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April 2010

April 29, 2010

Some Things For You To Read and Think About and Help With

Congratulations to Alinea for coming in at #7 on the S.Pellegrino Top 50 World's Best Restaurants list (and #1 in the U.S.).  So well deserved.  I love that this list focuses on and rewards innovation and creativity.  I don't know about you, but I'm grateful for chefs who take risks, try unconventional things, and push the envelope... chefs who take us outside our comfort zone and make us think about what we're eating and why.  Do I want this in every meal?  No.  But, am I damn thankful for chefs and cooks who mix it up and make me think about food differently than I had before.  I love artists who challenge my way of thinking about painting or sculpture, actors who take risks and do bold things in their medium, and musicians who innovate... and when it comes to food, I so appreciate the amazing group of chefs in the top ten on that list who shake things up and unabashedly try new things to keep the industry on its toes.  That takes courage and guts and gumption, and it's awesome.

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Speaking of creativity, check out this video of the Alinea team brainstorming some ideas for the Spring 2010 menu:


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Last week, the International Association of Culinary Professionals hosted their annual meeting in Portland, OR, during which time Michael Ruhlman took part in a panel discussion that discussed the death of recipes.  Check out his piece in the Huffington Post's new Food Section that goes further into why he called bullshit on the notion that people don't have time to cook.  Michael and I see eye-to-eye on this issue.  What do you think?

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On Monday, I'll post the URL for the James Beard Awards live blog.  Hope you'll come check it out.  And, a special thanks to James Beard Award nominee Tim Carman from the Washington City Paper for his Q&A with me on the awards.  I'll be in New York Sunday and Monday hanging with some of my favorite chefs and food folks, so if you're not following me on Twitter (@carolblymire), you should... 'cause I'll tweet updates and photos as the festivities get underway.  And, if you have a minute, check out the list of nominees, and let me know (in the comments) what questions YOU think I should ask these folks.  Any chefs from your cities or towns in the running?  Any restaurants or chefs you think are the ones to watch?  Let me know.

See you Monday!

April 26, 2010

Marcona Almond, white ale, pink pepper, lavender

Hi!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm back!!!!!!!!!

I missed you guys.

I'm still under a ridiculous pile of work that keeps growing and growing (which, I have to keep reminding myself is a GOOD THING when you're self-employed), but can breathe a bit more easily now since some big deadlines have passed and some others are a little further down the road and more manageable.

And just in time to celebrate this more manageable schedule has come a most painful and ridiculous sciatica attack my orthopedist says is a result of something called piriformis syndrome, which he so beautifully described as "when your buttcheek muscle spasms." Which, because I am 12, cracked me up but then I had to grow up because laughing hurts so much (as does sneezing, crying after sneezing, and pretty much any kind of moving, breathing, and walking).

He said it likely began when I fell up the stairs again two weeks ago, exacerbated by the long periods of time I have spent sitting and writing for clients the past two weeks, and then got worse when I sat on two very long flights last week to the west coast and back. When he and I were going through the list of symptoms and pain positions leading up to this extreme, sharp, shooting pain across my lower back, hips, and down my left leg, I neglected to add to the list the general thrashing and dramatic arm gestures I was doing in the car Friday night along to Poison's "Something to Believe In" to try and will Bret Michaels back to good health. I think that's the straw that broke the camel's back.  Or, um, buttcheek muscle.

So, I've found two positions that don't hurt: standing, and laying on my stomach. I'm typing this while standing at the island in my kitchen... a stack of cookbooks piled up with the laptop on top so I can easily type.  The only time I'm in need of pain management is when I sit, or do the transitions from laying to sitting or sitting to standing.  I took Vicodin on Saturday night to be able to sleep, and holy moley I can see how people get addicted to that.  Not ever taking that again.  Totally whacked me out (even though it gave me the best sleep of my life).

I need a back transplant.  Or a buttcheek muscle transplant.  WHERE'S MY TELETHON?

