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.
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
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.