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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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Your location in SF is perfect! Can't wait for the Banh Mi Explosion and Tempura Fois Gras! As for dessert, the Cupcake Straw is inviting, but seeing as you're going to be right by the Bi-Rite Creamery, I'm not sure which will win out. Looking forward to the taste sensations!

Ahhhh April 1st. How quickly you come and go. Good one!

April Fool's!!!!

Nice photoshop vehicle? April 1 posts are suspicious. But if you really come to Seattle, I'll try to brave the line.

is this the most detailed april fool's day prank ever? i still remember last year's video...

just popping in to say that this is the best one i've seen all day. love the picture.

You seriously broke my heart with this. Especially cause I was reading the list expecting to have to drive to Columbus and then like "oh my god, she's coming to Cleveland!". So you got me on the sucker level AND the misused civic pride level.

I want to believe you...I really do.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

And I thought last year was good. You've outdone yourself.

Can't wait to see you in NYC!

I love the road trip/cooking street food from a truck idea--that's awesome. But the menu has to be an April fools joke, right?

Taco crumbs and chick pea juice? "Hot Dog Air" for nine dollars!?
Personally, I'd prefer to go stand next to a traditional hot dog vendor's cart and take in all the FREE hot dog air my lungs can hold. And for $9 there, I would be able to walk away with three or four actual solid-state hot dogs!

That said, have a great trip and good luck!

I really hope you make it to Providence. We've got a very welcoming food community here and I would love to photograph your experience in the Ocean State.

this is a cruel april fools joke!!!!!!!!

Um....you guys realize she posted this at 12 a.m. on April Fools Day, right? Carol LOVES April Fools jokes, don't you remember?

You trickster!!! This has April fools written all over it!

Hey everyone! Check the date!

Really? Love the idea, but isn't it time your annual April Fool's joke? Your blog is the best!!

Carol, you just keep getting better and better...;)
Love it!

I wish you were coming to Boston!!!! I love this project! AMAZING!!!

Ah, if only it were true...

::shaking fist at calendar date::

Oh please tell me this is not related to what day it is today?? :)

Is this an April Fool's joke? I really hope not.

Maui would be a great stop too! Happy April Fools.

Great post! Happy first of April, Carol.

ROFLMAO! Oh my gosh, as soon as I saw the Airstream, I knew this was going to be good. I was wondering how you were going to top being in the kitchen at Alinea.

Brilliant. Bloody brilliant.

This is way too cool, Carol. How exciting for ya! I look forward to meeting you here in San Francisco, and am telling my local food enthusiast friends about your visit.

Carol, you really should swing by the Outer Banks. No? See you in Richmond, unless my own "Rosie on the Road" trip interferes.

Woo hoo!!

I am thinking you are modding out all the April Fools comments…if not, its a awesome idea...

Uh, am I the only person paying attention to the date of this announcement? Or are the rest of you just playing along?

April 1st-ed?

This is the funniest blog post I've seen all day, by far :)Thank you!

wow, does no one get this?! April Fools people!

happy april fools?
this seems almost too good to be true.

Ha Ha! you are one funny, creative lady. Thanks for the laugh today. Best one yet.

Happy April Fools.....Right!

Photoshop of you in the truck not so much. Sorry. But you had me a for awhile! Well done.

Hey there - you don't have to publish this one, but I was wondering if, in the course of the day, if some of the posters who didn't know it was 4/1, then posted after realizing it was 4/1, could their "follow-up post" follow their original post - might be good for a few chuckles.

What, No love for...

Anchorage, Alaska?
Pasadena, California?
Richmond, Virginia?
Indianapolis, Indiana?
Lincoln, Nebraska?

and how about...

Fort Lauderdale, Florida?
Orlando, Florida?
Oakland, California
Louisville, Kentucky
Sacramento, California?

Just curious.

As awesome as this sounds...April Fools?

If this is an April Fool's Joke (which, really, you do amazing AF stuff so I don't put it past you), it's a really mean one because this sounds awesome and delicious. Booooo-urns, unless it's true then YAY! (But 13th and U? That seems suspect to me.)

I know this won't get posted, but just wanted to say yet another brilliant April 1st posting!

GREAT! I was hoping something fun would come up for Sunday and now I have the answer. Can't wait to stop by U Street. What a great trip you're going to have.

This is an April Fool's gag isn't it?

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.


Hi Carol,
I've been a fan of yours for quite some time, since the early French Laundry At Home days and can't help but wonder if this is one of your clever April Fool's Day jokes........

That being said, if it's not, I live very close to downtown Denver and would love to help spread the word. Also, if you have time, I'd love to do a quick interview with you for a couple of online forums.

I'm of two minds here, hoping it's real, but so ready to laugh if it's not.

Whichever, You're Awesome!

I'm I really the only person who has remembered that it's April Fool's and that Carol is notorious for her really, really good, creative April Fool's pranks?!

I laughed until I saw Tempe on the tour date list... Then I was sad it wasn't real. :(

I always love your first update in April. What wonderful news!