Okay, enough about my medical ailments.  That's not why you come here.

But(t), before I get to the Marcona almond dish, I have something really cool I wanna tell you...

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I am going to the Food OscarsThe James Beard Awards!  And, not only am I going, they've asked me to live-blog the awards ceremony on their web site!  I'm so excited about this I could plotz. 

More info on specific times and the URL as soon as I get the deets from the folks in New York, but for now, mark your calendars for the evening of Monday, May 3rd.  Yay!  Let the plotzing commence!

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So, Marcona Almond. 

FINALLY.

I made this just before I got buried under the avalanche of work, and it's been bugging me that I haven't written about it yet.  So here we go.

Probably 5 or 6 years ago, or more, I quit drinking beer.  It just didn't taste good to me anymore.  I figured, heck, I drank a LOT of beer in college... maybe I just used up the lifetime quota my enjoyment receptors would allow, and never drank it again.  Didn't miss it at all.  Was it a precursor/early warning sign that my body was rejecting gluten?  My doctors think so.  I've made the rounds of gluten-free beer over the past year to see if I could find one that might make me appreciate or enjoy beer, and while I'm not repelled by it like I used to be, and while I already made one Alinea dish that had beer in it, I just haven't fallen back in love with beer again.

But this recipe called for a white ale (Allagash, to be specific), which just isn't an option for me.  So, after narrowing down my options via some extensive online research and conversations with others who have celiac and have sampled gluten-free beer, I called and went to some of the city's best liquor/beer/wine stores, met with beer experts, talked with many, many men who knew a lot about white ale, but not a single one of them knew anything about gluten-free beer because they've never tasted it.... even though all their stores sold it.

Which... I guess I get.  I mean, when you work in the alcohol sales field you probably can't taste everything you sell, but it would've been nice for at least one person in this city to have some idea of what these beers tasted like, and whether they could recommend one brand over another. 

So, I bought a sampling of 8 or 9 gluten-free beers and narrowed it down to one I thought might work.  On a side note, let me tell you a gluten-free beer you don't EVER need to try to drink or cook with, and that's New Grist.  Tastes like a baby wipe smells, and leaves a film in your mouth akin to having gargled with Oil of Olay and rinsed with water you burned rice in.  Just a little PSA there, from me to you.

The first step in making this dish is to make beer gel.  So, I put 200g of Green's Quest Triple Blonde into the blender with some sugar, glucose, potassium citrate, and kappa carrgeenan and blended it on high speed for 3 minutes:

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I put it in a saucepan, brought it to a boil, the poured it into a plastic-lined 13x9" baking dish:

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I put it in the fridge to chill for an hour until it had set.

Meanwhile, I made the Marcona almond cream.  The recipe in the book calls for Marcona almond paste (50% sugar) which I couldn't find anywhere, so I made my own.  Or, at least something vaguely resembling what I think Marcona almond paste is.  I'm familiar with the texture and taste of regular almond paste, so I threw a bunch of already-roasted and salted Marcona almonds into the food processor with a little bit of sugar and just kept pulverizing it and augmenting with sugar and almond oil until it felt and tasted right:

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It's not creamy like almond butter, and it's not chunky or gritty.  It really is like a paste.  Not overly sweet, but not overly nutty, either.  Not something I'd advise eating with a spoon, but more something that can be used in other things, you know?

I weighed 150g of that homemade Marcona almond paste and put it in the blender with some yogurt, and then blended everything until it was well combined.  In a saucepan, I heated some cream until it began to boil.  I removed it from the stove top and added some already-soaked gelatin sheets and some sugar, and stirred until they both were dissolved. Then, I whisked the gelatin-sugar-cream mixture into the Marcona almond paste-yogurt mixture, and poured it over the now-set beer gel layer:

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Next, I made some almond oil jam (and forgot to photograph it because I was too busy tasting it, and by tasting it I mean pouring it down my throat because it was sooooooo good) by whisking a boiled Trimoline and glucose mixture into 3 egg yolks, then drizzling in some almond oil while it was buzzing around in the food processor.

