Archive for March, 2012


After extensive tasting menus at Manresa and French laundry, we wanted a simpler a la carte experience and Richard Reddington’s restaurant fit the bill. However, we were dining with Gregory Castells who is Wine Director at Soutirage so all bets were off as to wine! Gregory’s resume is unbelievably impressive – just to name a bit of his history he was head sommelier at French Laundry, Bastide and Petrus London and has one of the best wine palates that I know.

From Soutirage’s web site:

Wines for the evening – some from our cellar and some from Gregory:

Dagueneau – not pictured

We decided to order a la carte.

Sashimi of hamachi,sticky rice, edamame, soy ginger sauce – one of my favorite Redd dishes

Yellowfin tuna tartare, asian pear, avocado, chili oil, fried rice, cilantro – another old favorite

Cornmeal fried oysters, fingerling potatoes, celery, horseradish creme fraiche – I could have been at one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans – Casamentos eating their famous oyster loaf minus the bread.

With the fried oysters a gift from the chef- oysters on the half shell and shrimp

Tasting of cold foie preparations, rhubarb, pistachios – delicious!

Sonoma Duck Breast, turnip  puree, citrus, brown butter hazelnut jus – beautiful rare duck and the hazelnut jus a perfect compliment

Another gift from the chef – foie gras meatballs with lentils – absolutely decadent

Apple Tart Tatin

A wonderful evening with great company, delicious food and great wine.


French Laundry

We are not the typical French Laundry diner in that we have been many many times since 1995 – 17 years ago. We never look at a menu or the wine list – everything is orchestrated for us. Our only responsibility is to just sit back and enjoy and let the magic of French Laundry cast its spell.

A welcoming sight – the French Laundry Clip

Krug champagne to start – no photo

Gougeres – the standard FL beginning

Salmon Cornets – the other standard beginning

Soup – first a bowl is presented with puffed grains granola, barley, black rice, Medjool dates and Miner’s lettuce from Tucker Taylor’s farm from across the street (Refined Palate’s letterhead above is the the French Laundry Garden in its earlier days)

Then warm cauliflower veloute is poured on top – a lovely start

The signature dish of “Oysters and Pearls” – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar – as good as always

First Wine

Sashimi of Cured Australian Hiramasa Belly, Eggplant, Jingle Bell Peppers, Nicoise Olives, Arugula and Piquillo Pepper Marmalade – this was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.

The eggplant had been shaved paper thin and covered the sashimi

Presentation of the next dish – a bit of drama!

Shad Roe “Porridge”, Hass Avocado, Finger Lime, Cilantro Shoots and Diane St Clair’s Butter – what a unique preparation of shad roe. There was a hint of applewood smoked bacon from the steam in the first photo.

Another signature French Laundry dish – Hen Egg Custard with a ragout of Perigord Truffles

Corton- Charlemagne

Ash-Baked Holland White asparagus, Petite Lettuces, Rhubard, Kendall Farm Creme Fraiche studded with Black Truffles, Black Truffle Coulis – an asparagus never had it so good

Sauterne with the next course

Moulard Duck “Foie Gras au Torchon”, Cara Cara Orange, Celery Branch, Marcona Almonds and Juniper Yogurt

What made this dish extraordinary was that it wasn’t served with the customary Brioche, but instead “Hoe Cake”

The Hoe cake being presented. It was then cut into squares for service – no picture of the foie with the hoe cake, though as my photographer was too busy devouring it!

With the foie there is also a salt service:

Sel Gris (France), Fleur de Sel (France), Pangasinan (Phillipines), Jurassic (Montana). Alaea (Hawaii) Molokai (Hawaii)

Gulf Coast Cobia, Hawaiian Hearts of Palm, Young Fennel, “Maltaise Mousseline,” Blood Orange and “Sauce Japonaise” ( think mirin, sesame and soy) – the different components of the dish plus the meaty fish was a lovely combination. The mousseline approximated a very rich blood orange flavored hollandaise.

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Fava Bean “Raviolo,” Sunchokes, Fava Beans Blossoms, Sunchoke Chips, Black Truffles and a sauce that was based on Noilly Prat – another delicious combination with tender lobster


Hand-cut “Tagliatelle”

Black Truffles shaved table side – to say this is a generous shaving of black truffles is an understatement!

Chateau Canon

Buttermilk-Fried Wolfe Ranch Quail, Tomato “Pain Perdue,” Braised Swiss Chard, Pickled Green Tomato and “Barbecue Sauce” with Black Strap Molasses  – who needs to go to the south

“Roncal” (sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region), Piquillo Pepper Marmalade, Royal Blenheim Apricot Puree, Red Walnuts, Arugula and Garden Blossoms – an elegant composed cheese course

“Coffee and Donuts” – now donut holes! My husband’s favorite ending

A French laundry meal is a special event – it is magical – every person there from the back of the house to the waitstaff, the managers, the sommeliers are part of an extraordinary team that goes out of their way to make each and every guest from the first time visitor to the “old timers” feel special.


Chef David Kinch is just getting better and better. His tasting menu labeled  “The Winter Garden” was masterful. This is not a haphazard selection of carelessly chosen courses. In fact it is the exact opposite. Chef Kinch’s tasting menu is carefully orchestrated that has an internal harmony that tells a wonderful story. Execution is perfect plus the ingredients are of extraordinary quality. Much of the ingredients are supplied by Love Apple Farms.

