August 31, 2011

New Post Coming Soon

So, I went to Napa for a little vacation and had a wonderful, relaxing time with my friends.  I was actually kinda bummed to have missed the earthquake, but happy there was no damage here at the homestead. 

I had planned to go to straight to the beach from the airport when I got home, but a little thing called Hurricane Irene got in the way.  I hunkered down here at the house, and was glad I trusted my instincts not to buy any ingredients to bang out some Alinea dishes over the weekend because, sure enough, we lost power for a few days and I would've lost all that (expensive) food.

The electricity went back on last night and has, thus far, stayed on so I hit the grocery store and got started on one of the Alinea desserts tonight.  If the first component of the dish I made is ANY indication of how this whole thing is going to taste, then I'm going to be a VERY happy camper.

Hoping to have a post for you by the end of Labor Day weekend.

Enjoy these last few days of summer, you guys....


July 01, 2010

A little of this, a little of that


This is a salad I made with lettuce from my neighbor's garden, pickled carrots, fresh chives and dill from the garden, roasted pepitas, a homemade vinaigrette, and many of the dried accoutrements from the "Beef, elements of A1" dish.  I could eat this every day.

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Here's a Chicago Tribune: The Stew interview with Patton Oswalt about his love of food and restaurants.  I love how he describes his dinner at Alinea as having "had just walked away from one of the great seminal rock concerts of all time."

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I tried to make this dish this week.  Perhaps you heard me sighing about it on Twitter.  Perhaps you heard me use the descriptor "open war wound with Band-Aid bits strewn about."  It did not end well.  A post is forthcoming, and I'm actually gonna try it again because I want to do it right.  I even bought a new scale that measures to the 0.01g.  That's how committed I am, y'all.

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Some of you sent the most amazing and sweet and heartfelt emails after my last post.  I loved reading about your unfinished business, and I hope you get to do whatever it is you want to. 

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Are you watching Top Chef?  Who are you rooting for?  Who do you loathe?  Do you think the show is a little tired and played out?  (I think I feel that way, but I'm willing to give it until the end of the season.)  I'm doing the episode recaps for Washingtonian magazine and would love your insights and thoughts on this season's cheftestants and the show as a whole.

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It's a long weekend (happy birthday, America!) and here's what's on my reading list for the next few days:

Food in Jars: my friend, Marisa, is a jamstress.  A canstress?  A jarstress?  Whatever she is, she's awesome and her blog is giving me a ton of great ideas for how to preserve everything I buy too much of at the farmers market.

The Victory Garden: I was obsessed with Crockett's Victory Garden on PBS (along with Hodge Podge Lodge) when I was a kid, and I remember carefully leafing through my mom's copy of the original Victory Garden book (which she's sending me) and thinking how cool it would be to have my own house and my own garden when I grew up (and was retired from being a ballerina-TV news anchor-surgeon).

A couple of books by Jonathan Tropper.  Easy summer reads that are well written and funny.

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Enjoy the holiday weekend -- and let me know what you're cooking and eating.  Don't mind me; I'll just be sitting here, drooling over my corn on the cob with tarragon butter (I love summer; can you tell?).

May 30, 2009

Alinea at Home Extra: So, that happened....

Wow.  So sorry for the delay in writing about my dinner at Alinea last Friday.  That post is coming in another day or two, I promise.  Because quite a few of you have emailed me to make sure I'm alive and not in the loony bin, let me take a minute to clear up a few things:

Yes, the flight to Chicago last week was scary.  For those of you who didn't see it all play out on my Twitter feed (and the Tribune, Sun-Times, NBC, Chicago radio, Politico, and Huffington Post), my flight to Chicago last Friday had to make an emergency landing in Pittsburgh because the plane's hydraulic system failed shortly after takeoff.  We had a few VIPs on the flight (Senator Roland Burris, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and WH social secretary Desiree Rogers), one of whom lied about his involvement in the heroic efforts around our safe arrival. I'll let you guess which one. Ahem. Suffice to say, over the week, his story has evolved from, "There was a loud explosion, deafening noise, extreme turbulence, and I helped an elderly woman off the plane" to something about maybe being the one to open the overhead bin when we landed, or assisting a family from the shuttle bus to the terminal.

Anyhoo, that's neither here nor there.

