Friday, February 14, 2014

Dinner at The French Laundry: Best.Meal.Ever.

Hey everybody!

Today I'm sharing a personal post, taken with my iphone in terrible light. Are you okay with that? Meredith and I are in Napa right now (our first time ever) - we have a wedding here later this year and wanted to 1) scout out the location and 2) eat at the French Laundry.  Sorry... THE French Laundry. As in, the best restaurant in America and, possibly, the world, with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller (who I met in LA last July).

The French Laundry is pretty tough to get a table at... they take reservations 60 days out and fill up within a minute, and I've been trying for months to get through.  Their 9 course chef's tasting menu is like a master's class in the culinary arts. As a super foodie (and now a foodtruck owner), I was so interested in experiencing food at its finest quality and production.  

We shot this as we were heading out the door... (isn't my wife a super-hottie?!)

The obligatory shot outside The French Laundry...

This wasn't the first course.  Think of it more as an amuse bouche... in the cone (black sesame tuile) was a salmon tartare with red onion creme fraiche.

Still not the first course... next we had gruyere (and I mean melty, gooey gruyere) gougeres - the don't necessarily look amazing, but it kind of blew our minds. The meal was off to an insane start.

For my first course, I got the "Oysters and Pearls." I've never really understood the fascination with caviar as a delicacy. Until this dish. A sabayon of pearl tapioca with poached Island Creek oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar was so creamy and delicious.

Let me interject here. Mere and I didn't drink wine with the dinner 1) because we were already treating ourselves to a super expensive dinner and 2) we didn't want to get tipsy so we could fully appreciate the food.  So, we elected to get iced tea.  When they brought me lemon, I was amazed... I had to take a picture because it looked pretty much perfect. Have you ever seen a lemon so perfect? It's all about good ingredients, and TFL has the best.

Another non-course item... the have 5-6 different kinds of bread. These two were yummy (my faves are on down the post).

Back to the courses... for Mere's first course she got eh "clam chowder" with celery root "Royale," Geoduck clam, celery branch "Matignon," oyster crackers and Royal Ossetra caviar.

For the second course, I opted for the upgrade to Carnaroli risotto bilogico... Parmigiano-Reggiano with shaved black winter truffles.  When they brought out my dish, this box accompanied it.  Yes, real, fresh black winter truffles. The smell sent me over the edge.

They were "generous" with the black truffle. It was so amazing.  Not like getting truffle oil on fries, y'all. The taste was nice and subtle, and the aroma was beautiful.  Believe it or not, there is a risotto under there!

The pretzel bread and mini-baguette. S'cute and S'delicious.

Ready for some mind-blowing creativity?  Here we go!
"Heart and Sole" Dover Sole (fish) wrapped in corned veal heart "Rouelle" with potato puree, radishes, watercress and a french pickle emulsion.

From above, that thing that looks like a chip... well, if you hold it up to the light you see how complex it actually is!  Crunchy, beautiful, and delicious.

Mere's favorite dish of the night was the fourth course: Sea scallop "Poelee" with spinach, english walnuts, salsify, and slow-roasted beet puree. There's a beet on top too.  My girl loves beets!

Course five: Rabit. It looks (and tastes) like it is wrapped in bacon, but that's just genius cookery. Toasted caraway jus. I wasn't a fan of the melba, but the rest was rad.

Course six: "Calotte de boeuf" with bone marrow "pain perdu" braised carrots, cauliflower cream, pea tendrils and bordelaise vinaigrette. Getting each element on the fork for the perfect bite was fun because there were different tastes and textures that went perfectly together.

Course seven was the cheese course.  By this point I was pretty much at wit's end, and this sent me over the "how-do-they-do-this" edge. The cheese is the middle layer here, but let me explain what else you see: top layer is a Riesling Gelee (can you believe that?) and the bottom layer was a pistachio "pain de gene" or bread crust. The celery was an inventive twist to add some freshness.

And now the dessert courses.  Blood oranges (my favorite!) both candied and poached, blood orange gelee, sesame puree and tuile was pretty fab.

Course nine was brown butter ice cream - the softest and creamiest ice cream, accompanied with toasted hazelnuts.

Then we had some delicious chocolate pate with pistachio.

We were also celebrating my birthday (which is Sunday!), and they brought me out an insane birthday cake (isn't the plate super pretty?!). It was a chocolate and hazelnut creme layered cake. Pretty freaking ridiculous.

And our server brought out big, fancy box of chocolates, of which I chose the graham cracker and marshmallow (on the left) - I wanted to see how it compared to Baller's s'mores balls (I like mine better because my marshmallows are roasted), and on the right is strawberry and peanut butter. Tasty!

The rest of the desserts I'll group into one picture: macaroons, cocoa crusted macadamia nuts, and "coffee and doughnuts" which wasn't coffee at all... it just looked like it... it was coffee semi-freddo!
And then a little takeaway... some shortbread in a cool little French Laundry tin.

My closing thoughts are this: this is a once-in-a-lifetime meal. A bucket list type of meal.  It was overall the best meal I've ever had. Here's why...

I feel like I KNOW food. I know about it, I know how to create it, and how to manipulate it.  However, after eating at The French Laundry I realize more than ever how much I DON'T KNOW about food. The degree to which it can taste and be manipulated was such a surprise to me. The kitchen has all my respect in the world, and I truly feel that the experience has lived up to the reputation of The French Laundry.

Talk to you soon,

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