Breakfast for Dinner Recap

July 19 2013 - 4:56 PM

I saw Nothing Can Hurt Me, a great documentary about the star-crossed ’70’s band, Big Star.  One of the movie’s many voices, in describing the band’s beautiful, timeless music, reiterated an interesting description for the purpose of art.  He stated that art’s purpose is to capture a moment so that it seems as though time has stopped.  Itself an art form, fine dining can also achieve such a level of quality and impact so that, momentarily, the progression of time for the patron seemingly stands still.  Trenchermen’s five-course Breakfast For Dinner proved as an example of such a senses-gripping dining experience.  A moment that was distinctly breakfast was followed by another moment that captured dinner. Through a reinvention of traditional breakfast fare, the chef uplifted breakfast to haute cuisine, distilling familiar flavors to concepts and toying with the palate while staying within the margins of accessibility.

A perfect example of this artistry occurred right at the outset during hors d’oeuvres with smoked chicken rillettes.  Delicate and crisp, the creamy chicken and the crumbly pastry wedge together formed a satisfying contrast of textures. Tomato gazpacho similarly pulled together disparate elements, merging a devilishly light, green creamy texture with a a slight and unexpected heat.  Perhaps the only ordinary element in any dish was a tater tot, but the accompanying creamy, savory hackleback caviar pointed it all toward another dimension.  The drink pairing was delightful as well.  Described as the Trencher-mosa, this vodka-and-peach-liqueur-based drink mixed with soda water was an ideal refreshment and proved as the perfect introduction for the evening’s festivities, particularly given the oppressive Chicago summer heat.

The rectangular, centrally-situated bar, where we enjoyed the Trencher-mosa, adds a warm and classy element to the interior.  Dim lighting, ribbed, wooden tap handles, and an array of curious-looking liquor bottles stacked high on shelves made for an inviting bar scene.

To start dinner, course one cleverly disguised an omelet in pink color, sliced lengthwise so that the egg looked like smoked salmon.  Its warm, soft texture effortlessly melted in your mouth.  Crunchy pecans contrasted nicely with the egg, and was solidly backed by an astringent, honeyed sherry.  Course two’s deconstructed bagels and lox featured succulent, tender salmon and a bagel so crispy that it mimicked a donut, spread with a mustard cream cheese which balanced creamy with spicy.   A biscuity, off-dry, prosecco complemented this dish, and helped me recall upscale New York hotel brunches.

Course three was the most challenging, as it offered bacon-stuffed bacon, popcorn grits and “apple” chiles, all paired with California riesling. However it may have been the winning course of the evening. The popcorn grits carried an pleasing pop, the chiles were properly zesty, and the savory, chewy Canadian bacon was delectable. Paring the bacon with a riesling proved to be a dynamite move, as its tartness tamed the bacon’s fat, while the salty bacon emphasized the wine’s moderate fruitiness.

The fourth, and final-non-dessert, course appeared at first blush to be the most ordinary:  New York strip loin, poached egg, potatoes, and pickled asparagus.  But with a culinary flourish.  The fluffy egg, round, and soft poached, was fun to crack open.  Truffle oil rendered the potatoes into a decadently crispy treat that effortlessly collapsed upon the slightest bite.  I now am sure that pickled asparagus is simply irresistible.  A round-but-zesty Spanish red somehow maintained order among these myriad flavors.

Finally, the fifth course was dessert, a “French toast,” which was really a banana pudding brownie with whisky caramel drizzle, alongside ice cream and streusel.  I loved the way that the banana creation dissolved on my palate, leaving behind a nutty caramel flavor with mellow cinnamon notes.  This round was well-paired with a caramel-forward Muscat.

Breakfast for Dinner appeared to be well-received by Chicago foodies who shared the experienced of this singular dining experience, if only for the moment.

– M. Sheppard