I told Pugman I'd report on my Chicago trip, so here goes part one:
Charlie Trotter - This was a wierd night. We knew he was in NY for a wine event and hoped it wouldn't make a difference. First few courses were served perfectly, but all of a sudden service started to go downhill faster than a novice skier hurtling down a black diamond. The sorbet course was skipped entirely, they brought the dessert from the wrong tasting menu, failed to offer coffee service or drinks with or after dessert and unceremoniously plunked the check on the table. A patron behind us had to flag down a waiter for a wine to drink with dessert. It was late, and it appeared like someone gave the signal, "let's wrap it up". Then, on the way out, they whisked us into the kitchen and introduced us to all of the chefs in the middle of service! Is this a common occurrence? It certainly isn't anywhere in NY that I know of.
As to the food, while many courses tasted good, I found the cooking unexciting - every course seemed to have been overthought and overworked - no guts or soul. The main proteins on our tasting menu consisted of rabbit loin and veal loin, two of the most boring cuts of meat to begin with, made even less appealing by being served off the bone in pallid, thin little slices.
Anyway, better experiemces followed. I'll try to get to part two.