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The French Laundry

In anticipation of leaving the Bay Area, we decided to create a “bucket list” of things we wanted to do before we left. One of the many things on the list was to visit the French Laundry restaurant (Michelin 3 stars) in the Napa Valley for dinner.  Napa is about a two-hour drive from our house so we figured we could drive up and back on the same day.

Making this happen starts with getting a reservation. To get a reservation, my resourceful husband monitored the French Laundry reservation site so he was notified as soon as they opened a new reservation time period. We decided to go on a Sunday night (all of the Saturdays were already taken.) We got a reservation for four people because these experiences are always more fun with friends.

Several months later, the happy day rolls around and we all try not to eat or drink too much before our big dinner. We already knew that this meal is a nine-course prix fixe and for some of the courses we will have a choice. We also knew that there is a wine pairing that we could get so that the wine is perfectly paired with what we are eating. In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say.

Fortunately, I was and am still blissfully ignorant of what this extravaganza cost. But, it’s only money and (spoiler alert) worth every penny of whatever it was that we paid.

When we enter the front door we are immediately greeted and shown to our table. On the table, we find the menu for our meal. Mike told them it was my birthday, so a birthday wish was at the top of our customized menu. While we do have the menu for dinner, we don’t have a list of the wines we had with each course, but some bottle pictures are included.

The Evening’s Menu

As you can imagine, we couldn’t wait to see what we were going to be eating and didn’t mind the supplements. If you are going to be eating fine exotic food, the French Laundry is a great place to give it a try. They also asked about food allergies and I told them I was allergic to shellfish, so a few dishes were made custom for me with substitutions.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here goes, course by course. I will save all of the waxing poetic about the sublime flavors and layers in each dish for the end. Otherwise, I would just be repeating myself.

An Amuse Bouche arrived first along with the salts.

1st course
Some of us ordered the “Oysters and Pearls” shown here.

And others ordered the Royal Kaluga Caviar which we had with Champagne of course.

2nd Course

We all had the Foie Gras “Terrine” and I’m pretty sure we had a Sauterne to go with it judging by the color of the wine in my glass.

3rd Course
Atlantic Black Bass

Unfortunately, there is no picture of my glass so I can’t remember what wine we had.

4th Course

Here was the main substitution for me, no lobster, just exceptional gnocchi.
Fortunately, we got a picture of the Meursault that we drank with it.

Here is the lobster that everyone else enjoyed.

5th Course
“Bread and Butter”

6th Course
White Quail with a Del Dotto Pinot Noir

7th Course

Three of us had the Japanese Wagyu and one of us had the Elysian Fields Lamb. With this wonderful course, we had a Melka Métisse Napa Valley 1996, a Bordeaux-style wine.

Behold, the Lamb and the wine.

8th Course
“Gougere”

9th Course Part 1

A birthday cake, which we ate of course.

9th Course Part 2

Assortment of Desserts with a lovely port

Just to make my point.

By this point, I kept forgetting to take pictures and I was admittedly a little drunk but surprisingly, not uncomfortably full. Fortunately, our friends kept taking pictures.

After dinner, we were escorted to the kitchen so we could thank the chefs personally.

Finally, they sent each of us off with a special French Laundry tin of four shortbread cookies (really delicious, of course) and copies of the menus, one of them are even signed. The parting gift that they gave us also included a booklet with descriptions and pictures of many of the ingredient Purveyors for our dinner.

I must admit that I am fortunate to have had many memorable meals, all over the world, but this experience far exceeded anything I have experienced before. Every detail was beautifully choreographed, the food was sublime, and there is no question that this is a whole other level of dining.

3 Comments

  1. I went to the French Laundry once…..without a reservation. My sister was visiting from Indiana and when we were driving through, I stopped just to see if there were any cancellations. I walked inside and the maître d’ asked if he could help me. I inquired about any cancellations for that evening, and he looked up at me and said “You’ve got to be kidding!” Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

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