of green onion, then topped with a carrot foam. The foam gave the course a depth of flavor, without overpowering the delicate mushroom.

The most interesting were two courses that involved shooters -- sort of like shots. One was a shot glass filled halfway with fresh celery juice, with a small ball floating in it. The ball was made of cocoa butter and wasabi, and filled with granny smith apple juice. When you tipped the whole thing into your mouth, the cocoa butter broke, bursting the apple juice and wasabi flavor onto your taste buds and mixing it with the celery juice. It was truly like a party in your mouth.

The other shooter was a warm beet ball. The server brought it to the table and then poured cold rhubarb juice over it. He didn't tell us what the ball was, but only that it was warm (they love surprises at Alinea). "Can you identify the flavor?" he asked. Of course, I recognized the beet right away -- it is my favorite vegetable -- and I loved the way it paired with the cold rhubarb juice.

I'll let Rob tell you about some of the other things we ate. But I think I'm going to be processing the twenty four courses in my dreams for several nights to come.


bethanyjoy said...

ew - a chantarell mouse?

I like the woo-woo. :)

Tyler said...

Sorry, I meant mousse, as in: "any mixture lightened with something airy, usually beaten egg whites or whipped cream."

I'll fix it in the post.