Yes, it’s the Second City, but that didn’t stop us. Too many good friends have waxed poetic over Chicago’s architecture, galleries, museums, parks, public art and impressive culinary scene.
Even some of those those jaded souls from NYC.
So when a favorite couple of ours suggested a weekend trip to that much-maligned midwestern city — to do a dinner at one of the world’s most respected three star restaurants, that’s all I needed.
We had just watched a “Chef’s Table” Netflix episode featuring the chef — Grant Achatz — and his restaurant Alinea and all four of us were completely overcome by the sensual artistry of his cuisine.
It wasn’t easy getting the reservation. And it wasn’t inexpensive. But we decided to do the culinary splurge and go for it. Then the doubts settled in. Would everything live up to our expectations?
Wow! The magic began, once we were served the first course of the 14 course tasting menu. And it didn’t stop. Course after Michelin-blessed course (accompanied by wines paired to the flavors on the plate) continued to seduce us for the rest of the awesome evening.
This was creative New American Cuisine at the highest level. Not over-the-top, “molecular gastornomy” craziness created simply to amaze. This was accessible, inventive and incredibly delicious.
For example — imagine a luscious corn broth presented in a beautiful ceramic bowl topped with delicately thin, wide, pasta ribbons. But they’re not really pasta, they’re made with a puree of scallops.
As the flavors come together in that first bite, you realize that this is actually an elegant corn and scallop dish. But one like you’ve never had before. Deep, intense corn flavor from the broth. Sweet succulence of scallops from the “pasta.” You don’t want it to end.
Chef Achatz amazed us that night with his culinary creativity. As he’s done consistantly for so many others — making Alinea one of the most praised restaurants in the entire world. But that’s only a part of what makes his story so fascinating. And so inspirational.
After receiving his first Michelin star the chef was diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. Life looked bleak.
Even so, he persevered. Found the right doctor, escaped surgery, and is now cancer free. His autobiography, “Life on the Line” tells the tale and then flashes back to his journey to Michelin stardom.
If you can’t get to Alinea to experience his award-winning cuisine, you might want to read this very special chef’s personal story.
ALINEA / 1723 N. Halsted, Chicago, Il 60614 / www.alinea.com