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molecular gastronomy @ GFC

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

SousVide Supreme Review

posted by snekse
SousVide Supreme
If you read our thoughts about Sous Vide for the Home Cook, you'll know that I've been wanting an immersion circulator for my home for a very long time now. You'll also know that I've recently come to the conclusion that cooking in a water bath isn't going to be practical for every home cook. If, however, you feel that sous vide fits your needs, then you currently have very few options. Because of that, when I first heard about the SousVide Supreme, a home appliance meant to bring sous vide cooking into the home, I immediately contacted the company and asked for a chance to play with a review unit. A few weeks later were are cooking our first 65 degree egg.

I'll cut to the chase. The SousVide Supreme does exactly what it says it's going to do. It brings water up the the precise temperature you set it for and it will hold the water at that temperature for a very long time, with very little fluctuation. What more do you really want a "water oven" to do?

SousVide Supreme
The controls are easy to use and fairly intuitive. The unit is attractive looking, so I wouldn't mind it sitting on my counter all the time. The construction seems pretty solid, and the thermal wrap keeps the water warm for hours after it's unplugged which makes me believe it's probably pretty energy efficient. Some small design features like the offset handles to facilitate pouring the water out are a nice touch. It's easy to switch between a Fahrenheit and Celsius display which comes in handy if you're following instructions and you don't want to do the conversion. These are all just little things that add to the total package, but it's really about the fact that it does it's main job well.

Two advantages that the SousVide Supreme has over traditional immersion circulators is it's lid and the mechanics, or lack of. The lid just helps with heat retention and water evaporation. Probably not a huge deal, but still nice. The real cool trick is that it uses the currents within the water to keep the temperature stable instead of using a pump to move the water around. This results in a completely silent operation.

The biggest drawback to this unit has to be the price. Just like microwave ovens when they were first introduced, this unit is going to be cost prohibitive for many. Some may find it costly, but will find it's usage justifies the price. Others will not. That's why I recommend first determining if sous vide is right for your needs and if a dedicated water oven is the best solution.

Inside of SousVide Supreme
Other minor gripes are little more than nit-picking. It's stainless steel might add to the attractiveness, but it collects finger prints like all stainless steel appliances. The wire rack meant to separate the pouches just doesn't seem designed correctly and was starting to rust on one of the welds. And though I can't imagine it being much smaller, it does have a fairly large footprint on the counter.

The other thing I see people mention in reviews is more of a bit of a poke at the name. For all the marketing that I'm sure when into this, the one thing the SousVide Supreme doesn't do is...sous vide. I've been told that the company hopes to have a vacuum sealer in the near future to resolve that.

Rating: 89+
I would give this an extra point for every $50 in price that this drops from the original $450 that it initially sold for.

Sur La Table no longer has an exclusive distribution agreement for the SVS. You can now also find the SousVide Supreme on Amazon.

Official SousVide Supreme Site
Order the SousVide Supreme
Sous Vide Moves From Avant-Garde to the Countertop
The Tenderest Meats, From the Science Lab To Your Home Kitchen
The $449 SousVide Supreme: Worth It?
Sous Vide Supreme Countertop Immersion Circulator
Sous Vide Supreme - Revolution For the Home Cook?
DIY Sous Vide Heating Immersion Circulator For About $75

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sous Vide for the Home Cook

posted by snekse
Sous Vide Ribeye Steak cooked for 4 hours at 120 degrees F by snekse on Flickr
I've long been enamored with the method of cooking sous vide. I first learned of the technique after seeing Alinea prepare broccoli sous vide at 170F in their food lab prior to opening. After reading up on the subject, I began to appreciate the problems it could solve. Ultra tender spare ribs cooked for 36+ hours. Never overcooked seafood prepared oh so delicately. A photo perfect steak cooked an exact medium rare from edge-to-edge. Beyond just the control the method provides, I was also very enthusiastic about the forgiveness allowed through that control. No longer would you need to baby sit a piece of fish with a trigger finger ready to pull it off the heat at the precise moment it was done, lest you overcook it. Imagine being able to drop dinner into a water bath before you left for work, then when you walk through the door at the end of the day, you simply plate your perfectly cooked food. That theory is all well and good, but the question remains:

Is sous vide practical for the home cook?

