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Grant Achatz Bewildered by Crying Alinea Baby

Grant Achatz Bewildered by Crying Alinea Baby

Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the owners of Chicago’s Alinea, Next, and The Aviary, know more about service than most people will ever know, but they found themselves in a conundrum Saturday when someone brought a baby to Alinea.

“Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no, but…,” Achatz tweeted.

The announcement of a crying baby in the Michelin 3-star restaurant set off a Twitter debate over the appropriateness of bringing children to high-end restaurants. Most commenters were vehemently against the idea, but a few people did step up in defense of the baby-toting parents. Some even blamed Alinea’s ticket-based reservation system, wherein reservations are scheduled like theater tickets and can’t be refunded.

“Hard when you shell out that money for non cancelable tics and lose sitter last minute. That is a ticket vs. reservation issue,” one parent-defender said.

”What are they supposed to do if their sitter cancelled at the last minute? $1,000 worth of non-refundable tickets,” another chimed in, though many loud voices quickly stepped in to opine that in that situation the parents should get a new sitter or one of the parents should skip the dinner, rather than risk a crying baby ruining everybody else’s $1000+ dinners.

Another twitter user suggested Achatz charge infants for a full menu.

“That will stop it quickly,” he said.

Predictably, it took no time at all for someone to create an “Alinea Baby” parody twitter account to "tell his side of the story," because that is the world we live in now.

Later, Achatz joined in again to post a picture of an Alinea dish of fish heads with their mouths stuffed with whole shrimp that is virtually guaranteed to give any small children nightmares.

“Definitely not baby food,” he said.

Restaurant Owner Screams at Crying Baby - Right or Wrong?

Babygate is back! After Grant Achatz started a big debate last year when he posted online about a couple who brought an 8-month old baby to sit through an entire tasting menu at Alinea, the owner of a diner in Portland has reignited the argument by shouting at two-year-old who was apparently left to scream for over 40 minutes.

In January 2014 Achatz asked the question about what a chef should really do in the situation when other diners are being affected by a baby crying. Should they tell people no kids? And would someone take a baby to a concert or a play?

The chef had a point. Alinea is the sort of place that people book months in advance, a place for the truly special occasions and a place where dinner in less than 3 hours is just not happening, a diner on the other hand is a little bit different.

The story plays out like this:

It’s saturday morning at Marcy’s Diner, a small place that’s used to a busy morning rush. Manning the grill is owner Darla Neugebaue - a regular saturday it seems until Neugebaue’s routine is repeatedly interrupted by a crying toddler. Nothing out of the ordinary you would think, after all, young children cry all the time and a Saturday morning diner is the sort of place you’d expect to be family friendly.

We’ll let Neugebaue pick up the story from here with a direct quote taken from a post she made on Facebook about what happened:

One of the couple’s in question has apparently written to Neugebaue on Facebook, expressing her concern over the way she was treated.

The comments on Marcy’s Diner page go from full on support to full on hatred and the company say they have now stopped taking phone orders because of the number of pranks calls they have been receiving. You can watch her speak about the whole event in this video from WMTW:

It’s one of those hot issues of contention when dining out, split further by the fact that not everyone knows what it’s like to dine out with a child. At the moment Neugebaue has expressed a little regret in the way she approached the matter but stands by telling them to take the child out of the restaurant. “My Diner, My Rules” seems to be slowly becoming her favourite catchphrase in social posts.

It’s hard to side with what seems like kind of erratic behaviour but we’re pretty sure that all restaurant owners and chefs have faced this issue at some point and know just how hard it can be not to explode.

What’s the real solution? Does it just boil down to good old fashion parenting or should restaurants like this expect to have a baby crying now and again?

Chef Grant Achatz starts Twitter debate: Should babies be banned from high-end restaurants?

If you’re a parent of an infant, the thought has crossed your mind: Babies sleep so much at this age—we could sneak in a dinner out on the town with him/her on our laps, right?

That’s probably what one couple was thinking Saturday night, when they brought their 8-month-old to Alinea in Chicago, chef Grant Achatz’s temple of modernist cuisine.

Apparently the couple’s gamble didn’t go so well. That night, Achatz tweeted:

Predictably, the tweet set off quite a stir. One Chicagoan sharply responded, “Charge the infant for a full menu. That will stop it quickly.”

Others, like Chicago cookbook author Rupert Vaughan, came to the parents’ rescue.

Baker Robert Alexander pointed out it’s not just babies who can ruin meals.

And some kept a sense of humor about the incident: “Keep the babies, and ditch the men’s jacket rule,” one local posted.

Instead of traditional reservations, the restaurant offers a ticketed system, where diners must pay between $210 and $265 up front for the tasting-menu-only dinner (the price does not include tax, tip or beverages). The restaurant does not accept walk-ins.

Eater Chicago reports that that the couple’s sitter canceled at the last minute (likely story!), but Alinea does allow diners to sell or giveaway their diner tickets, which must be booked weeks, even months, in advance.

Dinner at the restaurant is an event—about three hours long with 18 courses, all artfully and painstakingly prepared, and sent out into a sleek dining room.

There’s no sign out front diners open a big, heavy door and walk down a long hallway, then and step onto something that triggers an automatic sliding door,

“Immediately, you think, ‘Where am I?’ You kind of feel like Dorothy walking toward the Wizard of Oz—what’s going on here?” Chicago magazine chief dining critic Jeff Ruby told

Courses might include duck five ways with choice of 60 garnishes, or an edible balloon.

“It all adds up to a place where a baby would not make any sense whatsoever,” Ruby said. “If I had paid all that money and had been sitting at next table, I’d be pissed—and I have a baby. If you asked 100 people, 99 out of the 100 would say a baby should not be there.”

Full disclosure: On Friday night, my husband I brought our 4-month-old out to eat at a semi-decent place for the first time. But it was a neighborhood kind of restaurant, we went at 5:30 p.m., and I would never dream of bringing her anywhere with a tasting menu, let alone a place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. We lucked out and she was an angel, but I was terrified the entire time, making me wonder, is this worth it?

As Ruby told us, “I couldn’t mind anything else less fun than bringing a baby to Alinea. It’s like how the parents of a screaming baby on an airplane are always more miserable than the people around them, because they know they’re driving everyone around them nuts.”

So far, the chef has stayed mum on his official verdict—requests for further comment have gone unanswered—but Achatz did playfully post a picture of two stuffed fish heads on Twitter last night:

And others are also having fun with the controversy: @Alineababy was born, and is already writing Yelp reviews.

What do you think? Have you brought an infant to a fancy dinner out? Or have you ever had a fine-dining meal ruined by a crying baby?

