Thursday, February 2, 2012

Something A Little Different- Charlie Trotter's Cooking Class Demonstration By: Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bayston is a fitness trainer and business owner from Lincoln Park. Her favorite kind of food is fresh, healthy vegetarian food and 'za (pizza). She tries to eat according to her motto: "Gourmet Everyday- treat yourself to the freshest wholesome ingredients possible- you and your body deserve it".

A cooking class demonstration at Charlie Trotter’s is my most memorable dining experience. I saved the menu from this experience. Thirty-five of us who had the intuitive good fortune to purchase a $100 ticket for a school fundraiser were equally blown away and hopefully all have treasured the experience as I. Back then, Charlie Trotter’s ruled the Chicago fine dining destination spots. Others have followed, but at that time Trotter’s along with West Coast Keller and Waters were trend setters serving fresh flavorful food in stylish settings. Diners flock there to celebrate memorable occasions and receive the royal treatment: cozy amply spaced seating areas, relaxing background music congenial to conversation, cordial and attentive dining staff. A three-four hour sitting was the norm. This afternoon fit all those criteria and the icing on the cake was having Charlie himself and his entire staff at our disposal (in his kitchen I might add) for viewing and questioning.
The sommelier greeted each of us with utmost courtesy offering a champagne flute of Gruet Blanc De Noirs Brut from New Mexico to stimulate our afternoon palates. Relaxing living room chairs with sufficient high backs added to our comfort level as we all settled in to see the maestro at work and take copious notes. Our first of four wine-paired courses was a cerviche of Citrus (grapefruit- I recall) cured Smoked Salmon with Soba Noodles and Ginger Soy Hijiki Sauce. Our palates cleansed with a pouring of a 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Chateau La Nerthe . The second course sampling of Roasted Elephant Garlic Soup with Fennel, Cumin Scented Eggplant and Fennel Emulsion was no less impressive. Its creamy yet light texture languished on the tongue and again paired beautifully with the aforementioned aperitif. Both Charlie and Sous Chef Sari gave us sufficient explanations on the meticulous preparation of this dish. Another one of those why you don’t attempt this at home type detail. Of particular noteworthy was the fresh “home grown” ingredients incorporated from the garden out back. A key differentiation point offered in New American cuisine. Along with other notable restauranteurs then Trotter’s prodigious attitude provided the catalyst for today’s Green City Markets now commonly accepted city wide. But I digress, onwards to the Main Event; Thai BBQ Beef with Collard Greens and’ Hen of the Woods’ Mushrooms composed of a secret asian spice blend no doubt he will take to his grave. The Volnay selection of “Caillerets-Cuvee Anciennes Carnot” Bouchard provided an appropriate chaser. Gratefully the sommelier came by with ample refills as our never before stimulated tongues were on fire. Sadly, we accepted our final course that afternoon of Espresso Crème Brulee with Dark Chocolate Sauce, (simple but so smooth), with a tiny glass of 10 year old Malmsey Madeira. Alas our rich experience bought at a bargain basement price had come to an end. And now that this famed restaurant is closing its doors after twenty-five successful years makes it that much more memorable. Though almost twelve years have passed, I still relish this once in a lifetime experience in one of America’s most sought after kitchens. As they say in Hollywood – it doesn’t get any better than this

Charlie Totter's
816 West Armitage Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 248-6228


  1. I had the same experience. He invited a group of us last year. We all had such a wonderful time. Thanks for the memories.....

  2. Charlie Trotter had an event for hotel concierges several years ago. It was an experience of a lifetime. Make sure to get your reservation ASAP since he will be closing soon. You will be sorry if you miss out on this one!


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