The Splurge of a Lifetime

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When you get 5 very passionate food bloggers together in Chicago, there’s only one thing to do.

Hoard as many free soda crackers and pretzels as you can to be able to save money and splurge on one evening.

at Alinea.

The 5 of us: Sara of Ms. Adventures of Italy, Elise of Simply Recipes, Kathy of Panini Happy, moi and Deb of Lunch in a Box decided that one evening during Blogher 09 in Chicago, we were going to devote our mind, soul and stomach to one man. All night long.

If you don’t know who Grant Achatz is, all you need to do is read this article “A Man of Taste” by The New Yorker and you will understand our obession. He sets things on fire.

You know how it’s so flippin’ annoying when someone whips out a camera at a restaurant for the sole purpose of food blogging? I hate it. With a passion.

Which is why I hid my camera in my shirt. And that’s why I wore a loosey-loosey flowy shirt.

I had planned to duct tape the camera around my body and then lift up my shirt to snap a stealth shot.

Yeah….I’m soooo Bond. Jaden Bond. Until I got caught:

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Not once, but TWICE:

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This was our lovely waiter…who was really pleasant and polite in a very “fancy schmancy restaurant” sort of way.

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Until I lifted my shirt again to snap a pic.

“Excuse me, madam…but WTF are you doing flashing me?! AND I DON’T MEAN YOUR CAMERA.”

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Naaahhh…he was cool. Waiter even gave us a little hocus pocus. I think Elise was impressed.

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Please don’t expect a play-by-play of our 14-course menu. That would be cruel, because there’s nothing worse than seeing something incredibly mind-blowingly delicious…and then you can’t have it. (isn’t there a crude expression for that feeling?)

But I will say that when dessert time came around, I had no idea what to expect.

Because the waiter rolled out a latex-y, rubber-y type of tablecloth.

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And then I just about fell outta my chair.

Grant magically appears at our table! HOLY BACON TIGHTROPE! He’s so quick! so quiet! so nimble!

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Oh baby, you look so skinny! Come to Steamy Kitchen and let me feed you!!!!

And then my camera spied that Grant gave Elise his sex-ay bedroom eyes.

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And here I am, lifting up my shirt every few minutes to stealth-click a photo and he doesn’t even look my way.

Grant continues on…and begins to paint on our tablecloth with his executive chef.

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Gems, jewels, baubles and a flying saucer.

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The 5 of us greedily take in the entire experience…

And then.

As quickly as it began….

It was over.

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That was way too fast.

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Thank goodness the dessert after dessert after dessert was a cigar-like thingy. We needed it.

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And then get this….

We were invited into the KITCHEN!

Oooooh….so neat. clean. carpet!

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End of evening…the chefs were scrubbing the….everything.

Hey, guys! can you come to my house and do that too!? Puleeeeeze?

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That dude in the photo…I can just hear him say, “Girls…JUST GO HOME, will ya?!!!!”

Comments 50

  1. Biggie @ Lunch in a box

    Wow, great pictures, Jaden! Really captured our evening — your covert flashing and all… ;-) I think if we’d used flash they would have given us the boot, though! Truly a memorable evening for both the food and the company.

  2. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    I wondered who would be the first to post about that night! :) You’ve motivated me – I’ll try to get my pics up this week, too! That was a ton of fun…though I believe we were laughing more as the wine pairings continued.

  3. Karen@Mignardise

    Sounds like so much fun!
    I recently read about his Jackson Pollack-type dessert. Was it delicious, or just unusual?
    Great photos from your spycam.

  4. Rémy @ Passionfruit Butter

    I have MAJOR envy. I stalk Grant Achatz’s culinary creations on a regular basis, though I have yet to visit Alinea. I’m sure there’s a bit of truth to the argument that molecular gastronomy is an attention-grabbing trend, but Grant Achatz is so phenomenally talented and inventive that it robs me of all my skepticism. I’m glad you enjoyed your meal! Looks like you guys had a blast!

