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Barbara Moss

The French Laundry 2006 -

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Anyone recognize this course? We ate it at TFL on October 7 but it doesn't seem to be on our menu.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16159311@N00/...57602798542148/

Thanks for any help!

Hey there Jojomek - it's been a long time.

I think I had a similar Colotte de Boef Grillee at TFL over a year ago.

BTW - are you at the new incarnation of Trio nowadays? You're no longer with Alinea, right?

You're right, I'm up in Evanston. The restaurant is called Quince, but actually it's not an incarnation of Trio; Henry closed Trio permanently in February 2006. Quince is an entirely new restaurant under the ownership of the hotel. Our thread is here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...95942&hl=ziomek

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Right, right, I knew that the new occupier isn't a Henry venture. Just couldn't think of the name.

Is that the beef course you had at TFL?


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Right, right, I knew that the new occupier isn't a Henry venture.  Just couldn't think of the name. 

Is that the beef course you had at TFL?

I think you are exactly right about the beef itself -- thanks for reminding me it was from Snake River Farm. I can't believe I forgot that.

The accompaniments were a bit different, though. There's clearly a pearl onion or cipollini, and I had a comment on Flickr that there might be potato and sorrel. No guesses on the sauce.

I probably should just try to get an email address of someone at the restaurant and send them the photo.

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The accompaniments were a bit different, though. There's clearly a pearl onion or cipollini, and I had a comment on Flickr that there might be potato and sorrel. No guesses on the sauce.

I probably should just try to get an email address of someone at the restaurant and send them the photo.

Good idea. The accompaniments may be seasonal. I was there in late spring. I think there was a green garlic pierogi on our presentation.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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The components of the dish you haven't figured out yet are spinach, salsify and sauce bordelaise. Corey switches between a bordelaise and a perigordine sauce for that dish, and the veg changes frequently according to freshness. Killer though, right?

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The components of the dish you haven't figured out yet are spinach, salsify and sauce bordelaise.  Corey switches between a bordelaise and a perigordine sauce for that dish, and the veg changes frequently according to freshness.  Killer though, right?

Thanks Bueno!

Yes, it was a spectacular dish, one of our favorites of the day.

Is that a cipollini or a pearl onion?

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The components of the dish you haven't figured out yet are spinach, salsify and sauce bordelaise.  Corey switches between a bordelaise and a perigordine sauce for that dish, and the veg changes frequently according to freshness.  Killer though, right?

Thanks Bueno!

Yes, it was a spectacular dish, one of our favorites of the day.

Is that a cipollini or a pearl onion?

'Tis a pearl onion -- or at least, it should be. Though I'll admit, from the photo it's very hard to determine. I'm having a hard time myself. But I do ultimately believe it's a pearl onion. I've noticed that Thomas tends to stay away from Italian ingredients (or at least their proper names) on his menus. I think it's in lieu of keeping it all French/New-American sounding.

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Here's a recent Sunday afternoon at 'The Laundry, shared with special friends, Samgiovese and his lovely wife, Ms. Giovese. With all of the fine dining I have been subjecting myself to these past few years, it was easy to brush of The French Laundry as probably being remarkably similar to meals I had experienced at places like The Dining Room at the Ritz, Manresa, or Coi. But what I was not expecting was the shear perfection that occurred. Meaning, while I can often find some level of criticism *somewhere* in a meal, on this occasion, there was nothing wrong; no where, in no dish, in no level of service. It was, quite simply, perfect -- and not in a cold, austere, unfeeling manner (as some have complained on various sites). There has been mention of a lack of soul but in many cases, the dishes had chi and then some. There is thought and consideration in those ingredients which complement each other and heighten their subtleties. It was expensive, yes. And it was worth every bloody cent...

1999 Schramsberg, "J. Schram" Napa Valley was served as we sat down to the afternoon adventure. And an amuse of Gougeres were the first delectable bites offered; small, chestnut-sized, and surprisingly the inside was warm and gooey. Next to arrive (also no pic), was the inimitable Salmon Cornets; amazingly fresh and bright with the sparkling wine.

