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adrober

Charlie Trotter's

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Adrober had to begin somewhere, like us all, and why not Charlie Trotter's? Who knows why he didn't like it, but he didn't. I've been served dishes at Trotter's that were blatantly inedible, but there are also times when the kitchen has produced dishes as good as anything on this continent. Maybe adrober dined on an off-night. Or maybe he should've stuck to the kitchen's strengths (vegetables and fish, in my opinion, since I have been mostly unimpressed with the kitchen's meat dishes). Perhaps his "inexperience" was a factor. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? Adrober, I got my first introduction to world-class food a little over five years ago (I'm 25 now). Twelve hundred books and tens of thousands of dollars later, I can say I've learned a lot, but I still have a lifetime to go. Ignore everybody else. Just follow your own stomach, and never stop eating or learning.

Much peace,

Ian Lowe

ballast/regime


"Get yourself in trouble."

--Chuck Close

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I was only on part two when I realized what the conclusion would be. Leave Charlie Trotters to the folks who understand and appreciate the aesthetic and intangible nature of a truly great restaurant experience. ( and who can afford it , I spent $350 at Chili's with my kids). And next time, leave that persecution complex at home.


wine is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy
Ted Cizma

www.cheftedcizma.com

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Seems to me that many posters on this thread may have made what social psychologists call an attribution error. Such errors can include mistaken assumptions about causality or intent -- I am seated at a "bad" table in a restaurant, so I conclude that the restaurant staff may have been critical of my appearance or demeanour. That may be so, but it could equally be a chance outcome that I ended up at that table. They can include judgement based on a salient attribute that in fact conveys little information: I see a student wearing glasses and a plastic pocket protector and conclude that he must be studying engineering.

Adam, as several posters noted, never seems to have engaged with the real Charlie Trotter's. He classed it as a fancy restaurant, part "of the us-them world of fine dining". Everything was interpreted as part of the hoity-toity and pretentious. That, plus an attempt to be self-consciously funny (Adam's Chowhound review actually describes itself as funny in the title, always a warning sign) means that his comments on the food are superficial at best.

Equally, many of the critics on this thread seem to have made an attribution error about him. 24 years old! Surprised by the cost of the meal! Orders Bellini as aperitif! He must have a leaden palate, his judgements must be worthless. Adam isn't as "well dined", to borrow Robert Brown's great phrase, as some of our members, but that is very "well dined" indeed. He has dined at Jules Verne, which may be touristy but continues to hold a Michelin star. He may not be a total ignoramus.

Finally, several posters have made the most common attribution error on eGullet: assuming that a restaurant is always "good" or "bad". You didn't like Charlie Trotters? That must mean you are not ready for it, inexperienced, etc. Some very "well dined" members have had bad experiences at Trotters. Perhaps it is highly variable in delivery, creating some good meals and some bad.

The reality is that after 152 posts (now 153), we don't know much more either about Charlie Trotters or about Adam.

Adam, let me join the group in welcoming you to eGullet. Keep on reading and dining and posting. You'll learn the difference between a palate and a palette, and many other useful things. There are some very clever and passionate members here. You are a welcome addition to the board.


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Ian,

I think the issue is that he had to begin somewhere with an open mind. I think, based almost solely on his review, that it was impossible for *him* to have had a great experience at CT *that* night. His mind was far more focused on other things like yukking it up with his companion. If was he following his stomach and not his penis, he might have done a lot better.

I remember your review of CT which was less than positive. Your age had nothing to do with it. You precisely and accurately noted the dishes and where you found fault with them. Some defenders of CT attacked you. Since you had actually paid attention to the meal and focused on it, you defended yourself quite well. It was not about you, it was about the restaurant and its triumphs or shortcomings.

That, in a puff pastry shell, is the essence of my problem with the pseudo-review.

A.

Adrober had to begin somewhere, like us all, and why not Charlie Trotter's?  Who knows why he didn't like it, but he didn't.  I've been served dishes at Trotter's that were blatantly inedible, but there are also times when the kitchen has produced dishes as good as anything on this continent.  Maybe adrober dined on an off-night.  Or maybe he should've stuck to the kitchen's strengths (vegetables and fish, in my opinion, since I have been mostly unimpressed with the kitchen's meat dishes).  Perhaps his "inexperience" was a factor.  Who knows?  More importantly, who cares?  Adrober, I got my first introduction to world-class food a little over five years ago (I'm 25 now).  Twelve hundred books and tens of thousands of dollars later, I can say I've learned a lot, but I still have a lifetime to go.  Ignore everybody else.  Just follow your own stomach, and never stop eating or learning.

