Of the many strange pearls of advice my father offered me, this one stuck:
‘Never trust anyone whose name can be translated as ‘Vietcong Pig’s Feet’.
I once—once—had dinner at Chuck E. Fromage—Charlie Trotter’s eponymous, over-priced, upscale pizzeria on W. Augusta Blvd. in Chicago, where I ordered a deep-dish Ukrainian pizza topped with pule (smoked donkey cheese from the Zasavica Reserve north of Belgrade; $616 per gram).
Alas, I was never able to secure reservations at his flagship restaurant Charlie Trotter’s, considered one of the world’s top and most modestly-named restaurants up until 2009, when it closed its doors forever under accusations that its signature dish—Pig Trotters with Smoked Coconut, Clotted Spring Onion, Venezuelan Chocolate, Cumin Scented Apple Chutney, Saskatchewan Chanterelle Mushroom, Curried and Clotted Sunchoke, New Zealand Spinach and Chambord Clotted Curd—was made with feet from pigs previously used in invasive surgical training exercises by the US military.
After his ignominious departure from Shytown, having landed on his pig’s feet,Trotter opened a joint called ‘C’ in Guantanamo, Cuba, which closed in 2010 after the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular finally translated the restaurant’s signature dish: Waterboarded Terrorist Spleens with Gitmo Bay Mussels, Clotted Quinoa, Sweet and Sour English Cucumber, Marinated Hamachi in Green Tomato Juice, Kalamata Olives and Avocado Clotted Cream.
At that point, Mr. Trotter sort of fell off the edge of the culinary map, and it was not until yesterday, June 13, 2013 that his name again made headlines.
It seems that in his effort to liquidate his liquid assets prior to border-hopping, Mr. Trotter sold a counterfeit magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 to a pair of Manhattan wine collectors for $46,000—roughly the same price as a black-market kidney from a waterboarded Guantanamo Bay terrorist goes for.
Does the story have ‘legs’, as journalists say? Or does it have ‘pig’s feet’, as we anti-journalists say? That is, in part, an open-ended question to be debated by those above my pay grade in Frrokaj et al v. CHT Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 13-04376.
My initial cynicism about the whole story arises from an article in Reuters by anti-research journalist P.J. Huffstutter (is this a name or a character from Nicholas Nickelby?) who claims, ‘Trotter made plans to sell thousands of bottles from his restaurant’s wine collection, drawing interest from wine aficionados who admired the restaurant’s collection of Bordeaux and cabernets.’
Now, you would think that a bonafide wine aficionado would know that DRC is neither a Bordeaux nor a cabernet, just as you would imagine that they would have recognized that the spelling on the bogus label—‘Domaine du la Romani-Contée—was a bit suspect. Considering that 1945 was not the same volume-vintage in Burgundy as it was in Bordeaux, a pro might also realize that the chance of an estate like DRC, whose .750s from that year sell for considerably more than $100,000, having actually bottled any magnums is slim to none—roughly the same odds as getting a fair trial in a Cuban detention facility.
So, before I trotter out any personal accusations, I will consult my buddy Maureen Downey, whose political upchucks make me upchuck, but whose expertise in spotting counterfeit wine is unparalleled.
My question is basic, Mo baby:
Did the Michelin three-star chef, 2013 Culinary Hall of Fame® inductee, author of 14 cookbooks and the TV host of the nationally aired PBS cooking series The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter recognize immediately that he was getting hoodwinked on his hootch? Or, was this just a mistake that quite a few collectors and restaurant owners have made?
As a 2013 inductee to the Crunk-Crazed Critics of Craft-Free Creativity Hall of Fame®, I like to think that the last scenario makes more sense. See, as you may have noticed, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Chef Chuck, who by all accounts is a slave-driving, loudmouthed, narcissistic hosebanger possessing far less talent than his drooling sycophants would have you believe. Therefore, I would much rather think of him not as a supremely diabolical mastermind in the counterfeit underworld, but as a dumb shit.
And I do think precisely that: Otherwise, why—when preparing then-President George W. Bush Bahía de Guantánamo Mohammed al-Qahtani Appendix with Waterboard Cress Curd, Gitmo Iguana Semen, Rapefruit, Better-Red-Than-Dead Curry, Detainee 063 Testicles and Toasted Tobacco Leaves in Detainee 635 Menstrual Blood-Orange Sorbet—he didn’t realize that, here in the States, Cuban tobacco is illegal?