The first of our courses was Cauliflower "Panna Cotta" with Beau Soleil Oyster Glaze and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. Creamy and elegant, the saltiness of the caviar provided the best possible complement to the subtle caviar.

gallery_431_5397_37278.jpg

In preparation for the next several courses, a beautiful salt tray was offered. I know I can't remember all of them specifically, but was especially enamored with the red one which (if memory serves) occurred when the water is poured over red clay. The one in the center box was Japanese from a 10,000 elevation mountain, and the black volcanic is -- I believe -- prehistoric. There were also two fleur de sel.

gallery_431_5397_2368.jpg

We knew a foie course was coming as we were served NV Alois Kracher, Beerenauslese Cuvée from Austria. What a stunning wine! So accustomed to overly sweet Beerenauslese, this had an unctuous quality with depth and character which worked so well with the foie - moreso than a Sauternes would. The foie? Moulard Duck "Foie Gras Au Torchon" with Sunchokes, Pomegranate Kernels, Marinated Beet "Ribs" and Sicilian Pistachio Purée Served with freshly toasted brioche toast, we played with sprinkling various salts on the creamy foie and played with the occasional addition of pistachio purée. It was during this course that I the realization of the perfection of this restaurant came to light; halfway through, with still a half-slice of brioche left along with half of my foie terrine, warm toast was offered as I was instructed that it tastes better with warm toast even though I obviously still had enough left.

gallery_431_5397_31825.jpg

2005 Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Blanc - we spoke about our wine offerings and let the sommelier choose where to go with a mild bit of guidance. Mostly, I wanted to steer away from buttery Chards and almost anything Californian. I get enough of that and cherish the occasional old world wines which cross my path. This wine was a great offering of minerality and flintiness

I was going to turn down bread, not wanting to get too full on incidentals. However, two butters were offered and how could one turn down the opportunity for a comparison? One was a locally-churned butter from Petaluma and the other from Vermont. The Petaluma butter was sprinkled with fleur de sel and was much preferred by your's truly.

gallery_431_5397_38328.jpg

2001 Rudi Pichler, "Terrassen" Riesling, Smaragd, Austria

Then the waiter arrived with a cigar humidor and three separate plates of risotto, gnocchi, and pasta. With a grandiose flourish, the humidor was opened to reveal two of the single largest white truffles I have ever seen. These are BILLIARD BALL-sized white truffles. I have now been ruined for truffles from anywhere else, I'm sure. There is little doubt in my mind that when the best truffles are found, undoubtedly they are going to be offered to the best restaurants in the world and I was simply fortunate to be dining at that restaurant on the occasion when such a truffle was available. Here, after the truffle was sliced on our respective three dishes, a beurre noisette was dribbled on top. We shared all three dishes and for me, the tagliatelle was the clear favorite.

gallery_431_5397_13498.jpg

Truffles on Risotto:

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Truffles on Tagliatelle:

gallery_431_5397_53893.jpg

Truffles on Gnocchi:

gallery_431_5397_15330.jpg

2001 Henri Gouge, Nuits St. Georges, France

Extra Virgin Olive Oil-Poached Fillet of St. Peter's Fish with Braised Cardoons, "Piperade," Young Parsley, and Nicoise Olive Emulsion. I have made olive oil-poached fish and tasted various offerings in restaurants, but never before has the purest essence of the highest quality olive oil been to prevalent in such perfectly flaky, moist fish. The nicoise olive emulsion offered up a different, complex olive flavor to contrast with the oil essence.

gallery_431_5397_6605.jpg

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail with Caramelized Pearl Onions, Melted Swiss Chard, Scallion Filaments, and Maple-Sherry Vinegar Sauce. My initial taste of this dish was that it was too salty. I believe Ms. G thought so as well, but as we took second and third bites, whatever saltiness appeared in the first taste disappeared as the sweetness of the lobster along with the maple component countered and balanced it all out.

gallery_431_5397_58606.jpg

2004 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France

Four Story Hill Farm Milk-Fed "Poularde" Mendocino Coast Cepe Mushrooms, Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, and Juniper Balsamic "Jus". A masterful composition, the chicken was moist and extremely elegant, heightened to a slightly gamey quality with the addition of the juniper ingredient, the mushrooms providing a substantive, earthy quality.

