Posts Tagged ‘Alinea’

Random Friday Thoughts — August 21, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I’m just so ready for 2020 to be over with and to see a ray of brightness to ring in 2021!

As we near September, I hope all is well with you.

Thank you for checking out my random thoughts and, as always, if you disagree with me, do it diplomatically!

LAS VEGAS — FANTASY & REALITY

As you know from reading my blog, Las Vegas is my favorite American city.

It offers so much and a lot of it is fantasy. Take a look at this new promotion to entice people to visit. (Click on the arrow in the posted tweet to see the 15-second video!)

The reality of the situation is that this is fantasy, too!

Many people in Las Vegas and in so many other cities across America are not taking Covid-19 seriously enough.

Why should wearing a mask for public safety be such a polarizing act? Don’t answer that — it’s rhetorical!!!

Recently on Lake Decatur, I saw a group of adults (at least ten) boating with no worries in the world. Literally, no worries — NO social distancing and NO masks! 😦

In the U.S., we’re approaching the 5.5 million mark in Covid-19 cases since January with a death toll over 171-thousand!

THE RACE IS ON!

The November 3, 2020 match-up is set!

I’ve tried three times to put a woman in the White House. In 1984, it was Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale’s running mate…

Hillary Clinton in 2016…

and now, in 2020, Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Vice President!

May the third time be the charm!!!

“SAY SOMETHING”

While I’m practicing social distancing and wearing a mask, I need an escape from the real world.

And, thanks to Kylie Minogue, I found it.

Her new song, “Say Something” is amazing and I can’t wait for the album, “Disco”, to come out November 6, 2020.

This is the weekend that the “lyric” video dropped. This is me proving I’m ready for Kylie and “Disco”!

The official video is out now. Even if don’t normally watch videos in my blogs or even if you aren’t a Kylie fan (I guess we can still be friends!), take three minutes to watch this.

If it doesn’t make you smile or help you escape reality, don’t worry — it might be too late for you! 🙂

I’m so obsessed with the video that I made this dazzling, galactic montage!

LIVING IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

So, I’m still binge-watching “The West Wing” (I’m on season three) and I just got caught up on “The Handmaid’s Tale” and I’m freaking out!

On “The West Wing”, Bradley Whitford is sexy as Josh Lymon and Elisabeth Moss is very young as the president’s daughter, Zoe. This season aired in 2001.

At the same time, on season 3 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (2019), both of them are back together almost two decades later!

MORE ABOUT “THE HANDMAID’S TALE” (S3)

While watching the first two seasons, I felt more anger and revulsion that something like Gilead could happen — and the similarities to real life today in 2020 America!

But, there have already been several times in season three that tears welled up in my eyes!

And, to think that some critics say the quality of the third season has dropped from the first two seasons. I disagree!

Episode 28, “Unknown Caller” (Season 3, Episode 5), is my favorite episode of the series, so far.

A little hope and a little heart are not bad qualities!!!

And, toward the end of a very compelling, loving, heartbreaking episode, I cracked up when Aunt Lydia says to Offred (Ofjoseph, June): “Well, aren’t you a nosey nellie!” 🙂

By the way, after crushing on Max Minghella and Joseph Fiennes in seasons one and two, sexy O. T. Fagbenle (Luke) stole my heart away in season three!

And, other than June, my favorite character in the series is “Martha” Rita! Look at the amazing transformation Amanda Brugel goes through to be Rita!

ALINEA

In my last blog, I talked about visiting the legendary Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City if I ever get back there.

Another restaurant that’s on my bucket list is Alinea in Chicago. It’s the brain child of famed chef Grant Achatz (voted “Best Chef in the United States” in 1998)!

I read his 2011 book, “life, on the line:  A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat” and it’s one of the most incredible heart-tugging stories.

At Alinea, tickets have to be bought months in advance to experience the 12 to 22-course multi-sensory, molecular gastronomical experience.

In the restaurant’s pop-up in Miami while the Chicago location was undergoing renovations, a “Gold Wine Pairing” is about $495 a person and that’s on top of the tasting menu that’s about $300!

Chris Churter described this next photo as “an abstract painting for those with a sweet tooth.” Yes, this is a chocolate creation!

If you’d like to know more about Grant’s amazing story, here’s the link to my 2014 blog. (It’ll open in a new window!)

https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/chicago-chefs-courageous-fight-makes-me-fear-cancer-less/

“HANNIBAL”

Speaking of eating dishes that are not common…

Although I watched the three seasons of “Hannibal” on NBC in its original run, I want to watch the series again now that it’s on Netflix.

