I was curious about Charlie Trotter’s auction of his restaurant delectable. Curiously, I visited the auction to survey the goods. I wanted something from my favorite eatery to incorporate into my kitchen. His Lincoln Park restaurant had a very homey feel. You felt like you were coming to Trotter’s cooking home rather than a high-end eating place.
He presented exquisite dining at its very best. The food was exquisite. It was special and delicate eating. The whole experience represented a genius at work - from the background jazz music to the drinking glass. The presentation was perfect. I love fine dining. Some years ago I gave my mother and aunts a birthday dining weekend. The weekend ended at Trotter’s, with the Chief’s Choice Menu. I did not allow them to order wine, mostly because it was totally out of range, but drinking water made the food taste better. At these prices, I wanted every mouth full savored forever.
My curiosity with Trotter was his idea of perfection. I liked his success. He is the best chef and he made you pay for the total experience. His was not food for the ordinary but for the gourmet aficionado. His was not food to impress but food for the gourmet intelligent taste buds. He is a food professor.
I wanted something from this landmark place. During my visit with the seekers and the auctioneers, as I was looking, something strange happened. Appeared in person, Mr. Trotter, himself. He was robust. I didn’t recognize him at first. But he was asking the lookers are you buying or are you looking. He watched you watch. He was quiet yet passionate. I felt his pain at closing his love. Closing a business is a death of sort.
He walked up to one lady who was buying photographs that had hung on his wall. She said she was placing them in a hallway. He aggressively snatched the pictures, and signed them for her and told her now they will be worth something. He also told her they were not pictures for a hallway. He told her about each picture. One was of unique mushroom. One was of Trotter on a pastry chef cover magazine, and he explained how unusual because he was not a pastry chef.
I asked him about a glass that was fabulous and got my attention. The glass, I was told sold for $1,000, brand new. The glass would hold a whole bottle of wine. How do you use it, I asked. Is it the glass for alcoholics only? No. You can use it as a decanter. You can put your usual amount of wine in it and the aroma and taste is at its best because the wine breathes so well. Oh, I said. Thank you very much.
Unique dishes caught my eye. There were beautiful plates extra large with a beautiful deco trim. They were packed as a set of four. There was a white dish that was somewhere between a dish and a bowl. What do you eat out of this, I inquired. It was a service plate for a fish dish with a sauce. Can I serve salad in it? Yes, but then I thought gumbo would be delightful.
Trotter eventually called the auction off. I was present for no more than 30 minutes. I didn’t think he was going to get through the day. He was not pleased with the way his stuff was being auctioned. He took it over a couple of times to explain what was up on the block. He was fierce and wanted his stuff to be understood and appreciated not bought for pennies on the dollar.
I didn’t buy anything. But I appreciated the experience. And I’m not mad at Charlie Trotter for calling the whole thing off. Many didn’t respect his beauty. Perhaps next time he should have a call exclusively to those who understand.