Edible Art

By Betsy Andrews

Published on September 24, 2010

We laughed at the nutmeg-scented air escaping from the pillow beneath a plate of white bean puree, and at the garnishes arranged like hours on a watch: at one o'clock, a bay laurel leaf-vanilla gel; at nine, a mung bean sprout-sea grape salad. We laughed at the licorice cake—melted with glucose, then frozen and thawed to the consistency of a gumdrop—bobbing atop an antenna. We laughed at the dehydrated bacon swathed in butterscotch and apple leather that dangled from a steel string like a high-wire act. We laughed and devoured it all. Twenty-five courses flowing and ebbing from savory to sweet, from small to large, and back and forth again. On the heels of surviving tongue cancer, Grant Achatz, chef at Chicago's gastromolecular temple Alinea, was inventing dishes with more verve than ever. It was February 27, 2008; I have the keepsake menu. With its swooping design of dusty circles denoting each dish and its elliptical phrasing ("chocolate, egg, pomelo, smoke"), it reads like poetry and looks like art, a map to the singular journey of that meal.

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