Does modern cooking exist outside of major cities?
Recently I've become really interested in progressive cuisine, whether you call it modern, hyper-modern, or molecular gastronomy.... I've had the opportunity to eat at Alinea, Moto, and Schwa in Chicago and WD-50 and Tailor in NYC. Minibar in Washington, DC is on my list to try next.
I'm wondering though, are chefs doing stuff like this in places other than these and other major cities? I've heard of Sean Brock at McCrady's in Charleston. Are there others?
It's interesting that some of Europe's most well known and influential restaurants of this type, el Bulli and The Fat Duck, are both a little off the beaten path, outside of cities and I'm wondering if there is anything comparable in the US.
I've never been to either el Bulli or The Fat Duck, but when I was a kid I did get to go to Europe a few times. The economics of running a restaurant in Catalonia or Bray is very different than running a place like that "off the beaten path" in the US. There may be such places run in resort or college towns, but I have not yet heard of any.
Americans won't drive 3 hours each way for a meal...
Minibar - call EXACTLY 6 weeks to the day before you intend to visit and do it before noon. I think 6 weeks is the earliest they'll reserve. Ate there in 2004. go fairly sober as the evening can easily turn into a complete blur even then. drink a light white or cava as the kaleidoscope of flavors are brief, perfect and quite varied.
We had fun but with so many tastes only a few really remain in memory.
I also ordered a pizza 3-4 hours later at home. regrets? none. go again? sure, if someone else is treating this time (was my treat then, but it was worth it given how labor intensive the food is).
re: hill food
I doubt Pittsburgh qualifies as a major city -- at least it doesn't to me -- but my friends and I had a very creative molecular gastronomy dinner at Alchemy at Bigelow Grille (I believe that was the name of it) which is, of all things, a hotel restaurant. The chef did interpretations of Pittsburgh fare, like sauerkraut consomme and pierogie "dippin dots," but he also had some very sophisticated things, like a blown glass globe filled with smoking rosemary and topped with a rabbit medallion wrapped in prosciutto and topped with a little manchego and fig jam. Take off the meat, inhale the smoke, bite the meat... delicious. (Jokes about bong hits abounded, of course.) There were about 25-30 courses, and while some were misses (shiitake ice cream in a chocolate bonbon), most were hits.
The Townhouse Grill in Chillhowie VA is exactly what you are looking for. I haven't been yet but should be able to try it over the summer.
Parts of my two meals at McCrady's were in this category, parts of them were more traditional.
University towns seem to be picking it up even here in the Midwest. There are two in Columbia, MO, that are doing well. We ate at Bleu, and were very happy; there's another one whose name escapes me whose chef was nominated for a Beard in the regionals this year.