Best Meal of 2013 – Alinea in Chicago

Posted by on Dec 28, 2013

2013 was marked by a series of challenges, some of which resulted in growth.  This might have been my busiest year yet and I’m simultaneously surprised and relieved that I made it through. Since I haven’t had much time to blog, I’ll quickly fill you in with what I’ve been up to.

Reflecting back, there’s oh so much to be thankful for.  December sealed the end of my first year of teaching in Austin.  Time really flew!  Contact me directly if you’d like to know what I’m teaching.  Let’s just say it’s not your usual educator’s position… those who know will agree.  I do love my job and the fantastic people that I work with.  In fact, we started to attend the church that our program director pastors in.

My major shift this year was starting grad school.  I’m currently in a very challenging program studying what I believe is my calling, my purpose, my passion, my mission.  These 8-week short, back-to-back semesters may become the death of me – they’re so intense!  Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband that encourages me every single day :)

I’m grateful and humbled because Vancouver Food Tour has grown yet again.  I have the most wonderful team of talent that makes it all possible.  We’re in the works of expanding to become bigger and better in 2014, such as by launching new tours and other surprises.  I’m excited to see what the new year holds for my “baby”.

I started doing Crossfit in March of 2013 and it’s been life changing.  I’ve never felt (or looked) stronger and continue to make progress.  My goal is to compete in 2014.  I still have a ways to go, especially because I’m stubborn and am unwilling to change my diet.  (Doing what I do, how could I?)  I know you didn’t come to a food blog to read about fitness so tweet or FB me if you wanna chat about that.

Yes, I’m still freelance writing here and there – definitely not as much as I’d like to but it’s my one creative outlet right now that has to stay.  In all, it’s been a fruitful and exceptionally busy year.

2013 has once again been another remarkable year of eating.  Some of my best meals in Austin include Qui, Barley Swine (loving their new prix fixe set up), and Carillon.    Vancouver’s Wildebeest blew my mind yet again by throwing the Vancouver Food Tour team an amazing staff dinner.  We ate our hearts out in Paris and I haven’t even had time to blog about it (apart from the best croissant ever).  But if I had to choose my best meal of 2013, it’d undoubtedly be Alinea in Chicago.  (Read more about why we went to Chicago and our other fantastic meals there).

We visited the windy city during bitterly cold February.  Needless to say, we both anticipated this meal immensely.  This was my first visit and his second.  That Alinea veteran ;)

In all, I really don’t have much to say because I have qualms against using superlatives.  So instead, I’ll summarize my experience with 5 adjectives and let the photos tell the rest.  They’re not good photos because Alinea was not the place to be wielding cameras in.  I was lucky to capture what I could without using flash.  I didn’t want to be THAT diner (even though everyone else was taking photos around us too).

So to sum up my best meal of 2013 in 5 words, Alinea was enchanting, methodical, interactive, cheeky, and exquisite.  It was by no means stuffy or pretentious and we had a lot of fun playing with our food.  Huge thanks to Pete for surprising me with this thoughtful, memorably gift xo

 

Dining at Alinea in Chicago

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Onaga – white soy, yuzu [Sashimi style, floating in an ice-filled vase]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Scallop – mirin, sesame [Straightforward 1-biter]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Shrimp head – togarashi, pincage [Who doesn't love head goo??  You best believe I mopped every smear up.]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Uku – lemongrass, ginger [The infused broth cooks the fish ever so slightly]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Pineapple – slush, shot. Pairing: Ginga Shizuku “Divine Droplets” Junmai Daiginjo-shu, Hokkaido-ken [The complex shot sucked through the straw]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Striped Bass – mole, avocado, escabeche. Paired with: FX Pichler “Urgestein Terrassen” Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau 2007

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Tabletop coals to heat up the blis elixer

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Maitake – pumpernickle, black garlic, blis elixer. Paired with: Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza – Reserva Especial”, Rioja 2004 [The crisp puffed pumpernickle + umami-loaded black garlic made this one of my most memorable courses]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter [This play-with-temperature dish was  also unbelievably good.  The bowl was made with wax]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Duck prepared 5 ways. Paired with: Chateau Musar, Bekaa Valley 2004

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

The 60+ condiments to pair with the duck.

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

We mixed and matched the cuts with the varied condiments to find our favorite combinations.  The number of possibilities was staggering.

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Black Truffle – explosion, romaine, Parmesan  [A classic.  As a novice eater, truffle juice squirted all over the table top.  It made for a good laugh.]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Pork – pain d’épices, turnip, orange. Paired with: Tommaso Bussola “TB” Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Ginger – 5 other flavors. Paired with: The Rare Wine Co. “Boston Baul – Special Reserve” Madeira

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Carrot – coconut, white sesame, caramelized honey. Paired with: Yalumba “Botrytis” Viognier, Wrattonbully 2011

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Balloon – helium, green apple

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

The entire balloon, including the string, was made from apple candy.  We sucked the helium in first and talked in funny voices.  We consumed the container shortly after.

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Dark Chocolate – chestnut, rye, birch syrup.  Paired with: Ferrandes Passito di Pantelleria 2006 [They laid down a silicone tablecloth and served the final course on the tabletop]

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

Abstract painting with syrups, gels, and more.

Dining at Alinea in Chicago 2013 by Melody Fury | Food, Drink, Restaurant Photographer and Writer in Austin TX and Vancouver BC

As the grand finale, they smashed the chocolate ball onto the table, shattering to reveal the contents.

So that about sums up my experience at Alinea.  I hope you’ll follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to see some of my top contenders in 2014.

Lastly, this post begs the question: what was YOUR best meal in 2013?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.  I wish you a very merry new year!  Please stay in touch xo

 

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  • Elizabeth Compton

    Love your post! My favorite meal was at Gusto’s (ATX). We must have a double date there in the very near future!!!

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    I love that idea, Compty! Let’s do that once the holiday festivities calm down :) xo