The best laid plans of mice and men.......
My husband became extremely ill the day before the trip and optimistically flew to Chicago anyway expecting to improve. Just he opposite, but he accompanied me to Alinea anyway and watched me eat.
I found the service to be good...our waiter (s) had a reasonable sense of humor about the food and its presentation. I think that's a good thing, because it started to lean toward bad-Saturday-night-live-skit a couple of times. The food was truly delicious, every bite a mouthfull of flavor. Most memorable..the partially frozen sourcream lozenge w/ micro-shredded smoked salmon (and the WATER pairing that came with it). The apple wrapped piece of bacon suspended from a wire. The raspberries w/ the barely-jelled wine inside. The 1/8 cubed waterchesnut bits in the "eggless custard" accompanying the fish.
Now for the criticisms: We ordered the 8-course tasting...even had my husband not been ill I would have chosen that because I don't care to sit still for 3 hours. He was in the phase of becoming sicker by the minute. After the first bite (an entire course), he gave me all his food. I ate TWO entire tasting menus. And bread, and a $50 wine pairing. I weigh 110 pounds (or at least I used to prior to this trip). Lord knows I was full...very full...when we left, but frankly, I don't think the 8 course would have been enough food for two people, especially if one was a big (usually) healthy guy like my husband.
The wait staff was quite solicitous and insisted on making Jeff a pot of chamomile/mint tea. He really didn't want tea, but agreed so as not to appear churlish, and so we were irritated to find the $6 charge on the bill.
The next night at Osteria via Stato was delicious as well. If I lived in Chicago, I think I would go there all the time (110 lbs. becoming a fading memory). I LOVED the marinated salmon crudo, the tiny olives, the caramelized Brazilian onions. Liked the mozzerella, the fennel, found the beet salad so-so. Pasta #1, a summer veg. in white wine sauce very good, Pasta #2 pappardelle w/ bolognese FANTASTIC. Noodles perfectly chewy, sauce very good. My short ribs were intensely flavored and Jeff's lamb chop was close to perfect. Unbelievably, I ordered dessert, a burnt sugar gelato w/ port for sauce, and it was great as well. the mid range wine flight ($28) was very good but really too much wine. (if you care, Jeff was feeling slightly better and I was not required to eat his entire portion)
Thanks to those who suggested lunch places, but as you can imagine, I really didn't need lunch. Many, many thanks to BR who (I think) suggested Fox and Obel, it was an easy walk from Swissotel, and I went there 3 times. Great store, the crackers and electrolite- water may have saved me from widowhood, and the twice baked almond croissant was a revelation. The choc. croissant not bad either. Great city, great food, thanks all!