Since I started caring about food and wine, which must be almost 20-years now, I have known that The French Laundry in Yountville, California needed to be a part of my life’s bucket list. Living in Northern California, it just made sense–was almost a duty–to understand what such a highly regarded establishment was all about. My husband and I have followed the works of Chef Thomas Keller leading up to the time when we could put the check mark next to our TFL visit. We adore the Bouchon locations where we savor French onion soup, innovative yet classic fish dishes and a carafe of wine; we indulge in the buttery yet light pastries of the Bouchon Bakery paired with perfect coffee; and we were lucky enough to visit Chef Keller’s pop-up restaurant, Ad Lib, this September that recently wrapped its stint at Silverado. While traveling with our Cosentino pals this October, we were also lucky enough to tour the kitchens and partake in cocktails at Keller’s beloved New York Per Se restaurant. Needless to say, we are fans.
So when it seemed that this year was going to be a full one–and by “full”, I mean filled to the brim with wonderful design partnership growth for our product lines; constant design work for our team including residential, commercialm and showhouse opportunities; loads of travel coupled with concerning family health issues and a few funerals–I knew I had to plan something special to celebrate all that could make one either laugh with appreciation or cry from deep sadness in a blink of the eye. All these events are simply part of life, however I don’t know we have ever really taken an appropriate pause to even process it all. To me, the experience that TFL could offer was the perfect fit to lift, celebrate and share all of it with ten of our closest friends and family members.
Knowing that a phone reservation for smaller groups required a three month to-the-day reservation, I researched to understand what a larger group reservation required. It was a basic email and a contract. Once I knew what date would work for all involved, I put pen to paper and signed off for November 1st in our own private room.
We all marked our calendars and proceeded to countdown. When a stressful week would occur, a chemo treatment, or funeral would arise, we would cheer each other on via text “TFL! November 1!” It truly was our beacon for all invited.
When the day finally came, we stood at the entrance and were shaking with excitement while taking photos in the drizzling rain. We took in the gorgeous gardens that I have fondly snapped photos of on previous Yountville visits. Then we went in. I knew to expect white linens and TFL clothes pins giving a nod to the French steam laundry the building once was, but I didn’t know to expect such formality. Our guys all wore jackets, but the staff greeted us quite calmly and seriously. We were going in for a serious culinary experience. They took us up the stairs and past some smaller tables which were very quiet. There was no music playing at all. People were whispering, in fact.
Then, we reached our table set for eleven. OMG. White walls, simple draperies, navy blue French chairs covered in velvet, sconces that don the symbols you find on your shirt tag of how to launder an item, and a perfectly poised round table. The sight of the table setting literally made us weep. Behind us there was a glass bar filled with the world’s most exquisite libations.
Once we met Oscar, our sommelier and Kay, our captain, we were off to the races. Thank goodness for our private room where our closest people in life shared all the good and bad of 2015. There were loud belly-laughs and tears too, but mostly a thankfulness for being alive, loved, supported, and knowing it.
Now on to the food and wine…THAT was unbelievable.
Here are some of the most unforgettable dishes of the trip (sorry to brag but they were decadent):
“Oysters and Pearls”: Where do I even begin? We were looking forward to a culinary experience, and a masterpiece is what we received. “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar might be one of the simplest, most decadent “appetizers” I’ve ever had the pleasure of sampling.
Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm Salad: The most wonderful pairing of sweet and savory. With fresh garden turnips, glazed satsuma “supremes”, a creamy avocado puree and komatsuna, this dish was light and airy with a pleasant hint of sweetness.
Sauteed Fillet of Mediterranean Turbot: I’ve seen and tasted some lovely fish dishes, but this one really takes the prize. Featuring a yummy mixture of roasted garden sunchokes, an apricot “pate de fruit”, and toasted Sicilian pistachios, this plate had all of the components one might associate with catching a glimpse of heaven.
We would go into further detail but then we’d have to book another reservation! Needless to say, this was one of the best culinary experiences I’ve ever encountered and am truly blessed to have been surrounded by loved ones through its entirety. I’ll never forget the chatter, laughter, and overall ambiance of such a wonderful afternoon.