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adrober

Charlie Trotter's

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The truth is you don't remember the food. Was this because the food was intrinisically unmemorable or were you in such a state of inattention to it that it was not remembered by you? Those who criticize you tend think the "truth" is the latter.

Well, you heard from someone else that night who ate the exact same food and said: "I agree that the food was very good, but not spectacular." And I completely, 100% disagree that I was in a "state of inattention": I was incredibly focused on the food. Did I understand everything I ate? No. But did I want very much to enjoy it? Of course!

I think your "arch" take on the dinner dynamic is incredibly off. Instead of me trying to impress Alex with mockery and scorn, it meant very much to me that she be blown away by the food. You have to understand that I am a lone rider in my group of friends when it comes to eating: I am trying to convince them that the pursuit of good food is, indeed, a noble one. If anything, I was incredibly sensitive to the food that night because it would have been the best thing ever if Alex had burst with excitement at the table, smacking her lips and saying "this is the most amazing meal I've ever had!" The fact that it wasn't and she didn't may be due to an off night in the kitchen or unreadied tastebuds, but in either case the idea that we blithely dismissed the food is wrong.


The Amateur Gourmet

www.amateurgourmet.com

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I've only read the initial post and a couple pages worth of responses, but I thought I'd pass along my experience.

CT's was the first 5 star restaurant I ever went to. I had been to plenty of 3 star restaurants and a couple 4 stars, including Tru a couple nights before. Since then, I've been to Inn at Little Washington, French Laundry, and Gary Danko's, plus several 4 star places that aren't far behind in providing a quality experience, such as The Mansion at Turtle Creek.

The whole dining experience was impressive, clearly a step above any dining experience before. The level of service still is unmatched, I think. We had a fabulous captain. eg, at the end of the meal we had received some mignardises which included these small truffles which were fantastic. Some of the best truffles I'd ever had or have ever had (and this includes Gand's housemade truffles at Tru, which are fantastic). The captain was asking if there was anything else we wanted and I joked, "About 1000 more of of those truffles." The Captain didn't really laugh. He said something like, "Just a moment," and briskly left the table into the back. The murmering among our table started. Would he really be getting us more truffles? He must, maybe a couple more each. In a minute or two he returned. "We don't have 1000, sorry, but I hope 88 will do." Do? Hell, we were in heaven. 88 more truffles to split between the 5 of us. We also got a wonderful tour of the kitchen, without asking, and Trotter's studio for his TV show. They gave us nice copies of the menu. The captain answered a ton of questions about preparations and ingredients and never even needed to look at a notebook.

btw, the bathroom issue was a bit of one for me. We were in the frontmost dining room. I think there's one upstairs or something, too. Right next to where people sit, practically, is a bathroom, the one I got shown to. I'm not sure if I went, or if I just sat down to pee. I hate the thought of people hearing me go to the bathroom and that door was much too close to the dining room for my comfort. You certainly wouldn't have wanted to have eaten some bad Indian for lunch. Could be quite embarassing.

We did have one service blip. When we got there we had to wait for 15 minutes or more (after our reservation time) for our table without any explanation (it was the first seating) or anything to help us while our time.

Also, none of us drank and I don't ever remember being pressured to buy anything in place of wine or anything like that.

The portions are pretty normal, maybe even larger, than a lot of tasting menu formats. It is damn expensive, but that's normal for Chicago and that level of dining experience in other major cities. I'm a fat guy who likes to eat and I didn't come away hungry. In fact, I came away bloated and stuffed because I kept putting away roll after tasty roll (they had several different kinds to choose from).

I do think that they had the worst food of the 5 star restaurants I've been to, though I've only got one experience to go on. There were several dishes that divided the table and one or two that I think failed. But that may be partly the more adventurous nature of his menus than some other 5 stars.

