December 5, part 2 of No Cal trip.

Second dinner at The French Laundry.

I’m among a fortunate few who get to dine at The French Laundry quite often.  December 5 was my second visit for my birthday that week.

Friends joined me at a beautiful table on the patio.

I won’t show much of the food as I have shown it many times before.

Oysters and pearls, just wonderful every time.

Hen egg custard, with a Ragout of Perigord Truffles.
Garden Cauliflower “Veloute”

Dungeness Crab Cake

The meal was superb as always.  Wines picked by Andrew Adelson an old friend from his days at Bouchon Beverly Hills.

We miss him and the restaurant.  It was great to see him on this visit.  As usual his selections were perfect.

Nov. 30-Dec.6 Northern California trip.

Short write ups to contribute to diners.  This is a trip we have made more times than I can count.  The most recent to celebrate my birthday Dec. 1—to many years to count, but lucky to be feeling well and ready to enjoy away from restrictions of LA .

Day 1-easy drive to Coalinga.  Recent visits to Harris Ranch have been less than satisfactory dining experiences.  I found a Mexican place in Coaling for a late lunch.  Nothing worth mentioning, but beer was very good. 

Day 2–The next day breakfast in a new tent.  Good, not great, service only ok…Harris Ranch has certainly slipped.  I have decided to skip staying there going directly to Yountville or Sonoma with a possible lunch stop at Harris or the Mexican place.

Day 2, cont’d…Dinner in Sonoma with friends in Sonoma…new Michael Mina place “Wit and Wisdom”…very good and nice service, no pix.  Friend’s birthday, very nice.

Day 3—Wednesday Dec. 3—Steeler game—room service at Macarthur Place Hotel, very good.

That night fun place with Chicago Dogs…

Day 4—Yountville…The French Laundry…menu:

Everything bagel cone and cheese cracker
Pacific yellowgail “tarare” brokaw Avocado “Chiffon” and puffed Grains, Mediterranean Octopus “En Escabeche” with San Marzano Tomato “Marmalade”, Big Island Abalone “Tempura” with Kanzuir Mayonaise, “Coconut Shrimp” 

Classic:  Hen Egg Custard with a Ragout of truffles
Garden Carrot “Hummus” Crispy Carrot “Chips, “ Compressed Celery Hearts and Toasted Cumin-Chili Oil.

“Bread and Butter” Toasted Brioche “Kugelhopf”, Buttered Parmesan “Mousseline” and Shaved White Truffles from Alba.

Japanese Wagyu “Truffle” Black Winter Truffle “Consumme” and Wagyu “Torchon”

“Degustation” of Wolfe ranch White Quail, Creamed Garden Kale, Hone Poached Cranberries and “Jus aux Quatre Spices”

It can’t get better or more wonderful..I have dined at The French Laundry well over 100 times over 24 years…consistency is the name of the game.  I love it.  My plan is to dine there 8-10 times in 2021.  

North Cal trip continued….. MANRESA

Manresa in Los Gatos and David Kinch, the chef/owner have been favorites and great friends for many years.  Liz and David were great friends.  They loved talking food and menus.  David is from New Orleans.


Manresa specializes in California cuisine. It was founded in 2002 by chef David Kinch. The Michelin Guide: San Francisco, Bay Area and Wine Country conferred two Michelin stars on the restaurant in 2007, and upgraded it to three stars in 2016.


It is clearly one of the best restaurants in the world.  David has spent a lot of time in Japan cooking with many of the best chefs.  I always love to visit.  Even alone it is a great evening.  Occasionally I meet interesting people.  Not this time, but it was perfect anyhow.



Picture2Petit fours “red bell pepper-black olive”                                                               Granola crisp with goat cheese.


Picture3Oyster, caviar, leeks and…


Picture4Sea urchin with burdock root and shell fish essence.


Picture5Cioppino with geoduck, lobster and mackerel.


Into the vegetable garden Mercy Mercy.


