Tuesday, January 11, 2005

In the voice of comic book guy, "Best meal ever!"...

I was sorting through some things the other day and came across a copy of a menu from a couple years ago. I went to Chicago for my 30th birthday with my best friend. I only had one dinner reservation and I also had a goal to go to one of a short list of other restaurants. I went to all of them. We had a nice meal at Bin 36, a good meal at Spiaggia for lunch, an amazing meal at Blackbird, nice tapas and wine at Emilio's, and great lunch at Frontera Grill (best margaritas ever!) all interspersed with random drinking. The best single dish I've ever eaten was actually at Blackbird. Just imagine a 12 hour braised pork belly with fava beans. Absolutely, utterly, skullfuckingly orgasmic! Sorry if that's too vulgar, but it was insanely good. Plus, if you remember, it's my New Year's resolution to swear more and more creatively. Sorry. I heard about the place a couple years before that when the chef was one of Food and Wine magazine's top 10 New Chefs of the Year. He's was also a James Beard award nominee. Well worth the visit. I've also since turned on some foodies to the joint and they are in full agreement. But then there's Trio.

I heard about Trio from the same friends that I turned on to Blackbird. Trio is a small restaurant located in Evanston and it's attached to a sort of hotel/inn. It has apparently recently undergone changes and they have a new chef and pastry chef and have made it a more casual concept. They have changed the name to Trio Atelier and it has become a more accesible culinary destination. Grant Achatz was the chef when I was there. I had also read about it in Food and Wine at one point. Before becoming executive chef at Trio Mr. Achatz was sous-chef at the world famous French Laundry in Napa. Mr. Achatz has also worked under Charlie Trotter, Nobu Matsuhisa (!), Daniel Boulud(!), Alan Wong, and FERRAND ADRIA (!!!!!!) and Martin Berasategui in Spain before working under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. He was only 27 when he took the job at Trio.I made a reservation at Trio a few weeks in advance for a Tuesday night. We made our reservation early as it was going to be a long night. We got there a little early so we sat in a lounge area of the inn waiting for the restaurant to open. While we were waiting I swear that George Wendt walked by wearing a T-shirt and shorts. He was apparently staying there. It was going to be a long night because I signed us up for the 20 course "Tour de Force Tasting Menu". My friend is actually not a big eater, but I really wanted to do the 20 courses and everyone at the table has to do it. I helped her out. The portions were small. Really. I also decided to pay the extra fee and have wines paired with the meal. The wines were good and fairly inventive pairings, but I don't remember them as well as I remember the meal. I do remember having Lillet, a sake, Chartreuse, Madeira, Sancerre, a Spanish red, etc...

So here's the menu (actually 21 courses)...

Watermelon-Smoky Paprika Ice
Ice Cream Sandwich (extra virgin olive oil ice cream with parmesan cookies)
Shaved Bottarga
"Bloody Mary" vodka mist (a crazy deconstructed bloody mary with worchetsershire gelee, horseradish foam, celery ice, tomato concasse, and spritzed at the table with vodka)
Black Truffle Explosion (An insanely good open-faced ravioli that explodes in the mouth when eaten properly. The server tells you how to eat each course, as per the chefs instructions.)
Sherry Vinegar Sorbet basil, oranges
Sashimi of Fluke flavors of the sea
"Oysters and Beer"
Maine Lobster with Rosemary Vapor (Okay. Imagine butter-poached lobster in a bowl that is set inside a larger bowl that is filled with rosemary. Now imagine the server pouring hot water into the larger bowl. The aroma of the rosemary while eating the lobster is intoxicating. Insane!)
Spoons (four different spoons with different gelees on each)
Atlantic Spotted Skatewing mango, popcorn coulis, curry (the coulis was actually made from POPCORN!!!)
Mole of California Squab chilies, chocolate, seeds (WTF?!?!?! Insane! Okay, try to wrap your brain around this one. On one side of the plate is the squab, the seeds and chilies are in the middle, and on the right is an upside-down martini glass. There is a homeade chocolate sauce on top (the bottom) of the martini glass. Underneath the martini glass is a heated stone with more seeds and chilies on top of it. The server lifts the glass and drizzles the chocolate in the center of the plate with the seeds and chilies. The aroma of the heated seeds and chilies is released by lifting the glass. WTF?!?!?!? Insane and insanely good!)
Spice Water (It's a shooter. It was spiced water with a hazelnut foam.)
Elysian Fields Farm Lamb wild blackberry, beets, anise, red wine
Grilled Ribeye of Prime Beef matsuake mushrooms, soy
Icy Wildflower Honey-Hyssop Broth
Pushed Foie Gras Anjou pears, sauternes, salt roasted pear sorbet
Sparkling Rhubarb Parfait ginger soda, oat wafer (using a straw)
Tea Smoked Chocolate crystallized nori, Asian plums
Sweet Corn Ice Cream candied tomatoes, toasted corn bisquit
Soymilk Panna Cotta arugula

Unfrickin' believable! This guy is a culinary genius! Nuff said! Every course was mind-blowing. I guess he's opening his own restaurant soon in the Lincoln Park suburb of Chicago soon. You only turn 30 once! This was hands-down the best meal of my life. I dropped a gigantic wad, but it was worth it.

Today's wine recommendation... The only thing that can follow that is a Pabst.

Until the next bottle...


Blogger Kathleen said...

So, what kind of seeds were in the Mole of California Squab or whatever the hell it was called? It's amazing, but none of that sounds vegetarian at all!!!

1:19 PM  

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