The short answer is not really. At first, the answer was almost certainly not. The equipment was expensive, large, and not aimed at in-home use. Of course that didn't stop the passionate food community. Finding immersion thermal circulators on eBay became more and more difficult as the hard core foodies and restaurants snatched them up. For those not willing to sacrifice the space or money for large lab equipment (even used circulators are still expensive), DIY alternatives were devised such as connecting a PID controller to a slow cooker or rice maker. For those without a soldering iron, products started hitting the market like the SousVideMagic. And of course some people just opted to monitor the temperature of a pot of water on their stove, but that's not exactly the most practical solution, especially if you want to make 36 hour short ribs. Not to mention the potential dangers with not having the water circulated.

SousVide Supreme
The latest buzz has been about true sous vide equipment designed from the ground up for home use. The SousVide Supreme™ "water oven" just hit the market in January 2010. It's "designed specifically to bring the gourmet sous vide cooking method into home kitchens". And it does a very good job of it, but that's our next article. Before you go out and buy one, you have to decide if it's right for you.

I don't want to cover all of the pros and cons of sous vide, but I do want to cover what I think are the most impactful for the home chef. But first, let's start with a quote from Thomas Keller, author of Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide , on cooking sous vide at home:
"It's not necessarily for the home cook yet. They can try to understand what sous vide is, but most of the applications in the book are industry-oriented. To incorporate sous vide into the home, chefs first have to embrace the technique so that home cooks become more familiar with it. I think we'll start to see that soon."

Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking

  • Precision: Being able to just set a dial and know your food is going to be cooked to perfection is an amazing ability.
  • Forgiveness: Because of the precision, you won't need to worry about overcooking something nearly as much as you would with other methods.
  • Time: If you're the kind of person who likes to Feed the Freezer, sous vide could help. There's also the aspect that not having to tend a dish frees up your time to do other things.
  • Parties: If you throw lots of dinner parties, sous vide is for you. Cook lots of portions at once, all done perfectly and consistently. Not to mention with a little planning you could cook a multi-course meal just in your sous vide machine, giving you time to interact with your guests.

Drawbacks of Sous Vide Cooking

  • Cost: Not only is the equipment still pricey, but you also have to factor in the cost of bags.
  • Time: Though it could save you labor time, the fact that it might take you 4 hours to cook a steak is definitely a negative. There's also upper limits on time that I'll address more in a bit.
  • Knowledge: It's tough to acquire knowledge about how long to cook something and at what temperature. It's gotten easier to find these answers, but it's still tough.
  • Size: Though the SousVide Supreme is relatively small in size, it's still about the size of a bread box. If you also have a vacuum sealer, then that's more counter space you have to account for.
So who is sous vide right for? I'm sure I'm going to miss large groups here and make some people mad (check the comments for differing opinions), but really I could only think of two types: party people and stay-at-homes. And it all boils down to one issue: Time.

Sous Vide Party

If you're the constant entertainer, but you're always in the kitchen as your guest mingle, this could help alleviate some of that. Drop some asparagus in before your guests arrive. When the first one shows up, drop the temp but leave the asparagus in the water. When it gets low enough, add a bag of diver scallops. When the scallops are cooked, you just need to sear them, but every scallop will be cooked perfectly in the middle and your asparagus will be warm, ready to eat and correctly tender without being too crunchy or mushy.

Sous Vide for the Stay-at-Home

You're someone who stays at home for most of the day and you're expected to have dinner on the table when everyone comes home. Chances are pretty good that you have other things going on during your day that you could use a little extra free time. Being able to prepare lunch and dinner at the same time could really come in handy. Make some mac-n-cheese for lunch and drop some pork chops into a water bath at the same time. Then when it's dinner time, just pull the chops out, sear them off and a few minutes later, dinner is served.