gallery_431_5397_14727.jpg

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye with Savoy Cabbage, Salsify, Glazed Sweet Carrots, "Petit Salé" and Grain Mustard Sauce. It becomes hard to describe continual perfection. Here were a few bites of lamb so unctuous and rich, it seemed to be the epitome of what lamb can be.

gallery_431_5397_71628.jpg

"Epoisse" - "Degustation" of New Crop Potatoes and "Sauce Périgourdine". While not a great photo, this cheese offering was so remarkably special versus a classical offering of simple slices from a cart. Paper thin layers of potato hid the melted goodness underneath.

gallery_431_5397_49347.jpg

Persian Lime Sorbet - to cleanse the palate.

gallery_431_5397_35552.jpg

Three Wines to pair with our desserts, 1983 Warre's Port, 1997 Domain Fontauil, Rivesaltes Amore, France, and NV Vineyard 29 "Aida" Late Harvest Zinfandel, Napa Valley. Of the three, we all enjoyed the Vineyard 29 most and one I will definitely try to research.

gallery_431_5397_18891.jpg

"Feijoa Sorbet with Maui Pineapple Relish and Angel Cake

gallery_431_5397_34126.jpg

"S'Mores" - Cashnew Nut "Parfait," Caramel "Délice" and "Sauce a la Guimauve Flambée

gallery_431_5397_21698.jpg

Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter "Crémeaux" with Gros Michel Banana Sorbet, Salted Spanish Peanuts, and Toscano Black Chocolate Sauce

gallery_431_5397_31297.jpg

"Charlotte Aux Poires et aux Dates" with Bartlett Pear Sorbet, "Japonais," Candied Hazelnuts, and Pear Coulis

gallery_431_5397_47841.jpg

Coffee and Donuts - Again, I was so excited by the prospect of fried dough, I could hardly contain myself and no picture was taken. And what fried dough... so good they sent some home with me and I got to enjoy some the next day. The "coffee" was a heady, thick espresso pot de creme.

Coffee with Miniature Creme Brulée

gallery_431_5397_32930.jpg

Mignardise, Caramel-coated Macadamia nuts and black olive-studded miniature breads.

gallery_431_5397_38129.jpg

In the final round, with all the sweets, I realize how much I prefer to finish up with a cheese course and only a mignardise as a sweet bite. While all the desserts were perfectly wonderful, they were not especially memorable now, a day-and-a-half later. I am still recalling the truffles, and the lamb, and the chicken, and the foie... But I could care less about the desserts. Of course, the fact that I had some of those donuts for breakfast didn't hurt.


Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)

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Looks like a lovely meal, Carolyn. Beautiful truffles -- the huge slice resting beside of the mound of tagliatelle says it all. Could you maybe tell us a little more about the poularde dish? That one was particularly intriguing to me.

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Looks like a lovely meal, Carolyn.  Beautiful truffles -- the huge slice resting beside of the mound of tagliatelle says it all.  Could you maybe tell us a little more about the poularde dish?  That one was particularly intriguing to me.

I have only read about the delights of the French poularde bresse and I imagine that the richness and complexity of what French Laundry is producing is similar in quality and complexity. The meat itself was obviously tender but surprisingly moist and delicate. It easily could have been eaten with a fork (and probably was).

And, yes - that tagliatelle and truffle was my personal show-stopper in all this.... :wub:

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Looks like a lovely meal, Carolyn.  Beautiful truffles -- the huge slice resting beside of the mound of tagliatelle says it all.  Could you maybe tell us a little more about the poularde dish?  That one was particularly intriguing to me.

I have only read about the delights of the French poularde bresse and I imagine that the richness and complexity of what French Laundry is producing is similar in quality and complexity. The meat itself was obviously tender but surprisingly moist and delicate. It easily could have been eaten with a fork (and probably was).

Thanks, Carolyn, for the photos and descriptions.

Building on tupac's inquiry, I am most interested in what, exactly, is in the "poularde" composition. From the photo, it appears to be pieces of poulard cobbled around a cooked mousse/custard studded with onions and herbs (and perhaps mushrooms?) and then wrapped in chicken skin.

Juniper and chicken is a combination I have not experienced, if I recall correctly. Certainly, I have had juniper with other (game) fowl, but not with chicken.

The taglietelle does look good.

