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Jan 1, 2008 09:45 PM

Praise for Bouchon but not for its bakery-big post (my first)

So this weekend my family and I went up to the Bay Area/Wine Country as we've been doing for awhile every winter. This time, we decided to stop by Bouchon Bakery to get some macarons as I've been hearing praise for their perfect macarons. It was my first time in Yountville and it was surprisingly quaint and cute and I nearly exploded with excitement seeing Ad Hoc and Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty all on the same street: it was like an overload. I walked into Bouchon Bakery and order one of each macaron ($3 each: peppermint, pistachio, vanilla, chocolate, and lemon); first off, the service was awful. The people were really snobby and relectant to help: they had an attitude if you paused to look at the other items even when there was no one in line; it was as if I was wasting their precious time or something. The macarons weren't even good at all- I was so incredibly disappointed- my teeth didn't sink in or anything. They were cold first off, I mean chilled hard in the center so that it didn't have that nice chewiness and it wasn't that crispy- also the foot was non-existent. My parents saw Bouchon next door and we decided to make reservations for the next day- just to try it. We got in for 12:00 at Lunch on New Year's Eve- boy was that lucky. I came back to the bakery later to pick up a loaf of bread and I waited in line and they skipped me- I told them and they didn't care and didn't even apologize and this girl also had a really snobby attitude. Argh- I hate Bouch bakery- the food was disappointing and it was very unfriendly.

The next day was filled with excitement. My first 1 star restaurant- I was ecstatic. I walked in with my family and I noted how very casual it was. I knew it had that cool bistro theme but this place was super casual and that was refreshing as I imagined uptight stuffiness or something of that sort. Our waitress looked a lot of Emily Blunt which was cool and she recited that day's special which included a seafood salad (haha, there's irony there for me since I just read AB's Kitchen Confidential and remembered his warning of not ordering seafood on Monday's as it's old and they probably'll make a salad out of it.) We got great bread and butter to start (though no pistachios is that a dinner thing?); we ordered fois gras terrine as a starter (my first fois) and it was amazing- buttery, smooth the absolute best thing that I have ever tasted- it didn't need the salt it came with. I ordered salmon rilletes as my main (though it's an app): other dishes at my table: trout, roast chicken, lamb, and gnocchi.

Salmon rilletes were delicious: my second favorite dish- really rich and butter and the contrast of the cooked salmon and that raw textured smoked salmon was so amazing- I was in heaven. The trout was a bit disappointing, cooked well but the butter sauce wasn't browned as described and it included off season haricot verts which were mushy rather than crisp. The chicken was delicious though not anywhere near the best roast chicken- it was served on a delicious black truffle puff pastry though. The lamb was delicious- not gamey at all and so tender it melted in your mouth. The gnocchi was light and filled with a lot of sage I believe but the sauce was rather bland and the winter vegetables were rather sparce and quite boring: I believe there was cauliflower and Savoy cabbage. The head waiter- I think, I don't actually know what his title is- named Jerry was incredibly affable and added to the experience. He talked about people loving the roast chicken and he talked about Ad Hoc and how they are going to change the sign from "temporary relief from hunger" and put a slash through temporary and add permanent- cute. Dessert was cinnamon pot de creme and profiteroles. The profiteroles were a bit overcooked and as a result difficult to eat (there was tableside presentation with chocolate though- always a nice touch) but the pot de creme was like crack; I mean it was amazing, slightly cinnamony and all creamy- I really could eat a gigantic gallon tub of it. So in the end, the meal was about 260 with tip and 1 drink- the most pricey lunch ever but it was the best meal I've ever had and I'm really looking forward to eating at more place. Thanks for spending time to read my super long post.

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  1. No, thank you for writing such an enjoyable and informative post.

    As far as the macarons you wrote "also the foot was non-existent." I've never heard that term. What does that mean?

    I look forward to more of your posts.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Thank you very much. The foot of a macaron is what many people call the sign of a properly made macaron. It's the weird little edge around the macaron itself: like a crust or something. A poorly made macaron wouldn't have one of these and just look like a perfect circle. Compare the first picture to the second one and you'll see what I mean (these are from google).

      1. re: digkv

        Thanks. I'll look for that next time.

    2. Not too surprising a report -- I know locals who used to cherish the fresh baked goods and bring them as hostess gifts who won't even bother walking in any more. I know for a fact that the turn over in employees (bakers, not counter workers) has been roughly every three months for the past two years. Every now and then, a fabulously competent baker will manifest and the products are amazing -- for a short while -- and then he/she moves on.

      Too inconsistent and a wonder that Keller doesn't take care of this festering boil which is literally in his backyard.

      1. Welcome, and thanks for the first of what I hope will be many posts!

        I think we in the Bay Area are spoiled by the number and quality of our bakeries. In many parts of America, Bouchon would be considered a good, maybe even a great, bakery, but there are so many places doing first-class artisan breads and pastries in the Bay Area, Bouchon's failings are glaringly obvious. When I see posts raving about Bouchon, they're invariably from tourists -- poor babies probably can't get a macaron at home at all, let alone a good one!

        1. Forgot the links

          Bouchon Bakery
          6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

          1. digkv,

            I ate at Bouchon in October and had a lot of the same reactions. I loved the meal so much that I bought the cookbook and started writing about it (check out the sig). I think you'll find, if you enjoy cooking, that you can make many of those same dishes without too much trouble at all. The book is definitely worth the $30 investment, even if you only look at the pictures to remember your lunch.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mjr45

              I second that emotion- my husband and I make Bouchon's perfect roast chicken from that book all the time and it's amazingly simple and foolproof.

              1. re: BonzoGal

                Agreed... the quiche is awesome, too.