French Laundry

I have pages and pages of notes from my FL meals. There is no way that I can repeat them all here. Obviously, this is a very special restaurant for us. We feel very privileged to have been a part of FL’s history and evolution over the years.

Two write-ups will hopefully give you a sense of time and place at FL.

The tenth anniversary of the French Laundry was a 6 day celebration. Festivities started on Tuesday with a party honoring the Schmidts, former owners of “the laundry”.   The next 4 days were invitation only 12 course prix fixe meals.   Saturday was reserved for the “ultimate surprise” anniversary dinner for family, special friends, and long time guests of The French Laundry.  

This sequence led us to say, “God created heaven and earth in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Thomas Keller created and groomed The French Laundry over 10 years and celebrated for 6 days. He didn’t rest on the 7th as there was a staff only picnic on Sunday at a winery with all past and present members of the FL family. On the 8th day, Thomas cooked to a full house. (Details on that meal to follow.)

Thomas believed that Saturday would be a re-run of the previous meals and was leisurely taking a shower around 10 am. His Dad interrupted him with the dreaded words “there is no electricity in the kitchen.” Thomas couldn’t believe it. First the fire at Per Se and now after a $ 2 million remodel of FL, no electricity.

He hurriedly dressed and went to investigate. He was astonished to see a kitchen packed with his former and current sous chefs… Grant Achatz, Ron Siegel, Jonathan Benno, Eric Ziebold, Matthew Walsh, Stephen Durfee to name a few.

Laura had arranged for each of them to cook one course of the special anniversary meal on Saturday. Thomas didn’t have a clue what would be served, although he would expedite. The fascinating aspect of this menu was that each chef made a dish reflecting his personal cuisine rather than making it like the Thomas Keller dish that inspired it—quite a treat for regular FL diners.

At 7:00 64 people met in the garden for passed appetizers and champagne. The guest list was an eclectic group of significant people in Thomas’ life– loyal customers, press friends, family and literary associates. The one thing we had in common was our love of good food and wine and our appreciation for what Thomas had accomplished.

A number of former front of the house staff had also come back for a “one night stand” to work once again as a part of the FL service team.

Appetizers included the salmon cornets, a small baguette of tomato marmalade topped by proscuitto, gougeres and the most amazing foie sickle or think foie tootsie pop– A ball of foie had been tempuraed and mounted on a stick. You then dipped your pop into a port reduction sauce. Even though, I knew a lot of food would be served, I just couldn’t resist having 4 of those foie pops.

The FL had been rearranged with round tables, each seating 8.

First Course – Doug Psaltis and Thomas Keller

Oysters and Pearls – Absolutely no need for me to describe this dish. One person at our table summed up this dish – no matter how many times  you have eaten this dish, it is always a perfect taste sensation..

Second course and Third Course – Both were prepared by Grant Achatz – 1996-98, 1999-2001 (Grant is now at Alinea, Chicago)

Rock Shrimp “Tempura” with Santa Rosa Plum, Preserved Meyer Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla FragranceOne This was one of Trio’s signature dishes. Grant had brought with him the special holder for the shrimp. A single shrimp was cooked tempura style and speared on a vanilla bean. The Santa Rosa plum and Meyer Lemon were incorporated  into the batter. The shrimp was delicious.

Black Truffle “Explosion” Broccoli Puree, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano

The soup spoon sat on a small mound of broccoli puree and we were instructed to be sure and dip the spoon in the puree when tasting the “explosion. “ The mouth feel really does explode “truffle” in your mouth. The truffle slice on top of the “explosion” actually had very little truffle taste.

Fourth Course – Summer Potato “Salad” “Barbeque” Vinaigrette and Pickled Celery “Ribs” – Mark Hopper, 1996 – 2003 (now at Bouchon, Vegas)

To the left on the plate was a small mound of the vinaigrette, the secret ingredient being coca-cola. To the right was a slice of fingerling potato. At the top was a salad of tiny diced potato confit mixed with the pickled celery ribs –  The taste sensation was a haute cuisine version of potato salad for the typical Fourth of July picnic.

Fifth Course – “Sashimi” of Blue-Fin Toro, Geoduck Clam “Ceviche”, Cucumber Gelee and “Ama Hito” Sea Salt – Ron Siegel, 1994-1996 (now at Ritz San Francisco)

This was superb. A large triangle shape slice of toro topped by vivid bright green cucumber gelee and on top a small mound of diced marinated geoduck. The toro was the finest quality and this is when the whole equals more than the sum of the parts.

