Posts Tagged 'Grant Achatz'

Next: Vegan

As I’ve said many times, I tend to prefer beautiful, well-executed vegetables to most proteins. So when Rocky and I were last in Chicago we were excited to see what magic Chefs Dave Beran and Grant Achatz would work for their vegan themed menu at Next. Really excited. Amped even to the point that Rocky wrote and choreographed a full-on vegan cheer(complete with hip rolls and mock pom pom movements) which she performed throughout the day before our meal. Come dinner time, we were ready.

next vegan table setting

next vegan table setting

At our table, which was set with a few adornments that would be put to use through the early courses of the meal, we were greeted by a letter in some branches and our starting beverages.

next vegan starter cracker

next vegan burnt avocado

next vegan started avocado kale bouquet

Starter and burnt avocado. A dense, crunchy cracker made from sourdough starter, to be eaten with burnt and fresh avocado puree. Tangy and acidic, accented with oxalis and togarashi.

Kale bouquet. Small ‘bouquets’ of crispy kale sitting in the avocado.

next vegan frozen baked potato

Frozen baked potato. Frozen skin of Purple Majesty potato loaded with a smooth sorbet of the potato. Blah.

next vegan nori dumpling

next vegan sprouted tempeh

Sprouted tempeh. A tempeh tart with sprouted basil and chia. Nice basil taste.

Nori dumpling. Good vegetal seaweed flavor. Soft and spongy with a salty crunch on top.

next vegan earl grey rambutan

Earl grey rambutan. Rambutan(a lychee relative) flavored with earl grey and made into a pleasantly fruity jello shot.

next vegan baby artichokes

Baby artichokes. These were delightful. Charred and filled with artichoke puree. A wonderful balance between the rich puree, the toasty and caramelized leaves, and a little astringency. This was Rocky’s favorite savory course.

next vegan apples and lichen

next vegan aged apple cider vinegarnext vegan fermented apples

Fermented apples and lichen. Fresh apple ice and lacto-fermented apple. Cashew: roasted, raw, powdered, and oil. Rose candies and petals. Fried lichen. Seven month oak-aged apple cider vinegar made with an eight year old starter. An awesome back and forth between some really fun flavors.

next vegan herb pool

next vegan lily pond

Lily pond. Lily bulbs, sauteed and raw. Lychee. Red veined sorrel, burgundy and rainbow oxalis, celery leaf, and micro chard fished out of the table decoration. It was a nice contrast between the starchy sauteed bulbs and the crisps raw ones.

next vegan rice yogurt white asparagus

next vegan white asparagus

Rice yogurt and white asparagus. French white asparagus prepared three ways: confit stalk, blanched tips, and julienned then salt-cured with pear. With rice yogurt, rice crackers, purslane, and dried herbs. The asparagus was superb. The crackers lent a little salt and acid. A small amount of the yogurt was nice, but it was cloyingly sweet.

next vegan salsifies dandelion

next vegan salsify

Salsifies with oyster and dandelion. Pickled salsify with oyster leaf. Pureed salsify stuffed in bad-ass crunchy roasted skin with dandelion greens. I loved the super bitterness of the leaves with the light sweetness of the root.

next vegan swiss chard douchi

Swiss chard and douchi. A beer battered leaf of chard over a carrot and beet sauce. Next to a pretty solid black bean and chocolate douchi with some smoked orange. A fairly rich plate with the excess of fried batter.

next vegan kombu atoll

next vegan kombu atoll

Kombu atoll. Kombu seaweed, yuba, ponzu, pumpkin seed, shiso. Visually inspired by an atoll coral reef. Damn…this dish was incredible. Great depth of restrained savory layers of flavors. Easily my favorite dish of the meal.

next vegan mushroom cart

next vegan mushroom cart

Mushroom cart. Farro risotto in mushroom stock with a mix of wild mushrooms. Sunflower seeds, petals, and leaves. Sunchoke chips and milked sunchoke. The varieties of fungus were killer, though overall the dish was super rich and really salty.

next vegan red onion

next vegan red onion stupak inspired

Red onion | inspired by Stupak. A take on Larb, the national dish of Laos. Instead of minced meat, the focus was a pile of heavily caramelized onion. Accompanied with brussels sprouts puree, fresno chiles, coriander, lime, mint, and quinoa wire(circa Alex Stupak).

next vegan spice tubenext vegan cauliflowernext vegan cauliflower naan

next vegan curry cauliflower

Curry roasted cauliflower. Curried cauliflower in a nice harisa with chickpea, turmeric, cumin, golden raisin, pine nuts, and sprouted chickpea.

