But here it is, and I'm a little glad I didn't put it together sooner - reminiscing made me realize what parts of this monumental meal were memorable and what parts weren't.
Some background - on a whim, I put myself on the waiting list at The French Laundry for the first weekend in November last year. Why then, you may ask? I honestly didn't know what came over me. Maybe I was looking to celebrate landing my first job in years that truly made me happy, maybe it was a strangely extravagant way to mark our half-year marriage anniversary. I figured we only live 45 minutes away, why shouldn't we go? Go before a mortgage, children, or more adult responsibilities would never allow for such an indulgence.
The phone call came the Friday before: a spot had opened for lunch, were we interested? The menu would be exactly the same as dinner. After frantic phone calls with H, we took the plunge. Eating at lunch actually suited us - a long tasting menu followed immediately with bed time is never a good idea (channel Guy Savoy). The other bonus was that we would be able to see the gardens in daylight and have natural light for photos.
To sum it up, I had an amazing time. Perfect, knowledgeable, unobtrusive service and a restrained sensibility that was different from other restaurant tastings we'd had. It was a marathon meal - probably 3 1/2 hours from when we sat down to when we concluded our kitchen tour (and tried not to gawk at Chef Keller as we walked in). While technique was decidedly French, the ingredients and combinations astounded us.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I still have yet to experience the "oysters and pearls," although I could always pull out the cookbook and immerse myself in the recipe on a weekend afternoon. I went into the meal hoping that the hype would not exceed the experience and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't. Things were technically perfect and the precision was evident on the plates.
Was it worth the cost? While I am clearly raving about my lunch, it was really hard to justify the cost. I know the high costs of pristine ingredients and living wages for those preparing and serving the food, but it's still hard to think of how much high-quality, local, organic food I could buy for the same price.
So come with me on the journey: Bon Appétit!
The Signature French Laundry Clothespin
Warm gougères appeared as we sipped our glasses of champagne and perused the menu. Good, but not mind-blowing.
Crème Fraîche, Sweet Red Onion
Cauliflower "Panna Cotta"
with Island Creek Oyster Glaze and California Sturgeon Caviar
Salad of French Laundry Garden Beets
Blood Orange, Sunchokes, Tarragon and Red Ribbon Sorrel
Moulard Duck "Foie Gras en Terrine"
Cranberries, Pecans, Belgian Endive,
Celery Branch and Toasted Brioche
Sautéed Japanese Bluefin Tuna
Fennel Bulb, Pine Nuts, Niçoise Olive, Arugula, and Spanish Saffron
Florida Everglades Frog's Legs
Thumbelina Carrots, Tokyo Turnips, French Laundry Garden
Sugar Snap Peas, Sweet Garlic Pudding and "Buerre Rouge"
New Bedford Sea Scallop "Poêlée"
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Chestnuts,
Caraway Melba and Dijon Mustard
Pasta, Browned Butter, Parmesan, and White Truffles
This course warrants three photos: the first was the pasta which arrived by itself. Rich, eggy, buttery, cheesy pasta whose smell was driving me crazy. Photo two is the server shaving an insane pile of truffles over it all (and me locked into the whole process), truffles that came from a beautiful lacquered box carrying a king's ransom worth of the beauties. Photo three is the completed dish, finished by yet another server holding a little saucier full of hot browned butter that when drizzled over it all, released more of that heady scent into my face. I DREAM of this. This is perfection.
I hate truffle oil and truffles used merely to "fancy" a dish up. This was the right way to treat a truffle.
Four Story Hill Farm Milk-Fed "Poularde"
Hobbs' Bacon, Akita Komahi Rice, Yuzu, Matsutake Mushrooms, Mizuna and Kanzuri
"Chateaubriand" of Marcho Farms Veal
Sweetbread Peirogi, Port Onions, Arrowleaf Spinach, and Truffle Crème Fraîche
Quince Membrillo, English Walnuts, Frisée and Aged Sherry Vinegar
Bartlett Pear Sorbet
with Roasted Jacobsen's Farm Pears and Chai Tea Sablé
"Gâteau Saint Nizier au Manjari"
Mango-Chili Relish, Valrhona Cocoa Nibs, Lime Foam and Coconut Milk Sorbet
Huckleberries, Marcona Almonds and Andante Dairy Yogurt Sherbet
Caramel Macadamia Nuts
Gardens and Sunset
I have no regrets about my meal at The French Laundry and am glad that we brought along a camera to capture it all. I hope you enjoyed your journey with me and hope that you will be able to experience your own one day!
The French Laundry
6640 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599
Tasting menu: $240 per person for prix fixe (service included)
Supplements for foie gras and white truffle pasta course
Wine not included