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The French Laundry 2001 - 2005


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Went to FL Sunday...hadn't been for several years, given the insane reservation situation...thought folks might be interested in the menu and some picts of some of the dishes.  Food & service were absolutely outstanding...HOWEVER...the most expensive meal we've ever had...2 tasting menus, 2 glases of champagne and 2 wine pairings, with tax & 18% gratuity...$803.00!!!

We were there the next night (Monday) for the first time since they closed for renovations - we were there the last night they were open also. The restaurant is better than ever, the wine list is much improved and the food is absolutely top-notch. All of our meals at tfl have ranged in price from $300-$500 per person. It certainly isn't cheap, but it's worth every cent.


You know the best way you can make amends for not giving us your New Years Eve report is to give us a report on your last dinner. :raz:

Robert R

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2 tasting menus, 2 glases of champagne and 2 wine pairings,

Two wine pairings.............!!!!!!!

In June we asked for wine pairings and were told they didn't do this.

One of the reasons for a less than perfect dining experience - how do you match a multi-course meal two two half-bottles (which were not particularly well-chosen).

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I ate lunch at TFL the last week of July. They do indeed now offer wine parings. I thought the quality of the wines was top notch, and it is a much needed upgrade from the previous policy. For two we spent about $650, and I throughly enjoyed the experience, but it is a bit expensive and it will be a while before I return.

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The chamapgne was a Schramsburg Blanc de Blanc - quite good, and I didn't feel it was over-priced.

We had the "Somellier Tasting", which consists of a wine with each course...I believe 8-9 in all. They also offer a tasting (I assume for less money) that pairs about 1/2 bottle with each 2 courses. In our tasting, the two wines that stood out in my mind were a 2000 Joseph Swan Pinot served with the rabbit, and a private label cabernet bottled exclusively for the Laundry called "Modicum". I wasn't able to ascertain whose grapes were in it, but it was quite good. The other wines were whites from Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany...not a clinker in the lot, but I had not heard of any of them. To his credit, our server was not stingy with the pours...he refilled our glasses on at least 2 occasions without being asked.

With a menu as ecclectic as Chef Keller offers, the pairings is the way to go, in my way of thinking. I know that if we had ordered a really nice red and white, we could have easily spent $300 or more.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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I ate lunch at TFL the last week of July. They do indeed now offer wine parings.

I've eaten there in each of the last four years and each time I ask that they match the wines to the dishes. They obliged this request on every visit.


I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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I ate lunch at TFL the last week of July.  They do indeed now offer wine parings.

I've eaten there in each of the last four years and each time I ask that they match the wines to the dishes. They obliged this request on every visit.

They have always been willing to do this if you didn't mind buying full- and half-bottles to allow them to "pair the wines to the courses". They seem to have many more wines by the glass now. If they did a wine-by-the glass pairing for you in the past, you were lucky and should feel honored!

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My companion and I arrived for our 6:30 reservation at 5:45, taking the advice of a friend (and fellow eGers) to come early and have a glass of Champagne in the garden. It was advice well heeded, as the garden is a wonderfully quiet and serene place to unwind after a day of probable wine touring. The chairs could be more comfortable, possibly outfitted with some cushions as guests are donning formalwear, but pleasant nonetheless. The service staff poured the water and champagne so quietly I swore they did not want to disturb the plants.

Once seated in the upstairs dining room, a room with only 5 tables with very little lighting, service is now at its slowest. It was nice to acclimate to the room and the view behind me, but the slowness bordered on neglect. Our captain greeted our table about three to five minutes after we sat, a few minutes later water was served, and after about twenty minutes, menus were presented. A brief description of the menus followed, and with three choices (a Chef’s Tasting, a Vegetable Tasting, and a modified Prix Fixe menu) one does have much control over the dining experience.

We ordered the Chef’s Tasting at $135 a person with a wine pairing for me. Be aware that the pairing may cost up as much as $100 per person and although you will get great wines, the cost is not mentioned. The wine list surprisingly lacks depth and is extremely overpriced in comparison to other Napa restaurants. The list does not specialize in any one region, opting to offer a short selection from major producing countries with a few marquee Châteaux and producers. Wine service, however, was treated with utmost care and respect.

