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March 27, 2016

Visit Napa: The French Laundry



I've always loved food, but it wasn't since I started Yelping about my experiences did I realize just how limited they were.  So I started trying new restaurants and new foods.  I was completely surprised that I loved the foods I refused to eat before like foie gras, uni, and oysters.  It made me take on a new perspective and I promised myself that I would try anything presented before me at least once.  

Enter The French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller's famous French restaurant in Napa Valley that most likely tops about every serious foodie's list.  The exclusive restaurant has been awarded three Michelin Guide stars since 2006 and dining there will set each guest back a minimum of $310.  It quickly earned a spot on my bucket list.

My friends and I talked out loud how wonderful it would be to visit Napa Valley and mark the pinnacle of our trip by dining at The French Laundry.  But getting a reservation when you had a limited time frame proved difficult.  For starters, the restaurant takes reservations 30 days in advance.  In my experience, don't waste your time using Open Table or calling the restaurant.  That hasn't worked for anyone I know.  A friend of mine told me the secret was to stay at a hotel in Yountville and have the concierge secure a reservation for you.  It's not a guarantee, but it worked for us.  

It was raining the entire weekend we stayed in Yountville and it was still raining when we got to the restaurant.  We entered the charming blue door not expecting the restaurant to feel like someone's home.  We sat downstairs among 3 other tables who were just as quiet as we were not knowing what to expect or how to behave.  We were presented a tablet to peruse their wine list.  We started off with bubbly from Schramsberg Vineyards exclusive to The French Laundry to be paired with their Oysters and Pearls course.  

The tables began to buzz with conversation as the drinks were poured and we were presented with two tasting menus that change daily.  We opted for the Chef's tasting menu over the vegetable tasting menu and I was a little surprised that there were supplement items and choices to be made for some of the courses.  I had imagined that each course would be presented like how it was at the Restaurant at Meadowood, another Michelin Guide 3 star restaurant in Napa Valley.  

I looked forward to this meal because I am a beginner when it comes to French cuisine and I knew every dish would be new to me.  I was excited for each moment that I would taste the dish in my mouth and experience a real and true reaction.  While I wasn't blown away by every bite, I certainly didn't come close to not liking any of it.  I enjoyed every dish and probably the only dish I didn't finish was the lamb.  What is amazing about the menu is no single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal.    

Now, everyone asks me was it worth it?  For me, it was and I would love to go again.  I knew it would be an experience that I would have to live through myself and not through someone else.  The service was on point (with the exception of a rushed sommelier) and very formal.  Don't expect much conversation or smiles from the staff, but I think this encourages and creates an intimate dining experience for your table.  Just you, your company, and the exceptional meal.    

From L-R, we started with an amuse bouche; "Oysters and Pearls" island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar; slow roasted garden beets; slow cooked fillet of sea trout; wild Scottish langoustine; hard boiled bantam hen egg and black winter truffle; elysian fields farm spring lamb; andante dairy "Tomme Dolce"; and a extraordinary assortment of desserts including ice cream, opera cake, macarons, coffee mousee, chocolates, truffles, and donuts. 



The French Laundry has been checked off the bucket list, but I would love to go again! 




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