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Mind Games and Olive Oil Lollipops

Obviously, I’m more of a let’s stay connected to nature-type food lover, but I just had to give a shout-out to Fresh Air’s recent interview with Grant Achatz, the chef at Alinea in Chicago. You probably know Achatz’s near-magical food work and his struggle with tongue cancer, but what got me to turn the car towards the library and check out his new memoir, was hearing him describe ingredients.

For instance, he talked about time-releasing scents (like pillows of nutmeg or cinnamon air) and about flavor release — how some foods immediately are flavorful, while others need chewing and time to work over the palate. He also discussed why he sometimes includes the scents of aromas that aren’t edible, like leather. He likened it to wine — how wine might have cedar notes, but you wouldn’t want to chew on cedar, but that it still adds something, that even smelling ingredients that aren’t edible can trigger memories. He talked about using a specially designed gadget, the anti-griddle, to freeze ingredients that aren’t easily frozen, like olive oil — and how he went on to make olive oil lollipops flavored with sea salt, dried basil and smoked paprika. He called the lollipops “savory and fatty” and then I had to get the book.

Chef Achatz admitted that he and his team do try to intimidate their diners with some of their offerings and seemed to think that after a few bites, you lose anyone’s attention. (Very un-Zen like.) That’s why he serves many, but tiny, courses. Here’s a trailer for the latest Achatz and Kokonas production. It’s Next, a restaurant that changes its menu every three months. Each menu represents a specific place and time in the world, like Paris 1912 or Hong Kong 2036.

If you visit one of the restaurants or read Life, On the Line, let me know what you think, yes?

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