Last but not least was slicing some orange zest into small pieces, and frothing some more beer by adding soy lecithin and sugar to the white ale and making it foam with the immersion blender.

For plating, I was supposed to cut the now-set beer gel and Marcona almond cream into long 3"x10" strips and roll them, then cut them so they'd look like a cool spiral-y thingamabob on the spoon.  For some reason, it didn't work (the strips kept breaking as I rolled them, and generally turned into a giant mess; I'm blaming the lack of gluten which is a binder), so I just cut neat little squares and put them on a spoon.

First on the spoon, though, was a blob of almond oil jam, then the squares, which I topped it with beer froth, orange zest, and crushed pink peppercorn pieces.  I also added a tiny bit of dried lavender, as the book suggests, but didn't do the malted milk powder (it has gluten), and instead grated some Marcona almond over the top of each serving:

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So, how'd it taste? Wellllllllll, it didn't suck.  It certainly wasn't the best thing I've ever eaten, but it also wasn't the worst.  I served this to my friends the same night I made the Yuba, shrimp, orange, miso dish, which was just such a freakin' knockout of a dish, this one barely stood a chance.  But, it held its own.  

The flavor of the beer was not all that great, but I loved the Marcona almond cream with the orange and pink peppercorn.  The beer kinda gave it a mellow backdrop, but because it was gluten-free beer, I think the dish suffered a bit as a result in the taste and texture department.  Such is my life.  When I made the Marcona almond cream, I used sheep's milk yogurt, because I knew the beer part of the deal would be weak, so I wanted the other element of that layered bit to have some zing to it, and I love the way it turned out.

Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy the challenge of de-glutening these (and other) dishes, but it kills me when the basic chemistry of gluten is such a determining factor in a dish's outcome, and mine ends up not being what I know it can be if only I had a normal immune system.  (:::shakes fist at sky:::)

That said, if you can eat gluten, you might want to try making this.  I like the idea of these flavors together, and I think it could be really, really good.  Or, you know, you could just drink beer and eat a handful of Marcona almonds on a Tuesday night.  SLACKER.

Up Next: Lamb, mastic, date, rosemary fragrance... or Opah, in the style of bacon, endive, radicchio

Resources: Green's Quest Triple Blonde beer; Old Chatham sheep's milk yogurt; Domino sugar; glucose and Trimoline from L'Epicerie; potassium citrate from ZooScape.com (weird, I know); kappa carrageenan and soy lecithin from Terra Spice; Marcona almonds, orange, and lavender from Whole Foods; Organic Valley heavy cream.

Music to Cook By: Alphaville; Forever Young.  Twenty-six years later and I still love this album as much as I did the first time I put the needle on the record.

Read My Previous Post: Yuba, shrimp, orange, miso

April 12, 2010

Leftovers: Pickled blueberries, miso mayonnaise

Right now, my life is about crushing deadlines.

If you're self-employed, you know that your time is never really your own. If a client calls, you do the work. You have to.  Because every hour you're not billing is time you don't get paid.  If you don't work, there's no paycheck coming in.  There's no closing the notebook, turning off the lights, powering down the computer, and getting to it another day.  There's no delegating it to someone else on the team. 

I love what I do, I love the clients I work with, and I love the flexibility I have (The month of August off? Yes, please!), but sometimes 3 or 4 clients descend at once with full-time amounts of work and although it's incredibly energizing and one hell of a roller coaster ride to get it all done, it can be hard (for me) to switch gears and relax... even for an hour.

Right now, I'm working 18-hour days and will be for the next few weeks. There will be time for an Alinea dish or two in there... but not much more than that.

Oh, how I've wanted to cook this past week, and write about what I've cooked.  And I will.  Soon.

