Monday, December 13, 2004

French Laundry.

Aren and I spent last weekend in Napa. We had planned our trip around reservations that Aren managed to snag at the French Laundry. To hear his tips on how to snag a reservation of your own, see his account here.

Photos from our trip are here. Now for the highlights:


We stayed at the Maison Fleurie, a B&B located in the heart of Yountville and just two short blocks from the French Laundry. Our room was cozy and spacious.


On Saturday morning, we had a tour and tasting at Jarvis. Jarvis' entire facility is underground. The winery is the most spectacular winery I've ever visited, although it's a little over-the-top. The tackiest part of the tour was a stop in the ladies' restroom to point out a fiber optic light display on the ceiling and the nine (an unheard of number) stalls. In my opinion, the wines (primarily cabs) are not worth their steep prices. But, then again, I'm not a cab fan, so maybe I'm not a good judge.

On Saturday afternoon, we had a tour and tasting at Rudd. Like Jarvis, Rudd specializes in cabs which seem over-priced to me. The grounds, however, are beautiful and tour very interesting. Turns out that Rudd was founded by the owners of the Lonestar Steakhouse chain. Turns out that the Rudd family also owns Dean and Deluca! Lucky ducks. Rudd had some interesting equipment, including concrete fermentation tanks, which are used in Europe, but unheard of in the US. Rudd claims a sauvignon blanc in its line of wines, a percentage of which comes from these concrete tanks. The concrete is supposed to give the sauvingnon blanc a minerally taste. Unfortunately, they were sold out of this wine, so we were unable to taste it.

On Sunday, Aren and I had our final tour and tasting of the weekend at Honig. We found Honig by searching for Napa valley wineries with award-winning sauvignon blancs. During out tasting, we tried two sauvignon blancs, two cabernet sauvignons, and a yummy dessert wine that had nice hints of honey. We loved all the wines, even the cabs, which were just the right heaviness for us. Of all the wineries we've ever visited in Napa, Honig has the most number of wines that we like. Aren and I agreed that Mendocino County's Navarro is the only winery that lines up with our wine tastes more than Honig.


I'm anxious to describe our French Laundry experience, so I'll briefly describe our first night's dining experience at Bistro Jeanty. This was our third visit in less than a year to Bistro Jeanty. The restaurant always accommodates our request for their two-person fireside table. Aren and I shared their terrine de lapin before respectively moving on to our coq au vin and cote du porc. We wrapped up the meal with a tarte tatin and crepe suzette. A perfect end to a perfect day!

Ok, French Laundry time. We had reservations for the first seating on Sunday (the restaurant offers a 5:30 seating and 9:30 seating each night, but it became clear to us that "special" people do not need to respect these seating times). We were nervous for the meal all Sunday afternoon -- it felt silly to be nervous, but knew the experience was going to be once in a lifetime (well, hopefully once in every couple years).

The staff was younger than I expected, but very professional and helpful. For each of the nine courses we had on our tasting menu, a different server brought and described the meal to us. We were even served two different butters, each of which was described to us in great detail.

Ok, I'm sure you (you being all the many readers of my blog) want a breakdown of what we drank and ate. First for the drinks:

  • A glass of Schrambsberg Vineryard, Blanc de Blancs, and a glass Pierre Gimonnet, Blanc de Blancs to complement the salmon tartar and caviar found in our first dishes
  • A half bottle of JUHA Strub Riesling to complement our lighter first courses
  • A half bottle of Michaud "The Pinnacles" Chardonnay to complement the heavier courses that ensued

All the wines were good. I liked the riesling the best, but thought the chardonnay was the most interesting. It had a minerally taste that I've never experienced before.

Now, for the FOOD! While the tasting menu is nine courses long, we were served extra surprise courses:

Extra course: The famous ice cream cone: salmon tartar on a tuille filled with red-onion creme fraiche

Course 1: "Oysters and Pearls," "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with "Beau Soleil" Oysters and Iranian Osetra Caviar

Course 2: Poached Moulard Duck "Fois Gras en Terrine," Bartlett Pear Relish and Toasted "Brioche" for me and "Carnaroli Risotti" Biologico with Shaved White Truffles from Alba for Aren

Course 3: Pan Roasted Loin of Columbia River Sturgeon, Melted Savoy Cabbage, Trompettes de la Morte and Madras Curry Emulsion

Course 4: "Peas and Carrots," Maine Lobster Tail "Cuit sous Vide," Carrot "Parisienne," Young Pea Shoot Salad and Sweet Carrot Sauce

Course 5: "Pork and Beans" All Day Braised Hobbs Shore Crispy Pork Belly, "Cassoulet" of Autumn Pole Beans and a Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

Course 6: "Tournedo Rossini" Filet of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal, Fingerling Potato "Confit," French Laundry Green "Broccoli Florettes," Mouladrd Duck "Foie Gras Mousse" and "Sauce Perigourdine"

Course 7: "Reblochon" Globe Artichoke "Tapenade," Caramelized Cipollini Onions, Armando Manni "Per Me" Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fourty Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

Course 8: Coconut Sorbet, Persian Lime Jelly and Toasted Coconut "Gianduja"

Course 9: "Douceur au Chocolat," Devil's Foo Cake with Valrhona "Guanja" Chocolate "Creme," Espresso "Anglaise" and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Extra Course: A creme brulee for me and pana cotta for Aren

"Mignardises": two macaroons, two shortbread cookies, a tiny lemon tart, a tiny chocolate mousse tart, nougat, and a tiny raspberry jelly tart

Oh and homemade chocolates (I had a peanut-butter filled one and Aren had a caramel-filled one)

We LOVED everything -- I've been typing for quite some time now, or I'd elaborate more on this! We agreed that the risotto with shaved truffles was the best of the best -- the white truffles were removed from their lockbox and shaved tableside for us. Wow!

We drove back from Napa this morning with our keepsake French Laundry menus and clothespins. Hopefully, I'll have another French Laundry posting one day...


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