french laundry- lunch or brunch??
We went for a Saturday lunch seating in July. We had a wonderful table in the garden. The day in Napa itself was not too hot - it was warm and there was a great breeze. The meal was fantastic and was only accentuated by the ability to enjoy a great summer day. Personally, I enjoyed lunch because there was still a good part of the day left to do other things. We arrived at noon and did not finish until about 4PM so regardless of the sitting, you will have a long meal. So it was nice to have the time after the meal to do other stuff and to really enjoy what we'd just consumed.
We just got back from a trip to Northern California that included a lunch at French Laundry. Initially we had wanted to go for dinner, but as we also couldn't stay the night in Napa (no room at the inns), we ended up doing lunch instead. It was the right choice for us. The rooms are very pretty in the daylight, and the views of the mountains in the distance are pleasant as well. The garden looked like the spot to be, but not on that particular 95 degree day!
We had the nine-course tasting menu, and, with several minor exceptions, the food was inspired. I will go into detail about what we ate if you are interested. Service was attentive, but not overbearing, and the sommelier suggested a really marvelous wine to go with several of our courses. I really think you would enjoy lunch as much as dinner!
re: tonya casmo
Hi Tonya - Sorry for the delay in response! Here's the run down on the nine course tasting menu that we had:
First course was a cauliflower panna cotta with ossetra caviar and an oyster glaze. Rich, creamy, briny, nicely balanced and a great appetite stimulant!
Second course was a salad of black and green figs with a slaw of sweet peppers and fennel in a wild fennel vinaigrette. I thought the black figs could be more lucious, but this was also a really tasty dish, completely different in character from the previous course.
Third course was a poached halibut filet with a basil broth and a sort of ragout of beans and roasted tomatoes. The fish was pristine in its freshness, and the broth was intense in flavor and color. Loved it.
Fourth course was the signature "macaroni & cheese", which is butter poached lobster with orzo and mascarpone, garnished with a parmesan tuile. Very rich and decadent.
Fifth course was a Liberty Valley duck breast with wild mushrooms, bacon and pearl onions. The sauce was a deep complex reduction, and the duck was tender and earthy. I love duck, and this was one of the best I've had.
Sixth course was a medallion of veal, garnished with a sweetbread ravioli and a very finely minced combo of brussel sprouts and carrots. The ravioli was heavenly, it had wonderful elemental flavor and texture, and left us both smiling stupidly with happiness (or was that the wine?).
At this point, my boyfriend commented that he felt that the last three courses had hit similar "notes" ie, rich and smooth. He thought that the first courses were more thoughtful in their progression and how they contributed to the tasting menu as a whole. I'm not sure that I'd agree, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
Next came the cheese course, which was a ripe pungent St. Marcellin garnished with clove oil and pluots (cross between a plum and apricot). The pluots did not have a lot of flavor and were not the best complement to the cheese. The cheese, however, was just right.
Our first dessert was an almond cake with caramel ice cream, garnished with a tuile. The almond cake was a dud, really the only one of the whole meal. It was dry and uninteresting. The ice cream was perfect, but it couldn't save that cake!
Second dessert (okay, I admit, by now I was a little fuzzy from wine) was some sort of passion fruit custard or mousse. Great finish, rich but nicely balanced with the acid from the fruit.
Lastly, we were brought a plate of pastel colored meringues. They were okay, but I would have killed for something bittersweet chocolate!
For wines, we started our meal with glasses of Schramsburg sparkling wine, then followed with a half bottle of 1998 Navarro Gewurtzramminer (really great with the fig dish and lobster), and then a 1998 Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin (outstanding wine from one of Burgundy's bright stars). We finished with a glass of Madeira.
Overall, a terrific time was had. We are both restaurant people and tend to be excruciatingly critical of every detail of even the most basic dining experience (like why do some places serve hard crusty hamburger rolls - we hate that!). We both felt that this meal was one of the best - the food was delicious, and sometimes brilliant in its execution, the room provides an atmosphere conducive to relaxed dining, and the staff gives service that is polished, professional, and helpful. What more could you ask for?
I hope you enjoy your experience as much as we did ours.
Early this year we went to the French Laundry for lunch when we couldn't get a dinner reservation....and it really worked out well. I think I'd prefer lunch or brunch to dinner in the future. The meal is very well orchestrated and even though the portions are not the trencherman size common to many places you will leave feeling quite satisfied and well taken care of. I think that it is a good value...you can spend a lot of money for very simply prepared food (a grilled piece of fish) but here they are really doing some cooking. To make a complete day of it-think about combining your meal with a visit to the DiRosa Preserve-Art & Nature...a truly interesting Bay Area Contemporary Art collection. It's stunning. Reservations are needed...located in Napa.