Last Night: Dinner with Grant Achatz, Courses 1-8
Guzzle & Nosh Grant Achatz lectures about his cooking techniques.
Frozen and chewy. Hot and cold. Chef Grant Achatz is a master of surprise when it comes to the juxtaposition of unexpected flavors, textures and scents. At his acclaimed Chicago restaurant Alinea, it's nearly always omakase, a baroque tasting menu designed to startle the palate and please it in unusual ways. Or so I've heard.
For one night, Achatz packed Alinea, and moved it 1,700 miles west, to cook at a private event in Los Angeles. It featured edible cocktails, smoking oak leaves and a massive shared dessert that ran the entire length of the 50-person table.
The "sensory analysis workshop," designed mainly for bartenders, began with a blind nosing of six liquors followed by a vodka tasting and a discussion of how we understand and explain our sensory experiences. Think, for a moment, about the "language of taste." How do you describe the flavor of milk -- without mentioning milk?
Then came a lecture by Achatz, a shortened version of the talk he gave at Harvard about a month ago, along with slides and videos. We learned about flavor-bouncing, the brainstorming technique Achatz uses to combine what seem like unlikely flavors into a harmonious dish.
All of this led to the main event: a nine-course dinner with accompanying Absolut vodka cocktails for each course. I don't habitually write about press events, but when it's a dinner cooked by Grant Achatz, I make an exception.
Course 2 - Fish Balls
Golden trout roe from Michigan, coconut mousse, pineapple foam, basil freeze-dried coconut and pineapple, black licorice gel.
Course 2a - Absolut Voulez Vous
Absolut Vodka, distilled pineapple soda with flavored ice cubes and a drop of Pernod on top.
Top Cube: absinthe.
Two Bottom Cubes: basil.