Archive for May, 2007


84, rue de Varenne
75007 PARIS
Metro: Varenne station Line 13
Tel : +33 (0)1 47 05 09 06
Fax : + 33 (0)1 44 18 98 39
Map: Click Here

Chef/Owner: Alain Passard
General manager: Frédéric Le Clair
Sommelier: Stephane Thivat

Arpege was having a 20th anniversary menu at the unheard of price of 130 euros. Their normal tasting menu is 320 euros. However, I did add on a lobster course so it wasn’t exactly “cheap” at 200 euros per person for food. At one, there were only 5 people in the restaurant. Eventually they ended up serving 16 people.
I loved the sculpture on our table:

Amuse – two tiny tarts. One with langoustine and apple that was excellent and one with vegetable mousse that was tasteless.


First Course – L’œuf fermier de la Bigottière



This is the famous Arpege egg. It is actually an egg yolk, simmered in the shell for 3 minutes or just until the yolk begins to set, It is then seasoned with salt and pepper, a sprinkling of chives, some lightly whipped cream with sherry vinegar and finally a drizzle of maple syrup.  I noticed that this time, there was less of a sweet component and I am guessing that less maple syrup was utilized. The quality of the egg was outstanding and as I make this dish often, I couldn’t help thinking that I will never be able to replicate it as well with my market’s eggs.

My home-made version – the yolk-filled shells simmering:



Second Course: Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes consommé végétal



The ravioli were filled with langoustine and the consommé was outstanding. There was a pronounced Indian-spice taste in this dish.

Third Course – Gratin d’oignon doux au citron parmigiano reggiano



Sweet onion gratin with parmesan and lemon, mache lettuce on top. I just don’t get this dish.  John’s comment was that this was an “el cheapo” nothing dish.

Fourth Course – Brioche de légumes printaniers soja et sésame noir



How can spinach and carrot mousse be exquisite? But it was. Of course “bottom-line John” wondered what the food cost was in this dish.

Fifth Course – Lotte de Bretagne à la moutarde d’Orléans jardinière Arlequin



Monkfish with mustard sauce, flagelots and fingerling potatoes. The fish was spectacular – my notes say as good as it gets. The mustard sauce had a lard flavor to it – excellent.

Sixth Course (add on) Blue Lobster with Jura wine sauce, green cabbage and leeks, tomalley.


Absolutely worth every euro.
Seventh course – Fromages de Bernard Antony affineur
Had the 2002 aged Comte in addition to other cheeses.
Eighth Course – Caramelized Tomato Ice Cream with caramel sauce made with salty butter and hazelnuts.
3 tarts –nothing special

Conclusion: If I ignore the entire question of value and just focus on the food, there is no doubt that Arpege is a unique experience. Some of his dishes are sublime, his vegetables are wondrous and the lobster dish absolutely wonderful. (By the way, we ordered the lobster as a one for two split.) I just don’t get the onion gratin dish and would never order it a la carte.


Ad Hoc – Yountville

The Thomas Keller restaurant, Ad Hoc, is completely different than any other Keller restaurant I have ever been to anywhere. The menu consists of 4 courses, served family style and served to everyone. The price of the Prix Fixe is $49.00 per person, excluding wine, tax and tip. The menu is posted outside the restaurant around mid-day so you can check what you will be having. Monday night is fried chicken night! You can also check out the menu on their website:

The room – before service and set up

Ad Hoc salad

Hearts of Romaine salad (pickled red onions, torn garlic croutons, Hobb’s bacon lardons and herbed cream dressing) – 4 huge pieces of Romaine that you basically ate with your fingers, placing the lardons, croutons, onions and dressing on top.

Ad hoc chicken

Ad Hoc veggies

Buttermilk Fried Chicken – bluelake green beans, cole slaw and garlic whipped potatoes – I called this dish Keller’s version of KFC. It was delicious, probably one of the best fried chicken dishes I have tasted – crunchy, moist, tender, luscious, full of flavor. Portion size was enormous. In fact, one of the bussers was doing a double at another restaurant and we gave him half our order to eat in the car. The potatoes were equally good and the green beans, crunchy with both being butter-laden in a good way.