Who is Sous Vide Not Good For?

Everyone else; unless you have money to spare on a toy that you may not use every week. Again, the problem is time. Remember how I said one of the benefits is that you can't "over cook" food? Well, that's technically correct, but you can over tenderize food. If you leave a piece of protein in a water bath far longer than you're supposed to, the texture will become mushy and mealy. Not pleasant at all. If I can't leave something in to cook all day long or if I can't come home and finish dinner in 20 minutes, then it's not really practical for my lifestyle.

Here are the caveats to my argument. If you don't mind eating the same thing all week long, then making lots of steaks on the weekend, then searing them as needed throughout the week might be a good option for you. The other possibility is to use the water bath like a slow cooker. It would have to be a type of dish that doesn't need that roasted, reduced liquid goodness quality that comes with evaporation of the liquids, but it is a possibility.

Don't forget the "sous vide" in sous vide

Pork with spices onions and apples in a Ziploc handi-vac bag.
Unfortunately, none of this addresses the other part of the equation, and the real heart of sous vide: the under pressure part. At the moment there are three common methods used to vacuum package food in the home. The most common is to use a consumer vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver device. I think what has become a quick second place is the new Handi-Vac from Reynolds. The final method is to just double bag your food in ZipLoc backs and try to suck as much air as possible with a straw.

None of these methods match the industrial vacuum chambers restaurants use. They work well enough, but liquid is their Achilles' heel. Liquid in the bag can make a mess as it gets sucked out of the bag and into your device. Worse yet, it can prevent the bag from sealing. I often double seal my bags just to be safe. One way around this is to turn your liquid into a solid by freezing it if possible. Just one more thing to keep in mind.

I know that's a lot to consider, but hopefully this helps you make an informed decision when considering if sous vide something you want to try and if it's something you want to invest in the proper equipment for. Similar to smoking meat and frying whole turkeys, it's not for everyone, but if you're passionate about it and you put some effort into it, the results can be amazing.

Auber Instruments Sous Vide Cooking Controller
Sous Vide Supreme Review via Popular Science
DIY Immersion Circulator
Scallop Sous Vide at 49 and 51 degrees C
Sous-Vide Scallops in a Rice Cooker
Sous vide Lobster tail at 60°C
Sous Vide Lobster, Creme Fraiche, Caviar
Lobster and Hen of The Woods Mushrooms
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

What is Sous Vide

posted by snekse
Sous vide (pronounced sue–veed) is French for "under vacuum". In culinary terms, sous vide is a cooking method in which food is vacuum sealed then immersed in a water bath and cooked at a very precise and consistent temperature.

Sounds simple, but there's much more to it than that. This is not meant to be a definitive guide to sous vide. Instead, this is meant to be a brief introduction along with some links to help you find more authoritative resources on the web, in print and elsewhere (including right here in Omaha!). This is also the first part of a series of articles we'll be doing on sous vide over the next week.

To start off, we interviewed Dario Schicke, of Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], and asked him to explain sous vide and the training he received. Then he gave us some demonstrations in preparing food for cooking sous vide, as well as texture modification and flavor injection using the vacuum chamber. We also left a SousVide Supreme™ with him for several days to get an experienced chef's opinion of the product. Our review and his thoughts on that will be posted later.

An explanation of sous vide cooking

A conversation with Dario Schicke, Chef/Owner of Dario's Brasserie in Omaha, NE, about sous vide cooking. We discuss what sous vide is, what it's uses are, the training he received and the viability of the method for the home cook.

Beef Tenderloin Cooked in the Sous Vide Supreme

Dario Schicke, Chef/Owner of Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], walks us through cooking beef tenderloin sous vide, while helping us test out the SousVide Supreme.