Picture6This is a fabulous signature dish.  I am not a vergie lover, but I love this dish.



Picture7Dungeness crab and cabbage.



Picture8Marigold panna cotta and citrus sherbet.


Manresa continues to exceed expectations.  It is as legitimate a Michelin 3 Star as The French Laundry or any other place in the USA and definitely the equal of most in France.


David Kinch has learned how to maintain quality and continue to innovate.  I missed taking pictures of several of the later dishes.  I guess I got caught up in the flavors and the wines.


Here are pix of the wines just for the record.  No comments needed.  The sommelier is excellent and the cellar has developed nicely over the years.


I look forward to visiting again soon.  It is a very expensive meal but like any 3 star worth it!





Picture13The road back home…early morning headed to LA.

North Cal trip continued……CALENDA

Finding a good place for lunch in Yountville is never a problem.  I love Bistro Jeanty.  Phillipe Jeanty has been a nice friend and much appreciated chef for years, ever since he was the head chef and Domaine Chandon’s lovely restaurant.  His number two there, Cal Stemanov, worked for Michel Richard at Citrus for a while and then joined Chef Jeanty at Domaine Chandon.


He has moved on to Bernardus Lodge.  Liz and I visited him several times and were delighted with the cuisine and his warm welcome.


On this visit to Yountville I heard that Thomas Keller had opened a new place, Calenda in the spot formerly occupied by Hurley’s.  Hurley ‘s had always been good for a hamburger and a beer.  So I decided to try Calenda.


Picture1.pngNot much difference except the sign.  Calenda is about 200 yards from Bouchon right on Washington.


Picture2.pngSimple menu like a place mat.


Picture3.pngBlack bean enchilada and quesadilla al pastor.


Picture4Excellent churros with chocolate sauce. Cheating in style.

Calenda is a very nice addition to the Yountville scene.   The service is excellent.   The margherita was very good and the meal solid and delicious.






North Cal trip continued… THE FRENCH LAUNDRY

I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.  We have dined at The French Laundry so many times and never been disappointed.  I was a little concerned about dining alone.  No need. Everyone was so attentive and charming.  Good visits with some old friends and meeting some newcomers.


Just enjoy and realize that this is the best of the best.





Oysters.png  Oysters to start.


Thecone.pngThe cone with a new flavor twist.


Picture1Cheese toast…


Picture2Crème de champignos


Picture3The famous oysters and pearls.  I must have had this dish 100 times or more…for real…it was never better—what a treat.


Picture4Assorted goodies…


Picture5Hen egg custard another standard that never gets old.


Picture6Monterey Bay Abalone au gratin…amazing!


Picture7Hawaiian hearts of palm terrine.


Picture8Hand cut Tagliatelle.


Picture9Wolfe Ranch white quail with sunny side up quail egg—life can’t get better than this.  I love quail and this dish was perfection.


Picture10Beef stroganoff…I’m usually too full for meat at this point, but this was light and a perfect ending.   I neglected to take a picture of dessert…my regular doughnut and hole…if you have never had it…make it one of your desserts.  TFL really out does itself on desserts, but Liz and I were always too full and such great lovers of dessert…leave us to the savory dishes…what a meal.


Three wines, all delicious.  They really spoil me.




The last word…I will continue to journey North as often as I can.  Yountville has grown and offers enough to make it worth spending more than my usual 2 days there.  I wish I had a dining companion that would enjoy and appreciate as much as Liz and I used to, but that is more than anyone can hope for.   But, I did well on my own.  People were especially nice and considerate.  I think I can handle dining alone most places.   The French Laundry is family and home, a real privilege.


My review of Manresa will have the same feeling and the upcoming review of David Kinch’s Bywater shows it is special and definitely worth returning to….more to come on Refined Palate…thanks for looking in.

John Haskell

Husband for 50 years of Liz Haskell one of the greatest palates ever and a total gourmet with absolute appreciation of great food and great chefs.  With love…here’s to the memories.