Sooooo, like, 7 months ago, I had a crazy delicious meal and started writing about it (check out the first couple courses, and then the middle couple of courses. Annnnd finally, I got my act together to finish it tonight. Enjoy the third installment of our Alinea adventures.
After all the real food - it was dessert time.
They brought out Winter. Like the seaweed log before it, this was basically some designer's wet dream, with 4 bites of food on it. In this case - another log, with pine needles, and rocks that had been cooled to -80 degrees and adorned with peppermint flavored snow. Resting on top of the snow were bites of different fruits (including persimmon) and a nutmeg marshmallow.
Then there was the deconstructed hot chocolate, that was water but of course, it was actually hot chocolate. Okay, Harry Potter, you win.
The snow was realistically cold and fantastically delicious. I scraped it off the rocks with a fork until Boyfriend said that, really, that was quiet enough.
The penultimate course was one of the ones that I wish had been a surprise for me (but was happy was a surprise for Boyfriend). It was a balloon, full of helium, made of something akin to Apple Fruit by the Foot (but, you know, a billion times more delicious and flavorful). Dangling off the end was a silver implement that we were instructed to use however we wanted - with the end result being eating the apple balloon.
I went the direct route and stabbed the balloon right through with the silver tool. This left me very, very sticky, but satisfied.
Boyfriend managed to find a way to eat it slowly enough that he could suck out minimal amounts of helium (but enough to make his voice high pitched) and keep the balloon afloat as he ate it. He's an engineer, people.
The final course was easily the most amazing thing that happened throughout the entire meal, and will continue, probably until the end of my life, to be the best show I've ever seen. I don't know how they managed to keep this course a surprise - but they did and holy.crapballs. was it worth it.
One of the chefs came out and asked about our meal. I was in such a place of pure bliss already, I could barely talk to him. He put a dark chocolate fishbowl on the table and filled it with liquid nitrogen (poured out of a dainty white china pitcher). And then as he chatted with us, he started using various sauces (butternut squash, lingonberry and stout) to draw designs on our table.
I know that I should not be impressed, as plating and presentation is a fairly basic component of culinary arts, but the designs were so beautiful and smelled so amazing. It was art more than food. Boyfriend's birthday present was not so much the meal, but me restraining myself from taking a picture of the final design.
The beauty was either heightened, or short lived, depending on your opinion - when the chef picked up the chocolate fishbowl and unceremoniously dropped it back on the table where it broke open, full of treats like the fanciest pinata this side of Mexico.
The liquid nitrogen had frozen bits of cotton candy, toffee, sweet potato and magic in the fish-bowl-pinata-of-delicious. We were handed spoons and left to enjoy as much of this amazing last course as we could.
If you know me, you know I don't leave food on my plate (or...table? as the case maybe). I think about the starving kids in Africa, the fact that I am paying for this, my Italian grandmother who was always telling me to eat more, my friends who use leaving food as a weird dieting mind game that I will have no part of, and the fact that I may never have this chance again, and I eat until its gone.
So I ate as much as I could fit inside me. There have only been one or two times where I have truly eaten to the point of near stomach explosion (our feast in the Italian countryside comes to mind). And even when it got to the point where I could literally feel my stomach stretching uncomfortably inside my beautiful Jason Wu dress, I kept eating the delicious chocolate scooped up with amazing sauce and real (real!) magnolia petals.
I don't think I would have stopped without Boyfriend telling me I was under no circumstances allowed to throw up in the cab ride home. I would have sat in that restaurant for hours letting the waves of hedonism wash over me if given the chance.
But eventually, sadly, it had to end. They brought the check and cleaned up the end of the beautiful chocolate mess. While we waited for a cab, we got to sneak a peak inside the kitchen which was surprisingly normal looking (I am not sure why I assumed that they would be like, cooking with flame throwers and wearing those crazy super magnifying glasses - I have a very active imagination).
We got in our cab, and went home - and like any vacation, there was that crushing realization that we were very much back in the real world, where you eat on plates with regular forks and all of the food is just normal and boring.
Boyfriend bought me my own Molecular Gastronomy At-Home Kit which I am waiting for a really special occasion to play with. The next time I eat crazy stuff, it'll probably be of my own making.
Do I recommend Alinea? Absolutely. If you el-oh-vee-ee LOVE food and are not going to be scared off by a price tag akin to a new computer, then absolutely. Do it. Or find some other amazing restaurant and eat there (and then tell me about it). The thing about living is that you should really enjoy it as much as possible.