Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bits and Morsels in Chicago

Inside the crispy blueberry pound cake with sweet corn ice cream at Terzo Piano.

Dispatch from Chicago. Here for a quick culture and food fix starting with The Art Institute of Chicago and its Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century exhibition.

Bresson is considered the father of modern photojournalism. His candid photographs and everyday observations helped to develop the "street photography" that's influenced nearly everybody who has toiled with a camera since. You are going to need at least a few hours to take this wonderful exhibit in. I had to go back the following day to fully absorb Bresson's genius.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Shanghai, 1948
Henri Cartier-Bresson
New York, 1946
Henri Cartier-Bresson
San Fermines, Pamplona, Spain, 1952
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Juvisy, France, 1938
I suggest breaking up the exhibition and stopping for lunch at Terzo Piano, which is on the third floor of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. Terzo Piano is the newest restaurant from Chef Tony Mantuano (who is also the Chef of Spiaggia, one of the best restaurants in Chicago and a favorite of the Obamas). The food is all local, sustainable, and organic. The space is light and lofty with spotless outdoor seating available on an expansive terrace.

The pastas and pizzas are especially good and worth a trip to the museum independent of a walk thorough any of the current exhibitions. For dessert, you must give the blueberry pound cake a try. It’s coated in polenta, lightly fried, and served warm with sweet corn ice cream.

The Art Institute of Chicago
Terzo Piano
159 East Monroe
Chicago, Illinois
312.443.8650
Cool, modern kitchen.
Outdoor seating.
A full dining room.
Fresh focaccia bread.
French fries.
The cheese selection.
Cheese pizza.
Hand crafted spaghetti with McWethy Farm cherry tomatoes and ricotta.
Crispy blueberry poundcake with sweet corn ice cream.
Alinea restaurant in Chicago is considered one of the best restaurants in America and rated the #7 restaurant in the World. It’s a tough reservation – calling a few weeks in advance still landed me on the wait list. Lucky for me a table opened up on Sunday night allowing me the opportunity to go with the digital. Alinea has no signage or canopy to draw attention to itself, and the same goes with its stark, modern interior – no distractions from the 20-or-so-course extravaganza.
Clockwise from above: Diet coke served with fresh lime juice; a pillow for your silverware; the table decoration and a spring roll wrapper which is used for one of the courses .
Fear not, the portions are no bigger than one or two bites for even the smallest of mouths. Chef Grant Achatz is the brilliant mind behind Alinea. Example number one: a water chestnut with Gruyere cheese and fried lychees served on a vanilla bean. This was definitely a one-biter but the sweet aroma of the vanilla bean literally stayed with me for days. Alinea offers unequaled wine pairings with each course, but I had to decline as I was getting over a nasty virus and begrudgingly asked for a Diet Coke with lime, which was presented with fresh lime juice.
Even more than the savory fare, I was obsessed with the dessert courses. They just made perfect sense to me. One of the desserts represented all of the flavors of earl grey tea – crumbled tea shortbread with lemon curd, pine nuts and caramelized white chocolate noodles. For the grand finale dessert – one of the chefs appeared tableside and proceeded to make a chocolate mint dessert on the tablecloth. It was a mix of coconut, chocolate, menthol and hyssop in various frozen and freeze-dried forms. The only way I can describe it is that of an extremely sharp peppermint patty. Truly awesome and a truer work of art. You will leave inspired. The menu is $185. Don't even blink.

Alinea
1723 North Halsted
Chicago Illinois
312.867.0110

Water chestnut fried with gruyere and lychee served on a vanilla bean – an edible utensil. A dish with spring onions. It's supposed to resemble a a farm (with popcorn soup and fried onions on the side).
Freeze-dried English pea soup with gel balls of honeydew, olive oil and burrata.
A raviolo with truffles, otherwise known as a black truffle explosion.
Alinea is famous for this dish called "hot potato." It's served with cold potato and truffles over potato soup (the bowl is made of wax). You pull the pin out and devour in one bite.
An heirloom tomato salad served over a pillow filled with the fragrance of fresh cut grass.
A vegetable salad dusted with the essence of ranch dressing.
Making a spring roll with cod and all the fixings, including mango, cashews, cucumber. It's made with the spring roll wrapper which was part of the table decoration.
A look inside the busy but orderly kitchen.
The components of tea – earl grey shortbread with white chocolate noodles, lemon curd, and pine nuts.
The chef getting started on the chocolate, coconut, menthol and hyssop dessert.
FYI: the tablecloth is made of silicone.
The masterpiece.
Sprinkles cupcake bakery is famous for starting the current cupcake craze. Based in Beverly Hills, Sprinkles has multiple locations across the country including one in Chicago at 50 East Walton Street. I had recently read somwhere that they sold a particlaur cupcake for dogs. Since I brought my dog Zabar with me to Chicago, I figured I would buy him one to try. Turns out Chicago is a very pet friendly city, so if you are planning a trip, you should seriously consider taking your dog along. The dog cupcakes are made with unbleached, flour, eggs, honey and vanilla, and frosted with Yogurt. Zabar is a bit of a picky eater so I didn’t think he would go for it. However, when I brought it back to the room, he flipped out! He spent the whole night guarding the cupcake, eventually retreating under the bed to savor every crumb.

Sprinkles
50 East Walton Street
312.573.1600
Sprinkles cupcakes: "Doggies Love Cupcakes Too."
$2.50 for each of these beauties.
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