We went to The French Laundry for the first time just a little over a year ago. I was so blown away by the experience that when I got reservations for a return visit I was secretly afraid that a poor second visit would ruin the good memories of the first.
You know how that happens. The “that was fun, let’s do it again” and then the “again” kinda sucks and to tally ruins the “that was fun.”
As it turns out my worries were unfounded because The French Laundry rocks.
**SIDENOTE: Please forgive the darkness of these photos. The restaurant was very dimly lit and I didn’t want to turn on the flash because I didn’t want to disturb the other diners. I probably could fix this with Photoshop but I’m feeling lazy.**
The meal started out with little balls of pate a choux, about the size of shooter marbles, with melted Gruyere cheese inside. I didn’t get pictures of these…they got eaten too quickly.
Followed shortly were Coronets of Salmon Tartare with creme fraiche topped with a nice little chive.
The coronets were thin, almost paper thin, but super crunchy. The crunchiness of the coronets is the perfect pairing with the creaminess of the cream fraiche and the ocean flavor of the salmon.
I love caviar. This caviar in particular I love. I love how the saltiness of the caviar and oysters offsets the richness of the tapioca. I love how the caviar dissolves in your mouth. I especially love how you get to eat this with a baby spoon made of mother of pearl. Fun!
I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT THIS WAS
It wasn’t on the menu and just showed up at our table.
I’m really not kidding. I don’t really remember what this was. This is what I remember. It was some kind of custard inside the egg. The custard was topped with a gravy like stock reduction and had a potato chip shoved inside it. The potato chip was actually two very thin slices of potatoes with a chive sandwiched between.
I remember this being very rich. It was so rich I could hardly finish it….but I did anyway. The potato chip was the best potato chip EVER. Please just give me a bowl of these and a good movie and I’ll be a happy camper.
MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS EN TERRINE”
Juniper-White Honey, Brooks Cherries, Endive Relish, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
I love that when they serve this they serve it with warm brioche. You get three bites of the bread and they replace it because it’s supposed to be served while warm!
The foie gras is the texture of room temperature butter with a sweet glaze on top. It is also served with a selection of sea salts. One of the coolest parts of this dish is that each bite tastes different because of the presentation. On some bites you get the cherries, some bites you get the endive relish and the different salts just add to the flavor diversity.
Who knew you could make relish out of endive…
I don’t want to know how many calories are in this little rectangle of heaven.
ATLANTIC HALIBUT “CONFIT A LA MINUTE”
Chorizo, Tomales Bay Clams, Fava Beans, Paquillo Pepper, Nicoise Olive, Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil Emulsion
This was possibly the lightest course we had during this visit. The halibut was rich, flaky and moist. The pequillo peppers were slightly tangy but sweet and who would ever think to put raw oysters on top of a piece of fish?
“BEETS AND LEEKS”
Maine Lobster Tail, “Pochee au Beurre Doux,” King Richard Leeks, “Pommes Maxim’s” and Red Beet Essence
This was one of my favorite courses. The lobster tail was super good, as any lobster tail from Maine should be. The best part of this course was the beets! Who would ever think that beets and lobster would go together?!? The leeks were almost the consistency of tuna or chicken salad. I could have eaten that stuff spread on a piece of toast all day long. Yum.
MARCHO FARMS “COEUR DE VEAU”
Sacremento Delta Asparagus, Green Tomatoes, Grilled Melba Toast and “Sauce Gribiche”
Veal heart. That’s what this was. It was veal heart made into something that was like bologna. Come to think of it, this was a glorified bologna sandwich with mustard on the bottom, the toast in the middle and the bologna on top.
SNAKE RIVER FARMS “CALOETTE DE BOEUF GRILLEE”
Tokyo Turnip, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Red Radish, Watercress and Green Pepper Sauce
This was so good that I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it…so I took a picture after I ate it.
To say that this was the best ribeye I’ve ever eaten would be an understatement…but it was. By far. The best ribeye I’ve ever eaten. It was tender. Juicy. Well marbled. Please give me more.
Granny Smith Apple “en Feuille de Bric,” Celery Branch, Summer Truffle and Cider Reduction
The cheese course was very good. Or is that obvious? It was goat cheese. Very salty. I accidentally flung that left walnut across the restaurant trying to cut it in half with my fork…
…and this was the best celery I’ve ever eaten. No, I’m not kidding.
ROYAL BLENHEIM APRICOT SORBET
Toasted Barley-Brown Sugar Streusel, Cilantro Shoots and White Apron Ale Foam
The palate cleanser if apricot sorbet with some kind of yummy crunchy layer of goodness on the bottom.
COFFEE AND DONUTS!
When we first went to The French Laundry I was disappointed that I didn’t get to try the legendary coffee and donuts. Honestly, when I saw the menu for this visit I wasn’t disappointed that this wasn’t on it because I had forgotten about it…so, when this arrived at our table completely unannounced I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I knew exactly what this was before the waiter even got to the table. This alone made my day.
The waiter said, “don’t try to drink it, you’ll be here a while.” This confused me. Why would you not drink coffee? Then I stuck my spoon in it…it was coffee pudding served in an espresso cup! Now it makes sense!
Was it good?
Is the grass green? Is the sky blue?
These are the best donuts I’ve ever eaten. Are you noticing a theme?
“CREMEUX AUX FRUITS DE LA PASSION”
Silverado Trail Strawberries, Pistachio “Pan de Gene,” and White Chocolate Sorbet
The dessert course was…go ahead…guess.
You’re right! It was good! The strawberries came from the garden across the street and were so unbelievably ripe that they were red all the way through. I didn’t realize that strawberries did that…
That was it. It was over. When the meal began and those little cheese filled puffs came to the table I almost didn’t want to eat them because I knew the meal that I have been long looking forward to would soon be over. The thought of that made me sad…and then I ate the little ball of melted cheese goodness and that thought didn’t enter my mind again.
We drank an after dinner coffee and reflected on our experience.
I was almost finished with my cappuccino when the waiter came to our table.
FLASH BACK: I remember last year being excited when the waiter asked us if we’d like to see the kitchen. See the kitchen? Really? YES! Yes, I would!
So when the waiter approached the table and muttered something about the kitchen I wasn’t surprised. Yes, I’d love to see the kitchen! Wait a minute. He said.., “Would you like to see the kitchen and meet the chef?”
WHAT?!?! Meet the chef? Really?
I knew Chef Keller was there – Jason spotted him outside on his way to the bathroom earlier in the meal. An event which went something like this…
Jason: What does Thomas Keller look like? Would you recognize him if you saw him?
Me: Yes, I would. Tall. Thinish. Greying dirty blone hair.
Jason: He’s outside on the patio.
Me: What? REALLY?
Jason: Go to the bathroom and see…
Me: I’m not gonna do that…(gets up and goes to the bathroom)
Was he there? In the kitchen? Working? Really? Here’s your answer.
I’m such a nerd. I’m a complete nerd. I can play it cool around a lot of people but when meeting Thomas Keller I started crying and almost hyperventilated. He made eye contact with me and grinned and my eyes just started welling up. Yes. I’m a dork.
He was actually working there in the kitchen. Seeing him in that capacity is just so uber cool.
Like I said, I’m a dork. Happy birthday to me!