TRU: A Foodbuzz Community Table dinner / by Alice Zhao

TRU Restaurant, Foodbuzz Community Table
Ladies and gentlemen, we just came back from a complete whirlwind of an evening. A couple weeks ago Foodbuzz, our sponsors, sent out an email inviting the Chicago featured publishers to enter into a drawing to win a seat at a foodie community dinner at Tru restaurant. WHAT. We have been wanting to go there for a long time! Jared claims he's been trying to complete his own goal of eating at all of Chicago's 3 big 'T' resturants. Jared dined at Trotter's 6 years ago for his birthday, he took me to Trio 5 years ago for my birthday back when Grant Achatz was still the head chef there and we've been waiting for our opportunity to eat at Tru. So when we saw this Foodbuzz drawing, we could not enter fast enough!

We were saddened when we found out later that we were not chosen to be a part of this dinner. But then last Friday, Jared got an email saying that there was an open seat and he was in! I was a little disappointed for myself but glad that he got to go, because let's face it folks, he's got a much more refined palette. I sort of think that everything just tastes ... good.
But then! THEN! In the middle of my workday today, I received an email saying that there was yet another opening. I couldn't believe my luck and had to rearrange my work schedule so that I could rush back home to make it to this unbelievable opportunity! Jared and I met up at home to change, high fived and skipped our way to the car.
TRU RestaurantTRU decor
We sat down for hors d'oeuvres as we got to meet the other chicago foodies. It was totally great to finally put faces to all the blogs we've been reading. We met Valerie of Marathon Val, Rebecca of Homemaker's Habitat, Terry of Feasting on Pixels, Katie of Salt and Chocolate, and many more! We were served canapes of Scallop + Lemon Wonton, Mini-Beef Wellington and Cauliflower Sphere. Jared had to admit that their spherification technique was better than his! The cauliflower sphere was served with roe and candied orange rinds. The roe lent its salty flavor to the cauliflower sphere, while the candied orange rind gave it the sweetness and citrus flavor. The sphere shells were very delicate, and Jared wondered how many broke during prep? All of these canapes got our palettes started and we were excited to see what was in store for us. While we waited and chatted up with our new blogging friends, a basil infused cocktail was served.

TRU RestaurantBasil Infused Cocktail; Scallop + Lemon Wonton

TRU RestaurantCauliflower Sphere; Mini Beef Wellington
We officially started our pre fixe meal with an amuse bouche, Cured Salmon set in Cucumber Gelee. Cured salmon mixed with poppy seed was set on top of a briny cucumber gelee . It had a good balance of flavor and the edible flowers made it more appealing.

TRU Restaurant
Then we moved on to the first course, Peeky Toe Crab. The presentation was amazing and we were ready to dive in. That is, until we realized the consomme had not been poured yet. The consomme was made from cantaloupe and cava, but you could also really taste the ginger juice in it. The crab tasted fresh and pequillo puree provided some heat to this cool and refreshing dish.

TRU Restaurant

Next came the Frog Leg tempura with roasted garlic, brunoise of carrots and celery. Again, we didn't realize until we started eating that the watercress neige has not been poured yet (sorry, no picture with the watercress neige), but it was really good!

TRU Restaurant
Then out came the best dish of my night, the olive oil-poached Scottish salmon with granny smith apple, coconut and Thai long peppercorn. The salmon flesh was silky smooth, cooked to perfection. The coconut broth was very light and mild thus not over powering the taste of the salmon. We were not sure what the pickled vegetable was at the bottom, so Rick if you are reading this, let us know!

TRU Restaurant
All of this was paired with a delicious white Alma de Blanco Godello Monterrei 2008. The dishes really brought out the sweetness in the wine.

And just as I thought our evening couldn't get any better, the maitre d' tapped Jared on the shoulder and he turns around in his seat to find Rick Tramonto standing before us! The maitre d' remembered (or so we think) that we asked about whether or not Rick was in the house when we walked into the restaurant and she wanted to make sure we (and the rest of the gang) met him. As per usual, I froze and felt my face get really warm! And Jared as usual was his charming self and chats it up with Rick. The only thing I knew to do was to grab our Tru cookbook and shove it in Rick's face for him to sign.

TRU Restaurant
At last our Tru destiny has been fulfilled, complete with both Rick and Gale's autograph!

Moving onto the meat dish, we were given the braised beef short ribs with unagi, scallion pistou and miso emulsion. I would of never guess that unagi and short ribs go together, but they do. The grilled unagi with the sweet soy basting lent its sweetness to the incredibly tender and fatty braised short ribs. Finally, what is a TRU meal without some sort of foam? If my memory serves me right, Chef Tramanto was first in the US to bring foam over from El Bulli of Spain. The salty and airy miso foam added depth to the dish without the typical heavy paste of miso. Well played!

TRU Restaurant
And paired with the meat dish was a Niepoort Twisted Douro 2006. The red was a little dry but offered a great bold taste. Just found out that both of the wines we had tonight is less than $20. Excellent value with great taste!!

TRU Restaurant
By this time, we were already stuffed, but we we knew we had to make room for the famous desserts from TRU. Pastry Chef Meg Galus came up to our private dining room and described to us our dessert. The dish was plated with seedling farms plum slices, sarsaparilla cream, milk chocolate ice cream and a ginger-lime meringue. There were a lot of different items on this plate, but it all melded together greatly. The plum sorbet was light and refreshing, I only wished they gave us more of it.

TRU RestaurantPastry Chef Meg Galus

TRU RestaurantSeedling Farms Plum

Finally, we had reached the end of our epicurean journey. We were presented with a tower of mignardises served with coffee and tea.

TRU RestaurantOoh la la!

After our meal, the staff was nice enough to give us a kitchen tour. If was exciting to see the chefs hard at work.

TRU RestaurantKitchen

TRU RestaurantPastry Kitchen

TRU RestaurantWe passed by Rick's famous little caviar staircases. We didn't get to have it for this meal, but some day we shall climb you!

All in all, it was a truly great experience. It was nice to see and talk to all the food bloggers at this momentous dinner. Plus, we didn't feel as embarassed as every single one of us pulled out our cameras every time a new dish was set in front of us. I'm sure the waitstaff got a huge kick out of it. :) Hope to see you all at future events!
Addition: Here are direct links to other food bloggers' posts about this event (let me know if i missed your post!)
Eating Bender (this one has a pic of the two of us and Rick)
What's For Dinner? (this one is even better, Jared was caught picking his nose!)