But for now, I hope you'll be content with a few words and a few lovely pictures along the way, because every time I've sat down to write about something other than the speeches and op-eds and press kits and other things I'm doing for clients, I'm all flibbitydooooo and wonkalazooooo because my brain is jammed and nothing even remotely coherent comes out.

I'm not cooking these days as much as I am assembling.  I don't have time to leave the house for takeout, and there aren't any delivery options in my neighborhood for someone who can't eat gluten.  So, I'm merely putting together 2 or 3 things and calling it a meal.  Like this:

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That's Fage Greek yogurt with leftover pickled blueberries and some orange blossom honey. That was breakfast last Wednesday. And it was goooooood.  Sweet, tangy, pickle-y... and with Portland Roasting's Goose Hollow blend, I started that day off just right.

Friday lunch was a salad of romaine lettuce, carrots, honeycrisp apples, marcona almonds and a vinaigrette made with the leftover miso mayonnaise from the Yuba dish:

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That dressing was ridiculously easy -- miso mayonnaise (instead of oil), white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, salt, pepper.  And it tasted so, so, so, so good.

I loved cooking my way through The French Laundry Cookbook, but there's something I've discovered that's a little different about cooking through the Alinea cookbook: more adaptable leftovers.  There are so many individual elements in each dish, and many of them yield incredible opportunities for what's left over.  I made salad dressing three times, and thanks to Charlie Baird who told me over Twitter that he used the miso mayonnaise on grilled vegetables, I brushed some of it on some sauteed Brussels sprouts with tofu and crushed peanuts for dinner last night, and life was good.

It's also interesting to me that, lately, I don't have time to over-think how I'd use these leftovers.  They've served a very basic purpose and have come in handy in such a fundamental way: to feed me.  While I wish I could focus on the pleasure of food as my primary goal, right now it's all about sustenance.  What's fantastic, though, is when what you've thrown together in 2 minutes for sustenance turns out to be so freakin' delicious you actually do stop in your tracks for three minutes, maybe five minutes, to really taste what's going in your mouth.

That's one thing I really love about this project.  It has the power to turn sustenance into pleasure when you least expect it, and when you really need it.

Hope to see some of you at Smith Meadows Farm Day -- I've already heard from a few of you that you're coming... and I am counting the minutes until May 1.  Getting away from the laptop and the phone, and mucking about the fields among cows and chickens for a few hours is gonna be fantastic.  I can't wait!

Up Next: Marcona Almond, white ale, pink pepper, lavender

Read My Previous Post: Yuba, shrimp, orange, miso

April 05, 2010

Yuba, shrimp, orange, miso

Well, THAT was fun, now wasn't it?

Some people love decorating their Christmas tree... others look forward to Valentine's Day every year.... me?  I'm a big fan of the 4/1.  It's kinda *my* holiday, ya know?  Special thanks go out to two incredibly wonderful and cherished friends -- Catherine and Chris -- the wind beneath my April Fool's wings. 

And you know what?  When I read through that April Fool's Day post one last time before pressing the "Publish" button, I thought to myself, hey, wait a minute... that actually sounds like a fun tour, and I wish I could really do it.  Well, except for the liquid nitrogen part.  And the having to do all that permitting.  But cooking my way across the country???  I'd love it.  Let's find a way to make that happen, k?  I'm serious.  Wouldn't that be cool? 

For now, though, I guess I'll just stay here at home and show you how to make dehydrated and fried soy skin sticks.  See, isn't that more fun?  (say it with me: NO)

But before we get started, I wanna tell you about an event here in the DC area I hope you'll come to: Smith Meadows Farm Day.  A little over an hour outside DC, Smith Meadows Farm is owned and run by the Pritchard Family.  I've gotten to know Forrest and his wife Nancy over the past few years (they're at a few of our local farmers markets), and not only do I think they are awesome, their food is amazing (their chickens are the best you'll find in the area).  You can read this interview I did with Forrest, and then, you can go to their web site and sign up for Farm Day -- it's Saturday, May 1st from 10 - 2.  The cost is $35 per person ($60 for a couple), and that includes a tour of the farm, some workshops and activities, and a big ole BBQ lunch (featuring their meats).  Kids 18 and under get in free.

