Ten cocktails, paired small bites, and over 2 hours of watching The Aviary bartenders and chefs in action inside the kitchen - or as they call it, the cage. That's the Kitchen Table experience at Grant Achatz's new bar, The Aviary.
Course #2: Rhubarb cocktail with Peychaud ice
This was paired with Cantaloupe compressed in champagne and topped with prosciutto, an elevated version of the typical prosciutto and melon.
Course #3: Pisco sour with angostura bitters (the server noted that this was invented by an American bartender; I never knew that. Wikipedia says one account of the invention was that the drink was invented in Lima, Peru by a bartender born in Salt Lake City, Utah)
My companion had a nonalcoholic version made with pistachio orgeat, which we both really enjoyed.
This was paired with a hot Clam Chowder bite.
Course #4 was a mixture of Ginger snow, Peychaud bitters, fresno chili, mint, and shiso. This was served with a side of vodka which you pour into your snow mixture and stir with a lemongrass stalk
This cocktail was paired with Crab Louie bites tempura which also had a bit of spiciness to match the Fresno chili in the cocktail.
Course #5: Dark and Stormy. Everything tastes better served in glass bottles hidden in paper bags.
Course #6 was their "beer cocktail": Scots pine ale (made with pine instead of hops) with Yuzu and St. Germain.
researching. Apparently the Scots were brewing "beer" some 5000 years ago, but at that time their region had no hops, which was first used in brewing around year 400 in Babylon. Even when the use of hops became widespread, many of the Scots stuck to making pine ales. Now, as I'm not big on hoppy beers, I of course really enjoyed this. The beer cocktail was light, sweet, and refreshing. Of course part of the sweetness is due to the yuzu and St. Germain so I'd like to try a pine ale on its own soon.
They couldn't really make a nonalcoholic version of a pine ale cocktail, so my companion got a Fruit Swizzle, which we also really enjoyed. Very refreshing and not overly sweet. I'm in Scotland, and he's on a beach in Hawaii.
These were paired with some Potato Bites, but the texture and flavor inside the crispy shell reminded me more of cheese and tofu.
The pairing: Foie gras terrine with rhubarb gelee on pumpernickel and dark choc toast. At the same time savory and sweet, richly smooth and crunchy. The pairing goes together just as dessert goes with tea.
Course #8 is their version of the White Russian, made with double brewed coffee instead of kahlua and milk ice cube instead of milk or cream.
This was paired with my favorite dessert of the night: liquefied brioche enclosed in chocolate.
Course #9: Root beer cocktail. And it's clear?
The nonalcoholic course: Popcorn puree and nutmeg.
These were paired with Cheesecakes encased in strawberry meringue, topped with freeze dried strawberry, and a piece of balsamic gelee inside. It's that strawberry balsamic dish, only in an entirely new format. Somehow, this little bite really brings out the "root beer" flavors of the cocktail.
Course #10, the final dessert: "Cold chocolate" made with pureed vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate, foam smoked cigar tobacco, and JTS Brown bourbon.
Thicker than most shakes (we needed a metal spoon to drink/eat this, the straw just wouldn't do it), it's really the cigar smoke foam that distinguishes this drink from anything else out there. "Adult milk shakes" made with just alcohol? That's child's play. Bourbon needs some CIGAR.
Most people would ask me, was it worth $160 per person (now $165)? Whether or not the drinks and small bites were worth $160 is debatable. The drinks are good and with all the food pairing, that's less than $16 per drink which isn't too bad. On the other hand, most people wouldn't drink ten cocktails in a row or spend $165 on drinks. But the experience is something worthwhile, just like Alinea in my mind was not just a meal but an entire experience. So if you have the money and time to spare, just sit there, enjoy your drinks and your surroundings, peruse the food and mixology books on that tiny shelf behind the kitchen table. Just take it all in.
953 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607