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After an unbelievable 12 hour drive across 553 miles from Needles to San Francisco, let alone 2 weeks of cross-country traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast, we had to pack up and head back to Chicago to speak about travel at a national youth conference in Madison, WI.

So it’s kinda ironic after spending 6 grueling days driving 3 RVs from Chicago to San Francisco, we would celebrate by taking a 4 hour flight BACK to Chicago immediately afterwards.

Well, that’s no proper way to celebrate, is it? Months ago we had somehow scored tickets (don’t ask) at one of the top restaurants in the world, Chef Grant Achatz’s flagship 3 Michelin-star restaurant Alinea. So after disembarking our flight from San Francisco, we headed straight there with our oversized backpacks and gear, changing in the cab and rolling into their restaurant for a 9pm reservation. It was funny to see the suited-up staff becoming wide-eyed, and doing their best to welcome 2 dirty backpackers. And yet, we still got great service without any judgment for the rest of the night.

And there we experienced a marathon 16-course molecular gastronomy tasting meal without any expectation of what would come next.

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Here’s the tasting menu, in order:

 

OSTERA, traditional:

OSTERA, traditional

 

SALSIFY, branch camouflage; dehydrated root jerky that you have to “find” among the branches

 

SKATE, brown butter, lemon herbs, served over hand molded “napkin plates”:

 

GRAFFITI, spring, with black truffle “concrete” served over concrete “plates”:

 

GURNARD, white pepper, vietnamese coriander, broccoli:

 

SUNCHOKE, hazelnut brittle, white truffle vinegar

 

Something hanging above our heads the entire time then is taken and placed into a teapot, which turns into…

 

EGGPLANT, banana, cocoa, curry:

 

CRAB, rice green curry, cilatro; TAMARIND, young coconut, nam prik num; SIAM SUNRAY, lemongrass, chili, soda

 

HAMACHI, shishito, bean, pine branch

 

MAITAKE, lobster, dashi, shiso:

 

 

…the previous dish then transitions into…

PORK BELLY, parsnip, black trumpet, butter:

 

HOT POTATO, cold potato, black truffle, butter (a steaming hot potato is then pulled by a pin and dropped in a liquid nitrogen cold potato/black truffle/butter broth before consuming):

 

RABBIT, morel, ramp, mastic:

 

CHOCOLATE, frozen distillation:

 

QUINCE, almond, grapefruit, oxalis:

 

BALLOON, helium, green apple (yes, a floating helium-filled balloon completely made out of green apple taffy):

 

And finally…

 

TROPICAL FRUIT, rum, vanilla, kaffir lime spread out (or “painted”) on our table by the sous chef:

 

Hungry? 

– At time of posting in Chicago, IL, it was 46.4 °F
Humidity: 66% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: Mostly sunny