I'm gonna be there, so I hope you'll come out to see a working family farm, and get to know some great people who work harder than anyone I know.

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Now, about those dehydrated and fried soy milk skin sticks.... let's hit it:

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Those were some dried soybeans I soaked in water overnight.  The next morning, I put them in a blender along with some water, and made soy milk:

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I poured that liquid into a large sauce pan, brought it to a boil, and let it boil for 3 minutes.  I poured the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into another large sauce pan (the liquid was about 1" deep) where I skimmed off all the foam and bubbles and brought it up to just below a simmer -- that's when the skin began to form on the top of the liquid. The skin that forms is called yuba, hence the word "yuba" in the title of this dish.  How many of you thought "yuba" was short for "yodeling tuba?" Show of hands?  I thought so.  Shame on you.  Especially you, there, in the back. What were you THINKING?

Now, you're supposed to be able to pull the skin off and lay it flat on a piece of parchment to dry before rolling it into a stick.  But you know me... I can work my magic in the halls of Congress, in the East Room of The White House, and on the front page of the nation's leading newspapers, but lifting the skin off soy milk and laying it flat? I got no skillz.  (and it's totally frustrating, believe you me)

I got the skin about halfway off the surface before it kinda started folding all into itself, so I decided to just run with it, and made the sticks straight away... and added in some extra time in the dehydrator (since there would be moisture in the ridges of the sticks).  Here's what one of the soy milk skin sticks looked like as it dried at room temperature before going into the dehydrator:

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Not the most attractive food product I've ever seen, but not the worst, either, I suppose.  I made eight of those sticks, which took about two hours -- after one layer of skin was pulled off the surface of the milk, I had to wait another 15-20 minutes for another one to form.  There were eight in all, and they all spent about 5 hours in the dehydrator at 135F degrees.

While I was making the soy milk sticks, I made miso mayonnaise:

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It's so easy -- you just start with one egg yolk in a bowl, then whisk in the canola oil, a drop or two at a time, whisking all the while, then adding the oil more steadily as the mayo emulsifies.  I love making homemade mayonnaise... and miso mayonnaise?  Holy wow, is that good.  After whisking the egg yolk and oil, I added red miso paste, the juice of two limes, sugar, water, kosher salt and cayenne pepper.  All I need to do now is learn how to make a gluten-free baguette and I will slather this miso mayonnaise on every freakin' sandwich I can think of.

The other thing I did while waiting for the soy milk skins to form was peel an orange, go in with a paring knife to remove the pith, cut the peel into long, thin slices, then blanch them in simple syrup.  Those long orange peel strips were wrapped around the yuba sticks just before serving.

DSC_0012Look!  I peeled it all in one piece!  I should have my own TV show!  Or a recording contract!  Or a clothing line!  Right?  Right.

Once the yuba sticks were dehydrated, it was time to deep fry them:

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While they blobbed around the pot of hot canola oil for about a minute, I sliced some raw, pink, Florida Keys shrimp lengthwise so they, too, could be wrapped around the now-fried yuba sticks.

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I wrapped one sliced shrimp around each yuba stick, put them on a baking sheet, lightly brushed them with canola oil, and stuck them under the broiler for about 2 minutes when the shrimp were cooked through and the yuba had begun to brown even further:

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To serve them, I put a spoonful of miso mayonnaise in a shot glass, then perched a yuba stick in it.  I included a piece of chive, a candied orange zest strip, a dash of togarashi (a spicy Japanese pepper powder), and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds (those weren't in the recipe, but they were there in the photo, so I included them):

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Love, Love, Love, LOVE! 

