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Thursday, September 1, 2005


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

In the sports world, there are a handful of athletes that you are fortunate enough to have been able to watch; Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods initially come to mind. You could explain them to the next generation, but they just won't get it. In the same light that our generation doesn't understand the enormity of Mohamed Ali or John Wooden. For foodies, one of those guys is Grant Achatz. If you look at a gallery of his creations, it would be stretch just to imagine these dishes, but to have the ability, the resolve, and the gift to present it on a plate (or pillow), is awe inspiring and I'm just fortunate enough to have been to experience his food.

$225 Tour Menu 24 Courses
Due to the number of courses, I won't write a bunch of comments about each, but rather primarily rank the dishes and mention the highlights for each dish. I prioritized the dished by a 1 (dishes I loved), 2 (dishes I thought were good) ,or 3 (dishes that I didn't care for). I had 11 #1s, 8 #2s, and 5 #3s. The pictures really do more justice for this place than my written review.


#8 Croquette
Light cheese filled and one of the first times I thought salmon roe actually complimented a dish, rather than overwhelm it with salt.

#19 Octopus
They hand this dish to you so I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it. A well prepared dish.


The presentation on this one was cool. It comes on the plate within a cylinder. Then, they pull the cylinder and the dish pours out on the plate. The flavor on the mushroom cream propelled this one to the top.

#16 Apple
Fresh flavors of apple and celery. Cool interlude between dishes.

#15 Monkfish
The monkfish was presented three ways: fried, grilled, and pate. Very good, but too normal for Alinea.

#12 Duck
They bring this one out on a pillow that is filled with juniper air and then puncture it, so there is this aroma of juniper. Pretty cool. The dish itself was good, but not memorable.

#7 Black truffle
One of the best tasting dishes I had. He knows how to use truffles. The serving dish was cool because it had an opening in the bottom.

#6 Short rib
One of the best presented dishes I had, next to the coconut. Layered with Guinness (beer) gel, it looked liked a piece of art and tasted great. I could have done without the peanuts. The rating was more for the presentation.

#20 Yuzu
Nothing special to me, but the flavor was good. It was a yuzu flavored with saffron and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

#10 Chestnut
I love maple so it may be my bias. The chestnut base had a good flavor too.

#11 Persimmon
Two things stood out on this one. The ginger liquid filled ball, it's explosive and I liked it. The brioche pudding was the star of this dish, very rich. I could bathe in this stuff.

#14 Licorice cake
It was a chocolate-licorice cake and it was well-executed, I could have done without the hay on the top. You are supposed to put the whole thing in your mouth without the use of your hands. I think women could learn a lot from this dish.

#22 King crab
Not for me. I didn't care for the gel around the crab and the rice on the side looked nice, nothing special on the flavor.

#24 Skate
Rumor has it; the chef calls this one, Master of the Universe. I forgot to asked why they served it with bananas, it was odd to me. And way too much powder on the plate. It was the only dish that I thought didn't work. None of the flavors went together.

#21 Pinapple
Like the yuzu, it was good, but nothing special.

#4 Lamb
One of my favorite for the presentation and the quality of the lamb. I would consider it a simple dish, each lamb piece with a different sauce, but it was near perfect. I also liked the change to chopsticks. It was served on this hot coal that seared the bottom of the lamb. That's hot.

#5 Hot potato
One of his signature dishes and for good reason. It's a warm potato ball in a cold soup with truffles. You pull the pin out and the potato falls in the soup. Again, the presentation and the truffles make the dish.

#18 Venison
Just way too much granola for the venison. Once you take the granola off, the meat goes well with the accompanying sauces.

#13 Foie gras
This was the chef's complimentary dish. I just liked the fact that I could get foie gras in Chicago. It was a foie gras mouse encased in cinnamon bun dough. Sweet goes with foie gras and it worked well.

#2 Orange
I'm certain there is cocaine in this dish. It's the one I still crave today. That olive oil ice cream is something Ben or Jerry should look into to. Looking around a lot of other people seems to like this dish, also.

#3 Coconut
I'll remember this one for some time. It had the best presentation of the evening. The coconut ribbon across the middle reminded of the 60s when brides use to wear white to weddings, I miss that color. Taste wise, the cornmeal cake was the star.

#17 Chocolate - passionfruit, kaffir lime leaf, soy
Not sure if it was the wine kicking in at the time, but I stared at the chocolate for a few minutes. Like in that one Seinfeld episode when Elaine stop having sex and she was starring at the tires go 'round and 'round. I just thought it was cool how they coiled the chocolate.

#9 Caramel
It came wrapped around a cinnamon stick, crisp on the outside and a rich, juicy bite of caramel on the inside. Great dish.

#23 Bacon
It's just bacon with a strip of butterscotch. I would take this one off the menu.

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

439 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 828-9800

Following my trip to NYC, it was clear to me why New Yorkers claim they have the best pizza. Now, I was off to Chicago and was hoping for the for same result. I looked at a few places for my trip and settled on Lou Malnati's based on several reviews, rating, and its proximity to the city center. They have several locations and I'm sure the quality and experience can vary, my choice was on Wells Street.

$5 Stuffed Spinach Bread (7)
I liked this dish for the contrast in texture of the cornmeal crust and the spinach, cheese filling. It also came with a marinara sauce that's quality was so-so.

$12.50 Small Pepperoni and Sausage Deep Dish Pizza with Butter Crust (6)
Where do I start with this one as there were several components to the pizza. I'll go outside in:

The famous butter crust --- I was imaging something buttery as in light and airy and greasy. This was butter as in a dessert tart and hard. I was not a fan.

The tomato sauce --- The use real tomatoes in the sauce and I liked that, but tomatoes have a high water content that ran into the pizza. Again, was not a fan of. Overall, I liked the quality of this component.

The cheese --- A lot of it, but no different than any other pizza cheese. They just put a little more on it.

The pepperoni --- I thought the quality was better than most pizzas, a little thicker and it had a depth to the taste.

The sausage --- The second most disappointing part of the pizza next to the crust. Large chucks, but very bland. It needed fennel.

Yeah its' better than most pizzas you can get in LA, but Chicago definitely should keep quiet when NYC comes calling. I wouldn't go to Chicago just for the pizza and it shouldn't be their claim to fame. I'll try a different spot next time, probably Burt's Place and take in the hot dogs. And of course another trip to Alinea.