Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Charlie Trotter Topic


awbrig
 Share

Recommended Posts

I HAVE heard he is a pretty decent cook.

Do you think he would approve of the "new" stuff?

Or do you think he would be more of an 'analog' guy?

What band was it?

Food looks really great.

Great photos of France too!

I think if Steve was here, what I've had to say in this forum would qualify as mild.

Killswitch.

Thank you and if you are the same Ted Nicely of Jawbox "Sweetheart", then you might know of the band Mock Orange - of which J. Robbins just did their last E.P. and full length - they are the only surviving band from my old label... minus seven.

Appreciate the kind words.

{edit} One of my favorite albums of all time BTW - though I know you've done tons of other things.

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay guys and gals, let's get back to Trotters.

=R=

Sure, we'll get back to Trotter's - and this will pretty much be my last word on the subject.

For those of you with the perception that CT is for some reason "recently" trying to align himself with "hot" chefs to "save his sinking career".

Pick up the book "Great Restaurants of the World" - "Charlie Trotter's" published in 2000 by Lebhar-Friedman - I happened across a copy at the Printer's Row fair last year.

On page 130 you will find a photo of CT with Ferran Adria, Tetsuya Wakuda, Daniel Boulud as well as other photos with Tetsuya and many other chefs on various pages from collaborative work on various occasions.

From over 5 years ago.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, no – I do have one more thing to say and then I am done.

I didn’t want to have to do this but I feel I’m left little choice.

Don’t take my defense of Trotter as any kind of allegiance, on the contrary – I’ve never spoken directly to the man. I was just trying to stop a lynching – if it had been anyone and I had seen it I would have done the same – in fact if you look earlier in this thread, I defended Budrichard and elsewhere on this board while others are singing praise – I am offering a contrasting view.

You may have seen me, in previous posts, refer to what I call “the bubble of perception”.

Well, I’m about to slice it open and let you look inside.

I’m not going to tell you anything that is not there for you to see or that you don’t already know in some way – but you might wanna hold on to something or sit down.

The truth is people, these guys all know each other – they have for years.

No disrespect to anyone, but I need an analogy… they’re like Congressmen or say, Professional Golfers.

Yeah… they compete against each other, but they also get together every now and then and play a round and trade pointers.

It is conceivable that for those years they have pointed people toward each other’s restaurants, other chef’s, VIP guests traveling, organizations…etc.

It is also conceivable that, (here comes the real blasphemy), THEY ALL DIRECTLY INFLUENCE EACH OTHER LONG BEFORE YOU EVER KNOW THEIR NAMES.

Yes, not only that Adria likely influenced Trotter but… ahem, Trotter influenced Adria and in turn Chef X influenced Chef Y etc.

How do they know each other?

I don’t know – perhaps they are brought together by things like Relais & Châteaux, or the Beard Foundation or by sitting together on boards of various organizations.

These people are part of a system, and like any system – if you have a positive effect on the system – the system supports you… if you have a negative effect – the system tries to destroy you. This is true down from your individual system that supports good nutrients and attacks viruses – up to the eco system of this planet.

That is why they are so careful what they say about each other… because they support the system and in return the system supports them and they simply take turns at the top.

You see the EXACT same thing developing right before your very eyes with the next generation and this “battle” that is waging is comparable to children rebelling against their fathers or mobsters trying to knock off the boss– almost literally.

There was a time when I questioned my own assessment and applied to a few places, Trotter’s was one and I was invited by an assistant and worked there 1 day for about 14 hours – I didn’t fall on my face but I didn’t do great either – the volume and speed at which things are done in those environments is not for me and after that brief momentary lapse of reason – I have no desire to ever return to any such environment... anywhere

The only reason I can point these things out is because I have no particular dependence on the system – that’s not to say I am immune – I could still easily be destroyed.

But if that is the case then so be it, but I will “die free”.

Freedom, my friends, is always preferable to the most luxurious of cages.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm going to CT on Friday. Any tips on getting the most out of the experience? I'm taking my mother for her birthday and my sister is coming as well. Planning on two grand tastings and a veggie for my sister.

