French Laundry- Yountville

Corey Lee is no longer the chef de cuisine at French Laundry. Tim Hollingsworth who was the sous is now the chef de cuisine. Tim is no stranger to the French Laundry; he has spent many years in that kitchen and has risen through the ranks. It is a testament to his skill and passion that he is now in the number one spot. Tim has remained faithful to the French Laundry motto of the law of diminishing returns and less is more. This was our second meal at French Laundry during the weekend. Stay tuned for the first meal.

I must add that we don’t get the “normal” tasting menu. We have been going to the French Laundry for years. They know our tastes, our preference for beginning canapes, small bites and my love of uni.

Champagne to start

The same two amuses as always.

Gougeres

Salmon Cornets

Soup dish presented

Cepe mushroom panna cotta, navel orange segments, diced sunchoke, nicoise olive slices

Cepe and sunchoke broth added tableside – a rich, welcoming soup on a very cold evening

Hang-town fry – Tim’s version. Jidori Hen Egg Omelet filled with Hobbs Smoked Bacon, Deep-Fried Island Creek Oysters, Oyster Foam, White Sturgeon Caviar – this was absolutely sensational – the perfect blend of textures and flavors. I felt as if I had died and gone to foodie heaven.

Later Shannon, our server explained that Tim likes taking familiar/classic dishes and fitting them into the French Laundry environment.

This was a multi-layered dish. On the bottom was pearl tapioca with ginger creme fraiche, then a layer of Champagne granite, topped with lightly torched Santa Barbara Uni and finally a scallion “salad” on top – another winner and evidence of a true understanding of flavors, textures and temperature contrasts.

White wine for the next dishes

Stir-fry of big fin squid from Japan, julienne of Spanish Iberico ham, black truffle, broccolini, radish, Japonaise sauce (soy sauce, mirin, sake, ginger, garlic, shallots) This had a definite Asian feel, almost like a Corey Lee dish.

A word about our wonderful servers- Michaella and Shannon. The dining room was full, but in spite of that they gave me detailed descriptions of each and every dish. We aren’t given menus so everything is communicated verbally – they are very patient!

Japanese Blue Fin Toro presented

Grilled Japanese bluefin toro, Tokyo turnips, Tatsoi greens, Kanzuri puree (Kanzuri is a type of Japanese pepper- almost like chili) – the toro was lightly grilled so you still had that feeling of rare, fatty, meatiness.

Portuguese Rouget, beech mushrooms a la greque, Meyer lemon, cutting celery – I am a fish lover and this rouget was cooked to perfection.

Serving dish for the gratin

Gratin of braised cardoons, confit of chicken wing, Jacobson Farms escargot, San Marzano compote, parsley shoots – another dish of contrasting texture and flavors that on paper you might ask why, but worked as a harmonious whole.

Next white wine

Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, grapefruit segments, grapefruit gelee, marcona almonds, charred scallions, mizuna – light, refreshing and a perfect placement in this tasting menu

Tartare of Kuroge beef from the Shiga prefecture, fuyu persimmon, pinenuts, nicoise olive “paint”, oxyalis – an interesting version of tartare in that the beef were tiny chunks, not diced finely and each element was presented separately. As the diner, it was important to incorporate each ingredient in every bite.

Wine for the foie

Salt for the foie gras – black ash from Hawaii, Jurassic, Japanese salt, Fleur de Sel, Sel Gris, Red salt from Hawaii

Terrine of Foie Gras, hazelnut genoise cake, tiny dice of orange with Belgian endive, hazelnuts, honey poached cranberries, 100 year old balsamic. One of the things I notice about Tim’s cuisine is the addition of a citrus component in an unexpected way. It adds a brightness to the food, almost like adding a splash of vinegar to a sauce – a trick I learned from Michel Richard. This was a new preparation of foie gras. Normally the foie torchon is served with toasted brioche. The layering of genoise and foie was delicious.