Much peace,

Ian Lowe

ballast/regime

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The reality is that after 152 posts (now 153), we don't know much more either about Charlie Trotters or about Adam.

We know more about Adam than about the restaurant or the food. That is why it is a pseudo-review.

When the "well-dined" have criticized CT, they are actually able to describe what they ate and what was wrong with it. If a dish is remarked upon as being 'unmemorable', the reviewer has credibility, often within the context of the review itself, that it was the dish, not the inattention of the diner. His pseudo-review is like that of someone who wore a walkman to the opera and then criticized the soprano.

A.

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Adrober had to begin somewhere, like us all, and why not Charlie Trotter's? Who knows why he didn't like it, but he didn't.

I think that highlights my objection to Adam's second post where he claims to have written a reivew. I didn't know more about why he didn't like CT after I read the first post. Yes, he had to begin somewhere and I'll suggest that one begins by learning, not making fun of a new situation. So once again I'll suggest it was not a review but an intended comedy piece that plays to a specific audience. If I were not trying to be so politically correct, I might suggest it panders to that audience.

I still welcome Adam here. If I haven't given him any hope of finding an appreciation for CT in a future visit by learning from what's been said here, I'm sure my posts can also serve as the subject of the same sort of humor as befell CT. At least it's not been a total waste.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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If was he following his stomach and not his penis, he might have done a lot better.

This comment is completely irrelevant and offensive.

Many of the posters on this thread have brilliantly illustrated why Adrober felt uncomfortable in the rarified atmosphere of CT.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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If was he following his stomach and not his penis, he might have done a lot better.

THE BATTLE FOR ADAM'S ATTENTION AT CHARLIE TROTTER'S

a short play

Stomach: Adam, you are at a very fine restaurant...now focus!

Penis: Don't listen to him, stomach, you can totally score with Alex tonight if you yuk it up!

Stomach: Score with Alex? Please.

Penis: Shut up, stomach, and drink your Ame.

Stomach: Ahhh, what a refreshing herb-infused fruit beverage!

Alex: Ummm...Adam, you're talking to yourself again.

Waiter: Would you like some wine with your Ame?

Alex & Adam: No thanks.

Penis: Make your move Adam!

Sexuality: Ummm, Adam, you're gay.

Penis: Shhh...you're ruining it!

Sexuality: Oh come on, penis, he ordered a bellini.

Stomach: Actually, I ordered that.

Egullet: And you wondered why your meal was so expensive?

THE END


The Amateur Gourmet

www.amateurgourmet.com

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If was he following his stomach and not his penis, he might have done a lot better.

THE BATTLE FOR ADAM'S ATTENTION AT CHARLIE TROTTER'S

a short play

Stomach: Adam, you are at a very fine restaurant...now focus!

Penis: Don't listen to him, stomach, you can totally score with Alex tonight if you yuk it up!

Stomach: Score with Alex? Please.

Penis: Shut up, stomach, and drink your Ame.

Stomach: Ahhh, what a refreshing herb-infused fruit beverage!

Alex: Ummm...Adam, you're talking to yourself again.

Waiter: Would you like some wine with your Ame?

Alex & Adam: No thanks.

Penis: Make your move Adam!

Sexuality: Ummm, Adam, you're gay.

Penis: Shhh...you're ruining it!

Sexuality: Oh come on, penis, he ordered a bellini.

Stomach: Actually, I ordered that.

Egullet: And you wondered why your meal was so expensive?

THE END

brutal


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THat might have been the best laugh I have gotten from the Gullet in a while.


Bill Russell

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baphie:

Although I think adrober would enjoy Trotter's under different circumstances, I don't dismiss his "pseudo-review." For better or worse, it was his experience (and not ours), for which he paid dearly. I can't say whether it's getting off on the wrong foot or not, since mistakes can provide valuable insight. For that reason, I think it's as good a starting point as any. (On a side note, my review of Trotter's wasn't unfavorable, per se, but balanced [as I saw it]. To this day Charlie Trotter's remains as one of my four favorite restaurants in the U.S.)

Bux:

I interpreted his post as a "comedy piece," too, but I don't think his being lighthearted should detract from the validity of his opinion. Just because he's not as serious as other members (myself included) doesn't mean he should be given demerits (which isn't to say he's anywhere near earning his eGullet Boy Scout badge).

IML

ballast/regime


"Get yourself in trouble."

--Chuck Close

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Bux:

I interpreted his post as a "comedy piece," too, but I don't think his being lighthearted should detract from the validity of his opinion. Just because he's not as serious as other members (myself included) doesn't mean he should be given demerits (which isn't to say he's anywhere near earning his eGullet Boy Scout badge).