Shrimp, orange, and miso might just be my new favorite flavor combination. Holy cats, these were good.  There were just four of us around the table, and we were pretty psyched to have two apiece.  The biting and the re-dunking, and the biting again, and the one last dunking and biting... wow.  I think we could've gone through a few dozen of these.  They're THAT good.

If the danged soy milk skin sticks weren't such a pain in the ass, I'd make these things EVERY DAY.  I'm not kidding.  Salty, crunchy, shrimpy, orange-y, miso-y flavor all in one bite?  What's not to love?  I mean, sure, fine... go ahead and buy some lame-ass box of cheese straws from the stupid grocery store for your next dinner party or holiday gathering.  FINE.  Be that way.  Or, you know, you could make these and actually make your guests pass out from all the deliciousness.  Then, while they're unconscious on the floor, you could eat your leftover miso mayonnaise out of a little plastic storage container with a spoon.  Oh wait, I meant, you could WANT to do that.  Not that you would really ever DO that.  Because who eats miso mayonnaise out of the container with a spoon?  I mean, really.  That's gross.  Ew.  WHO DOES THAT?  (me.)  (totally.)  (i ain't gonna lie.)

I think one of my projects this summer will have to be to figure out a nice little lunchtime shrimp salad that incorporates miso, orange, and sesame.  That, with a glass of prosecco, would make me a very happy girl.

Up Next: Marcona Almond, white ale, pink pepper, lavender

Resources: Dried soybeans, orange, limes, red miso, and togarashi from HMart; egg from Smith Meadows Farm; 365 canola oil; Domino sugar; David's kosher salt; cayenne pepper from TPSS Co-op; shrimp and chives from Whole Foods.

Music to Cook By: The Bird and The Bee; Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Darryl Hall and John Oates.  One of my favorite duos covering the songs of one of my other favorite duos?  If loving this is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

Read My Previous Post: Alinea at Home, On the Road!  (*snerky-snerk-snerk)

April 01, 2010

Alinea at Home, on the Road!

NOTE ADDED April 4, 2010: Comments are closed.  Check the date at the top of this post and think about what holiday occurs on April 1 every year.  :)

About six months ago, I saw this little vintage Airstream trailer for sale on the side of Route 40 in New Jersey, as I was driving to see friends at the beach:

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That led to a weekend of thinking it would be really great to get a few friends together, ditch life for a month or two, and see the country in our kickass Airstream trailer.  Then, of course, reality set in as I realized I actually kinda need to work to pay the bills, can't really take 2 months off right now, isn't that Airstream a little small for a group of four friends, blah, blah, blah. 

But, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it because even though I tend to think of myself as a homebody, I've long had secret wanderlust... a desire to see America from the road.  A lot of my friends took the summer off after we graduated from college and did the cross-country driving thing, and I didn't.  And to be honest, I kind of regret it.  So, since that weekend I spotted the Airstream, I've taken on a ton of extra work to build up my savings account so that when the right time came along, I could just hit the road for a little while (even if it's just in my car) and let the roads unfold before me.

And then it hit me: maybe I could cook my way across America.  Better yet?  I could cook for YOU all the way across America.

I sat down with a small group of friends and colleagues and started to brainstorm, and after a hectic few months of intense planning and the help of some awesome people (and a really generous and wonderful investor), I'm here to tell you, I'm doing this:

Truck4 That's me in there, trying to pry open a stuck window (Stupid refurbishers! Um, I mean GREAT refurbishers. Hi, Cath and Chris! Love you, mean it!)

Starting this weekend (holy crap, I can't believe it!!) for the next 12 weeks, I'll be on the road in my new, totally outfitted, solar-supported, LEED-certified Alinea on the Road food truck, doing avant-garde adaptations of traditional street food.  I've learned so much from doing this blog, so I've been spending a lot of time in secret working with new street food-influenced flavors and adaptations I've been DYING to talk about, and now I can!

Here's my menu:

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Here's what some of the food looks like (nothing like having an awesome test kitchen here at home to shoot some pics for you guys, right?):

Taco Dry Shot:

DSC_0025 Dehydrated and powdered/crumbled polenta, tomato, jalapeno, refried beans, and garlic, with hints of paprika, cayenne, and chili powder.


