Eating is a ritual that has been evolving since the beginning of humanity, but it has taken a peculiar turn in recent decades. Before going to a high-end restaurant was a symbol of power and money, now it has become an art show and an unprecedented experience.
For foodies, there is a gastronomic bible called the Michelin Guide. This culinary guide categorizes and rewards the best restaurants in the main cities of the world using a star system. One star (⁕) symbolizes that it is a good restaurant and you should go if in the town, two stars (⁕⁕) that the restaurant is good enough to deviate if one is close and three stars (⁕⁕⁕) means that the restaurant is so good that it is worth making a trip to visit it.
With this guide in hand, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Chicago and enjoy the best it has to offer. The first stop was Alinea (⁕⁕⁕), the culinary canvas of Chef Grant Achatz, and I have to tell you that his three stars do not begin to describe the experience. Each dish was a work of art, from the way they served it, the smells they transmitted, the mixture of colors and the taste made you feel like it was the most important moment of your life. Alinea will be an experience that I will take with me forever. Yes, I took the picture with the sugar balloon! The night ended with some cocktails at the neighboring place, Boka (⁕). This bar/restaurant has a star, and its drinks reflect its talent. The bartender’s recommendation was a local whiskey from Chicago Distilling Co., and from the first sip, the flavors were unexpected and intense.
The next day, it was the turn of a gastronomic concept that plays with the imagination. EL Ideas (⁕) of Chef Phillip Foss was born to play with the senses, the mind, and the heart. Each dish has a history, and it is eaten in a peculiar way – licking it or with your hands – and the fusion of flavors will make you nostalgic. Best of all, was interacting with the Chef and staff while they cooked in front of me EL Ideas is another life-changing experience, so I recommend visiting every time you are in the neighborhood.
I continued the trip by having lunch in a small gastropub where they make the best hamburger in the nation, Au Cheval. Why is it the best? From the first bite you know, it is where perfectly cooked meat pays tribute to the meticulous work of its farmers, and the secret sauce inside is out of this world, the semi-toasted and buttery bread gives a sensual touch, the cheese perfectly is melted between each meat and the seasoning of each element is perfect. Every day I dream of this burger.
On the final night, the visit went to Chef Curtis Duffy’s three-star restaurant, Grace (⁕⁕⁕). Its name is reflected in the treatment of the waiters, but the food leaves you speechless. Each dish is an explosion of ingredients that complement and merge in ways you would never think possible; it is so intense that the ten courses do not satisfy the hunger to continue exploring the Chef’s mind. Some sensations made me relive past experiences, remember smells of pleasant moments in the past and raise the bar of the next gastronomic experiences. Although it closed its doors a few months ago, due to an administrative dispute, it will continue to be one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had in my life.
I spent four days and 8 Michelin stars in a city that is rewriting the culinary experience of the nation. Its restaurants are going at an accelerated pace, reaching the gastronomic prestige of powers such as San Sebastián, Mexico, New York, Japan, San Francisco, and Peru. Without a doubt, Chicago is a paradise for lovers of modern cuisine that goes beyond its Michelin stars.
Paul E González Mangual is an author of four books, founder of FOODIEcations, columnist for Sabrosía Puerto Rico, TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record Holder, whiskey enthusiast, coffee addict, and producer of the Coffee & Chocolate Expo.
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