Incidentally, Trio may be my favorite restaurant of all times. I'm a little bummed that Alinea isn't opened yet or I wouldn't hesitate to go there instead. Charlie's cuisine doesn't excite me as much as Grant's. That said, I am quite curious to see what the experience is like and how it will compare to the various Michelin places that I've been to. Trio, for example, was somewhere between two and three stars, food wise. Service, though, was decidedly informal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tours are standard after the meal, and I've heard Trotter is thinking of installing a themed rollercoaster similar to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion that whisks diners through the wine cellars, kitchen, dining rooms, and ultimately into the gift shop. Be sure to check out his line of pepper sprays; my favorite is the orange-cumin-habanero.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, we ate at the restaurant last night. Here, for those who care, are my impressions:

Entryway is beautiful - bowls of pomegranates, cinammon, red peppercorn...and the staff is friendly, albeit too numerous. Is Charlie trying to reduce Illinois' unemployment single handedly? Do I need to be greeted by four different people in a foyer/bar that is all of two hundred square feet?

The actual dining room is claustrophobic. No windows. Narrow. Not unattractive, but...oy.

They misspelled my mother's name on her birthday card, a disappointing thing, they should have double checked.

At any rate, my mother and I ordered the grand menu, my sister the vegetable one, which we explicitly asked to be completely meat free as she is vegetarian. We were asked about allergies and other food issues, of which we had none, aside from my sister's limitations.

The sommelier worked with us to choose a half bottle of big red wine - we got a california Syrah that we enjoyed tremendously throughout the meal. Big and fruity and a little smoke with wonderful structure. Yes, we love wine, but we're lightweights when it comes to alcohol.

An amuse of a seared tombo tuna (I believe) with a vegetable brunoise and some exotic cypress tree seeds came out. It was beautiful and the taste was very complex, delicate, and satisfying. My sister got an amuse of nori "sushi" filled with parsnip. There seemed to be a peach vinaigrette in there somewhere. Seaweed and microgreens decorated the plate. Also lovely, and very very good.

At this point I'll put in another complaint - servers either forgot to describe the food or the descriptions were quite cursory. Their knowledge of the food, as well, was unimpressive. Disappointing. On the other hand, they were friendly and their demeanor good, but overall, they are attempting to provide high level european style service, the kind you get at Le Cinq, for example, but simply do not have the chops to pull it off. One of our servers did notice that my sister did not have a drink and offered her one - a charming move. They also noted that we had parked our car ourselves in a parking lot across the street, and someone put a parking voucher on our car while we were dining. Very nice.

After the amuse, a tasmanian trout, probably done sous-vide, came out, on a wide line of pale yellow curry sauce, with what looked like trout roe, barnacles, oysters, cucumber gelee and more microgreens. It was gorgeous and tasted wonderful.

Following this, a barramundi fillet, a couple of small scallops, and a sunchoke puree with caviar. Not bad but not amazing.

An intermezzo of black truffle with various vegetal purees was insipid.

A rabbit loin, expertly cooked, served with polenta, a light boudin flan, and what looked to me like black trumpet mushrooms, was well made, but didn't excite me. My mom loved it.

The waitress forgot to describe the next dish, but I'm going to call it rosemary crusted antelope tenderloin, the tenderloin done sous-vide, with a cocoa foam, braised porcini and a mushroom puree. Fragrant and good, but again, not terribly exciting. The flavors and textures here were a little heavy. I kept going back to the memory of the wonderful goose we had at Trio, with its little slice of foie gras and blood orange fillet.

A palate cleanser of cactus pear sorbet on top of nopales brunoise was wonderful if you ate around the nopales. I get the intellectual idea, but nopales just don't taste good with cactus pear, sorry. My sister's sorbet of pink grapefruit with candied orange and grapefruit brunoise was terrific.

The desserts were, frankly, losers. A truffle semifreddo was expertly made but the flavor was just wierd for wierd's sake. Nice try though. The other two dishes (there were three desserts) were all too heavy on rich textures and very light on balancing acid. Coconut sorbet tasted like almost nothing, and a meyer lemon sorbet as well was refined to the point of being insipid.

Another misstep - my sister disliked her raw course of passionfruit and squash ravioli with coconut foam and cashew cheese. We asked them to bring her something different. They took the plate and didn't give her anything in its place. Inexcusable.