I don't think food quality, especially just on taste, necessarily increases with the number of stars for a restaurant. And the marginal gains for food quality clearly diminish, I think, at all 5 star places. The best values are probably to be had at good 3 star and 4 star places that don't charge an arm and a leg, especially in cities like my hometown of Portland, where most 3 stars charge under $20 for all their entrees and still make good stuff. But I think the dining experience does increase quite proportionally, maybe even approaching exponentially, with the amount of stars. The experience at a place like Trotter's is really so far in the atmosphere compared to any 3 star place in Portland that the $25 three course meals I can get here would have to cost $2500 at a 5 star place to really capture the difference in quality of the overall dining experience. And I'm someone who the nuances of fine dining -- what silver and china and stemware are used, whether the captain refers to me by name, whether my chair is pulled out, etc -- are generally lost on.

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Beans, I was writing to Bux. We have our little go-arounds from time to time and this is one of them. I'll stand by what I wrote and if Bux disagrees (or agrees) maybe I'll write back. You're riding a pretty high horse for bein' a bartender.

First, no one writes to anyone else in the public forum. It's all subject to public criticism. If anyone here feels their messages should not be subject to public comment, it shouldn't be posted. Then, let's all remember to focus on what's said and the validity of the statement rather than pretending we can establish a lesser level of validity by associating intelligence, education or social class with what one does or who one is.


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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The truth is you don't remember the food. Was this because the food was intrinisically unmemorable or were you in such a state of inattention to it that it was not remembered by you?  Those who criticize you tend think the "truth" is the latter.

Well, you heard from someone else that night who ate the exact same food and said: "I agree that the food was very good, but not spectacular." And I completely, 100% disagree that I was in a "state of inattention": I was incredibly focused on the food. Did I understand everything I ate? No. But did I want very much to enjoy it? Of course!

I think your "arch" take on the dinner dynamic is incredibly off. Instead of me trying to impress Alex with mockery and scorn, it meant very much to me that she be blown away by the food. You have to understand that I am a lone rider in my group of friends when it comes to eating: I am trying to convince them that the pursuit of good food is, indeed, a noble one. If anything, I was incredibly sensitive to the food that night because it would have been the best thing ever if Alex had burst with excitement at the table, smacking her lips and saying "this is the most amazing meal I've ever had!" The fact that it wasn't and she didn't may be due to an off night in the kitchen or unreadied tastebuds, but in either case the idea that we blithely dismissed the food is wrong.

Fair enough.

I think I was unclear - my reading was not that you were trying to impress Alex by heaping scorn on the food or by otherwise betraying what may have been your first inclinations. I felt you were more playing off of her, obviously a strong and witty personality from her profession, though also of a certain anti-elitism/classist edge from your account of her. I feel your own, authentic account or reaction was subsumed or supressed by her reactions. The food may not have provided an epiphany - it did not the last time I was there - but Alex may not be of a mind set to have had one regardless. As I said, that is my reading based soley on your text.

Good luck, in all seriousness, on your pursuit. If next time you are in Chicago, I would recommend Tru as a better place for both of you to go. It has a different vibe, no less serious about the food, but also not attempting the same all-encompassing experience as CT. We have taken our (then) 3 yr old son there, not something we would do with CT.

A.

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I was incredibly focused on the food.  Did I understand everything I ate?  No.  But did I want very much to enjoy it?  Of course!

Of course you wanted to. I take issue with the notion that all things worth appreciating in life are obvious and apparent to the most untrained senses. Not every painting, not every musical piece and not every dinner is going to appeal to the untrained eye, ear or palate. That you remembered the chicken as fishy is a curious thing.

  I disagree that one has to be expert for their views to be valid.  I think any carefully written account of an experience, regardless of how lofty the subject matter, can be worthwhile.

One doesn't have to be an expert to have a valid view, but one has to have some insight and the view must demonstrate that insight to the reader. My opinion that the world is flat is undeniably a view, but it has no validity in a discussion of geography.

I would rather read a Bux review of dinner at TGI Friday's than Bux's praise of dinner at Le Bernadain because it would be more honest.

