Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chicago ! Alinea, Again.

I know it might be a bit much to visit Alinea two times in a matter of months, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta to do, and sometimes what you gotta do is eat 15 more exquisite and creative dishes from the world's best restaurant.

Although several of the dishes were the same from my prior visit with Diana, I was delighted to find so many were new, beginning with the first course: tangy ossetra caviar with caper gelee and brioche foam.  The foam was the absolute best, as you can imagine, capturing the essence of buttery bread with every tiny bubble.

Second was the fun little salsify dish,

the prize intertwined into the nest of twigs.  I let the boy have a go in the search.  And then we ate the amazingly beef-jerkyesque salsify with great satisfaction.

Brown buttered skate was presented on a beautiful paper-like porcelain plate, the flesh deliciously tender with hints of lemon.

Heirloom tomatoes were blanketed by ashed goat cheese, disguised on the piece of slate like rock and accented by a creative spray of licorice graffiti.  Definitely a dish for the goat cheese lovers.

One of my new favorites was the corn, which appeared...like corn.

Corn reinvented to the core(n) of course - underneath the grilled layer of the sweetest corn was the sweetest corn pudding mixed with truffle oil, manchego cheese and chunks of ham fat (yum).

Rhubarb truffles were again grated atop earthy celery root, celery branch and sweet red wine reduction.

Perfectly poached lobster was served like a work of art, an autumn palette with rounds of beautiful curry sauce, coconut cream and delicately sliced cucumber and grapefruit squares.

I could eat ten of these. All day. Everyday.

Sweetbreads took the form as Chinese takeout once more, flavored with orange citrus and ginko nut, and served with cinnamon sticks, sweet warmth wafted from the charred ends to heighten the experience.

A bubble plate of lily bulbs, rambutans and lime caviar served to cleanse our palates - rosy and refreshing.

The following course repeated the burning coals on the table, hiding the meat treats inside,

instead of wagyu beef, which Diana and I adored last time, pork belly was hidden within.  The slab of tender pork was served on the midnight stump with very charred parsnip, black trumpet mushrooms and inky kombu seaweed crisps.

Another personal favorite of the meal is the hot potato / cold potato dish, a time sensitive affair which requires you to immediately pull the pin out of the plate, releasing the skewered potato coated with black truffle and cubes of cheese into the warm buttery liquid.  You take the whole thing as a shot, and it's just waves of hot and cold and absolute deliciousness in your mouth for a solid minute afterward.

The final meat dish was a repeat of the plumes of dragon's breath aromatics pouring over

dumplings made of foie gras,

duck breast and lobster mushroom.  I loved bites of the ever so melty duck swirled into the strands of the sweet, caramelized sauce.

Blueberry made its brilliant reappearance in the form of crisp airy foam, chewy strands of cold bubblegum that melted instantly in our mouths, with lilac and sorrel.

The weather was a bit humid, so the balloons floated lower than usual, and our waiters had us attack the balloons immediately upon hand-off.  My voice was higher than you can ever imagine and elicited much laughter from nearby tables.  My favorite !

The final dessert was live artistry and magic with ripe, golden-fleshed passion fruit as the star.

So many wonderful and delicious elements on the table, including a smashed ball of solidified coconut cream, thin sheets of crisp, sweet chocolate, brandied cherries, caramelized pineapple, pieces of key lime candy in edible wrappers.

Again, all wonder and brilliance.
Again, I love you Alinea.

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

California ! Snacking at The Boiling Crab & Snow Station

I spent several days in California recently to visit family.  We stayed with my aunt in Garden Grove in the last two days which entailed just sitting at home, marveling at the fruit from her garden, eating the fruit, and watching Vietnamese television.  

So in the downtime, when both aunt and mom lay on the couch and start falling asleep, I jaunt off to hang out with Jean to partake in the art of "snacking."

Garden Grove is in the heart of Little Saigon, and in addition to the dozens of pho places that dot every corner, there are also several cajun seafood spots in each marketplace - the most popular being The Boiling Crab.

The waits can be intense at The Boiling Crab, but once your lucky name is called, you are escorted to your table which is promptly covered with a clean sheet of white plastic.  A mound of limes is dumped on top for you to make your own salt and pepper dipping sauce.

Since we were here just to "snack," we just shared a half dozen briny oysters (also accompanied by many limes), a pile of cajun fries (which were long, crispy and delicious),

and a pound of shrimp in the 'whole sha-bang' style sauce, which is the kitchen sink of butter, garlic and spice.  The levels of spice you can order are: mild, medium or XXX - the medium ends up being just fine.

The shrimp were beautifully fat, perfectly cooked, and plump enough for dipping in the bag of sauce or your own handmade salt/pepper/lime concoction.  The pound of shrimp had Jean and me busy for half an hour as we sucked on heads, filling our bellies up with sweet, tasty shellfish.

After, we cleansed our palates and cooled our jets at Snow Station, a Taiwanese style shaved snow spot.  Sizes start in mini then baby bear and go up to gigantic loch ness monster sized plates.  The baby bear seemed ample.

The best thing that happens at Snow Station is after you pick your flavor (we did green tea), and the two complimentary toppings (jackfruit + lychee popping boba), you can pick a sauce which there are many options but you should only choose one: CONDENSED MILK.

And then the clerk will say, "Tell me when," as she squeezes the most giant bottle of condensed milk over your frozen treat, zigzagging back and forth until your mind will tell you to stop but your heart will tell them to go on.  

The clerk will then say, "Feel free to come back up for more sauce."  What?  Even more condensed milk is at my ready disposal?  Did I just die and enter heaven?

And the answer was, yes, I did enter heaven.  Each spoonful melted on my tongue like freshly fallen snow, melding with the creamy richness of the condensed milk, the fruity pop from each boba and the tender sweetness of good ol' jackfruit.

God, I love snacking in California.

The Boiling Crab
14241 N Euclid St, Garden Grove, CA 92843
Boiling Crab on Urbanspoon

Snow Station
9938 Bolsa Ave #117, Westminster, CA 92683
Snow Station on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 13, 2014

happiness at caffebene

hello, there! many, MANY apologies for my long-time absence. with my wedding finally over, i am now able to indulge in all the delicious food i've been missing during my wedding diet (it was rough), and more importantly, able to share it with you!

the first thing i ate when i got back to boston after my nuptials was a huge chunk of BREAD (my favorite food group). namely, garlic and cheese honey bread at caffebene. this korean chain opened in boston only recently, and i'm so glad it's a stone's throw away from my apt!

because this:

the fluffiest bread with a slight honey sweetness, which becomes more noticeable on the bottom of the bread (which is nicely buttered), topped with cheese and garlic spread. and look at the the height on that thing - like texas toast on steroids. i was instantly in love.

a few days later we returned for the ginormous mango bingsoo... with the best ripe chunks of mango and a scoop of gelato on top. amazing, creamy gelato.

it's a lot bigger than it looks here. must be shared. i will be back for more. maybe tomorrow.

caffebene is a great place to eat happy foods and hang out with friends, or to plop down and study/work for the day. a welcome addition to my neighborhood. :)

boston folks, get yourselves to caffebene now! free wifi + all the best carbs = happy patrons.

333 massachusetts ave
boston, ma 02115
Caffé Bene on Urbanspoon