Compressed Watermelon

Dario Schicke, from Dario's Brasserie (Omaha, NE), demonstrates compressed watermelon in a vacuum chamber.

Flavor Injecting Under Pressure

Dario Schicke, from Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], demonstrates texture modification and flavor injection by infusing apple juice and Calvados apple brandy into sliced Asian apple pears, using a high pressure vacuum chamber for some beautiful and flavorful results.

I'll leave you with two interesting quotes about sous vide, then some resources.

Thomas Keller, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, on the benefits of sous vide: "For one, it's a new toy and we all love new toys. And two, sous vide definitely goes beyond cooking in a bag. It's used for precise, à la minute cooking. When you order a steak medium, that's the temperature in the very center, but the outside is cooked well done and the next layer is medium-well, et cetera. But with sous vide, that piece of meat is medium from edge to edge. Before now, few people have had a short rib rare."

Eric Ziebold on the down sides of sous vide: "Sous vide takes craft away from cooking. You know it'll be a perfect medium-rare every time. You don't want to lose that emotional contact with food—like when you smell duck fat cooking, that does something for us.

Right now, we have turbot cooked sous vide and then brushed with preserved lemon. But we'll never have everything cooked sous vide. Just like we wouldn't have everything grilled..."

Sous-vide on Wikipedia
A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas Baldwin
Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment on eGullet
Michael Voltaggio (from Top Chef) explaining sous vide and using a microwave to do it.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Alinea, Thomas Keller and Fat Duck Cookbooks

posted by snekse
So you're a busy forgetful procrastinating slacker. You forgot to get your dad a Father's Day gift. Here's a great excuse - tell him it hasn't arrived yet. Even better, tell him it hasn't arrived because the gift you ordered isn't even in stores yet!

I mean, sure for Father's Day you could have gotten pop the predictable 10th Anniversary Edition of the The Barbecue! Bible or Weber's Real Grilling or one of the many other cookbooks associated with the holiday, but that's not very GFC. You wanted to get him something extra special, so you ordered one of the many amazing books coming out later this year. But what book to choose?

Alinea Cookbook by Grant Achatz
First we have a book we told you about a couple of months back - Grant Achatz' Alinea Book. It includes over 600 recipes to make 100 of Alinea's most famous dishes and includes over 600 stunning photos. Sure you may not have a cold smoking gun or an anti-griddle, but the pictures are pretty enough to justify the price. And to sweeten the pot, buying the book gets you access to the Alinea mosaic site "containing bonus recipes, demonstration videos, supplementary images, and a behind the scene perspective". Be sure to impress your dad by mentioning Grant Achatz is a 3 time James Beard Foundation Award winner.

Under Pressure Sous Vide Recipe cookbook By Thomas Keller
Next up is the first new book from Thomas Keller since the Bouchon Cookbook. Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide will cover cooking food, you guessed it..., "sous-vide"; the almost now passé molecular gastronomy trend of cooking food "under vacuum". I'm actually really excited about this book as I've been on the hunt for an economical sous-vide setup for months. This book might help justify spending a little more money on a proper immersion circulator bath. ***UPDATE*** Keller has another new book out as well: "Ad Hoc at Home".

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal
And finally we have the book from the second best restaurant in the world - The Fat Duck. In The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, Heston Blumenthal covers a lot of the back story behind the huge success of his restaurant along with documenting over 50 signature recipes in a massive 500+ page book. Now you too can make Snail Porridge, Nitro-scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream, and "Hot and Iced Tea". A more condensed and cheaper version titled "The Fat Duck Cookbook" is available as well.

Oh, alright, I'll throw in a couple more IOU books just because they're so darn cool.

