My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

Linen Pillows

Serveware for ENGLISH PEAS, Tofu, Ham, Pillow of Lavender Air pages 68-71, BEAN, Many Garnishes, Pillow of Nutmeg Air, pages 340-345.

Thanks Jo!
I asked my friend Jo, an incredibly talented designer and seamstress, if she could make linen pillow shams for this project.

She did. And they turned out perfectly for the job at hand: to hold a plastic bag of scented air or smoke, as a “placemat” for an Alinea entrée.

Pillow of lavender air in action at Alinea Restaurant. Photo: Eric Rolph.

Using a Volcano Vaporizer or PolySience Smoking Gun, you fill a plastic bag with scented air or smoke and seal it up.

Slip on the pillow, and place on tabletop. Then using a very thin needle, hatpin, or the like, poke a grid of small holes in the top of the inflated pillow.

Then rest your bowl of food on top. The weight deflates the pillow, releasing the encased aromatics through the linen.

Thus contributing to the enhanced sensory experience of smell and taste!

Out of practicality for the home chef, I thought that using one-gallon ziplock bags would be an easy solution. So the slip-cover, or “pillow case,” had to be just the right size to hold an inflated bag. Smaller than those used at the restaurant, but functional for home use.

Using a piece of fine handkerchief linen (measuring 31.5″ x 15″) and pictures from an Alinea meal, Jo handcrafted the pillowcases. Didn’t take her very long at all to do them.

Here’s how:

Ziplock Pillow Shams

This pillow sham will perfectly hold a one gallon Ziplock bag.

Just in case you’re interested, these drawings are all to scale, albeit different scales for each
drawing. But the one in step 2’s circle is 1:1, and step 3’s is 0.25 inch = 1 inch.

  1. Cut a piece of fabric 31.5 inches by 15.0 inches.
  2. Fold the outside (15 inch) edges in 0.25 inch, then fold them in again 0.5 inch. Sew down 0.125 of an inch from the folded edge.
  3. With the wrong side of the fabric facing up, fold the sewn ends back toward the center so they overlap 2 inches. (Each side will be 8 inches.) Sew across the top and bottom leaving 0.5 inch seam allowance.
  4. Flip everything right side out.
  5. Stitch 1 inch from the edge all the way around.

For the most pleasing results, iron between each step, and trim the 0.5 inch seam allowance made during step 3 down to 0.25 inch after it’s sewn to reduce bulk. Also, to help the corners stay crisp, trim the fabric at the corners before turning it right side out!

Fill with delicious scented air and voila! Bon Apetit!

I couldn’t have done that — not even in a billion years.

Just like a common pillow sham, these slip-covers have a flap in the bottom where you place your inflated “pillow” of scented air or smoke.

And the pillows were finished off so wouldn’t “pucker” around the edges.

They work — and look — great. I just hope now no one spills on them!

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4 Responses to Linen Pillows

  1. Jude says:

    Was thinking more along the lines of a ziploc bag when I saw this recipe, too. Then I thought that there’s a good chance the plate might slide off onto someone’s lap.

  2. Martin Lindsay says:

    Yes, we had that problem, until we discovered that you should not inflate the bag all the way. Then the weight of the plate lets it settle — a bit more stable that way!

  3. Kristie says:

    I am delighted to have found this blog! I’ve wasted so much sodium alginate trying to figure things out on my own…

    My husband bought me the Alinea cookbook last night as a surprise, since we’re returning in a month for the 24-course tasting menu. I’m really hoping to figure out the butter spheres in time for Thanksgiving mashed potato service.

    Not sure where I’ll find some of the ingredients in Texas (awful military assignment), but at least I have the internet and my credit cards to keep the dream alive.

  4. Martin Lindsay says:

    Thanks Kristie,

    Yes the Internet’s a wonderful source for hard-to-finds. I try to include my resources in each post — to make things easier for everyone!

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