Monday, March 21, 2011

My Experience at French Laundry

First of all, if you arrive at the French Laundry ("TFL") and they ask you if you would like the shorter menu or extended menu, be wise and choose the shorter menu.  Although the menu states that there will be 7-8 courses total, end of the day there will be more than double that in the presentation, and you will become really, really, really full.  There will be about 29 pictures I will be sharing below, only a few are of the kitchen and other areas of the facility, most are of the food itself from one sitting.  The staff is extremely accommodating, and you have the ability to work with the host to make adjustments or additions to your menu as you see fit. We were able to make adjustments to our menu, both additions that suit our preferences.

The French Laundry allows you to bring wine that they do not carry in their extensive wine list, and if you are looking to bring a high end bottle of wine, the $75 corkage fee is really reasonable when you consider they sell their wines for 2-3x retail.  Even a bottle of the same make and style, but different vintage applies to this policy.  For a party of 4, I would recommend only ordering 1-bottle of wine.  If you're coming here on a date, I would recommend just 1-glass each.  The wine pairing will definitely get you drunk as they are very generous with their pours.  Since I am Chinese, I can't say no to more wine, and I always have to finish the glass.  So judge your self control accordingly.  I made the mistake of opening 2-bottles and along with the corkage fee, we didn't not even get close to finishing the bottle of Robert Modavi Reserve Cab.

Lastly, take a lot of breaks and take your time with the food.  There is no point asking you not to fill up on the bread because the bread from Bouchon Bakery is probably some of the best I have ever had.  You can also request a tour of the kitchen.

On to the pictures:

Oh wow, that was a heck of a lot of food, and we're only about half way through our seating.  Let's take a short break and visit the kitchen.

When you do visit the kitchen, you can throw all of your preconceptions from watching too much "Hells Kitchen" out the window.  They were extremely quiet, organized, and focused on each and every dish they are preparing.

Okay, now that the food has settled down a bit, back to the meal.

Okay, let's take another break and go visit the gardens.

And after some more time has passed, back to the desserts.

They even packed us some of the toasted hazelnut chocolates as well as the Bouchon Bakery shortbread to go!

Finally, some parting words.

We also received a nice keepsake gift from the restaurant several weeks later, mailed to my office.  Our dinner menu, autographed by Thomas Keller himself.

As you can see, there was a lot of food.  Each item served to us was impeccable and executed perfectly.  The waiters and waitresses there were extremely attentive.  The did not crowd us, but they also never let any of our glass go past half empty.  This was definitely an once in a lifetime experience and I feel very fortunate to have experience it.  

Keep in mind we picked the shorter course, with only 2 additions (seared foie gras and coffee and donuts dessert) and received a total of 20-courses (excluding the to go bag full of goodies).  

A couple very minor complaints: I do wish that there was an option where a couple can split a seating.  I know that this doesn't make sense, and there will be plenty of individuals who will be more than willing to take my place, but the amount of food was just too much.  On the flip side, the amount, and quality of food made the fix price seem very reasonable. Lastly, I don't quite understand why men are required to keep their jackets on during dinner for the whole evening.  I overheat easily, and having to keep my jacket on (as a waitress very kindly reminded me when I tried to take mine off) made the experience slightly below perfect as I was fairly uncomfortable. 

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