A Culinary Couple Debates Whether Babies Should Be Banned From Restaurants

Ed Hardy and Francoise Villeneuve have a 7-month-old baby, about the same age as the wailing tot at Alinea that set off a nationwise stir after chef-owner Grant Achatz tweeted about the incident. As culinary professionals, they also have a unique perspective: would they themselves take their baby to a well-heeled establishment for a sit-down dinner?

Hardy is a well-traveled chef who &mdash he's announcing here &mdash has just taked his next executive chef job at Quench in Rockville, Maryland, while his wife Villeneuve is a CIA grad and chef who also writes about food (her website features her recipes and photography).

The Alinea crying baby incident left this new parent/culinary couple wondering: Should babies be banned from restaurants?

Ed's take: Interesting question. When I first heard about the situation I felt some sympathy towards both parties. But then I started to think about the culinary nature of Alinea, and I now have to say, even as a parent of a baby myself, that the couple was absolutely wrong in bringing the baby. Consider for a minute: no sane parent would bring a baby to an opera, ballet or musical. Now consider: what is Alinea? Is it a restaurant? Or is it culinary theater? I would never seriously consider banning a baby from any of my restaurants, but Alinea is and always has been a different species of culinary animal. I feel that it is a lot closer to culinary theater. People go to most restaurants to enjoy conversation, fellowship, convenience, a change of perspective and a choice of cuisine that is different (and better) than what might be currently residing in their refrigerator for some sort of price that makes sense to most Americans. Alinea doesn't provide any of those things. What it DOES provide is entertainment. Specifically, food entertainment. It's perfectly acceptable that the conductor of this performance would not welcome a screaming baby. So yes, Grant, ban the screaming kids. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that through careful introspective analysis and honesty the Alinea team didn't arrive at this conclusion a little earlier.

As a chef I always welcome babies to my restaurants. As a new parent, I have a newfound respect for places that have thought ahead and have a plan for infants and kids. A well-executed kids menu with interesting yet accessible options? Bravo. I'm impressed by places that have highchairs that aren't an afterthought, and staff that seat families with young children in thoughtful places (i.e. not right next to the table most likely to be grumpy about a baby that might make a little noise). I'm doubly appreciative of smaller, independent, chef-driven operations (like mine) that succeed in all of the above, because they've had to try a lot harder than your neighborhood chain restaurant to successfully cater to kids.

Should restaurants provide baby food? What a novel concept. My vote is "yes," for the simple reason that we always have fruit, vegetables and a Vita-prep. Why would we not try to make a mother happy? How much could a little fresh, local vegetables simply blanched and pureed cost us? (Answer: not very much at all!) Should I have considered this sooner? Probably, but it took a screaming baby and fatherhood for me to come around to it.

Francoise's take: We have a son nearly as old as the Alinea baby. Would I take him out to Alinea? No. But then I probably wouldn&rsquot go to Alinea without him either. I have every respect for Chef Achatz and his artistry. But to be frank, I can&rsquot afford to drop $350+ on a meal, whether or not it includes the high-concept theatrical jazz. If I could, I still wouldn&rsquot. Eating out is about having fun. Getting out of the house, spending time with friends, or family or loved ones. And sharing some good food while leaving my cares behind me. For me, that experience is a little less fun when it&rsquos coupled with the anxiety of dropping enough money to feed a large family in a developing country for a year. Don&rsquot get me wrong I dine out a fair amount, sometimes at fine dining restaurants, sometimes at more casual joints. Many times I bring my baby with me. When I do, it&rsquos often at lunch, when crowds are smaller and the hoopla that comes along with checking a stroller and getting out the highchair is less of a pain for the restaurant to handle. And sometimes it&rsquos at dinner. In those cases, I usually stick to more casual restaurants, where having a kid around won&rsquot be as big of a deal. It&rsquos less of a quiet atmosphere, so you know you&rsquore not ruining someone&rsquos date when the baby makes a small noise or two.

Some folks are outraged about this Alinea incident not because someone brought a baby to a restaurant, but because someone brought a baby to Alinea, which is more of a hushed, revered temple to restaurant-goers. Whether the restaurant is fine dining or a noodle place, if your baby is being loud and annoying, it&rsquos your duty to take it outside, or to the powder room and calm it down before you return to the table. Because someone is only spending $25 as opposed to several hundred dollars, does it follow that they should be tormented with shrieks reminiscent of Jurassic Park? Consideration is consideration, no matter where you are. And parents should use their heads about where they take their kids. My son is pretty angelic, all things considered, but after an hour and a half in a high chair, he gets majorly antsy. So I know not to take him out for a leisurely, 4-hour dinner at a restaurant. Because it will be a disaster. It will disturb the other diners. Not to mention, it will be a pain for him, and for me. If you know your kid starts screaming after 30 minutes in a high chair? Don&rsquot take them to a fine dining restaurant with a mandatory gazillion-course menu.

Part of my job as a parent is preparing my kid to face the world. I&rsquod like food to be a part of that, including dining out. And I don&rsquot see why parents should have to be treated like lepers because we have kids. But sometimes, it makes more sense to accept that yes, you do give up some things when you have kids, like expensive, lengthy meals (the money now funneled towards college tuition). Or yes, to get a sitter.


( — Should patrons with crying babies be banned from high-end eating establishments?

That’s a question many on the Interwebs are answering Tuesday after an award-winning chef posed the dilemma on social media over the weekend, saying that a couple with an 8-month-old was causing quite a scene at his Michelin 3-star eatery and that “Diners (are) mad.”

HLN learned of this story on Twitter, where chef Grant Achatz, who owns and runs the venerable Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, had his followers in a tizzy Saturday night when he posed this dilemma to his followers: “Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..”

Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..

— Grant Achatz (@Gachatz) January 12, 2014

The question immediately set off a surge of tweets of the “Don’t you hate those critters?” variety, and the “Wait, fine dining is where we go to escape our kids,” type, while others took the high road, opting for a more measured tone. “Have early sitting for children,” one Twitter user suggested.

In the past three days, the issue, which has produced a hilarious parody account on Twitter called @AlineaBaby, has been addressed on sites across the Web and has become a sort of referendum on parenting. But should it be?

Nadia Jones, a mommy blogger and founder of the Niche Parent Network and Conference, told HLN on Tuesday that the onus is on parents to do the responsible thing. “I wouldn’t bring my 8-month-old or an 8-year-old to a high-end restaurant like Alinea, but that doesn’t mean there should be a ban against babies or children. The ban should be on parents that don’t know how to use their good judgment or common sense in these situations.”

