The French Laundry

So there we were crawling down 29 towards Yountville. Our reservations were for 5:45PM and it was currently 5:40PM. Our GPS estimated 25 more minutes until we reached our destination. We were deciding where else we would eat dinner after The French Laundry didn’t seat us due to our tardiness…

Finally we got there and rushed in as dignified as possible all of us holding our breath… “Welcome to The French Laundry. We are happy to have you, please, follow me to your table”. A collective sigh of relief was audible. We got to our table, situated ourselves and awaited a night of unbelievable, out of this world, life changing food.

They started us out with an amuse bouche, a small bite-sized hors d’oeuvre served before the first course. This Saturday night it was a cornet. Cornets resemble little ice cream cones. This one was savory and filled with sweet red onion creme fraiche and topped with salmon tartare. Fantastic, amazing, like nothing I’ve had before…we could not wait for the first course!

The French Laundry does a different tasting menu each night. One for omnivores and one for vegetarians. Sam, Terry, Mike and I all chose the omnivore menu. The tasting menu has nine courses, however with all the extra “small bites” towards the end of dinner we ended up having 12 courses that night. Twelve courses that rendered us silent each time we took a bite – each one beautifully executed and unparalleled in its presentation.

. The French Laundry . Tasting Menu . 28-May-11 .

Oysters and Pearls

Mascarpone-Enriched English Pea “Agnolotti”

Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean Daurade

Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail

“Rouelle” of Thomas Farm Squab

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle

“Ossau Iraty”

Delta Blueberry Sorbet

“Mousse au Chocolat Blanc”

Each course was amazing but the two that I still dream about today are the Oysters and Pearls and the Lamb Saddle. The Oysters and Pearls have been on the menu since The French Laundry opened 17 years ago and for good reason. It is a perfect dish. The silky texture and creamy richness of the oysters and “sabayon” sauce perfectly compliment the salty pops of Sturgeon caviar and tapioca “pearls”. The result is an elegant dish that you never want to end. The Lamb Saddle, in contrast, had a bolder flavor profile. The lamb was served three ways; a small cut of lamb saddle which is also known as the loin, a lamb sausage and a lamb and pole bean “cassoulet”. All were beautifully assembled atop a roasted red pepper puree.

We of course went for the food but what we quickly learned was that our night was not only going to be filled with world-class culinary bliss but was also going to be one of the best experiences we have ever had. The food, the presentation, the service was all on a level I didn’t even know existed. Our server for the night could not have made us feel more comfortable and appreciated, answering all of our questions and even chatting it up with us a bit. One question we asked was how often Thomas Keller (the original chef behind The French Laundry) is around. Our server explained that he is seldom there since he has many other business obligations to attend to as well as The French Laundry. We were blown away by the next questioned posed by our server, “Would you like to see the kitchen and meet the current chef after you are through with your dinner?” We could not believe it (we thought there was no way our night could get better than it already was)!!! So, after dinner our server took us into the kitchen. We walked in right as an order was being plated. There were no less than 3 people working on each plate. One even had a tweezers and was putting a single chive flower in its place. Unreal. I was amazed at the beauty of everything…there was no clutter, no dirty dishes, no splashes or drips on the counters. We had a chance to profusely thank the chef and everyone else for the unbelievable food we had enjoyed so much that night. Just as we were about to leave our server once more pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He had managed to find two French Laundry cookbooks signed by Thomas Keller for Sam and me.

As you can imagine we walked out of The French Laundry on cloud nine that night. I can safely say that our dinner there will be one of the best culinary memories of my life (or any memory for that matter).

Now I just need to muster up the courage to try one of the cookbook’s recipes…

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