Archive for June, 2006

Clementine – Los Angeles

Monday, June 19th, 2006
clementine

For me, it’s been inconvenient to drive through the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd that goes through Century City since it was besieged by the most puzzling display of interminable construction imaginable — I’d never seen a u-turn light before, or needed one so often. But for the businesses that have been largely cut off from that main artery of traffic, it must be devastating. It seems like their only way to remind the world that they still exist is the wild array of signs on the side of the blvd.

I’ve been concerned about Clementine ever since the construction began. I used to work nearby, and walk across Santa Monica Blvd to get there for lunch most days (after using the morning to check their daily specials and plan my meal). That route has long been cut off by the construction, and they’re barely on a functioning road anymore. How can a business survive if customers can’t get to it?

We went there for lunch a few Saturdays ago, and I was happy to see that it was bustling with customers. I think it gets a good local traffic, and I hope that enough food-lovers brave the orange cones and arrows to find their way there.

Clementine is something of a gourmet cafe, with sandwiches, soups, salads, take home meals, and baked goods. The owner, Annie Miler, has worked at Campanile, and she keeps the grilled cheese traditional alive with annual Grilled Cheese month in April and fantastic sandwiches all year long.

I think what I like so much about Clementine is that everything just looks and tastes so fresh, so homey, so inviting, and so elegant. There’s a certain in-the-know excitement there, and I’ve known people to get positively beautific at the thought of Clementine.

Speaking of that, if you do go, and the Tomato Soup is available, get it… for its smooth, pure essence of tomato (note that the Roasted Tomato Soup is a little different; chunky and smoky). The Banana Bread, baked in its own mini-loaf pan and with walnuts on top, is another favorite. Beyond that, get whatever looks good to you. That’s what we did.

meatloaf

Cold Meatloaf Sandwich with Caramelized Onions, Iceberg Lettuce and Our Special 10,000 Lakes Dressing on Country White Bread. I was afraid that a cold meatloaf sandwich would be too wintry for a lunch on such a hot day, but it turned out to be perfectly refreshing. The meatloaf had a fine texture that approached that of country pate, and the iceberg lettuce and dressing were perky and light. I also liked the bits of cheddar cheese in the meatloaf, and their homemade pickles.

Cheddar

Grilled White Vermont Cheddar on Country White Bread with Bacon and Roasted Tomatoes. A perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

marble

Marble Cake. It’s surprisingly hard to find a simple chocolate cake in bakeries, and this one was perfectly moist and chocolate-y, with a fudgy icing; the kind that seems somehow light, no matter how rich and dense. My culinary school experience tells me that it might be made with shortening — it’s just sooo moist and smooth — but I could just be making that up.

carrot cake

Carrot Cake. Another quintessential version of a classic. It has pineapple in it, and is very moist. I appreciated all the icing, too, even if I didn’t eat it all.

thumb

Thumbprint Cookie and Butterscotch Brownie with Walnuts. I was a little leery about the thumbprint cookie whose thumbprint went all the way to the side of the cookie, but that just made that edge wonderfully caramelized from the orange marmalade. Otherwise, its a nicely balanced sweet citrus butter cookie. The Butterscotch Brownie had a nice ever-so-thin crust on top and a molten butterscotch body. Sweet, but the more I ate, the more the caramelized flavor unfolded.

In other news, this was the winner of the 2006 Cheeseball:

cheeseball

Here’s a glimpse at some of their pastries, including scones, banana bread, apricot buns, cupcakes and those brilliant little biscuits with country ham.

pastries

And some of their salads.

salads

And they do afternoon tea, which I have not been to… yet.

tea

Mongolian Pork Chops

Monday, June 19th, 2006
mongolian

Out of Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurants in the Napa Valley, I have to admit that I like the mellow Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen more than the bustling Mustards Grill, but both have excellent food. So, until maybe a CBK cookbook comes out, I’m exploring her Mustards Grill cookbook.

Mongolian Pork Chops is a signature dish at Mustards, and although I really liked my incarnation, I’m curious about what it would taste like their heritage breed pork, as opposed to my Ralph’s (where I couldn’t find a single non-boneless pork chop).  Anyway, I think that the Mongolian aspect has to do with the bit of spicy bite they have, which is so well rounded out by the cilantro.  Like many recipes for a marinade, the experience can either be as easy as pulling these relatively common components out of your cupboard/fridge and augmenting them with some fresh seasonings, or as difficult as an all out jar and seasoning buying binge at the market — or in my case, binging at the market, assembling the marinade in an empty water bottle and flying it on down to LA, where my boyfriend and his grill reside.  At least many ingredients will keep for next time, and it’s a reliable marinade that can be used for other meats, like ribs or chicken, if you want.  And definitely baste while grilling — why not have as much flavor as possible?