“If a parent decides to bring a child and he or she gets fussy, step outside so that others can enjoy their dinner and cocktails. This makes sense at a casual dining restaurant and especially a high-end restaurant,” said Jones, who blogs at JusticeJonesie.

Achatz, whose establishment issues tickets in advance for seating, told “Good Morning America” that the issue is still a tough one and that even in the kitchen, he could hear the baby crying. “We want people to come and enjoy and experience Alinea for what it is, but we also have to be cognizant of the other 80 people that came in to experience Alinea that night,” he said.

Please don’t bring your baby to my restaurant, chef pleads

I’ve seen Rene Redzepi, the chef of Copenhagen’s Noma, considered one of the best restaurants in the world, discreetly flip out when a couple arrived for lunch one day with a baby. He was too gracious to say anything about it (and instead asked the manager to grab some crayons).

But last week chef Grant Achatz publicly voiced his displeasure about a crying 8-month-old at his Chicago fine-dining restaurant Alinea. It’s also considered one of the best restaurants in the world, where dinner can cost $275 per person. He announced via Twitter that he was considering banning infants.

His tweet: “Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but..”

Tweets in support and against prohibiting babies in fine-dining restaurants ensued, and the Twitter meme @AlineaBaby was spawned.

On Monday, Achatz recalled the disruption the baby caused in the restaurant on ABC News: “I could hear it crying in the kitchen,” he said. “We want people to come and enjoy an experience at Alinea for what it is, but we also have to be cognizant of the other 80 people that have came in to experience Alinea that night.”

The ABC News segment noted that Alinea is known for its peace and quiet. (In fact, I’ve been shushed by the staff at Alinea, sans baby.)

Crying baby disrupts fancy restaurant, debate ensues

​What do you do when the babysitter cancels? Well, Chicago chef Grant Achatz shared his thoughts on the matter and sparked an Internet debate.

Achatz, the famous chef at the three star restaurant Alinea, tweeted this… “Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no, but..”

The couple who brought the 8-month-old child claims their babysitter canceled at the last minute.

Here’s how Alinea dealt with the disturbance.

ACHATZ: “The general manager approached the table, asked the party if they wouldn’t mind stepping out into the foyer.”

When the couple causing the disturbance finished dinner and left, many guests complained to the restaurant. Achatz’s restaurant, Alinea, isn’t really considered family friendly.

Alinea was selected as the 15th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine's "World's 50 Best," and was given "Chef's Choice" award, voted on by the "50 Best" chefs.

Guests pay between $210 and $265 per seat, not including drinks, and often wait months for a reservation.

The crying baby story led to tons of social commentary as many online people weighed in on the issue.

Scott Manlin writes “we can barely enjoy a 30 minute stretch, w/o crying, during dinner at home with a newborn, let alone Alinea. Not appropriate!!”

Robert Alexander tweeted “everyone seems to be addressing the sitter issue. Why not maintain a restaurant policy governing disruptive people? Does it exist?”

PARENT1: “How often does it happen? Just be patient and laugh it off.

PARENT2: “I don’t think a chef can say you can’t allow kids, especially if it’s a newborn baby.”

Most commenters were less sympathetic towards the couple with the kid.

“There isn't really anyone who thinks bringing a baby to Alinea is a good idea, right?” says @LuckyPeach.

Achatz later tweeted this photo with the caption "Definitely not baby food."

“Best Restaurant in Chicago” – Alinea (Chef Grant Achatz) Grand Finale/Encore

Restaurant: Alinea
Cuisine: Modern American/International
Last visited: June 16, 2012
Location: Chicago, IL (Lincoln Park)
Address: 1723 N Halsted Street
Transit: Halsted & Willow
Where I stayed: Hyatt Regency Chicago (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: $50+ ($210 Tasting Menu + $150 optional wine pairing)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!

Food: 6
Service: 6
Ambiance: 5
Overall: 6
Additional comments:

  • Chef/Owner Grant Achatz
  • 3 Michelin Star
  • Mobil Five Star Award
  • AAA Five Diamond Award
  • #7 on World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012
  • #6 on World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2011
  • 𔄚nd Best Restaurant in US” (World’s 50 Best)
  • #1 on 40 Top Chicago Restaurants Ever (Chicago Mag)
  • Best Chef (James Beard 2008 & 2012)
  • Multiple award winning
  • “Best” fine dining in Chicago
  • Opened 2005
  • 64 seats
  • Reservations required (2 months in advance)
  • Standard 18 course tasting menu only ($210)
  • Optional wine pairings (+$150)
  • 18% auto gratuity
  • 3-4+ hours dining experience
  • Other restaurants: Next, Aviary (bar)
  • Sun, Sat 5-9:30pm
  • Mon-Tue Closed
  • Wed-Fri 5:30-9:30pm

**Recommendations: Tasting menu (only option) with wine pairings. Wine pairings are optional… but do it. If you have his recipe book, the things I would say you should really consider making is the famous “Hot Potato” and “Black Truffle Explosion”. They really are as good as you’ve heard or seen.

It’s arguably an alpha world city famous for its arts.

From performing arts (The Lookingglass Theatre Company – Photo by Sean Williams)…

From comedians… (The Second City – Photo by Kristen Barker)

to classics. (Chicago at Broadway in Chicago – Photo by

From “no-name” street performers…

This is a city full of influential artists of every type.

And this is the Mother post of Follow Me Foodie to Chicago. Welcome to Alinea.

If this picture makes your knees weak, or gives you butterflies, or simply makes you feel like you are floating on clouds… then picture perfect. These are just some of the feelings I had before and after my dinner at Alinea. It was an unforgettable 6 hours (dinner here usually takes 3-4 hours, but I took 6) that I captured, savoured and documented every minute of.

You know those moments in life you can’t stop thinking about? The ones that make you feel so good and so happy that you go to bed dreaming about them and wake up thinking about them? It’s the times when you’re walking alone and you suddenly smile or smirk just thinking about that moment. This is usually followed by pursing your lips so you don’t feel like an idiot laughing by yourself. But in this case I just let it out because I wanted to relive those beautiful moments. I wanted to relive the joy and taste the food from this legendary dinner all over again. It was a moment I cherished and one that’s best shared.

Those tingly and giddy feelings have won me over for the last few weeks and I feel like I’m on a cloud I can’t come down from. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I hope to have happen more than once in my lifetime. This is Alinea.

If the name Alinea or Grant Achatz draws a blank stare I almost want to pull a “What?! You don’t know what Alinea is?! Or what?! You don’t know who Grant Achatz is?!”, but I won’t… although I kind of just did. (Sh*t Foodies Say). To sum it up, a visit to Alinea is likely on every food lovers “Must Dine Before I Die” list. It’s a 3 Michelin Star that was #7 on the World’s Top 50 Best Restaurants 2012 and it has more accolades and prestigious awards than I know of. It was basically my main reason for coming to Chicago and I made it my last meal. (Actually a Chicago style hot dog at the airport was, but let’s pretend this was).

