Adventures in Dining

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French Laundry, April 3, 2010 May 21, 2011

Filed under: California Wine Country — hpandaw @ 8:07 pm

Back in 2010, we went on a trip to California, and I have neglected to post our reviews.  No longer!  I just felt I should explain the recent posting of these dining experiences.

I probably would have paid $40 per person for what we ate at the French Laundry, but $250 left me feeling ripped off.  We had a far better experience at Redd, for which I would definitely have paid the $75 (120 with wine pairings) that we paid there.  While everything was good, the absence of the “wow” factor made me regret the high pricetag that accompanied this mildly pleasant dining experience.  I did feel bad for our poor waiter – I don’t know whether he was new, or whether he was unfamiliar with the menu, but he was extremely nervous when reciting the entire menu for us.  His face turned bright red, and he was sweating with exertion while he was trying to remember the menu.  I found myself turning my menu out so that he could peek at it if he needed to refresh his memory.
My first course was the Tokyo turnip soup with ruby red grapefruit, cashew, and ginger panna cotta.  This was very nice, smooth and creamy, and I definitely enjoyed it.
It was followed by a salad of roasted Belgian endive with sour Michigan cherries, pecans, oxalis, and kola nut “gastrique.”  This was pretty interesting, and the roasting of the endive did add some depth.  Not a “wow” dish, though, which was a recurring theme.  Pretty nice, kind of good, not overwhelming.
My next dish was a pave d’aubergine confit with cauliflower, chickpeas, sultanas, harissa, pine nuts, cilantro, and yogurt.  Another pretty good dish, not great.
My next dish was a soft-poached Americana hen egg with lobster “salpicon,” sunchokes, Savoyard spinach and “mousseline béarnaise.”  I didn’t like this at all.  It was entirely too gooey in texture; a little contrast would be nice. It was also EXTREMELY rich, and I knew that I had lots of other dishes coming.
This was followed by herb-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, fennel bulb, san marzano tomato compote, green garlic, marcona almonds and sherry mignonette.  I thought this was pretty good.  The mushrooms were nice and woodsy. I’d had these before, at Victoria & Albert’s, and this dish actually reminded me a good deal of a dish that I had there.
Next came Yukon gold potato “mille feuille” with French Laundry garden broccolini, “piperade,” spring onions, Nicoise olives and crème fraiche.  In contrast to the previous dish, this one was a bit bland.  The potato mille feuille could have used salt, though the flakiness was nice.  As a whole, though, the texture came across as a bit too blah.  It lacked the creaminess that some potatoes have, and it lacked the crispiness that other potato dishes have.  It came across as an unsatisfying compromise.
I next had an Andante Dairy “Cavatina” with pickled pear, young beets, peanut brittle and watercress.  This was okay, but I prefer to get the opportunity to taste more than one cheese.
My palate cleanser was an English cucumber sorbet, white verjus gelee, green grape and quinine-juniper foam.  This was a very nice, light, refreshing taste.  No “wow” factor, though – it was, ultimately, just a cucumber sorbet.
My dessert was a rhubarb and kumquat “vol au vent” vanilla “chiboust,” poppy-seed ice cream, and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar.  This was very light and refreshing and wasn’t too heavy after the big dinner.

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