AUGH! Why must you be in Denver when I'm in Memphis and in Memphis when I'm in Denver?! :(

(You're doing an awesome thing!)

Oh man, you have to pass right by/through San Jose on your way from San Francisco to Venice...couldn't you make a stop just for me? :)

How on Earth has no one called April's Fool?

Nice one, Carol. From those of us who have been hanging on your every word since FLAH, happy April Fools Day.

rofl Carol... this is pretty damn good. LMAO

If you see an interested, hungry pregnant woman in Chicago, make way. I'm looking forward to seeing you and the crew! That is, if I can take off of work. Blah.

OK, WAIT, it's April 1st....hummmm.... suspicious

It is April 1.

Is this real or an April Fool's Day prank? Because I really, really want it to be real!!! Please say you're really coming to Asheville!!!!

I can't believe no one has said this yet, but April Fools, right?

Too funny. You had me for a few minutes. Good one!

april fools... man u always go all out

Oh come on, people. It's April Fools! A good one, Carol :)

Hahaha, Why is everyone so gullible? You got people last year and you got them so easily this year! I love your story though, it's awesome. Happy April Fool's Day everybody!!

I dont know what your plans are for the drive between SF and LA, but I'd be willing to do some PR for you if you want to stop in Santa Barba

Am I really the first person to disbelieve this? Last year I seem to remember a few doubters early on.

I wish this was realy - what a great way to top last year.

I really hope that a lot of previous posters were being sarcastic. This was a great April Fools joke.

Wait a minute, is this another cruel, April Fools' joke? If not, it's pretty awesome, and especially since you'll be in San Francisco.

Nice April's day joke

Great April Fools post as usual. I look forward to this post every year and you keep knocking it out of the park. I'm assuming you're filtering out the comments from people who figured out the joke. Very crafty!

Anyway, keep up the great work. I can't wait to see what you come up with next year.

Excellent 4/1 post, love the gullible responses!!!
Float that Beauty over the big pond and stop by in Munich on your way home for some Pretzel air encased in edible Bratwurst holograms and organic Hefeweizen dust!

Man, you got me again!!!! I actually put the nyc dates on my calendar!!! It wasn't until I checked the comments that I realized the date......last year I called my husband in to show him that you had gotten a job at alinea. Now he is totally cracking up that i actually put the dates on the calendar. Thanks for the laughs!

hmmm why do I check this blog at 9:30 pacific time on 3/31, lol.. what was I thinking.. well played

It's not a matter of laughing my sox off. My sox flew across the room. Oh my! Hot dog stock. Just typing it makes me smile.

Not only was your gag fantastic, but even the comments are solid gold. The decision to temporarily mod the comments that made reference to the date was awesome: early in the day you exposed those who were so gullible as to believe the post was true and later in the day those who were so naive (or egotistical?) as to believe that they were the first to catch on. Well played, Carol.

Cochon 555 is in Des Moines on the 24th.
Tons of foodies downtown. Think you could stay an extra day?

WHAT ... A ... KICK ... ASS ... IDEA!

Unfortunately I live some way off your route (Ireland) :(

Bon Courage! ... Chapeau!

Carol I swear I'm losing my mind. I had a dream last night where we were eating dinner and I complimented you on your awesome april fool's day joke and then I asked you what foods you used to do the mockups of the food you made for food cart. And you said "But Jessica. Those are the foods I'm making for my cart. The cart project is real."

Hot Dog Air! You crack me up - very, very nice!

You're good Carol. Ya got me.

Just like last year, I almost fell for it. Actually looked at the calendar for this weekend and realized - duh. Fabulous April Fools post!! And wouldn't it be fun if you really actually did it?!

I was telling my husband about you coming to Des Moines then I noticed the date of the post. Damn got me this year...

This is sooooo not fair. You totally got me. I sent my daughter that lives in DC, an email telling her that she and her boyfriend had to go see you. I was even thinking of where I could fly to catch up with you. My daughter's boyfriend just said "food bloggers are weird". My husband just rolled his eyes at me....
The worst part is that I think it would be a great thing to do.... you might want to have the ultimate laugh and really do it.
I enjoy reading your blog!

I was with you all the way till the Debbie Gibson reference. Only you would include her in something "for credibility". The picture of the truck put me over the edge. The biggest joke is on you, Carol. We all want it to be true!

Portland, yay! Thanks for coming to the west coast, Carol!

You worked hard this year..... :-)

Best part: $7 for a little cube of bbq jelly and $9 for a breath of hot dog. That said, having had tempura foie gras, I'd line up for that again and again if these shenanigans were real.

1. Get excited
2. Shocked and thrilled that you'd be stopping in Des Moines
3. Begin clearing my schedule April 22-23
4. Read the menu descriptions over and over, trying to decide which ones I'll try.
5. Glance at the comments
6. Profound disappointment

You got me good.

Welp, I've been had! But it was a nice morning to wait outside and do the crossword. Well played, ma'am.

This post went viral around Hawai`iʻs food peeps. Good job! GREAT April Foolʻs!

I love you guys so much, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. :)

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