Chef Achatz worked under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry for four years before opening Alinea. Being trained by arguably one of the best chefs is only part of what makes Alinea world class. Chef Achatz was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on his tongue in 2007 and during treatment he lost his sense of taste. Therefore at one point everything he cooked was reliant on memory, sight, sound, smell, feel and help from his supporting staff. He is now cancer-free and has regained his sense of taste, but that life changing experience has made him even stronger. It’s an emotional story that has translated to what Alinea is now, and it gives a better understanding of his culinary vision for it.

What Chef Achatz does is avant garde style New American or Modern American cuisine. He uses global and local ingredients and experimental cooking techniques. It’s typically referred to as “molecular gastronomy”, but that term is often misused and methods abused. Experimental cooking is a modernist way of cooking. It embraces cooking as an art form that is led by science, and just like any song and dance this craft stems from passion, and is rehearsed in a timely and technical manner.

At Alinea, it is not just about the food but the complete dining experience. I was living in this heavenly moment that felt created especially for me. I didn’t care that all the other tables were getting the same 18 course tasting menu (only option), I felt like the experience was mine. I didn’t notice anything else and I was enchanted and fascinated by what was in front of me.

I’ve seen his recipe book, watched his videos and gushed about his culinary brilliance with many chefs and food snob friends and now I finally experienced it. I had an idea of what to expect and I was still in awe. Every bite I took I didn’t want to let go and every flavour in my mouth was near impossible to describe… even for me. It was just so beyond what I know. It left me enough to feel satisfied, but also so much more to be curious about.

As “modern” as the menu is, the way I experienced it was as if I was a child. It was eating the food of the future, yet I felt like I was the one going back in time. He creates a sense of discovery with every dish and I have no doubt he is inspired by his life experiences and kids. The dishes are sophisticatedly playful and every dish is made with a plethora of ingredients, but the way they came across is not confusing.

He encourages you to create your own flavours and to be inquisitive. He stimulates all your senses and reminds you to value them while enjoying your food. His vision keeps me interested and entertained and it is sensory overload in the most tasteful way. He brings out emotions while creating memories that I remember by touch, sight, sound, feel, smell and of course taste.

Chicago is known for its performing arts and I consider Alinea one of the venues. It’s not listed under “Performing Arts”, but it is a culinary production. I was invited to play along in his dream which is a playground full of fresh ideas and new beginnings. This is the craft of a truly talented and passionate artist who is driving the modernist side of the culinary world. There are other chefs doing similar things, but each one has their own voice. The impact, influence and inspiration Chef Achatz has on many chefs of today is the mark of a culinary legend.

On the table:

The name Alinea is the Latin name for the pilcrow (), a typographic symbol that is used to start a new paragraph. In Old English it would be used to start a new idea and that’s the guiding philosophy and the character of the restaurant, literally and figuratively.

Gimonnet Brut with St. Germain and Esterházy Beerenauslese – It started off with a champagne cocktail that was so soft and smooth with honey and floral notes. St. Germain (France) is an elderflower liqueur and it was my first time trying it with champagne. This also had elderflower syrup bitters to enhance the fragrant aspect without being perfume like. The Pierre Gimonnet apparently lacks a finish, but its floral and citrus notes played well with the St. Germain. The richness of the Esterházy Beerenauslese (Austria) just rounded out all the flavours and it was a perfect way to start the meal.

Steelhead Roe5/6 (Excellent)

  • Coconut, curry, yuzu
  • It was Steelhead Washington salmon caviar with carrot gelée, curry yuzu emulsion, coconut pudding, young coconut shavings and micro cilantro.
  • It was the amuse bouche and I still remembered it at the end.
  • It was such a small bite, but there were so many flavours and each one was distinct and powerful.
  • It was almost a de-constructed coconut curry broth and the textures were silky, creamy, smooth and a bit crunchy from the coconut and carrot.
  • The juicy bursts of salmon caviar were the salty bites to this dish and the sweet and savoury balance was so unique.
  • It was coconut 2 ways and carrot 2 ways.
  • The coconut pudding was intense and those coconut oils were rich and coating my mouth with flavour and not grease.
  • Young coconuts have a softer flesh and jelly like meat and its texture just played into the carrot gelée.
  • The carrot gelée was transformed into slices of carrot and they tasted like they were made from carrots freshly picked on a farm that day.
  • The carrot was so natural in flavour and sweet and it went straight into the curry yuzu emulsion.
  • It was an Asian style of curry which tends to be sweeter and more fragrant than spicy.
  • I couldn’t taste any lemongrass, ginger or fish sauce so it wasn’t a traditional South East Asian curry.
  • It had the aromas of an Indian curry without being spicy or as heavily spiced.
  • There may have been carrot juice and it was likely thickened with coconut milk and it was more like a Chinese meets Japanese curry.
  • The spices were subtle but high quality and fresh and I felt like I was at an Indian spice market and I even got a hint of saffron.
  • The citrus yuzu gave the whole dish some acidity so it was sweet, tangy, and salty.
  • Each sauce and component was so labour intensive, but it was required to enhance and intensify the flavour of every ingredient.

Georg Breuer, ‘Terra Montosa’ Riesling, Rheingau 2009 (Germany) – This was one of my favourite pairings. It was a dry Riesling with a subtle smokiness and spice and there was a lemon forward acidity to it. It wasn’t that sweet at all and it was such a complementing match with the smoky and delicately spiced seafood.

Assorted Shellfish on Malaysian Driftwood

  • Whoa! I know! There were a few courses that came out with incredibly elaborate and dramatic forms of presentation and this was one of them.
  • The driftwood was covered with fresh kelp and he literally brought the South East Asian beaches and ocean to me.
  • There was an oyster leaf, king crab, lobster, and razor clam and each one was considered a course.

