I’m too sexy for your fork

Via the newly minted and delicious Megnut, who has switched formats (all food, all the time!), we discover the existence of Alinea, the zenith of haughty-taughty cuisine on this continent.

The kitchen is helmed by one Grant Achatz, whom Megnut credits as “creating the most exciting food in the United States.”

You can find some fine photos and in-depth color commentary of a recent 5+ hour meal at Alinea here.

Now, nobody has ever confused me for practicing gastromique extraordinaire, and my tastes and culinary ethic are a bit plebian to be certain, but I would have to say a big fucking whoop-to-do. What Alinea seems to be doing is injecting an overwrought, effete sense of artifice and pretension into the act of eating. Fetish cuisine.

After all, all we’re talking about is sustenance, the act of sustaining your life though the intake of energy by way of esophageal sphincter. It’s man’s basest instinct, outside of breathing, which, alas, has also been ruined with the introduction of oxygen bars. God I hate people.

What, you say? What about architecture? Isn’t that the same premise – at the end of the day, these are just buildings people live and work in? To me there’s a huge difference between the Bilboa and a peanut butter sandwich wrapped in edible gold bowstrings, molded in semifreddo blood orange brioche, topped with kumquat foam, and served suspended from the ceiling with titanium chicken wire.

Seeing the “granola” suspended in its rosewater enveloped on a thin wire was seeing food transformed not just to art, but to sculpture. Eating off a pillow as it slowly deflated and perfumed the air with the scent of orange blossoms sounds overwrought; it was intoxicating. The interplay between device and delicacy was uplifting and fun, yet in no way detracted from the usability [emphasis added]. In fact it made the experience quite intellectual, as you were confronted not just with the flavors of the meal, but with expectations of how it could be consumed. Why do we need forks again?

Anytime you have to discuss the finer points of usability when it refers to the act of feeding oneself, we have crossed a line. Soon forks will be anachronism and we’ll all feed by osmosis.

Here’s a screen cap of Alinea’s $175 “tour” menu, with 24 items. The tasting menu consists of 12 items for $125 and presumably buys you larger portions, since it is only half the amount courses in the tour menu yet 71% of the price. Not sure if a reacharound from Mr. Achatz is included in the pricing. Considering the aforementioned 5 hour lifespan of a meal, that comes out to less than $25/hr, which is what it costs for someone to mow your lawn, so consider it a bargain!

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So if you have a few hundred bucks to throw down next time you’re in Chicago and still have an appetite despite all that cocaine, bring your model girlfriend and check Alinea. I know I would.

3 thoughts on “I’m too sexy for your fork”

  1. We wouldn’t mere sustenance to be great fun, now would we? That would be wrong, right? And we hate people who write about food using words any more complicated than “good” or “bad” because that’s pretentious. Who needs all those silly adjectives anyway?

    Same advice I like to give my 8 y/o: you can criticize after you’ve tried it. Prejudgment is ignorance. I was at Alinea last year (w/o model girlfriend or cocaine) and was blown away by the food and the friendly, unpretentious service. Sounds like you are off the bus, though. Too bad.

    –mcz

  2. Hi mczlaw, you’re right to call me out on my petulance – much of it can be traced (in addition to petty jealously) to the fact that I’m not the target demographic and I’m simply taking shots from the peanut gallery. I have no doubts the food is amazing, I think where I fall off the bus is the arcane presentations that smack me of art for art’s sake. I’ll take you at your word that it doesn’t detract from the experience.

    I do stand by my tepid conviction that I would try Alinea if the opportunity ever presented itself – at the end of my post I lamely admit, yeah, well, sure, I’d go. My proletariat sensibilities are not averse to a star treament every now and then. Last fall I had a 7 course chef’s tasting menu at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach that ran something like $200 a head, and by the end of the night my head was spinning in wonder and bemusement.

    Glad to hear you left your model girlfriend and stash of blow at home – together, they don’t play well with food :).

  3. No self-flagellation necessary. I’m sure there are those who try it and don’t like it.

    One of the things I really liked about the place–besides being treated like a VIP like everybody there and having a lot of fun even eating 18 courses by myself–is that the artistry of the food in no way detracts from the taste of it. Most everything tastes great. I had one dish I wasn’t crazy about (a matsutake cake that was a bit dry). The visual jokes are abundant, too–like the bacon on the flying trapeze

    Oh yeah, Aschatz is a nice guy besides. I got to check out the kitchen and chatted with him briefly.

    –mcz

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