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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The French Laundry in Yountville, CA

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who avoid "tasting menus"

The French Laundry seems to have received every culinary award there is including Restaurant Magazine's "Best Restaurant in the World 2003 and 2004."  Anthony Bourdain calls it "The Best Restaurant in the World.  Period."  It's won "The Daily Meals" Best Restaurant in the Country 2 out of the last 3 years.  In 2012, Keller and The French Laundry received a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.  Since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco.

Naturally, they say that it takes AT LEAST two months to get reservations since they only have 16 tables. Jenny Turknett from the Atlanta Journal & Constitution said she lined up the staff and did 2,600 calls in two days with four phones and couldn't get in.  So the week before, I thought I would give it a shot.  And I got a reservation at the FRENCH F*#KING LAUNDRY (to be referred to as FFL from here on out) the first time.  Game.set. match, I felt like Kenny Powers closing out games in the Mexican League.  UNTOUCHABLE.
This is the Dry Rub Vato, no imitators allowed
They obviously were familiar with The Dry Rub or, um, they had a last minute cancellation.  The smart money is on the latter.

Let's just say this bill may have my children starting in a community college

This was my favorite dining experience ever.  The attention to detail from the service to the decor was unparalleled.  Then visiting the immaculate kitchen after dinner, you truly learn what a the fuss is about (you could lick the kitchen floor).  Oh yea, the food was not to shabby either.  Side note the vast majority of their vegetables are grown RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET.  Very cool.  Only at the FFL.

But let me give you this advice, if you can do it.  DO NOT make this your first meal in Napa.  Every meal afterwards may be delicious (and they were), but they will pale in comparison.  I mean look how Billy Joel has done since Christie Brinkley left him.
The term "outkicking your coverage" may have been invented at this exact moment
Their extensive wine list was delivered via IPad, which was really neat.  WARNING #2:  If you bring your own bottle, the corkage fee is $75.

They set up the menu as a tasting menu. Any changes can cost you $75-100 for one course.  So you are locked into what they are making.  And you'll love it.  On this day of July 10th, the FFL started off with their signature "Oysters and Pearls."
Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar.  One of my top dishes of all time and the meal just started.  There is a reason caviar is the food of Kings and Czars.  Did you know the biggest caviar producing country is Iran?  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Hope you enjoyed my Cliff Clavin moment for the blog.
"There's no rule against postal workers not dating women. It just works out that way."

Garden Cucumber Salad
The 2nd dish was their Garden Cucumber Salad.  There is one food I'm not crazy about and it's cucumbers. But not surprisingly, this worked for me.  It was served with Cherry Belle Radishes, Brokaw Avocado Puree,  Petite Lettuces and Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche (to.die.for).
Sauteed Fillet of Mediterranean Lubina
Despite the presentation, this dish was not sponsored by Nike.  It's made with Marinated Cherry Tomatoes, Pattypan Squash, Toasted Pine Nuts, Petite Basil and Black Olive Puree.  Lubina is a sea bass, which combined with this olive puree was delicious.
Alaskan King Crab "Boudin"
Celery Branch Salad, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Potato Confit with Sweet Corn-Maine Lobster "Chowder."  Basically a crab cake, minus any bread and the lobster in this corn chowder may have been my favorite dish.  That's right, through the first four courses, I have two of my top 5 courses of all time.  This was basically, the All Star Game of my culinary experiences.  Welcome to the FFL.
Liberty Farm Pekin Duck "Rillette"
Jacobsen Orchard's Peach Relish, Young Fennel and Sicilian Pistachio Jus.  When done right duck is sumptuous.  This was the best duck I have ever had.
Applewood Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Elysian Fields Farm Lamb
San Marzano Tomato Marmalade, Arrow Leaf Spinach and "Cassoulet" of Garden Pole Beans.  Bacon and Lamb is almost too easy of a layup for Thomas Keller.  This was delicious, but getting me to like cucumbers was a much higher feat.
Andante Dairy "Legato"
Black Mission Fig Jam, Caramelized Cipollini Onion, English Walnuts and Toasted Oats.  The name Legato got this song stuck in my head. Dammit.

Santa Rosa Plum Sorbet
Jacobsen Orchard's Geen Gage Plums and Candied oats.  A near perfect combination.
"Dark Treacle"
Not to be confused with the former NASCAR Driver "Dick Trickle" (the double entendre made famous by ESPN's Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann of "The Big Show")  RIP Dick.  It's made with Devil's Food, Valrhona Chocolate "Marquise," Lyle's Golden Syrup and Marshall Farms Burnt Honey Ice Cream.  There's a lot going on here, but it works.  Trust me.
Speaking of "out kicking your coverage"
Visiting the FFL kitchen was almost as cool as when I got on the field at Memorial Stadium at 12 years old or playing the Durham Athletic Park in college, the day after Laettner hit "the shot."  At least that day we beat Puke, er I mean Duke.

I cannot speak enough about how great this experience was.  It was like seeing Led Zeppelin at MSG in 1973, Michael Jordan in the 1996 playoffs and Springsteen in the Meadowlands in 1985 all rolled into one, but with better food.
"Spent my days with a woman unkind, smoked my stuff and drank all my wine"
The restaurant is situated in what I had found to be one of the finest culinary towns in the country.  A sleepy little town called Yountville, CA.  Just north of Napa and south of St Helena, this town is home to some wonderful establishments. The FFL is without question the anchor to this town.
Don't drive too fast, you may miss it
I know this establishment is not for everyone, but if you can make it happen then MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Most people in Napa do not get the opportunity to get here.  So follow my advice and if that's not good enough, listen to Bourdain.  Do it.  It's the best damn restaurant in the country.  Period.  The End.

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1 comment:

  1. Well said. This is the best restaurant I have been to.