How do you make rainbow trout sexy?
One idea: Give it to Curtis Duffy at Avenues, who'll have a go not once, but twice -- poached in olive oil until it's buttah, and whipped into brandade -- then plated with fennel in every possible form, dabs of a fennel-y mustard and an absinthe foam.
This was what Duffy plied us with earlier this week (in addition to fennel chips, king crab by the spoonful and other delights). "Us": Lockwood's blogging chef Phillip Foss, writer/chef/expert palate Louisa Chu and moi. We'd been solicited as judges for a contest put on by Villa Park-based Supreme Lobster, whose main monger Carl Galvan you might recognize from his funny, sometimes vulgar Twitter feed.
Our task (that's stretching it) was to judge a dish at each of the three chef-finalist's restaurants featuring trout from Clear Springs Farm in Idaho. We were driven from Point A (Pops for Champagne and chef Chris Walker's trout with a deconstructed meuniere) to Point B (Sepia and chef Andrew Zimmerman's pave of trout with an almond and Iberico ham picada) to Point C, the aforementioned Avenues.
While it was a lovely evening of exquisite food and conversation (about food trucks, Twitter, Chicago Gourmet, maltodextrin, food trucks, Foss' burning desire to write a memoir and food trucks), it all went back to making trout -- fish, period -- sexy. Galvan knows a fine fish when he sees it, and the sustainably raised trout from Clear Springs is about as pure as it gets. There is method to Galvan's madness, after all.
He tweets to sell more fish (he also tweets while driving, but that's another story; and while we're at it, that's Foss tweeting at right). He holds these contests so that Jennifer Mulhern, regional sales manager for Clear Springs and our tablemate for the evening, can sell more fish.
"Rainbow trout is your grandmother's fish," said Mulhern (in between wide-eyed bites of trout and genuinely amazed outbursts of, "I never knew trout could taste like that!") "We're trying to figure out how to get people to think differently about it."
This was the third such chef's challenge Galvan has organized (Foss won the previous scallop contest). The prize is $500 or a trip to the Idaho farm.
Galvan will announce the winner next week.
photo by Louisa Chu