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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:


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:


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

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!)

Read My Previous Post: Open Discussion -- Photography, video, blogging as documentation... what's okay, when and why?

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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You're coming to Seattle!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fool me once ...

Oh my God, woman. This is quite an undertaking. Will we be seeing a certain young wunderkind red-haired chef at your Chicago stop? And Napa? Any guest-stars, I mean guest chefs there? Hot damn... you go, girl.

It's a little early for April Fools, Carol. :)

Sweetbread and lobster? Awesome!

I'm about an hour outside Des Moines, but I can help distribute flyers or whatever you need help with when you're here. This is gonna be fun!

this HAS to be an april fool's joke. you always do such good ones. at first i though, suweeet! carol's coming to seattle! but then i realized it was april first. nice one! good idea though...maybe you should really do it??

Is Ruhlman gonna be at the Cleveland stop? That would be awesome to have you two cook together.

I LOVE this idea! How awesome to do a riff on street food, but make it high tech! My parents live in Santa Fe, so it looks like I need to schedule a visit!

Brilliant! You keep topping yourself every April 1st! Although I am very sad that Pho on a Pin is not yet a reality.

april fool's. HAS to be, even though this is such a cool idea. you always have the best april fool's tricks. but maybe you should think about this...

Very funny :) Nice work.

I did wonder what you were going to do this year. love it!

Nooooo! You're coming to San Francisco but I'm scheduled to be out of town that week!! :(

Oh, I don't want to spoil the riff you've got going, so - when will you fly the van Down under so we Aussies can enjoy the show?

Nice work Carol, must have taken you AGES to do....

Are you serious? Too funny.

... Happy April Fools?

Wow. No one ever comes to Memphis, but you are. That is so cool. can't wait.

Too cool! Although now I have to cross the Orange curtain an venture in to Venice .. in the middle of the week... darn job! No swinging through OC between Venice & Vegas, huh?

1)Super excited
2)Checks calender
3)Sees that it is 4/1
4)Sees that a cart is described as LEED certified
5) Remembers last year...

I really wish this wasn't being posted on April 1...

Very cool! I'll be sure to stop by U street this weekend :D

Definitely want a Banh Mi Explosion.

Clark and Division? You'll be almost exactaly equidistant from Alinea and Frontera, the two coolest places in town! I'm so excited! I'll start with a Rick Bayless taco, then your taco shot, and then show up at Alinea and demand a taco from Grant;)

Of course, you *are* posting this on April 1st....

Nice try. Wah wahhhh.

Carol, this is amazing beyond words!!!! I'm so excited to be in a tour city. You've had some great news on your site but this is the biggest since, oh, about a year ago.

This sounds AMAZING! See you in NY!

And a happy first to YOU!!!

Of the postings that have occurred around this time for the past few years, this is by far my favorite. You know what would be the biggest April fool's joke, though? If you actually did this--you'd be the greatest April Fool-er ever; you'd fool those who of us who came here today to see what your obsession with the day would produce!

OMG! I can't wait till you come to Portland! Will/Can you label which items are gluten free for us? Woohoo!

Very funny. Got me laughing at "bahn mi explosion," from sheer mental image.

I guess no one else looked at the date?

april fools!

Spectacular news. Next best thing to working the line at Alinea!

Hmmmm...Sounds fun, but looking at what day it is today (although, technically in CA it's still 3/31), I'm not getting my hopes up to see you at 18th & Dolores. ;)

Hey, wait a minute...
You wouldn't be, say, getting a cease & desist letter about it this, or anything like that. WOULD YOU?

I am already rolling up my sleeves in case you need help when you come to L.A. ;)

But seriously - OMG I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU! (Take me along with you! I can totally be your sous chef! It's not like I'm working or anything!)

April Fool :)

I think it was the menu that tipped me off, but I love the idea of a "rich, complex hot dog stock"! Great post!

OMG this is incredible!!! I'm a college student at the University of Texas at Austin and I've been following your blog since FLAH!!! THIS IS AWESOME. I feel like jumping up and down and I can't wait until you come visit us in Austin! I hope you explore the city a bit because we have a really burgeoning food and music scene here and I'm sure you'd find something you love! See you in June!

P.S. I apologize for all the exclamation marks, I'm just THAT excited! :)

You are getting better and better with this.. i woke up on the couch and said, i got to see what she is doing this year for April Fools.. If im correct i have seen you, sued by Keller & Rhulman, Staging at Alinea, The Molecular Gastronomy Name switching thing. This one was great though, you put a bit of work in this one....

Oh, how I was looking forward to this day! You do always have a surprise in store for us, doncha??!!

Just make sure no one sends you a cease and desist, dashing all your glorious plans!


I made it all the way to "Starting this weekend" before I remembered what today was! Excellent post, hope the "trip" is a blast :-)

Ah if only - i'd fly to America to taste that Hot Dog air ;)

so excited! it's like christmas came early; can't wait to try all of these, esp the hot dog air...which sounds so interesting. i live in nyc, would LOVE to help get the word out in any way. though, i bet you're going to have massive lines here anyways.

This is probably your best April Fool's yet! Well done!

Carol, you're the best at this.
Every year, it just gets better! ;)

omg! Let me know when you get a boat and make it across the Atlantic. I'll be first in line!

Holy shit, I just fell for this and called someone to celebrate. You got me. (:

Wow quite the undertaking. Very fascinating food, a hotdog balloon...sounds pretty crazy huh!