Ad Hoc cheese

Pedrozo Dairy Blondie’s Best – comice pears and marshall farm’s honey – Cheese was served at room temperature.

Ad Hoc dessert

Apple crisp – vanilla ice cream – Again portion size was massive; this was for 2 people!

ad Hoc wine


Conclusion: This was fun and unlike anything Thomas Keller is doing anywhere else. There is talk of adding a burger night.


6534 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: 707.944.8037

Executive Chef/Owner: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Jeffrey Cerciello

I have not been a fan of Bouchon and generally choose Bistro Jeanty for a bistro meal while visiting the area. But as we had decided to try Ad Hoc earlier and knew we were eating at the Laundry later, we figured we would make this a Keller Odyssey of sorts.
Service has greatly improved as well as the food. It is now definitely on our must list when we are up north. 

Oysters (4 East Coast and 4 West Coast) – Fresh, plump and tasty.  


Beef Tongue on pain perdue with frisee and sauce Gribiche – Although this looks like more frisee than beef tongue, it wasn’t the case at all. The beef tongue was melt in your mouth delicious and perfect with the bread and Gribiche.


Croque Madame (toasted ham and cheese sandwich on brioche with a fried egg and Mornay sauce served with french fries) – John was a very happy camper.




Bin 8945 Featured In Wine Spectator

From the issue of Wine Spectator magazine, June 2007:

Two new restaurants can be found off the trodden path
By Harvey Steiman  

Opus and Bin 8945 are both fresh Los Angeles restaurants that are delivering serious food and wine without taking themselves too seriously. But no one would mistake one for the other. At Opus, in the Mid-Wilshire district just west of downtown, 20-foot-high ceilings frame a spacious dining room that hides behind a big, busy bar scene and a quiet, comfortable smoking lounge. Meanwhile, over in West Hollywood, the cozy confines of Bin 8945 bring to mind a neighborhood wine bar in Milan or Paris—stylish enough to stand out from the crowd but clearly not aiming for luxury.

Opus chef Josef Centeno (formerly of Meson G in Hollywood and Aubergine in Newport Beach, Calif.) likes adding surprise ingredients to wake up familiar dishes. On my visit, he sprinkled a tiny dice of crisp salt pork on an excellent yellowtail sashimi and threw in shredded, preserved lemon for additional zip. He added fresh jalapeño to a deeply satisfying pork ragù with strozzapreti, a pennelike pasta with extra flange; the peppers provided extra zing. First courses hover around $10, pastas $13 and main courses $20.

For any adventurous chef, the trick is to pique a diner’s taste buds without making the dish weird. Centeno clearly seeks harmony in incorporating creativity, as in his version of carbonara, where the egg goes on top, sunny-side up. Breaking the yolk bathed the pasta in yellow and made the creamy dish even richer. And you can taste the freshness and solid technique of a good modern kitchen in dishes such as juicy grilled jidori chicken with Meyer lemon marmalade, and beef short ribs cooked in red wine, served over a polentalike, adult rendition of Cream of Wheat.

At 175 listings, Opus’ wine list emphasizes value. Markups are relatively low, and most of the wines are priced at less than $75. You won’t find many trophy bottlings, although Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley from the excellent 1987 vintage ($90) sneaked onto the list. Other good choices are M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine 2003 ($59) and Joseph Phelps Chardonnay Napa Valley Ovation 2002 ($60), both of which have had the benefit of a couple of years in bottle.

Best of all, Centeno’s food is balanced enough to showcase all the good wine. It’s clearly the class act in a resurgent neighborhood. On the same block as the Wiltern theater, where the Dandy Warhols were playing the night I visited, Opus has become a mecca for smart, young Angelenos who enjoy good food and wine and a nice ambience but don’t want to spend a fortune on it.

Bin 8945, which opened last summer in West Hollywood, most succeeds with its wine; it has more than 700 selections in its book. Executive chef Michael Bryant, a protégé of Norman Van Aken, joined the team only recently. Although he sometimes overreaches, he always aims for bold flavors. His edgy food and the deep wine list put many stuffier places in the city to shame.

Sandwiched between a Starbucks and a row of fancier bistros that advertise happy hour more prominently than they do dining, Bin 8945 appears to be the least prepossessing eatery on this busy block of Santa Monica Boulevard. The dining room seats 40 tightly, with some tables spilling out onto the sidewalk. When the place is full, it’s loud. It’s also casual: A folded linen napkin was placed on a paper place mat imprinted with a trompe l’oeil depiction of a presentation plate. A real plate would just have to be removed anyway.

The menu offers nine first courses, priced between $11 and $19, and seven main dishes, in the $26 to $29 range. Much of the food seems intentionally geared toward red wines. Poached lobster swam in venison consommé. Chorizo added a meaty note to steamed mussels. Fries were done in duck fat, and Bryant’s shredded duck ham (rather like confit) with pasta would render almost any red a little sultrier.

But the menu gives white wines their due. Snapper escabèche filled a row of five crisp miniature tacos topped with guacamole ($11) and found a happy match with a glass of Zöhrer Grüner Veltliner 2003 ($12), still floral, crisp and fresh from its screw-cap bottle.

Bryant puts chorizo foam on a sliced American Wagyu culotte steak—a great idea. Not so great: a dish of frankly sweet chocolate sauce and crumbled graham crackers on sautéed sweetbreads. Too weird, that.

The wine list has attitude (and a few typos). It offers only four California Chardonnays, though one of them is Ridge 1997 ($60). Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand get only brief nods. But the ups outnumber the downs. There are two red Burgundies among the more than 50 wines by the glass. For dessert, why not sip a glass of Ramos Ruby Port ($8)?

The Bordeaux page has plenty of mature options, topped by Lafite Rothschild 1979 ($440), Mouton-Rothschild 1979 ($400), Wine Spectator 1988 Wine of the Year Lynch-Bages 1985 ($285), and Trotanoy 1990 ($240). Among the Burgundies, big spenders can go for Comte Georges de Vogüé Bonnes Mares 1985 ($720), Domaine Arlaud Charmes-Chambertin 1995 ($190), or take a chance on Henri Jayer Bourgogne 1982 ($155). In addition, there are about 20 vintages of California icon Ridge Montebello, dating back to the 1980 vintage.

Managing director David Haskell, who has worked at Guy Savoy in Paris, Le Cirque and Aquavit in New York, and Aubergine in Newport Beach, Calif., knows his way around the wine world. His father, a serious collector, supplied some of the older wines. Haskell and assistant sommelier Josh Goldman like to create five- to 10-course dinners matching small plates with wines from the by-the-glass list. Guests can choose a bottle of wine and have Bryant cook for it, or order from the menu and let Haskell or Goldman match different wines with each dish. Bringing your own wine is also welcomed—corkage is only $15, and the fee is waived if you also buy a bottle off the list.

Clearly, both Bin 8945 and Opus are aimed at young adults. And as different as they might appear, they share a singular mission: to deliver a knowledgeable dining experience for anyone who takes food and wine seriously.

Bin 8945

8945 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
Telephone (310) 550-8945
Web site

Open Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday
Cost Entrées $26-$29; tasting menus $75-$100
Corkage $15
Credit cards All major.

Fried Clams – Boston

I am from the East Coast and the one thing that doesn’t exist on the West Coast is really good fried clams with the bellies. I have searched and searched, but nothing comes even close to East Coast fried clams. Therefore, whenever I go back to Boston, I indulge myself and have at least 4 lunch or dinners of fried clams. If they serve fries, onion rings, cole slaw, rolls with the clams, I just ignore them – just the clams please. So in order of preference:


First Place: Neptune Oyster (2 orders)

Second Place: Legal Sea Foods, Logan Airport (Terminal C)      

Third Place: Legal Sea Foods, Chestnut Hill Shopping Center

Fourth Place: My Father’s Private Golf Club 🙂

Please accept my personal stamp of approval on all of the above.  And believe me, I’ve done thorough market research! NEPTUNE OYSTER
63 Salem St.
Boston, MA 02113
Phone: 617.742.3474
Full Menu: Here

Logan Airport, Terminal C
Boston, MA 02128
Phone: 617.568.2800 Fax: 617.568.2810
Full Menu: Here

Chestnut Hill Shopping Center
43 Boylston St.
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Phone: 617.277.7300 Fax: 617.734.8053

