Ever since reading an excellent New Yorker piece on Grant Achatz, well maybe even before, I have dreamed of trying Alinea. But travel to Chicago, reservations, and the ticket price made it just that – a dream. Now that we live in the area it has been a real possibility but we needed a proper occasion to celebrate. Lucky for me, I am celebrating a major birthday this month and G surprised me with a reservation!
You arrive to an unmarked doorway and walk down a darkened hall, just as you begin to wonder where you are going a door opens to your left and you are greeted by a host. The man in a dark suit welcomed us rather and wished me a ‘Happy Birthday!’ I was distracted watching the flurry of activity in the kitchen, which is to the right as you enter. There were about 30 people working in the pristine and sparkling glass walled area. We were seated upstairs in a space for about 12 people. The restaurant was larger than expected but nicely divided up into smaller rooms with a small army of people staffing each room and waiting on guests hand and foot!
The décor is modern, sleek, minimalist, and dark. The bare black wooden tables are paired with ivory leather chairs. The room is back lit with lighting coming from behind the black banquet seating. The artwork and decorations are similarly clean lined and minimalist.
We sat for a minute or two taking in the ambience and décor before our waiter came by to greet us. He explained that they wanted to surprise us with each dish of the 18 course tasting menu so we would only receive a list of courses at the end of the meal. He also mentioned that the offer wine pairings, a regular and reserve option, and, off course, a complete wine list. We opted to go for the regular pairings so that we didn’t have to bother making any decisions and were completely in the hands of the Alinea staff.
The sommelier came over and said we would start with champagne and asked if that would be ok with us, if it wasn’t, he joked, we might not enjoy the rest of our meal! I appreciated his comfortable, jovial tone. We started with a Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Bouzy NV. As we sipped, our first course of osetra caviar garnished with brioche foam, egg custard, and a clear aspic of capers and onions arrived. It was such a wonderful sensory experience with the smell and taste of brioche and the creamy texture of the custard.
When a restaurant has 4.5 stars with over 3500 reviews on Yelp (a discussion for another day) and the chef is a Bravo’s Top Chef winner you really have to find out what it is all about! Girl and the Goat books up way in advance so we had a 4:45pm reservation on a Friday night, which worked out perfectly.
The surprisingly large space is rustic and warm with lots of wood and neutral colors. We were seated at a small two-top facing the open kitchen. The menu is a small plates concept divided into vegetarian, fish, meats, breads, oysters, and goat categories. We started with cocktails and I had one which I still dream about. It was called ‘The Earhart’ and was made with ceres vodka, yellow chartreuse, maraschino, lemon, and lavender bitters. The herbal undertones of the yellow chartreuse were enhanced by the lemon and aromatics of the lavender bitters. It was perfect!
As you have realized from my posts, knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced is something I care about. I try to buy meat and produce that reduce my environmental impact as much as possible. I recently was selected to be part of the City Moms 2015 which is a program conducted by the Illinois Farm Families. It is a unique program which gives urban and suburban mothers a chance to see how our food is produced. It is a year-long program with visits to a hog farm, soy and corn farm, dairy farm, and a beef cattle farm.
No, I haven’t fallen off the planet! Let’s just say that life and laziness have gotten in the way of blogging. But, I am back and, of course, have had many wonderful meals to tell you about.
First off, an amazing meal at é in Las Vegas. We met some friends of ours there in December and were able to make a reservation for the intimate 8 seat dining experience at é, by José Andrés. The space is located inside Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan. When you arrive all the guests are seated in the bar and explained the drink options before being taken into the separate space as a group. They offer a couple of pairings with the meal at different price points as well as a complete drink and wine menu. We opted to share one of the pairings as we have found these types of pairings can translate into a lot of drinks!
Inside the space is intimate and the décor eclectic. The space is dimly lit but bright with jewel tones and metallic surfaces. The eight guests are seated at a semi-circle allowing us to see everything as the chefs’ plate each dish of the 21 course set menu. Below are pictures and a brief description, with my thoughts, of each course.
We love food trucks! The casual atmosphere and the great food just make them so much fun. We have wanted to check out the food truck scene in Chicago but unfortunately, not living and working in the city makes it a bit difficult. So when we heard about a food truck festival in Oak Park on a weekend we had to check it out. We managed to check out several trucks. Here are my thoughts, in the order we tried them:
Typically, restaurants in touristy areas are overpriced with average, at best, food. But, we have been pleasantly surprised here in Chicago. The Gage is another, with a location directly across from Millennium Park, which was wonderful!
We made a last minute date to see a matinee nearby and decided to check out The Gage for an early dinner so that we could just walk over from the play. The Gage is an upscale tavern with kicked up comfort food. We met some friends prior to dinner for drinks at the bar. The bar menu is fun with a variety of sprits, in particular whisky (if you are a whisky drinker!), beers, and wines. The bar is beautiful with oak wood shelving and leather riveted barstools.
Fire It Up is the brick and mortar location of what was once a food truck, which is clear from the simple straightforward menu. Being new to the area, we were not aware of the food truck but did come across this location when looking for a fun lunch when out running errands. The space is small with maybe 10 tables but the food comes out quickly. The restaurant focuses on using grass-fed meats and local and organic produce and all the sauces are homemade. The menu is primarily tacos and an order includes two of each but they can also be ordered individually. In our two visits, we have managed to try most of them. Mind you, these are not traditional tacos but rather fun, unique flavors and combinations. The steak taco has nicely seasoned steak with a delicious green chili. The shrimp taco has perfectly cooked shrimp with cabbage and a lemon aioli; it is wonderful! The chicken taco was the least interesting of those we tried but still good with a grilled chicken, onion, mixed greens and tomato salsa. Our favorite is the gringo taco which is fried and filled with a ground beef, bean, and cheese filling. It is really a fun, delicious taco! The chimichurri rice and beans are a delicious side dish which takes this simple dish up a notch with the spice of the chimichurri. We have also tried the mini-brownie chimichangas which are the only dessert option. The small brownie bites are battered and deep fried and served with a chocolate sauce. They are a wonderful way to end the meal.
Overall, we really enjoyed the flavors and delicious food at Fire It Up. We will certainly visit again.
Fire It Up
572 Weston Ridge Dr, Ste 112
Naperville, IL 60563