We still have New Year's to go but I think we feel that we've celebrated enough this past week for a lifetime! After a great Christmas with our sons family, wonderful food and wine that our son and daughter-in-law provided and cooked, (our daughter-in-law is a fabulous, creative cook!), partying with other friends, our son and daughter in law, her mother and step father, and Jim and I, drove down to Napa, for a few decadent days, which I will need at least week to recover from!
We ate and drank like royalty (no exaggeration), and even found some time in our short visit to shop at some of the great stores in the valley. I brought some goodies home from the kitchen supply shop at the Culinary Institute of America, Dean and DeLuca and another local upscale grocery store. Dean and DeLuca and the local bakeries are awesome. I indulged myself, with Jim's urging, to a fabulous wooden platter, made from an old wine barrel that they sell at Dean and DeLuca. It has the most wonderful reddish tone from the red wine having been stored. It's will be a solid, treasured memory of this awesome trip. I'll have to take a photo and post that another day.
Friday night, our son and daughter in law treated us to dinner at the French Laundry in Napa, which is probably the best restaurant in the country, if not the world. Reservations are about a years wait. It's that kind of place - not just a restaurant, but a food happening. Recipes, service, presentation, wine pairings are all taken to another level of high art. It's not merely exquisitely, and creatively prepared dishes. It is art on a plate, using the best, most expensive ingredients available - like the fresh, imported white truffles, and then being very generous with shaving them over an amazing risotto. This is the first time I've ever seen a truffle as big as a grapefruit!
Before serving the truffle, they bring the temperature controlled box of truffles around the table, ceremoniously opening the box for each diner, in turn, to experience that first whiff of the intoxicating, aroma, and then choose whether they want the lighter or darker truffle. The truffle smell which seems to have captured all of the aromas of an ancient forest floor - rich, woodsy, smoky and pure heaven all combined, is the best description I can offer.
The well trained staff is a show in itself. When a customer hits the staircase to ascend or descend, any employee on the stairs, even if his or her hands for full of a food, immediately rushes up or down to clear the staircase for the customer.
When each course is brought to the table, there's a server for each person and the dishes are set in front of each person simultaneously, and just as simultaneously, the covers on the dishes are removed, revealing small, intriguing mixtures of food you may have never seen, or at least, never seen in that combination. It's like a well trained group of dancers all moving elegantly and in unison to reveal the treasure in each, covered dish. One dish reveals a hot, bisque, another tapioca topped with baby oysters and caviar. One after one they came - each a surprise and more intriguing than the last.
The first thing we were served was a mini ice cream cone (the sweet,dark, crunchy version), the base filled with creme fraiche, and topped with salmon tartar. I've had this before during prior visits and was happy to see and taste it again.
The food and wines kept coming and at various points some of us said "I'm done". My son and I were the earliest quitters but the heartier eaters continued, on to a cheese course, which we skipped. It was not any cheese course I had ever seen - no selection of cheeses on a plate at this table. The melted cheese was hidden under other treasures, topped with a perfectly fried quail egg!
I opted to skip the dessert, but was given one anyway: but even after sharing some of it with Jim we still left half of it. There just wasn't another more room for one more bit of food or sip of wine.
You can blow up the menu and wine list I posted above and get an idea of the type of food we were served. We had other things not on the menu and the wine list is the list of wines we drank. All diners get their own typed out menu and wine lists, based on what they ordered. One of the dishes not on this menu, was an amazing pumpkin bisque served in a two layers cup that had hot water in the bottom to keep the soup at the proper serving temperature. It looked more the color of a lobster bisque or a tomato bisque, but the flavor was definitely pumpkin, but perhaps there was some tomato in there, or maybe they used a very reddish pumpkin; whatever the ingredients it was superb!
This was a meal of a lifetime, a very generous Christmas gift from our son and daughter-in-law. And to top off the evening, we were given a tour of the kitchen. That would be a whole other blog message. Suffice it to say, it was run as efficiently as the dining side of the restaurant. We left with a shopping bag filled with the menus and some cookies in special metal cans from their famous bakery, and priceless memories.
The other part of our gift was a case of wine of our choosing for us and Nicoles parents. We only visited two of our sons and our favorite wineries - Frank Family and Bremer. We were even priviledge to have a barrel tasting of the 2012 cabs at Frank Family. On top of it all, we were blessed with great weather while there and good travel days, which aren't always the case this time of year, when coming back through the Siskiyou pass.
Today Jim is going to find places for our 18 bottles (we bought some extra ourselves). Once I recuperate from all this partying, I will be making some special dishes to go with these great cabs, chardonnays, pintos and sangiovese wines.