Sixth Course – Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Sweet Cherry Tomatoes, “Crispy Fleur De Courgette” and “Pistou” – Jonathan Benno – 1995-1996, 2001-2003 (now at Per Se) and Joshua Schwartz, 1995-1998 (now private dining chef, Per Se)

Actually Eric Ziebold should also be credited with this dish as, according to Thomas’ father, he got stuck prepping the 90 lobsters.

The lobster was cooked to perfection which is quite a feat considering that 64 people were being served. The accompaniments were a nice component and in particular the crispy cauliflower a nice texture, taste contrast.

Seventh Course – Sauteed Moulard Foie Gras with a “Pave” of Pickled watermelon, Upland Cress and Tellicherry Pepper Gastrique – Gregory Short, 1996-2002 (Now at Masa SF)

The watermelon wedge to the right of the foie was a surprising but thoroughly enjoyable and ingenious taste sensation.

Eighth  Course – “Duck, Duck Goose” Pan Roasted Liberty Valley Duck Breast, crispy Duck “Rillettes”, Royal Blenheim Apricots, Cipollini Onions and Goose “Consomme” – Jeffrey Cerciello, 1995-1998 (Now at Bouchon, Yountville)

A 3/4 inch slice of rare duck breast was to the left of the plate. Just below were the apricot/cippollini onion mixture, to the right were the rillettes.. The server then poured a small amount of intense goose consommé on the plate. This was an excellent dish and the duck was packed with flavor.

Ninth Course – Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte” of Prime Beef Served with caramelized Garlic, Baby Leeks, Crispy Shiiitake Mushrooms, and Bordelaise Vinaigrette – Eric Ziebold – 1996-2004 (now at City Zen, DC)

This was perfect – the sauce was spectacular. It was actually a broken bordelaise which was achieved by adding droplets of beef fat to the sauce.. The meat was of the best quality and served rare.

Tenth Course

“Roquefort”, Bing Cherry “Compote”, Garden Herb salad and Thyme-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Matthew Walsh – 1998-2001

Eleventh Course

Berry Treasure Farm Strawberry Sorbet with a “Madeline Au Citron Et Aux Fruits D’Ete”, “Balsamico Bianco Gelee” and Kendall Farm “Crème Fraiche”- Sebastien Rouxel – 1999-2004 (now pastry chef at Per Se)

At this point we were also on our eleventh wine and these were not pours – your glass was constantly re-filled. My notes look like scrawls done by a 5 year old – basically illegible.

Twelfth Course –

“Coffee and Doughnuts” Cinnamon Sugared Doughnuts with cappuccino “Semi-Freddo” – Francisco Migoya, 2004 (now CIA instructor, Hyde Park)

FL’s signature dessert, executed perfectly.

Thirteenth Course –

“Theoboma” Slow Baked mousse of Stone-Ground Chocolate and Fragrant Spice, “Dulce de Leche” and Rum raisins – Stephen Durfee – 1994-2000 (now instructor at CIA Hyde Park)

This was a tour de force by Stephen…he actually made his own chocolate from cocoa beans…he must have worked hundreds of hours on the dish.  It was absolutely heavenly—light, but solid, full bodied but not over-whelming, the flavor lingered , the Port wine served to accent the chocolate flavor…I don’t imagine anyone  will have this dish soon again…the ingredients alone would make it a $ 50-100 dessert…is it worth it, yes…a resounding yes!!!  Bravo Stephen.

Mignardise and Coffee

 

This second write-up was a response to a Chowhound poster who said their meal at FL had not one memorable dish. As a response, I wrote the following:

I have been eating at the FL, almost since they opened. Not only can I remember almost every dish I have had, I also have the taste memory as well. These are just some of the stand-out dishes between 2002 and 2006. Believe me when I say this is an extremely edited list of what I have eaten there in those 4 years.