Oyster Leaf5/6 (Excellent)

  • Mignonette
  • The master of experimental cooking, Ferran Adrià, once served this at his 3 Michelin Star elBulli restaurant in Spain. Since then it has been a sought after ingredient at fine dining establishments.
  • I was told this one was from Ohio, but it originated in Europe in North-Scotland.
  • It’s an all natural leaf, but it tasted just like an oyster and it was basically a vegetarian oyster.
  • They grow wild by the coast so they have a naturally briny flavour that resembles oysters.
  • I would think it would taste like seaweed, but it was in fact the taste of oysters. It had those mineral flavours of an oyster.
  • The texture is a thick meaty spinach leaf and if you breathe in you can taste that raw oyster flavour gradually build and travel to your nose and head.
  • The mignonette was subtle, but the sprinkle of maldon salt and freshly cracked black pepper was all it needed.
  • I love raw oysters, but if you don’t like the slimy texture of them, than this would be a good introduction because you get a similar flavour without the texture.
  • It looked like it was on a Kusshi oyster shell and although it didn’t replace an actual oyster, being introduced to a new ingredient was more exciting.
  • If you’re in Vancouver and you want to try it, Chef Hamid Salimian offers them at Diva at the Met (his style is also similar to Grant Achatz – see my post here).

King Crab5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Passionfruit, heart of palm, allspice
  • This was my favourite of the 4.
  • It was an incredibly juicy piece of crab which is surprising since it’s not in season.
  • There were dollops of avocado which gave richness to the fragrant, sweet and acidic passionfruit and pineapple sauce.
  • There was a great balance of flavours and I could taste the passionfruit the most.
  • It was almost like a half dessert, but the crab flavour was not overpowered.
  • It was gentle yet bright in flavours and there was a bit of warm heat, but not spice which went great with the Riesling.

Lobster5/6 (Excellent)

  • Carrot, chamomile
  • This course can sometimes be a mussel instead, but I was lucky that he was featuring it with lobster this time.
  • The foam was properly made and held its shape and the bubbles just enhanced that whole ocean theme.
  • It was reminiscent of lobster bisque, but not as thick or creamy.
  • The foam was fragrant and the carrot was a sweet sauce underneath.
  • The carrot really enhanced the natural sweetness of the lobster meat and I think it was also made with lobster stock.
  • The lobster was juicy and tender and it was not the claw meat so it wasn’t mushy.
  • The sauces were good enough to make me want to eat the shell.

Razor Clam4/6 (Very good)

  • Shiso, soy, daikon
  • It was a hibachi grilled razor clam, glazed with XO Sauce, fried coriander, carrot, ginger, cucumber, daikon, tapioca pearls and micro shiso leaves.
  • I usually only get razor clams when I’m in Asia so I was so happy to be reunited.
  • I’m a bit biased because I’m Asian, so I’m quite familiar with XO sauce and have a certain expectation from it since it’s close to my culture.
  • XO sauce is a highly prized Chinese hot sauce made from dried shrimps or dried scallops. It’s considered a delicacy and a higher quality one uses all dried scallops.
  • This XO sauce was made with unagi (eel) sauce so it was more Japanese, but it tasted Chinese too with the soy sauce.
  • It was very sweet and very salty with a slight seafood flavour from perhaps added oyster sauce, which would be Chinese.
  • Unagi sauce and oyster sauce are very potent and salty so a little goes a long way.
  • There was a nice spicy heat, but generally there was a lot of sauce for the small clam, so I wouldn’t have minded a bit less.
  • I thought the clam would be glazed and then grilled, but the XO sauce was poured on top again so it kind of masked the razor clam.
  • I loved the texture of crispy whole coriander and chewy tapioca pearls, but I almost forgot about the clam which showcased more in texture than flavour.
  • The tapioca pearls which are traditionally used in Chinese desserts are neutral in flavour, so they were used more for their chewy texture.

The next course required some preparation and waiting, but good things come to those who wait. They came out with a siphon coffee maker (or coffee vacuum brewer) filled with ingredients I’ll explain later. This technique was a cooking tip from Ferran Adrià and I’ve tried it once at EBO Restaurant too – see my post here.

Woolly Pig4/6 (Very good)

  • Fennel, orange squid
  • They bring you the Woolly Pig course while you wait for the siphon cooking experiment to complete.
  • It was a Mangalitsa pork or Hungarian ham with grilled baby squid, semi-dehydrated navel orange and fennel.
  • It comes out dangling on a radio antenna attached to a glowing light bulb and the point is to eat it right off the antenna without using your hands.
  • I’m not sure if the antenna is supposed to stimulate your tongue, but the no hands and whole idea seemed a bit erotic.
  • It reminded me of bobbing for apples, but the grown up version.

  • It was a single bite and the ingredients just slid off like a kebab.
  • The star of the show was the ham although I couldn’t see it.
  • The squid was chewy and undeniably smoky and super charred and infused with smokiness throughout.
  • I could smell the smokiness and they must have smoked it for hours.
  • The Woolly Pig is an extremely fatty ham and I think its flavour was infused into the squid because I couldn’t taste any actual ham.
  • The fennel was pickled and the orange gave a juicy burst of citrus to contrast the deep smoky aromas that were almost bitter.
  • The fennel, orange, celery and dill were great aromatics to cut the richness of the ham too.
  • I thought the shellfish went well with the Riesling, but this was even better with it.
  • The course reminded me of the Braised Octopus, Saffron Tapioca Crackers I had at Fraîche Restaurant.

Bodegas Godeval ‘Viña Godeval’ Valderorras 2010 (Spain) – It was a light white Spanish wine with citrus notes like lemon, lime and grapefruit and it had a long finish. It’s known to have a mineral characteristic which was apparent. It was also in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines in 2011.

Back to the siphon coffee maker. It was filled with ingredients including soy powder, dashi powder, bonito (smoked fish) flakes, kombu (seaweed), chilli, wasabi, fresh ginger, fresh yuzu, green onion and perhaps some other aromatic ingredients, spices and herbs.

The bottom chamber sits under a gas flame and when the water is heated it transforms into vapour and gases expand which forces the liquid to rise upwards into the aromatics. The water stays up there as long as the bottom chamber is still hot and when the heat is turned off the liquid will dispense back into the bottom chamber where it came from. And voila, you have a 15 minute instant dashi!

Scallop6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Acting like agedashi tofu
  • A bit of the dashi broth was poured into the dish, just like agedashi tofu would normally be served, and the rest was poured into teacups.
  • There were more garnishes than the main feature and the plate really showcased the knife skills of the garde manger.
  • The garnishes were celery, carrot, daikon, fresh yuzu, and cucumber, Nasturtium and fresh wasabi.
  • I’ve never had fresh yuzu before and it’s very difficult to find in North America let alone in the US.
  • Yuzu is an Asian fruit mainly used in Japanese cuisine and it’s a cross of a sour mandarin and a grapefruit.
  • Traditionally grated daikon would be served on top of the agedahsi tofu, but this was showcased in small pieces on the side.
  • The Nasturtium leaf comes from a plant and it tasted like watercress.
  • The intricate carving of the celery and precise cutting, wrapping and preparation for the raw vegetables were so delicate and dainty.
  • Each garnish was cut and presented differently and they were all aromatic components to making soup broths.
  • Some of the ingredients were the same ones used in the siphon maker and it was a deconstruction of the soup broth decorating the plate.

