The French Laundry

Mushroom

 

 

Sunday
afternoon at ‘The Laundry was shared with special friends, R. and and
his lovely wife, M. 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.

In
preparation for the next several courses, a beautiful salt tray was
offered.

Salt_2

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.

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[b] 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.

Foie

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.

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.

Taglietelle

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.

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 M. 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.

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.

Poulet

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.

"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.

Persian Lime Sorbet – to cleanse the palate.

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.

"Feijoa Sorbet with Maui Pineapple Relish and Angel Cake
"S’Mores" – Cashnew Nut "Parfait," Caramel "Délice" and "Sauce a la Guimauve Flambée

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

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

Coffee
and Donuts – Again, I was so excited by the prospect of fried dough, I
could hardly contain myself. 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.

Donut

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.

       
      
       
      
       
       
         

 

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