1. Oysters and Pearls – “Sabayon” of pearl tapioca with malpeque oysters and osetra caviar


2. Cauliflower panna cotta topped with osetra caviar


3. Atlantic Salmon chop with russet potato gnocchi 


4. White truffle custard with ragout of Perigord truffles with veal stock presented in a hallowed out egg


5. Coddled hen egg with perigord truffle beurre noisette and brioche soldiers


6. Turbot collar with fennel and Meyer lemon beurre blanc 


7. Seafood bouillabaisse over a puree of potatoes with olive oil. 


8. “Beets and Leeks” – sweet butter poached Maine lobster with melted green leeks, “pomme maxim” and red beet essence


9. “Pithivier of Cloverdale Farms rabbit (confit of rabbit) with wilted Arrowleaf spinach and Brooks cherries and a cherry sauce reduction


10. Foie Gras au torchon” with green gage plum marmalade and toasted brioche


11. Terrine of Moulard duck foie gras studded with truffles served with frisee salad 


12. House made tagliatelle with black truffles


13. Carnaroli risotto with black truffles


14. Whole roasted Moulard duck foie gras with spiced bread crumbs, slices of Bosc pears and clove gastric. 


15, Russet potato gnocchi, roasted chestnuts, white truffle butter and shaved white truffles from Alba. 


16. “Canard a L’Orange” Whole roasted moulard duck foie gras with orange braised duck leg and confit of navel orange. The foie gras looked liked a petit filet, about 2 x 2 x 2 and was cooked with a slight crunch on the outside, but moist and rare inside.


17. Grilled “Calotte” and poached rib-eye of prime beef, “tortelloni” of roasted root vegetables and oxtail consomme


18. Sashimi of Kona Kahala (amberjack) with Hass Avocado Sorbet and Crème Fraiche scented with lime and to the right a salad of Micro-Cilantro shoots and Ribbons of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Farm. 


19. Shrimp with White Truffle Foam, Truffle Slices and Potato Puree as the base. 


20. Black Bass Shabu Shabu with scallions, pickled ginger, Bonito broth. 


21.Uni Risotto with Black Truffles


22. Uni Sabayon with Chives


23. Maltese Tuna Poached in Olive Oil, Herb Spatzle, Savoy Cabbage, Sauce Goulash. 


24.Australian Wagyu Beef tartare on Koshikari rice, Baby Bok Choy, Chestnut Mousse, Tamari Glaze


25. Pecorino and some other cheese (I think our waiter said foglia de noche) Gratin, Serrano Ham, Cardoons


26. White Truffle Float with white truffle ice cream on the bottom and white truffle foam on top


27. Pistachio butter with White Sturgeon Caviar and Small Brioche croutons


28. Tempura of Rock Shrimp on a bed of Kahala tartar with chives and red radish.


29. Kurobuta Pork Belly with Koshikari rice and Jidori Hen Egg


30. Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with White Truffles shaved tableside


31. Bacon-wrapped Partridge with Brussel Sprouts, Foie Gras Beignet, Tokyo Turnips


32. Uni soup over small Parisian balls of Crimson gold apples


33. Truffle-cured scallop 


34. Confit of Columbia River Sturgeon, green grapes, beurre blanc, white sturgeon caviar


35. Monterey Bay Sardine, crusted with brioche, ragu of cauliflower florets, piquillo peppers, FL house-made chorizo, watercress puree


36. A “pavé” of Spanish mackerel, cured and grilled, Koshikari rice, compressed Asian pear, nori gastric


37. Soft poached hen egg, with French green lentils, chives, chervil and sherry vinegar


38. FL Lobster Roll – The roll was actually pain perdue, FL 1000 island dressing was a tomato-based sauce made with olive oil and egg yolk. Also in the roll was a layer of tomato marmalade and celery


39. Kurobata Pork belly with bok choy leaves, daikon, corn and tamarind jus


40. Uni panna cotta with green orange gelee


41. Russet Potato Gnocchi with cured salmon roe and tomato marmalade


42. Cap of the rib eye (Snake River), golden sweet corn, chanterelles, celery root puree, perigordine sauce


43. Poached Black bass with Red Wine Reduction sauce, Potato Millefeuille, Spring Onion, Grilled Baby Leeks


44. Toro with lemon sauce, Quenelle of Piperade, Roasted Sunflower Blossoms, Toasted Sunflower seeds


45. “Peas and Carrots” Maine Lobster Pancakes (crepe) with pea shoot salad and Ginger-carrot Emulsion


46. Sauteed Moulard Foie Gras with mulberries, Tokyo Turnips, Saucing of Mulberries and Red Wine Vinegar Reduction. This was accompanied by a poppy seed Genoise done with duck fat


47. Four Story Hills farm Poularde with Mousseline of chorizo, Piquillo, Golden Sweet Corn, sage-scented jus


48. Madeleine genoise, Pistachio nougatine, Blackberry spoon tency.


49. Santa Barbara Uni with Granny Smith Apple Gelee topped with Caspian Sea Russian Sevruga caviar and baby squash blossoms


50. Kanpachi belly that had been cold-smoked with Applewood Bacon. As the lid was lifted from the dish, smoky white “bacon clouds” floated in the air.