Our meal begins with the “Oysters and Pearl,” a dish I had read about numerous times and to be frank, never appealed to me in print. I was dead wrong, as the combination of baked tapioca pearls in sabayon topped with Osetra caviar, a Malpeque oyster and chopped chive is one I will never forget. The sheer complexity of the dish: sweet and salty, chewy and soft, cold and hot, was extraordinary. It was paired with the Divine Droplets sake; sake being a current phenomenon in restaurants these days as I was poured it twice in two wine pairings. Its melon delicacy and mouth-coating texture was a perfect foil to the tapioca and caviar.

We opted for the Hearts of Palm with French Laundry Garden Radishes as our next course in lieu of the foie gras. The foie gras torchon comes with a ridiculous $20 supplemental charge per person. Granted it’s no longer prudent to mince dollars and cents when dinner is costing this much, but it’s rather gratuitous on their part. The hearts of palm salad was light, refreshing, and a very nice first course.

Next were two fish dishes: Chatham Bay Cod with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Thyme Mousse and Lobster Mitts with Silver Queen Corn Pudding. Of these two, the lobster was possibly the best representation of Keller’s cooking. The preparation was simple, but all of the components worked together in such harmony I swear I heard music even though there was none in the dining room. I can still recall the sweetness of the corn—literally sweeter than sugar—and complemented with a white Burgundy that made the lobster seem richer than the butter it was poached in.

As any wine lover must notice with any tasting menu, the majority of dishes are white wine oriented. After four white wine courses, I looked forward to seeing some red on the table. I am poured an Oregon Pinot Noir and served Poulard with Royal Blenheim Apricots, a species of apricot that is indigenous to California that ripens from the inside out. A slice of crisped skin and roasted Cépe Mushrooms accompanies. Our main course was Elysian Fields Lamb with Melted Garden Garlic and Italian Eggplant, and as Keith Martin’s lamb is the best in the US, if not the world, the dish was clearly superlative. The wine was the French Laundry label Cabernet Sauvignon (the proper name I’ve forgotten) which was disappointingly unbalanced and far too tight and astringent for the elegance of the lamb.

Proceed to a composed cheese course of Brin d’Amour, the wonderful herb-laded sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica. A flurry of desserts is served: the now-famous Coffee and Doughnuts, a very respectable Manjari Chocolate Tart with Burnt Sugar Ice Cream and Fleur de Sel, and when you think you’re finished, a small taste of Crème Brûlèe and Pink Peppercorn Panna Cotta.

Service meanwhile, is at its best, consistent. There is nothing spectacular or charming about the dining room service, but the do their job well and few mistakes are made. You will be showed the way to the restroom once and that’s all. No one will tuck you into your chair upon your return. Bread was served to my guest while she was away and I was asked to describe the two styles to her. At one point in my pairing, a used glass was set down on the table. Upon pointing it out, the offending party immediately replaced the glass and apologized profusely. I had to ask for coffee and later flagged down the water to receive a refill. When the coffee poured for me was cold, it took another five minutes for someone to surface to replace the cup. Ladies are served first when convenient, especially for deuces when I was served first more often than not. The dining room staff had many opportunities to impress but did not execute on any of them. However, despite all the aforementioned, my guest and I were very well taken care of, servers are friendly and answered all my questions politely, and most importantly are intensely proud of the restaurant they work at.

With all of the aggravation in getting a reservation, the confirmation process and even finding the place on the one main-street town of Yountville, it is the closest three-star Michelin experience in the United States. Although the setting could not be more idyllic, it is reassuring to know that it’s not the view that I left enamoured with. I’m disappointed to think that I will have to plan so far ahead to get another taste of the lobster and corn pudding, the pearl tapioca and caviar or the semi-freddo with warm cinnamon foam. I left the French Laundry very full, mildly drunk, I did take the clothespin but forgot to ask the most vital question of all: what’s with all those damn quotes on the menu?