I’m thinking it’ll be a winter viewing now, along with re-watching the eight seasons of “Dexter”.

In case, you’ve never seen the TV series, this helps to explain that funny. 🙂

I won’t make this a spoiler other than to say that isn’t a “leg of lamb”! 🙂

And, speaking of Gillian Anderson…

“THE CROWN” — SEASON FOUR

Netflix announced this week that the fourth season of “The Crown” arrives November 15, 2020.

It’ll cover the late-1970s and early-1980s and the marriage of Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Lady Diana (Emma Corrin).

While I can’t wait to see the charming O’Connor (check him out in “God’s Own Country” — with an open mind!), what really excites me about the new season is Gillian Anderson as Margaret “The Iron Lady” Thatcher!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADONNA!

Madonna celebrated her 62nd birthday in Jamaica this week.

Along for festivities, with a fantastic food spread and awesome looking drinks, were her boyfriend, Ahlamalik Williams, her 23-year-old daughter Lourdes, plus four of her other five kids!

And, yes, I noticed the lack of masks in the larger group photos! 😦

TONI BRAXTON

Toni Braxton has new exciting new music and a hot video called “Dance”!

The album, “Spell My Name”, is out August 28th!

Toni is one of only five artists still left on my concert bucket list!

The others are Kylie Minogue, Vanessa Williams (a Christmas concert), Daryl Hall & John Oates, and Culture Club.

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony

Chicago Chef’s Courageous Fight Makes Me Fear Cancer Less

My grandfather, John Henry Peoples, died of colon cancer at the age of 72.  His son, my father, died of brain cancer at the age of 55, in 1987.

I’ve already been to a dermatologist twice.  In 1999, I had a biopsy for something that ended up being nothing more than an “age spot” that disappeared with a cream treatment.  Last year, I found out that the spot on my scalp was “actinic keratosis”, a common pre-cancerous growth caused by the sun’s UV rays.  It was froze off.

However, in 2002, I had a scarier experience when my doctor discovered a mass in my scrotum.  An ultrasound concluded that it was testicular calcification, which affects about 2.4% of American men, mostly white.  While there is no treatment for it, there’s not enough evidence to conclude that it might lead to testicular cancer.

As I approach my 50th birthday this October, I’d be lying if I said that I don’t think about getting cancer.

With my family history and my own scares, I wouldn’t be shocked to develop cancer one day.  If that diagnosis ever comes, I now have Grant Achatz to look to for inspiration and courage.

Grant_Achatz

Many of you probably haven’t heard the name.

I didn’t know who Grant Achatz was until I saw an article in the April 2011 “Men’s Health” magazine about how to make the ultimate burger.  Since I don’t eat beef, I likely read the article because he was attractive and that stopped me long enough from flipping through the magazine to read the feature.

However, I didn’t even read this magazine article until a couple of years later.  (Yes, a stack of magazines sat in my closet that long before I got around to them.)

And, this spring, I finally read his 2011 book, “life, on the line:  A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat”.   While I loved Shania Twain’s “From This Moment On” that I read earlier this year, Grant’s book is hands down the best autobiographical book I’ve ever read!

Life+On+the+Line

From the title of the book, you probably gather that he almost died.

The book doesn’t waste anytime going there with Grant describing how he was peeling out his inner throat in the book’s first written page in the preface.  You were drawn in and were rooting so hard for this young man to beat the odds.

I promise I’ll get to the point of my blog and how Grant’s book touched and inspired me, but I want you to see what this young, amazing man accomplished in a short period of time.

I loved reading about his early life of being raised in his family’s restaurant business in Michigan and jello being the first food he learned to make.  He then became a line cook as a teenager, went on to the Culinary Institute of America in New York in 1993, and did his six-month externship at a hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grant would be welcomed back there after his externship and then he thought he was ready to experience Chicago where he worked for renowned chef Charlie Trotter for a couple of months.

With the high pressure environment and degradation from Trotter to his chefs, it didn’t end the way Grant thought it would.  When he left Trotter’s restaurant, Trotter told Grant that since he didn’t last a year, that Grant couldn’t use the famed chef as a reference and that he “simply would not exist” to Trotter.

Younger Grant

He went back home dismayed and planned a trip to Europe with his girlfriend at the time, Cindy.  They saw London and Paris, where they ate at “3 Michelin stars” restaurants and Grant was disappointed.  They traveled on to Rome, Venice, and Florence.

