Yeah, I was pretty excited about this meal. Even more so than Alinea, which at the time seemed like the most exciting meal ever (and in hindsight I still think it is the most exciting/inspiring? meal ever…). I just couldn’t believe that after all the years since stumbling across TFL cookbook in my local Borders, and instantly falling in love, that I was actually going to have dinner there.
Well we did, and it was worth the wait.
This wasn’t the greatest meal ever, not even the second greatest meal ever. I think, that Alinea and Manresa still have a strangle hold on the top two positions. Those two restaurants are just more to my taste, Alinea in service/ambiance, and Manresa in the food department.
Though, there is no denying that The French Laundry is an amazing experience, and not just for the food, but for everything else that makes a restaurant. TFL is an amazing restaurant because it offers the diner an experience that is so seamlessly, pleasurably, holistic.
It begins the moment you get close to the restaurant.
It starts with the beautiful old building, and a garden across the street, and the shaded lawn, and a hostess that was more than gracious in letting us sit outside until the restaurant were ready for us. It continues with the menu, the glassware, the china, and the cutlery. The bows on the toilet paper in the bathroom have something to do with it, as do the lampshades on the scones in the dining room. It has to do with the cloche that magically appears, and the doors that silently open as Mr. Nadeau decides it’s time to let the cool night air, and a view of a distant vineyard, into the dining room…
I only have pictures of the food so you’ll just have to take my word on everything else. I had requested a list of the wines that were paired with the meal, but didn’t get it before we left the restaurant, so some of the wines are somewhat vague.
. . .
Amuse: The world famous Salmon Cornets and Gougeres
First Course: “Oysters and Pearls”
As delicious as it sounds. Except for the grit in my oysters. This dish was paired with a Pere Gimmonet 1er Cru, which is one of my favorite champagnes, and which tasted especially good that night.
Second Course: Moulard Duck “Foie Gras en Terrine”
The smoothest, richest, tastiest foie on earth. The strawberries were a nice foil for the foie, and really pulled amazing flavors out of the wine that was paired with this dish, which was a 2006 Becker Pfalz Reisling
Third Course: Crispy Florida Everglades Frog Legs
This was soooo good. The bits of frog leg were so moist on the inside and perfectly crisp on the outside. Each bit was glazed with the “aigre-doux,” which added so much brightness to what could have been a really heavy dish. This was like southeast Asian popcorn chicken. The wine pairing for this course was a 2006 Prá Soave.
Fouth Course: Maine Lobster Tail “Pochée au Beurre Doux”
Like the foie dish, simply superlative. This dish was paired with an interesting white blend from southern France, but my memory goes all fuzzy on me for this and the next course, so until I hear back from TFL, I can say that it was a good pairing, though I don’t think I would have enjoyed the wine as much on it’s own.
Fifth Course: “Confit De Cœur De Veau”
Amazing. It tasted so much like a pastrami and rye sandwich it was sort of baffling. This is the dish that I crave the most from that meal. I would happily eat it everyday if I could just find someone to sell me some calf hearts. This dish was paired with a 2005 Nicolas Potel Volnay.
Sixth Course: Snake River Farms “Calotte de Bœuf Grillée”
I am torn about this dish. The cut of meat was excellent, but he other components of the dish were just sort of there. This was just a rendition of a dish I’ve had before, with ingredients that weren’t really offering up anything new. Very good comfort food, but here? This was paired with the Neiman 2002 Napa Valley Red.
Seventh Course: “Blanc Bleu Du Rizet”
This was my first encounter with this particular cheese, and it won’t be my last. It was very, very good. I love when the cheese course is offered as a composed dish, instead of just a sampling of cheese. I mean, I’ll eat the cheese no matter what, but this had thought behind it (I wish the beef dish would have been half as interesting!).
Eighth Course: Jacobsen’s Farm Yellow Nectarine Sorbet w/ Anadante Dairy Yogurt and Puffed Quinoa
Sorry, no pic. Very tart, and texturally interesting. I’m in love with everything Soyoung Scanlan has every made, so it was really fun to get to try her yogurt for the first time.
Ninth Course: Armando Manni Olive Oil Madeleline
This was very good, and amazingly delicate. Almost too subtle and delicate, because at this point in the meal I had reached my saturation point, and I was terribly over-stimulated, and so I think that this dish was sort of lost on me. Please don’t think less of me, it really pains me to say it!
“Mignardises” and Tea
The mignardises alone are almost worth a trip to TFL. The are too much, and yet, some how I still managed to taste through almost all of them!
I was definitely bummed when the check came. I wanted the dinner to go on and on (despite being overly full). I was also sort of bummed that we didn’t get to see the kitchen. I felt weird asking for a tour, considering there were still tables in the middle of their meals, though I’m sure if I would have asked it would have happened…
. . .
This meal was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit down to, and now that I’ve been I can’t wait to go back. Though, I think I need to do a little bit more eating before then, so that I can really appreciate what they are doing there.