Another misstep - they brought her a dish containing both squid ink and ham. Ham folks. What the hell. The brough it back, substituting truffles for all the unacceptable ingredients. Good thing my sister likes truffles, but still, too much truffle everywhere, and inexpertly used, at that.

We were served a free tasting of a merlot that a former master sommelier from the restaurant makes. Wonderful strawberry character and interesting tannins. I liked it a lot.

And thats it folks. This is an ambitious restaurant that serves complex, delicate food. The service is overly attentive and a lot of missteps are made. Its very, very expensive.

It is, in my honest opinion, not worth it. Considering the kind of meals I've had in france for the same price or less, which included superior numbers of revelatory dishes, this restaurant does not compare, plus its location and atmosphere fall far far short.

Compared to Trio, Charlie's is a big step down. Not as creative, balanced, or interesting. I got the strong feeling that this restaurant, while still very skilled, is tired, and is coasting. My mother, it should be noted, enjoyed the food much more than I did, but she's not quite the tough cookie that I am. That said, she's got an excellent palate. My sister, who does as well, was unexcited by much of her food - this is not a retaurant to take a real vegetarian to.

Incidentally, some time ago we went to Zealous, which is helmed by a Trotter's alum. The food was much bolder and more exciting. Much more up my alley than all this ultra-refined food with no balls.

I look forward to Alinea and The French Laundry, and to my upcoming trip to Le Jardin de Sens. I hope these rekindle my excitement and love of fine dining.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, noambenami, for taking the time to share your experience with us. I'm not shocked to hear about the service lapses because I've heard and read other reports which have echoed them somewhat. In fact, my one (near) experience at Trotter's, unfortunately, centered on a big service lapse. As for the food, it's highly subjective so I appreciate your measured comments in that area.

BTW, Zealous is helmed by Trotter alum, Michael Taus.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't been to Trotters in a year or so, but have never had a bad experience there (okay, only 4 visits or so); I have always found them super accomodating, fantastic with wine pairings (never had the hard upsell); and found the food progressive, interesting and fantastic.

I will admit my first dinner there many many years ago was an epiphany in fine dining (which my lead to a soft spot); but I've had very few meals that compare.

Just because they've been at it longer than most doesn't mean that its tired.

That being said, looks like an updated visit is in order!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Trotter's seems to have recently expanded their wine list to include wines from several

wine producing states in America - and not just the ones you might be familiar with.

Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Etc.

Glad to see someone do this, I've had great wine from Illinois (an especially good port) and Tennessee, but they are all largely over-looked.

http://www.charlietrotters.com/restaurant/...ne.asp?typeID=3

{edit}: Restaurants like this with ever changing menus and wine lists should add RSS and the meta tag that supports Firefox live bookmarks to these areas so people can see when changes are made without having to visit the site. (Also the port was from Illinois - not Wisconsin).

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

eGullet newbie, reading thru this thread, wanted to add my thoughts on Trotter's (and it's my first posting adventure out of the Vancouver, BC and Western Canada region).

Visited Chicago for the first time last fall and of course had to try CTs. Dined there the night of Oct 15 '04. Sparing the menu details (because I certainly don't have notes), in a party of 4 we all had the grand menu with wine pairings. Most courses were I'd say "very good" (yes it's all subjective), with some items exceeding this - in particular I'm thinking of the outstanding deserts we were served. Wine pairings were delicious. And contrary to recent posts I thought the service was really excellent (possibly the highlight of the evening? other than the company of course).

May I say though that for me, the food at Lumiere Relais Gourmand here in Vancouver (with our own celebrity chef Rob Feenie, who happens to be another CT alum) is more enjoyable, certainly $ for $. I think it's the regionality.

My 2 bits (actually it ended up being a bit more than that after the mandatory gratuity :laugh: ). Cheers!

PS: we also got out to Bistro Margeaux. Loved it! Perfect setup prior to beers at Second City.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was wondering, just because I've seen it so much around the thread

Has Trotter's become a place where people dine at because "If you're going to Chicago, you HAVE to dine at Charlie Trotter's" sort've thing? When I was on externship, even though I had red a few bad reviews of Trotter's, I still had to go because it was Charlie Trotter's. When people think of the Chicago dining scene, the first thing that comes to mind is Charlie Trotter's just like the first thing that comes to mind in the Napa dining scene is The French Laundry. How much do you think Trotter's is being pushed by the "destination dining" button, and do you ever see the restaurant falling out of it. In a similar question, do you see another restaurant in Chicago moving up to that status?

