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Barbara Moss

The French Laundry 2006 -

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I had a uniformly excellent meal with my wife and friends at The French Laundry a week and a half ago while out for the World of Flavors Conference. I don't have much to add regarding specific dishes. I am happy to say that the FOH and service in general was as good as I have experienced it there. The new Maitre'd, whose name unfortunately escapes me, came from The Breakers in Florida.

The only downside of the meal was that my wife and I were both exhausted after having gotten up at 3:30AM Eastern time that morning and flying cross-country. That we enjoyed the meal as much as we did was a testament to the kitchen and our company.


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.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I had a uniformly excellent meal with my wife and friends at The French Laundry a week and a half ago while out for the World of Flavors Conference. I don't have much to add regarding specific dishes. I am happy to say that the FOH and service in general was as good as I have experienced it there. The new Maitre'd, whose name unfortunately escapes me, came from The Breakers in Florida.

The only downside of the meal was that my wife and I were both exhausted after having gotten up at 3:30AM Eastern time that morning and flying cross-country. That we enjoyed the meal as much as we did was a testament to the kitchen and our company.

I highly recommend the recent Gastroville review of The French Laundry. Written by Vedat Milor, it is highly detailed and contains a good deal of information about various ingredients (caviar, lobster) used there.

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This is something that I've noticed but a friend of mine recently asked me if I knew there was a signifcant reason for French Laundry Alumni and the blue/white stripe aprons or not? He thought it might be for those who go off to their own kitchens with recommendations from Chef Keller. I just thought it was a personal choice for fashion reasons. Anyone know? :unsure:


"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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This is something that I've noticed but a friend of mine recently asked me if I knew there was a signifcant reason for French Laundry Alumni and the blue/white stripe aprons or not? He thought it might be for those who go off to their own kitchens with recommendations from Chef Keller. I just thought it was a personal choice for fashion reasons.  Anyone know? :unsure:

It is my understanding that the blue and white pin striped apron are traditional French style. Not even sure if Keller is the first to adopt the trend in the US, though given the amount of talent the place has spawned over the years, his influence in the matter may be the greatest.

I've always thought it was sort of an "homage" to the origins of the types of cuisine they practice. I suspect that his protege's keep the tradition alive more for posterity sake than anything.

I suppose the functionality would be that it may not show grime/grease as easily as white aprons, though I struggle to conjure an image in which any cook working for Keller and his staff would be covered in grime.

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It’s not you, Thomas, it’s me.

I just need a little more yin with my yang. Or is it a little more right brain with my left brain? Or maybe just a little more id to do battle with your legendary superego. Lunch at the French Laundry was delicious, impeccable, fresh, creative and supported by excellent service (props to Dennis) and fine wine (particularly a stunner of a Pinot Noir: Skewis Reserve; Floodgate Vineyard). All it lacked was glee – a course or two of good gloppy fun to balance all those precise preparations and precious presentations.

Whining aside, though, if lunch at Laundry didn’t change my life it certainly improved it greatly for several hours, including the buzz that followed me around for most of the rest of the day, one of those food highs that you only get after excellent eating. I think there were nine courses, more if you throw in the amuses, and there was a fun mix of classics and dishes that one assumes were invented that day when the kitchen crew came in at 5:30.

Highlights included a green-garlic cream (surprise – I like the course with cream) soup with a weensie quenelle of San Marazano tomatoes that seemed to need a little more salt until the second spoonful, when the teensie dice of Nicoise olives was sufficiently stirred in, nudging the soup’s salinity to perfection. I can never turn down sea urchin – actually, I can never find sea urchin – this version, with three pink tongues lolling on a monkey-dish (anyone use that term any more?) full or risotto which was in turn scooped atop a truffle coulis was excellent. And who can resist lobster ‘n’ bacon, with a bacon emulsion. How cool is a bacon emulsion?

Classic preparations included the truffle custard in the egg shell, which I enjoyed quite a bit and the coffee and donuts. I guess I’ve never looked closely at the recipe and was unclear on the concept of a “semi-freddo” but I actually embarrassed myself by trying to drink the semi-freddo. Fortunately, the couple at the next table were gazing meaningfully into each others eyes and the waiter was away from the table, so no one witness my faux pas.

Rabbit rillettes fried in panko was kind of eh, and the entrée – veal tenderloin – lacked sumptuousness, despite it being paired with fried sweetbreads. And I didn’t much care for the dessert, a pair of rectangular solids roughly the dimensions of a lady’s elegant pinkie, one featuring a layer of passion fruit gelee atop a layer of chocolate, and the other featuring pistachio and sponge cake.

