The End of an Era at Charlie Trotter’s
With Charlie Trotter’s closing this year — for good — and it being such a Chicago institution, I made the executive decision that KP and I must go there for dinner before it was no longer an option. Getting a reservation actually wasn’t that difficult. I booked at the end of June for a reservation at the end of August, albeit a late reservation at 9:30 p.m.
We were seated on the second floor and in our little “room” there were two other couples, both of whom had their gigantic Nikon cameras out on their tables. I love food porn just as much as the next gal, but I’m really on the fence about taking pictures — especially with big honkin’ DSLR cameras like that — at fancy schmancy restaurants. On the one hand, I feel like it’s my prerogative to take pictures if I want to take pictures. After all, I’m the one picking up the tab. But on the other hand — and the hand that seems to be the way I feel more often than not — it’s a little obnoxious and I feel like I should be enjoying the moment rather than worrying about getting a picture just right (not to mention annoying my fellow diners). Even when I do take pictures while dining out, I usually just use my little old iPhone. No, the pictures aren’t the best (as you’ll see after a few scrolls here), but I feel like it’s a little less intrusive. The reason I bring this up? Well, the couple seated adjacent to us must’ve spent 99% of their meal solely focused on taking pictures. I kid you not when I say that the woman had the camera to her face from the second I was seated, until after we ordered. It was just a bit much.
At Charlie Trotter’s, there are three menu options. The Kitchen Table Menu isn’t available to just anyone; you have to book your reservation specifically for the kitchen table in order to be wowed with whatever Chef Trotter feels like cooking up on a given night. However, you can choose from the Vegetable Menu or the Grand Menu. And while I do love my veggies and have heard that that menu is equally delicious, I do love my meat. So both my husband and I opted for the Grand Menu plus the wine pairing.
The Grand Menu consisted of eight courses, three of which were dessert. I have to admit, when the first course came out, my heart sank just a little bit. The service was a little spotty, which shocked me. Case in point, the server spilled my cucumber broth on the white tablecloth and all I got was an, “oops.” Now, I didn’t expect him to whip out a new tablecloth, but I was just taken aback that he spilled it to begin with (yes, I realize accidents happen) and then pretty much shrugged it off. But that aside, it was an unremarkable first course. Not terribly tasty and just… meh.
Things turned around, though. As the next courses started coming out, I found them to be packed with flavor and more along the lines of what I expected from a place like Charlie Trotter’s. Still, service never really ironed itself out. The staff seemed to be clunky, constantly whispering to each other but not in a calm, cool, collected way. And the amount of time between each course was inconsistent. I actually prefer a lapse between courses, but it was a bit excessive at times. Thank goodness the bread boy came around regularly, though. He offered up a different variety each time, too. My favorite was the roll filled with bacon and topped with a maple glaze, which reminded me of the bacon buns my mom makes. A new idea for her!
Of the entire meal, desserts aside, my favorite dish was probably the Elysian Fields Farm Lamp Shank with Curried Celery Root and New Zealand Spinach. Notice I said “desserts aside.” That’s because the desserts totally stole the show, in my opinion. Three desserts with any dinner is just genius, as far as I’m concerned, regardless of the number of courses.
(Now is the time that I apologize for my lackluster photos, but you’ll get the gist.)
Our first dessert course was Raspberry Sorbet with Lemon Verbena Cream and Chambord Curd Tart. It was paired with a Moscatel from Malaga. Dessert is the only time I really like moscatos, and this one went really well.
Up next was my favorite of all three desserts, Brown Butter Corn Bread with Michigan Cherries and Corn Gelato. Yes, corn gelato. This is the second dessert I’ve had this summer that involved an ice-cream-like substance with corn. And it is so good.
The grand finale, served with a zinfandel, was the Dark and White Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Balm Puree and Strawberry-Tonka Bean Sorbet. It was a close second for me.
Eight courses later and I was more than pleasantly full. I would say borderline miserably full, but in a good way.