What I do know is that after hearing the captain first tell you the grinding noise you hear is the hydraulics but they're fine/it's all good, then a little while later tell you they've changed their mind and they're now diverting to Pittsburgh because of a hydraulic system failure... and you have a window seat out of which you can see rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that the plane is circling over, nose up, plane tilted back at a 45-degree angle, and Pittsburgh is nowhere in sight... you have to wonder if you're going to make it to the airport at all.  And, when one of your clients is an organization that works closely with the FAA and NTSB on safety and security issues so you're pretty up-to-date on procedures, technology, crash case studies, and the like, well... you're pretty damn sure know what the pilot meant when, after you've landed, he announces over the PA, "Boy, I'm glad we're here."  We were lucky, and our pilot, co-pilot, cabin crew, and air traffic control staff deserve every accolade in the book for their work in the air and on the runway.

And here's what I find fascinating: If you'd had headphones on and were listening to your iPod the whole time, in an aisle seat, or maybe asleep, you'd never have known there was anything wrong.  The cabin was quiet (save for a minute or two of a whirring, grinding noise under our feet after takeoff that made us think the landing gear couldn't retract), the flight was smooth (no turbulence, no shaking, no loud noises at all), and the landing, while strangely accelerated and fast, was gentle.  We landed with no flaps, which meant the pilot had to use manual braking (we ended up with just a few feet to spare at the end of the runway; would've been poor form to crash through the wall of ambulances and firetrucks waiting for us, I guess), and the pilot and crew, along with EMS team that greeted our arrival were calm, cool, and collected, and made it far less scary than it could've been.  It also helped that I had great seatmates -- Rachel and Jessica -- who were totally up for a drink and some lunch to calm our nerves before getting on the plane that eventually took us to Chicago.  (Hi, Rachel!  Hi, Jessica!) 

So, that was my day last Friday.  Emergency landing and an airport bar cobb salad (and a vodka shot) at lunchtime, followed by a mind-blowing, energizing, and humbling 23-course dinner at one of the best restaurants in the world just six hours later.  You know.  The usual.

It's only tonight that I'm able to sit down with a clear head, my menu in front of me, and pull together the words that can even begin to do justice to my experience at Alinea.  If I'd written this post earlier in the week when I'd originally planned, it would've gone a little something like "ZOMG PLANE CRASH, BRIGHT YELLOW FIRE TRUCKS, LYING POLITICIANS, VODKA, CARSICK IN TAXI, TRYING NOT TO CRY BUT CRYING ANYWAY, and oh yeah, I had dinner at Alinea and here's the menu, buh-bye."  And that's not fair.  So, when I wasn't working this week, I dug in the garden, cleaned out the basement, fixed things around the house that have been on my to-do list for ages... all because I needed to do something apart and away from food and my computer, and let the dust settle so that the real reason I went to Chicago could assume its rightful place in my brain and on my palate.  And it did.  Today.  FINALLY.

Dinner at Alinea was as inspiring as it was awesome, and in a few days there will be words better, more powerful, and more appropriate than "awesome" to describe it.  In fact, I can still close my eyes and taste every bite, and let me tell you: nearly every single course provided that moment I hope you've all experienced at least once in your life -- when you unconsciously and almost silently gasp and hold your breath, smiling as you chew and your eyes widen and your palate opens up, and the only compliment you can muster at that very moment is a whispered "whoa."

Last Friday was an evening of "whoa" and "wow" and "thank you."  On many levels.

So, stay tuned.... be back soon....

January 23, 2009

Alinea at Home Special Edition: I be illin'...

Y'all, I feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex tore open my head, dropped a deuce into my sinuses, then stomped on my chest on his way back to terrorize Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill.  It hurts to look my laptop screen for any length of time, so I'll get the promised post on the Tuna, candied and dried, up in a few days.

Meantime, let me share with you a few links for your reading enjoyment:

Carol's Top Ten Guilty Pleasure Blogs.  Joining the ranks of Craig Newmark and Marc Andreessen, I was honored when the good folks at Six Apart asked me for my ten favorite blogs for their Top Ten column on  It was too hard to narrow it down to just ten favorites, so I focused the list on my guilty pleasures -- and yes, I DO love the meteorologists' blog posts on the Weather Channel web site.  I just wish we heard more from my Weather Channel boyfriend, Jim Cantore.  Sigh....

Is there really an Alinea movie in the works?   No clue if this is really happening, but for fun, go ahead and make your casting recommendations here in the comments.  I think Matthew Modine could play TK, Edward Norton is a shoo-in for Chef Achatz, and I think Lauren Graham or Leighton Meester should play me... because you know I'm going to have to find a way be written into the script as the-spunky-ingenue-who ever-so-slightly-channels-Gladys-Kravitz.  Or, feel free to suggest ideas for awesome plot twists (Achatz as Bond!  Achatz opens a day care with Ben Affleck, hilarity ensues!) or celebrity cameos (Don Rickles sous vides Jack Klugman).  I don't know.  Clearly, I am sick and my funny bone is suffering.