51. Mackerel with Ginger Gastric on a bed of steamed rice served with chopsticks


52. Omelet stuffed with Italian Castelmagno cheese with truffle Perigordine sauce. Thick slices of brioche are served on the side. 


53. Striped Bass Shank, roasted on the bone with razor clams, a cassoulet of beans with nicoise olive puree fennel


54. Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit Sirloin wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, chanterelles and golden corn pudding. 


55. Butternut Squash Soup served over Glazed Chestnuts 


56. Grilled Nova Scotia Bluefin Tuna, Beech Mushrooms “a la Greque”, Baby Arugula and Meyer Lemon 


57. Brandade with Sweet Garlic Infused Cream, Crispy Spanish Capers, and Parsley Oil


58. Mascarpone-Enriched K&J Orchard Chestnut “Agnolotti’ with Black Truffles 


59. Grilled Dover Sole with Marinated Cauliflower Florets, Raisins, Almonds, Madras Curry 


60. Potato “Dauphinoise” with Russian Sevruga Caviar


61. Monterey Bay Sardine “En Brioche”, Piquillo Pepper and Spanish Caper Emulsion


62. Brook Trout Roe served with salt smoked with cherry wood and grated bonito 


63.”Cheese and Crackers” — Four Story Hills Farm Berkshire Pork “Fromage de Tete” and Fennel Seed Crackers – The head cheese was not served as a terrine. Instead it was finely diced and you were to scoop up the dice and place it on your fennel cracker 


64. Grilled “Pave” of Spanish Bluefin Tuna, Ginger Glazed Baby Bok Choy, Hon Shimeji and Beech Mushrooms and Green Orange “Aigre-Doux – It had been poached in olive oil (confit) and tasted like the best toro. The bok choy had been cooked sous vide and then butter added. The aigre-doux was a mixture of glucose sugar, champagne vinegar and navel orange. 


65. Glazed Wolfe Ranch White Quail, Caramelized Fennel Bulb and “Pruneau d’Agen” -The quail was wrapped around a foie gras mousse, but it was the poached prune and the foie gras emulsion that elevated this dish to a 4 star status. 


66. “Coffee and Doughnuts” – 


67. Santa Barbara Sea Urchin served with a Sake Granite


68. Eggs “Perigourdine” – Poached “Arcuna” Hen Egg with “Thomas” English Muffin, Sauce Hollandaise and Black “Perigord” 


69. “Fricassee” of Maine Lobster “Mitts”, Sweet Corn Pudding, Applewood Smoked bacon and Shaved Summer Truffles 


70. Sea of Cortez Scallops, Beet Vinaigrette, Melted King Richard Leeks, Poppy Seed Tuile 


71. Dungeness Crab Gratin with Melted Leeks with Meyer Lemon 


72. Duck Neck with Perigord Truffles, Foie gras, Sweet Carrots with a bit of 100 year old Balsamic Vinegar – Think of a round 3 inch circle studded with small 1⁄4” dice of foie gras and black truffles 


73. Poularde with Port Wine Reduction, Toasted Brioche “smeared” with the poularde liver which had been sautéed with thyme, shallots and garlic


74. A Toad in the Hole – As the name implies, a hole is made in a 11⁄2 inch round of brioche. In the hole is a lightly coddled hen egg set on truffle coulis 


75. Pickled “Deviled” Egg with Perigord Truffle “Pop Tart” – – Egg pickled in truffle juice, sliced horizontally, yolk mashed with crème fraiche and re-stuffed into the white. The “deviled egg” was set on top of truffle gelee and surrounded by a truffle perigord sauce. 


76. Monkfish first presented whole, then plated and served with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Sautéed Arugula with tiny bits of crispy bacon, whole grain mustard sauce made with shellfish stock. 


77. Nature fed Veal with Crispy sweetbreads, Morels, Jacobson Farm carrots, Yukon Gold Potato Millefeuille Layered with Truffles, Thyme infused Veal Jus, Cilantro, Thyme Garnish. 


78. Smoked steelhead roe porridge with Diane Sinclair butter finished with Persian lime Salt and freshly shaved bonito flakes sprinkled on top tableside by our server with chopsticks. dish.


