A dish on one of Alinea’s two tasting menus is described as “Short rib—beets, cranberry, Campari.” If only it were that simple. Chef Grant Achatz says the actual ingredients are “short rib, beet-Campari juice, roasted baby golden beet, beet-green marmalade, braised beet greens, beet pâte de fruit, beet chips, three different types of fennel garnish, cranberry sauce, caramelized fennel purée … man, I guess that is a lot.” A colleague reminds him about fennel pollen, cranberry powder, and Murray River salt. This is, after all, probably the most inventive restaurant in America, where Chef Achatz has turned dinner into—you name the metaphor: It’s been called performance art, theater, sensual orgy.
None of which comes easy. Preparing a dish like this can take many days, and at any one time three cooks might be working on different parts of the same dish. So as Alinea has deconstructed dinner, we have deconstructed Alinea. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how this dish is prepared. (Note: If you visit Alinea, chances are you won’t find it; Achatz continually changes the menu.)
Photography: Stephanie Willis