Korean BBQ Gelee

DSC_0002 Tamari soy sauce, garlic, turbinado sugar, onion, liquid smoke, beef stock, pork stock.


Falafel Liquid Shot

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Lettuce, tomato, sesame, garlic, coriander, cumin, and chickpea distillation, with micro lettuce garnish. We've been able to source eco-friendly, biodegradable mini shot glasses for these, and they look a lot like the glass in this photo.


Pho on a Pin

DSC_0017 This is so flavorful -- all the elements of pho (beef, rice noodles, fish sauce, onion, ginger, star anise, clove, sugar, scallion, cilantro, chili, lime, and bean sprouts) blended to a puree, compressed, then cooked sous vide before cubing, flash frying, and rolling in a powdered Vietnamese spice mix that re-liquifies as soon as it hits your tongue.


Sweetbread and Lobster Popsicle

DSC_0011 I keep the sweetbread-lobster liquid (seasoned with onion, salt, pepper, carrot, fennel, thyme, and saffron) in a refrigerated container at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, then make the popsicles to order in our mini, on-board liquid nitrogen tank.  Hope to have video of this for you soon, because I've finally mastered liquid nitrogen.
 

The other menu items are (still working on photos of these): 

The Banh Mi Explosion is awesome -- I took inspiration from Alinea's Black Truffle Explosion and forged all the flavors of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich (meat - usually pork or beef, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and Vietnamese chilis).  Pork stock has worked best for this, though I'm augmenting it with veal stock when I can.  This little ball of liquification is encapsulated in a very thin reconstituted rice-paper coating (to act as the traditional sandwich's baguette), and the whole thing quite literally explodes with flavor when you pop it in your mouth. 

Seasonal Gelato Powder is just as it sounds -- I'll work with seasonal fruits (or vegetables, depending upon availability) to make a gelato base, which I'll powderize with tapioca maltodextrin, and add an essence of ice cream cone base so you get the full effect.  When you eat this, it's like the Dry Caramel I made when I first started the blog -- it turns back into liquid in your mouth.  I'm starting off the tour with two flavor offerings: beet with balsamic vinaigrette, and grapefruit-vanilla.  As the spring and summer progress, I'll work with what's in season wherever we are -- peaches, cherries, strawberries, rhubarb, and I've also been experimenting with a cucumber-lime-jalapeno gelato base that will blow your effing socks off.

Cupcake Straw is one of my personal favorites.  It's entirely gluten-free (though our focus group tasters had no clue, and loved it), and we'll start out with a red velvet cake base for the first few weeks, switch to dark chocolate, then end with a coffee-flavored cake base.  Essentially, we fill a small, clear, disposable cylinder (6" long, 3/4" round) with rich, almost-custardy cake crumbs, brandy-soaked tapioca pearls, a fruit puree (starting with fig for now, because it's really mellow), and powdered/dehydrated icing.  You bring the tube to your lips and gently inhale, and all those flavors come together in your mouth all at once.  It really is like eating a mini-cupcake, only I think the flavors are more concentrated and intense.  I'm really proud of this one.  When I ate at Alinea last summer and had the Bubble Gum in the cylinder, I knew I wanted to figure out how to do that myself, and I finally did.

Hot Dog Air should get you geared up for summer.  If you followed me on Twitter during the playoffs last year, you know I'm crazy about baseball (Go, Phillies!), and I wanted to have a sensory offering that reflected something I love about summer.  So, I figured out how to make a really rich and complex hot dog stock, and am using a vapor gun to inflate small, reusable, and earth-friendly mylar balloons with hot dog air.  You just hold the balloon in front of your face and slowly press it between both hands, while you breathe in.  It's amazing (and in a strange way, actually filling).  I may, at some point, pair this with a mini-truffle-butter popcorn ball, or a cotton candy dry shot/powder. We've applied for a few ballpark vendor permits for the month of June, which would be amazing if we can make it happen.