From the Love Apple Farms web site:

“We originally became known for growing 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes each year. The farm is now the exclusive kitchen garden for world-renowned Manresa Restaurant (Los Gatos, California).”

“Cynthia Sandberg, owner and farmer, uses biodynamic and organic techniques to grow over 300 different cultivars of fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers for the restaurant.”

“The farm and restaurant are a mere fifteen minutes apart, nestled half way between San Francisco and Monterey. No restaurant can become one of the finest in the land without an incredible amount of struggle and hard work. So too, struggles the farm, striving to grow the best produce possible.”

We can’t duplicate what Cynthia Sandberg or David Kinch does but we did bring home six varieties of heirloom tomato plants so at least we will have a small taste of Manresa this summer.

Tomato plants ready to be planted.


BYO Krug to start – MV- 1990 direct from Krug via Soutirage

Petit fours – Roast Red Pepper Gelee and Black Olive Madelines – a signature beginning and as good as always

Garden Beignets, vinegar powder, aged goat cheese with baked kale – a one bite wonder

Smoked Avocado Ceviche – another winner with the underlying “smoke” a great flavor enhancer

Monterey Bay abalone in its own gelee, local milk (perhaps from Nutmeg the cow) panna cotta – what a glorious combination of tastes and textures

Roasted Fava Beans on the plancha – just eat the whole thing pod and all – this is when if an ingredient isn’t pristine this wouldn’t have worked – obviously it did!

BYO White Wine – Delarche Corton ’95

Black Radish, turnips, savory granola, arugula, milk curd – the granola added just the right texture component and the combination of flavors was superb – I know I sound like a broken record but this is where Chef Kinch excels.

Spot prawn with buckwheat-nettle dumplings, asparagus and nasturtium gazpacho – the spot prawns were pristine and the dumplings a surprise ingredient that was perfect. The gazpacho sang “freshness.”

“A Winter Tidal Pool” – Monterey Bay Abalone, Scallops, Foie Gras, Seaweed, Dashi Broth – the abalone and scallops never had it so good as this tidal pool they found themselves in

“Into the Vegetable Garden” – this is a signature dish of Chef Kinch that features the vegetables and flowers from Love Apple Farm – the key to the dish is the edible dirt made from dehydrated potato, almond and chicory and the foam from the garden vegetable broth

BYO Red Wine – 1969 Volnay

Brussel sprouts roasted with chanterelles, oyster and oyster vinegar, oyster emulsion, mandarin orange, rutabaga puree – the combination of ingredients was extraordinary

Japanese Sea Bream, Braised Artichokes, vegetable and bone marrow bouillon (the bouillon had been thickened with bone marrow), truffle – a perfectly cooked fish witth a rich and luxurious broth

Duck, (Sonoma County aged 21 days) slowly roasted in hay and salt crust, faro and parsnips, shallot jus, sauce was made with homemade green walnut wine – this was unbelievably off the charts A+++

Grilled Beef rib (Flannery beef dry-aged 48 days), alliums, ocean persillade, baby shallots, green onions, green garlic vinaigrette – in any other standard tasting menu I would be stuffed at this point. Not with Chef Kinch’s cuisine as it is not meant to overwhelm. It is so light and thoughtful – I would add that it is very cerebral cuisine – you don’t just shovel food in your mouth – you look at a dish, study the components, taste thoughtfully and marvel at the intricate and delicate nature of each and every dish.

Cheese cart

Close-up of the Cheese

BYO Riesling – Gunderloch

Garden Tisane – a digestive

Passion fruit sherbet, coconut and salted peanut crumble

Pine nut pudding with maple gelatin, candy cap ice cream, sunchoke, chocolate

Chocolate Birthday cake –

Old-fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream

This was a fantastic meal from beginning to end. It just doesn’t get better than this. My biggest complaint with the young chefs is their theory of more is more – they need an editor! With Chef Kinch nothing is put on the plate for show, each quality ingredient is handled with finesse and executed with mastery.

Up North

Refined Palate will be on the road so there won’t be any new posts until next week. But what will be forthcoming should make you salivate:


2 meals at French Laundry


Bouchon Yountville

Bistro Jeanty

Stayed tuned!

Bar Pintxo

The new sommelier, Sam, at Bar Pintxo did an excellent job of suggesting a wine.

Rebisaca white wine

Happy hour at Bar Pinxto is a bargain!  We were there at 4:15 and again had the 6 Pintxos for $6.00. It was the same selection as previously, but still delicious and a tremendous bargain.

1. Tuna Concerve, Anchovie, Cornichon

2. Mejillones Escabeche (mussel and roasted red pepper)

3. Serrano Jamon, Monchego cheese, fresh tomato

4. Huevos Rellenos con Vinagreta Vasca (deviled egg with Basque Vinaigrette)

5. Mushroom Escabeche (house conserved mushrooms, 25 year old sherry vinegar, truffle salt

6. Chorizo Bilbao, Cherry tomato

Empanadillas filled with chorizo and caramelized onions

Seared Calamari with garlic, lemon, parsley, olive oil – a slightly different preparation than the last time, but a must order!

This is a split order so it doesn’t show Bar Pintxo’s plating – Duck breast, catedral lentils with Bilbao chorizo and smoked bacon – delicious

Bar Pinxto is a fun place for a late lunch/early dinner that is definitely a bargain.