Alder’s New Tasting Menu

26 May

We went to Alder in the opening weeks after loving our meal(s) at WD-50 (from the same incredibly well respected and loved Chef Wylie Dufresne).  WD-50 had to close down recently, sadly, but they decided to add a Tasting Menu to Alder.  We quickly booked ourselves a table.

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We started with drinks, including this wonderful cherry mocktail that I really enjoyed.

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Our first amuse bouche was a tiny pastry shell filled with… something… foie gras? liver? I’m not sure, but it was a taste of savory heaven.

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Our second amuse was a take on grilled cheese (I think?) that was another bite of wonderful.

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We added an order of Pub Cheese to our tasting after hearing great things about it.  It came with “potato crisps” and pistachio and fig.

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It was much more lavender than we expected and tasty, but didn’t blow us away.

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Our first item on the menu was the scallops, which I REALLY enjoyed with the red grape.  It brought out all the right flavors in the dish.

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Our next dish was split, because I couldn’t have the black garlic potatoes on the menu.  SO I had an grain dish of some kind which was quite good, but not overly memorable.

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Everyone else really enjoyed their black garlic potatoes with consommé and chorizo.

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Our next dish was right out of what makes Wylie Dufresne’s cooking so creative.  It looked like a tiny stack of pancakes with a slice of butter and syrup (poured table side) but it was actually Okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake) with grilled octopus and kewpie mayonnaise.  This was a bit of a trick on the palette, with lots of ginger flavor.  You couldn’t quite tell what you were eating, and I can’t say I loved it, but it was an interesting dish.

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Our last main dish was my absolute favorite. Lamb with ramp panisse, smoked yogurt, and vandouvan.  The lamb was perfectly cooked and the smokiness of the yogurt made for an absolutely incredible dish.  By far the stand-out for me.

 

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Our dessert was brie with cherry and pistachio.  A very nice way to end the meal with something that wasn’t quite dessert but certainly left you with that great sweet end.

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The petit fours were matcha chocolates and madeleines.  Both were a teeny little sweet and capped the evening off well.

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We all really enjoyed the tasting menu and were glad we decided to try it out.  It wasn’t nearly as good as what we had at WD-50, but it felt like a great experiment with food that combined great flavors with great artistry.  Definitely worth trying out.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Food & Wine Best New Chefs Award Party 2015

27 Apr

I have amazing perks with my job.  One of them is going to some excellent media events and I was very excited to get a coveted invite to the Food & Wine Best New Chefs party.

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They awarded the best new chefs their honors, but first, they fed us.

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And they fed us well.

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I really enjoyed the Johnnycake from Chef Linton Hopkins (without the spicy greens).

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And it was fun to be able to taste a dish from Chef Mei Lin (most recent Bravo Top Chef winner)

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Her pork belly paté egg rolls were quite divine.

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Chefs Joe Ogrodnek & Walker Stern (two of last year’s best new chefs) had a dish I would never have ordered from a menu…

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A buttermilk parfait with vegetable muesli.

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But this little dish was actually packed with flavor. It looked so simple, but it was refreshing and flavorful at the same time.

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Upstairs, there were 2 tucked away tasting areas and another bar.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Chef Daniel Humm, seeing as though Eleven Madison Park remains my #1 favorite restaurant in the city and I’m slightly obsessed with The NoMad (especially for breakfast).

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He served “The Humm Dog” which was a bacon wrapped hot dog with gruyere cheese with black truffle mayonnaise and celery relish.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hot dog!

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Among the many celebrity chef tasting tables, they also had passed little bites.

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Chef Koren Grieveson had a tucked away area where she was hamming it up with her staff

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She was so incredibly friendly and welcoming and you could tell she was just tickled to be there.

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Her confit chicken was so light and I loved the pairing of orange with it.  I wish I could have this for lunch every day.

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Back downstairs, the longest line was for Chef Stephanie Izard (first female Top Chef winner and current Chicago restaurant owner, who runs one of my favorite places, The Girl and the Goat).

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I enjoyed her personalized chopsticks teasing a new restaurant, Duck Duck Goat, coming to Chicago this spring. (I’m dying to try it! Peking Duck by Stephanie Izard? I’m in!)

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And mini goat greeting us.

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The dish was a spicy noodle dish, which I couldn’t have.

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She sadly sad that they could give me a plain noodle dish and apologized that I’d be missing out… but there was NO missing out! Even these “plain” noodles were packed with flavor. Super delicious.

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Before they gave out the awards, we were treated to an aerialist show that was beautiful.

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Then it was award time.

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They listed out the names of the honored chefs and New York Chef Bryce Shuman (of awesome restaurant, Betony) was last and VERY excited to be there.

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The reason I got to attend is because one of my clients, BelGioioso Cheese (awesome cheese in your grocery store if you haven’t tried it) was one of the featured sponsors with a yummy dish.

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After the awards and the food was served, the music got cranked up and everyone let loose.  The celebrity chefs were having a blast on the dance floor and we spoke to a few (including Chef Stephanie Izard, who could not have been nicer).  It was at this point that my slightly inebriated husband decided to set up a fun photo shoot with any chef who was game… The sell: “My wife is pregnant and we want to take a picture of chefs pointing at the belly.”  After I swallowed my ever so slight embarrassment at asking all these lovely people to pose, we actually wound up with a great set of pictures:

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Thank you for humoring us, Chefs Stephanie Izard, Marc Murphy, Elizabeth Falkner, Ilan Hall, and CJ Jacobson… and of course Food & Wine.

Awesome event!

 

Three Many Cooks Cookbook Launch Party

13 Apr

A few months ago, we attended our second “Tursgiving” hosted by a friend of ours. The hosting couple mentioned they had a friend who was also a food blogger and also pregnant, and they were hoping we would get along.  And we sure did!  I had a great time sitting next to Maggy and her husband Andy during the meal and loved hearing about the blog she wrote with her mom and sister, Three Many Cooks.

We ran into them a few times since and I’m looking forward to having sons a few months apart (her son was born in January).

When Maggy extended an invite to their Cookbook Launch Party, I was flattered and excited to attend, especially since it was at the OXO Test Kitchen at their Headquarters.  How could I possibly resist going to the home of innovative kitchen products?  And I enjoyed their entry wall of all sorts of fun things.

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We socialized over cocktails (or in my case… mocktails) and appetizers before seeing a demo from the Three Many.  Maggy’s mom (Pam, already a great cookbook author) was filled with warmth and excitement and it was obvious to tell why this family was so well bonded.

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And the three of them together were just glowing, especially Maggy (on the right) who is only 3 months post partem with that cute little baby (on the left).  I’m inspired to look that good and that happy 3 months after Baby Nom Nom is born.

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We then sat down to a lovely dinner of Popcorn Salad (using popcorn instead of croutons, which added a great crunch)

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And pasta fagioli soup (and we learned a great tip… cook the pasta separately and add it at the last minute so it doesn’t get mushy… so simple yet so smart).

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They then read a section that each had written within the book.  Learning their father was a minister immediately gave me pause (Inner dialogue: “Is this a religious book? Please don’t make this non-practicing, culturally Jewish girl uncomfortable over my delicious soup”) but the sections read were mostly about faith rather than religion (sigh of relief) and they were beautiful words and stories.

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I was lucky enough to walk out of there with a few OXO goodies and a signed copy, and I can’t wait to read more over the next few weeks.