Monday, August 31, 2009

tried + TRU(e)…part II…mignardise + back of the house

Tru(e) view...
a view of
the engaging interior architecture of the private dining room at restaurant TRU...

When I last left you dear readers, our table of Foodbuzz Community food-bloggers had just finished our dessert course and were smiling happily in our individual food-comas. As we sipped our rich Intelligentsia coffee, the waiters presented three-tiered silver dishes stacked with the artistic delights of the executive pastry chef and owner, Gale Gand and pastry chef Meg Galus.

For those of you unfamiliar with the tiny sweets, mignardises are the tiny, bite-sized desserts that follow a meal at high-end restaurants. Often they include tiny cookies or chocolates, as well as other edible delights. These are also referred to on occasion as "friandise", but friandises are larger and it is also a blanket term for sweets. Mignardises are what is served with coffee after a meal like an amuse-bouche is presented before a meal or an intermezzo in between courses.

As we pondered over which delectable morsel we would sample, we received a surprise visit from one of the pastry chefs, Meg Galus. She thanked us all for coming and explained the exquisite chocolate truffles, French macarons, whimsical lollipops, and gold leaf scrolled creations that we were about to taste.

From the top shelf, I chose a delicate dark chocolate cup filled with crème anglais and garnished with a miniature sliver of candied orange peel.
From the center shelf, the vanilla/olive-oil macaron called to me…I wanted to see how it compared to the ones that were my favorites from Pierre Hermé shop in Paris.
From the bottom shelf, the dark-chocolate covered honey-berry lollipop was mine for the taking.

Each of these sweet bites, besides being “nearly” too pretty to pop in my mouth was a sweet delight. Of all of them, my favorite was the macaron. Each delicate macaron “biscuit” was filled with vanilla olive-oil ganache with tiny pieces of green olive. I loved that the ganache was less sweet and was slightly salty because of the olives. I love the pairing of savory-sweet in a dessert. For me, it tasted like a quick trip Paris to me, so much so that I had one more macaron…!

In the middle of sampling the tiny sweets, we had another surprise visit, this time from the Executive chef and owner Rick Tramonto. He looked to be rushed, but said that he had to stop in and thank us all for coming to TRU.
Alice and Jared of the blog, Eat a Duck I Must, had brought their copy of his book, “TRU, A Cookbook from the Legendary Chicago Restaurant” and he was gracious enough to sign it for them.

Just when we all thought that the evening was drawing to a close, my favorite waiter of the evening, Shane, announced that he would be leading us on a tour of the back of the house.

While we waited for all to join the group for the tour, Shane and I discussed my favorite piece of art that hangs in one of the private areas where we were dining. The painting, Jolly Good Fellow was painted in 1991 by Vik Muniz and is a perfect piece to hang in this temple of culinary perfection.
Why you ask...?
The media that Muniz used for this painting was a bit of dust, chocolate, ink and ketchup.

For me, my favorite part of dining in any restaurant is getting at least a peek into the soul of the establishment, the back of the house. I love seeing the controlled chaos in the kitchen, the precision plating and garnishing of each elegant dish, and the well-choreographed dance at the “pass” between the expediting chef and the waiters. The kitchen area at TRU was exceptional in its cleanliness, efficiency and stainless-steel elegance.

We passed the Kitchen Table, which is located inside TRU's stunning kitchen where diners were being served dessert. Guests can reserve this room that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the pastry and savory kitchens. I had preciously dined at the TRU kitchen table and I highly recommend reserving this table for any serious foodie as you can watch your food being cooked, garnished and elegantly plated before you are served the masterpiece.

We walked in the kitchen hall on a custom-made mat that announced the restaurants name (as if we could forget), passing walls decorated with James Beard and many other prestigious culinary awards and case after case of silver, crystal, jewel-toned Versace china and the famous crystal staircase for service of a selection of fine caviars. We were told that all of these items were always, always hand washed and dried. (naturally...)

As our group exited the kitchen, a tray of small cubes of chocolates dusted with cocoa was offered. Our waiter, Shane stated that this is the “exploding truffle” and must be eaten in one bite. As I bit into the truffle, it burst, filling my mouth with a delectable berry liquid that was intensified by the rich chocolate melting on my tongue.

I asked Meg Galus, the pastry chef on duty, the secret of these truffles an she said that the interior is frozen, cut into cubes and dipped in chocolate. The enrobed cubes are then placed in the chill-chest where the frozen interior filling to thaw. To me, this tiny truffle embodies the concept of TRU, always innovative, surprising and fresh, but always elegant, artistic and certainly delicious.

One of my other rather weird favorite things at TRU was the bathroom sink. The bowl was a plate of textured green glass that drained into a stainless-steel trough. It feels like a piece of abstract bathroom art.
I had seen this sink before in the Hudson Club (that is now SushiSamba), but it seems quite appropriate here at TRU where everywhere you turn is an artistic delight for the senses.

Did I enjoy this special TRU dining experience…you bet…!

Although we were not the typical guests, we were treated like royalty at every turn were every single need was anticipated. As I exited, I saw my little red car parked right in front as in a place of honor. The maître d’ handed me two perfect oval muffins in swathed cellophane and tied with a silver ribbons. H e said I know that you can’t eat these, but perhaps you family will enjoy them.

He also handed me a beautiful box of TRU truffles…”…and these are just for you”…
My family thoroughly enjoyed the berry jam filled muffins I tucked in their lunch box and I am still enjoying the beautiful truffles.

That was a perfect ending to a perfect evening at TRU, sharing fabulous food with fabulous fellow foodies.

Thank you again, Foodbuzz and Visa Signature…


Karen said...

oh, your descriptions leave me drooling. If I'd been there I'd have thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The meal seemed so wonderful but the desserts..yum.. just decadent.

Now I'll go have a piece of toast and cry.

Heather said...

What a great ending! I love the description of the truffle at the end - it sure was yummy!

will be keeping in touch, and following along on your blog - hope to see you at other chi-blog events!

A Brush with Color said...

I was so tired tonight, and this was like walking into a dream, Terrie! sounds wonderful! Great photos of it all, too. Yum!!

Culinary Cory said...

I love the back of the house perspective. It's easy to forget that passion and skill of talented trained professionals is what created art...the same art you just ate. Such a great story about the people who are hard at work to make you smile.

The bathroom sink is awesome! I bet none of the other food bloggers posted a picture of the sink. So creative.

MaddyLane Photography said...

Bonjour Thérèse-Marie,
Really most impressive and exquisite series!!!! You are gifted in every way my dear!
bon weekend!

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

Merci mille fois Karen, Heather, Sue, Cory and Maddy...I loved that you visited my blog and your comments were very kind.

Merci Karen, it was indeed a decadent but a truly wonderful experience.

Salut Heather, merci chêrie and I also hope to see you soon at another chi-blog dining experience.

Hello dear Sue, I was happy to take you to another magical place. Please don't work too hard and have a good end of summer Holiday. Merci beaucoup for your omplimentary comments on my images.

Salut Cory. The back of the house is always my favorite and the most engaging and educational place for me in any resto. This particular tour was perfect as the kitchen was not slammed or "in the weeds' while we were there and they chefs and staff had time to talk with our group 1:1. I imagine that I may have been the only one in this group to notice the interior details like the sink, as I was the only architect in the group.

Bonjour chêre Maddy, merci mille fois, your compliments make me blush...bon weekend...!

Camera Crazy said...

It sounds magical! Now I'm puzzling about the lunchboxes.