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You know the best way you can make amends for not giving us your New Years Eve report is to give us a report on your last dinner. :raz:

Our most recent meal was off-menu. The kitchen sent out food, the sommelier provided wines to match, 4 hours later we were very very full, a bit tipsy, and a little tired.

It's a toss-up between yukon gold potato ravioli with a black butter truffle sauce and a spectacular roasted quail for the best dish of the night.

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  • 3 weeks later...

So Sunday I had the best meal I've ever had at the French Laundry - Lizzie, her husband John, Pim, and I went for lunch. This was the first time I've had lunch there - it's the same experience without the need to sleep as soon as you finish eating. Pim and I met Lizzie and John at the restaurant; arriving a few minutes late, we were greeted with glasses of Champagne (Gimmonet MV) as we sat down.

On my previous visit, which was all of a month earlier than this one, the kitchen cooked for us – we were asked our dietary restrictions and the kitchen built a menu around them. The sommelier provided spectacular pairings for each course and our table was served two different preparations for each course. Mind you, this was our 8th visit in a little over two years, so I was under the impression that they were taking special care of us because we visit semi-regularly. That meal was at the time the best I’ve had there. The lone flaw in the entire process was serving a roast chicken a few courses after roast quail, the quail being a heartier presentation made the chicken seem less spectacular than it was. The chicken presented tableside with slices of black truffle stuffed under the skin was excellent, but I think it might have been better had the quail and chicken swapped menu spots. If MsMelkor and I are considered regulars, then Lizzie and John are rockstars. Everyone working at the restaurant knows Lizzie and John, and everyone makes a special effort to visit the table and catch up. On our way to the garden for a break Chef Keller spotted Lizzie, and paused the conversation he was having to talk to her.

Again the kitchen cooked for us, each course was paired with wine, and our 12:30 lunch ended at 6:00 after 18 courses and countless glasses of wine. 16 of the 18 courses were served as two different preparations for the table, the exceptions being the Salmon Cornet and the whole roasted foie gras. 34 different dishes, of them the cornets, white truffle egg, and black truffle tagliatelli were the only dishes that I’d previously been served. Parts of other things I’ve had made appearances, though the brilliant black truffle poptart, and the donuts are all that come to mind. A few of the highlights were the roast partridge, the whole foie gras, pesto agnolotti, and cauliflower polonaise.

Thanks again to Lizzie, John, and Pim for sharing their table with me - it was truly an incredible experience.

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I truely am envious ! Not only because it sound's like an experience of a life time but your dining companion's had to be iceing on the cake.

I'm convinced I could be eating stale donut's on a street corner in Newark N.J. with John and Lizziee and it would be memorable.

Robert R

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More photos are on Chez Pim

The French Laundry, simply, perfection

It is absolutely crazy that I go to L’Arpège much more often than I do the French Laundry—was there again just last week in fact—in spite of the former being in Paris and the latter being practically in my own backyard. Planning long enough in advance to go to the French Laundry had been unattainable with my crazy schedule—you do believe me about my crazy schedule, don’t you?—so it had been two years since the previous time I was there.

Well, I finally managed a meal there last Sunday, and not just any meal, but a marvelous Sunday lunch as a guest of Lizzie and John. They are very old friends of the house and we were treated accordingly. Everyone, including the chef Thomas Keller, dropped by to say hello. Service at the French Laundry has always been impeccable, it was difficult to imagine how they would do any better than they normally would. But boy oh boy, was I ever wrong? Let me tell you, I simply have not seen anything like it, seriously, definitely not in this country, and not even in France.

I went with my friend Dave, a replacement date after my original date flaked out. Yes, I heard something about a brain dysfunction—why else would anyone flake on the French Laundry? Well, I ended up driving up from the city to Dave and Ally’s house in Napa, and from there, our designated driver Ally took us to the restaurant. How sweet is that Ally?