Speaking of that, Mustards serves them with Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce and Braised Red Cabbage.  We just had grilled artichokes. They were steamed for about 30 mins first (until soft), and then grilled until they were a little charred on each side.  Something about grilling them makes them extra meaty and deep in flavor — no sauce necessary.
Here is a link to the Mongolian Pork Chops recipe with an article about it.

Sugar Work

Monday, June 19th, 2006

We had an excellent four day mini-course in sugar work at school last block, so we learned how to cast, pull, and blow sugar. For all of these uses, we all made a basic sugar stock out of 10# granulated sugar, 5# water, and 2# glucose (which inhibits the formation of crystals).  It was skimmed, brought to a boil, and then cooled until it was needed for use.
For casting sugar — that is, pouring it into a mold that gives it shape — only powdered coloring needs to be added before bringing the sugar stock to 320F and then pouring it into greased molds on silpats or aluminum foil. We stored these on baking sheets with little canisters of limestone inside to keep moisture away from the sugar. Even so, sugar pieces generally last 3-4 days, or longer if isomalt is used or you have a humidity-controlled chamber.

pulled sugar

For pulling sugar, we want it to be more elastic, so before it is brought to 320F, tartaric acid is added, as well as coloring. The acid gives the sugar pliability, but if too much is added, it will infinitely pliable and won’t set up. For 5#, we used 14 drops acid.  Before it cools, it needs to be pulled (literally, the whole thing, pulled and twisted and folded, again and again) for a while so that air is incorporated and it will be shiny and opaque. It is then cut, cooled, and ready for use once it is heated again.

Our station for pulled and blown sugar work involved a plexi-glass foldable box with an open side and a spot for a heat lamp on top. This kept the sugar warm and melted it, though we also used the microwave for faster results. Sugar cools down and gets hard relatively fast, so you always have to be aware of its temperature and usability. Pulled sugar can be used to make flower petals (and ribbons, etc), and you take a hunk in your hand (wearing latex gloves), and spread apart one side with two hands so that the edge is thin. Then you pinch and pull, pause to let the sugar set a little and then snap it off and onto a silpat to set. When you want to put all the pieces together, you can wave an end of a piece over an alcohol burner so that it melts a little and will adhere to each other.

blown sugar

For blowing sugar, you also want a flexible sugar, so we used about 18 drops acid for 8# stock and brought it up to 320 until we cooled it in silicone molds.  We then reheated it the next day so that it can be manipulated.  We used a hand pump with a wooden spout attachment, and simply encased the end in a piece of sugar before carefully pumping air into it and supporting it with one hand.  The trick here is get the whole shape even and with uniform walls without it deflating or shattering (if it cools too much while you are still pumping in air — it’s just like shattered glass).  You can make spheres, or other shapes depending on how you pull it and if you can make it set without collapsing.  Using an air dryer meant for pets with a fan setting helps to cool and set the sugar.  We initially blew sugar that had not been pulled because that kind is opaque; instead, our sugar was clear, so we could see how the air was shaping up within the chamber of sugar.
It was a lot of fun working with sugar, and I regret that I was sick on the last day when we made sugar showpieces; I even had a candy motif all planned out.  You work with the sugar when it’s very hot, but you just work fast and it cools pretty fast anyway, so it’s not frightfully hot, and you also put it down as often as possible.  Blowing sugar and casting sugar require minimal contact anyway.  The red light of the heat lamp can be a little headache-inducing, so it’s important to look away as much as you can.  Your ability to create shapes that you want is only limited by your imagination with how to work with sugar.  I liked bubble sugar, for which the sugar was poured over a parchment paper brushed with alcohol, and the end result is a bubbly look, almost like a sheet of sea spray.
I didn’t have the time to quite perfect my technique, but check out Ewald Notter for true sugar genius.

Cheese Day

Monday, June 19th, 2006
Cheese Table

As part of our curriculum, we had a wonderful one day Cheese Course last block. The day before, we researched cheeses, and our Chef went to buy what he could find at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena. On the day of, we got a Cheese Course binder all about cheese, and after a lecture and preparing some cheese accompaniments (toasted baguette slices, proscuitto, breadsticks, sliced fruit, reduced balsamic and port, armagnac-soaked cherries), we got down to tasting.

I like this kind of learning about products from the outside world in school, and since I love cheese, it was one of my favorite days at school so far. I want to try to incorporate cheeses into the way I think about desserts/late courses in the future, and if I can try a cheese a week, that’d be a good idea.

