Not long ago, the frontier of food was futuristic. Chefs made like mad scientists, creating gels and capsules, altering textures and forms. These clever experiments provoked surprise and delight. Eventually, weariness crept in, too. We’d been outfoamed.
The new frontier of food may be the past, or at least a form of taste time travel. Witness Chicago chef Grant Achatz, of the influential, science-driven Alinea. His new project Next sells tickets to dinners based on specific places and times — Paris in 1906, childhood, Kyoto. And New York’s lauded Eleven Madison Park has just reinvented itself, with a menu that uses food to pay tribute to the city’s history. (This month and next, the restaurants switch places, with Alinea staging a pop-up at Eleven Madison Park, then vice versa. The experiment is called the 21st Century Limited, a reference to the 20th Century Limited, a train that traveled between New York and Chicago in the 1900s. No one is content to remain where, or when, they are these days.)