Just wondering.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a similar question, do you see another restaurant in Chicago moving up to that status?

It may be too early to say, but judging from some posts in other threads, it looks like Alinea may already be there (and it's not even open yet!)

I definitely agree that Alinea has the potential to be the crown jewel of the Chicago dining scene. But, considering that it hasn't opened, it's just not fair to anoint it just yet. :wink:

In the current landscape of perception, the answer is "no." I think that Charlie Trotter is at the top of the pyramid and is widely considered to be, for the most part, without peer. He's a Chicago icon and even though there may be better restaurants in Chicago (based on one's subjective criterium), I believe his status is fairly solid as the Chicago dining destination.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was wondering, just because I've seen it so much around the thread

Has Trotter's become a place where people dine at because "If you're going to Chicago, you HAVE to dine at Charlie Trotter's" sort've thing? When I was on externship, even though I had red a few bad reviews of Trotter's, I still had to go because it was Charlie Trotter's. When people think of the Chicago dining scene, the first thing that comes to mind is Charlie Trotter's just like the first thing that comes to mind in the Napa dining scene is The French Laundry. How much do you think Trotter's is being pushed by the "destination dining" button, and do you ever see the restaurant falling out of it. In a similar question, do you see another restaurant in Chicago moving up to that status?

Just wondering.

I think you may an excellent point about it being a place you have to visit. My one and only trip there was for that reason and I must say I was very disappointed, especially after receiving the check. I don't go to Chicago often, but my most memorable meal there was at Spiaggia. :wink: And, just for reference, my three top dining experiences have been at Clos St. Denis (Belgium), Taillevent and The French Laundry.

Michael Harp

CopperPans.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

We went to the James Beard Foundation Benefit at Charlie Trotter's last night. All I can say is, wow. To recap, all of the chefs were Trotter's alums who have now gone on to other things. The chefs were:

Grant Achatz - Alinea

Nori Sugie - Asiate (NYC)

Graham Elliot Bowles - Avenues

Michelle Gayer-Nicholson - Franklin Street Bakery (Minneapolis, I think)

Sven Mede - NOBHILL (Las Vegas)

Michael Taus - Zealous

Geoff Felsenthal - Illinois Institute of Art

David Myers - Sona (CA)

Homaro Cantu - Moto

Each chef prepared one dish, with Charlie Trotter also preparing one dish, for a total of 10 courses, each paired with wine. I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail about each dish, as each was phenomenal, but I'll try to provide brief comments on each.

Sashimi of Japanese Hamachi with Organic Soy Carmel, Yuzu Foam and Hijiki Seaweed Powder (Chef Bowles) - Paired with Stoneleigh Riesling, Marlborough 2004. I had this dish at Avenues and loved it then so I was excited to see it on the menu. I had the opportunity to talk to Chef Bowles after dinner to thank him for the dish and to congratulate him on his success at Avenues. Really just a genuinely nice and humble man.

Sea Urchin Panna Cotta & Yellow Fin Tuna with Kumamoto Oyster and Seawater Ponzu (Chef Taus) - Also paired with the Riesling. I've always felt that Zealous is one of the more underrated restaurants in Chicago. This was a great dish, with the sea urchin panna cotta providing an earthy taste to go along with the tuna and the oyster. Like taking a bite out of the ocean.

Maine Day Boat Lobster with Homemade Tofu and Yellow Curry (Chef Felsenthal) - Paired with Brancott "Patutahi Estate" Gewurztraminer, Gisborne 2002. Many at the table picked this as their favorite dish of the night. It was definittely one of the better pairings with the wine.

Wild Florida Cobia with Red Wine Pudding, Cherries and Cinnamon Fragrance (Chef Achatz) - Paired with Atlas Peak Sangiovese, Atlas Peak 2001. You knew this dish was prepared by Chef Achatz as soon as it hit the table. The cobia and the cherries were stuck on the end of long sticks of cinnamon, with the fish and the cherries resting in the red wine pudding. Hopefully this makes it onto the menu at Alinea.

