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May 13, 2008 10:15 AM

Lunch at French Laundry (long)

This was my second time dining at FL - my first dinner was 8-9 years ago. And somehow luckily for me, both the reservations were procured by someone else!

We arrived a few minutes early and walked around their pretty demonstration garden across the street - they had orange cauliflower and large purple plants that were labeled brussels sprouts. Plus numerous other interesting vegetables.

At 11:15 a.m. our party of 4 was led upstairs to a window table. All four of us picked the Chef's Tasting ($240 including service) and since only 2 of our group were drinking, we asked our waiter to set up a wine pairing (which turned out to be 3 half bottles over the course of the meal - $275).

We started with small cheese gougeres - could have definitely had a whole basket of these. The next amuse was smoked salmon and creme fraiche, served in a small cone. Again, very yummy.

Our first course was caviar in a cauliflower panna cotta - I couldn't really taste the cauliflower, but since I like caviar, this was a nice little dish but not out-of-this world. The second course was a choice between a Hawaiian hearts of peach palm salad and a foie gras torchon ($30 additional). Two of our group had the salad which was petite and tasty and the other two had the foie gras. This was a generous serving, served with warm brioche toast and little balls of bananas (interestingly good). Funnily enough, less than a minute after the first plate of toast arrived (still warm), they substituted it for another plate - saying that the chef wanted to make sure we had warm toast!

We were also served a selection of salts that were unusual - a lighter salt from Maine, a sel gris (which is apparently the lower layer under fleur de sel) and a reddish salt they called Jurassic salt (which was the strongest of the 3). The salts were great on the creamy local butter that they served. They also served a seasoned butter that was nice. We completely finished both tubs of butter!

The third course was a choice of black bass fillet or tuna tartare with whipped fava beans. Tuna was good but the bass was transcendental - perfectly sauteed and served with tiny fresh english peas. Next was a nice poached Maine lobster tail - again, very nicely done, served with very tender asparagus.

The fifth course was a choice of white quail or a jambonette of rabbit. Both were remarkable. The quail was served with small white meat and dark meat portions with some truffle jus and very sweet corn. It was crisp and tender. I could have eaten twice the portion without blinking. The jambonette was an unusual preparation - shredded rabbit meat that was seasoned and moist, panko breaded and fried, served like a lollipop. This wasn't my pick but I did taste it and it was surprisingly delicious. I had a second taste ;)

The sixth course was a lamb ribeye - I was most looking forward to this, since I love lamb. And it was ok - would have been rated good at any other place but it just wasn't anything particularly special. The small fried artichokes on the side were really good (and I don't like artichokes).

The seventh course was the cheese course - Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar from the UK served with broccoli florettes and mushrooms. This was just ok for me. The cheese didn't seem special enough.

The eighth course was a buttermilk sherbet, very unusual and good for palate cleansing. Then we had a surprise course of "coffee and donuts". We had this the last time I was there and I had asked about it when we ordered. Our waiter told me the chef could prepare it for us - and it arrived for all 4 of us, as a special, additional course. No extra charge. It was delicious - a small sugared donut, served with the hole sitting on top (cute) plus a coffee semifreddo in an espresso cup on the side. Plus it was free! That made me happy.

The dessert course was a choice between "milkduds and popcorn" and a pistachio layer dessert served with strawberry sorbet. The former was an intense bar of chocolate dessert with layers of mousse, chocolate malt etc with a popcorn sorbet. I think I was too full to appreciate this. The second dessert seemed a little bland but the sorbet was excellent.

Finally, for the "mignardises", the ladies were served two deliciously small portions of vanilla bean creme brulee. And for the life of me, neither my husband nor I can recall what the two men were served (this wasn't listed on the menu). Whatever it was, it was good.

We finished up with coffee and tea - really good espresso and proper tea service. Plus little orange biscotti and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

We were given bags of shortbread cookies as a parting gift, copies of the day's menus in a nice folder and rolled out of there around 3 pm.

Overall, I think I liked having lunch better because I didn't have to go to bed so full.

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  1. Excellent report Pinkster!
    I agree with going to FL for lunch...
    The garden across the street is lovely.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to do the lovely report.

      Tried to respond yesterday, but the softward wasn't going for it. Anyway, I was wondering, is there an option at lunch not to order the tasting menu. Your post seems to imply that. I thought FL was tasting menu only.

      The French Laundry
      6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

      8 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        The choice is between regular ("Chef's tasting menu") and vegetarian.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          It's actually a "tasting of vegetables"...not all the courses are vegetarian.

          1. re: sunnyand72

            The menus I've seen have all been vegetarian

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I thought so, too, but looking at the menu I geek-ily saved from February I see "Valley Oak Acorn 'flan' with Sunchokes, 'Jamon Iberico,' Fava Beans, Arugula Leaves and Red Pepper Essence" on the Tasting of Vegetables menu. And also a potato confit with bottarga -- not totally sure what that is, but it sounds fishy to me. I assume you could ask for all-veg, though.

              1. re: Glencora

                Ah, but "Jamon Iberico" is apparently in quotes on the menu, which means it could be some vegetarian takeoff on Jamon Iberico. Is bottarga also in quotes?

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  I don't think so. All foreign phrases are in quotes. Not bottarga.

                2. re: Glencora

                  Looking at some more reports online, sometimes they do include a few non-vegetarian ingredients in that menu.

          2. I believe the ladies always get a creme brulee and the gentlemen get the pot de creme.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cindy

              Ah, that rings a bell. Thanks for the reminder, Cindy.

            2. Interesting that TFL serves Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar. I recently picked up some at Murray's in New York, because the girl at the counter said she thought Murray's was the only importer (I had asked for stuff I couldn't get in California). Googling reveals that TFL has been using it since at least fall of 2006. Now I'm curious if Mrs. Quicke's is available locally or if TK sources it through Murrays (perhaps since Per Se opened).

              3 Replies
              1. re: Xiao Yang

                I don't think TK has any problems getting any product he wants. Most vendors would happily make special arrangements if they were to get the subsidiary buzz or say on their lit they supply FL.

                1. re: ML8000

                  Sure, but someone has to physically get it into the country with customs and USDA approval. TFL could even have their own customs broker. Or Murray's could have begun importing it especially for Per Se.

                  My question was really about whether anybody has Mrs. Quicke's Cheddar for RETAIL sale in the Bay Area, and whether it was unnecessary for me to haul it back from NY.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    TFL apparently buys it through Murray's wholesale operation:


                    You can get it retail online from several vendors (murrayscheese, artisanalcheese, igourmet).