How was the torchon? It certainly looks like a generous portion. Was there a supplement for the torchon?


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Looks like a lovely meal, Carolyn.  Beautiful truffles -- the huge slice resting beside of the mound of tagliatelle says it all.  Could you maybe tell us a little more about the poularde dish?  That one was particularly intriguing to me.

I have only read about the delights of the French poularde bresse and I imagine that the richness and complexity of what French Laundry is producing is similar in quality and complexity. The meat itself was obviously tender but surprisingly moist and delicate. It easily could have been eaten with a fork (and probably was).

Thanks, Carolyn, for the photos and descriptions.

Building on tupac's inquiry, I am most interested in what, exactly, is in the "poularde" composition. From the photo, it appears to be pieces of poulard cobbled around a cooked mousse/custard studded with onions and herbs (and perhaps mushrooms?) and then wrapped in chicken skin.

Juniper and chicken is a combination I have not experienced, if I recall correctly. Certainly, I have had juniper with other (game) fowl, but not with chicken.

The taglietelle does look good.

How was the torchon? It certainly looks like a generous portion. Was there a supplement for the torchon?

There was a $30 supplement for the torchon and the truffle supplement was $150 a plate (so I was told - I did not physically see the bill, I just payed my portion). Yes, that was a $150 plate of pasta and worth every damned cent!

I believe much of the filling on the poularde was the wild mushrooms as there were none on the plate. I also have not had any experience with junipers and chicken although I have used junipers in duck and quail to great success.

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There was a $30 supplement for the torchon and the truffle supplement was $150 a plate (so I was told - I did not physically see the bill, I just payed my portion). Yes, that was a $150 plate of pasta and worth every damned cent!

I sure hope so!!


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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In the final round, with all the sweets, I realize how much I prefer to finish up with a cheese course and only a mignardise as a sweet bite. While all the desserts were perfectly wonderful, they were not especially memorable now, a day-and-a-half later. I am still recalling the truffles, and the lamb, and the chicken, and the foie... But I could care less about the desserts. Of course, the fact that I had some of those donuts for breakfast didn't hurt.

Too funny. As I was reading your wonderful post I found myself skipping right over the dessert descriptions/pics. Not being a dessert person I wonder if the FL (or Per Se etc) would ever entertain the idea of a dessert free tasting menu. My husband and I brought some folks to Jean Georges for a celebratory meal and we were asked whether we wanted to have the chef cook for us (as opposed to ordering off the menu (it was lunch)). We said yes and the meal was fantastic. The desserts were very impressive -- different offerings for everyone plus extras -- and it was great fun because we were entertaining. But . . . we have wondered whether we we would go for the chef's menu if it was just the two of us given that we rarely order dessert (we always order more on the savory side instead). I have wondered whether places like the FL and JG would be receptive to a no dessert type of menu (except for cheese and a sweet bite as described above). Any thoughts?

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Too funny.  As I was reading your wonderful post I found myself skipping right over the dessert descriptions/pics.  Not being a dessert person I wonder if the FL (or Per Se etc) would ever entertain the idea of a dessert free tasting menu.  My husband and I brought some folks to Jean Georges for a celebratory meal and we were asked whether we wanted to have the chef cook for us (as opposed to ordering off the menu (it was lunch)).  We said yes and the meal was fantastic.  The desserts were very impressive -- different offerings for everyone plus extras -- and it was great fun because we were entertaining.  But . . . we have wondered whether we we would go for the chef's menu if it was just the two of us given that we rarely order dessert (we always order more on the savory side instead).  I have wondered whether places like the FL and JG would be receptive to a no dessert type of menu (except for cheese and a sweet bite as described above). Any thoughts?

I know several people who opt for tasting menus and advise early on that they don't want to bother with desserts but are happy to receive additional savory courses. So, your answer is yes! As this was my first FL experience, I wanted to see what they had to offer. If I go back, I will definitely go for a cheese course, ask for the donuts, and then be totally happy with just mignardise. I need to seriously get to the point where I ask for that up front. I have a *bit* of a sweet tooth and am always happier with just the mignardise versus the whole dessert tasting thing.

