Ridiculous culinary weekend

Kate and I just got back from a weekend trip to Chicago. The house is quiet, the cats seemingly didn’t notice we were gone for 48 hours. We went partly to stop in on Medill, Northwestern’s very well-reputed journalism school, and mostly to celebrate Glen’s birthday by testing the limits of our culinary endurance and budgetary prowess by eating at Moto and Alinea both in the same weekend.

(Some years ago, a French food scientist named Herve This worked extensively on the marriage of cooking and food science, calling it “Molecular gastronomy.” This inspired a Spanish chef named Ferran Adri√†, who started started serving bizarre, delicious, science-fiction food – which came to be known as “deconstructionist cuisine” – in his Spanish restaurant, El Bulli. Inspired by Adria, a few young American hotshots are starting to try some of these techniques; Homaro Cantu at Moto and Grant Achatz at Alinea are two who are getting a ton of press for the groundbreaking nature of their food here in the States.)

Both meals were excellent, delicious, and amusing; after trying both, though, it’s clear that Alinea went so far above and beyond as to qualify as “unspeakably awesome.” Moto was great, don’t get me wrong, but over the course of 5-plus hours and 24 courses Alinea showed… nuance, an enthusiastic expertise which never turned to stuffiness, utterly flawless service, and artisanship which had us all speechless. Moto showed off some neat techniques; Alinea’s use of the same techniques seemed to highlight the technique less and simply present it as one aspect supporting the dish in which it was used.

I now would very much like to have the ability to make stable, edible foam at home.

I’ll write up the whole menu in a bit – for now, we’re home, our stomachs are contracting back to their regular shapes, and we’re gearing up for cooking at Luke and Lindy’s this Thanksgiving Thursday.