Fine Dining Into Ecstasy

Every year, I host some type of birthday party for myself, with last year’s celebration being the absolute best one yet.  This year, my plan was to celebrate with each of my best friends over one-on-one lunches and dinners in Tampa before jettisoning off to Chicago to spend time with my other family.

And while in Chicago, my vacation goals were as follow:

  1. eat
  2. be day drunk
  3. nap
  4. watch as many movies possible in a horizontal position (but without developing bedsores)
  5. fondle the TV remote control
  6. eat some more
  7. eat some more full-fledge pig out
  8. be day drunk with my friends
  9. watch a 3D movie while day drunk
  10. just effing relax

After all, I had officially entered my mid-30s so it’s all about taking it easy from here on out.  Relax.  Relate.  Release.

My traveling partner-in-crime Mike joined the Chicago fun, and recruited new friend Jonathan to drive-up and join in as well.  I hung out with Sterling and Adam, experienced a drive-by dinner visit from Rusty and embarked on a culinary cruise through Chicago where I ate the most delicious food imaginable.

My first stop began with a visit to Alinea, the #2 Top Rated restaurant in the U.S., the #15 Top Rated restaurant in the world and the venue that served me my most-expensive meal ever.  How to describe Alinea?  It was a ticketed establishment for starters, meaning you had to buy a ticket to dine at the restaurant.  Despite their sold-out schedule, Neil was fortunate to secure 4 tickets to Alinea.  Tickets allowed one to enjoy a finely crafted 14-course meal of molecular gastronomy dishes, with each creation paired with a different wine, champagne, beer and/or sake.  The dishes were so beautiful, that at times, I didn’t want to eat them out of guilt that I would be destroying miniature visual works-of-art.

Desserts that were plated on the entire dinner table and resembling a Jackson Pollock piece… Bites suspended on wires and pins…  Tastings that were time-sensitive to eat because the wax bowl would melt if you weren’t fast enough…  Burning leaves and pine to play with your sense of smell… Dehydrated green apple filled with helium served as a balloon…

There were moments where everyone at the dinner table collectively closed their eyes and sighed upon a first bite.  The dishes were THAT unbelievably and heavenly appetizing and orgasmic.  I failed to snap any photos of the dishes, because I wanted to take in every single second at Alinea.  So the below photos are ones that I found online to help give you a visual idea of what was served.

Alinea 02Alinea 01Alinea 03My food orgasm continued the following evening at Vince and Gina’s Dinner Party at their house.  She recruited her friend Ken to help create an 8-course meal paired with different wines and champagnes.

On the menu that evening:

  • Deviled Eggs a la Spotted Pig
  • Red Kuri Squash and Apple Soup  ::orgasmic::
  • Roasted Beets with Greek Yogurt and Micro Kale
  • Clams Oreganata
  • Pork Tenderloin, Apple Mostarda & Carmelized Onions
  • Beef Tataki with Pho Ponzu
  • BBQ Ribs, Hong Kong meets Memphis Style
  • and the best FLAN that I ever tasted in my life!  ::Heaven on Earth::

Photos of the dishes are below and were taken by moi.  Fill me up with bubbly and I apparently become as snap-happy with the phone camera as I become Chatty Cathy.

Gina Chicago 2013
Leave it to a quote from Gina to perfectly sum up my 34th birthday weekend…

Gina:  “Okie, we’re old now.  This is what we’re supposed to do now.  Dinner parties, wine and conversation.  Welcome to your mid-30s!”

…annnddd I’m not mad at that!  Gina’s fabulous dinner party actually inspired me to host my own Saketini and Appetizer Party for my close friends, and reminded me to always enjoy life by the glass.

The weekend wouldn’t be complete without giving a BIG thank you to Neil for the VIP, non-Gen Pop hospitality and friendship.  Happy Birthday (again) to me!

Here is the souvenir menu from Alinea for those curious foodies:

Alinea Menu







“Play by Play” by Autre Ne Veut:  Yet another song that Neil got me obsessing over and playing on REPEAT…

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