Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My French Laundry Experience

French Laundry in Yountville, CAFrench Laundry in Yountville, CA
The lapses of misty rain, the collected quaint neighborhood, sipping on glasses of Champagne at Domain Chandon before dinner made for a splendid experience. We stayed within the town of Yountville the day of our reservation. We had lunch at Bouchon Bakery – a sandwich, macaron, latte and dodging the rain with my jacket.

French Laundry Garden
We arrived early to walk the garden. The plots were labeled but most of the vegetables were harvested, except the big patch of rhubarb. Mmmm....I was thinking about the wonderful strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake I had at Bouchon Bakery at lunch.

As I approached the table I was greeted by the signature clothes pin on my napkin, which was immediately placed on my lap before I had an opportunity for a photo op. Our main server for the night introduced himself and went over the tasting menu in detail and explained our choices on four courses.

Oyster and Pearls
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar
Soupe De Topinambours
Fennel Bulb, Kumquats, Argula and Nicoise Olives

Moulard Duck "Foie Fras En Terrine"
Andante Dairy Yogurt, Rhubard Relish, Celery Branch, Walnuts and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Sauteed Fillet of Atlantic Halibut
Beets, Compressed Cucumber, Sicilian Pistachios, Red Ribbon Sorrel and Hass Avocado Puree

Sea of Japan Anago
White Sesame Dumpling, English Peas, Nantes Carrots, Scallions and "Bouillon Japonaise"
Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail
King Trumpet Mushrooms, REd Radish, Savory Spinach, Hazelnuts and Madeira Syrup
Marcho Farms "Coeur De Veau"
Caper "Pain Perdu" Globe Confit, Parsley Shoots and Gremolata Jus
Steak & Eggs
Snake Ricer Farms "Calotte de Boeuf Grillèe," Brisket Marmalade, Fried Quail Egg, "Pommes Darphine," Green Asparagus and "Steak Sauce"
Montgomery's Cheddar
San Marzabi Tomato Compote, Romaine Lettuce "en Feuille de Brie" and Hobbs' Bacon Vinaigrette
Coconut Milk Shebert
Vanilla-Roasted Maui Gold Pineapple, Medjool Dates, Cashew Nuts and Candied Ginger
Peanut Butter "Bavarois"
Crunchy Feuilletine, Milk Chocolate "Whip" and Gros Michel Banana Sorbet

Savarin Au Citron
Citrus "Vierge," Per Mio Figlio Olive Oil and Straus Dairy "Creme Glacèe"

We had three runners for the night who served us for most of the evening. Our main server was much more attentive to the next table. He was around to closed the bill and escort us to the kitchen. He gave a fully guided tour and answered all my questions knowledgeably. He also walked us to the door to retrieved our jackets and a menu, which was a nice touch. The service was impeccable and very accommodating.

French Laundry in Yountville, CA

One of our favorite runners of the night was an adorable young lady who had freckles, (we'll call her adorable) she had a slight nervousness in her voice when describing our dishes but made the service more personable. The other two runners were more robotic, barely cracking a smile, a little too serious for me.

'Adorable' set down the leaf shaped silver dish describing the Gougères canapè - Pâte à choux filled with a warm Gruyère mornay sauce and exclaimed, WELCOME!" Thus our evening was underway...

French Laundry - Gougères Canapè

French Laundry - Salmon Coronets Canapè

Canapè #2 is the signature Scottish Salmon Coronets filled in a sesame cone with creme fraiche at the bottom. The salmon was chopped to an almost pate consistency but the pieces were still distinctive upon biting. Rich, creamy sticky in texture with a surprise creme frachie finish at the bottom tip of the cone, kind of like the little bit of chocolate at the end of a Drumstick ice cream cone.

French Laundry - Salmon Coronet Canapè

French Laundry - Oysters and PearlsOyster and Pearls in a tapioca sabayon sauce - I've been anticipating this dish and the results were beyond my expectation. The sabayon richness was accentuated by the tapioca texture, giving it a more thicker coat on the mother of pearl spoon. The oysters, void of brininess with only the sweetness prevailing. The caviar quenelle was generous and added the saltiness and "pop" to the dish. Phenomenal. How some even compare Gary Danko's version to TFL is almost criminal.

