A story about The French Laundry begins with these truths. Food is a form of poetry. Ingredients in a recipe, like carefully chosen words on a page, are composed. Cooking, like writing, is creative, soul-stirring work.
"Cooking is not about convenience and it's not about shortcuts. Our hunger for the twenty-minute gourmet meal, for one-pot ease and prewashed, precut ingredients has severed our lifeline to the satisfactions of cooking. Take your time. Take a long time. Move slowly and deliberately and with great attention." - Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook
I mulled over this post for days, considering how to best express in words what I tasted, felt, and adored about the evening. My pondering led to the conclusion that there is far more to write than what can (and should) be contained in a single post.
For the rest of it—and my word, there is more to say—I'll let my memory go to work. More when the time is right. In the mean time, I've decided to share each course in the dim-lit images I snapped unobtrusively with my iPhone. This is not a poem in the traditional sense. Certainly not. But if wine is bottled poetry, as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, then food is just as poetic to the palate. Bon appetit!
THE FRENCH LAUNDRY IN 14 STANZAS
November, 26, 2012
Some notes on reservations, wine lists, and other details, for those interested.
-- Based on what I read online prior to attempting my own reservation, I've determined that I was incredibly lucky to have a relatively seamless experience. Reservations can be made exactly 60 days in advance. I wanted to dine on November 26th, so I called on September 26th at 10 am, when the reservation line opened. I was only waiting on the line for a few minutes, but there were no tables available; I was placed on a wait list. I also tried Open Table, but came up empty.
One of the best tips I read is that Open Table has three reservations per day: two tables for four (at 5:30 and 9 pm), and one table for two (9 pm). The following day, I went on Open Table again. I hit refresh at just the right moment, and miraculously, the 9 pm slot was available on November 27th. I booked it without hesitation. We had a reservation and were prepared for a late evening, but a few days before our trip, the restaurant called. They had two tables available for the 26th (the day I wanted and had been waitlisted for) at 5:30 or 6 pm. I quickly changed our reservation day and had them cancel our Open Table reservation.
-- The attention to detail was impeccable. From the moment we arrived, we felt welcomed. We were celebrating my husband's birthday, and they even printed a personalized menu. Five people must have wished him a happy birthday during the course of the evening, and they graciously honored our request for a kitchen tour.
-- The wine list is expansive and expensive, so we let the sommelier take care of our pairings. It would be incredibly easy to add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to your bill in wine alone. For peace of mind, I highly recommend telling them up front what your budget is for wine (we gave them a range of $300-400 for two people). They were very accommodating, asked about our preferences for local or international wines, varietals, and checked to see if we should save room in the budget for any dessert wines (we declined). This allowed the sommelier to make choices within our range and pair the entire meal. We drank well. A glass of champagne to start, a glass of Riesling, then two half bottles, a white and a red.