I’ve learned about Thomas Keller through my my fiance, “The Chef”, and read through TK’s books only to dream of tasting his food. Thomas Keller’s theory is based on “the law of diminishing returns”. Think about that first bite of a dish and that feeling of wanting more and more? That’s exactly what his tasting menus are aimed at…teasing your every taste bud for more and more with the perfect amount in the next dish/bite. In this post, you’ll find one of my most memorable moments in my life…
In preparation of my San Francisco/Napa Valley trip, I’ve read the cutest blog post of a little girl participating in her own little tasting at The French Laundry and her comments are adorable! Click here for the blog post: http://www.thebolditalic.com/
Our French Laundry experience…
The restaurant in nestled in a quaint and homey area in Yountville, California. It has a “coming home to grandma and grandpa’s house in the country” kind of feel. There’s a garden right across the street, which is where TFL farm their fresh vegetables. The hosts were very pleasant and greeted us nicely. Despite the recognition and caliber of the restauarant, the service is still very warm and casual…
The French Laundry (TFL) has a preset tasting menu that varies from day to day at a set price of $295. Some dishes have an extra option to substitute your dish for another, upgraded dish. “The Chef” and I decided that since it was his birthday, he would order the menu with all of the upgrades and I would order the regular tasting menu. That way we could both try “everything on the menu”!
Orange Cornet and Smoked Salmon. This was one of many amuse bouches and a great start to many more bites…
Aged Gruyere Cheese Ball. About 3/4 inch in size, but so good. I wanted to eat a whole bucket of these, but luckily, there was so much more to look forward to…
“Oysters and Pearls”. “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca. Island Creek Oysters. White Sturgeon Caviar.
This is one of Thomas Keller’s classic dishes. It can even be found in his “The French Laundry Cookbook”. Sure it looks great, but the just to taste it is a completely different experience. The oysters tasted as if they came straight out of the water and freshly shucked onto the plate. I loved the play on “oysters and pearls”…
(+) Royal Ossetra Caviar. Smoked Sturgeon “Panna Cotta”. Garden Radishes. Oyster Crackers.
This dish was substituted in place of the “Oysters and Pearls”. It was more refreshing and there was a slight difference between the two caviars. In my opinion, I preferred the Oysters and Pearls due to its richness and savoriness, but the freshness and lighter flavors in this dish was still really good.
White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout.
Lyla, the 4-year-old food critic, described this as a “chicken that tastes like a fluffy marshmallow”. I’ve never seen a child with such descriptive and a refined palate. I’d agree with her on the fluffy marshmallow texture. It was a rich and soft custard with a deeply, infused truffle sauce on top. Who can say “no” to truffle sauce? (See link here: http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5607-a-four-year-old-reviews-the-french-laundry).
Croissant with a variety of butters. A break from all the savory goodness…
Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm. Tangerine “Supremes”. Garden Beets. Petite Lettuces. Green Peppercorn Vinaigrette.
This salad was very light and sweet. The slowly roasted garden beets were divine…I could eat a whole bowl of this stuff! I noticed that Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc also shares the same beets, because the Garden Beet Salad at Ad Hoc was just as delicious, just a tad more wholesome since they serve their meals family-style.
(+) Carnaroli Risotto Biologico. “Castelmagno” Mousse. Browned Butter. Shaved White Truffles from Alba.
The major theme of Thomas Keller’s tasting menu is elegance, richness, and truffles. Every other dish had a truffle component. If you order the risotto, the waitress brings out a cigar box full of large, whole truffles. Once it’s opened, it infuses the whole room full of an earthy and shroomy goodness. Next, they bring out the plate of risotto and the waitress shaves the truffles for a whole minute. I’ve never seen so much truffle in my life and it was definitely a moment and experience I’ll never forget…I regret not recording the whole process. I guess we’ll just have to go back!
The Truffle Box.
Sauteed Fillet of Japanese Medai. Young Fennel. Compressed Cucumbers. Brokaw Avocado Puree. Garden Herbs.
You don’t know perfectly cooked fish until you have it done by The French Laundry…Flaky, moist, and lightly seasoned.
Assortment of Breads: (left to right) Pretzel, Sourdough, Multigrain, French
Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster. Marinated Tardivo Radicchio. Carmelized Sunchokes. Toasted Sunflower Seeds. Brown Butter Vinaigrette.
This was THE best lobster I have eaten in my life. It’s easy to overcook lobster and I was so used to the rubbery stuff served at most restaurants. There was something different about this piece and it has changed how I look at steamed lobster. This bite of lobster..So juicy! And it almost melts in your mouth? How do you do it French Laundry??
Thomas Farm Squab. Hopper Creek Quince Puree. Celery Branch. Sicilian Pistachios. “Sauce Perigourdine”.
It’s not often you find squab (domesitcated baby pigeon) on a menu. It reminded me of a really lean, yet tender duck…but better…
Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb. Black Trumpet Mushroom “Pain Perdu”. Glazed Petite Turnips. French Pumpkin Puree. Swiss Chard Leaves.
At this point, I’ve just said so many great things about the proteins in this menu, it’s almost unbelievable. I’m not the biggest game meat fan and I’ve always gotten lamb quite overdone, but this piece? I am just amazed…Another favorite of this dish is the easily overlooked black trumpet mushroom “Pain Perdu”. It was so powerful in mushroom flavor and I just wished it was larger than a bite size. I was slowly slicing the pain perdu just to savor each bite!
(+) Charcoal Grilled 100 Day Dry Aged American Wagyu. La Ratte Potato Puree. Matsutake Mushrooms. Arrowleaf Spinach. “Sauce Bordelaise”.
This was “The Chef’s” substituted dish in place of the lamb. There’s no picking of which dish is better than the other. Each dish was unique on its own. The wagyu was tender and well-seasoned. I only had a bite, but I sure wish I had more!
“Ossau Iraty”. Globe Artichokes. Meyer Lemon Confit. Marcona Almonds. Romesco Sauce.
A well decorated cheese! A great break in between courses. That’s right. You break by eating at The French Laundry.
Green Tea and Pomegranate Custard.
This was the first of many desserts. I love the bits of Asian influence in his tasting menu. This custard was itty bitty and so delicate.
Feijoa Ice Cream and Pistachio Sauvignon.
Simple looking dessert? I think not! There was so much flavor jam-packed into this ice cream and it was balanced so well with the Pistachio sauce.
Chocolate Layered Birthday Cake for the Chef. Rich. Decadent. Chocolatey? I don’t know how you can’t like it!
Desserts: Cinnamon-sugared doughnuts. Persimmon. Pumpkin and Vanilla (?) Macarons. Cappuccino Semi-freddo.
I have never seen any restaurant offer so many desserts. And they were all perfectly delicious at that! My favorites had to be the cinnamon-sugared doughnuts and the Pumpkin macarons.
Assortment of Chocolate Truffles.
I’ve never received so many desserts in one meal. During this bombardment of desserts, the waiter brings you a tray of chocolate truffles and you can try as many as you’d like! Dessert heaven!
Just when you thought when you were finished, they bring out souvenir baggies of shortbread cookies to thank us for dining with them…
So, what is the verdict? The French Laundry was literally a parade of euphoria one bite after another…Each dish was rich and explosive. Each component screamed perfection. Perfection in plating. Perfection in technique. Perfection all around!
With that said, now I can say that I’ve eaten at a Michelin star restaurant…Three stars actually! And I can see why…