  5. CakeSpy

    Oh, wow! Thanks for letting us all live vicariously through this supremely awesome dining experience with you!! :-)

  6. Rick

    sounds like it was fun…

    is it just me or is this post loading oddly in everyone’s browser? the fonts get huge then the characters start overlapping with the characters next to it.

    just wondering…

  7. Fuji Mama

    I just snorted Diet Coke through my nose because I was laughing so hard thinking about you and your flashing antics! But seriously, YUM!

  8. Veronica

    To quote Corky Romano…”you suck you suck you suck” Just kidding.

    Love it! Such an incredible experience. Of course, you have to bust out the camera for that. It’s an experience you want to/have to remember. I love that they scrub down the kitchen. I’m a clean freak in the kitchen especially with guests watching. Would love to have this experience one day.

  9. Chez US - Denise

    Wonderful that you were able to eat there, Grant Achatz’s story is amazing, completely amazing. I admire him & his work immensely. Great write up!

  10. Chris

    Living vicariously through you. You are the ultimate foodie, Jaden. Can’t wait to buy your book. Are you going to have a special pre release for your loyal readers;)

  11. Funkynomad Eats

    Wow that is so cool!

    Must be a fantastic experience! I would love to try his food and the whole Grant magic! His book is great too!

    Thanks for sharing :)

  12. Anna

    Great post! And thank you for sparing us the food shots. We can find those anywhere, but your commentary and photos of the kitchen staff and waiter are much more interesting. Todd and I are going to Alinea this summer. Or at least we think. LOL. I say that every year.

  13. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    I LOVE this post. Will you be at Blogherfood next month in SF? I will be and now am inspired to get some of my friends together and splurge on a big night out. What fun!

  14. cakebrain

    yowsa! what a cool experience! wish I could go to those sort of things…but I haven’t been in ages since having kiddies. I like the idea of dessert after dessert after dessert!

  15. Candy

    I would have loved to hear more about the food – the tastes, textures, what you loved the most. I will never get to that restaurant, so I want to know.

  16. chunky

    you just gave me an idea on how to go take pictures in restaurants inconspicuously…but somehow, i don’t think i’ll ever get that “jaw-dropping” reaction,,,hehehe! you are so hilarious!

  17. Carolyn Jung

    You lucky gals! Although I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Grant a couple of times, I still have not made it to Chicago yet to have the Alinea Experience. What a treat to look forward to — hopefully, some day SOON! ;)

    And hey, maybe you should start a new business — spy clothing line. For the fashionista surreptitious food blogger on a mission. You’d make a mint.

  18. Elise

    I think this was the most extraordinary meal I’ve ever eaten, and a bargain at the several hundred dollar bill it ended up being. Can you believe we rolled out of there at half past midnight? And they were still cooking in the kitchen? So much fun enjoying this meal with a group of hilarious gals who appreciated every bite.

  19. Nicisme

    Oh wow, fantastic night out! So, did you end up licking the tablecloth clean? ‘Cos I would have!

    1. Biggie @ Lunch in a Box

      Um, I’ll confess to using my finger to swipe part of the tablecloth at the end, and licking my finger. Nobody was fighting me for that part of the tablecloth afterwards! ;-)

  20. Jada

    This looks great! As a Chicagoan, I’ve wanted to go here forever! Just blogged about a great dinner at TRU–another amazing chicago spot.

  21. Sara Daniel

    You are hilarious! I loved reading your humorous account of a very cool night of cuisine. I found your site via La Fuji Mama. Congratulations on your cookbook and interview on ABC! I love that women bloggers are gaining so much recognition, particularly when it’s a surprise to start something mainly for yourself and have it end up so big and successful beyond anything you imagined! Congrats!

  22. Tomo Edington

    Very funny post! You captured the hidden pleasures of the Alinea experience very well. I’m not a food blogger, but I wrote a 2-part essay about Grant, Alinea and one of his demos earlier this year. In a weird way life unfolds sometimes, I got to know this amazing person. Currently he is using one of my drawings as his avatar for Twitter. Check it out when you have a chance…
    http://tomoedington.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/grant-achatz-demo-part-1/
    http://tomoedington.wordpress.com/2009/10/16/grant-achatz-demo-part-2/

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