Alaskan Wild King Salmon with Red Wine Braised Sweetbreads, Morel Mushrooms and Baby Beets (Chef Mede) - Paired with Gary Farrell Pinot Noir, Russian River 2002. My favorite wine of the night. The salmon was cooked absolutely perfectly and was crusted with the sweetbreads and morels.

Jambon of Squab with Carmelized Bananas, Rutabaga and Black Truffle Squab Reduction (Chef Sugie) - Paired with Tarsus, Ribera del Duero 1999. Described by one guest at the table as squab on steroids. Probably the largest leg of squab I've ever seen. It actually tasted more like beef than poultry. I'm not generally a squab fan, but this dish might make me a convert.

Slowly Poached Goat with Black Cardamom-Charred Eggplant and Porcini Mushrooms (Chef Trotter) - Paired with Wattle Creek Shiraz, Alexander Valley 2000. If you're going to eat goat for the first time, Charlie Trotter's is as good a place as any to do it.

Maytag Blue Cheese with Spring Onion Cracklin' (Chef Gayer-Nicholson) - Paired with the Shiraz. Kind of like a chinese bao, but with blue cheese inside. Tasted great with the carmelized onions.

"Igloo" of Fruit (Chef Cantu) - Paired with Mumm "Joyesse" Demi-Sec NV. OK, I'll try my best to describe this. A hollow ice ball, made from kumquat and watermelon (constructed using a balloon and liquid nitrogen, of course!). Watermelon and kumquat soup was then poured over the ball to make it melt a bit. Served with carbonated grapes on the side.

Chino Farms Carrots with Venezuelan Chocolate (Chef Myers) - Paired with Cockburn's "Anno" LBV Port 1998. The chocolate was a chocolate crepe. The crepe was served with some thai chili ice cream. A fantastic end to the meal.

I can't emphasize enough how wonderful this night was. Chef Trotter spoke openly about the problems facing the Beard Foundation and how he and others are trying to right the ship. The new executive director of the foundation was on hand to speak and to accept $30,000 that the event raised. Also in attendance were Chef Trotter's mother and uber-Sommalier Larry Stone. On the way out there was plenty of opportunity to speak to the chefs, which can be kind of intimidating ("Ummm, I like your food" :wacko: )

Everyone got great gift bags on the way out, with a little treat provided by each chef. Highlight of the back has to be the packing popcorn and paper sushi from Moto.

Sorry for the long post, but it was a heck of a night.

-Josh

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember reading a story in which a young Achatz, after notifying Trotter that he was quitting, was told by Trotter that he better not put his name on his resume for reference. Reason being, that Trotter believed that if you did not work at his restaurant for at least a year then you did not work there at all.

I guess they patched things up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i attended this event as well...........lots of fun, drove from nashville on three hours sleep (9 hour drive).....had to work saturday night of course..........well worth it to see these chefs gather at such a great restaurant......my favorite course was the squab......the coolest course was omar's..................moto also had the coolest "gift".....would do it again in a heartbeat........well maybe, except for that three hours of sleep thing

seaninnashville

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Josh and Sean for the reports. It sounds like it was a great evening. And clearly, support for the Beard Foundation in Chicago seems to be as strong as ever.

Lactic, the matter you brought up is discussed a bit upthread; page 6 to be exact. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I remember reading a story in which a young Achatz, after notifying Trotter that he was quitting, was told by Trotter that he better not put his name on his resume for reference. Reason being, that Trotter believed that if you did not work at his restaurant for at least a year then you did not work there at all.

I guess they patched things up.

I'm not sure things are entirely OK between the two (note: Pure speculation follows).

Towards the beginning of the meal, Chef Trotter introduced all of the chefs, spoke a bit about their time with Trotter and what they are up to now. In the room I was sitting in, Achatz probably had the most brief introduction (notably absent from the intro was how much time Achatz spent at Trotters). I'm 99% sure Trotter mispronounced his name as well. Again, this was just how I read the situation. This should not be taken to imply there is some sort of feud or anything brewing between the two.

Sean, did you notice anything?

-Josh

Edited by jesteinf (log)

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...