Wednesday, August 26, 2009

tried + TRU(e)...Part I...Foodbuzz Community Table Dinner...

I was lucky enough to be one of the Featured Publishers of Foodbuzz chosen to attend the Chicago Community Table dining event that was held on Monday evening at TRU Restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked away in the shadows of a skyscraper canyon in the Streeterville area, close enough to the charming glitz and glamour of North Michigan Avenue. But as you enter the elegant revolving doors, you emerge in a world apart…a veritable culinary haven.

I had dined at TRU a few times prior to this event and know that TRU is known for their progressive French cuisine featuring fresh ingredients, inmaginative creativity and stunning artistic presentations. But my past culinary adventures was prior to being diagnosed with gluten-intolerance as a Celiac. This time at TRU, I was anxious to see how they would handle a Gluten-free meal in a prix fixe dining experience.

Upon entering, I was greeted by the maître d’ and an some of the original art that graces this lovely restaurant. Two of my favorite pieces are on display in the entry, the black and white photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto of La Tour Eiffel…blurred and the brilliant blue sculpture by Yves Klein titled Venus Bleu.

I was shown to a table in the lounge area and saw I was only the second person to arrive and introduce my self to Katie who writes the blog, Salt and Chocolate. Soon more of the blogger guests assembled and we were escorted to one of the private dining areas on the second level to mingle over cocktails and canapés.
We were served a light and I was told a refreshing cocktail of Basil infused sparkling lemon water and Finlandia Vodka. The presentation was beautiful and aromatic, but I opted to inhale the delicate herbal scent as vodka is made from pure barley, which contains gluten.


The first canapé that we were offered were called cauliflower spheres. On a chilled tray there were a dozen elegantly curved spoons. In each spoon was a pale cream-colored oval alginate cauliflower sphere which was exactingly and identically garnished with four bright orange fish roe, and a perfect tiny strip of lightly sweetened orange zest.

At first bite, my mind was blown; I abandoned all thought and just relaxed and enjoyed the ride. The ovoid cauliflower sphere and some of the roe burst open at first bite and flooded my tongue with a combination of slightly sweet vegetal smoothness and delicate flavors of the sea. The next bite had a bit more of the salty ocean and citrus flavors and aromas…but…!
I am still dreaming of this amazing bite.

The other two appetizers that were on offer were a scallop and lemon fried wonton and a crusty spherical petite beef Wellington. Both of these hors d'oeuvres were beautifully presented and smelled delicious, but were, of course off-limits to me because of the gluten factor. But my table-mates reported that both these apps were delicious as they rolled their eyes in pleasure.

I want expressed my appreciation to my fellow bloggers for allowing me to photograph the portions of dining experience that I was unable to taste with my palate. There were also so wonderful at describing their taste experiences for me in such a way that I really did not feel terribly deprived.

We passed a wonderful time of meeting, chatting and exchanging stories and business cards with fellow food bloggers. I met so very much wonderfully talented, charming, kind, sweet and interesting people that share my passion for food.
I was sorry not to be able to talk more with everyone at our table, but it was a long table and the seduction to taste, photograph and experience everything was a strong one. I do so hope I have the opportunity to get to know you all soon at another Chicago foodie event.

Those I did have a chance to get to know at my end of the table were of course, Katie of Salt and Chocolate, Alice and Jared of Eat a Duck I Must, Val and Mike of Chicago Marathon Val, Jada of Better with Butter, Courtney of Coco Cooks, Rebecca of A Homemaker’s Habitat, and two culinary students, Heather of Chik n’ Pastry and
Lindsey of Lindsey’s Kitchen.

I also sat near and was able to get to know Ryan Stern, Director & Managing Editor of Foodbuzz from the San Francisco office, and Chicago Foodbuzz staff members Amy and Gina. Thank you all so very much for you hard work with Foodbuzz in coordinating this wonderful event and to VISA Signature the sponsor.

amuse bouche

After about and hour or so of meet and greet, the dinner began in earnest with the amuse bouche of sea-cured salmon with cucumber gelée . The sea salt-cured smokey tasting salmon was presented in the center of a pale green gelée that was smooth and mild and complimented the briny flavor of the salmon.

The glowing red amuse was as brilliant as a tiny jewel garnished with ebony Nigella seeds and sapphire cornflowers. When I bit into the miniature petals of the cobalt blue flowers with the salmon, the spicy, clove-like flavor gave an added dimension to the bite and definitely sharpened my appetite for what was to come.