Tempura Foie Gras on a Stick is, probably, the most decadent street/carnival food I've ever made.  By freezing a 1" piece of foie gras to exactly 27 degrees Fahrenheit, then dunking it in (gluten-free) corn meal-infused tempura batter, it can be cooked in the deep fryer for exactly 30 seconds, which warms the foie all the way through without it becoming liquified fat and burning the surface of your tongue when you bite into it.  You've never had a corn dog quite like this!

*  *  *

Below is the list of cities and dates where I've gotten vendor permits.  We'll be open from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. on the dates below (except where noted). It's first-come, first-served; and, we're budgeted for and planning to be able to serve to 250 people per day.  If you live in any of these cities and wanna help get the word out, let me know in the comments and I'll get you the PR materials for your local market.

April 3 - 4 -- Washington, DC (corner of 13th and U Streets NW)

April 5, 6, 7 -- Philadelphia, PA (corner of Market and S. 10th)

April 9-10 -- New York, NY (corner of E. 4th Street and Broadway)

April 13 -- Pittsburgh, PA (Morewood and 5th Avenue, just outside CMU)

April 15 -- Cleveland, OH (Voinovich Park/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum)

April 16 -- Chicago, IL (Clark and Division)

April 17-18 -- Madison, WI (N. Charter St. and University)

April 22 - 23 -- Des Moines, IA (E. Grand and E. 6th Street) *time: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

April 26 - 27 -- Denver, CO (E. 23rd and Colorado Blvd.)

May 1 - 2 -- Salt Lake City, UT (W. 400 S and S. 300 W)

May 5 - 6 -- Seattle, WA (Pike Place and 1st Ave.)

May 7 - 8 -- Portland, OR (NW Couch and 10th)

May 11 - 12 -- Napa, CA (Rte. 29 and Trancas in the Northwood Shopping Center parking lot)

May 14 - 15 -- San Francisco, CA (Dolores and 18th)

May 19 - 20 -- Venice, CA (19th Street at the beach) *time subject to change to 1 - 5 p.m.

May 22 - 23 -- Las Vegas, NV (this is still tentative, but we're close)

May 26 - 27 -- Phoenix/Tempe, AZ (E. University Dr. @ S. Rural Road)

May 30 - 31 -- Santa Fe, NM (Grant Avenue and Johnson Street)

June 2 -- Austin, TX (Congress and E. 3rd)

June 4 -- New Orleans, LA (Decatur Street @ Esplanade)

June 7 - 8 -- Memphis, TN (Beale and S. 2nd Street)

June 11 - 12 -- Asheville, NC (45 S. French Broad Avenue)

June 15 -- Richmond, VA (E. Broad and N. 8th)

June 17 -- Washington, DC (13th and F Streets NW)

June 19 - 30 -- Hold for Mid-Atlantic/Northeast ballpark appearances

You can follow me and the crew (you will LOVE these guys) on Twitter at @AlineaOnTheRoad or become a Facebook fan and stay updated that way.

I'll blog about the tour as we go along, complete with videos and photos, AND some special guest appearances in a few key cities!  I've got a really fun playlist lined up with some great tunes by Aretha Franklin, The Doobie Brothers, The Commitments, Def Leppard, Jamiroquai, Debbie Gibson, Elvis Presley, Jack Johnson, Elvin Bishop, Master P, Lil Jon, George Michael, Neko Case, Styx, and The Who, to name a few.

Come on out and say hi -- I'm really looking forward to meeting you all!

Up Next: Alinea On The Road -- Washington, DC (the big kickoff!)

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NOTE ADDED April 4, 2010: Comments are closed.  Check the date at the top of this post and think about what holiday occurs on April 1 every year.  :)

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  • I'm cooking my way through the Alinea Cookbook. Because I can. I think.

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