Trotter to the Moon
By now, you’ve probably read about the $5,000 all-star chef blowout dinner at Charlie Trotter’s (816 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-248-6228) on October 7th to raise funds for Trotter’s Cullinary Education Foundation and to celebrate the restaurant’s 20th anniversary. Pollack attended the event, in deep disguise, and like everyone else, she was blown away by the food and the passion contained within the walls of the restaurant, courtesy of world-class chefs Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Tetsuya Wakuda, Pierre Hermé, David Myers, and Trotter himself. (Thank God no culinary terrorist decided to target Lincoln Park that night.) She also recorded every chef’s speech, which included the obligatory lovey-dovey mutual respect stuff, and plenty of more thoughtful comments. Here, some excerpts—and each chef’s menu item in italics:
• David Myers (Sona Restaurant; Los Angeles), who prepared the canapés: “I remember the very first time that I opened up [Trotter’s] namesake book; I didn’t want it to touch the floor. There’s this Buddhist philosophy: You don’t want to put any important books on the floor. I called it ‘The Red Book.’” Canapés included kampachi fish with grapefruit and fennel powder; Kobe beef tartare topped with a quail egg; and duck confit roll with lime radish purée.
• Ferran Adrià (El Bulli; Roses, Spain): “The kitchen is a language where every chef speaks to the guest. And the guests, they do not have to understand anything. They only have to get excited.” Ostras con pistacho verde y cítricos
• Trotter on Tetsuya Wakuda (Tetsuya’s; Sydney; Australia): “He flew in from Tokyo this morning, and he’s leaving tomorrow morning, so he came just to do this. By the way, it’s impossible to get into his restaurant, so don’t even try. But if you call Trotter’s, we might be able to help you.” Ravioli of asahi crab with crab terrine, finger lime, and rice wine vinegar
|Seashell and iPod|
• Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck; Bray, England): “We were playing around with various techniques that [test whether] sound can actually help. We told people we’d made two bacon-and-egg ice creams, and [asked them], ‘Which one has more bacon flavor, and which one has more egg flavor?’ We played the sound of sizzling bacon, and then we played the noise of a chicken clucking. Nearly everybody found the egg to be more in the ice cream when they were listening to the sound of the chicken—and of course it was the same ice cream.” “Sound of the sea,” a dish of razor clam, uni, oyster, wakame, and ocean foam made with shellfish juices served on edible sand with a seashell holding an iPod mini that played a recording of the surf beating against the shore [NOTE: Trotter ran around the room making sure people were using their iPods correctly. We were told we were doing it wrong: Everyone plugged in too soon—we were supposed to wait until we were eating the course. Oh, dear. What a faux pas!]
• Trotter himself served two dishes: four heirloom tomatoes and four organs, and line-caught cod with ann-kimo, black trumpet mushrooms, and “surprises,” which included a raviolo of thinly sliced turnip and monkfish liver.
• Trotter on Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York): “There’s Thomas, there’s Ferran, there’s Heston, there’s Tetsuya, but Daniel is the guy that gives the orders. I mean, we stand back and say, ‘Oui, chef! What should we do now?’” Wild Scottish grouse with Sarawak pepper “cromesquis” parsnips, Anjou pears, and sauce grand veneur-cassis (“Don’t tell anyone,” said Boulud, “I put a little bit of foie gras in there.”)
• Thomas Keller (French Laundry; Yountville, California) on Trotter: “Charlie was one of the first American chefs to have the courage and the vision to really open a fine-dining restaurant in this country, one that was going to compete with the great restaurants in France.” Four Story Hill Farm cuisse de poularde, King Richard leeks, spice-poached pruneaux d’Agen, and black winter truffle “coulis”
|Left: almond macaroon; right black truffle macaroon|
• Trotter on Pierre Hermé (Pierre Hermé; Paris, France): “If you’ve ever been to his pastry shops in Paris or in Tokyo, or around the world, they’re like little jewelry shops. People will wait in line for an hour or more to get just four or five macaroons.” Pâté sablée au maïs, crème de mascarpone aux petits pois à la menthe, maïs assaisonné au malt et gêlée de menthe fraîche; macaron à l’aceto balsamique di Modena 25 ans d’âge
• Pollack on the almond macaroon: “It’s a delectable mini confection held together by a filling of reduced 25-year-old balsamico. It’s chewy; it’s sweet; it’s simply astonishing. It was the last dish, and I didn’t want to brush my teeth afterward.” The next day, when Pollack took an extra Hermé macaroon to her trusty intern, Sarah Desprat, Sarah said it more succinctly: “I don’t want to finish this, because then it will be gone.”