More honest? Maybe more detatched and less passionate, but I would hope that a positive passion would actually enrich a review of le Bernadin and make it more intersting as well as more useful.

Similarly, even if my dinner review wasn't expert (Poussain is a sexless chicken? How weird!) it was genuine.  And I'd rather be an unsophisticated truth-teller than a pretentious poser who would moan with pleasure if duck feces were presented elegantly before him.

Poussain is a sexless chicken? Weird thought indeed. I'm a poor speller myself and understand why greater minds have trouble with little things like spelling, but it hinders communication sometimes. Poussain is likely a last name in France, or maybe Cajun country. Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young. Capon is a desexed (castrated?) rooster. The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food.

Most of us might rather be unsophisticated, all of us would like to be seen as telling the truth. Are you trying to say you're not pretentious or a poser and that your critics moan with pleasure at the sight of duck feces? Am I mistaken or would you care to support this?


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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Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young. Capon is a desexed (castrated?) rooster. The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food.

I don't agree with that. I know many young people who are passionately interested in food that would not know those terms.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young. Capon is a desexed (castrated?) rooster. The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food.

I don't agree with that. I know many young people who are passionately interested in food that would not know those terms.

I'm with you. I'm not young, I am passionately interested in food, and do not know those terms.

I think it is just another note of cedescension if you ask me.


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Similarly, even if my dinner review wasn't expert (Poussain is a sexless chicken? How weird!) it was genuine.

Poussain is a sexless chicken? Weird thought indeed. I'm a poor speller myself and understand why greater minds have trouble with little things like spelling, but it hinders communication sometimes. Poussain is likely a last name in France, or maybe Cajun country. Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young. Capon is a desexed (castrated?) rooster. The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food.

I think Adam's misconception came from here:

Poussin is a small, unsexed chicken.

Poussin is, in fact, a French word describing a very young, small chicken (see here and here).

Regardless, I don't know that it's constructive to dwell on whether he knows the French word for baby chicken, and while it may be indicative of an overall lack of exposure to a certain kind of French high dining, I am not sure it is a litmus test of food knowledge any more than knowledge of a word like "faraona."


--

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Similarly, even if my dinner review wasn't expert (Poussain is a sexless chicken? How weird!) it was genuine.  And I'd rather be an unsophisticated truth-teller than a pretentious poser who would moan with pleasure if duck feces were presented elegantly before him.

Poussain is a sexless chicken? Weird thought indeed. I'm a poor speller myself and understand why greater minds have trouble with little things like spelling, but it hinders communication sometimes. Poussain is likely a last name in France, or maybe Cajun country. Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young. Capon is a desexed (castrated?) rooster. The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food.

You are wrong as well, Bux. And showing some un-needed hostility when you are wrong.

I initially referred to a poussin as being 'unsexed.' This was probably unclear to someone with no agricultural background and came across as 'sexless.'

A poussin is a very young chicken, less three weeks usually. It is not a breed or a chicken bred to be small. Referring to it as 'unsexed' simply means it is too young to have developed secondary sex characteristics which is around 4-6 weeks.

"Sexing chickens" has a long history wrapped up with old wives tales about the best way to do it. Modern breeding has eliminated most of the problem by breeding species who have sex-linked characteristics which show up almost immediately. The reason it matters is one doesn't want to waste feed and resources on a cockerel who will have no value in egg production and one is all that is needed to fertilize the hens. Roosters will fight as well. Poussin is considered a luxury item since traditionally the chicken would have been butchered before its sex was determined, thus having the potential of eliminating the resource of an egg-laying hen.

A.

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Poussin is, in fact, a French word describing a very young, small chicken (see here and here).

Are you saying Bux is wrong?


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Bux, "The confusion here doesn't speak well about the depth of your interest in food." :raz:


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Poussin is a small, unsexed chicken.

Which is precisely correct.

A.

