Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Food Notes from the Windy City: Charlie Trotters

A Big Night indeed, a food moment I had been waiting for anxiously, nervously, and excitedly for several months. Charlie Trotter is in my Food Pantheon- one of the greats... what would the night entail.

To be fair, by 9 pm on Saturday night, our last night in Chicago, we were tired. and had eaten well all week. And we had had several cocktails at the hotel before we arrived at Trotters, where we were greeted at the curb by a host and whisked inside a lovely restored townhome. Low lights, neutral colors, and hushed tones made me nervous. Certainly not the boisterous atmosphere of Frontera. We were in for a night of serious eating. In all, we sat for almost 3 hours as a series of waiters and servers and crumbers and sommelier types doted over us. The service was a bit formal- we never engaged with one person for long enough to form a bond. Questions were answered fastidiously yet there was a certain icieness to it all. So on to the food. I chose the Grand Menu with wine pairings as well. While the food is lovely and bits of it ( fish roe, lamb, fennel pollen..) were extraordinary, overall, I think it was a bit overdone.... at least for my taste- for someone who professes to celebrate the ingredients, dishes seem somewhat overworked.... lost in their complexity.

Grand Menu

Japanese Eel Terrine with Horseradish & Daikon
Bruno Paillard “Premiere Cuvee” Brut Rose MV

Poached New Zealand Ocean Salmon with Orange Rind, Fennel Pollen & Cured Salmon Ice Cream
Bonny Doon “Ca’ del Solo” Albarino, Monterey 2006

Sreamed Casco Bay Cod with Cockles, Picholine Olives, Artichokes & Stinging Nettles
E. Knoll “Ried ‘Loibenberg’ Loibner” Gruner Veltliner, Wachau 2005

Roasted Saddle of Rabbit with Fingerling Potatoes, Turnips & Mustard Greens
Dog Point Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2005

Summerfield Farm Lamb Shoulder with Garlic, Aged Manchego & Parsley
Brunello di Montalcino Fornacina 2000

Sweet Tofu with Meyer Lemon & Shiso
Tokaji-Aszu “5 Puttonjos” Royal Tokaji 2000

Organic Buttermilk with White Pepper, Toasted Milk Ice Cream & Nutmeg
Bodegas Toro Albala “Don PX – Gran Reserva” Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles 1971

Susannah had the Vegetable Menu which was quite nice- it was great to have the variety to sample. Susannah is not a huge mushroom lover- the morels were exquisite as was the custard of spring onion and confit of turnips.

Wild Watercress with Grapefruit & Hearts of Palm
Steamed Twelve Season Miso Cake with Spinach, Easter Egg Radish & Preserved Carrots
Braised White Asparagus with Brioche, Chervil, Toasted Hickory Nuts & Curried Yogurt
Custard of Spring Onions with Ramps, Morel Mushrooms & Garlic Shoots
Confit of Baby Turnips with Sultanas, Bluefoot Mushrooms, Mache & Merlot Braised Red Cabbage
Grilled Blood Orange Sorbet with Jicama & CilantroBraised Peanuts with Korintje Cinnamon & Caramelized Organic Honey

The biggest shock came at the end of the night- I had been misquoted when I made my reservation, and what I knew was going to be an expensive night was 30 % higher. I felt taken and it left me a bit amiss and I think ultimately skewed my pereception of the night. I don't regret the meal- it was fantastic. But somehow I don't think I'll be back.

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