I will never forget my first time dining at the infamous Alinea Restaurant in Chicago. I never thought we would live in Chicago, way too cold for me, but we did and we ended up loving it (the City, not the Cold).
We lived in Chicago for 3 years and it wasn’t until the latter half of the time did we discover the Michelin Restaurants. A restaurant awarded stars from Michelin is like winning an Academy Award in the culinary world. The Michelin Company is based in Paris and was the first in the world to rate restaurants.
Alinea was the second Michelin restaurant we have ever tried. The first was Blackbird and the experiences from a 1 Star to a 3 Star was night and day. The Michelin prestige did not even register with us at the time, we just thought, “cool, we’re going to our first Michelin restaurant,” whatever that meant.
We went to Blackbird restaurant on November 15, 2013 and when Mike first tasted Sturgeon with Caviar he became obsessed, but not sure with what exactly. He just knew he loved the flavors and textures and it was an instant connection to food he’s never experienced before. For me, I thought everything was very good and definitely above average, but it wasn’t as explosive to me as it was for him. That is until our second Michelin visit to the infamous Alinea, one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world.
We were part of the first group of diners that were seated on January 9, 2014. I did not realize at the time that there’s an advantage to being served first. The menu is a gastronomic journey and every entrée that comes out is a unique work of art.
If you like the surprise element and don’t want to see what’s coming to you, being seated first is a real treat. Alinea is NOT a conventional restaurant, it’s obvious as soon as you step inside, your senses already tells you to leave everything you know about dining at the door. It’s beautiful, meticulously clean, and service is impeccable. The Food though…..oh my gosh, transcends all expectations. I never thought I would eat a helium balloon. Yes, a real floating HE gas filled balloon that was completely edible. My voice became that of a chipmunk as I was inhaling with laughter and amusement.
The final dessert of the evening was nothing short of the fireworks Grand Finale you’d see on the 4th of July. The table is cleared and becomes covered with a blank canvas. Then the dessert chef comes out to festoon your table in delicious edible art that looks like Jackson Pollock just stopped by. Being such a rookie at that time, I did not realize our dessert chef that evening was King Chef himself and owner of Alinea. My hubby knew and he was calm as a clam.
If I would have known, I would have bombarded him with all kinds of questions. Perhaps it worked out for the better, because Chef Achatz’s demeanor was definitely saying, “no time to talk, just create.” I literally thought about what I call an “Odyssey in My Mouth” for at least a week, as the sensations from the food continued to tantalize my taste buds.
After experiencing Alinea Restaurant, we were never the same. It was the first time a restaurant appealed to all five of our human senses. It was like art meets science, flavors and textures in perfect harmony. Our palates and curiosity were yearning for more! It was then we decided to eat at every single Michelin restaurant in Chicago before leaving Illinois in the next 18 months.
Between 2014-2015, there were 25 restaurants on the list and we accomplished all but 2 restaurants, Graham Elliot and Senza, both closed down sadly before we could dine there.
What we learned about eating at these types of restaurants is the fine craftsmanship, ambition, art, and passion that can be tasted through the best of Chefs’ creations. Every Chef has a story that they try to convey through food: much like your favorite singer through song, actor through theatre, artist through paintings.
Food can tell so much about a person, a place, and everyone has to eat! Every celebration and failure I can remember all involve food. Which is why we have plans to eat in every country that Michelin has to offer.
Currently they’re in 25 countries including US and we’ve been to only 3: France, Italy, and U.S. I love the fact we have so many more countries to visit yet on this list. We want to know the person, the story, and the inspiration that drives these extraordinary Chefs to do what they do. It is also an amazing time to spend with each other. My hubby and I bond through endless conversations over many topics eating the most incredible food. It just makes these moments even more memorable and life that much sweeter.