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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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I wrote it in my calendar. Thinking of taking the day off when a fellow twerp reminded me of your legendary April Fools jokes. Got me bad! Been cussing since.

am I the only one who finds the April 1 posting date a little suspicious

April Fools?

You outdid yourself this year. Nice work. :)

Ok, so I got REALLY REALLY excited about this for about ten minutes...and then I realized what today's date is!! April Fool's, right? :(

Best April Fools Day post yet. ;)

Let me know what i can do to help in Denver. And I'll see you on the 26th! (If you have more than one Denver volunteer i am more of the West and/or South part of town.)

Um... y'all realize it's April 1st, right? ;-)

No Avril Poisson on the menu? :-)

Yum! Hot Dog Air w/a Tempura Foie Gras to provide mouth feel!. Happy April 1 to you, too, Carol!

This is a cruel, cruel joke! Someone should hold you to this *and* change your scheduled stops to include Nebraska! :P

Doesn't anyone else wonder if this is an April Fool's joke? Doesn't it seem a little crazy, or have the foodies in all of your lost your minds.

Seconding the Boston request! MIT's got a long and glorious history of food trucks- I'm sure you could clean up with a food truck that awesome over there. I want to try to banh mi explosion so bad!

This is go great, my wife and I can't wait, we are going to be able to stop by twice, Napa and Austin, can't wait. Austin will embrace this whole heartedly, great food trailer movement going on here.

You do realize by the comments that you would probably be able to pull this off in reality, right??? Think about it. ;)

*ahhh. I always look forward to this day every year when you're blogging. ;)

Hmmm.... Hot Dog Air... isn't it April Fool's Day?!

I REALLY hope this is NOT this year's April Fools' post. Because I will cry if it is. And do you want to be responsible for making the interwebs cry Carol??? And I put my PL slip in for the day even if you are being cruel!

I will so be camped out for the Aliena Truck in SF! Happpy April Fools!

As someone once said, "I Want to Believe."

And I did until I remembered what day it was.

If this was an April Fool's joke - brilliant! I rarely get pulled in, but the idea here is some cooly awesome - I want to believe.

And I will be in Cleveland on the 15th.


I seriously, SERIOUSLY can't believe that no one realizes this is an April fools joke. You are a clever one. I'm still trying to figure out if you fabricated the first few comments. If not, you are INCREDIBLY clever.

You never fail to disappoint on this day of days... hilarious!

Nice one, Carol. Better even than last year. The menu is inspired- especially the hot dog air. Maybe you could offer people a line of dehydrated mustard/relish/kraut powder to snort after they breathe in the air?

U are the king. Just going to keep my mouth shut an enjoy watching this.

happy april fools! i feel bad for all the people who have posted that are probably telling their friends that an alinea food truck is coming soon!

Has anyone checked today's date yet?

April Fools?? I seem to recall your elaborate April Fools joke last year....

Um, it's April 1st today isn't it????

Love the posts, I think this is the third year round now I've been reading you and would like you to know that your blog has inspired a lot of dishes in my restaurant over that time!

This is better than last years job announcement. Honestly you are the best April Fools blogger ever. The lengths you go to make these posts beautifully believable. This is an amazing talent and I just have to say that the second I woke up this morning I checked your blog knowing that I would have a huge smile on my face the second I started reading. You totally rock.

You're not coming to Boston? Please tell me you're fooling with me ;)

Wow Carol, this is amazing - I can't believe how far you've come in such a short time. I remember when you first started posting on your experiences of cooking from French Laundry at Home - how you thought it would be "foolish" for people to want to make these elaborate dishes in their own kitchens. Look at you now - taking the show on the road. You're an inspiration, girlie!

How exciting for all of you and for the foodie a chance to sample this type of food. Best travels.

This sounds awesome, but I have to say I'm a bit skeptical given the date of the announcement and the history of Carol's April Fool's Day pranks ;-)!

So, Will I still look like a fool if I am still standing outside on the sidewalk with a napkin tucked under my chin NEXT April 1st? I can wait...

I dunno guys...I think this might be an April Fools post. Not to burst anyone's bubbles!

Just in case it isn't I would be bummed because I'll be out of town on the SF dates ;)

I was (still am) so excited for you, until I realized you won't be anywhere near me. (Boston....hello?) I was ready to order one of everything. So please put more pictures of the menu, once you have them. Good Luck!

well as lovely as this sounds, having followed you on flah and remembering your april fool's post there i am assuming this is just a dream. people seem super excited though, it might just be a fabulous idea! :)

April Fool's?

Happy April Fools, Carol! ;-)

How has it taken this long for someone to realize this is your annual April Fool's post?

However, Very, Very creative. Love your blogs.

That is great. I love it!
The Seasonal Gelato Powder will give the small vendors in Boston's North End a challenge :)

Nice April fools joke Carole. The photos of the food are a nice cover.

Biggest high-to-low moment ever! Got super excited that would would be in Venice...and then remembered what day it is...

Wow, can't believe so many people forgot what today's date is!!! ;)

Oh Carol, how I wish it were all true... sort of. Heh! I hope you all the best on your "travels". ;)

April Fools? This is a pretty bad ass idea even if it is a joke.

Allison stole my comment: You're coming to Seattle!! YAY!!!

My man you are crazyy....

Happy April Fools Day!

