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Exercise in Excess: Feasting at The French Laundry

A little while back, I confessed to never having eaten at a single one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Well, last week I finally fixed that by dining at Thomas Keller's number 4 ranked (number 1 in the US) The French Laundry of Yountville, CA (Napa wine country). The menu there consists of two options: the chef's tasting menu or the taste of vegetables menu, so unfortunately there's no popping in and ordering a la carte. In fact, there's no popping in of any sort - we had our reservations booked two months in advance, and even those were hard to come by. The meal itself is rather pricey, but I felt worth it for the food, atmosphere service and experience. It's not something I could see myself doing often, mostly for financial reasons. When I told everyone that I went, the first question was, "was it worth it?" followed shortly by, "what did you eat?" To find out the answers and see a parade of delectable pictures,

The evening started off by being presented bottles of both still and sparkling water. The still water was from Hildon and my friend Eric made sure that I noted that the bottle said it was "An English Natural Mineral Water of Exceptional Taste." Once we were settled in with waters, we (there were four of us) all decided to go with the Chef's tasting menu. The vegetable menu looked great, but I knew I would be sad not to get the chef's menu. Once our menus were chosen and our variations (a few dishes had options) selected, it was time for the amuse-bouches.

The two amuses were little gougeres (cheese bread puffs) served on a warm plate, and red onion crème fraiche filled, black sesame cornets topped with salmon tartare. I could have eaten just these and been quite a happy camper.

Next up is the "Oysters and Pearls," "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Beau Soleil Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar. This is one of of the only dishes that is served just about every evening, and after tasting it, I know exactly why. The oysters were great, the caviar delectable and the texture amazingly creamy. It was like a savory tapioca pudding, everything just melted in my mouth. They followed this up with one of the best breads I'd ever eaten. A "brioche-like" roll and I must say, if this recipe is in either the French Laundry or the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, this will be disaster for my waistline.

After the caviar it was time for Moulard Duck "Foie Gras Au Torchon" "Compressed" Strawberries, Purple Top Turnips, Frisée Lettuce and Black Truffle "Gastrique" served with fresh buttery rich brioche. This dish was smooth, creamy and totally my undoing. I should have eaten only part of it, but I devoured it instead. In fact, I had more than one helping of brioche. Along with the brioche, the foie gras was also served with a trio of fancy salts.

At this point we were only 2 of 9 courses in to the meal, and on our 3rd glass of wine. Like I said, the whole evening was an exercise in excess! Be sure to come back for tomorrow for part 2 of my French Laundry recap!

rnsmelody rnsmelody 10 years
im soo jealous =(
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
fillet=filet (mignon) I know I shouldnt have second-guessed myself with the spell check!
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
Ive had nights like that. I wrote about it a little on Part 3 today (Friday)--how my tummy gets full and my palate is overwhelmed. I went to a fancy restaurant with my bf (I was treating) and I started off with a lobster bisque, then a fillet in a rich sauce, and ended with a dark chocolate souffle with some liquor. All while drinking Pinot Noir. Everything ended up being too rich because after getting up and walking two city blocks, I threw up everywhere. It was not one of my finer moments. :BARF: :OOPS:
nycgirl nycgirl 10 years
I'm so jealous! I live in NYC so my fiance and I have blown through the top restaurants with the 2 big exceptions: Per Se and Masa. Dinner is always worth it but you have to take it slow. I have a funny story: While we were dating Alex took me to Alain Ducasse for a $700 meal-- completely decadent 7 course meal with champagne, wine, cheese, 2 deserts... And my stomach got so upset by the wine and desert (chocolate ganache souffle) that as soon as I got home I regurgitated like a drunk college kid. I then promptly passed out and poor Alex didn't even get any for all his effort (and money)! We still go out to fancy dinners but now I take it slower on the wine! If you are ever in NYC, my fav restaurant is Le Bernadin. Check it out.
Food Food 10 years
puddinpie - wow that's really unexpected, I would have been upset by that as well. all of my main dishes were cooked to perfection. However during dessert is where things slid a little, but i'll get to that gripe tomorrow.
puddinpie puddinpie 10 years
I had an amazing experience there service-wise. However, the food fell a little short of my expectations (2 of the proteins were over-cooked and dry, which I don't expect at a restaurant of that caliber.)
hotchickrules hotchickrules 10 years
OMG, yummy1
saffy1227 saffy1227 10 years
chewonthat chewonthat 10 years
Thanks for giving us a look into what's it like to dine at such a high quality restaurant! I can only dream to go to one of those one day! Can't wait for parts 2 (and 3...and 4...take as long as you'd like!) :)
Food Food 10 years
oh and buzz, there was so much decadence being thrown around, it might actually have to be three posts. ;)
Food Food 10 years
econinsf - what a fun coincidence! can't wait to see if our menus vary! rubialala - i know, i was slightly embarassed at first (I actually went and bought a smaller camera that morning, so that I at least wouldn't have to drag the large SLR) and I kept trying to hide the camera in my lap, but eventually i said, to hell with it, i'm paying a gajillion dollars and i'm gonna take pics! heheh!
rubialala rubialala 10 years
Okay, I love the pictures. I can totally see you sitting at your table in this super nice restaurant, snapping pictures of your food with a camera!!!
econinsf econinsf 10 years
I can't believe you posted this I was just going to write you and tell you about my dinner last night at the FL! We sat down at 7:45 and didn't leave until 12:30am! I have been lucky enough to dine there before as this was my third visit over the last 7 years. I was amazed with my experience and to answer the question, "was it worth it?" I will have to say that if you think you will appreciate what goes into each dish, and love food or you just have that kind of money to burn on a meal than "yes!". I fall into the first category. From your description so far our menus were almost identical. My fois dish came in a different shape and had a whipped tupelo honey smeared around the plate and thin truffle shavings on top. The salts were surprising and delicious. How perfect that they would replace the plate of brioche when it had been sitting there for a bit with a fresh warm one! Divine! I can't wait for your next post.
llendril llendril 10 years
Entertainment Entertainment 10 years
I can understand why you had to split it into two parts. So far, I think my downfall would be the brioche-like roll and the caviar/oyster dish. The atmosphere at the restaurant looks very serene — dare I say, "delightfully still."
rainonme224 rainonme224 10 years
This restaurant sounds wonderful, can't wait to read part 2.
partysugar partysugar 10 years
Jealous, totally! The foie looks amazing.
AmazonChick AmazonChick 10 years
that's just what I was thinking Cravin! I'm in publishing and we're doing the French Laundry's dessert book this fall - just saw the photos and I had to be careful not to drool on them!!
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
OMG. How extravagant and wonderful. I cant wait to tune in for the next segment! Youre so lucky! Im glad you enjoyed yourself!
cravinsugar cravinsugar 10 years
i can't wait to see
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