I have to add that even though I could not enjoy the fragrant array of breads, they were definitely tiny works of art. Knowing of my gluten-intolerance, I was given a elegant bowl of crispy golden popcorn dusted with White Flake Cyprus Sea Salt and finely grated Parmesano Reggiano.

first course: peeky toe crab

The first course was another precious gem on a plate, the peeky toe crab was initially plated as a lone jewel. The molded round of pale white crab sat atop a shallow bed of rosy pequillo peppers. It was topped with a perfect round of salty, pink prosciutto, and garnished with tiny leaves of scented globe basil and then perfectly piped with exactly 12 dabs of the spicy-sweet thick pequillo pepper puree. An exercise in perfection that results in a tasty as well as a delicious dish...

As an aside, I was happy to see that pequillo peppers was incorporated into the menu. They are my favorite ingredient to use to gently add a sweet zing of heat to proteins and vegetable dishes. Pequillo means "little beak" and these peppers are grown in Northern Spain, hand picked then roasted over open fires. The peppers are then peeled by hand then packed in jars or tins. The roasting of the pepper gives it a rich, spicy-sweet flavor. I always keep a jar of these in my pantry.

A few seconds after the crab dish was set in front of us, another waiter came to our places and added a pour of cantaloupe-cava consommé that had a hint of ginger around the elegant morsel. Now the jewel was complete in its setting, it didn’t stay there for long, it was too enticing…and I was hungry.

my second course: English pea soup with extra-virgin olive oil

This was one of my two favorite courses. From the first spoon, I was in soup-lovers heaven. Homemade soups, especially vegetable soups are my go to meals over the fall and winter months. This soup was utter simplicity with a very fresh intense pea flavor and the rounded green richness of a first cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil. The seasoning I detected were salt enough to enhance the fresh pea flavor and a bit of very finely ground white pepper.
I was humbled by the intensity of the deliciousness of this soup of such simple ingredients.
It was SO very good.
Yes, it was so very, very good that if I were not in a public place, I would have licked the beautiful green, blue and gold Versace china cup clean…lol…

I hope to try to make this soup at home. I just planted my fall crop of English peas in my garden, so I when the harvest comes in October I will be experimenting whenever I can to reproduce this recipe.

Those that could eat gluten received a Crispy fried frog leg on brunoise of carrots and celery with a watercress neige which was reported to be delicious and looked quite colorful in its stunning white curvilinear china presentation dish.

third course: olive oil poached scottish salmon

This Olive-oil poached salmon was my #1 favorite course with the English pea soup as a second. And I think that the salmon may have been the favorite course for most of the Foodbuzz blogger group. Right after it was served, a distinctive hush fell over the entire length of our otherwise animated table.

From the first bite of this buttery and rich preparation of the gorgeous pink piece of salmon to the last, it melted in your mouth and was “TRU(e) ecstasy” on a plate.

The tart bite of the pickled daikon was a perfect foil for the creamy tastes of the salmon and the coconut sauce. The garnish of the daikon star-flower and tiny “balls” of Granny Smith apple added that crunchy mouth feel to the overall richness.
A perfect and elegant dish...but not simplistic by any means.

And yes, I want more.

wine pairings

Beginning with the amuse bouche, we were poured an Alma de Blanco Godello Monterrei 2008, a white wine from Spain. It is a crisp white with soft sweet peach and citrus notes and a faint floral aroma. It was a perfect pair for these light seafood courses on our menu. I have seen this wine at my local wine purveyor and it was rated by Wine Spectator with an 89 and was under $20.00 a bottle.

Right after the fourth course, we were poured a red wine, a Niepoort “Twisted” Douro 2006 from Portugal. This red paired well with the meat course, the plums in the dessert, and the chocolate in the mignardises. I found the tastes of berries and plums and a bit of chocolate and spice in the finish.

I also recently saw this wine on sale an was attracted by the cool label. I read that Dirk Niepoort He worked with a German illustrator to create a cartoon story for the label. Robert Parker rates this wine at 88 and I saw this wine available at under $30.00 a bottle.

fourth course: braised beef short ribs

The beef short ribs were fall-apart tender and unctuous with a punch of flavors from the scallion pistou and added “umami” from the miso foam emulsion. I am a big fan of braised meats and as my butcher can attest, I am a good customer wheb it comes to Veal, Beef, Lamb and Pork cuts that can cook low and slow during the long cold Chicago winters as I work at home.
I enjoyed every bite of the beef, but married to the topper piece of unagi (freshwater eel) which I usually adore, was very dry and overly sweeten by a glaze and not the rich fresh taste that I love.

fifth course: dessert ~ seedling farms plums

My gluten-free dessert was not much different from the others; I was only missing what seemed to be a purple plum tuile as a garnish.

