Edit ModuleShow Tags

Happy Sweet Chicago Birthday


Jennifer W. writes: “I am taking my husband to Chicago for his birthday later this month and am looking for somewhere special to take him to dinner. He is a former pastry chef, so somewhere with a fabulous dessert menu would be great. Do you have any suggestions? I know you know the great places in Minnesota to dine; do you know any in Chicago? Thanks!”

The first place that leaps to mind is Alinea, the ground-breaking Chicago restaurant of Grant Achatz. It leaps to mind because I’m anxiously awaiting receipt of Achatz’ new cookbook, “Alinea”; I paid $50 on the restaurant website so I could get a signed copy, but I now see my copy hasn’t yet arrived and the book is currently available on Amazon for $30. (Ah, now you know the heartbreak and difficulties of the cutting edge cookbook orderer.)

Anyway, if I had one meal to have in Chicago it would be at Alinea, even though it’s only open for dinner—and costs $145 per person. Looking at the current menu online I’m counting maybe 6 courses that are dessert-ish—in a very broad interpretation of dessert—like “bacon with butterscotch, apple, and thyme,” or “chocolate with fig, olive and pine.” Pine? Yeah, pine. If you don’t know about Chef Achatz, he’s America’s leading chef working in bold flavors and molecular gastronomy. In the world of food (give or take a couple detractors), he’s regarded as a stone-cold, once-in-a-lifetime genius.

If you’re looking for something less elaborate, a lot of people I know really adore Table Fifty Two, a sort of Southern contemporary bistro helmed by Oprah’s former chef, Art Smith. A glance at their current online dessert menu includes a fruit buckle with vanilla bean ice cream, a Smith Family twelve-layer chocolate cake, a pecan pie with shortbread crust and candied kumquats, and a buttermilk custard with whiskey sour gelatin.

If you can’t get into Alinea, or simply want fine dining, and not cutting edge dining, another favorite Chicago spot of mine is Blackbird, whose online dessert menu currently features “avocado cremeux with local blueberries, hyssop and charteuse granite,” “caraway pretzels with blackberries, mustard and hopped ice cream,” and “kalamata olive cake with rhubarb, toffee and buttermilk ice cream.” As we in the business say: Neat-o.

Finally, something I’ve never had but is on my life-list: The duck-fat fries at Hot Dougs. They’re only available on Fridays and Saturdays, though. (Incidentally, if any chefs are reading this and want some critic-bait, I hereby solemnly 100 percent guarantee a visit from this restaurant critic to any spot serving duck-fat or beef-tallow fries within 200 miles of the Spoonbridge and Cherry.)

I’ll keep you posted on that last one. But, till then: Happy Chicago Birthday!

Alinea Restaurant


Table Fifty-Two

Hot Doug’s:

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Taste Blog

Oatmeal Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Fresh, homemade bread is faster and easier than you think with dough that mixes in five minutes and needs no time to rise

Hello Pizza Turns 5, Ann Kim Short-listed for James Beard Award

Hello Pizza might have middle-child syndrome next to Ann Kim's other pizza shops—but this is what makes it worth revisiting

2018 James Beard Award Finalists

Minnesota chefs stay prominent in the James Beard shortlist

Brews for Good

Guinness is donating $1 to charity for each adult that dons a ‘stache and shares on social media now through March 31, 2018

3 Reasons to Brunch This Weekend

Elegant N/A drinks, outstanding oeufs, and the best of ’80s hair rock this weekend

Blueberry-Walnut Squares Recipe

Enjoy a double-dose of antioxidants with walnuts and blueberries in this treat

Oscar Party Appetizers

Elevate your table with a trio of jazzed up party bites for a win in the best supporting snacks category

Exploring Washington Wines

Sample and discover delicious wines from our country’s second-largest wine-producing area at the Food & Wine Experience March 3 and 4

27 Best Twin Cities Restaurants For Wine

From big-name wine experts to surprising hidden gems, here's where you can always get a glass of great wine
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags