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The French Laundry 2001 - 2005


Rosie
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>My parents got back from FL recently and said they were disappointed that the dishes >came out lukewarm to cold. Was it an off night or is that usual?

We were there for dinner about a week and a half ago. The duck (first meat course on the tasting menu) came out "tepid" . We asked if it was meant to be that way (I also prefer duck to be more rare than it was served so we asked about that also) and we were told it's mean to be lukewarm or tepid.

However the second meat course (shortrib) was served on a very hot plate which we were warned about when it was presented. Makes me think they have some problems with pacing in the kitchen (we're often slow eaters), or Keller prefers lukewarm but when it's questioned they heat the plates for presentation.

Al Sharff

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  • 2 weeks later...

For my fellow eGulleteers, here's another set of photos...these are from this past Sunday's lunch service:

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Gruyere Cheese Gougeres

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

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Cauliflower “Panna Cotta”

With “Beau Soleil” Oyster Glaze and Russian Sevruga Caviar

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“Terrine” of Poached Moulard Duck “Foie Gras”,

“Confit” of Navel Orange “Supremes”, Pickled Sunchokes,

Bitter Orange “Coulis” and Young Parsley Shoots

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Sauteed Filet of Pacific “Kahala”,

“Ragout” of Baby Fennel, Sweet Peppers, Nicoise Olives

And Sauce “Bouillabaisse”

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“Fricassee” of Maine Lobster “Mitts”

Tokyo Turnips, Applewood Smoked Bacon, “Pomme Bouchon”,

Spring Onion, Scallion Salad and Creamy Lobster Broth

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Pan Roasted Four Story Hills Squab Breast,

Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach, Heirloom Baby Beets

And Sauce “Perigourdine”

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Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Ribeye,

California Green Asparagus, Grey Morel Mushrooms,

Sweet Carrots and Lamb “Jus”

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“Tomme De Savoie”

Pickled Golden Delicious Apple “Parisienne”, Celery Branch,

Candied English Walnuts and Saba “Vinaigrette”

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Banana Sorbet,

Muscovado “Genoise”, Braised Maui Pineapple, Mango “Pate de Fruit”

And a Yogurt Caramel “Croustillant”

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“Degustation de Pommes et Pain D’Epices”

Golden Delicious “Tarte A La Mode”, Granny Smith Apple “Gelee”,

Spiced Bread Ice Cream and Dust

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“Tentation Au Chocolat Noisette Et Lait”,

Milk Chocolate “Cremeux”, Hazelnut “Streusel”

With Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts

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Vanilla Crème Brulee

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Cinnamon Pot de Creme

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Macaroons

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“Mignardises”

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

FineDiningPhotos.com

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Jeff,

Your contributions to this site is truely a asset to all of us.

With each new report or photos you post I continue to be more and more impressed and amazed.

Your latest photos have set the bar so high that I doubt they can be beat.

Not only should Egullet put you on the payroll but so should Keller.

Bravo!!

Robert R

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Not only should Egullet put you on the payroll but so should Keller.

Forget the money, next time I'm at TFL, I'll just wear a sign around my neck that reads "Will photograph for food"

Robert, thanks for your support.

-j

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

FineDiningPhotos.com

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  • 3 weeks later...

We went there this last Saturday for dinner.

Menu:

Salmon Roe Coronets with creme fraiche

"Oysters and Pearls" - Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca and Malpeque Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar

(wine with the above was a Champagne from Michel Turgy)

Salad of Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus, Ruby Red Grapefruit "Confit", Baby Mache and garden tarragon infused mayonnaise

(wine with the above was the 2003 E. Knoll Grener Veltliner, Felderspiel, Wachau)

Torchon of Poached Moulard Duck Foie Gras with field rhubarb, celery branch, sauterne-telicherry peppercorn gelee, celery greens and toasted brioche

(wine with the above was the 2000 JJ Cristoffel Riesling Serrig Wurtzburg Auslese from Mosel)

Sauted Filet of John Dory with slow roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and Black Truffle coulis

Fricasee of Maine Lobster "mitts" with spring onions, baby leek batons, glazed pearl onions, mizuna puree and sauce soubise

(wine with the above two was the 2002 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet "Hameau du Blagny")

Pan Roasted Four Story Hills Farm Squab with caramelized Sunchokes, Pickled anjou Pears and Nicoise Olives

Ribeye of Elysian Fields Farm Lam "en Persilliade" with a "cassoulet" of spring pole beans and Jacobsen Farm's thyme infused extra virgin olive oil

(wine the above two was the 1997 Chaves Hermitage)

Brebis des Pyrenees cheese with French Laundry granola, young arugula leaves and plumped red currant "gastrique"

Banana Sorbet with Muscavado Genoise, braised Maui Pineapple, mango pate de fruit and a yogurt caramel crostillant

"Tentation au chocolat Noisette et Lait", milk chocolate cremeux, Hazelnut Streusel with Madagascar Vanilla ice cream and sweetened salty hazelnuts

Creme Brule

Coffee Pot de Creme

(wine with all the above was the 2000 Olivares Monastrell Dulce)

The "Oysters and Pearls" was the most amazing of a number of truly amazing dishes. It was almost certainly the most incredible thing I've eaten in my life. The combination of the incredibly rich egg custard, the briny notes of the oyster and the caviar, the sweetness of the tapioca and of the oysters... an astonishing dish and yet perfectly in balance.

The Lamb was the best piece of lamb I've ever had. It had a perfect crust on the outside and yet was a consistent, perfect medium rare throughout. What made it truly amazing was that it was actually hot (not warm, but hot) in the center. When sliced, there was no gush of liquid - but the liquid in the mouth was hot. It was heavily salted - exactly to the point of no return, but no further. The salt accented not only the richness of the lamb, but also its sweetness.

The Banana Sorbet desert was an over-the-top exploration of tropical fruit flavours. Each individual component was incredibly concentrated and intense and yet somehow they not only all worked together but in the end added up to something greater than the parts.

The Grener Veltliner was amazing. If you look at the dish - it's a wine-pairing nightmare. Not only did this wine survive this dish - it improved it. Amazing.

And the Puligny Montrachet was incredible. The wine of the meal. Wonderful pear and butter, with a hint of smoke in the finish. Notes of mineral to balance it all. Just a perfect wine.

It absolutely lived up to the hype and to my expectations.

fanatic...

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"Without Reservation: he price one pays for a world-class dining experience": a very amusing and very snarky piece in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle about "La Lavanderie du Paris."
It all started with a phone call. Or, I should say, 10 phone calls -- for no matter how often I dialed the reservation number, there was no answer. And why should there be? Why should the clerk at La Lavanderie du Paris stoop to answer the telephone? Does the pope answer calls to the Vatican?
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"Without Reservation: he price one pays for a world-class dining experience": a very amusing and very snarky piece in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle about "La Lavanderie du Paris."
It all started with a phone call. Or, I should say, 10 phone calls -- for no matter how often I dialed the reservation number, there was no answer. And why should there be? Why should the clerk at La Lavanderie du Paris stoop to answer the telephone? Does the pope answer calls to the Vatican?

While it is certainly true that getting a table at the FL isn't easy, the staff there is never ‘stooping’ to do anything – each and every member of the staff that I have interacted with has been extremely friendly and accommodating. All that is required is for the phone company to complete your call rather than some other person who is dialing at the same time. Pretentious is one of the many things the French Laundry is not.

The article there misses the point anyway – it’s easy to argue that no meal could be worth $500/person, or that traveling across the planet for dinner as many of their customers do is ridiculous, or that fighting with countless other people to get through to make a reservation is crazy. Rather than poke fun at any of those points, they instead choose to characterize the restaurant as cold and aloof with no interest in meeting the needs of their guests. That’s just flatly not the case.

Back to the restaurant itself – malachi, your meal sounds outstanding; it highlights what I think has been the largest improvement at the restaurant in a long time. Paul Roberts has turned the wine program into an absolute work of art - each and every one of the best wine pairings I’ve ever had have been at the French Laundry with wines he has selected.

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The article there misses the point anyway –or that traveling across the planet for dinner as many of their customers do is ridic it’s easy to argue that no meal could be worth $500/person, ulous, or that fighting with countless other people to get through to make a reservation is crazy. Rather than poke fun at any of those points, they instead choose to characterize the restaurant as cold and aloof with no interest in meeting the needs of their guests. That’s just flatly not the case.

People who make such arguments seem to forget that $500.00 doesn't have the same value to some as it does to them.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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The article there misses the point anyway –or that traveling across the planet for dinner as many of their customers do is ridic it’s easy to argue that no meal could be worth $500/person, ulous, or that fighting with countless other people to get through to make a reservation is crazy. Rather than poke fun at any of those points, they instead choose to characterize the restaurant as cold and aloof with no interest in meeting the needs of their guests. That’s just flatly not the case.

People who make such arguments seem to forget that $500.00 doesn't have the same value to some as it does to them.

Of course, but the % of the public who are willing to spend that much for a meal is fairly small so it would be a perfect point for the article to focus on. My point remains that you'd be vastly better off mocking about the cost of the meal than the demeanor of the staff. I'm happy to pay what the restaurant charges for a meal; I've done so many times.

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My point remains that you'd be vastly better off mocking about the cost of the meal than the demeanor of the staff.

I thought the point of the piece (which was amusing in tone) was the difficulty he had with the reservations person and, unless the writer was completely fabricating the incident, was a humorous look at what happens if you get on his wrong side.

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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I thought the point of the piece (which was amusing in tone) was the difficulty he had with the reservations person and, unless the writer was completely fabricating the incident, was a humorous look at what happens if you get on his wrong side.

The writer is fabricating the vast majority of the incident if not all of it - they take no reservations in person, the phones are answered by a phone system that transfers to a live person if you call during the hours they take reservations, and you are advised when you make a reservation to call and confirm 48 hours in advance. What bothers me about the article isn’t just that it bares no resemblance to the truth, but that it incorrectly characterizes the staff as unfriendly and aloof.

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I thought the point of the piece (which was amusing in tone) was the difficulty he had with the reservations person and, unless the writer was completely fabricating the incident, was a humorous look at what happens if you get on his wrong side.

The writer is fabricating the vast majority of the incident if not all of it - they take no reservations in person, the phones are answered by a phone system that transfers to a live person if you call during the hours they take reservations, and you are advised when you make a reservation to call and confirm 48 hours in advance. What bothers me about the article isn’t just that it bares no resemblance to the truth, but that it incorrectly characterizes the staff as unfriendly and aloof.

Then the account is fiction and should be viewed as a satiricial piece with "La Lavanderie du Paris" serving as the skewered. The article plays to the notions people have about the haughty attitudes of service persons in high-end restaurants where elite and/or gourmet food loving folks gather to dine. It served to provide at least a few of us with a chuckle or two as it was quite cleverly written. It wouldn't discourage me from dining at The French Laundry - a goal which I hope to achieve at some point!

"Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." TMJ Jr. R.I.P.

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  • 2 weeks later...

FL mini review:

Summary: WAY overrated, not worth a trip. While the service is near perfect (the waiting-staff has excellent knowledge and would be expected with 19% service charge..), and the food is technically very good, the overall food/experience can best be described as boring and passionless. There is no way the restaurant can be compared to any 3-stars restaurants in Europe. I would say it's 1-star at best and it's mostly from the service. May be Keller's busy in his NY restaurant making sure they will get the stars there. (The food might be better if Keller's there.. but why should I be paying $600 for 2 for his apprentice?)

My partner and I arrived the FL at our reservation time. Service is definitely one of the best I have received in America. We picked the 9 course tasting menu.

We had the usual Salmon tartar and "Oysters and Pearls". The "Oysters and Pearls", I think, is the best dish I have that night.

Then I have the $25 extra foie gras and my partner had the salad of some Hawaii fruit. The foie gras is seared perfectly but nothing really special. The salad actually tastes pretty good.

Then we have a fish course followed by lobster claws. The fish is good, the lobster claws are very nice.

2 meat courses followed. The rabbit sausage is porched perfectly. The beef course, a nice cut of prime rib, is topped with a deep-fried bone marrow. The bone marrow is way too oily and salty.

Finally, a cheese course (With just 1 piece of cheese), and two desserts. The cheese is boring (may be Americans can't take cheese?). The last dessert being the "chocolate tempations", which is the worst chocolate thing I have tasted in a long time. The chocolate pudding/whatever/thing is at room temp and kinda stuck in your throat.

Overall, most of the dishes are done technically near perfect (except the bone marrow), and the average pastry chef. I can't sense any energy, creativity and passion in the food. It is boring.

Anyway, the following evening, we went to the CIA restaurant for dinner, and had a much much better experience. It isn't fine dining, but there is so much energy, creativity in every dish there, the ingredients are not as expensive but tastes so much better overall. Even the cheese course, with 3 kinds of cheese: goat, cow, and sheep, is WAY better than the one at FL..