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
Do I really need to say much more about this book? I mean the title says it all - Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. Are you kidding me? A book about fat! Endorsing the use of fat in all it's glory. Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. Hell yeah. And that covershot - foodporn if I ever saw it. [UPDATE: Read the GFC review of the Fat cookbook]

A16 Cookbook
I'm a little bit surprised about this next one, because I didn't think A16 had been around that long. I know it's a hot spot and all and Nate Appleman has gotten a lot of praise, but he seems to have gotten himself a book deal pretty quickly. Congrats to him. The book, A16: Food & Wine, focuses on rustic recipes of Southern Italy and sounds pretty intriguing.

Dessert FourPlay Cookbook by Johnny Iuzzini
Finally, if your dad has more of a sweet tooth, you can get him Dessert FourPlay: Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef - the first cookbook written by rockstar pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini. Iuzzini is one of maybe 10 pastry chefs I could name off the top of my head, and one of the few "modern" pastry chefs who has written a book recently. The last modern pastry book I can think of is Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts.

Of course you could always just tell your dad you were working on your own book.

3 of these books have made Amazon.com's Editor's Picks list for the best cooking, food, and wine books of 2008.
Top 10 Cookbooks of 2008
And several have been nominated for a 2009 James Beard Book award.

Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts
The International Agenda for Great Cooking

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Monday, March 19, 2007

BLOGROLL: News for Curious Cooks

posted by snekse
The final addition to my 2007 blogroll is...

News For Curious Cooks
    "exploring the science of food and its transformation"

Harold McGee is quickly becoming a household name among foodies thanks to frequent mentions in publications big and small across the country. He's become the go-to-guy for all things related to food science and is one of the forefathers of molecular gastronomy. If you are a fan of Alton Brown's "Good Eats", you have Harold to thank in part. All of this stemming from that massive red (or oldskool blue) book written 20+ years ago, "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (which was heavily revised in 2004).

Mr. McGee's blog, News For Curious Cooks, covers oddly interesting food science topics to satisfy the inner geek in you. Recent articles included subjects such as the effects of putting salt on tomatoes while they're still on the vine, why French fries may make you delirious and the fluid dynamics of a champagne flute.

As an additional resource, you can also search the text of his ground breaking book using Google: Search the On Food and Cooking text

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The International Agenda for Great Cooking

posted by snekse
Could you ask for anything cooler. Four of the most influential people in the food industry have gathered together to create a manifesto of sorts, expressing what guides them in their craft, how they view the past/present/future traditions/techniques/movements of the cooking world and how an Open Source philosophy in the kitchen can benefit everyone. To borrow from the Java Programming world, this may be the new "Design Patterns" by the new Gang of Four!

They will break the rules, make new rules and break those too. They will borrow from multiple disciplines to create a style all their own.

They will do all of this without labels. They will do all of this in the spirit of progress and the pursuit of excellence. They will do all of this knowing their journey will never end.

Welcome to the new food renaissance.

The International Agenda for Great Cooking
-By Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and Harold McGee

The world of food has changed a great deal in modern times. Change has come especially fast over the last decade. Along with many other developments, a new approach to cooking has emerged in restaurants around the globe, including our own. We feel that this approach has been widely misunderstood, both outside and inside our profession. Certain aspects of it are overemphasized and sensationalized, while others are ignored. We believe that this is an important time in the history of cooking, and wish to clarify the principles and thoughts that actually guide us. We hope that this statement will be useful to all people with an interest in food, but especially to our younger colleagues, the new generations of food professionals.

1. Three basic principles guide our cooking: excellence, openness, and integrity.

We are motivated above all by an aspiration to excellence. We wish to work with ingredients of the finest quality, and to realize the full potential of the food we choose to prepare, whether it is a single shot of espresso or a multicourse tasting menu.

We believe that today and in the future, a commitment to excellence requires openness to all resources that can help us give pleasure and meaning to people through the medium of food. In the past, cooks and their dishes were constrained by many factors: the limited availability of ingredients and ways of transforming them, limited understanding of cooking processes, and the necessarily narrow definitions and expectations embodied in local tradition. Today there are many fewer constraints, and tremendous potential for the progress of our craft. We can choose from the entire planet's ingredients, cooking methods, and traditions, and draw on all of human knowledge, to explore what it is possible to do with food and the experience of eating. This is not a new idea, but a new opportunity. Nearly two centuries ago, Brillat-Savarin wrote that 'the discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star."