That I didn't find it funny, is not my point. That he came back and defined his post as a review was my point. I saw the humor, but I also note that he was reinforcing what I see as a reverse snobbism perspective. I thought his follow up script had more humor, but I didn't know bellinis were a gay drink and I'm sorry his palate didn't play a role. I think I generally have trouble with stereotyping because so few of the people I hang around with seem typical of their type.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Fascinating review.

Welcome, Adam.

I think one point which people have tiptoed around is what is the point of a high-end restaurant. I see two alternatives.

1) The point of a high-end restaurant is to be the best for everybody. The whole point of having the best food and the best service is that it should be able to make anybody coming in feel at home better than any other place. If a customer - be it adam or anyone else does not feel welcome, than it has failed. If a customer comes in with different expectations, doesn't feel they belong it is up to the restaurant to make the feel welcome.

2) The point of a high-end restaurant is to cater high end food and service for those who appreciate it. Think of it as a certain "genre" as you will. Some people with appreciate it, some will not. If they do not this may not necessarily be the fault of the restaurant. They may not be suited to this.

A couple of examples to illustrate the point:

- An example of the first kind of restaurant would be the traditional 1970's french provincial *** a la Great Chefs of France ("auberge made good"), where the locals would come in for a quick bite as they have been doing for decades, rubbing shoulders with the jet-setters who've choppered in just for lunch. The restaurant does its utmost to make both feel at home. From what I hear the French Laundry may qualify in this regard.

- An example of the second kind would be conceptual places. The El Bullis or Fat Ducks of this world where it is quite clear the food may not be for everyone, and you shouldn't really be going there is you just expect a rib-eye with chips.

- To take an extreme illustration, if a tramp comes into CT, with a legitimate reservation [lets assume for the sake of discussion they meet all the niceties about meeting the dress code, can afford to pay &tc] what should be restaurant do. Under 1) the restaurant should do the utmost to make them feel welcome; make special treatment to make them feel well and would be considered to have failed if they don't have a great time. Under 2) the restaurant would be doing the right thing to give the customer the usual posh service, regardless of that fact it is completely inappropriate for this kind of customer.

To sum up, I suspect most high-end restaurant fall into one of these two categories, with an increasing proportion in the second category. I suspect a great deal of the debate has focused around which category CT's fits into.

To restate this point in a single sentance: Is the customer always right?

cheers

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Like H.L. Mencken, Adam seems to delight throwing "a dead cat into the temple" every now and again, just to see what happens. If the temple has remained unscathed, the reaction of the congregants has been revealing; those most dedicated to defending CT's hallowed status doing the most to harm it, by confirming almost every snotty stereotype Adam draws.

A little perspective would go a long way.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Clearly, the point of a restaurant like Charlie Trotters is like the #2 described in Jon Tsengs post. You have to be ready for the experience, and willing to submit to the protocol of the restaurant. It is unreasonable to expect a restaurant ( any restaurant) to be all things to all people, regardless of the price of a meal.

All good restaurants try to be as accomodating as possible, and Trotters is no exception, but there are limits. ( I once did a full on degustation with a guest who was vegan and drank no red wine )

When a restaurant and or chef reaches icon status ( both Charlie and his eponymous restaurant qualify ) it becomes almost impossible to meet the expectations of the dining public. I mean come on, it's only food and wine.

Of course there are those magical occasions when it all happens and the diner is transported into that otherworldy state of foie gras and trockenberenauslese induced nirvana, but often this is influenced by other factors as well. Who you are with, how your day at work was, etc...

Sort of like dropping acid, you have to be ready to have fun.

For the record, I have had an inordinate number of those experiences at Trotters. He ( and his staff ) have done an amazing job of remaining consistently excellent for a long time.


wine is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy
Ted Cizma

www.cheftedcizma.com

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Of course there are those magical occasions when it all happens and the diner is transported into that otherworldy state of foie gras and trockenberenauslese induced nirvana, but often this is influenced by other factors as well. Who you are with, how your day at work was, etc...

Sort of like dropping acid, you have to be ready to have fun.

Are you sure you're not talking about going to a Dead show?


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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No, the customer is not always right. The fact that you can pay a bill doesn't make you "right" or give you a free pass to be a prick. The whole "customer is always right" thing is way-too-often turned into "I'm the customer, now get over here and start kissing my ass". Anybody who treats everybody who comes to their establishment/business with the attitude that it's now ass-kissing time will obviously do anything for a buck. No wonder part of many people's dream of owning their own business is so that they can tell cretinous customers to go to hell.

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From an interview with Charlie Trotter:

If I'm going to be successful, the food needs to appeal to an extremely sophisticated diner and a lay diner simultaneously, the way great music may work. Connoisseurs and lay-people will have different experiences, but I want to create an overall dining experience that can be appreciated by those distinct types of people.

