The French Laundry
6640 Washington St,
Yountville, CA 94599
After several failed attempts to secure a reservation, Joe went through his Amex concierge for our last attempt and we got a reservation! Of course, the year we get a reservation is when Joe is in business school (broke grad student) and I’m still in training (broke peds resident) so we discussed it and decided that this would probably be a once in a lifetime experience since I am leaving Sacramento this year. Although, Joe claims that every time I have used the “once in a lifetime rationale,” it was never just once and we almost always repeated whatever it was that we had done in the first place. Anywho, so after Joe secured the reservation, they called us multiple times to confirm and asked if it was special occasion so Joe told them that it was our anniversary (didn’t say anniversary of what) and even asked how to spell our names.’
Of course he didn’t mention any of this to me, so imagine my surprise when I saw our names on the menu! The chef of the evening even signed our menus (can’t tell if that says Thomas Keller but still awesome!). We were seated promptly and among the first to arrive. We had arrived early into town and did a few tasting to pass the time until our reservation.
The staff was pleasant and on point with timing of courses at a comfortable pace. The only awkward thing for me was that we got new silverware with every course, and so someone was constantly reaching over me and so I would stop talking while they were doing this (not sure why I didn’t just talk over them) and so our had frequent, short interruptions. But I do appreciate the attention to detail and clean silverware. We started off with complimentary Schramsberg champagne that was created especially for French Laundry. It was bubbly and dry, a very nice way to start the night.
We enjoyed our champagne with two amuse-bouches. One was a gougere with aged gruyere inside, which was amazing! Warm, crust on the outside and melting gruyere cheese on the inside!
Our other amuse abouche was a salmon tartare with sweet red onion creme fraiche in a cornet. The presentation was beautiful and impressive but not as impressive as the burst of flavor with the freshness of the onion and the salmon.
Our tasting menu started off with “Oysters and Pearls,” a “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon caviar. I’m not a fan of oysters because I find that they usually have too much of that salty-ocean flavor, but the creaminess of the pearl tapioca worked wonders to balance the oysters. The pearl tapioca was a perfect canvas for the caviar, and especially liked the touch of the mother of pearl spoons which kept the purity of the caviar flavor intact.
Next is where Joe and I diverged. I am a foie gras fanatic and can never resist it when it appears on menus and so I had the Hudson Valley Moulard duck foie gras “terrine” served with Satsuma Supremes, toasted hazelnuts, navel orange confit and wild miners lettuce. The foie gras dish came out with 6 different types of salts, including a Hawaiian sea salt, a Hawaiian lava salt, and a chile red salt but my favorite was the Fleur de Sel salt which just made the creamy foie gras flavor sing. Joe said it was a little too rich for his preference, so his next bite, I gave him with a bit of the orange which he preferred more compared to the previous bite of just foie gras and lettuce. My perfect bite was the foie gras with a toasted hazelnut, that crunch and sweetness added to the richness of the foie gras for me.
Instead of the foie gras, Joe had the Hawaiian hearts of peach palm salad, which included a coconut “panna cotta,” compressed sour apples, Brokaw avocado yogurt and garden watercress. It was beautiful to behold but Joe finished it in like three bites. It was a nice palate break from the richness of the foie gras but I was super happy with my decision.
Next, we both enjoyed the sauteed filet of Chatham Bay cod which was served with a la ratte potato puree, garden romaine lettuce and buttered English peas. At first glance, I was confused because I thought it was a scallop but then I realized that they just had an amazing golden brown crust on the cod from my old backyard, Cape Cod. The fish filet was white and glistening and went perfectly with the nutty, buttery ratte potato and sweetness of the English peas.
The next course we enjoyed was the sweet butter poached Stonington, ME lobster with Sacramento delta asparagus, crispy chickpeas, preserved Meyer lemon and spicy lobster broth. I was initially fearful that the spiciness of the broth would overpower the subtle lobster flavor but it worked especially well and actually enhanced that inherent buttery lobster flavor. The crunchiness of top really helped with the mouth-feel since lobster and asparagus were on the softer texture side.
Next was the Wolfe Ranch white quail with a Royal Blenheim apricot chutneym Chatenay carrots, garden spinach and sweet curry. We were both hesitant about this dish with strong curry and chutney flavors overpowering the quail flavor. But to me, quail is a bit gamey and so I welcomed the strong flavors distraction. I think we both agreed this was our least favorite of the entire night, mainly because of the savory vs. sweet battle on my taste buds but it was still delicious and so moist! Also, the grated smoked foie gras on top was an amazing touch!
We both loved this next dish! The charcoal grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte de boeuf” with red wine braised garden onion, buttermilk fried morel mushrooms, fava beans and “bordelaise sauce.” One of my biggest hold-ups for ordering medium-rare in restaurants is that bright red blood that spills onto the plate when you cut into the middle of a big juicy steak. The meat was so red but not a single drop of but juicy meaty goodness. Our guess is that maybe it was sous-vide’d first because of how even the cook was across the entire cut, and then finished on the charcoal grill. It was so tender! I could’ve had a course of just the buttermilk fried morel mushrooms, they were that delicious!
I actually thought this was our dessert course, but it was an Andante dairy “melange” with a toasted graham cracker, picked green strawberries and marcona almond butter. The cheesecake had a bold flavor like a blue cheese but a tang like a goat cheese.
However, our actual dessert course was amazing and super intense! 9 parts! We had a tiramisu like cake slice, passion fruit on top of a meringue, vanilla gelato with strawberry and shortbread cookie, lemon macaron, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, the big flower shaped meringue with lemon cream inside, sweet brioche donuts and a cup of what was a play on affogato. We also had several different chocolate truffles with flavors like salted caramel, s’mores, pistachio, hazelnut chocolate (my favorite!) , dark chocolate and sesame (it tasted like sesame seed oil!). We were super stuffed after our amazing meal and appreciated the staff’s attention to detail and commitment to great service. This was a very memorable night for us that we will probably never forget!