Friday, October 23, 2009

Alinea: Preface

Sometime in 2006 I watched a TV program hosted by Anthony Bourdain called Decoding Ferran Adrià which documented El Bulli and its progressive chef, Ferran Adrià.


I thought the things Adrià was doing were pretty freaking sweet (the mainstream media refers to it as “molecular gastronomy,” a label that many progressive cooks and chefs shun), but never thought I’d ever have a chance to dine at a restaurant remotely close to that caliber.  I’d never dined at an upscale, haute cuisine restaurant before and thought I probably never would.  To me, that was just a fantasy, and most of my restaurant experiences had been relegated to more modest Chinese or Vietnamese places that my family would frequent (and still do).  Don’t get my wrong, those places are freaking awesome too and comparing those types of restaurants to each other is unfair to both parties, but I started to get the itch for experiencing something more “refined.”

Then in September of 2006 I moved to Evanston for my new job.  My dad was in town helping me get settled and we needed to find a place to eat.  I googled/yelped for a place to eat and found this place called Trio that had rave reviews, but sadly it had closed down.  We ended up going to Addis Abeba and got to experience Ethiopian food for the first time, so it wasn’t such a big deal.  Plus, kitfo is seriously one of my favorite things to eat of all time now.


I’d never really considered myself to be a foodie.  I ate great growing up thanks to my parents, and it seemed almost like a birthright that I had exposure to such great and diverse food.  What’s cooking for dinner?  What restaurant are we going to?  It didn’t matter.  I always knew it was going to be good.

Fast forward to 2008, and I’d been cooking for myself for a couple years and I started becoming more interested in food because the only way I’d be able to eat great food was to cook it for myself.  I was (and sort still am) too stubborn to eat out if I know I can make the same thing better than a restaurant.  This is especially true for the Asian restaurants here.  No offence, Chicago, but your Asian food is oh so mediocre and Americanized.

Now that I’d started to become a foodie, watching Top Chef, buying cooking-related books, buying some real knives, etc., my interested in haute cuisine piqued again.  The difference this time was that I had money and could justifiably spend it on a lavish meal because I’d been saving so much money on food by cooking 90% of my meals at home.  (By the way, I really love my knives.)

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During my annual trip to California in the winter of 2008, my family went to an upscale restaurant for the first time together: Tapenade.  The refinement and quality at Tapenade increased my desire to eat at these types of places more often.

When I got back to Chicago, I browsed Yelp to see what the top restaurants in Chicago were, and saw that hands down it was Alinea.  I did a little more research into Alinea and found out it was a progressive restaurant akin to El Bulli.  What’s more is that the chef/owner of Alinea, Grant Achatz, was also the chef at Trio before opening up Alinea.  In another coincidental event, I had recently read Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef, and Achatz was featured in it, which made me want to eat at Alinea even more.  I set my eye on the prize and figured the next time my family visited Chicago I’d plan on taking them to Alinea.  On September 6, 2009 that day would come, but not under the best of circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. Mom's retarded, whenever she calls me she is always like, "I think Brian has an obsession with food. I'm worried that he's only spending his money on food and food related stuff instead of saving. Why does he have so many gadgets in his kitchen? Yada yada yada."

    I kinda feel like sometimes she doesn't want to do stuff that we like, but stuff that is, you know, more "professional". I remember at one point I wanted to be come a patissier but she said I was stupid and should go to school for engineering... Looks like the same thing happened to you. She doesn't understand.