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Here's a recent Sunday afternoon at 'The Laundry, shared with special friends, Samgiovese and his lovely wife, Ms. Giovese. With all of the fine dining I have been subjecting myself to these past few years, it was easy to brush of The French Laundry as probably being remarkably similar to meals I had experienced at places like The Dining Room at the Ritz, Manresa, or Coi. But what I was not expecting was the shear perfection that occurred. Meaning, while I can often find some level of criticism *somewhere* in a meal, on this occasion, there was nothing wrong; no where, in no dish, in no level of service. It was, quite simply, perfect -- and not in a cold, austere, unfeeling manner (as some have complained on various sites). There has been mention of a lack of soul but in many cases, the dishes had chi and then some. There is thought and consideration in those ingredients which complement each other and heighten their subtleties. It was expensive, yes. And it was worth every bloody cent...

Carolyn, I'm glad that you liked your meal at TFL. I agree with you that perfectionism doesn't necessarily have to be "cold, austere or soulless."

How would you compare/contrast it with Manresa?


Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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How would you compare/contrast it with Manresa?

I think much of the difference is that Chef Kinch is obviously experimenting with various forms of Molecular Gastronomy (our soy sauce powder, for example, and occasional foams) where there is none of that at TFL. And, as often occurs with experimentation, missteps and mishaps occur.

Considering I have dined at Manresa -- what? -- three or four times now? I have been through dozens and dozens of different courses, some perfection and others that quite simply did not work. I get the feeling that Chef Kinch is enjoying playing in his kitchen and is not afraid to show his short-comings in those occasional missteps. At TFL, there is no possibility of that, but there is also not an elemental of playfulness that Chef Kinch portrays. TFL quite simply *knows* what works and what is successful and they are very careful to not stray from that tried-and-true formula. Hence there is no need for any form of the Molecular Gastronomic tricks that many other chefs utilize in order to Wow the customer. They don't need to.

They are the Obi-Wan to all the other Jedi Knights who know and comprehend the Force, but are still working on attaining its perfection.

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How would you compare/contrast it with Manresa?

I think much of the difference is that Chef Kinch is obviously experimenting with various forms of Molecular Gastronomy (our soy sauce powder, for example, and occasional foams) where there is none of that at TFL. And, as often occurs with experimentation, missteps and mishaps occur.

Considering I have dined at Manresa -- what? -- three or four times now? I have been through dozens and dozens of different courses, some perfection and others that quite simply did not work. I get the feeling that Chef Kinch is enjoying playing in his kitchen and is not afraid to show his short-comings in those occasional missteps. At TFL, there is no possibility of that, but there is also not an elemental of playfulness that Chef Kinch portrays. TFL quite simply *knows* what works and what is successful and they are very careful to not stray from that tried-and-true formula. Hence there is no need for any form of the Molecular Gastronomic tricks that many other chefs utilize in order to Wow the customer. They don't need to.

They are the Obi-Wan to all the other Jedi Knights who know and comprehend the Force, but are still working on attaining its perfection.

Great description I'm reinspired to work the speed dial.

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Your Manresa/TFL analysis is very interesting to me, Carolyn. I can't claim to be a fan of the term "molecular gastronomy" in the first place, but whatever "it" is, I'm not convinced there is much more of it going on with Kinch's kitchen than there is in Lee's. Is one chef's fish cooked sous vide any more or less "molecular" than the other's foam or powder?

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Is one chef's fish cooked sous vide any more or less "molecular" than the other's foam or powder?

That is an interesting debate. I guess I look at a technique like sous vide as becoming pretty mainstream; heck, a bunch of us are doing this in our homes and personal slow-water-cookers are being sold through non-commercial retail sources. So a hunk of pork is bagged and spun in hot water for a handful of hours... How "molecular" is that?

Foams and powders, on the other hand, involve chemicals and knowledge of a culinary alchemy that is almost sci-fi in its application. Sur la Table and Williams Sonoma are not yet marketing do-it-yourself kits for the serious cook yet. And it is that "yet" which I know foretells a trend towards personal experimentation. After all Harold McGee had a bunch of us experimenting in our kitchen with creating consommé vis-a-vis this article.

At my recent Dining Room at the Ritz meal, one of the most memorable dishes was the Quail egg 64 degrees, Osetra caviar, croutons, and cedar smoke essence. Full pics and description here. It was playful and fun and tasted good, but it relied on the gimmick of the smoke presentation. I seriously doubt you would ever find such a contraption at TFL.

In thinking about this, it is coming down to "gimmicks." When I ponder my occasional forays into MG meals, I am reminded of Daniel Patterson's fake noodles, David Kinch's soy sauce powder, and Ron Siegel's smoke. Am I remembering the food or the flavors of the ingredients that accompanied those tricks? Nope... Honestly, I remember each one of those dishes for the flourish but not for their substance. And when I think back on my FL meal, the only similarly extravagant gesture that comes to mind is a monstrously large truffle in a cigar box; no culinary trompe l'oeil on a plate.

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How would you compare/contrast it with Manresa?

I think much of the difference is that Chef Kinch is obviously experimenting with various forms of Molecular Gastronomy (our soy sauce powder, for example, and occasional foams) where there is none of that at TFL. And, as often occurs with experimentation, missteps and mishaps occur.

Considering I have dined at Manresa -- what? -- three or four times now? I have been through dozens and dozens of different courses, some perfection and others that quite simply did not work. I get the feeling that Chef Kinch is enjoying playing in his kitchen and is not afraid to show his short-comings in those occasional missteps. At TFL, there is no possibility of that, but there is also not an elemental of playfulness that Chef Kinch portrays. TFL quite simply *knows* what works and what is successful and they are very careful to not stray from that tried-and-true formula. Hence there is no need for any form of the Molecular Gastronomic tricks that many other chefs utilize in order to Wow the customer. They don't need to.

They are the Obi-Wan to all the other Jedi Knights who know and comprehend the Force, but are still working on attaining its perfection.

This is an interesting post. I think the lack of playfulness at TFL is the very thing that leads some people to characterize the restaurant as not having "soul."

While I very much enjoy the food at TFL and Per Se, I also very much enjoy the very playfulness that is lacking there. To me that is the very thing that elevates a well prepared and delicious meal to a sublime meal. I like to have all my senses and my intellect tickled during a high end meal. Playfulness and gimmicks are certainly not sufficient in themselves to make a meal great, but they are what can really put a meal over the top.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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How would you compare/contrast it with Manresa?

I think much of the difference is that Chef Kinch is obviously experimenting with various forms of Molecular Gastronomy (our soy sauce powder, for example, and occasional foams) where there is none of that at TFL. And, as often occurs with experimentation, missteps and mishaps occur.

Considering I have dined at Manresa -- what? -- three or four times now? I have been through dozens and dozens of different courses, some perfection and others that quite simply did not work. I get the feeling that Chef Kinch is enjoying playing in his kitchen and is not afraid to show his short-comings in those occasional missteps. At TFL, there is no possibility of that, but there is also not an elemental of playfulness that Chef Kinch portrays. TFL quite simply *knows* what works and what is successful and they are very careful to not stray from that tried-and-true formula. Hence there is no need for any form of the Molecular Gastronomic tricks that many other chefs utilize in order to Wow the customer. They don't need to.

They are the Obi-Wan to all the other Jedi Knights who know and comprehend the Force, but are still working on attaining its perfection.

This is an interesting post. I think the lack of playfulness at TFL is the very thing that leads some people to characterize the restaurant as not having "soul."

While I very much enjoy the food at TFL and Per Se, I also very much enjoy the very playfulness that is lacking there. To me that is the very thing that elevates a well prepared and delicious meal to a sublime meal. I like to have all my senses and my intellect tickled during a high end meal. Playfulness and gimmicks are certainly not sufficient in themselves to make a meal great, but they are what can really put a meal over the top.

I couldn't agree more. I'll have to take exception with my table-mate. While the meal was really quite sublime (as was the service), one cannot help but feel one has wandered into "Stepford, CA", instead of Yountville. Is there such a thing as being too perfect? In my opinion, yes. I'm not as well-travelled as many posters here, but I think I have done enough fine dining that I can have an opinion. I'm not saying Manresa or the Dining Room are the Holy Grail, but Doc's observation is truly how I feel.

I think there is room for both styles in the gastronomic world, without making an empirical judgement as to which is best. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla...different strokes for different folks. For me, the food and and entire dining experience, although VERY expensive, provide a sublime gastronomic adventure found in few other places; however, the formality and "Stepfordness" of the experience leaves me cold.

I will dine there again (this is my 4th experience), but let's just say it won't be next month...more like next year.


"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 echo the preceding two posts (doc's and samgiovese's). The food and my experiences at The French Laundry and per se, both, were sterile and musem-like. Precise, perhaps, but engaging? No. I felt like I was being swept along a mechanic conveyor belt of culinary iconicity.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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My husband took me to the French Laundry for lunch last Friday (dinner reservations being a bit too difficult to get, we settled for the riff-raff hour :biggrin: ) as a combination Christmas and Valentines Day present (this year, next year, and the one following given the amount we spent!). I almost (almost) wish I hadn't read this thread before we went as I'm trying to figure out if it predjudiced me against my meal or if I would have felt the same vague sense of "letdown" no matter what intro I had (in much the same way that I felt sort of sad Christmas afternoon when I my dreams of the morning were supplanted with the reality of my gifts--great gifts, but how could they possibly compare to the hyper-imagained joys of the night before?). Don't get me wrong, I loved the meal and am glad that I was able to experience it, but for the amount we spent, I could have gone to Frasca in Boulder, CO three times over and probably therefore enjoyed myself three times as much. Hard to say...

Anyway, one of our dining companions brought her iPhone (note to self: when we have budget for presents again, ask for an iPhone) and we got pictures of quite a few of the courses that I thought I'd share. We didn't take pictures from the very beginning, so I missed the caviar with with cauliflower panna cotta, but as soon as the salt was presented with my fois gras, I knew I needed pictures:

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Fois gras with persimmon cake (the darker blob on the right), a persimmon "salsa", and a black truffle sauce.

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Seared kahala with passion fruit.

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Acorn flan with mushrooms and a mushroom broth (part of the vegetables tasting menu)

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Vanilla-butter poached lobster tail with spinach "croquette" (basically a fantastically flavored ball of spinach and sesame).

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Seared duck breast (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was served with except that I know it was excellent)

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The cubes in this picture are a 4-day Korean flan, something my dining companion, Korean herself, had never heard of. It was servced with jamon iberico. I didn't get to taste this--it was part of the vegetables menu.

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The lamb--again I can't remember what it was served with (there had been a lot of wine and I forgot to ask for a menu), but it was excellent.

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My cheese course, a chevre of some kind that was very, very tasty.

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My desert, a chocolate something with chestnut something to the left and an ice cream with wheat bread crumbs to the right. In the spirit of disclosure, I should say that I don't care much for desserts in the first place and, by the time this came, I was definitely too full to appreciate it. But this was not the most successful dish of the evening. I gave the chocolate to my husband (who has never met a dessert he didn't like), but the texture of the crumbs in the ice cream was not appealing to any of us. I should have thought ahead and asked for an extra savory course instead.

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The camera-owner's dessert: Chocolate with mandarine orage sorbet and slices.

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My husband's dessert: Crepes with buttermilk ice cream. More to my liking, as it wasn't as cloyingly sweet as my dessert.

After all this, they came around with mini-creme brulees, some sort of almond paste cookie, chocolate truffles, marzipan sweets, and Turkish delight (the last three served in a pretty silver container), and an offering of various filled chocolates, all lovely to look at. And then they sent each of us home with a bag of shortbread cookies, just in case we were still hungry. Oh, and I forgot the three different "bread courses" that accompanied the meal.

We found the service attentive and unremarkable (that is, there was certainly nothing bad about it and the pacing of the meal was steady, but not pushy), except I found it amusing to watch them coordinate lowering and raising pairs of plates--two staff would look at each other over our heads, nod almost imperceptably, and lift a plate simultaneously. If only one staff was available, he/she would wait to remove an empty plate until someone else was freed up. Honestly, it seemed a bit twee to me, but maybe I'm just not used to the finer things in life... :raz:

The sommalier's wine choices (we started with a sparkling rose, moved on to a French white, then finished with an Italian red) were lovely--in fact, while I can't remember the name of the white, it might have been the best bottle of wine I've ever had.

It was definitely a meal to remember and I'm very, very glad I was lucky enough to be able to do it, but the experience may have been enough to last me for a lifetime.


Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.

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