It’s carping a bit to complain about The French Laundry; “who am I to…” blah blah blah. And, like I said, it’s me. I’m out of step with the times – not to mention The Times. I’ve had this problem before, at a Michelin 2-star called Bateau Ivre where the savory courses came out with all the spontaneity of a schematic diagram and the chef appeared to have some sort of cream allergy or cuisine minceur addiction that prevented him from cooking anything that didn’t taste as though it were more an intellectual construct than dinner. Oh, and the waitress seemed to have a stick up her butt, which just kind of reinforced the feeling that you’d wandered into a modern art exhibit where it was more important to “understand” the work than to enjoy it.

Let me clear, though, that I found not a hint of pretense in the The French Laundry. From the hostess, who gamely took my cell phone number when I arrived un-announced the instant the restaurant opened, to the maitre d’ who smilingly told me in a French accent that made it all the better “you should play the lottery – to get a table today, you are very lucky;” to the waiter who seemed to go out of his way to make a solo diner feel welcome and who seemed to know all the local vineyard insider stuff (“She’s a great winemaker but the vines are only four years old. For that price…”) the welcome was warm and sincere.

Based on my one trip to the place (and, oh yeah, the opinion of pretty much everyone who counts in the culinary world) The French Laundry is a fabulous restaurant. I’m just not sure if it’s my kind of fabulous.

It looks like another trip to Napa is in the offing. Maybe this time I’ll just go Bouchon (or Ad Hoc – any reports on that one?). Could be that, at heart, I’m just a meat and potatoes guy. As long as a Keller-trained chef is making the meat and potatoes. :wink:


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Great report Busboy. I completely agree with your thoughts. Lack of glee and all the "spontaneity of a schematic diagram". :wink:

Maybe this time I’ll just go Bouchon (or Ad Hoc – any reports on that one?).

Cooking for Engineers has a write up on Ad Hoc


Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

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Anyone have any tips to snagging a reservation at the Laundry last minute? I'm not going to Napa till the end of March but was informed by the reservationist they were booked two months out. I'm up for lunch or dinner, and am already on their waiting list for a cancellation.


"I'm drawn to places that fear their customers" -Kenji

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read upthread, but I've heard of people showing up at the door the instant they open the day they want to go, and snagging a last minute cancellation.....I can't speak from experience, but I'm sure it's here somewhere...

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Anyone have any tips to snagging a reservation at the Laundry last minute?  I'm not going to Napa till the end of March but was informed by the reservationist they were booked two months out.  I'm up for lunch or dinner, and am already on their waiting list for a cancellation.

Put on a suit and tie (or lovely dress), show up at the front door when it opens at 11 AM (if you're gunning for lunch: Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and politely (I was told that being polite was key, I can only imagine the blowhards that have tried to bluff and bluster their way in over the years) ask the hostess if there have been any last minute cancellations. I asked only for lunch, but if you're determined, you can probably ask about both. She will say,"no", and offer to take your cell number "just in case." Give it to her and wander into downtown Yountville, noting the location of Bouchon and the less famous -- but quite good -- Bistro Jeanty, in case the call from TFL never comes. Bring a book. Snag some souvenirs or a cup of coffee or some baked goods from the Bouchon Bakery as a possible consolation prized. Drop into the Deadhead wine shop. Cross your fingers that somebody's car breaks down on the way up from San Francisco.

Actually, in order to keep my karma good, I crossed my fingers that new couple was having such a romantic weekend, they decided just to have room service. At any rate, it worked for me. Apparently, you give them about an hour-and-a-half before you give up, but I got the ring after about 30 minutes.

FWIW, there was a also deuce that sat empty for the entire lunch service the day I walked-in. Shame, that.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I appreciate the style and penetration of those reports, Busboy. (It's easy to see online that everyone is alike in having opinions, but different in what goes into them.)

Incidentally, some of you might be surprised just how spontaneous schematic diagrams can be.

:smile: Max

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Just got my reservation for the 11th May confirmed ;-)


Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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After I sold my  first born to get a reservation we dined at The French Laundry last spring. It was certainly worth it as our 4 hour 13 plus course dinner was memorable and consisted of many tastes, textures and smells. Oysters and pearls, baby rabbit and the ice cream cone filled with creme fraiche and smoked salmon come to mind. Have you eaten there? Would you go back?

The French Laundry is a fabulous establishment and YES I would go back. Do not get me started on Per Se though, I will leave that for another topic. But the food, service and atmosphere is really top-notch and a great badge of honor for an American Chef on home soil.

Having dined their on a few occasions, one of the most special was during the Italian white truffle season. During these magical short 2 months about, The French Laundry offers three menu options, the supplement being all composed of seasonal truffle dishes.