You'd better not be joking!!!! This is one mean April's fool joke if you are !!!

April Fool!? But if it's not, I'm coming to visit and taste.

Napa!! And San Francisco!! I'm so excited! Of course if you were to have a pit stop in Santa Rosa between those two it would be even more fantastic...I hope the truck has a sound system so you can share Music to Cook By at each stop!!

I know this won't make it to the front page, but it made me so sad to see the April 1 before this post. This is the *coolest* idea and it makes me want to do it if you don't!

Okay, so I'd need to pull thousands of dollars into equipment, years into learning, and who knows how long into sourcing ingredients, but the hot dog vapor is like a dieter's dream to start with. :)

You don't have to post this - why ruin it. But I LOVE your April Fool's jokes. This one is awesome. Kudos!! Hot dog air - truly inspired!

This sounds amazingly cool, and I'm happy to see Chicago on the list. But, I can't help but notice this post went up on April 1.

APRIL FOOLS! Didn't you get it?!?!?!

Love you Carol. :)

Uncanny you should release this on 4/1. We'll be happy to help spread the word in Seattle.

hahaha love it. I knew there would be a great post today, April 1st, to continue in the tradition of great April fools day posts. ;)

April 1st?

Man, how I wish it were any day but April 1!

Please tell me this is not an elaborate April Fools joke...

Sweet Carol ! Lové you and thé blog !!! Avid follower since TFL days ! And while i know that this venture would rock thé road side .... Am i thé onlyone to remember that today is april fool's day !!!!

Hellopeople !!!!!

Carol please fess up !!!

Do i get a dinner with at Alinea since i am thé only one not to be foiled ???

Kisses from Paris !

April fools...? The cross-country thing....?

We'd be fools not to be excited for this!

Has no one called April Fool's yet? It would be awesome though, as long as there was a Kansas City stop :D

Happy April Fools Everybody!!!

Can't you please please stop by Kansas City inbetween Denver and Chicago or something? This is just too awesome

Boo.. this is an april fool's joke isn't it?

Will you be available to sign anything?

this is on of your better april fools

Ha,ha Carol. I must say, you out did yourself this year on this very special day! ;)

i'll see you in chicago! i'd like to help get the word out, send me your stuff!

No L.A stop! Darn, it's the perfect time of year for your "pho on a pin"!

This is the most awesome news I've gotten all day. Especially because I just locked myself out of my car AND my apt this morning.

You'll be a block away from where my boyfriend lives in SF! We will definitely be there (and bring all our foodie friends!). So excited - can't wait!

Sorry, just saw the Venice stop... oops

I will definitely be driving to Austin from College Station. Also, did Alinea consult with you on the dishes or these entirely your creations using their techniques?

I live in Denver and just so happen to have the 2 days that you are here off. If you would like free labor, I'm all yours. Dig a ditch? Paint the house? Change your oil? Small, boring prep stuff you want someone else to do so that you can bask in the glow of your hoards of fans that will be lining up around the block? I'm in.


You are BRILLIANT sir. I don't think anyone gets it but it just made my morning and day so much better.

For your new venture, will Grant again be outfitting you with duct tape, syringe, label-maker, etc.? ;)

awww. sorry to be a spoilsport guys but... april fools.

April Fool's!!!

Wow! The response is pretty positive. Lots of people, eager for you to come and cook for them.

Too bad you're not coming to the Detroit area. Why not? ...I remember now, because it's Detroit. LOL

april fools anyone?

It took me until I read your menu to figure you out! Ha... very thorough, good one.

I'm really hoping this isn't an April 1 sort of thing.

I know the hot dog air is for real. I had one with sauerkraut the last day of Trio. New York style.

This sounds awesome, but I'm dubious... *points sneakily at the date*

Carol, let's synch and get you into The Hungry Hipster while you're in town.

Aw Carol, wish it were so. Are you editing out all the - um, it's April 1 - comments? Absolutely fabulous post. As someone who also has a wanderlust itch and looks at little trailers, I love it.

This is a joke, right? Are people not reading the menu? Can they not tell that the trailer itself is obviously photoshopped? HOT DOG AIR PEOPLE

Sincerely hoping this is not an april fools like last year's...

For some reason I can't help but feel that this is a fantastic April Fools joke. I hope its not, but announcing it today?

Don't tell me I'm the first one to notice the date of this post! Are all the other spoiler comments getting deleted?

This is a mighty piece of work for April 1 - nicely done!

Oh, man, did I get got! I was reading my tweets backwards, saw this on Grant Achatz's tweet and thought it was him. I noted the Seattle and Portland dates on my calendar - either would work for me - and started choosing which things I would order. Then...the date hit me. I went to your site, saw the post and realized it wasn't Grant who was on the road, it was Carol and it's April 1!! So disappointing, but this was the best joke yet.

It's APRIL 1st!!!!!

I cannot believe you are coming to Des Moines. I would love to help you do whatever you need done while you are here, no job is too small or gross.

Happy to see you're coming to Madison! It should also be the first weekend of the outdoor Farmer's Market. Could the weekend get any better?

...and a Happy April Fools Day to you too!

God. At least this year I realized the date before I got crazy sauce excited. Dude this one is almost mean. (But brilliant. You should totally quit your job and do this.)

Wait - is this an April Fool's joke??

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