White truffles presented

Russet potato gnocchi, butternut squash, shaved chestnuts, beurre noisette

White truffles were then shaved over the gnocci – the gnocchi were as light as air – no gluey, pasty stuff

Presentation of the next dish

The dish uncovered with applewood smoke escaping.

Santa Barbara uni, candy cap mushrooms, cippolini onions, foam of Blis maple syrup. An absolutely Oh My dish. I looked up Blis maple syrup and discovered the following:

“Blis Bourbon Barrel Maple Syrup is aged in specially selected twelve to eighteen year old single barrel bourbon casks. The intense flavors of butterscotch, vanilla, charred oak and the seductive bourbon take maple syrup to new heights.” For the record, I tried to buy it, but they are sold out.

Wine for the next courses

Whole Turbot presented

Black truffle encrusted turbot, stinging nettles, crispy bone marrow, French laundry baby carrots, bordelaise reduction – an absolute winner – the black truffles were perfect, the turbot was cooked perfectly, the bone marrow an ingenious addition and the bordelaise sauce a perfect rendition of a French classical sauce. Do you notice the overuse of the word perfect.

Eden’s Farm Pork Chop and Shoulder, roasted artichoke hearts, confit of garlic, piquillo peppers, garlic pudding, veal demi glace with pork jus – I was getting very full so I honestly didn’t do justice to this dish. I did the absolute no-no and asked for a doggie bag.

The next day at home we had

I didn’t have anything in the house except potatoes, butter, garlic, cream, foie gras pate, bacon and of course wine. So I improvised and made a “sauce” of foie gras by rendering the fat from the bacon (the dogs got the bacon), mashing the foie and briefly cooking it in the bacon fat, adding red wine and reducing that and then a nob of butter at the end to enrich. I made Michel Richard’s garlic mashed potatoes. Voila! Not as good as FL’s version, but it worked.

We were suppose to have another meat course plus a cheese course. We just couldn’t do it.

They had made a birthday cake for John – most of which we took home

Cake plated

Tim did a superior job. We are so pleased that the French Laundry is our “home away from home.” What a home! Between Manresa and French Laundry we consider ourselves very lucky people.

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11 Responses to “French Laundry- Yountville”


  1. 1 Gastronomer December 17, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I am speechless. What a feast! I can’t wait to become a regular at the French Laundry 😉

  2. 2 sybil December 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    wow, i’m hungry. 🙂

    belated happy birthday to john!!!

    xoxo

  3. 3 David Haskell December 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Best BLOG on the net

  4. 4 lizziee December 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you Gastronomer. Sybil, I will pass on your good wishes to John. David, what can I say – I am thrilled you love my hobby and of course, you know where your passion comes from.

  5. 5 sygyzy December 17, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Unbelievable! Looks like an amazing meal Liz.

    P.S. I am glad you discovered Blis!

  6. 6 YouKnowWho! December 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Stunning as always, dear friend… Happy Birthday, John!

  7. 7 davesch7 December 18, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    how would you compare tim’s cooking to corey’s? we went a couple times when corey was cooking as he was a friend from high school, but wondering if its worth going back sans the special treatment we used to get.

  8. 8 lizziee December 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Corey had a more Asian feel to his cuisine. We have been regular French Laundry diners for years and each chef de cuisine had a certain style. In fact, we have eaten with every chef de cuisine, including when Thomas was in the kitchen. The front of the house at French Laundry works very hard to make every diner feel special and given that you have already been there a couple of times, my guess is that they know your likes and dislikes.

  9. 9 H. Alexander Talbot December 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    While Steve may be sold out the syrup currently you may be able to pick up a bottle at a Williams Sonoma, as they were carrying it for some time.

    Best,

    A

  10. 10 lizziee December 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you!!!!!!!!

  11. 11 Edward O'Meara December 20, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I simply can’t imagine how you tasted, let alone finished, all this wonderful food and wine.


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