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Alinea: Each Bite - a Paragraph of Mindfulness

Last week on a Sunday night, I had the experiential journey of a 4-hour-and-17-courses-long “tasting” at Alinea, a Chicago restaurant by Chef-Owner Grant Achatz.  I ordered it vegan...  

Alinea was opened in 2005 and already a year later was named the country’s best restaurant by Gourmet.  Much has been written about Achatz’ culinary innovations in the still evolving genre of molecular gastronomy (“a scientific study of deliciousness,” (Harold McGee)). Not having the savoir-faire of kitchen science journalism, I will only say that this was a clearly exotic tasting experience that I would readily repeat as soon as I can afford to.

I would, however, like to muse on the semantics of the restaurant 's name itself…

The word “alinea” is a typographical character that derives from the Latin off the line and is used as a paragraph sign to mark a new train of thought.

As such, the restaurant name “Alinea” is a logical choice for a bite-sized journey that is Achatz’ cuisine. The restaurant offers two menus – a Tasting and a Tour. Each menu is a stream of gustatory consciousness in which the mind of the Chef takes the pilgrim's palate on an odyssey of fleeting encounters… in which each bite-sized course is a paragraph of mindfulness and a new train of thought…

The resulting experience is that of continuous attention and presence. Alinea is akin to a culinary harem of exotic one-night stands, in which the touch-and-go courses assure that an eater can never bite more than his or her mind can chew… It is a kaleidoscope of subdued Enya-like mood-wafts of taste amidst the uprising thermals of futuristic presentation…

I know, I know – if this sounds poetic, it's because the experience was, indeed, poetry, with each course – nothing more than a stanza; with each course - nothing less than a taste off the line of the Expected – i.e. an alinea.

Alinea – to sum up – is a non-linear eating experience for an open mind.

 

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.

Copyright, 2008

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Vegan, eh?  I dunno....like

Vegan, eh?

 I dunno....like they say up here....if God wanted people to be vegetarians, why'e He make animals out of MEAT?  :)

eric

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well...

well, we are are made out of meat too ... so does that mean we should eat each other?

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nah...doesn't go well with

nah...doesn't go well with ketchup. :)

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Mmmmm.....

I remember reading about Alinea a few years ago in Wired magazine, of all places, and desperately wanting to go. I hope it was as delicious and innovative as its reputation makes it out to be!

-Max Sindell, Red Room

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i don't know about delicious

i don't know about delicious but definately mmmmmm-indful...