French Laundry

6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
Phone: 707.944.2380


Executive Chef / Owner: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Corey Lee
Sommelier: Greg Castells
Pastry Chef: Claire Clark


Thomas Keller is one of my favorite chefs and French Laundry is one of my favorite restaurants. We have been eating at the French Laundry almost since they opened. I would guess that I have had over a hundred meals at French Laundry. I never take pictures there as we do get a lot of courses and feel it would disrupt the flow of the meal. We always have 2 meals at FL on our trip up north.
I never see a menu at FL so all descriptions are verbally given and I have to write very fast, trying to be accurate. Corey Lee, chef de cuisine, was off for our first meal at FL so Devon, the sous chef, was “handling” our meal. Gregory Castells, who is one of the finest sommeliers anywhere, took care of the wine pairing.
As always, my husband and I share every course.
>> Gougere
>> Salmon Cornets

1. In the bottom of the bowl were small dice of applewood smoked bacon and Yukon gold potatoes and tarragon. Chanterelle mushroom soup was poured on top.

2. In the bottom of the bowl were small dice of Hosai pears and rosemary. Butternut squash soup was poured on top.

Both soups were delicious.

1. Pork belly, ravigote cream with American White Sturgeon Caviar

2. Oysters and Pearls

Nicolas Fanucci (GM) came to the table and spooned the caviar on each dish – a new type of service. What can anyone say about oysters and pearls – delicious! The ravigote was based on the classic French sauce of a veloute sauce with chives and tarragon. The pork belly was crispy and resembled “bacon.”

1. Cold-smoked hamachi, curry wood, pickled garlic

2. Hamachi tartare with young coconut cream and lime

To be honest, I don’t have a clue what I meant by curry wood, but both preparations were excellent with the nod going to the tartare.

1. Uni Soufflé with cauliflower florettes, uni tongues, garden mache, winter truffle and truffle vinaigrette

2. Shrimp with almond coating, tarragon, leeks and roasted fennel

3. Caramelized Salmon Roe on an avocado mousse tart (both)

It is well known to the FL that I love uni and the soufflé was perfect. That is not to say that the shrimp was a miss. With dish #3, the roe had a crunch and a sweetness that hinted that it could have been a brulee, but this is a guess on my part. The wine Gregory served was wondrous as it mimicked the oily and fat of the avocado.

1. White Truffle Custard with a ragout of Perigord Truffles with Veal Stock served in an eggshell.

2. Small dice of tofu, truffle broth and poached quail egg.

The truffle custard is one of my all-time favourite dishes at FL. Sublime as always.


1. Confit of wagyu with crispy broccolini

2. Wagyu seared tableside, arugula and a sauce of yuzu, horseradish and honey

The seared Wagyu was perfect and definitely the star of the two dishes.

1. Compressed sweet Asian pears, hazelnut puree, watercress, red beets

2. White asparagus, Serrano ham, garden mache, black truffle coulis


1. House made Tagliatelle with black truffles shaved tableside

2. Ricotta “Agnolotti” with Butter Beurre Blanc sauce, black truffles shaved tableside

Both dishes are old favorites. We had a new server and he was surprised to learn that it was me who named the serving dish for the pasta “The Flying Nun Bowl” about 10 years ago. Now everyone refers to the bowl this way.

1. Sautéed red snapper, crispy skin, herbed spatzle, brussel sprouts, pickled red pearl onions, goulash sauce

2. Sautéed John Dory, artichoke, green garlic, nicoise, fines herbes

What is not to like – excellent!

1. “Caesar Salad” – Maine Lobster Tail, Braised Romaine, Bottarga Emulsion, Grated Bottarga.

2. Lobster Mitts, carrot puree, new crop fava bean puree, cilantro shoots, pain perdue infused with Madras curry

I am just not a fan of the Caesar Salad lobster, but this is just a matter of personal preference. I loved the lobster with carrot and fava bean purees.
We definitely needed a break. We were getting very, very full and we knew we had a foie gras course coming. So as is our custom, we sat in the garden and smelled the fresh night time air of Yountville.