It was a beautiful Sunday, even in the state of hangover-induced stupor from my birthday bash the previous night, I still found it beautiful. The building that housed the French Laundry was just as pretty as ever, hidden on a leafy and tranquil part of the main street that ran through downtown of the gourmandise paradise that is tiny Yountville. Dave and I were a few minutes late, finding Liz and John already seated and sipping champagne at table, in the cozy alcove bathed in sky light in the soothing downstairs room.

Soothing is always a great descriptor for the French Laundry. Even as we were led through the many courses, many bottles, and indeed many hours meal, nothing ever felt harried or rushed. The atmosphere was ever calm and soothing, the food stunningly simple in its glorious complexity, and the service inconspicuously attentive. Soothing is indeed a good word.

I had been a few times before, but nothing in my previous experience has prepared me for this visit as a guest of Liz and John, who are so universally loved by all at the restaurant. As we sat down, our champagne glasses were magically filled with delightful Gimmonet MV, a refreshing start for our long journey into the heart of this temple of gastronomy.

Our waiter appeared, inquiring whether we would mind the chef cooking for us. Of course we didn’t, so that was that, and our menus were whisked away. We also agreed to let Paul, the delightful sommelier, do the pairing for us with whatever he had in mind.

The amuse arrived promptly, the famous cornet of salmon with red onion crème fraîche. I was so happy to have the first course I actually forgot to take a photo. Sorry. Despite this being the end of the salmon run on this side of the continent, the salmon cone was terrifically fresh, oily, and creamy tasting, just the perfect first bite.

We began with a soup course of delicious fennel soup for the ladies, and cauliflower soup for the boys. Of course we made sure we all had a taste of everything, switching our bowls at mid-course. This was to be the pattern for the meal, so the 18 or so courses that we were served became, essentially, 32. Try that with a hangover.

Beyond that the meal became a sort of enchanted blur, punctuating occasionally by rapturous delights of the fragrant Yuzu sorbet, whimsical truffle “pop tart”, sublime partridge, over-the-top foie gras, to name but a few. We were also served more wines, and even a few sakes, than I could remember, pairing perfectly with the food.

We took a few kitchen-approved breaks between courses, and took our cheese and dessert courses bathed in the gorgeous sunlight in the delightful garden. Everything, the weather, the room, the garden, the marvelous company, the food, the wine, even the water, was perfection. I could not have asked for a better birthday present.

I cannot possibly describe every single course and my reaction to each in details, lest this post ends up being 10 pages long, but here’s the menu, with photos of course. The paired wines were listed in bracket with the corresponding courses.

“Cornets” of Atlantic salmon with red onion “crème fraîche”

Cauliflower soup with sultana raisins and almond mousse

Fennel soup with curry mousse and Valencia orange


Beet sorbet with apple puree and smoked applewood bacon.

Yuzu sorbet with lime jelly and lime zest. I adore the Yuzu sorbet.


Cauliflower panna cotta with Bagaduce river oyster, glazed and Iranian Osetra caviar

Apple granite with Osetra caviar


Gougenettes of skate wing with orange water and cilantro oil

Escargot with parsley “beurre monté” and roasted sweet peppers


White truffle-infused custard with Périgord truffles. The silkiest and absolutely delicious custard.

Pickled deviled egg with Périgord truffle “pop tart”. The deviled egg was delicious, but I just adored the pop tart. I had to restrained myself from devouring Dave’s half as well.


Warm salad of Bartlett pears “cuit en sous vide” with Périgord truffles, pickled pearl onions and a walnut vinaigrette. The pear simply melted on the tongue.

Salad of melted fennel bulb, Jacobsen’s farm figs, sweet pepper “tapenade”, and fennel-balsamic vinaigrette

[Robert Weil, Reisling, Rheingau, 2002]


“Pesto Agnolotti”, Italian basil “Agnolotti”, toasted pinenuts, marinated sweet bell peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese cream and toasted pine nut broth

Hand-cut “Tagliatelli” with black Périgord truffles. This pasta was simply to die for. I even abandoned my “black truffles couldn’t be good so far out of the season” skepticism for a time and simply enjoyed it. I’m sure it would have been so much better during the truffle season, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this rendition.