And, it's not online, but a special thanks to Claire Tansey and her editors at Canadian House & Home for including Alinea At Home in their January 2009 trends issue.  It's a beautiful magazine, and I'm beyond thrilled to be included.  As thanks, I will no longer refer to Canada as "America's Hat."  You're welcome.

Be back soon..

January 08, 2009

Alinea at Home Extra: Share Our Strength Update, Other Miscellany

My most heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who donated to Share Our Strength in December.  We raised $8,000, which was double what I had hoped for, and I couldn't be more thankful for your kindness and generosity.

The winners of the Alinea cookbooks and Under Pressure books are:

Brian Carmen
Colleen Carnley
Brad Detlefsen
Michele Grace
Heidi Guariello
Rachel Luxemburg
Steve Ortiz

Big round of applause for everyone, and again, thank you all so much.

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Jessa Crispin of Bookslut (a longtime favorite site) recently interviewed Grant Achatz (thanks to Drew for the heads up).  Around the four-minute mark they talk about this blog, and how my Cheese, in cracker DIDN'T SUCK.  To have Grant Achatz say that something you made actually looks like something he would serve at home is pretty damn cool, don't you think? Click here to watch the interview.

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Thanks also to the awesome team at Washingtonian magazine for including me in their 2008 Food Trends piece.  I'm honored to be included in a round-up that calls not only for an end to the ever-proliferating cupcake craze (ugh) and snarks on Barton Seaver's wardrobe, but also lauds the arrival of some much-needed butcher shops in town.   The full story is here.

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A few weeks ago, Chef Achatz emailed me a list of Errata in the first edition of the cookbook.  These are things they've corrected for the next print run, but I wanted to post the list here so that if you have the book and plan to cook from it, you'll have the most up-to-date corrections and additions to the recipes.  As always, you can check the Alinea Mosaic forum for ongoing updates and additions to this list:

Surf Clam (page 57) -- there's no recipe for the Lemon Pudding on the fork.  Refer to the Lemon Pudding recipe on page 269.  And, when assembling and serving the dish, add the following instruction as the last sentence: “Place a dot of lemon pudding on the back of the spoon.”

Pistachio Brittle (page 92) -- change second set of temperatures from 240F/116C to 342 F/172 C.

Whole-Wheat and Pine Nut Cereal (Page 122) -- In second paragraph, change second set of temperatures from 115F/45C to 320 F /160C.

Page 343 -- Lemon Marshmallow temps need to be changed to 254 F/123 C.

Page 209 -- Spun Sugar temp needs to change to 325 F / 160 C; and, Muscovado Candy temperature needs to change to 225F /107 C.

Page 223 -- In method, sentence 5 should read, “Season cubes on skewers to taste with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, tapping off excess.”   Sentence 9 should read, “Season battered cubes with salt and pepper to taste.”

Page 257 -- Cinnamon Tea; Change cayenne amount to 1 g.

Page 288 -- Pistachio Brittle; change second set of temperatures from 240 F/116C  to 342 F/172 C.

Page 367 -- In method, the last sentence in second paragraph should read, "“Season battered squares with mixture to taste.”

Page 182 -- Pineapple Glass; need to add in method, ”In medium saucepan, bring 350g of pineapple juice, sugar, saffron…..” Also need to change sugar amount to 25g, and salt amount to 1g, and amount of Pure Cote B790 modified food starch to 45g.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my much-needed, off-the-grid, closed laptop break over the holidays, and am now getting slammed with work this week.  As I'm sure you can imagine, Washington is throbbing with activity, what with the beginning of a new legislative session and the upcoming change in administration.  So, those of us who work in this arena are busting our asses and generally working around the clock to get done what we need to have in place to ensure a productive 2009.  However, to preserve my sanity (and to try and break my habit of watching the Real Housewives of Orange County when I'm stressed out), I've been spending what little free time I've had this week playing around with how to freeze some stuff without having to buy an antigriddle, and expect to have a food post up over the weekend.

See you soon....

October 27, 2008

Well, hello there.

Welcome to Alinea at Home. 

Glad you're here.

We'll get everything up and running in just a few days, but first, a little housekeeping and some rules of the road:

1) I'm using TypePad instead of Blogger this time around, so forgive me if I gork out on the first few posts and things are out of whack and look all cattywompus, or the feeds aren't feeding.  I'm still learning, and am grateful to Benjamin Lim for helping me get started.