Paramount in everything we do is integrity. Our beliefs and commitments are sincere and do not follow the latest trend.

2. Our cooking values tradition, builds on it, and along with tradition is part of the ongoing evolution of our craft.

The world's culinary traditions are collective, cumulative inventions, a heritage created by hundreds of generations of cooks. Tradition is the base which all cooks who aspire to excellence must know and master. Our open approach builds on the best that tradition has to offer.

As with everything in life, our craft evolves, and has done so from the moment when man first realized the powers of fire. We embrace this natural process of evolution and aspire to influence it. We respect our rich history and at the same time attempt to play a small part in the history of tomorrow.

3. We embrace innovation - new ingredients, techniques, appliances, information, and ideas - whenever it can make a real contribution to our cooking.

We do not pursue novelty for its own sake. We may use modern thickeners, sugar substitutes, enzymes, liquid nitrogen, sous-vide, dehydration, and other nontraditional means, but these do not define our cooking. They are a few of the many tools that we are fortunate to have available as we strive to make delicious and stimulating dishes.

Similarly, the disciplines of food chemistry and food technology are valuable sources of information and ideas for all cooks. Even the most straightforward traditional preparation can be strengthened by an understanding of its ingredients and methods, and chemists have been helping cooks for hundreds of years. The fashionable term "molecular gastronomy" was introduced relatively recently, in 1992, to name a particular academic workshop for scientists and chefs on the basic food chemistry of traditional dishes. That workshop did not influence our approach, and the term "molecular gastronomy" does not describe our cooking, or indeed any style of cooking.

4. We believe that cooking can affect people in profound ways, and that a spirit of collaboration and sharing is essential to true progress in developing this potential.

The act of eating engages all the senses as well as the mind. Preparing and serving food could therefore be the most complex and comprehensive of the performing arts. To explore the full expressive potential of food and cooking, we collaborate with scientists, from food chemists to psychologists, with artisans and artists (from all walks of the performing arts), architects, designers, industrial engineers. We also believe in the importance of collaboration and generosity among cooks: a readiness to share ideas and information, together with full acknowledgment of those who invent new techniques and dishes.
Read more about this and
Heston Blumenthal's thoughts.
Heston Blumenthal, the king of 'molecular gastronomy', has a new, radical manifesto.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Alinea - Chicago

posted by snekse

Alinea Entryway
Originally uploaded by snekse.
I apologize for another temporary post, but I promise I'll come back and detail Alinea more. I wanted our GFC posts about Chicago to be in the order that we dined, and this was the first place we dined, but we didn't take pictures. Instead, I'll be using some of the magnificent pictures taken by Anthony
Marty (yellow truffle) to document what we ate.

Until I have time to write fully on Alinea, lets just say it was good, challenging and not what I had hoped for, but I'd like to go back.

*** UPDATE ***
Alright, I've been stalling. A lot.

What can I say, it's been over 6 months since I've been to Alinea, and I'm still not sure what I think of the place. I know I want to go back, but that's more out of curiousity than because I really liked their food.

Don't get me wrong, there were some fantastic dishes to be had at Alinea. In particular we really liked the Sour Cream, Melon, Finger Limes, Pineapple and Strawberries. But there were also some real duds.

Duds. There's an interesting word. When I use it to describe Alinea's food, it's not because the food lacked flavor. On the contrary, I'd say that certain dishes contained too much flavor. Or at least too much of one flavor that the dish seemed imbalanced and over powered by items that were supposed to play a supporting role. One of the first dishes that springs to mind is the Broccoli Stem. This was a disappointing dish because I had been looking forward to it after reading about it online. The grapefruit in this dish and the steelhead roe just completely masked this poor broccoli to the point that you could have put almost any vegetable in there without making much of a difference.

