A French Laundry XX Party!
Time to celebrate twenty (XX) years of greatness, thanks to Chef Thomas Keller and the legendary French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California!
20 Years Of Incredible Food!
It began twenty years ago when a former “french laundry” in Yountville California – which had been turned into a restaurant years earlier – became the home to a food revolution…beginning with a “cone of salmon”…
And ending with a small token acknowledging your visit…a clothespin with the restaurant’s logo:
In between these two moments is a dinner that involves more than a dozen dishes – culinary “works of art” – each more beautifully presented than the one before…courtesy of a Chef who helped define “fine dining” in America in the 90’s…
Time To Celebrate The French Laundry!
Chef Thomas Keller opened The French Laundry in Yountville, California on July 6, 1994, and in the twenty years since, he has won every culinary award there is to win, including being named “The World’s Best Restaurant” in 2004 by Restaurant Magazine!
Time To Celebrate The French Laundry!
My wife Alex and I were lucky enough to spend July 4, 2014 at The French Laundry for a special 20th anniversary dinner – and we attended the huge “XX” celebration the next night!
We were greeted in the courtyard with a flute of twenty-year-old champagne – presented by an amazing staff that includes Michael, Larry, Olivia, Lauren and Gillaume among many others! And Chef Keller was there to greet everyone as well, before we were taken in for the meal of a lifetime – and Chef Keller was cooking that night alongside his team, including French Laundry’s Chef de Cuisine David Breeden…
Our Special “XX” Menu Begins!
Once seated, we are given an introduction from Chef Keller, in which he explains his philosophy behind the restaurant…
A “XX” Celebration Of The French Laundry’s Greatest Hits!
The night’s menu is a “greatest hits” collection of signature dishes that the restaurant has served at various times in its twenty year history. As always, you have a clothespin waiting for you, but tonight it has a different logo:
You are always served a gougere first: a french cheese puff filled with a warm, liquid cheese center…
Then comes the restaurant’s “signature” amuse bouche: Chef Thomas Keller’s individually wrapped cone of salmon and creme fraiche, almost like two arms welcoming you to the meal!
Next is, for me, the single greatest dish he has created:
“Oysters And Pearls”
This incredibly rich dish is a Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar…the oysters are the size of dimes and poached, with a briny smoothness that matches perfectly with the caviar…it has always been our favorite…we took a quick break to grab a picture on the terrace outside….
“Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm”
This is a salad of Brentwood Corn, Garden Radishes, Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms and Wild Purslane – perfectly composed as a quarter moon…
The first fish course is a TFL classic:
“Atlantic Skate ‘Poelee'”
The skate has been wrapped and served with Carmelized Savoy Cabbage and Whole Grain Mustard Emulsion
Our next course is anything but:
“Peas And Carrots”
What a misnomer! A Pea Tendril salad with sweet carrot butter is joined on the plate by butter poached Maine Lobster! Sous Vide Lobster is one of Keller’s signature achievements, and the combination of pea tendril and sweet carrot butter is a knockout…
I did mention we were drinking wine the entire time, right?
Another note: the table was beautifully set, and as it grew darker outside, the setting came to life even more…
Dinner stops for a moment as Olivia arrives with a box – of Australian truffles…
And then you are delivered this dome…and underneath:
“Degustation De Pommes De Terre”
The dome is lifted and you get a Ragout of Garden Potatoes, Romaine Lettuce, Strauss Butter – oh, and Shaved Australian Black Winter Truffle!
Your plate is literally covered with shaved truffles…but those amazingly delicious potatoes are still underneath – with a richness almost impossible to describe…and the hits just kept on coming:
“Wildflower Honey Lacquered Liberty Farm Pekin Duck”
Yes, a honey lacquered duck breast with Poached Brooks Cherries, Garden Turnips, “foie de Canard” and Watercress – and the “foie” was shaved on like a truffle!
I apologize for the dimness of the pics, but I don’t use a flash ever inside a restaurant, and I always ask permission to photograph the dishes as well…The French Laundry has no problem with pics, just no flash…so you have to imagine just how amazing this tastes!
Time now for:
“Charcoal Grilled Snake River Farms ‘Calotte De Boeuf'”
Yes, a delicious ‘calotte de boeuf”, served with Crispy Bone Marrow that looks like a tater tot, Garden Beans, Oregon Cepes and “Blanquette de Champignons”
Time to slide into dessert mode, with a short stop for some cheese:
“Cateau De Bleu D’Auvergne”
Stewed Blueberries, English Walnuts and Cutting Celery
Next is a light palate cleansing dessert:
Mascarpone Sherbet with Tellicherry Black Peppercorn and Strawberry Syrup
Now it’s time for a gorgeous dish:
This is a delicious Tahitian Vanilla Bean “Creme Anglaise”, Poached Swiss Merangue, Valrhona Chocolate “Cremeux” and Spun Sugar – a gilded cage of flavor!
Well, an incredible meal ends on a delicious high note…oh wait…just moments after we think we are done…one of the restaurant’s most iconic menu items arrives:
Surprise Dessert – “Coffee And Doughnuts!”
Yes, fresh warm doughnut holes are delivered, along with a cup of “Coffee” – coffee ice cream!
What a great way to end the meal – oh, then they bring around:
These incredible bites are filled with cognac, peanut butter and jelly, salted caramel – which ever ones you choose, it is a mouthful of delight!
Dinner is done – more than 3 hours after we started!
We were given a copy of our menu, signed by Chef…
And then we had the chance to step into the kitchen to see the team in action – and to have a picture taken with Chef Keller:
The French Laundry’s XX Anniversary Celebration Continues!
On July 5, the main street through Yountville was closed so that The French Laundry could celebrate with 500 of their closest friends!
Yes, a “XX” Ice Sculpture, free flowing Champagne – and cups of caviar for everyone! The sculpture not only kept the champagne cold, it held little glass bowls of caviar and custard – topped with crispy onion!
A Foodie Celebration!
Five hundred guests mingled and sampled a wide array of food – everything from sausages in pretzel rolls and homemade ketchup and mustard, with a sweet corn relish…
And continuing on to fresh crudite stands, which makes sense as the French Laundry garden is just across the street from the restaurant…
There were also charcuterie stations, as well as a raw bar with shrimp and oysters…
Yep, they had popcorn dispensers surrounding the party as well – and passed appetizers as well…including those amazing salmon cones from dinners, now in three different versions!
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches With Bacon – And Truffle!
That’s right, they set up grilled cheese stations, with one sandwich holding bacon, another truffle!
Chef Keller Speaks!
After 90 minutes of eating and sipping, it was time for Chef Keller to take the stage:
After an inspiring speech, Chef Keller mingled with guests, including famed Chef Daniel Boulud:
And then it was time to dance! The band kicked into party mode, and the rest of the night was for having more fun!
Chef Keller’s Team!
Kudos to the entire Thomas Keller restaurant group – simply the best in the business! Here is the video that Chef Keller posted to celebrate all of the incredible team members who have been part of the restaurant’s success!
What a great night of celebration, and thanks to the entire French Laundry team for a true night to remember! Here’s to twenty more years of food memories!
Cook The Laundry At Home!
And of course, if you want to take on some of these culinary challenges at home, buy the cookbook, written with terrific food Author Michael Ruhlman! Read all about it by clicking on that story here:
Congrats to Chef Thomas Keller, and his entire French Laundry team!
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