2) I'm maintaining my comment policy from French Laundry at Home, which if you'll recall, went a little something like this: "Your comments and questions are welcome here. In fact, I think it's one of the things that makes this site such a pleasure to be a part of. One thing, though: please think of this web site as if it were my dining room table, and make sure your comments reflect the manner in which you'd treat someone in their home, as if you'd only just met them and were sitting across from them, sharing a meal. I've got thick skin and can take constructive criticism (because ultimately, we all learn from it), but nasty, rude, grossly off-topic (unless it's about Jim J. Bullock), attacking, baiting, or blatantly self-promotional comments aren't welcome and won't be posted. It's just not cool."  Let's add Jo Anne Worley and Michael Bloomberg to the Jim J. Bullock exemption, and we'll be all set there.  I'm moderating comments, so if you post one and it doesn't appear immediately, it means I haven't pushed it through yet.

3) I won't be posting recipes from the Alinea cookbook, so if you want to play along at home, buy the book.  It's available on for the low, low price of $30.  A freakin' STEAL if you ask me.

4) I do not work for Alinea, they are not paying me to do this blog, nor am I BFF with the chef/owners, nor can I get you a reservation.  Not even if you offer me your house in Aspen for the weekend.

5) Yes, Grant Achatz and his team know about the blog, and Grant has been incredibly supportive about it.  I hope he'll continue to be a good sport when I inevitably cock up one of his creations, which I am wont to do because HELLO HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK?

6) I am not a chef, nor am I a professionally trained cook in any way, shape, or form.  I am a home cook who, with only one intro to knife skills class under her belt, cooked her way through The French Laundry Cookbook and lived to tell about it.  So, I'll do my best to explain everything as best I can, but if I screw up a little bit of technical jargon along the way, forgive me.

7) Just like I did with French Laundry at Home, I'm only going to attempt each dish once.  And for those who've asked, I'm not planning on buying all the serviceware and restaurant equipment, as much as I'd like to.  I'm going to do my very best to do these dishes in a way that reflects the resources I believe most home cooks have, or at least have access to.  That said, I might cave and buy one or two gadget-y things, but I'm trying not to.  I'll also bring back the "Music to Cook By" feature from French Laundry at Home because I know you all really want to know how many times I can listen to Styx and REO Speedwagon in any given month.

8) Content on this blog will revolve around the Alinea cookbook. From time to time, I may post links to interviews or other related content I think you need to see, but this blog has a singular focus: to cook my way through the Alinea cookbook and write about it.

9) You'll notice I'm not running ads on the blog.  If you feel the urge to part with a few dollars while reading what I write, I'd much prefer you make a donation to Share Our Strength.

10) Alinea at Home is not my full-time job (although, dude, wouldn't it be awesome if it was?).  Instead, I do some things here and there in our nation's capital around policy and media and issues and stuff, and that's really all I'm gonna say about what I do.

11) If you email me (which you are ALWAYS welcome to do), please know that I do my best to respond right away.  However, aforementioned job sometimes gets in the way, so I hope you'll understand if it takes a day or two or five to get back to you.

12) I hope to post here at least once a week, with a goal of updating every five days or so.  I wish I could update more often, but see #10 above.  I'll be doing the dishes as close to seasonal availability of ingredients as I can, but will also factor in degree of difficulty and will be starting out with some of the easier dishes to get up and running... and by easier, I mean those dishes I think I can conceivably pull off without a big, fat, huge, colossal FAIL because OH THE HUMANITY HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOOK?

13) Because I don't want you to think the only things I cook and eat are from Alinea, I'll soon start a section in the right-hand navigation area called "What Else Did I Eat This Week" so that I can share what and where I've been eating, and hopefully give you some ideas for other things you can make at home.  Most of the time, it will look like this: peanut butter on toast, coffee, Pad Thai, peanut butter on crackers, roasted chicken, bacon, a spoonful of peanut butter, eggs over easy on toast with goat cheese, and did I mention peanut butter? -- but I'm sure some other things will make an appearance from time to time.

14) This is here because I can't end a list on an odd number.  Oh, I know what I could say here for #14: feel free to follow me on Twitter, if you'd like.  Nothing prolific goin' on over there, but it's a nice distraction if you're bored at work.  Ditto for Flickr.

First up?

Bacon, butterscotch, apple, thyme.

See you soon.

Alinea Book


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


Comment Policy

  • Your comments and questions are welcome. However, please think of this web site as if it were my dining room table, and make sure your comments reflect the manner in which you'd treat someone in their home, as if you'd only just met them and were sitting across from them, sharing a meal. I've got thick skin and can take constructive criticism (because ultimately, we all learn from it), but nasty, rude, grossly off-topic, attacking, baiting, or blatantly self-promotional comments aren't welcome and won't be posted. It's just not cool.