1. Sake with confit of cara cara orange

2. Apple, Parisian apples, mint oil


1. Foie Gras terrine with roasted banana, banyul gastric, watercress

2. Foie Gras Torchon with cherry pepper, Oregon Huckleberry sauce

We had requested two cold foie dishes instead of one hot and one cold. As usual, it was served with a decadent, thick slice of toasted brioche.

Lamb chop with Bluefoot mushrooms and sunchoke coulis, saddle of lamb with bordelaise sauce and pierogi filled with braised lamb with radicchio.
In retrospect, we should have skipped the foie gras course as we were definitely stuffed. As a result we begged off cheese and dessert.
Conclusion: Given that this had been a marathon week of dining, we spoke to Larry and requested that our next meal at FL focus on fish courses and we would skip lobster and foie gras. Once again, FL knocked my socks off.  The consistency at the restaurant is unfathomable.  It’s a pleasure each and every time.



For our second meal, the gang was all there (except for Thomas) – Larry, Gregory, Nicolas, Kevin and Corey Lee in the kitchen. Corey had devised a very unique, not at all typical FL meal. Many of the dishes the staff had never seen before. In terms of a culinary experience, it was like a journey to many different parts of the world.
>> Gougere
>> Cornets

1. Spring Green garlic soup with bone marrow, panna cotta, escargot, piquillo

2. Savoy cabbage, glazed pork belly, cabbage and clam veloute

Absolutely sensational soups.

This was an utterly over-the-top course. We each got our own jar of Persicus (Iranian Oscetra Caviar), our own plate of blinis and a dish of crème fraiche and chives. The blini plate was refreshed for hot blinis. We did pay a supplement for this – (Larry asked us ahead of time if this was OK).

1. Shiro-Ebi (shrimp) with pixie orange, roasted nori, salmon roe and crispy rice

2. Pibales (baby eels) with chorizo, Amando extra virgin olive oil and piquillo


1. Santa Barbara Uni with sweet turnip cream and Japanese salted plum jelly

2. Grilled Cuddlefish, cuddlefish jelly and red radish


1. St. James River Shad Roe, Applewood Smoked Bacon, roasted romaine, pain perdue, bliss maple syrup

2. Mackerel, julienne of pickled carrots and scallion in a bouillon of ginger, bonito, mirin, tamari and kombu

1. Kahala, cauliflower, marcona almonds, black truffles, bitter orange and black truffle coulis.

2. Sautéed Abalone with creamy barley, preserved Meyer lemon, broccolini, morels and tomato marmalade

On the skin of the Kahala, Corey had finely diced the black truffles and almonds so that it resembled black and white sesame seeds – a stunning visual trompe d’oeil. The abalone was perfection.

1. Japanese Wagyu, air-dried Bresaola, hearts of palm, Asian pear and baby mizuna (both)

Delicious, although the seared Wagyu at the table was more fun. However the combination of the bresaola and the rich beef was a match made in heaven.

1. Crispy veal brains, grilled white asparagus from Holland, gribache sauce

2. Glazed veal sweetbreads, green asparagus, 1000 Island Hollandaise sauce

Both dishes were brilliant and the hollandaise to die for.

1. Brillant Savarin cheesecake with walnuts

2. Windemere from Vermont and a crepe filled with figs, balsamic vinegar


1. Cara cara orange, vanilla panna cotta, honey tuile

2. Mango sorbet, angel food cake, sweet Chilean lime mango sauce


1. Baked Alaska – Swiss Meringue, Coconut Ice Cream, Persian Lime

2. Pound Cake and Compressed Golden Pineapple

Conclusion: This was an amazing meal. Although it wasn’t as extensive as our first meal, it was beautifully orchestrated. I actually have a better taste memory of this meal than the first one. There wasn’t one miss-step, a meal as close to perfection as I have had at the FL.

Although I don’t take pictures at FL, I do take pictures at Thomas Keller’s other restaurants – Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Per Se. 



Congratulations 2007 James Beard Winners!

Congratulations to the crop of 2007 James Beard Award winners!  Specifically, RefinedPalate would like to offer personal congratulations to Thomas Keller for his win as OUTSTANDING RESTAURANTEUR for the French Laundry,Mark Slater for his win for OUTSTANDING WINE SERVICE at Cintronelle, and especially to Michel Richard for his much-deserved win as OUTSTANDING CHEF, also for Cintronelle.