However, my dessert was not at all short on flavors. All the ingredients were harmonious and married incredibly well for what was a summer dessert masterpiece.
The delicious Red Beauty Japanese plum slices from Seedling Farms, my favorite fruit purveyor at Chicago Green City market were sweet, fresh and flavorful.
They brought a natural tart note to the handmade milk chocolate ice cream, the fluffy sarsaparilla cream, sticky-sweet (read delicious) ginger-lime meringue.
The refreshing plum granita was a wonderful way to clean you palate between the sweet bites and a perfect end to this elegant meal.

A cup of rich, full flavored Intelligentsia coffee rounded out this meal as we chatted and waited for the artistic display of yummy mignardises yet to come...
This may be TRU(e) love...

Comming soon…tried + TRU(e)…Part II,
celebrity chefs,
my favorite waiter and
back of the house secrets.
...please stay tuned.


alice said...

wow your descriptions are marvelous! i need to learn how to write better =)

jada said...

Nice meeting you too! Great post! Yes, I braved the rain to attend the Market--I haven't been enough this summer. Can't wait to make the squash blossoms :). Have you ever cooked them? I'm open to tips!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci beaucoup, Alice for your kind comment...a "hangover" from Culinary school presentations, I imagine.

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Hi Jada...I am still soggy fron the market, my Nikes are sitting on the
I have make squash blossoms stuffed with green chiles, tomatillos, and queso fresco cheese.
I fried them lightly in grapeseed oil...I will look up my recipe and post it.
Wish I got some squash blossoms today, but I was out for fruit and tomatoes.
Hope to see you at another Foodbuzz...

MarathonVal said...

Great job! You did an amazing job portraying our spectacular experience! :)

glamah16 said...

Great post and photos. It was a pleasure meeting you. I'm so happy you listed the info about he wines, as I feel in love with the first one.

Heather said...

nice! I'm a little behind on posting too, but I'm doing it today - so take a look around noon and it should be there ;)

Mise En Place said...

What a fantastic experience and superb write up!

The salmon looked fabulous!

RebeccaC said...

Beautiful prose! You're making me want to go back for another round! Great meeting you!

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic meal at Tru! Excellent review of an amazing experience!

Karen said...

I'm sitting here salivating. What a feast. Reminds me of a meal I had in the south of France. It was a sweet sensuous three hour meal of the most sublime tastes.

I was in Chicago in May. Wish I'd know about this restaurant. sigh...........

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois for all the time you took to make such kind comments on this post...Part II is on the way.

I tried to post clear and clean images and a passionate description of the food I experienced at TRU.

I appreciate what feedback you all could and would give...merci encore.

jeanette, mistress of longears said...

A fabulous experience even second-hand! I did make your lime sorbet as promised last weekend and it was perfection! The really telling achievement is that the leftovers (I made sure to save some for the test!) DID NOT FREEZE INTO A SOLID BLOCK OF ICE! You have perfectly balanced the sugars and alcohol for the perfect texture! MERCI BEAUCOUPS!
Can't wait to see what you do with those peas in soup!

Culinary Cory said...

I love TRU. I had a chance to go there for a business dinner once. I enjoyed every minute of it. I wish I lived in Chicago to be apart of such a wonderful event. My favorite picture in your series was the one with the two bloggers photographing the food. Such a classic look, don't you think? :)

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois, Jeanette for your feedback on the lime sorbet...I have made so many batches of this lime sorbet I could do it in my sleep.

My family just really loves it and I agree that the balance of sugars and wine was pretty dead on. It has such a perfect freeze point that allows it to go from freezer to table with gentle grace with no sharp ice crystals and tastes like a high-end sorbet without the huge price.

To be honest, I am churning up another 2 batches as I write to freeze in small amounts to give to family as a last taste of summer.

Tomorrow I am off to the Hispanic market where limes are 30 for $1.00 so I can make a few more batches to freeze for automne and winter for a palate cleansers in between courses for Thanksgiving and Holiday meals...
Eek...automne is nearly here...!

Salut Cory...
Merci for your comment which is always very welcome. I am happy that you had a chance to experience TRU and wish you were here with the rest of the Foodbuzz community as well.
Perhaps for future events…