Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Chef / Owner Charlie Trotter
Even now, when it competes with a variety of other culinary noise and trends, Charlie Trotter’s can cause a sensation. It can change minds, preoccupy conversation, earn prizes and accolades when distractions from other sources rapidly spread and compete. Charlie has fascinatingly gathered steam during his tenure on Armitage - morphing, learning, teaching and giving. His sense of security and solidity continues to keep him engrossed and focussed upon how to keep it perfect and innovative. A fleeting reputation it is not - but a flurry of intellectually-based decisions, grounded in creativity itself, has assured the restaurant’s longevity.
The Chicago Chapter members were personally welcomed upon their arrived by Mr. Trotter who made a restaurant feel like a home. Bailli Honoraire/Officier Commandeur Howard Gardner had worked closely and in detail with Charlie Trotter to shape the event. The reception took place in the kitchen studio where the television programs are filmed. A Drappier “Grand Sendree” Brut 1989 accompanied the lightest of light canapés. During this time Charlie Trotter formally welcomed us, invited us to tour the three cellars and explained a little more of his philosophy about food manipulation. He explained the art of tweaking taste using the delicate application of organic produce, spices, herbs, light emulsified stocks, purees and essences to accommodate and suit wines, as well as the ability to heighten any one food taste with wine itself. Matching food to the wine through this method of culinary skill, and not wine to the food, was clearly the vehicle that had enabled him to break through new culinary frontiers. Teamwork and humility was obviously a major raw ingredient within the Trotter organization as well as a significant dedication to the education of young people. We were in for some surprises to say the least, one of which included a spontaneous gift to us of an Imperial of Chateau Pape-Clement 1982 from the cellar of Charlie Trotter’s. This was to be taken with the cheese course and to be tasted alongside the Chicago Chapter’s Chateau Pavie, St. Emilion 1982. Other wines selected for this dinner also came from our own Cellar and whose eligibility Vice-Chargé De Mission/Caviste Charles Lockhart had determined. Each wine’s characteristics, personality and maturity acted as the inspirational catalyst for the menu. The style of the wine dictated the composition and combinations of the dishes. We were served seven harmonious courses containing a diverse array of ingredients each possessing a different texture, its own isolated flavor and possessing individualism. Hidden flavors emerged upon the palate causing diners to summon their knowledge in order to be able to interpret the information taste buds were fielding to them, changed and heightened by the immaculate pairings - just as Charlie said it would. A considerable part of the dinner’s attraction lay in the mystery of its conception and its sleight of hand, not to mention the culinary ingenuity.