Poussin is, in fact, a French word describing  a very young, small chicken (see here and here


Edited by baphie (log)

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Just a thought, but if your post was intended as a conversation exclusively with Bux, while you did drag down nameless others that concurred with his opinion(s), well perhaps PM would have been the more appropriate route?

Beans, I was responding to Bux' post which was, as I remember, in response to one of mine. So with you jumping in and heading for my throat, I got a little hot. I continue to fail to see the merit of so many here jumping on Adam's original post of his experience at CT. At the least, people could have disagreed with his assessment with a lighter heart and some humor. I got a PM today from a member which in part said, "I can't believe what a bunch of snotty, elitist nonsense has been posted." I have to agree. We at egullet should do better when a new young member makes such a good first post.

If you're still smarting over me noting that you're just a bartender, keep in mind that I'm just a steelworker - one of the best in the country in some regards, but nonetheless just a steelworker.


Edited by Nick (log)

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Poussin is, in fact, a French word describing a very young, small chicken (see here and here).

Are you saying Bux is wrong?

I don't think Bux ever represented himself as an expert on chicken husbandry. To wit: "Poussin, to the best of my knowledge, is a little chicken--bred that way rather than just young" (emphasis is mine). As it turns out, he is partially mistaken because poussin are not, to the best of my knowledge, bred to be small (I think the ones bred to be small are "rock cornish hens").

The salient point of my post, I thought, was that a pissing contest about who knows the meaning which words and what such knowledge has to say about a person's level of high-end culinary fluency is unproductive. One would hope that we can avoid such a devolution of the discussion here and its concomitant counterstrikes, deletions, etc.


--

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Poussin is a small, unsexed chicken.

Which is precisely correct.

Poussin is, in fact, a French word describing  a very young, small chicken (see here and here

Balphie, the intent of my post was not to demonstrate that you were wrong. Rather, it was intended to reveal the source of Adam's misunderstanding. I would suggest that "small, unsexed chicken" conveys less information to one unfamiliar with chicken hudbandry than "very small young chicken." I am quite familiar with what a poussin is, and yet I had no knowledge of the age at which secondary sexual characteristics emerge in chickens, nor whether or not it is particularly relevant.


--

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The point is Bux was guilty of not doing the five seconds of research needed to find an answer that was better than the best of his knowledge, which fell short. And yet he directs hostility at the initial reviewer for same. It isn't about whose mojo is better or whose has a culinary dictionary in their mind. It is about motes in one's own eye and all that.

A.

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kind of off topic aren't we?


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

www.cheftedcizma.com

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Would someone in the know, be forthcoming with what the actual food cost of a meal of this caliber would be?

I'm not trying to bounce on CT, or his house, but If I were to spend $350 on a meal for two, I would be curious to hear how much of my dollar was spent on food, and how much was spent for a private guide to the men's room.

woodburner

When you dine at some place in the upper .01% percent of restaurants, you are paying for a whole experience, not just food. Ingredient costs are higher to a degree as items are rapidly shipped from producers who sometimes produce exclusively for that restaurant. Items are also chosen with extreme care and some restaurants (Chez Panisse orginated this) have dedicated 'foragers' whose job is to find the best .01% of ingredients. Also on the food, there are larger labor costs. Certain preps are labor intensive and will have a dedicated person for that job alone. Other items may take two or more days to prepare.

It is true that a lot of the expense goes to things like the flatware, the china, the linens and other element of the decor. The idea is to create an environment that removes the diner completely from the mundane and places them in a world of nothing but the dining experience for 3.5 hours or more. The job of the staff is the same and there is an abundance of staff to ensure that no single thing is overlooked. This staff is also very well-paid, vis-a-vis restaurant averages and places like Trotters have nice benefit packages to ensure loyalty and reduce the turnover rate.

When you go to a place like this, you are buying more than nourishment. Evidently for a lot of people, it is not worth it. That's fine -don't go, don't slag it.