A pure treat and rare indulgence.

Enjoy!

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Congratulations to Chef Thomas Keller for winning the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restauranteur


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Just a bump!

Haven't heard any insights for a couple days.

Not to panic - I'm sure we're all still digesting the lovely shots of the FL - both the building itself, as well as the food. I myself was supremely happy, just looking at the restaurant's lovely exterior, when I was last in Yountville.

Reflectively,

Claudia

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I last visited The French Laundry in January 2005. I had a late lunch at Bouchon and wandered over to TFL just to peer in the windows. A server saw my gawking and invited me to tour the restaurant.

After my tour was concluded, I asked if there might be a chance to dine. After checking their book, they said they could most probably accommodate me. Unfortunately, I was leaving on a 9:30pm flight back to the East Coast. It was 5pm, they were just about to start service and a 3.5 hour meal meant that I wouldn't make my flight and I had to decline.

So, I think it is possible (especially if you are a solo diner) to obtain a last minute table. Of course, your mileage may vary.

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Four of us had a great meal there on the 11th of May, service was excellent and asked the them to choose the wines for us. Service was exemplary and although I did say match the cost of wine to the food it came in about 1/2 the price and was perfectly matched to the food.

Staff were friendly, never intrusive but always their when you needed them.

The food excellent and everything I'd anticipated.

That said my best dining experience in the USA was Moto in Chicago but they are almost impossible to compare Moto would be:- enthusiasm, creativity, fun and the French Laundry would be classic, refined, elegant

Next time I'm in SF if I can score a reservation I'll be back.


Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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Just curious if anyone has experience with getting a reservation for only 2 people at TFL. From what I've read this seems almost impossible. I read somewhere that there is typically only 1 table open that seats two during the lunch service, but nothing regarding the 5:30 or 9:30 service.

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Just curious if anyone has experience with getting a reservation for only 2 people at TFL. From what I've read this seems almost impossible. I read somewhere that there is typically only 1 table open that seats two during the lunch service, but nothing regarding the 5:30 or 9:30 service.
I have, but that was through Opentable.com and it was almost 4 years ago.

Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

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In case anyone is unaware of it -- and I assume it appeared earlier in this long thread (it appears perennially on all food sites that mention the Laundry much, as well as print-media stories) -- the Sandersens' independent Web site with French-Laundry reservation tips, for years, remains active Here.

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In case anyone is unaware of it -- and I assume it appeared earlier in this long thread (it appears perennially on all food sites that mention the Laundry much, as well as print-media stories) -- the Sandersens' independent Web site with French-Laundry reservation tips, for years, remains active Here.

Thanks Max and snekse. I saw the Sandersons site and while they mention that no reservations are given for 2 through opentable (even though a user states that they were able to get a res for 2 through opentable - not sure which is true), nothing seems to be mentioned about the possibility of a reservation for 2 by calling. I've been checking all the "Tips on Getting into French Laundry" sites and couldn't see anything. Any advice would be greatly appreciated - thanks!

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hello, my wife and I just recently(3weeks ago) had a table for 2@ 5:30. If you are staying in the Napa/Youtville area. I would suggest having your hotel try for the reservation. We stayed at the Yountville Inn and they had no problem getting us in.

Good Luck it is worth the time and effort!

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One table for 2 at lunch?? Wonder what the person who wrote that was looking at? I am trying to picture the dining room the last time I was there a bit over a year ago.

Downstairs, the alcove to the right had three 2s along the right wall. The main dining room had 2s all the way around three sides of the perimeter of the room. So, say at least ten or twelve tables for 2 downstairs. I didn't go upstairs.

I have only dined there as a party of two. My reservations have been between 7 and 8 pm. I recently had to change a party of 6 to a 2 due to failed travel plans for us and another couple. If I recall, the adjusted reservation was for 6 pm.

I have said it before on this thread and will say it again. If you absolutely must dine at TFL and are not willing to engage in guerilla warfare (speed dialing, midnight Open Tabling, 5:30 dinner reservations) to do so, try this. Book a two night stay at one of the three Relais & Chateaux hotels in the area (Auberge du Soleil, Meadowood or Les Mars), after making your reservation transfer to the Concierge, ask him or her for assistance with dining reservations at the hotel one night and at TFL the other, give your Concierge a Grant when you arrive for your stay. Expensive? Sure. Painless? You bet. (Note: I have never had to use this method at TFL, but have without fail many other places.) (Second note: Staying in hotels at that level can be nearly as addicting as dining in restaurants at that level.)


Edited by MichaelB (log)

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