For $2,500 I’ll Take Venison Over Frou-Frou

How much would you spend for a fancy meal at a restaurant owned by a top chef who has influenced his staff and may not be there slingin’ vittles every night?

By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor

What about at a restaurant owned by a top chef who is shutting the doors and having one last shindig? That’s what happened recently in Chicago when famed chef Charlie Trotter closed his legendary Windy City eatery. About 60 diners paying $2,500 each attended a blowout celebration, with the money donated to a charity. had a full report and photos. Trotter was joined by “three chefs of wildly different styles— Nathan Myhrvold, Tetsuya Wakuda and Sean Brock— all of whom felt they owed Trotter a debt for the direction in which American cooking has gone during the restaurant’s 25 years,” according to the site’s report. It also said some of the diners had been to Trotter’s “as many as 400 times.”

Now, I love great food. I like regular food. I’m happy dining on marrow on toast with some good wine or in the grocery store parking lot with sushi rolls listening to the radio. Sardines, saltines, cheddar cheese and a Coke on a tailgate during a squirrel hunt? Sounds good, let’s go. Dry aged steak medium rare with asparagus and all the trimmings, neat single-malt Scotch, a good Cab or Merlot and some creme brulee? Pull me up a chair and hand me a fork, please.

I don’t begrudge folks spending money for a great meal and I’m sure Trotter and his crew went all-out for the final biggie. But for $2,500 for one meal, I can think of some hunting or fishing trips that would have provided freezers packed with venison, waterfowl and fish that would last longer. To each his own, though.

Here’s a great recipe from Stacy Harris, author of Happy Healthy Family. We had this dish back in May when visiting Harris and her family at their fabulous home, and I can say without hesitation it’s not only fantastic but also easy to prepare.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost $2,500!

Chili Cocoa Crusted Venison with Blackberry Reduction

1/3 cup coffee grounds

¼ cup cocoa

2½ tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 venison loin

Olive oil for browning

Blackberry Reduction

1½-cups blackberries

½-cup blueberries

½-cup red wine (cabernet-sauvignon)

¼ -cup sugar

1 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt, to taste


Place blackberries, red wine, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and reduce by half. Season with salt.

Mix coffee grounds, cocoa, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Rub mixture into loin.

Heat cast iron skillet to almost smoking. Place loin into skillet and brown on all sides.

Place loin in 350-degree oven 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size of loin. Remove from pan. Let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Slice into 1-inch pieces on a platter and spoon berry reduction on top of venison. Serve with collard greens.