Sometimes When You Are Right, You Can Still Be Wrong. ~De La Vega

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I'm not an expert on CT. I've been there once. I was well treated. Although I came to haute cuisine at much older age than Adam, I've been dining in such restaurants in several countries for long enough to be a keen observor. I'm not a native of Chicago and this was my first hight end experience in Chicago. From what I could observe, there were few people in their twenties perhaps, but plenty of diners quite a bit younger than I was. All were reasonably well dressed. It may or may not be polite, but my curiosity level was much higher than if Ihad been at home in New York. I was more than a bit interested in conversations around me and particularly in those between the staff and diners. I had the impression that a good percentage of the crowd was there for the first time and that for many of them, this was their first experience in this type of restaurant. In fact, it wouldn't have mattered if there was only one couple that fit this description. What is applicable here is that I heard people tell the waiter this was their first visit and that the menu was unfamiliar to them. I couldn't tell if they had read a lot about CT in magazines or just simply heard it was the best restaurant in Chicago at the time. They did not express any discomfort, they expressed an unfamiliarity with the food and did so without a chip on their shoulders. In turn they were treated not only professionally, but with warmth and interest. I was quite impressed with the openess on both sides and took it as a sign of midwestern attitudes, which might be described as an ability to take life without an "attitude." This was all a few years ago and CT may have changed it's attitude. I can't truly say, but with my little first had knoweldge, I sense Adam's report of snooty and snotty treatment is either a product of his insecurity or a figment of his imagination as my view of CT is that of a third type of restaurant. It is what it is, but welcomes everyone to appreciate what it is and will bend over backwards to help any diner willing to meet them with an open mind.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Like H.L. Mencken, Adam seems to delight throwing "a dead cat into the temple" every now and again, just to see what happens. If the temple has remained unscathed, the reaction of the congregants has been revealing; those most dedicated to defending CT's hallowed status doing the most to harm it, by confirming almost every snotty stereotype Adam draws.

A little perspective would go a long way.

Here, Here Busboy.

Well Put.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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adrober:

My wife and I were actually sitting next to you that night, I think.

I noticed because we were receiving basically the same courses at the same time (my wife is a vegetarian). If it was you, I think I may have turned and said something about it.

I agree that the food was very good, but not spectacular. I was impressed by some of the hard-to-get ingredients being served, and the portion size was as I would expect for an eight course (or so) meal. I left the restaurant in good spirits and sated, but not popping. It's worth noting that Chef Trotter was not in the kitchen that night.

However, I too agree that it was overpriced. I paid the same price, give or take, for a 25-course Tour de Force at Trio, with 16 wines, and had a LOT more fun. I told Chef Grant Achatz as much.

I also did not appreciate the fact that an 18% gratuity was automatically added to the bill. I always tip very well at fine dining places if the service is friendly and good (Trio is exceptional, Trotter's was OK but a little staid) but I'm not a mathemetician, and subtracting 18% from the check to get the pre-tip total and adding another 2% or whatever is way beyond my limited scope.

POSTSCRIPT: I really didn't read Adam's original post as being particularly negative, just critical. He seemed mostly uncomfortable with the service and "small portions". I thought the service was correct and the portion size was correct. If I were "reviewing" my meal on Oct. 31, I would have said that everything was as expected, but the food seemed slightly soulless. My wife's vegetarian menu actually had several dishes that were MUCH more interesting than my meat items. But overall, I would love to return; it's an excellent restaurant.


Edited by bleachboy (log)

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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I'm with busboy.

More cats in the temple!

In fact, the sheer pomposity of some the reactions to adrober's initial post only inspires to bring the whole temple down.

And c'mon--the bathroom protocol at CT:

" Just point me at the fucking bathroom, dipshit! Whaddya wanna do? Hold my dick while I piss? And yes--I KNOW what to do with the towels!" I don't know about you--but I find that kind of faux-obsequious pretentiousness off-putting. Is that kind of nonsense supposed to make diners (especially new ones) more comfortable? Many might not want to clue the entire dining room every time they have to evacuate. And keep your hands off my napkin while you're at it. I think I can figure out where it goes.

CT is, without question, I think, one of the best and most important restaurants in the country. But a raw, unsolicited, first-person account like adrober's points up some serious issues about the future of fine dining .

If your restaurant denies me salt and pepper--or a cocktail ("dulls the palate") for instance, I can well imagine the ensuing boiling rage and bile skewing my estimation of the food on its merits.

We do ourselves and our shared obsession no favors by so readily dismissing both poster and post.


abourdain

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