The French Laundry
As the season for gluttony is in full swing, we thought we’d add one of the most glutinous experiences to our roster of feasts by eating at the coveted French Laundry. It was Theo’s graduation trip, which somehow justified the five hours of gorging ourselves on food almost too fancy to eat. Robin’s account sums it up perfectly and is head and shoulders above anything I could ever hope to write. Our courses, however, were different, so between the two blogs, you can see almost thirty different courses (minus three of my dessert dishes due to a dairy mix up that left me a bit queazy and not in the picture taking mode).
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My only other comparison to an experience this decadent was at Le Quartier Francais in South Africa. Two years ago on my second trip to the bouldering mecca of Rocklands, we actually took some time out of pebble wrestling to do “normal” touristy things. My trips in the past have solely been climbing focused, minus a cruise to the Caribbean with Granny. So this trip, we took a safari, went to see Robben Island, and went to “the French Laundry of South Africa.” Our friends had recently taken their honeymoon to South Africa and lamented that their one regret was Le Quartier Francais being closed for the season.
We were traveling with friends and fellow climber/foodies from California. After spending much of my climbing life eating canned soup and a bagel for dinner, this trip was a treat. It was a healthy balance of huge days of bouldering followed by rest days of sight seeing and filling our stomachs with good food; a perfect recipe for letting our tips heal. Our friends’ thirteen year old son also joined us for six weeks in the southern hemisphere, which is a feat in it’s own right. While I love my parents dearly, I’m pretty certain that if you sent me across the world with three of their friends when I was thirteen, I would have endlessly protested. But Cam on the other hand is a trooper. He isn’t a climber, but a voracious reader. If we could put grades on readers, I’m pretty sure he’s a 5.15 reader. He read Dune in two days, went through ten Kindle books, and even broke his Kindle because he read so much.
We must have arrived on one of the first days Le Quartier Francais reopened for the season. Out of the dozen or so tables, only a few were occupied. Unlike the intimate feel of an old house which the French Laundry sits in, Le Quartier Francais was modern, spacious and open. With only a few other restaurant goers it felt that the staff of twenty were doting purely on the six of us. Cam, Paul and I aren’t drinkers, so we just had the ten or so dishes to indulge in, while the others got the wine pairing. Not being a drinker, I’m not familiar with how much wine you should normally get with a pairing, but apparently the wine glass shouldn’t be almost overflowing.
Dish after dish came out and wowed us. It provided a stark contrast to the simple meals that we were making in our little house at the boulders. While I revelled in how comical our three drinking comrades were becoming, poor Cam was turning beet red in the face. But again, he was a trooper and actually got into the food, commenting on the smoothness or tartness of dishes.
The food was incredible, just as it was last week in Yountville. I would go as far to say that it was even more experimental than the French Laundry, with foams and combinations of flavors that a humble cook like myself would never imagine together. If you like food, you should definitely add both of them to your list of must experience places. I would go back in a heartbeat to both of them, just give me enough warning to start saving and fasting.
The French Laundry Vegetable Tasting Course (minus 3 dessert dishes):