  • The scallop looked just like an agedashi tofu, but it was made from scallop mousseline.
  • It was a steamed scallop that was lightly coated in cornstarch (?) before being deep fried and the crust was so delicate and light.
  • The scallop mousseline was made with soy milk and grapeseed oil and likely other aromatics, or maybe even dashi.
  • The texture of the scallop was puffy like a marshmallow, but the inside was slippery smooth like egg whites or silky tofu.
  • I would have never guessed this was a scallop and it was a mind game I couldn’t get over.

**Dashi6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • This cup of tea was the remaining dashi stock.
  • I literally start salivating just thinking about it. This was the essence of umami.
  • Holy mother of… !! I literally took a sip and right away I was hit with flavour and I couldn’t swallow that sip! It was immediate and my salivary glands almost started right away.
  • If you ever go to a Japanese restaurant and you hit a savoury flavour in a dish that you just can’t put your finger on, that is most likely from dashi.
  • Dashi is a traditional Japanese seafood stock made from some combination of daikon, kombu (kelp), dried and smoked bonito (fish) flakes, or sardines.
  • It’s used to make most Japanese soups (udon broth, miso etc), sauces, tamago (Japanese omelet), and chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard – see one in my post here) as well as many other things.
  • Since a traditional dashi is a time consuming process, this one used instant dashi powder and soy powder.
  • The ingredients in the siphon had to be sliced pretty thinly since the soup doesn’t brew for that long.
  • The flavours don’t get extracted as intensely as they would if the soup was slowly cooked all day, however instant dashi is very powerful.
  • Instant dashi powder is highly concentrated and has more glutamate so that savoury umami flavour was more intense than a home made dashi.
  • Think of home made chicken broth and chicken bouillon powder, the powder never replaces the authentic taste of the real deal, but that powder is intense and loaded with savoury flavour.
  • This dashi soup was amazing and it was actually well infused with all the aromatics in the siphon. I was surprised!
  • I could taste the seaweed, a bit of brininess and it was salty and sweet with a bit of heat from the chilies and fresh wasabi.
  • The dashi powder having more glutamate created this texture which just coated my tongue and roof of my mouth like a soupy gel.
  • The texture and flavours of the soup were so thick that I felt like it was congealing to my tongue.
  • I kept thinking how fast it could turn into gel if I put it in the fridge.
  • The stock was almost like a sauce and it was so flavourful that I was literally sucking on my own taste buds even after it was done.
  • My taste buds just absorbed the soup like crazy.
  • The broth coated my whole mouth with a wonderful savoury and fragrant flavour that was simply divine.
  • The dashi soup was kick the table incredible, but the “agedashi tofu” and garnishes were the labour intensive parts of this dish.

Chehalem 𔃳 Vineyards’ Pinot Gris, Willamette 2011 (Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA) – Oregon is known for their pinot gris. This had high acidity from lemons and lemon zest, a medium body and still some richness from pears. There was a mineral quality and maybe a little bit of spice and it was more dynamic than most pinot gris wines.

Otoro4/6 (Very good)

  • Thai banana, sea salt, kaffir lime
  • They placed a rubber white ring on the table and then brought out this half fish bowl. The bowl was placed on top of the ring to hold it in place.
  • It was basically eating fish in a fish bowl and the kaffir lime leaf “ocean surf foam” just attributed to the whole “ocean” theme.
  • This foam was not citrusy, but fragrant and sweet and I could taste coconut in it.
  • It was very well made foam that held its shape and it was dense foam rather than a watery one. It didn’t disappear or liquefy quickly.
  • It was foam that was used for presentation and purpose and it was the sweetness to the dish.
  • It also added texture and I felt like I was in the waves of the ocean as the bubbles faded away like a sweet tropical mist on my lips.
  • The dollop of cream on the side was supposed to be the ocean air, and it was a bit salty and almost neutral in flavour.
  • It smelled like a fruit Thai curry made with cucumber juice and it was surprisingly fragrant for being a chilled dish with water components like foam and ice.
  • The presentation reminded me of the Pumpkin Soup with Cold Smoked Salmon, Apple Curry Foam served in a fish bowl I had at C Restaurant.
  • Otoro comes from blue fin tuna which is near impossible to get in the US since it is near extinction, so this one was farm raised from the Malta Coast.
  • Of course I was happy to hear it was farm raised which also meant it had less mercury content which large blue fin tuna in Japan would have.

  • “Toro” is known as tuna belly which is the fattiest and most valued part of sushi or sashimi. It’s my favourite.
  • “O-toro” is the most precious part of the tuna belly that is closest to the head. This is the most valued part of tuna belly and what was served in this bowl.
  • Otoro is equivalent to beef tenderloin and in this case it was almost treated like it too. It was being executed as a tartare.
  • For such a highly prized cut of fish, I probably would have just wanted it as is, but I appreciated this artistic interpretation of it.
  • The fish is best in the Winter months, although this one could have been frozen.
  • It would make sense as to why he chose to serve it with green curry ice if it was though. It ended up freezing the tuna a bit.
  • The tuna was light pink as it should be and the bold white lines is the fat which resembles the marbleizing of a steak. The whiter, the more fat.
  • I would actually prefer the tuna less cold so that the oils would release which could help me taste the flavours of the actual fish.
  • Nonetheless it was still very buttery with a clean flavour and it was lightly marinated in Thai basil, Thai banana, Thai cilantro and Thai lime.
  • The marinade tasted like a cold clear green curry and cucumber juice that was made in an evaporator and then distilled. It had a very pure flavour.
  • It was salty and aromatic with lemongrass, basil and citrus notes, but I couldn’t really taste the Thai banana.
  • The green curry ice was surprisingly not crunchy ice, and it was almost slush like.
  • I was so pleased that it wasn’t crunchy or it would have just ripped through the beautiful texture of the otoro.
  • The ‘ice’ was a bit salty and melted nicely with the texture of the tuna. It gave the toro some brininess and a bit of heat as well.
  • It was a very light and refreshing dish and the components were very delicate. The mineral and lemon flavours of the wine paired nicely too.

Descendientes de J. Palacios ‘Petalos’ Bierzo, Spain 2009 – It’s made by a famous Spanish family and this medium bodied wine was ranked #26 on the 2011 Wine Spectator Top 100 wines. This was a great wine for the next dish, but it tasted much better after airing out. It was a bit oaky and woody with dark fruit flavours like cherries and tart berries. It tasted like being in a forest with a bit of mushroom flavour too. It was perfect with this next dish.