79. Uni with umebashi (plum paste) gastric with breakfast radish, daikon and black salt. 


80. Veal Oscar – Veal Sweetbreads with Sacramento Asparagus and a succulent piece of crab to the side with hollandaise sauce. An absolute winner.


81. Bacon-wrapped sirloin of rabbit, Cassoulet of Spring Pole Beans, Rabbit Jus, Thyme Infused Olive Oil. 


82. Agnolotti with Fava beans, Mascarpone with Black Truffles, shaved tableside


83. Potato Ravioli, Celery, Beurre Monte, Black Truffles Shaved Tableside


84. Salt-packed Branzino, Roasted Artichoke Hearts, Red pepper, Piquillo Pepper Tapenade with Bouillabaise Sauce 


85. Squab breast and squab “drummette” with, sunchoke puree, brussel sprouts, red onions, sauce perigordine 


86. Snake River Farm’s “Calotte de Boeuf Grillee – Beef cap with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Asparagus, Béarnaise Cheese


87. Thomas’ version of a BLT – Think of a sandwich with first Brioche toast, then a Lettuce/Basil “sort of” puree, White Truffle Slice, Cured Bacon, White Truffle Slice, a touch of the Lettuce/Basil combination, and then Brioche toast. 


88. Scrambled Araucana Hen Eggs, “Mousselline des Tompinambours” (sunchokes) and Iranian Oscetra Caviar 


89. Maine Lobster Tail “cuit sous vide”, Melted Savoy Cabbage, Stew of Winter Chestnuts, Chestnut “Coulis” and Applewood Smoked Bacon “Crisp” 


90. Wolfe Ranch Breast of Squab “Farci aux foie Gras de Canard aux truffle Noir”, Glazed Cipolinni Onions and Butternut Squash.


91. Anson Mills Polenta With Brown Butter/Chicken Stock Sauce with Shaved White Truffles Tableside. 


92. Lobster cooked sous vide with navel orange mousseline topped with a confit of navel orange accompanied by a small herb salad. 


93. Seared eel on apple puree compote, grated daikon and ponzu sauce served with silver-tipped chop sticks. 


94. Sturgeon on a bed of melted leeks with pomme boulangerie and apple cider sauce


95. Confit of foie gras topped with toasted brioche croutons, cipoline onion, fines herbes vinaigrette and a sweet and sour pepper gastric served with 8 different salts. 


96. Roasted Partridge with chestnuts and Perigord truffles. 


97. Roasted Wolfe Ranch White Quail, stuffed with “Musquee de Provence” Pumpkin, “Ris de Veau”, Frisee Lettuce and Curry Balsamic Vinaigrette


98. Marinated Octopus with Tomato water Gelee and shaved dried bonita flakes added tableside..


99. a boneless quail, stuffed with foie, then the quail is”confit it” and preserved whole in a jar. They showed us the jar and the preserved quail/foie, but it was presented sliced with the gelee. 


100. “Toro” of Australian Bluefin Tuna, salad of Japanese sweet rice.


101. “Pork and Beans” – all day braised Eden Farms Berkshire Pork “belly” with a “Cassoulet” of Spring Pole Beans and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce.


102. Pied de cochon farcie aux ris de veau with lentils and a sherry vinaigrette sauce.


103. Needle fish with Walla Walla Shallots, Julienne Carrots and Wasabi Oil. 


104. Sauteed Foie Gras with Transcending Crab-Apple and Wildflower Honey Gastric. 


105. Foie Gras Terrine with Black Truffles and Frisee salad. 


106. Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle with Summer Ratatouille and Crispy Herb-scented Panisse croutons. 


107.Culotte of Beef with beef marrow. 


108. On a Meyer lemon butter sauce, a mound of potato puree and then topped with a postage size piece of thick all-day braised pork belly and finally mounded with a quenelle of caviar. 


109. A duck egg that had been very briefly simmered in water, white removed sitting in an intense reduced almost to glaze black truffle perigord sauce..


110. “Saucisson L’Ail” with a “ragout” of pearl barley and fuji apples, sultana tapenade and a savory-infused olive oil


112. Lyon Cervela with pistachio nuts, lentils and black truffles. Between the casing and the sausage were black truffles as well

 

Now it is 2008 at the FL. Since Corey Lee has now become chef de cuisine at FL, the evolution continues. FL is not a static restaurant and each and every dining experience is an unique adventure.

 

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