M

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  • 2 weeks later...

My only visit was in September 2003 during a deadly Napa heat wave (who would have known? It wasn't hot where I live near the coast). I made the mistake of wearing my best little black dress which had long sleeves. The A/C wasn't working and we were seated next to an open window which made it worse because the hot air was blowing in.

But despite all that, it was the best meal I have ever eaten. The foie gras alone was worth the cost of admission. I did make one terrible faux pas. After the lobster course I was very warm and decided to step outside for fresh air. As I passed the hostess on my way out, I commented with a smile that I needed to cool off. When the bill was presented our server told us that our wine had been comped due to my discomfort with the heat. I was appalled but nothing I said could change it.

The good news is that during the recent remodel, the A/C was completely revamped. :wink:

Lobster.

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The beef course, a nice cut of prime rib, is topped with a deep-fried bone marrow. The bone marrow is way too oily and salty.

M

A group of us Seattle eGulleter's had this dish when we were there in February. At that time it was neither oily nor salty. Sorry to hear that your experience differed, as this was one of my favorite and memorable parts of the meal.

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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FL mini review:

...

Finally, a cheese course (With just 1 piece of cheese), and two desserts. The cheese is boring (may be Americans can't take cheese?).

...

Even the cheese course, with 3 kinds of cheese: goat, cow, and sheep, is WAY better than the one at FL..

...

In reading your comments on the cheese course at TFL it struck me anew how people can have completely different takes on an experience! I have two good friends from Europe who lived in France for five years and love French cheese and cheese courses.

One of the standout things they mentioned to me from their three visits to TFL were the clever and delicious cheese courses which incorporated a single cheese into a more elaborate dish. For eg. "Roquefort Trifle with French Butter Pear Relish". While different than a presentation with multiple cheeses, they enjoyed it immensely and commented on the presentations explicitly for their creativity.

I'm sorry that your experience (overall) was a let down for you, but it does seem a bit at odds to claim that the experience was not creative and lacking in passion but then to spend a lot of time criticizing the 'non-traditional' cheese course... :smile:

It's true though that with this presentation one only gets to taste one cheese instead of a sample where some cheeses may resonate more strongly than others with a particular diner.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I think the dish really has a great potential to be the most memorable part of the meal. I remembered when the staff presented us the dish.. my expectation went way up.. I was thinking.. what a nice touch to have the bone marrow. Too bad it wasn't executed perfectly when I was there. (The beef part was perfectly done though).

What was the overall experience in Feb? Was Keller there that day?

M

A group of us Seattle eGulleter's had this dish when we were there in February. At that time it was neither oily nor salty. Sorry to hear that your experience differed, as this was one of my favorite and memorable parts of the meal.

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Anyway, the following evening, we went to the CIA restaurant for dinner, and had a much much better experience. It isn't fine dining, but there is so much energy, creativity in every dish there, the ingredients are not as expensive but tastes so much better overall. Even the cheese course, with 3 kinds of cheese: goat, cow, and sheep, is WAY better than the one at FL..

M

To each his own, but, wow, I've eaten at both the FL (just last week!) and CIA and I really can't even think to talk about them in the same sentence. While I can understand your comments about the FL feeling "passionless" (although I didn't come away with a negative impression), the "energy" at CIA bordered on a chain-style restaurant to me.

Oysters and Pearls did indeed live up to the expectations -- an incredible dish bursting with various flavors. The cheese course was the most disappointing; not for the cheese selection -- Ossau Vieille, which was wonderful -- but the accompanying items (fennel bulb and piquillo peppers), which just didn't work for me.

Has anyone else tasted the home-smoked steelhead trout roe? Wonderful little balls of smoky, lightly fishy goodness.

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The smoked steel head trout roe originated from blis caviar where we worked with Steve Stallard to customize the roe. We have since brought to the table sake cured roe, mezcal and habanero roe, vanilla bean roe and roe cured with maple and smoke. If you want to see versions of the roe and the dishes we prepared please have a look at our web site ideasinfood and scroll through the smoked roe photographs as well as others if you choose. Glad to see you liked the product, it is a lot of fun to work with.

h. alexander talbot

chef and author

Levittown, PA

ideasinfood

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