Burn Morels5.5/6 (Excellent!)

  • Ramps, fiddlehead fern, miner’s lettuce
  • I know! Are you crying yet? It was gorgeous!
  • The stones weren’t edible although I’m sure he could have made them edible.
  • I’ve seen Chef Jefferson Alverez at Fraîche Restaurant use black sesame seeds and toasted rice powder to make polvoron cookies that resembled clay or even stones.
  • The stones came out on a heavily charred oak plank and it was symbolic for how morels appear after forest fires.
  • Even the choice of plates he uses hold significance. This piece of burnt wood was from the forest fires last year.
  • This course really brought out the kid in me.
  • When I said in the intro “I experienced it… as if I was a child” and “he creates a sense of discovery with every dish”, this is the dish that shows my feelings most.
  • The idea of foraging (searching for food) is considered one of the “food trends” of 2011-2012 and this course used all foraged ingredients.
  • It’s not really a “trend” because this is how humans and animals always ate since the beginning of time, but nowadays the grocery store is just too convenient.
  • Foraging is a messy and dirty activity and once again he brought the outdoors indoors in the most beautiful way.
  • This was the salad course, and I rarely get excited about salads because I find them things I can make at home, but this salad was very intricate and I was excited!
  • It was kind of ironic because foraging tends to be a hands on local concept, but I bet each ingredient in this was sourced from a one of a kind purveyor from somewhere around the world.
  • The presentation reminded me slightly of the Albacore Tuna dish at Diva at the Met.

  • He asked the diner to also “search” for their food as they ate because each rock had a different sauce and different ingredients.
  • There was no particular way to eat the dish, but he left you to discover and create your own flavours.
  • The first stone had morels which were found in the Pacific Northwest (who knows? Maybe in Vancouver? My home.)
  • There was also a piece of Surryano smoked ham from Virginia which was air cured for 400 days.
  • The Surryano ham was hickory smoked, sliced ultra thin, a bit chewy, buttery and rich and it tasted like a prosciutto, but more delicate.
  • The ham sat on a poached quail’s egg, and that egg yolk seemed almost sous vide or smoked. It was a well contained yolk, but still creamy and thick.
  • That pop of rich egg yolk and buttery salty ham with the earthy mushrooms was so simple, but just unforgettable in texture and flavour.

  • Each rock had its own unique sauce, and this brown dollop you see above was the best one. This was amazing!
  • This was a smoked onion puree and it tasted like caramel.
  • It was so rich and intense with flavour and I couldn’t put my taste buds on what it was.
  • It was sweet, thick and creamy and it wasn’t smoky as much as it was savoury, sweet and almost nutty.
  • It was an outstanding puree and it was also joined with some crunchy pickled red onion and sweet and spicy red onion marmalade for contrast.

  • The third stone had brown butter poached asparagus, asparagus purée and an earthy Maitake and Black Trumpet purée.
  • It let you experience the asparagus and mushrooms in different ways and textures and each rock was a new discovery.
  • Each leaf and morel I turned over was a fresh start to a new sauce.

  • The greens included salted ramps, fiddlehead fern and miner’s lettuce and they were crispy, charred and smoky like that had been near a forest fire.
  • I’ve had lots of fiddleheads before, but have never seen them unravelled like this. They were more delicate unravelled with less crunch.
  • They were long and stringy and they taste like asparagus meets broccoli.
  • Miners lettuce I’ve tried at Fraîche before, but the flavour was more likable here.
  • It’s a crispy wild green which tends to have a grassy flavour with a bitterness at the end. It was similar to spinach or watercress, but grassier.
  • This one didn’t seem as grassy and perhaps it was because it was a baby Miners lettuce leaf and used so sparingly.
  • This course was earthy, grassy, and woody in all aspects and the choice of asparagus and mushrooms just enhanced those qualities.
  • I would have loved to see a random berry or even a piece of fresh honeycomb to top off the whole nature/forest aspect, but it was truly a stunning salad.
  • I valued this beyond its presentation and flavour. The concept was brilliant.
  • Essentially, I was seeing the beauty after a fire or a natural disaster (forest fire).

**Hot Potato6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Cold potato, black truffle, butter
  • I knew what this was as soon as he brought it out!
  • It’s one of Grant Achatz’s signature dish at Alinea commonly called “Hot Potato, Cold Potato”.
  • This was freaking amazing and it’s a standard on every tasting menu here.
  • It’s a time sensitive dish and it plays a lot with temperature hence the name.
  • The dish it is served in is actually made of paraffin wax and it’s especially made for this course.
  • It looked like frosted glass and it was a classy upgrade from a “shooter glass”, but you treat this course as if it were a shot.
  • You gently pull the pin out and all the ingredients slide off and fall into the cold and creamy truffle potato soup. And no, the soup doesn’t leak out of the hole from the pin.
  • The pin holds a very hot (in temperature) Yukon Gold potato confit in clarified butter, a shaving of black truffle, a chive, a cube of butter and a cube of parmesan cheese.
  • The lightest thing on that magical wand was the chive which was undetectable, so just think how rich this one bite was going to be. In that ratio too! It was a small bite.
  • I’m not sure what particular kind of black truffle it was, but it was a nice thick shaving.
  • The Danish Lurpak butter is a premium butter made from the purest Danish cow’s milk and that just melted immediately as soon as everything mixed together in my mouth.
  • The Parmesan cheese was from a region in Italy so it was technically a Parmiggano-Reggiano.
  • It’s a hard cheese with a natural saltiness and nuttiness and it actually melted rather quickly too. I was surprised since it was a pretty big cube that needed to melt fast.
  • After all these very high quality ingredients fall into the soup you shoot it back.
  • @#$%. As soon as it hits your tongue it’s pure decadence and intense flavour!
  • It’s not just salty, but savoury (umami) flavour!
  • It’s the richest and one of the most luxurious textures and flavours that I didn’t want to swallow. Heaven!
  • This is followed immediately with a sudden hit of this weird temperature contrast that happens in your mouth. It doesn’t matter if you’re expecting it, it’s still crazy.
  • The potato is very hot and the soup is very cold and they were almost fighting each other and it was such an unforgettable sensation!
  • The potato is melon ball sized so it retained a lot of heat. It didn’t burn your mouth and the chilled soup just cooled it down right away, but I could feel both temperatures equally.
  • The natural heat in my mouth just helped melt the cubes of cheese and butter, but you’re still chewing the potato and mushroom.
  • Potatoes, butter, cheese, and mushrooms is really a no brainier and they are flavours you’ve likely had before, but just not in this unique context.
  • Also with such highly sourced ingredients for something so simple, it’s likely going to be the best combination of those flavours you’ve ever experienced. It was mine for sure.
  • I honestly would remake this recipe and have 100 of them one after another for my dinner… and be very happy… but with heart issues.
  • It was a de-constructed mushroom soup and/or potato soup, but 100 times better and with a sick mind game (by “sick” I mean cool). It was honestly a toe curling experience.

