Thursday, April 30, 2009

Proof That God Loves Chicago Afterall

Some days, it is good to be the U-Mom. Those who have been with me for a while know that 1.) I can't cook and 2.) I am well aware of my blessings and forever grateful for them. Especially since I have absolutely no idea what I've done to deserve any of them.

There's Urban Dad. I've gone on about him before.

There's Best Namma Ever!, who continues to be the only functioning player in The Grandma Game for the Urban Kids. And she does so beautifully.

There's living in one of the best cities on the planet. Ok, there are several times I question this. Don't ask me about having the highest sales tax in the nation. Or parking. Or taxes in general. Or the weather. Or graft. Or the schools. Or the ridiculous Olympics bid. Ask me about something else.

Like this man.
His name is Grant Achatz. God sent this artist to Earth, and saw fit to send him to Chicago.

What Shakespeare did with words, what Van Gogh did with paint, what Mozart did with music, this guy does with food.

His restaurant is called Alinea, and it is less than two miles from the humble Urban Family abode. It is also one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the World.
Now God nearly saw fit to take Grant right back, but apparently changed his mind. You see, young Grant here was diagnosed with a horrific case of tongue cancer a few years ago. He had two small kids and had just opened Alinea. Doctors were floored to see it in such a young, healthy man. They wanted to save his life by cutting out his tongue.

It's like a sick joke, right?

One doctor went with a different route. In addition to the usual poison-and-burn treatment, he added in an experimental drug. And left Grant's tongue in his head.

Read the whole incredible story here.

But the long and short of it is that Grant survived. Alinea survived. And they both seem to be doing beautifully. People from all over the country and world come to Alinea to experience the latest fascinating ideas knocking around in his unsettlingly creative mind. Honestly, you sit, look at your plate (if the food is even on one!), listen to the description, and wonder, "who thinks of that?" And then you thank your lucky stars that he did. And you wait with barely bated breath for whatever he deigns to offer next. 'Cause it's going to blow. your. mind.

Last summer, U-Dad's mom sent a generous check for his birthday. "Go blow it on a great dinner," she said. We thought of all of the things that we could do with it, but honored her request. While the U-Kids were at Grandma Camp with Best Namma Ever!, we decided to Swank Out for the night. I was charged with looking through Chicago Magazine and coming up with some ideas.
Hey, isn't Grant Achatz that guy I've read about a few times in Chicago magazine? (when i first read about him, i thought, "wow. amazing. bummer that i'll never eat there -- outta my league.")

So I made the reservation. Like many swanky places, they have a cancellation fee if you cancel within 24 hours of your reservation. Knowing that this would set him off, I neglected to mention that nugget of info to the U-Dad.

The night before the reservation, I was sick, as in, in the bathroom losing the pizza I'd had at a local pub. U-Dad asked if we should cancel at Alinea. Even in the revolting position that I was in, I was not going to let go of that reservation.

The next day I was better. And off we went. I'd never been to a place without any signage in front. Thus, the tip-off that we were somewhere different.

And all U-Dad & I seemed able to say to each other was, "Oh my GAWD, did you taste THAT?" And, of course, "who thinks of that?" Oh, and let's not forget the eventual, "what am I supposed to do tomorrow? Go back to a bowl of cereal?" (U-Dad made it very clear that yes, that was exactly what i was going to do.)

Some additional info here -- U-Dad grew up in a hotel family. His stepdad was a Veep with Hyatt when they were opening hotels all over the place. U-Dad has lived in enough places that he sounds like a military brat (e.g.: three high schools in four years). As a result of this upbringing, he's eaten in some of the best places. And as a result, he is dismissive of The Fancy Dinner. In his mind, it's rarely worth the money. He'd rather find the great neighborhood sushi joint and be a regular.

He was delighted to spend every last dollar of MIL's check at Alinea. And we did. It's been a year, and he's still raving. Captain Cranky U-Dad is fully and completely won over. I daresay that he's the quite possibly the tiniest bit in love.

Or maybe that's just me?

So why yammer on forever and post this now? Because last night, I took Best Namma Ever! for her birthday. I got to go back! There are several factors to this:

1. For all of the dinners that she did through her career at Boeing, I knew that she'd never been to something like this.

2. Her cheap-ass, all-talk-no-action Husband would never take her.

3. It's always fun to one-up Her Husband.

4. She deserves the best.

5. With all of the free childcare she gives us, we're still coming out ahead.

6. And I got to eat, too!

And I think that she's in love now, too. That's ok. I don't mind sharing this one.

So yeah, with all of the lovely restaurants that there are in Chicago, this is the one where whenever I drive by -- and I do so several times a week -- I wave and yell, "I'll see you again someday! I don't know when, but someday! I love you, Grant!"


ohio12 said...

I read about him in the New Yorker awhile back. Incredible story. I can't believe that you got to eat there. But the food did seem pretty weird. I will take your word for it that it was good.

Dy said...


I'm speechless - just went over and read all the articles on him. James would *love* this guy! (Zorak, eh, probably not so much. lol.)

I'm glad you did this for BNE - that's really cool. (And, of course, *totally* altruistic. Yeah. Totally.) :-)