Sunday, July 29, 2007

Charlie Trotter's: A Love Letter

Last night, Lisa, Matt and I ate at Charlie Trotter's. My expectations for the night were high, and were more then met by each and every aspect of the evening; excellent dining companions, impeccable and friendly treatment by the front of house staff, and food who's mere memory will be making me flap my arms like a goon for months to come.

Arriving at Charlie Trotter's, we were brought to a table in the upstairs back room. The room had four tables in total, and was simply lovely and elegant. Some would say the decor itself was dated, but I think those people stink. The notion that a restaurant has to have a slick and modern look to be current is a sad one. The building itself just felt good, if that makes any sense. The picture to the left shows a few angles. In the bottom left image, you'll see the table that we sat at in the corner, by the window and wall of wine.

Matt and Lisa made the excellent decision to partake of the premium wine pairing with their meal. Due to my light-weight almost never drinks status, I asked Fletcher, who, along with Molly, a sommelier with a delightful passion for her job, were responsible for revealing our courses to us as they appeared at the table, to recommend a single glass of red for me to nurse throughout the evening.

Lisa and I opted for the Vegetable Menu, and Matt partook of the Grand. Shall we take a look? But of course.

1st Bread:

  • Individual miniature baguettes
1st Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Machta Green Tea Tapioca with Spring Peas & Green Apple
  • Grand Menu: Scottish Langoustine with Cucumber & Ginger
2nd Bread:
  • Oatmeal square shaped roll
2nd Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Steamed Twelve Season Miso Cake with Spinach, Easter Egg Radish & Preserved miniature carrots
  • Grand Menu: Poached Cockles with Preserved Celery, Serrano Ham & Roasted Mayan Scarlet Peppers
3rd Bread:
  • Miniature rosemary bagel
3rd Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Tempura of Summer Squash Blossom with Capers, Zucchini & Heirloom Tomatos
  • Grand Menu: Alaskan Black Cod with Picholine Olives, Artichokes & Stinging Nettles
4th Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Morel Mushroom Cannelloni with TIny Sage, Summer Leek Custard & Roasted Shallot
  • Grand Menu: Rabbit Loin & Leg with Turnips, Fingerling Potatoes & Mustard Greens
5th Course:
  • Vegetable Menu: Grilled Red Plums with Poached Elephant Garlic, Amaranth & Thai Long Pepper Infused Merlot
  • Grand Menu: Crawford Farm Lamb Loin & Rack with Garlic, Aged Manchego & Parsley
Palette Cleanser:
  • Vegetable Menu: Watermelon Sorbet with Sake Gelee & Cucumber
  • Grand Menu: Canteloupe (Sorbet) with Feta Cheese & Spearamint
Desserts - Shared:
  • Poached White Peaches with Rolled Oats & Lavender (Ice Cream)
  • Indonesian Chocolate (Ice Cream) with Pine Nuts & Pandan Broth
  • Organic Buttermilk with White Pepper, Toasted Milk Ice Cream & Nutmeg
  • Chocolate, Tea (Ice Cream) and Caramel
  • Another ice cream / sorbet-based dish with a red wine-based twist
  • Another ice cream / sorbet-based dish of a trio of lemon and chocolate paired flavours
Dessert - Individual
  • Small cups of gently flavoured, uncooked meringue with a stick of dark chocolate for scooping

I really believe that this was the first tasting menu that I've experienced where I adored everything that was set in front of me. Each dish, as it came to the table, became my new favourite of the night. Because I am fickle like that.

And another because: Because I like lists, here's what I've been able to pull out as things that will be sticking in my mind for a long, long time:
  • Fletcher's excellent sense of humour. When I remarked, as I tend to do, about the laughably large size of my wine glass, he quickly grabbed a glass that was bigger then my head from some magical closet nearby, and set it in front of me.
  • Molly's deep knowledge of wine, and her delight in finding Lisa's similar love. She made recommendations for Lisa's future wine shopping expedition, and made sure to tell Lisa to use her name with one of her suppliers.
  • The plates and cutlery fit so well together, and the plating of each dish? Amazing.
  • The smell of the miniature rosemary bagels. And really, the smell of each plating, and the way that the flavours of each developed in my mouth. With each course, every forkful seemed to reveal a different aspect of each dish. Complex, but, at the same time completely understandable.
  • Favourite parts: the miso cake; the heirloom tomato sauce; the morel cannelloni and leek custard - the cannelloni was actually a morel filling surrounded by skin of leek; the flavour pairing of grilled plums and garlic; the thin layer of chocolate covering a thin layer of caramel under a scoop of tea ice cream; lemon and chocolate
  • And finally, Molly taking us on a quick tour of the kitchen, and the fact that each and every one of the kitchen staff took the time to look up from their station and acknowledged us as we tried to move through the room as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Lisa's calling out of "behind you" caused more then one to take pause and ask which of use had worked in a kitchen. Which was awesome.

I congratulate and thank those at Charlie Trotter's for an amazing experience. And to Lisa, Matt for being so awesome and clever for coming up with the suggestion to eat there.

The end.


Peter said...


As in, WOW.

I really enjoy your blog, but this entry almost falls into the category of major public service.  Sometimes I just sit around and read cookbooks (vegetarian).  Like novels.  With absolutely no intention of actually ever making anything from them, but simply to absorb and meditate on all those tasty-sounding words.  And if you look hard enough there's exposition, foreshadowing, the occasional allegory, and each recipe builds to its own climax . . . but I digress.  This was better. This was nuanced. A taste tone poem. You were working farther up the harmonic overtone series. And for a brief moment, I was there, slobbering on your leek custard.

My gustatory cells salute you.

FTR, last Saturday I had a bowl of veggie chili on brown rice, salad, and some wine from a box.  Oh yeah, and a bun.

Melissa said...

Peter, you just made my morning, mister! Thanks so much for being so lovely.

PS: your Saturday dinner sounds excellent. There's a time and a place for the fancy-pants stuff, but a good veg chili? Is worth its weight in gold. GOLD, JERRY!

Peter said...

You, madam, have range. A quality I truly admire. It's a pretty far leap from the Charlie Trotter degustation menus to the glop that comes out of my pressure cooker (albeit extremely tasty glop), but you have managed to completely retore my pride in my Saturday night peasant food.

You dignify my dinner. You validate my glop.

You're the best.

Melissa said...

I try, and you make me blush.