OTOH, you can look it another way - if you appreciate fine things like high-thread count linens or beautiful china and you can't afford it (and its maintenance) in your household, the price of dinners at these restaurant can be within your reach.

A.

Thank you for an expertly written answer, and to everyone else who provided some insight.

woodburner

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emily - that was a great piece of writing.

thanks for sharing.

most of the other posts as i've kept up with this thread have been blah, blah, chicken, blah, palette, blah palate, blah blah...yours transported me.

thanks for giving me a better idea of what the CT experience is like.


Edited by tryska (log)

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emily - that was a great piece of writing.

Emily - I agree. That was a fine piece of writing. This whole thread would be much better if it contained only Adam's original post and yours. :smile:

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Beans, I was responding to Bux' post which was, as I remember, in response to one of mine.

Nick is this not a discussion wherein anyone can post in relation to any given post on the thread?

So with you jumping in and heading for my throat, I got a little hot.

I was? :blink:

I got a PM today from a member which in part said, "I can't believe what a bunch of snotty, elitist nonsense has been posted."

So?

We at egullet  should do better when a new young member makes such a good first post.

Again subjective words -- "should do better" and "good" are highly variable to the eye of the beholder.

If you're still smarting over me noting that you're just a bartender, keep in mind that I'm just a steelworker - one of the best in the country in some regards, but nonetheless just a steelworker.

"Smarting"? Nah, I think slkinsey's and Bux's response to this satisfied any concern I may have or have not had. Besides, what the heck does that have to do with anything here? Defining one as ______________ [fill in the blank with any of the thousands of job titles] is somewhat myopic, to say the least, and I find rather uninformative.

******

How is this turning into such a pissing match with hasty evaluations/judgments using "snotty," "elitest" and "hostile"? It seems the more one posts their valid opinion and observation, others herein are so very happy to throw stones in using words as such and certainly not offering up meritorious points. (read: IMHO, it's all petty name calling) :blink:


Edited by beans (log)

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Well Beans, I was trying to make a little peace. Since you chose not to take it that way, you know what you can do.

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People, please let's get this back on topic. We have a couple of articulate and thoughtful reviews of CT here. Focus on those. Otherwise, the big boys will have to close the thread.

Thank you.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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People, please let's get this back on topic.  We have a couple of articulate and thoughtful reviews of CT here.  Focus on those.  Otherwise, the big boys will have to close the thread.

Thank you.

Wise words from the master. Let's take them to heart.

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Hoping that this is back on topic: Adam, how did you find the experience at Seeger's? I'm curious because you've been there and it has much in common with Trotter's, at least on the surface. I was there three weeks ago and did not have a very good time. The service was really cold, made Trotter's look like a down-home joint, actually...I was dining alone, as I often do since I travel a lot. I brought a book, as usual, in case the wine list isn't interesting to thumb through (and it emphatically was not) and tried to make small talk with the staff, which was not very responsive (that's an understatement). Times I've been solo at high-end "celebrity chef" places the staff has bent over backwards to make me comfortable - chatty, chef comes out, curious what I do, why I'm there, etc. None of that at Seeger's. And the sommelier's selections of wines to go with the tasting menu constituted an amazing rip-off. A good Ste. Croix du Mont with the foie gras, a Bourgogne Blanc with the fish, a Vin de Pays (2002, worst vintage in modern history) with the duck and a quite good Muscat Beaumes de Venise with dessert. The two sweet wines were half-pours (nice Riedels) and the others were about 3 ounces. That's it. The total cost of all four bottles (the whole bottle), to the restaurant, was way less than what I paid for the pairing ($50). I know that you didn't drink wine at Trotter's but, believe me, you'd never get such basic wines as I was served (Bernard Morey Bourgogne Blanc and Grande Cassagne "Triage") there. That Grande Cassagne wholesales for something like $5.50! Anyway, I digressed. Just curious how you'd compare the two places: I've found CT to be more relaxed and the wines and wine service infinitely superior. The food...that's another long-winded story.

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