next vegan szechuan buttons

next vegan olive oil chocolate strawberry

Olive oil jam and bitter chocolate. Olive oil, szechuan buttons, chocolate cake, freeze dried strawberries, and black truffle. Before the dessert arrived, we were offered some szechuan buttons so we could experience their tickling/numbing sensation. The dessert was fantastic. Great textures and tastes, not too sweet, and the tingle from the buttons was a lot of fun. This was Rocky’s favorite plate of the night.

next vegan hibiscus pistachio

Hibiscus and pistachio. Hibiscus cake dusted with pistachio. Pistachio shortbread. Thai long pepper sorbet with hibiscus. Fennel marmalade. Iranian pistachios. Vanilla syrup cased in pistachio. Quite an amazing dessert. A delightfully themed variety of preparations. My second favorite course, next to the kombu atoll.

next vegan steamed crepes

Steamed crepes. Burnt sugar. Passionfruit. Chocolate.

Overall a fun meal with some very creative and clever highlights. Initially on leaving dinner I was a little let down by the lack of pristine fresh vegetables I had expected from an all-vegan menu in summertime, but I got over it, looked back, and was pretty impressed with the offerings. Did it ‘challenge my perceptions of what vegan cuisine can be’ as the cheesy welcoming letter-mission statement suggested? Not really. But would I eat this menu again? Certainly.

Some wines I was served:

next vegan winenext vegan winenext vegan winenext vegan sakenext vegan winenext vegan winenext vegan wine

Date of visit: June 16, 2013

Next. 953 W Fulton Market. Chicago, IL


Next: The Hunt

To finish up our trip to Chicago last week, Rocky and I had our first visit to Next for The Hunt menu. We arrived for dinner remarkably early and were told we could stand and wait in the small, somewhat crowded entrance way(where a small older lady on her way out almost threw up on Rocky but thankfully made it out the door before letting go) or we could head somewhere else for a drink(they suggested a hip place across the street). So we skipped across the street and enjoyed some bubbles and lively music until dinner time.

next the hunt table settingnext the hunt note letter

Arriving back at the restaurant we waited another few minutes then were escorted to a table adorned with a deer hide and a note to get us amped up for The Hunt. We got our first pairings(we ordered the reserve wine and the non-alcoholic) and let the game begin( it?)

next the hunt hen of the woodsnext the hunt maitake broth

Hen of the Woods. A little mushroom two-ways to begin. We were told to first ‘forage’ through the terrarium then sip the broth. A fantastic meaty little maitake followed by an amazingly savory and lightly earthy broth.

next the hunt catch of the great lakes

Catch of the Great Lakes. Some Lake Superior fish. The n/a pairing of grapefruit juice with smoked spruce and pepperberry was fantastic with the smoked cold trout. I thought the pickled kohlrabi was great for a crispy palate cleanser. The toast sticks for the lake fish rillettes had a perfect crunch without being hard.

next the hunt calvados flask

And then..a flask of Pere Magloire VSOP, Calvados Pays d’Auge for the next pairing. That’s pretty bad ass.

next the hunt charcu-tree

Charcu-Tree. A piece of tree with a meat flight. Rabbit terrine with ‘purple condiment’ grape must. A superb smoky elk jerky with subtle sweet and spice. A cut of wild boar salumi, soft textured with good heat. Deer heart tartare. And blood sausage with jasmine and mustard.

next the hunt cellar aged carrots onions

Cellar Aged Carrots & Onions. A carrot grown by Peter Klein in Michigan, preserved and dried in sawdust. With dehydrated carrot, fried carrot tops, fried onion, and carrot & veal jus. The featured carrot was soft and sweet, set off by the richness of the sauce and the crispy textures of the tops and onions.

next the hunt duck tongue cider vinegar

Duck Tongue, Cider Vinegar. Pitched as ‘Bacon & Eggs’. Soft scrambled duck eggs, crispy puffed duck tongue, apples, radicchio, rainbow sorrel, pink tip parsley. A nice peppery breakfast of eggs balanced with the racy acidity of the sorrel and the super bitter radicchio.

next the hunt sturgeon & caviar

next the hunt sturgeon caviar

Sturgeon & Caviar. Damn. Butter poached sturgeon, smashed and fried sunchokes, spruce oil, and caviar beurre blanc. Tender, buttery fish. Ultra-decadent sauce. Rich, opulent, old world perfection.

next the hunt woodcock jolie

Woodcock Jolie. A roulade of wild woodcock and napa cabbage with shaved 99% bitter chocolate, berry, black truffle, hazelnut, and gold leaf. The bird was bangingly gamey. Some nice earth from the chocolate and truffle.

