Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finally. The French Laundry.

I finally got the call. It was so unexpected I didn't even answer it for the first 2 times (hey, I didn't recognize the number). But there it was. They had a cancellation for a Sunday lunch, would I like to take it? Mmmm (do I want to spend the money right now, do I want ...) YES. So there it was. I was going to The French Laundry!! The aspiration that had seemed so elusive before is now coming true! :)

I decided to fly up Saturday and along with some friends hit up Chez Panisse, Ad Hoc, and then finally French Laundry. But I'll talk about the other ones later on .. :)

Sunday afternoon, we drove up the long, windy roads through the mountain to Yountville.

The host led us up to the second floor and into one of the dining rooms there. It was such a nice day out and they had the windows open.Since this is a special meal after all, I got a couple glasses of wine (no pairing - hey it's still early). I got a red: Martinelli "Jackass Vineyard" Zinfandel, 2004 Russian River Valley which is actually a special bottling exclusively for French Laundry.
For the white I Got a 1998 Rioja Blanco: Lopez de Heredia "Vina Gravonia" (Spain, of course).

For starters, we were served a small choux pastry filled with gruyere cheese.

Next is their salmon cornet, that you're supposed to eat like eating an ice cream cone.
The whole cone shape made the salmon to cone skin ratio vary as you eat it ... but the salmon itself was great and flavorful.

The celebrated Oysters and Pearls was not on the menu that day, so I asked if I could pretty please substituted it in. The waiter graciously said they would check with the kitchen and shortly after informed me that yep! No problem at all, oysters and pearls for moi!
Such an excellent dish, I can definitely see why this is Thomas Keller's most famous dish. The oysters were small because they were trimmed down, but they were definitely of great quality. In fact, everything in this dish was excellent and work together amazingly.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Island Creek Oyster Glaze and White Sturgeon Caviar
This was good, although after having the oysters and pearls, I just wanted more of the first one! :)

All the bread served here are, naturally, from Bouchon bakery. We had two different types of butter, one salted and the other sweet and unsalted, from a local dairy.

For the second course, we also had two options, #1: Salad of French Laundry Garden Broccoli (sunchokes, Marcona almonds and Perigord Truffle Coulis)

The broccoli, and probably many of the other vegetables, came from their own garden, located across the street from the restaurant. You can see it from the balcony of the 2nd floor (where many people go out to take pictures from).
Right across the street, how local can you get? :P Broccolis were excellent - freshest and sweetest ones I've ever had (well, minus the same broccolis I had at Ad Hoc the night before, where we got to have much more of em - more on that later).

Choice #2 ($30 supplement): Moulard Duck "Foie Gras en Terrine" with Hawaiian hearts of palm, Piedmont hazelnuts, Hosui pear, Mizuna and white honey.
I had anticipated this after reading other reviews and opinions, but yes, French Laundry's foie gras terrine is the best foie gras terrine I have ever had.

The terrine was served with a toasted brioche bread and three different salts on the side (they said this is to add texture). One salt was from the sea of Japan and the other (the pink-ish one) was some million-year moon rock salt (OK, I'm not sure abt the million year ...)
Terrine on brioche toast, spread a bit of the white honey, then sprinkle a teeny bit of salt - delicious!!

3rd course, Choice #1: Grilled Pave of Kindai Bluefin Tuna (Potato, radish and cucumber salad, jidori hen egg and preserved lemon "Aigre-Doux")
A great meaty piece of tuna. The middle part is still nicely rare. As far as grilled fish go, this one was excellent.

3rd course, Choice #2: Sea of Japan Bigfin Squid (Globe artichokes, Satsuma mandarins, red mustard leaves and thyme vinaigrette)
Squid was firm and chewy. The combination with the satsuma mandarin was nice and interesting both taste and texture-wise.

4th course: Sweet Butter-poached Maine Lobster Tail (Fennel bulb, "Panisse," Nicoise Olive, sweet pepper essence, and Noilly Prat emulsion)
This lobster tail was absolutely amazing. It's poached perfectly and had an incredible texture that I can only aspire to taste from time to time. I didn't care much about the fennel etc on the side there. I just wanted to slowly devour and enjoy this perfect lobster tail.

5th course: Thomas Farms Squab with Belgian endive, glazed cranberries, red beets, and watercress.
A very game-y (and very lean) squab, as we had expected from FL but on the other hand wasn't so expecting from a "Farm" squab.

6th course: "Blanquette" of Marcho Farms nature-fed veal (Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms, Nantes carrots and green garlic).
The blanquette includes veal tongue (left) and sweetbread (upper right)

7th course: "Tomme du Berger" with Cipollini Onion, Musquee de Provence pumpkin coulis, brussels sprouts and Maple-pecan Sable.
I liked the cheese with the maple-pecan sable but the rest of it was not sweet enough to go with the cheese, IMHO. The cheese was semi-hard and on the mild side, so I didn't think the brussels sprout and onion were good pairings. Something sweeter/saltier would've been better.

