Monday, December 15, 2008

Chicago: Part Three: The Sweet Finale

by Xani

OK, we had a little interlude there with the Thanksgiving and Burger posts... but I absolutely can't go on blogging without telling you about my very last night in Chicago last month. And with another big, delicious trip to NYC rapidly approaching, I better do it now, before it's too late!

As you know, I had done lots of research about where to go, what to eat, the best burgers and cupcakes in Chi-town,etc., and during all this research, I stumbled across an interesting fact: the super-fancy and highly regarded TRU restaurant offers a very special dessert tasting menu, for which they have special late-night seatings, which require advance reservations and a credit card number to secure. I was intrigued... especially since the executive pastry chef at TRU is none other than Gale Gand, whose Food TV show Sweet Dreams was a favorite of mine back in the day.

So, a few weeks before the trip I showed up to work and told co-worker Mike I had good news and bad news: the bad news is, we were going to a restaurant with a dress code and he would have to pack a suit for Chicago; the good news was, it was for DESSERT!

After all that meat, on our final night in Chi-town, we followed the Chowhounders' advice and ate a light dinner at Friends Sushi (cute little joint with decent sushi and a sleek all-white and candlelight decor-- it felt like we were in a Sophia Coppola movie) before our 11pm dessert reservation at TRU. We walked around the Magnificent Mile in the FRIGID cold, one last time, before ducking into TRU and beginning out dessert "experience."

First of all, TRU is fancy. Like, really fancy. And quiet. At least when we arrived, it was really, really quiet. And with the high ceilings and austere decor, it was bordering on stuffy... and Mike and I were both feeling a little intimidated. I actually had to give myself a little pep-talk so I wouldn't be too freaked out to take pictures (and I really, REALLY wanted to take pictures). Eventually we relaxed a bit, a few more tables were seated and the noise level crept up from "library" to a more comfortable level, but here are some of the things that made this place a little fancy/scary:

Synchronized Water service: of course they offered sparkling or still (bottled), but we went for plain old tap (and I cringed a little as I said it). Two servers come to pour, in unison, with a flourish.

Napkin service(?!?): Another server approached with a small tray in his hands. "Ma'am would you like a white napkin or a black napkin?" Seriously, napkin service??

Tea service: Co-worker Mike asked to see their tea list, which our waiter brought out along with a tray with a dozen small boxes of loose teas. They were all beautiful, and our waiter told us a little bit about each one. Mike made his selection and they brought it out in a lovely clear glass teapot. You know me, I got coffee (which was delicious and come in a pretty silver service).

With our coffee and tea they started the "tasting" just the way any good meal starts-- with great bread. But of course, this being all-dessert, these little babies were sweet, as was the amuse bouche that followed. It was a key lime and honey concoction that the server topped off with some fizzy lime soda at the table. Garnished with a little cube of lime jelly, flecked with gold leaf (which would make many appearances throughout the tasting).

Then we began our three-course tasting! They brought us each different dishes for each course, so we switched half-way through each plate and were able to try six desserts each. We were very quickly on our way to sugar-overload...

***DISCLAIMER*** This meal was over a month ago and details are hazy. Who am I kidding, details were hazy moments after we left the place as I lapsed into diabetic shock. I'll do my best to describe what I remember of each dish, and you can enjoy the pretty pictures... or not-so-pretty-mostly-blurry pictures, as I was still pretty weirded out by the fanciness of the place and was trying to take pictures on the sly, without any of the other diners or waiters noticing!

First course: Greek Yogurt panna cotta type-thing, with honey center, dried fruits, and mint meringue and sorbet. Hate to peak this early but this was really one of my favorites-- so light, great flavors, and not TOO sweet. The honey was amazing; it tasted the way perfume smells (and I don't even LIKE honey)

This was a roasted plu-ot (plum and apricot hybrid) with... stuff. Ice cream? A cookie? I wish I remembered more.

Second course: The shell was white chocolate, filled with champagne-poached peaches, and creamy filling of some sort. The stuff on the side was peach-champage granita. Note gold leaf.

This was another favorite-- various chocolate and nut elements as well as a piece of manchego cheese and a manchego foam, and concord grape sorbet. Very delicious, interesting combination of flavors. Then again I like cheese with pretty much everything.

Third course: Chocolate and coffee-- I remember this one because Mike took one bite and said "would it be inappropriate to eat some of these sugar cubes to get this taste out of my mouth?" We suspect Mike is a super-taster as he cannot STAND the taste of coffee. He's a good sport, anyhow.

Deconstructed chocolate bar: each element was a different flavor found in a candy bar: chocolate, nougat, caramel, etc, etc. Gold leaf, again! At this point I was definitely in sugar shock.

Six gorgeous plates of sweets were followed by, what else?, more sweets! A rolling trolley of Mignardises (sweet little tidbits served after a meal and dessert-- or in this case after a meal OF desserts!) was brought to our table, and we were allowed to pick as many of the little bites as we wanted. Exercising some restraint (not too hard, as we were both soooo full of sweets by this time), we each picked three:

Passionfruit jelly, maple macaron, orange caramel

Mike's picks-- I only remember that the lollipop was chocolate with five-spice powder.

And that was it, right?? Nope, there were also handmade chocolate truffles, about five different kinds, that a server brought over and allowed us to choose whatever we liked. But, no pictures... I could barely lift my hand to bring the truffle to my mouth...

The truffles were the last thing before the bill (where we discovered Mike's pretty tea was $15!), and then it was time to leave. The super-gracious host had our coats waiting for us and we bundled up in the lobby-- then he gave us each a little bag with a jam-filled coffee cake to take home! As it was past midnight at this point it wasn't so much a midnight snack as a "breakfast treat" for the next morning. I ate mine the next day on the plane as I headed to Detroit... it was a sweet reminder of a very memorable experience at TRU, and a great first trip to Chicago!


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