The Dinner of A Lifetime

Posted by Robert on July 6th, 2009


In 2006, I invited three friends to join me at The French Laundry, in Yountville, CA, for what would turn out to be the dinner of a lifetime.

The French Laundry is widely considered the nation’s finest restaurant, a reputation it has earned over the course of the last 15 years. I wrote about the meal and the subsequent column turned out to be a piece that I am still asked about, today. Looking back through my notes from the meal, I wrote, “I have just eaten the best meal of my life. Hands down. Period”

In the column I stated, “At The French Laundry, excellence seeps from of every nook and cranny and percolates from every personality. It exists— actually thrives— several strata above even the finest restaurants in New York. Nothing compares.”

The meal was served in 32 courses, actually 16 rounds of 32 dishes. Following the dinner I wrote, “After eating a meal such as this, a food writer runs the risk of using overly flowery verbiage and exaggerated adjectives to describe the experience. The problem with this restaurant is that any description I would commit to paper couldn’t do justice to actually sitting in the dining room and experiencing the actual meal. From the maitre d’ to the servers, to the kitchen staff with whom we visited after the meal, everyone was at the top of their game. I couldn’t find one single negative in the entire experience, a rare treat, indeed.”

I didn’t plan for 32 courses, Chef Thomas Keller— the nation’s most talented chef— just kept sending out food, course after course, of the most amazing dishes I had ever eaten. The meal lasted five hours and fifteen minutes, and stands, to this day, as the most amazing culinary experience I have ever been associated with, in a long, food-filled, 47-year dining career. It’s also the only meal I’ve ever eaten that needed a halftime break.

I would print the 32-course menu here, but it comes in a 468 words, which is close to my weekly allotment for the entire column. The menu can be found on Facebook, my blog www.nobodyspoet.blogspot.com, and on the newspaper’s website.

On July 15th I will return to The French Laundry with the same three friends for a meal I have been looking forward to for two years. I don’t know how many courses the kitchen will send out this time, but I know that when left in the hands of Thomas Keller and his staff, culinary magic happens.

I will be blogging live from The French Laundry, uploading a photo of each course as it is served. Those who follow me on Facebook will be able to follow the meal, in real time, course-by-course. If you don’t yet follow me on Facebook, look me up, and sign in. The meal will start at 7 p.m. Pacific Time on July 15th and will hopefully last long enough to need another halftime break.

The French Laundry

Chef’s Tasting Menu

July 17, 2006

SALMON TARTAR IN A TUILLE CONE

CHILLED MELON SOUP

Summer Melons, Mint, and Yogurt

CHILLED HAAS AVOCADO SOUP

Haas Avocadoes, Cilantro Shoots and Espelette

Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle” MV

Sparkling Apple Cider, Sonoma Sparkler

BEET SORBET

with Granny Smith Apples and Black Pepper

“QUININE SORBET”

with Lime Scented “Gelée” and Fresh Juniper Berry “Tuile”

CAULIFLOWER “PANNA COTTA”

Beau Soleil Oyster Glaze and Russian Sevruga Caviar

“OYSTERS AND PEARLS”

“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Beau Soleil Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar

SOFT SHELL CRAB

Vanilla Mousseline, Bananas and Shaved Hazelnuts

“SASHIMI” OF SPANISH BLUEFIN “TORO”

Marcona Almonds, Globe Artichokes
, “Mâche” and Pedro Ximenez Glaze

Manzanilla “La Guita”

CODDLED HEN EGG

Minced Périgord Truffles and Toasted Brioche “Soldiers”

WHITE TRUFFLE CUSTARD

with a “Ragoût” of Périgord Truffles

Barbeito, Sercial, Madeira 1978

Root Beer, Truffle Syrup

SALAD OF SUNCHOKES

with Apricot “Confit”, Marinated Peppers, and Curry “Aigre Doux”

SALAD OF YOUNG GLOBE ARTICHOKES

Baby Leeks, Sweet Carrot “Ribbons,” Red Pearl Onion “Petals,”

Spanish Saffron “Mayonnaise” and Garden Basil

Emmerich Knoll, Gruner Veltliner, 2004, Austria

Lavender and Chamomile “Mimosa”

“AGNOLOTTI” OF SWEET GOLDEN CORN

Black Truffles from Provence and Corn Pudding

BLACK TRUFFLE GNOCCHI

with Grated Périgord Truffles

Domaine Boillot, Meursault “Les Perrieres,” 2004

“Chaud Froid,”Corn and truffle Cappuccino

ROASTED HAMACHI COLLAR

Artichokes, Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and Lemon

SAUTÉED FILLET OF JAPANESE “SUZUKI”

French Laundry Garden Summer Squash, Niçoise Olives, “Fleur de Courgette”

and San Marzano Tomato “Marmelade”

Chateau Simone, Palette, 1998

“PEAS AND CARROTS”

Maine Lobster Tail “Cuite Sous Vide,” Garden Pea Shoot Salad

and Sweet Carrot Buttons

SWEET BUTTER-POACHED MAINE LOBSTER “MITTS”

Green Grape “Confit,” Melted Belgian Endive, Périgord Truffles and

Sauternes-Lobster Coral Emulsion

SAUTÉED MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS”

Medjool Dates, Celery Branch and Pumpkin Seed “Vinaigrette”

MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON”

with Silverado Trail Strawberry Jam and “Frisée” Lettuce

Domaine Weinbach, Gewurztraminer, “Cuvee Theo” 2003

“PORK AND BEANS”

All Day Braised Hobb’s Shore “Poitrine de Porc”,

with a “Cassoulet” of Pole Beans and a Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

WOLFE RANCH WHITE QUAIL “EN CRÉPINETTE”

“Ragoût” of Golden Corn, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Piquillo Peppers and

“Béarnaise” Reduction

Radio Coteau, “Savoy,” Pinot Noir, 2004

WAGYU

Spring Onion, Cèpes, French Laundry Green Beans and “Sauce Bordelaise”

BULLION-POACHED TENDERLOIN OF SNAKE RIVER FARM PRIME BEEF

“Nameko” Mushrooms, Broccolini, “Kohishikari” Rice

with Sweet Garlic and Ginger-Scented “Jus”

Modicum 2001

Golden Monkey Black Tea

“COBB SALAD”

Tomato “Confit”, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Hard-Boiled Quail Egg

and Haas Avocado “Puree”

“MONTE ENEBRO”

Slow-Baked Heirloom Beet, Fennel Bulb “Relish” and Juniper Wood-Aged

Balsamic “Vinaigrette”

ROYAL BLENHEIM APRICOT SORBET

Marcona Almond “Streusel” and “Gelée de Noyaux”

ROYAL BLENHEIM APRICOT SORBET

Marcona Almond “Streusel” and “Gelée de Noyaux”

VALRHONA ARAGUANI CHOCOLATE TART

Caramel Ice Cream and Butterscotch “Crunch”

Toro Albala, Pedro Ximenez, 1971

“MIGNARDISES”


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