Château Ollieux Romanis Corbières ‘Atal Sia’ Boutenac 2008, France – I know. Don’t say it. I was too excited about the next dish and didn’t realize how bad this photo was. It’ll have to do. ‘Atal Sia’ means “Let It Be” and in this case it was implying “let it be [grapes]”. It was a medium bodied dark red blend with no oak and flavours of black fruit like plum and figs. It was a pretty standard red wine that goes with everything hence “let it be” and it worked with the lamb. I could see why they chose a less complex wine for this course because there was already so much going on with the food.

A Razor, A Shiny Knife

When The A.V. Club had local editions, we received an invitation from a guerrilla dining collective called A Razor, A Shiny Knife . The New York-based group came to Chicago to cook an insane 20-course tribute to superstar chefs Grant Achatz (Alinea) and Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) at some random person’s apartment on Lake Shore Drive. When I arrived with my wife, it had the markings of an Eyes Wide Shut situation. I even said “fidelio” when we buzzed the intercom, probably to the confusion of whoever answered. Inside, it was not at all Kubrickian, because no one could have sex after eating so much. How much? Master of ceremonies Michael Cirino informed the dozen or so diners that each of us would be consuming roughly 7,000 calories and a pound of butter. (I’d add at least one bottle of wine per person to that.) It was madness—delicious, incredible madness. [ Kyle Ryan ]

I Don’t Have Kids But I Don’t Think They Should Be Banned From Restaurants

Grant Achatz, the Chicago chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea, caused an internet uproar a couple years ago when he tweeted that someone brought an 8-month-old baby into his (very expensive) restaurant and diners weren’t happy about it. He took to his followers for advice, which generated a slew of opinions. Many people stated that this high-end restaurant was no place for a baby. Other restaurants agree, like an eatery in the tourist-centric area of San Francisco’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf that posted a sign prohibiting “strollers, high-chairs, booster seats, children crying or making loud noises.” An Australian restaurant that has banned kids says it's “busier than ever.” In January 2016, a Rome restaurant banned children under 5, and just this month, a restaurant in London announced the same age limit for its patrons.

Banning children in public places goes beyond restaurants, with some airlines, and even movie theaters, laying down the no-kids law. An article in The Economist even dubbed the trend “Bratophobia.” And while many parents are pissed, others are more than happy to oblige. For me, an adult who's childfree by choice, I see no reason why a kid shouldn’t be able to experience the spoils of fine dining—as long as they’re able to behave.

As a young child, we couldn’t afford to dine out much, and when we did, it often involved a boxed meal containing a complimentary plastic toy, or a buffet. But on rare occasions, usually when my dad would sell an extra mattress or receive a holiday bonus, I’d be treated to the Red Lobster—the fanciest restaurant in my hometown—where I felt like a queen. Even as a young child, I knew that I was to behave myself and act like a lady. There was a menu to peruse, a napkin to be placed in my lap, and a server to whom I was to say, "please," and, "thank you." However simple, the Red Lobster was my introduction into fine dining and if it weren’t for such occasions, I would have never learned such essential manners.

My current residence of New Orleans has a plethora of incredible restaurant options, and I imagine that if I had children, I’d want them to have the experience of exploring a few. My friend Rebecca Hutchings and her husband have brought their children to many of these establishments. Although the couple called the era between 18 months and 3 years the “dark days” of eating in, they looked for outdoor options when eating out during this time—even while traveling abroad. “We always looked for nice restaurants with outdoor seating where noise would be less of an issue for other patrons. We have had some amazing meals in gorgeous places waterside in Croatia, or in charming plazas in Buenos Aires," she tells SELF.

But not everyone wants their kids in tow. Anni Cuccinello, a marketing manager in NYC, tells SELF, “As a mom of a very energetic 2-year-old girl, and as someone who LOVED to travel and go out to eat in my pre-kids life, I think businesses have every right to ask children to sit in a certain area or not come at all. On date nights with my husband, we certainly don't want to be surrounded by screaming kids.”

Some airlines have also joined in on the no-kids trend. Malaysia Airlines has made headlines in the past for banning infants from first-class cabins and has created kid-free zones in economy, while Singapore’s Scoot Airlines introduced the “ScootinSilence” upgrade, barring children under the age of 12 from particular rows. And there’s AirAsia, which has the Quiet Zone for passengers 10 years and above.

As someone who travels often for work, I fully admit that I’d be disheartened to sit next to a crying baby had I splurged on a first-class ticket. But it’s rare that I have the privilege of sitting in the front of the cabin. Most often, I’m crammed in a middle seat in coach, and if I’m next to a crying baby, I try to be empathetic to the little one and their mother. Air pressure is painful, but at least I have the ability to pop in a stick of gum—and a pair of headphones. Would I prefer to sit in a kid-free zone? Sure, and I’m guessing most parents would enjoy it, too.

"On airplanes, I would actually love to have a seat near the other rowdy kids when traveling with my daughter it would certainly beat sitting next to the woman I encountered on my last flight who took one look at my kid, rolled her eyes and told her to go to sleep right away,” Cuccinello says. Hutchings adds that she would gladly have her kid sit in a designated zone if it were an option. During a particularly “mortifying” flight with her otherwise-perfect travel companion—her then-18-month-old son—the duo sat in the first-class cabin, with tickets purchased using airline miles. Hutchings says that her son was beside himself and passengers were mad. “That had never happened before and it's never happened again, but I was aware that I was diminishing the experience of other people who paid for first class.”

For these experiences, there’s always bribery. Giving out in-flight gift bags, from parents to the nearby passengers as sort of a preemptive I’m-sorry-for-what’s-about-to-go-down, is actually a thing. But should parents have to apologize ahead of time for something their kids may or may not even do? Lindsay Powers Eichmann, an editor in NYC and mother of two, says no. She tells SELF, “I don't think parents should worry about buying gifts for people sitting around them on a plane or anything like that. I mean, it's reality, kids cry. Parents are doing the best they can and don't need to be judged by random strangers. I won't stop bringing my kids out to restaurants and on planes, as they continue to be well-behaved because they've done both a lot.”

Personally, I don’t need a bag of candies. Just give me a set of headphones and roll the drink cart my way. I’ll buy one for mom and dad, too.

Watch the video: Alinea - Grant Achatz (October 2021).