[Taburno, Falanghna, 2002]


Grilled tuna with cilantro purée, glazed turnips and orange “confit”

Sautéed filet of Tasmanian sea Baramundi, wilted Arrowleap spinach, crispy Shitake mushrooms and “sauce Mignonette”

Both the fish were absolutely fresh and perfect.

[Jean Marc Morey, Chassagne Montrachet, 2001]


Butte-braised Maine lobster with red beet essence and “Pommes Maxim”. As I am not a fan of beets, I found this dish marred by the intense flavor of beetroots. There was nothing wrong with it, I simply couldn’t stand the taste of beets. Too bad.

“Peas and Carrots”, butter-braised Main lobster tail with pea shoot salad and carrot “Parisienne”

Cauliflower “Polonaise” with a “Saboyon” of roasted sweet garlic. This was given to Dave, who does not eat shellfish, while the rest of the table enjoyed the lobster course.


Whole roasted Moulard duck foie gras with Quince and Telicherry pepper “gastrique”. For this course, the restaurant presented us with a whole lobe of foie gras, then cut it four ways to serve. It was entirely over the top, not to mention the nine different types of salt that accompanied the course, from grey and fluer de sel from Brittany to black volcanic salt from Hawaii. It was delicious.


Liberty valley duck breast with marinated “lentilles du Puy”, and fifty-year-old sherry vinaigrette.

Partridge with Oregon huckleberries, a fondue of King Richard leeks and Walla Walla onions.

In this course, the duck breat was delicious, but the Partridge was amazing, and paired perfectly with the tangy sweet berries and meltingly delicious leeks and onions “fondue”.

[Henshke, Johans Garden, Victoria, Australia, 1999]


“Chateaubriand” of Marcho farms nature-fed veal “cuit en sous vide”, melted eggplant, stewed garden tomatoes, sweet garlic mousse and parmesan crisp.

Snake River ranch “collotte de boef grillé”, golden chanterelle mushrooms, French Laundry garden sweet carrots, “Pomme Rissole” and “Beurre Colbert”.

After this course we went outside to take the rest of the meal in the balmy autumn air. The cheeses were marvelously enhanced by their clever accompaniment, and the desserts were entirely delectable.

Camembert with marinated Hen of the Woods and Trumpet mushrooms

Risola with roasted Bartlett pears, celery salad, and coriander “Gastrique”

[Oliverés Monastrell, Dulce, Julilla, 2000]


Charentais melon sorbet with melon “carpaccio”

Apple sorbet with apple “terrine” and yogurt sauce


“coffee and donuts”. The Platonic archetype of donuts: what all donuts should aspire to be.


“Vacherin”, canilla scented “Bavarois”, passionfruit curd and crispy Swiss “Meringue”

Valrhona “Manjari chocolate box”, with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream


Mignardise, more plentiful for words, accompanied by espresso that was also too perfect for words.

Edited by pim (log)

chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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  • 3 weeks later...


Full report, with lots more pictures here.

I had the good fortune of securing a reservation at TFL for 8/2. What an experience. The impossibility of getting a reservation, the hype and the cookbook generated so much excitement and anticipation, at least for me, that nothing could live up to them. But it came very close to fulfilling, and in some ways, exceeded, my expectations. The best meal I had ever had up to that point. Stay tuned for reports from my trip to Italy, France and Spain. What could be better than TFL...? Thanks for checking out my report.

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Any advice on securing a table at the French Laundry for my 40th in June? I have friends in the area and in the wine business who say they can help, but I have a feeling they don't understand the situation, and while they enjoy a good meal, they are not as obsessed as I am with the Laundry or as most of you, based on your postings. I'm already booked in Yountville for the 17th-20th and want to assure my chances of getting a table for two.

Any help/advice would be appreciated. :wink:

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Ham?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Pork chops?

Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.

Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal. (The Simpsons)

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Any advice on securing a table at the French Laundry for my 40th in June? I have friends in the area and in the wine business who say they can help, but I have a feeling they don't understand the situation, and while they enjoy a good meal, they are not as obsessed as I am with the Laundry or as most of you, based on your postings.  I'm already booked in Yountville for the 17th-20th and want to assure my chances of getting a table for two.