8th course: Ruby Red Grapefruit Sorbet, with pistachio "Pain de Genes" and Mascarpone.
The sorbet was great, light and refreshing. Perfect palate cleanser. I'm ambivalent about the pistachio cake though, since it make the whole thing a bit heavier and hence not quite as refreshing.

9th course/Dessert option #1: Braised Golden Pineapples, with spiced sweet rice beignets, dark raisin coulis, and long pepper sherbet.
The spotlight here is on the pineapples, which are sweet and delicious, but didn't seem like there were enough of them :P It wasn't very 'satisfying'.

9th course/Dessert Option #2: "Mousse au Chocolat Amedei" with Gros Michel banana ice cream, candied cashews and curry "Arlette".
A nice rich chocolate mousse. I guess I needed a good amount of sweetness at the end, but anyway I thought this one was more satisfying than the first!

We'd seen everyone else getting this next dessert although it's not on the menu, so when they asked if we wanted to try their "coffee and donuts" we said "sure, what's another dish!"
Apparently the "coffee" was coffee mousse! Good thing I hadn't tried to pick it up and sip it! That would've been embarassing :P Donuts were good - nice and light. Since it wasn't actual *coffee* I decided to get some mint tea to get with the rest of my desserts/mignardises.

As the last part of our meal, we were presented with the mignardise, presented in a beautiful layered tray.
Oh oh but wait, there's MORE! We also got a small dish filled with crunchy chocolate macadamias. And while we're munching at those, one of the servers came bearing a silver tray of gorgeous chocolates. From left to right they were: banana, yogurt, coconut, mm ... something?, passionfruit, and peanut butter. Sigh ... you guys want me to choose? What torture ...




Having felt pretty good and full after the 9th course, they managed to completely stuff me with chocolates :P

BTW, we witnessed a proposal and the other ladies in the dining room started tearing up and one of the waiters dashed around with a tray of Kleenexes (for the ladies first, and then jokingly to everyone else after :P ).
This meal was definitely quite an experience.
Everything from ambiance to service to food preparation were excellent. With the nice breeze coming through the windows - relaxing in Napa over amazing French food was quite the luxury.

The French Laundry
6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2380
www.frenchlaundry.com

French Laundry on Urbanspoon

15 comments:

Pepsi Monster

What a P.I.G.!!

I'm glad you get an opportunity to take the ressie for the brunch. The squab looks delicious!

So which one is your favorite?

burumun

Hmm that's tough!
I can choose two: The Oysters and Pearls, and the poached lobster tail! :)

Pepsi Monster

So, when is the review of AD Hoc is going to be posted? I have read somewhere you "REALLY LIKED" that place. Hehehe

Wandering Chopsticks

Ooh, oysters and pearls and lobster would be my favorite dishes too. You didn't post pics of the shortbread with their signature ribbon. :)

burumun

PepsiMonster: geez, i finally got done with this post and you're already nagging me for another one? :P
I do REALLY LIKE that place, so it's coming ... soon ...

WanderingChopsticks: Haha yeah, that's bcs I didn't eat it that day and I already have so many photos for this post. Maybe I should do one on all my post-Keller indulgence (the cookies, the choco macadamias, the chocolate bouchons ...)

Emily

I loved reading your article. I am from the UK but was lucky enough to dine at the French Laundry last September for my 28th birthday. It made me so happy to return there through your blog. The food was sublime. I had the Vegetarian tasting menu while my other half had the meat version. I will never forget that final layered box of treats. 'And for your final temptation', said the maitre d'. Superb!

kevinEats

Glad to see that the foie gras still satisfies. It even looks the same!

How does this compare to your other 3-star experiences?

burumun

KevinEats: It's definitely better than Le Bernardin ... and yeah I think better than Jean Georges too overall. The location/ambiance wins hands down. Although that seared foie gras at JG ... Mmmm.

kevinEats

So now you need to check out Joel Robuchon. I actually preferred it to FL.

Aaron

So what exactly is the "oyster and pearls" dish made of? I wasn't aware FL did wine pairings. I was under the impression that they didn't. I noticed you started tagging your photos now; afraid of theft? The bluefin tuna picture has especially pretty colors

burumun

Aaron: The oysters and pearls are made out of trimmed oysters and some sort of black caviar, and the details i think may vary (malpeque/island creek oysters, osetra/white sturgeon caviar) - altho i usually thought it's malpeque+osetra caviar.

It is served with a sabayon of pearl tapioca and a buttery sauce w chives and shallots ...

After hearing abt all the photo theft incidents on twitter, I'm starting to get worried, so I am tagging them :P

Brilynn

I'm so glad you got the oysters and pearls, it was one of my favourites when I went in January!
Ah, I want to go back!

cocochanelella

Great post and I'm seriously waiting for my chance to go. Whenever I'm eating at Ad Hoc I imagine it as FL but of course I'm delusional but they do share veggie from the same garden.

Beautiful pics!

James

Wow... what a food collection. All these are yummy.

kange

yum! makes me want to go again now!!!

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