French Laundry - Oysters and Pearls

We had a choice between the soup or the Moulard foie gras terrine with a $30 supplement. The Soup De Topinambours was presented before pouring on the liquid which had the consistency of well beaten eggs (beaten by a stand mixer frothy.)

French Laundry - Soup De Topinambours

French Laundry - Soup De TopinamboursFrench Laundry - Soup De Topinambours

French Laundry - exquisite various saltsThe Moulard Duck foie gras was served with a sweet balsamic glaze and textures (walnuts, celery and rhubard) to counteract the smooth and supplely potent foie gras. Warm brioche bread accompanied the dish but before we had a chance to tear into the bread, another hot brioche bread replaced the first slice. TFL wanted every bite of the foie gras to be eaten with warm bread. The plate of exquisite salts to be sprinkle upon desired - fluer de sel, a Colorado salt and I believe a Parisian Grey salt.

French Laundry - Moulard Duck Foie gras

The bread service comes partway through the meal which is a good idea considering I usually like to fill my wait time with stuffing my face with bread. The bread is from Bouchon Bakery with a few choices, my personal favorite is the pretzel.

French Laundry - bread serviceFrench Laundry - Bread Service

The butters deserve a full write up, two butters are served - unsalted from Andante Diary from Petaluma, CA and the whipped salted butter is from Animal Farm in Middlebury, Vermont. The salted butter is churned by Diane St. Clair from the milk of her Jersey cows, one named Keller after Thomas Keller. (Watch a video of her here.) The unsalted was so creamy it was insane and without salt I was able to really taste the pinging milkiness. I could only imagine how divine the butters change in flavor during the seasons.

French Laundry - Whipped and unsalted butter

The fish choice was between a Atlantic Halibut and Anago, a eel from Japan. The Anago was sweet especially with the soy sauce broth. The eel's silver film under the skin was not remove so it was difficult to cut or chew. The fish was served with 2 dumplings which was undercooked, rendering a hard floury taste. When I looked at the cross section of the dumpling the middle wrappers were indeed raw and not thoroughly cooked.

French Laundry - Sea of Japan Anago

The Halibut was slightly dry but the crust was very crispy giving a great off set to the flaky meat.

French Laundry - Fillet of Atlantic Halibut

The butter poached lobster greeted my nose before my eyes. I could smell the fragrant linger of butter before I could see it visually. Tender and Sweet. Need I say more? Anyone care for eau de butter poached lobster? I know I will be in first line for the launch.

French Laundry - Butter Poached Maine Lobster tail

The 5th course was choice between the rabbit and Veal Heart Confit which was described by our service "thinly sliced lengthwise, almost like a pastrami" I was sold. The dish did have pastrami qualities such as the cured toothy tear of the meat but it was much more intense in flavor.

French Laundry - veal heart confit

When I go out for Prime Rib I always leave the "eye" of the rib for my doggy. I am upmost in love with the "ring of the eye" a.k.a calotte and TFL serves it breakfast style. The calotte cooked sous vide and then seared. I was in beef heaven.

French Laundry - Steak and Eggs

The cheese course included something a little unusual, a griddled cheese wrapped around Romaine lettuce. The bread service had a choice of walnut, raisin and country bread.

French Laundry - Montgomery's cheddar

The 8th course, a palate cleanser before our desserts was a coconut milk sherbet. The roasted pineapple added some tartness and dark sugar quality, a really perfect way to began dessert. I couldn't help but notice every quenelle was beautifully proportionally shaped.

French Laundry - Coconut Milk Sherbet

When the reservationist called three days before to confirm our reservations, I requested for the Coffee and Doughnuts, which is a signature dessert but no longer on the menu. She politely accepted the request but said there are no guarantees.

The coffee semifreddo was really the winner, one had to battle the dense layer of foam to reach the prize. The freddo was thick enough to scoop, just right in the middle of ice cream and a milkshake.

