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My Tribute to Trotter

Yesterday morning the sad, sad news came that chef Charlie Trotter was found unresponsive at his Lincoln Park home He was pronounced dead at Northwestern hospital at the age 54. My initial reaction, like everyone else’s on twitter and facebook, was disbelief and shock. Sure, he had been mostly under the radar since the closing of his restaurant, but he had plans to travel and study, and I was sure his fast-casual burger concept in Vegas was right around the corner.

Sometimes I’ll get asked about the most famous person I’ve ever interviewed, and Trotter always comes to mind. I was lucky enough to interview him several times over the course of my career, both for local and national publications. No matter how big or small the story, he made time for my call or visit, and even though the interviews were challenging, he made them happen. I remember telling people how hard he was to interview, how he never quite answered your question, and seemed distracted, bored, borderline pissed or made you feel the answer was too obvious to even ask. But like so many encounters in life, it wasn’t personal, it was just who he was. Intense, wildly dedicated, masterfully particular, thinking of the 300 things he had going on at that moment, a perfectionist almost to a fault. It was if he couldn’t even let that guard down for a light-hearted interview about his favorite places to dine in Chicago. It’s what made him so great. He was a force, a presence that took over the room. He commanded perfection, even if you weren’t cooking in his kitchen.

And the time came that I actually did get the chance to cook in his pristine kitchen (well watch, mostly) in the early 2000s as a guest for a huge collaborative dinner with Heston Blumenthal and some other big wig chefs. I was there to write a first-hand account for CS magazine on the experience. Like most guests and writers who got to have a mini stage in Trotter’s kitchen, I was given my own chef’s coat, embroidered name and all. Of course it was three sizes too big and I had to roll the sleeves up four times just to take notes and bites of dishes as they were done. At one point Trotter felt compelled to put me to work and made me come right to the line and help dust dozens upon dozens of rabbit dishes with cocoa powder as they made their way down to the server’s tray. The “I Love Lucy” situation eventually got the best of me as my right sleeve accidentally tipped over the entire bowl of powder on the table—beyond a mere dusting of cocoa powder covered, well, everything.

Expecting Trotter to have a total blowout, he did quite the opposite. He cracked a joke about how he’d send me the cleaning bill in the morning, helped dust the powder off my sleeve, and the entire thing was cleaned up on the line in 2.2 seconds. The expediting resumed as if nothing had happened, and the kitchen didn’t skip a beat. For that moment, he let his guard down, and it’s one moment I’ll never forget.

In fact, every encounter I had with Trotter, from the vegetable tasting at the chef’s table to getting lucky enough to snag an invite to NYE at the restaurant, was an over-the-top experience that left an imprint; this was his essence.

I can only imagine the immense impact he had on the chefs, cooks, waitstaff and sommeliers that actually worked with him in his famous restaurant on Armitage Avenue, and were, and still are, forever changed and inspired. We’ll miss you Charlie.

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Glazed and Infused

You know how sometimes the universe continues to put things in your path, as if it’s feeling compelled to drop simple hints about where your next journey should lead? Yeah, well I feel that way about Glazed and Infused Doughnuts. First they start showing up on an almost weekly basis at work. Then after a recent heat-lamp warmed patio lunch at Big Star, our party gleefully stumbled over to the Francesca’s Forno location for dessert. And then again, the Fulton Market location served as the perfect sweet topper for brunch at Publican this weekend. Is it that Glazed and Infused is simply taking over the town? Or am I subconsciously seeking out the crème brûlée, vanilla bean and red velvet varieties. Whether it’s fate or fatness, they’re freaking delicious. Glazed and Infused
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2011 in Review

The folks at WordPress generated this nifty year in review of elizabites. Thanks to all for reading, commenting and checking out my recommendations. Have a safe, happy and healthy new year. Here’s to a fantastic 2012!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Cupcakes craze?

With the proliferation of cupcake shops in big cities all over the U.S. over the past couple of years, maybe they are a craze. But I hope it’s one that’s here to stay. Nice Chicago shout-out in the comments of this New York Times story, but what’s Molly’s Cupcakes? I’ll have to investigate.

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Cosmonaut wall revealed

A few posts back I asked which East Village coffee shop has a large mural of a cosmonaut on the wall, and the answer is Atomix at 1957 W. Chicago Ave., 312.666.2649. They specialize in high-octane joe, vegan bakery, great bagel sandwiches and are conveniently located right next to another one of my favorite East Village spots, Rotofugi.

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Guest blogger: Toki Collection

As winner of the “Who can spot Burt Reynolds/Tom Selleck” question from the New York City Bagel deli post, Chicago-based jewelry designer Tonia Kim of Toki Collection will be stepping in to write about a sweet treat we discovered on a trip to Prague last spring, the Kinder Hippo. Her post will be up sometime next week, but in the meantime, check out a rather entertaining preview video on her blog, www.tokicollection.blogspot.com.

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