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Charlie Trotter's I’VE NEVER MET CHARLIE TROTTER AND I’M NOT SURE I WANT TO. LIKE ANY OTHER FROUPIE--THAT’S FOOD GROUPIE TO THE UNINFORMED--YOU WOULD THINK THAT I WOULD PANT AT THE CHANCE TO HAVE CHICAGO'’S SECOND GREAT MR. T BESTOW HIS COUNTENANCE UPON ME-ESPECIALLY AFTER DROPPING TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR DINNER FOR ONE ON A RECENT BUSINESS TRIP THERE (YOU HEARD ME RIGHT). TROTTER’S EPONOYMOUS RESTAURANT WAS JUST NAMED THE BEST IN AMERICA BY THE WINE SPECTATOR MAGAZINE, WHICH PRESUMABLY KNOWS HOW TO JUDGE SUCH THINGS---BUT AFTER A RECENT MEAL THERE, I WAS MORE IN THE MOOD FOR ARGUMENT THAN ACCOLADES. WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE MEAL YOU ASK? WELL, ALMOST NOTHING AND EVERYTHING. AS I SAID TO THE WAITER (AND ON THOSE LITTLE COMMENT CARDS WE VENT OUR FRUSTRATIONS ON)…THE FOOD RATES A PERFECT TEN BY FOOD WRITER OR RESTAURANT CRITIC STANDARDS ….AND A ZERO IF YOU’RE AN EVERYMAN WITH AN APPETITE. TWO HOURS WERE SPENT CHOWING DOWN---OR SHOULD I SAY –DAINTILY EXPLORING THE NUANCES OF SEVEN COURSES CONTAINING EXPERIMENTS LIKE MINITURE SEA BASS ATOP A TINY MOUND OF BRAISED LAMB ENCIRCLED BY FOAMY SAUCES, PLATE CONFETTI AND TASTELESS SMUDGES OF KALAMATA OLIVE PASTE—(THAT SOUNDS LIKE A MOUTHFUL BUT BELIEVE ME—IT WASN’T). DURING IT ALL I WAS CONSTANTLY MUTTERING IN SEINFELDIAN VERNACULAR…”WHAT’S UP WITH THAT”??? MY CONCLUSION WAS THAT CHARLIE MUST’VE BEEN THE STAR PUPIL AT THE HOW MANY ANGELS CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN CULINARY SCHOOL. CHICAGO IS NOW SO ENAMORED OF HIS STAR STATUS, THAT THE EMPORER’S CONCOCTIONS WILL FOREVER BE PRAISED NO MATTER HOW FEW REAL CLOTHES THEY’RE WEARING. SO AFTER ALL THAT PRECIOUSNESS, PRECIOUS FEW CALORIES, AND A MUCH LIGHTER WALLET, I NEEDED A FRESH BREATH OF BEER INFUSED CHICAGO AIR. I FOUND IT (AND SOME GOOD CORNED BEEF) THE NEXT NIGHT AT HARRY CAREY’S. NOW OLE HARRY WOULDN’T HAVE KNOWN A BRAISED OXTAIL FROM A CORKED BAT, BUT HE SURE KNEW HOW TO LAUGH AT HIMSELF—SOMETHING CHARLIE TROTTER PROBABLY STOPPED DOING A LONG TIME AGO.

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THIS IS JOHN CURTAS.

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