Aviary is Haunted

Those of you concerned that Chef Grant Achatz and/or Beverage Director Charles Joly have been racking up ridiculous fees for checked baggage shuttling the Mother of all Portholes around the country can rest easy. Turns out it travels by van. Next stop for the MoaP is Los Angeles, for its Food and Wine Festival.

In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of the harem.

If you’re an Aviary regular, especially late at night, you’ve undoubtedly seen Chef Grant Achatz's candy apple red GTO parked in front. Life on the Line describes its original restoration, and the story of Nick Kokonas surprising Chef Achatz by tracking down and restoring the car again is covered here.

Anyway, Chef Achatz has a WSJ piece today confirming that yes, the car is cool. Because some of you harbored doubts, apparently. But it is interesting Chef Achatz references Aston Martin. Because the Goat may be cool, but surely Jimmy Bond would smoke it. So, when are going to throw down, Chef?

But he who in the rightly regal and intelligent spirit presides over his own private dinner-table of invited guests, that man’s unchallenged power and dominion of individual influence for the time; that man’s royalty of state transcends Belshazzar’s, for Belshazzar was not the greatest.

Christian Seel was playing with high-end camera gear again, which means a glimpse of a possible new dish from Chef Andrew Brochu. That’s Ahab’s assumption, anyway. It isn’t absolutely clear the above actually is food intended to be eaten.

By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Commonwealth or State— which is but an artificial man.

Ever since Michael Nagrant left for the Sun Times and then Red Eye, New City Resto has seemed much less relevant. In fact, it honestly wasn’t clear NCR still published. But late last week, The Big Heat, NCR’s list of the 50 most influential figures in Chicago’s dining scene, dropped. A year ago, Chef Grant Achatz checked in at number three; in 2013, he and Nick Kokonas are down a notch to number four. Hopefully, any sting from this demotion is soothed by the appearance of Chefs Dave Beran and Aviary’s Beverage Director Charles Joly at 39 and 47 respectively. Congratulations!

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange awe of him.

Under Chef Andrew Graves, it always seemed Aviary’s kitchen team was small. From the kitchen table itself, typically one would see just three chefs preparing the bites — Chef Graves, Chef Ingi Sigurdsson, and a third guy Ahab actually has never stalked on Twitter met. Given the new menu from Chef Andrew Brochu, it’s no surprise the kitchen team appears to have doubled in size. (H/t Chef Eric Rivera.)

It was now clear sunrise. Soon the crew came on board in twos and threes; the riggers bestirred themselves; the mates were actively engaged; and several of the shore people were busy in bringing various last things on board. Meanwhile Captain Ahab remained invisibly enshrined within his cabin.

Hate to disagree with Ruth Bourdain, but if the Porthole is a bong, then the world’s most powerful has got to be the Mother of all Portholes.

In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.

Nick Kokonas mentioned earlier this year that “in the coming months” Aviary would be introducing a ticket-based reservation system, similar to Next and Alinea (and Elizabeth!). Apparently, the system is nearly ready and will be going live soon. Having had little luck with tickets next door, Ahab hopes the new system doesn’t end his unmatched kitchen table streak.

That particular set time and place were conjoined in the one technical phrase—the Season-on-the-Line. For there and then, for several consecutive years, Moby Dick had been periodically descried, lingering in those waters for awhile, as the sun, in its annual round, loiters for a predicted interval in any one sign of the Zodiac. There it was, too, that most of the deadly encounters with the white whale had taken place; there the waves were storied with his deeds; there also was that tragic spot where the monomaniac old man had found the awful motive to his vengeance.

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Attended the Pipeworks Brewing event Tuesday. In addition to the Glaucus, Poivre Rosé, and Ninja v. Unicorn pictured above, other beers included the Paradisiac, Raspberry Truffle Abduction, Hyper Dog, Unicorn’s Revenge, Close Encounter, End of Days, and Saison du Soleil. Officially, only six beers were supposed to be poured, but others appeared as the evening progressed and the crowd thinned out.

Speaking of the crowds, Aviary was packed. Next was closed — which Ahab would like to think was in honor of Chef Craig Schoettler's last night in Chicago — but Next’s dining room was closed off, unlike with other recent events, such as the Evil Twin Brewing event. As a result, seating was in short supply, and the room was tricky to navigate. Unless you were one of the VVIPs (Swingbyte owners?) invited downstairs.

In a throwback to the kitchen’s days under Chef Andrew Graves, the Pipeworks beers were paired with a handful of bites. By far the best was an oyster topped with steak tartare, which prompted some to return upstream against the flow of traffic for seconds, thirds, and fourths.

Against the wind he now steers for the open jaw. God keep us, but already my bones feel damp within me, and from the inside wet my flesh. I misdoubt me that I disobey my God in obeying him!

Odds and ends

A few random bits while Ahab gets ready to attend the Pipeworks Brewing event with his muse.

  • Martin Kastner confirmed the last Kickstarter backers should be receiving their Portholes soon. And he has created a group on the Facebook for Porthole fans to share recipes and photos. Looking forward to seeing the fabled White Porthole in the wild.
  • Chef Andrew Brochu continues to tinker with Aviary’s food menu, including downstairs. Rumor has it a burger was spotted recently. If it is burger is anything like the short rib burger served next door during Childhood, Ahab may be forced to move to the West Loop.

What a shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to ‘em; tell ‘em they are welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and deliver my message.