Any help/advice would be appreciated.  :wink:

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone bring up the topic on how to get a reservation at the French Laundry.

There is no magic wand to wave that get's one in the door.

Put your phone on redial and call sixty day's before the calendar date and with determination and alittle luck you hopefully will secure a table.

Is it all worth it ? I believe so.

I wish you luck.

Robert R

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Call the concierge at your hotel. If you are staying at the Villagio, Vintage Inn or Yountville Inn they should be able to secure you a reservation. FL used to allow the concierges to line up for reservations every morning and that is how I scored two reservations there when staying at the Villagio. FL has since changed its policy on people making reservations in person, but I am willing to bet the local concierges still have some kind of "in." (Although maybe not). In any event, at the Villagio at least, you put your name on an in house Villagio list (since they typically get two tables a night) for the date that you desire. In other words, call as early as you can so you can reserve a "slot" on the night you wish to eat there. Be prepared to accept either early or late reservations -- not much available in between. The local concierges also (like the Mandarin Oriental and Per Se) get first dibs on cancellations. Good luck and enjoy!

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I made my reservation for my trip to TFL last Oct through a somewhat unique method

I called about 30 min before the phone line opened and got the voice menu

I then kept hitting the key that repeated the voice menu message

Then after 10am when the phone lines opened i was able to get to a message prompt that allowed me to transfer to their information line. I then waited on hold for 20-25 min before being picked up and scheduling our reservation

Dont know if its would still work but allowed me to ge a Saturday dinner reservation for 2

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  • 3 weeks later...

We had lunch this past weekend at The French Laundry. While I don't have a full write up, I thought I'd go ahead and post a photo essay of the meal.

One thing of note: Keller was not in the kitchen and when we asked if Doug Psaltis was, we were told that he "no longer works here." I don't recall reading anything about his departure...anyone have further details?




"Cornet" of Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche


Gruyere Cheese Gougeres


"Bacon and Eggs" Soft Poached Quail Egg with Applewood-Smoked Bacon


Osetra Caviar and Toasted Brioche


"Oysters and Pearls"

"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with "Beau Soleil" Oysters and Iranian Osetra Caviar



"La Ratte" Potato "Agnolotti"

Diane St. Claire Butter and Grated Perigord Truffles



Custard with Black Truffle Ragout



Poached Moulard Duck "Foie Gras au Torchon"

Bartlett Pear Relish and Toasted "Brioche"



Ciabatta Bread


Animal Farm Butter



Crispy Skin Filet of Pacific Threadfish

Melted Belgian Endive, Orange Supremes and Orange "Aigre-Doux"



"Peas and Carrots"

Maine Lobster "Pancake"

With Sweet Pea Shoot Salad and Ginger-Carrot Butter



"Aiguillette" of Four Story Hills Poularde Breast

Poached Royal Blenheim Apricots, Golden Chantarelle Mushroom

and Sauce "Perigourdine"



Medallion of Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Ribeye,

"Rissole" of New Crop Potatoes, "Haricot Verts"

and Paloise "Mousseline"



"Tomme de Savoie"

Braised Cipollini Onion, Scallion Salad

and Black Truffle Syrup



Coconut Sorbet

Persian Lime Jelly and Toasted Cocconut "Gianduja"



"Valrhona Chocolate Tasting"

"Manjari" Chocolate "Ganache", "Guanaja" Chocolate Brownie

and "Caraibe" Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Caramel Pot de Creme


Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee






Assorted Chocolates: Caramel, Peanut Butter, Earl Grey

Edited by jeffj (log)

View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:


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Great photos. What camera did you use?

There were 3 cameras used for these photos. The majority of them were taken with our trusty pocket sized Pentax Optio S and Optio S4 cameras. Five of the photos were taken with a larger pro-sumer sized Sony camera (I don't know the exact model number as it is my father-in-law's camera).

From my experience, as long as you put your food in natural light, it's really hard to take a bad photo with any quality of camera.

View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:


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