French Laundry - Donut and Coffee

The dessert choices were a Savarin Au Citron and Peanut Butter "Barvarios." The Savarin au citron had flecks of olive oil with the citrus fruits. The savarin was so light and delicate it was almost floating. The variation on the sponge cake was so airy but smooth, without the crumbliness. Sublime.

French Laundry - Savarin Au Citron
French Laundry - Peanut Butter "barvarois"

Before our mignardises, we were brought a mini lemon chiffon tart. The tart entitled the adjective of chiffon, as it felt like the silkiness of the fabric.

French Laundry - lemon chiffon tart


French Laundry - violet tuilesFrench Laundry - toasted chocolate macadamia nuts (mignardises)French Laundry - Chocolate Mignardises
Top: Violet Tuiles, Chocolate covered roasted Macadamia Nuts Bottom: Assorted Chocolates


A stack of shortbread was given as a departing gift. I commented on giving my mother the mignardises and the server graciously put in another bag of shortbread for her.

French Laundry - Shortbread as departing gift
My dog licking his lips because he could smell the doggy foie gras biscuit from Bouchon Bakery. TFL ribbon more beautiful than Tiffany's.

The French Laundry is undoubtedly one of the best meal I've have, excluding home cooked meals by my parents. The details of each dish, the quality of ingredients, the service and the table setting. I would hate to be a dish washer at TFL with each course placed on a charger, a dish and sometimes stacked on another dish, utensils, condiment dishes and everything in between.

The server escorted us to the kitchen and since it was in the middle of service at about 8:30pm the kitchen was buzzing and crowded. Chef de cuisine, Tim Hollingsworth was in the kitchen doing the final touches on each dish. I wanted a signed menu but did not want to bother him since it was busy.

Timothy Hollingsworth of French Laundry
Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth, winner of 2010 James Bread Rising Chef of the year award

Our server gave a thorough guided audio tour of the kitchen and I noticed it was much smaller than expected and there were a lot of cooks, almost elbow to elbow. The kitchen does look a lot like Ratatouille's and when I asked about Pixar's research at TFL, the server happily told us the story.

The table close to us had a dish with a clear dome filled with smoke brought to the table. We inquired our runner about the dish and whether it was from the extended menu. They were also served the custard in a egg shell, a dish I've been salivating over on other blog post. She noted it was a applewood smoked hamachi and they were friends of the chef.

Without a doubt, I can't wait to return. I think I would like to try the extended menu on my next visit and maybe during autumn so there are truffles on the menu. Or become bff with the chef?

French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2380
French Laundry on Urbanspoon

French Laundry in Yountville, CA*How I got reservations - I called 2 months to the date at exactly 10am. The phone was busy and I hit redial 28 times according to my mobile before I got a ring tone. I hear American Express concierge can aid in a reservation. I've had friends who stayed at Carneros Inn and the concierge was able to put their name on a same day wait list and succeeded twice. I've also heard of trying to walk in on the same day, however, there were at least 3 people who were turned away the night I was dining and it was a weekday.

*Dinner with service included is $250/person, do remember it does not include tax. I did add another 10% tip on top because they made us the coffee and donuts and they are very very accommodating. There is a $100/person cancellation fee within 3 days of reservations.


Kung Food Panda said...

Epic Meal. I do want to give FL a try! I need to get my Per Se post up soon....let's do FL soon!

Beef No Guy said...

Wow what a beautiful and nice meal! I actually went in the early 90s for lunch, but didn't think much of it at the time and hated the drive :-D

foodhoe said...

I still haven't been... too hard to get reservations and ouch! that $250 pp pricetag hurts! but I just love your description of the butter - pinging milkiness! sounds like a fantastic and memorable meal.

Ravenous Couple said...

what an awesome meal! hope you'll do delicious vietnam this month!

The Duo Dishes said...

Little, delicate servings that are plated or served in an interesting way can totally create a meal experience. This looked like lots of fun.

Lolia S said...

I feel like I was there with you :)

svnit civil said...

i want to eat it

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