I am still very much learning my classics but follow your blog (as well as the retired French Laundry) with great interest.

Best of luck and keep cooking!

If I didn't own a calendar, I'd be totally excited about how you're going to be BLOCKS from my house here AND my childhood home in Tempe.

Holy crap! Awesomeness! Suck it, taco trucks, here comes hot dog air!

Oh Carol, this is a good one. Nothing will top the year that TK "shut you down" but yes, this is a good one. Well done, sir : )

Why aren't you coming to Canada? Why not? We ALWAYS miss out on the good stuff.

PS- As always, I love your April fools day jokes. I think this one is your best yet

Carol, you are the queen of April Fools ;) Great one, and if it's real, it might be worth booking a flight to the US for the next month or so and follow along as a groupie :P Any room for an extra sous chef?

DUDE. This is so awesome!

LOL. Nicely done.

Color me skeptical (I did just serve hot dogs, chips and fruit at 7:30 AM)...even though this would be a VERY elaborate plan! But you did fly to Chicago last year! Hmmm...

I love your April Fool's jokes. So elaborate!

I'd feel like a fool if I did not catch Alinea on the Road this April.

Are you going to be at 6151 Richmond Street in San Francisco?

Haha, this beats even the jello mold.

Holy Guacamole, you aren't coming to Ann Arbor! Deeply disappointed -- I know you can't be everywhere! But that means I'll have to travel to you!

Good luck; have a ball!!!! Mary

Last year on this date you announced your new job at Alinea. This year a road trip. I can hardly wait for next year's joke. (I do, however, wish this one was true.

Wow. You got me. And to think that it was just after I got my wife. My head was spinning with all the problems I saw with this. Thank God you won't be spending the summer explaining to people why you are charging them $9 for hot dog air.

Well played, ma'am. Well played.

I know you won't post this til later, but OMG woman, I love you. Best April Fools post you have EVER done!!

(that said I so wish it were true cause how much fun would that be???)

I bought that for a minute - enough to send an embarrassing email to a friend. Kudos.

see you in san francisco!

I find myself hoping and praying that this isn't a 4/1 joke.... cause it's awesome!

Happy April Fools Day! I read this whole post before I clued in.


How can I spread the word about Alinea on the Road when it comes to Chicago mid-April?

You know, I fell for your April Fool's joke last year. This seems like such a great idea, and I hope it's true, but I'm a bit skeptical given the date of your post.

Happy April Fool's Day.

Cough...Cough...this news on...April 1st?

Oh Carol - how I love your blog. You know, this is such a great idea that I really wish it hadn't been posted today, a day in which we know we can't take anything seriously.


Judging from the response, though, it appears it could actually work if you wanted it to!

You know, in spite of the date, some of these look really good!

Damn, girl, you are GOOD. I didn't think you could possibly top last year. Cheers!

nice one! ;D

This is absolute perfection.

LOL.. Loved the April fools idea. My favorite was the hot dog air.

No Houston stop?! It's between Austin and New Orleans...huge city...adventurous palates...huge market!

What, no Alinea love for the Granite State? Please consider adding a stop in New Hampshire for the Alinea road trip!!

You just made my crappy week so. much. better. Seriously though, I now have a huge grin on my face. Taking the train 140 miles from Albany to NY next weekend will be completely worth it! Wishing you fair weather for your travels. :)

Greatest April Fool's Day prank EVER? :)

CBly, this is AWESOME. Can I come? Pretty please?

Wow, the paint job on that truck is amazing!

There so many food trailers out there trying to distinguish themselves that people will "foolishly" jump on the band wagon for. Glad to see an exception - Can't wait to see this roll into my town!

Um...April Fool's? I was looking forward to today's post, and I have not been disappointed!

I love it! 3rd times a charm!

Very excited! I noticed you were skipping Milwaukee between Chicago and Madison, but then I realized I'm moving to D.C. come June 1!! YES!!!

I smell a fantastic April Fool's joke! Well played, regardless.

Are you sure we're not being punk'd for April Fools? I want this to be happening--I'll be in DC that weekend!

Carol, Carol, Carol. You are the best April Fools' artist I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I can't believe you've duped all these lovely folks who have already commented! But I really, really hope this is real because it is a fantastic idea! I'll be the first in line in D.C. if you do.

Well played, Blymire, well played...

Happy 4/1!!!

Please come to Boston! (on your way to New Hampshire, perhaps?) I know at least 10 people who'd say the same thing!

So clever! I'll admit, even I, an avid reader, almost fell for this one...until I remembered the date, and then felt just an ounce of dissapointment. Every year I'm always impressed with your elaborate schemes. My favorite part: the hot dog stock. May I suggest using kosher hot dogs? They're flavor is so much better than the standard pork variety.

If there's one thing I look forward to each year, more than Christmas, it's your April 1 post!

Absolutely fantastic!

Great announcement - sounds very exciting!

P.S. What day is today???

I'd totally be on board if this were real!

you were the first blog i checked for a great april fool's laugh.

haha! April fools. Right?

Just let me know, so I can take next Friday off and meet you in NYC if not ;-)

Can't wait to get me some hot dog air in Venice, CA! You'll fit right in with all of the crazies there.

That is completely awesome. And I will be in NY on 4/9 and 10 and will definitely come by.

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