It was at a winery that featured a little bistro-like eatery where Grant said he had the “best meal of my life” and it was there that he realized the one thing that every restaurant needed:  passion.

Grant came back from Europe with passion and he landed a four-year stint at chef Thomas Keller’s “The French Laundry” in California’s Napa Valley.

Grant and Thomas Keller

While there, Grant worked his way up from an entry-level position to sous-chef, the second-in-command and direct assistant to Chef Keller.

He took a position as the Executive Chef at Trio, located outside of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois.  In his three years there, Grant took the restaurant from a four-star Mobil Travel Guide to a five-star rating.

But, he wanted more and in May 2005, he opened his own restaurant, Alinea, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  The 64-seat restaurant quickly earned rave reviews for featuring a small tasting menu with about 18 or so courses.

Alinea Chicago

The food that Grant and his team created were nothing short of gastronomical art.

Grant Achatz Creating 2Grant Achatz Creating

GA Culinary Treat2GA Culinary TreatGA Culinary Treat3

I could just sit and stare at Grant’s incredible creations for hours.  Actually, I did with Grant’s hardcover coffee table book, Alinea, which features more than a hundred of his recipes and photographs.

One of Alinea’s first major achievements was being named “Best Restaurant in America” by Gourmet Magazine. 

This would be followed by the AAA Five Diamond Award (2007-2014), the Jean Banchet Award for Best Celebrity Chef and Best Fine Dining (2007), the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef (2008), the “3 Michelin stars” in 2011 and 2013, and countless other awards.

Grant Nick

Grant’s dreams of opening his own restaurant were made possible by Nick Kokonas, a regular customer with his wife, Dagmara, at Trio, the restaurant that brought Grant to the Chicago area.  Nick was so impressed with Grant that he defied his friends’ advice of investing in a restaurant since so many fail.

Grant and Nick’s business partnership with Alinea also developed into a strong friendship and that friendship would end up saving Grant’s life.

Before moving to Chicago in 2001, Grant had a health scare while he was living in California.  Doctors thought it might have meningitis, but it wasn’t.

In early 2004, Grant noticed a small white bump on his tongue that wouldn’t go away and the accompanying pain became more intense over the next few months.  He finally had a biopsy done and it came back negative.

One day, after not seeing his business partner for days, Nick came into the restaurant and Grant looked very sick and he told Nick of the pain that his tongue was causing him.  When Grant showed Nick his tongue, Nick instantly knew there was a problem and demanded that he go see an oral surgeon.

achatz.grant

On July 13, 2007, Grant was diagnosed with Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.  The man who was making a career of creating the most exquisite dishes was faced with two dire realities:  an invasive, destructive, and painful surgery that would take away 75% of his tongue or death.

I shed many tears reading Grant and Nick’s accounts of the fear and the sadness they both felt after the diagnosis and Grant facing the fact that he was dying.  My heart was breaking for this young man (only 33-years-old) and his two small sons, Kaden and Keller.

After meeting with specialists in New York City and Chicago, including the surgeon that operated on famed movie critic, Roger Ebert, for thyroid and salivary cancer, the news wasn’t good for Grant.

Ebert-Before-and-After

Ebert knew the hell that Grant faced with battling cancer and having part of his jaw removed.  Ebert’s surgeon, Dr. Harold Pelzer, recommended that Grant have surgery.  However, Dr. Pelzer did mention another surgeon, Dr. Everett Vokes, at the University of Chicago, that had a less conventional approach to surgery.

Everett Vokes

Dr. Vokes was working on clinical trials that avoided surgery as the first option.  Instead, chemotherapy would be administered first, along with a medication that would interfere with the cancer growing and spreading throughout the body.  That would be followed by radiation, which was intense, devastating and painful.

The non-conventional approach worked and in December 2007, Grant’s cancer was in remission.

cancer

Cancer has touched all of our lives.

Whether you’re living with it or you’re a survivor, whether you know someone who is living with it or is a survivor, or if you’ve lost a loved one to cancer, “life, on the line:  A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat” is the most honest, encouraging, thoughtful, and touching book I’ve ever read.

If I ever develop cancer, I hope I have the courage of Grant Achatz, a friend like Nick Kokonas, and a visionary like Dr. Everett Vokes.

I hope that Grant lives a long and healthy life and that he keeps making gastronomical art in his kitchens.  And, since I only live three hours from Chicago, I hope one day to visit Alinea to view the work of this culinary genius in person.

Anthony