next the hunt pressed squab skeletonnext the hunt pressed squab oatsnext the hunt pressed squab claw

next the hunt pressed squab

Pressed Squab. Squab breast, leg, brain with breadcrumb served in a split head, an offal filled wonton, and squab presse with cognac. On the side, steel cut oats with squab jus and bacon fat, and roasted back & wing. This was damn delicious. I’m not sure how long it took me, but I cleaned up both our plates pretty solidly, including all the toes and beaks in their entirety, and everything I could get off the skeleton. Again..this was damn delicious.

next the hunt fallen leaves & kidney

next the hunt fallen leaves kidney

Fallen Leaves & Kidney. A nature scene inspired by charcuterie flavors served on birch bark. Some nice salsify, fried parsnip, brussels sprouts, dehydrated purple cauliflower, seaweed, with a veal kidney mustard sauce.

next the hunt bison béarnaise next the hunt bison béarnaise next the hunt bison béarnaise

next the hunt bison & béarnaise

Bison & Béarnaise. In the center of the table, a big hot rock. Arriving on a piece of slate, thin slices of bison to be cooked on the big hot rock. And a ‘béarnaise’ condiment: leek and burnt leek liqueur. A sublime little snack.

next the hunt marrow brûlée

Marrow Brûlée. Bone marrow and sassafras bruleed with sugar, sprinkled with sea salt, and served in a split bone. Really rich, but dynamite. The sweet/savory balance was great.

next the hunt maris otternext the hunt maris otter

next the hunt maris otter

Maris Otter. First, a small tray of condiments: English toffee, basil and mint, pecan, tart cherry jam, and brown sugar butter with cinnamon. Then a cast iron pan of Maris Otter barley risotto pudding. Mixed all together, it was a tasty little pan of porridge.

next the hunt stick

next the hunt syrup taffeenext the hunt tire d'erable

Tire D’erable. First some sticks showed up. Followed by a trough of crushed ice. Then a pitcher of warm maple syrup mixed with bourbon was poured over the ice. We used the sticks to roll up the syrup, resulting in a bourbon maple taffy on a stick. Sugary, slightly toasty, and a lot of fun(as evidenced by Rocky’s enthusiasm, shown above).

next the hunt passion house las brisas

And to finish out the meal, Passion House Nicaragua Las Brisas. A pretty decent cup of delicate single origin coffee roasted by Passion House in Chicago.

After dinner we were taken on a brief tour of the kitchen, after which we saw Chef Beran sitting alone at the kitchen table with some paperwork. As we walked by I said ‘Thank you Chef’ and he seemed pretty upset and bothered because of it. Our tour guide told us he was stressing because he had to do a tasting for the upcoming ‘vegan’ menu with Chef Achatz the next morning. If I make it back for that menu, I’ll make sure to reserve my gratitude.

There are certainly some clever minds at work at Next. Our dinner was very creative and a lot of fun. The non-alcoholic drinks were remarkable at times. Two standouts(in addition to the one I mentioned with the Great Lakes fish)were: beet, prune, blood orange, cola nut, and pomegranate, made to look like a blood drink; and quince, satsuma, black walnut, black pepper, and bay leaf, which was a super rockin beverage.

Some wines we were served:

next the hunt winenext the hunt winenext the hunt cidernext the hunt winenext the hunt winenext the hunt wine

Date of visit: April 10, 2013

Next. 953 W Fulton Market. Chicago, IL

Kitchen Table at The Aviary, Chicago

I had a lot of cool stuff planned for my three days in Chicago with Rocky last week; drinking, dining, and otherwise. What I was most excited about before we left home was our visit to The Aviary. Now that we’ve been back into our routine in NYC for a few days I’m looking back over our little trip and what I’m most excited about is..our visit to The Aviary.

aviary chicago pass

The experience at the chef’s Kitchen Table is billed as a 10-course cocktail tasting with food pairings. That’s f*cking sweet. We arrived, curious and eager with anticipation, and were escorted to a small round high-top table in the corner of the kitchen, facing the pass.

aviary chicago pisco grappa amuse

Amuse. To start, an amuse of pisco, grappa, and pineau des charentes. Pleasantly fresh and mildly fruity.

aviary chicago moon river shrubaviary chicago sun also rises

Moon River Shrub. Huckleberry, champagne vinegar, white armagnac. A little tart and very viscous.