Then there were dishes like the Porcini that tasted like nothing but pureed sunflower seeds. Oddly, since the porcini flavor is similarly earthy and nutty, it was just a muddled mass of goo in my mouth. I think this was the only dish I didn't finish.

Other dishes were just disappointing because, as creative as they were, they just actually didn't go far enough. The Beef (flavors of A-1) had all of these little flavors to try with your beef, but they didn't give you enough ink in your well to truly experiment with the canvas they gave you. I actually just rolled mine all up to combine all of the flavors and didn't bother trying to mix-n-match in what appeared to be a futile exercise.

I realize that I've focused almost exclusively on the negatives here, but that's because I figured there is enough praise and drooling on the eGullet forums that I should give a counter point.

Don't get me wrong, I can certainly understand what people are raving about and I really do think Chef G is an important figure in the American culinary scene. I think his influences will be felt for years to come, especially as he becomes more established and more of a household name among non-foodies.

Regardless, even after months of reflecting on our meal, it just doesn't change the fact that we walked away disappointed. Some have been criticized for going without having an open mind or they just don't understand the cuisine or numerous other silly knocks. I can confidently say that I went with an open mind knowing fully what to expect, but the food, or more specifically the flavors, just didn't seem like anyone tasted them before putting it on an antennae and sticking in front of me.

This got me thinking about the experience of dining. An interesting thing about dining, is that a single dish isn't going to make or break a meal. The experience as a whole is what people will remember when they decide if they like a restaurant. A particular dish is what people will remember when they decide if they like a particular flavor profile. A great example of this is The French Laundry. Aside from the Oysters & Pearls, I can't say there were a lot of dishes that really stand out in my mind, yet it was one of the best meals I've had in my life. In contrast, I remember quite vividly several dishes from Alinea, both good and bad, yet it was probably our least favorite meal of our entire Chicago trip (Ann Sather being the other).

So no, I didn't enjoy our meal there. Yes, I would encourage others to go. Yes, I enjoyed the challenge. And yes, I'm looking forward to returning. Weird, I know.

Finally I'll leave you with some quotes from other sources that I think sum up my thoughts and feelings about Alinea pretty well:

"That highly experimental movement manipulates textures, flavors and even the chemical properties of ingredients with interesting, thought provoking -- and not always tasty -- outcomes." (Referring to the molecular gastronomy movement in general)

"Our meal at Alinea, which ran us over $200 each, was well worth it, if only to stake out a farther end of a creative spectrum than I'm used to, and to taste things that I can honestly say were totally new to my tongue (...and windpipe, apparently)."

"I hadn't formed a conclusion about Alinea but I will say that Gray provided something, in contrast, that was missing at Alinea. I'm not sure what is was exactly, maybe a combination of time, the privacy accorded by food that doesn't require a chaperone, by food that requests an audience of several minutes from you, or the luxury of flavors that could get a whole sentence out, rather than hiccuping fatally before resigning to an afterlife in your cerebrum."
-Beans, a.k.a. Jules

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Charlie Trotter's

Rating: 89

Alinea - Make a Reservation
Chicago, IL (Lincoln Park)

1723 North Halsted
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110

Hours of Operation
Wednesday - Sunday: Dinner Only
Monday - Tuesday: Closed

Alinea in Chicago

2008 James Beard Award Winners ~ Outstanding Chef: Grant Achatz @ Alinea
2007 James Beard Award Winners ~ Best Chef: Great Lakes
Find recipes in The Alinea Cookbook

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Harold McGee:
The Godfather of Food Science

posted by snekse
So I hadn't heard of this guy until today, but he seems to be the source of modern food science. If you're interested in Molecular Gastronomy, check out some of his stuff. He just revised his book

On Food and Cooking,
The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen

There's also about an hour worth of radio interviews on NPR.