For my birthday, we went to Alinea. For those of you who don't know, you're about to find out. Let's begin. 1723 N Halsted is completely unmarked. A doorman opens the door and you walk into this red lit hallway that looks like it leads to nowhere. And then halfway down the hall Wil stops me, and then seemingly out of nowhere doors open on the left. A lovely lady greets us, and tells us that our table will be a few minutes. Thankfully we got to wait by the kitchen. It is absolutely immaculate. I took this first picture on my iPhone while we were waiting. 

after a few minutes we were taken to our table upstairs.

these "flags" and rosemary were delivered to our table. quick sidebar, anytime you leave the table, they replace your napkin with a new perfectly folded one. 

first course, edible fall cocktails.

passion fruit, flor de cana 4 year, matusalem clasico, sailor jerry
lemon, luxardo bitter, luxard amaro, grapefruit
apple, laird's apple brandy, grenadine, thyme
squash, cynar, carpano antica, flor de cana 7 year
kumquat, rittenhouse rye, peychaud's, demerara

there are no tablecloths, instead you get pillows for new silverware

course two: golden trout roe, coconut, licorice, pineapple

course three: oyster leaf, white wine, mignonette

course four: chao tom, sugar cane, shrimp, mint  

with a stick that is yuba, shrimp miso, togarashi. you dip this shrimp stick in the most delicious miso.

the first pairing is a blanc de morgex et de la salle, vallee d'agoste, italy 2007

what you see here is hot water being poured over leaves and apple and fall fruit and vegetables so you get the beautiful scent while you enjoy the dish

course five: maitake, root vegetables, chestnut, and the lovely autumnal vapor

course six: a shot of apple, horseradish, and celery
pairing: can rafols del caus 'la calma,' penedes, spain 2003

course seven is the lovely monochromatic white course made up of halibut, parsnip, vanilla, and lemon

course eight: a pheasant tempura bite with green grape, walnut, and burnt leaves

pairing: quinta do noval, douro, portugal 2004

ninth course we found out the flags were tomato pasta. inside the pasta we were served short rib and then we added the other ingredients ourselves: olive blackberry, salt, and other miniature delicious things i can't remember

course ten: hot potato, cold potato, black truffle, butter
you pull out the pin and quickly eat everything all together

pairing for the next course was the chateau d'angludet, margaux 2004

the eleventh course is the only thing on the menu not created by chef grant. it is a hundred year old dish served on antique dishes. it is a pigeonneau a la saint-clair

the twelfth course is the black truffle explosion with romain and parmesan. one bite of pure bliss.

the next pairing is a cims de porrera 'classic,' from priorat, spain 2004

next, course thirteen, is three bits of lamb off an extremely hot dish with the lovely aroma of rosemary. 

pairing for the next course is the jean-luc pasquet, pineau des charentes

course fourteen is the next three pictures. first on the left are the flavors of pineaple, ham, and freeze dried cherry served rocking. you break off pieces of this to eat. on the right are the flavors of bacon, butterscotch, apple, and thyme. to eat this you simply pull it off the wire! 

the third part of this course was different for us because i am sensitive to corn. typically it is served with a popcorn soup. instead, we had the most delicious bite of bread, banana, and chocolate that tasted just like nutella.

the next pairing was a de bortoli 'noble one,' from new south whales, australia 2006

the fifteenth course is earl grey made up of lemon, pine nut, and caramelized white chocolate

the sixteenth course tastes like bubble gum. it is tapioca, long pepper, hibiscus, and creme fraiche. you literally suck the tube all at once.

then i got a surprise course! happy birthday "cake" amazing melted chocolate and creme. (wil took the next two pictures)

following my birthday surprise, i really didn't think the night could end any better. then they brought out these pretty dishes with little container of apricot, honey, peanut, and chocolate. oh i should say that they also took all of our glassware off the table and laid out this mat. 

the pairing was a toro albala 'don px' gran reserva, from montilla-moriles, spain 1966.

the sommelier quickly explained the pairing and basically sprinted from our table because he knew what was right behind him.

or rather who. ladies and gentlemen chef grant achatz himself came and plated our chocolate mat. i die.

that is his hand! and below, his masterpiece.

course eighteen. the chocolate mat, to be eaten off the table. freeze dried chocolate with liquid nitrogen pouring out, and the most amazing textural combinations of apricot, peanut, and chocolate.

at the end of your meal they bring your customized menu. mine says happy birthday. 
i think we're going to frame them.

as always, more pictures at emiliajanephotography.com 

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