Sun Also Rises. Absinthe, sloe gin, cava, with Peychaud’s ice. Named after the Hemingway novel, a tribute to his drinking style, and in strong contention for my favorite of the night. A great balance of bitter herb and fresh botanical flavors.

aviary chicago bowl of chipsaviary chicago bowl of chips

Bowl of Chips: Polenta, lotus root, bonito, white rice with squid ink, nori, tapioca saffron, chicharron, white cheddar with yellow cheddar, and parmesan. The bonito, nori, and squid ink chips had honest flavors of the sea. The parmesan was light, crumbly, and strongly cheesy. The tapioca was luxuriously endowed with saffron.

aviary chicago gingeraviary chicago ginger

aviary chicago ginger

Ginger. Shiso, peychaud’s, vodka. Ginger and lime made into a snow, courtesy of liquid nitrogen, with shiso, fresno pepper, and lemongrass. Rocky was told to add vodka and stir. The drink had a great ginger root spice.

aviary chicago trinidad teaaviary chicago tea in trinidad

Tea in Trinidad. Rum with rooibos, verjus, and benedictine, served warm. Holy smokes. I think this was the best warm drink I’ve ever had. Like a boozy tea with honey, but better.

aviary chicago corn guacamole cannoli

Corn. Guacamole cannoli in corn flour shells with sour cream and fresno pepper. Great stuff. Full flavor guacamole in a super delicate shell.

aviary chicago infernal imageryaviary chicago infernal imagery

aviary chicago infernal imagery

Infernal Imagery. Barolo, maurin quina, rhum. Served in a smoky treasure box.

aviary chicago lavaaviary chicago lava

Lava. Mole, chocolate, scotch, rum. Sweet on the nose with a woody vanilla palette.

aviary chicago potato

Potato. A warm potato custard covered with malt vinegar chips, chives, and black pepper. The malt vinegar was nice with the rich custard.

aviary chicago rob royaviary chicago rob roy

Rob Roy. Scotch with 1985 pedro ximenez served in a bag of lavender air. Like a dark, earthy, herbed caramel.

aviary chicago in the rocksaviary chicago in the rocks

In the Rocks (second edition). Benedictine, vermouth, cognac, rye. A vieux carre on the rocks, served in a rock. Presented with a circular sling shot to place atop the glass and crack the ice sphere to release the cocktail.

aviary chicago bacon and date

Bacon & Date. With purslane, greek yogurt, and thyme. On a sumac and walnut base. Sweet and rich, broken up by the yogurt and thyme.

aviary chicago evil twin beer

Aviary One, Aviary Nine. Two beers from a series made in collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing. ‘Plantation’ had citrus and stone fruit flavors with subtle creeping bitterness. ‘George T Stagg’ was smooth with berry and light wood.

aviary chicago thai mountainaviary chicago thai mountain

aviary chicago thai mountain

Thai Mountain. Saffron, rooibos, maraschino, reposado. With orange peel and tonka bean. Served not quite hot. A great depth of warm spices.

aviary chicago wagyu

Wagyu. With smoked paprika toffee, pumpkin seed, and yogurt. A bangin little bite.

aviary chicago cranberry portholeaviary chicago cranberry porthole

aviary chicago cranberry

Cranberry. Gin, rum, absinthe, allspice dram, lemon, rosemary, cranberry, orange, tea leaves, and apple served in a porthole. An incredible infusion that intensified with each pour.

aviary chicago duck rillette

Duck. Duck rillette sandwiched between hazelnut crackers with carrot, parsnip, and puffed rice. Fun, gamey little bites.

aviary chicago avenueaviary chicago avenue

Avenue. Grenadine calvados and bourbon with passionfruit sorbet.

aviary chicago lollipops

Lollipops. An assortment of ‘lollipops’: rice krispie and tonka bean, banana peanut butter, rooibos pate de fruits, malted nougat, raspberry with balsamic foam, coffee toffee, and chocolate hazelnut.

aviary chicago foie gras

Foie Gras. With pomegranate, gingerbread, and charred onion. Delicious.

aviary chicago root beer

Root Beer. Rum and sassafras caramel with fernet and angostura foam.

aviary chicago brioche

Brioche. A burst of super buttery chocolate.

aviary chicago snake charmer

Snake Charmer. Yerba maté, ambergris, amaro, smoked whiskey.

aviary chicago ice water

Damn. That was a lot of booze. But an amazing and unique experience. The work The Aviary does is astoundingly impressive. From the obvious talent behind the pass to the super-cool floor staff. The creativity in the production and presentation of their cocktails and the attention to detail in the execution of service makes for an engaging, lively, and pleasant night of drinking. I was happy that throughout the night new glasses and ice cubes kept showing up to replace our water. I probably should have chugged a little more of it.

Date of visit: April 9, 2013

The Aviary. 955 W Fulton Market. Chicago, IL  312.226.0868

aviary chicago kitchen tableaviary chicago kitchen table

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