Here are a few things that I found interesting:

  • Cheese is curds (coagulated solids of milk) in whey (the liquid component of milk).
  • Guidelines for a cheese plate – serve at room temp (62F-75F) so take out of fridge a few hours before; start at 6 o’clock on the plate and go clockwise for placement, mild to complex cheeses, from diff’t animals or regions, if desired; cut cheeses as close to original shape as possible; the pointy end of a wedge should face outward; have complementing, contrasting, and/or regional garnishes on the plate.
  • The bloom for bloomy rind cheeses, like brie and camembert, are introduced by spraying mold spores onto the cheese and allowing it to grow under humid conditions in a ripening cave.
  • Washed rind cheeses are often especially stinky. They are washed with water, brine, wine, beer, or combo to stimulate growth of bacteria and molds
  • Ammonia is a by-product of the chemical reactions that occur during maturation. If a cheese smells like ammonia, unwrap it and let it breathe. If it doesn’t go away and is rancid/soapy/runny, it’s over-ripe.
  • Cheeses should be stored between 45F to 60F and with 80% relative humidity.
  • When they are lactating, cows produce 120 pounds of milk a day, while sheep produce 4.5#/day and goats produce 15#/day.

We tasted:

  • Fromage D’Affinoise
  • Abbaye de Citeaux
  • Montbriac
  • Comte Bodaz Tunnel Reserve
  • Sharp Manchego Aged 14 months
  • Montasio
  • Humboldt Fog
  • Goat’s Leap Goat Cheese
  • Cheshire Appleby Cheddar
  • Gorgonzola Fiore di Latte
  • Roquefort
  • Cabrales

I was only able to get pictures of them after we all had a go at them, so they’re not the prettiest pictures in the world and my apparently shaky hands have blurred a couple… but, since this blog serves as my culinary memory, I’m putting ind’l cheese pic’s after the jump. Look at them only if you dare.

Also, I was inspired by Cheese Day, so from something I read in The French Laundry Cookbook, I cut away the rind of a wheel of brie and mixed it in my mixer, as if I were creaming butter. After about 10 minutes on medium, it was white and light, just a bit denser than whipped butter. I liked having the taste of brie with such a light texture. It was great on toasted bread, with roasted garlic and black pepper.
(more…)

The French Laundry – Yountville

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
I don’t think that my experience with The French Laundry could be called anything other than an adventure. From the day 4 months ago when I conceived of the idea of taking my boyfriend there for his birthday to making the reservation 2 months ago to the 1am cab ride back to my apartment early Saturday morning, there was anticipation, strategy, pleasure, surprise, and even some degree of challenge.

And it was worth it. We loved our meal. The food and the experience exceeded our high expectations. I’ve been thinking about the food since I left (sometimes just one course, or sometimes one course leads to another), and will for quite a while.

The food is modern, with a strong classic French style that’s tinged with an American sensibility. Unlike what I’ve heard about, say, El Bulli and The Fat Duck, the French Laundry doesn’t go to pyrotechnic or molecular lengths for its guests; of course, I’d love to go to those restaurants, but The French Laundry just has a different style. I think the key to its cuisine is using classic techniques and combinations to create new dishes that are exciting for their taste and form, and yet retain a degree of familiarity. During the meal, my most frequent thought was “This is how (blank) should taste,” as if the offerings were Platonic Forms. Looking through The French Laundry cookbook in the months before, I was struck by such a profusion of dishes that are versions of classics, like “coffee and doughnuts,” “caesar salad,” “soup and sandwich, “liver and onions,” and “surf and turf.” Of course, its “surf and turf” is Sauteed Monkfish Tail with Braised Oxtails, Salsify, and Cepes, so rest assured, the air is filled with innovation. There are many completely original dishes, as well.

Oddly enough, though, there was no wine pairing to go with the menu. I was prepared to go all out for this because I reasoned that the cost of it would be the equivalent, or less, of a wine pairing class and I’d learn quite a bit, but no go. Instead, there are many wines offered by the glass (at least $20 each, if I remember correctly) and half-bottle that can be served every course or however often you want, and you can discuss your preferences with your server. On the one hand, that’s cool that you take part in your own wine pairing menu and our wonderful server gave fantastic suggestions, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded just being in their care for that. On a pragmatic third hand, our cost for wine ended up being exactly half that of what I projected to be the cost of two wine pairings, so it did also save money.

By the way, Chad and I almost didn’t make it to The French Laundry that night. My stomach staged a vicious revolt that morning and I hadn’t eaten all day (the second part being a good thing, since the portions may look small but are actually quite substantial once you get into them), and Chad missed his flight to Oakland that afternoon (but managed to fly into SFO 2.25 hours later). By the time we had to leave my apartment, we were so ready for food and alcohol that we called for a taxi so that we wouldn’t have to worry about drinking. Both ways, the drivers from Napa Valley Cab were very friendly; it’s about $25 one way from Napa to Yountville.

So, here’s the French Laundry story. It’s long… You may feel like you’ve gone through the whole French Laundry experience yourself by the end (woohoo, for free). The whole dinner, including a tour of the kitchen, lasted about 3.5 hrs…

We got there exactly at 9pm for our table, but we waited 20 mins for our table. We were offered beverages, but we just perused the wine and food menus and admired the soothing foyer that curiously resembled a spa foyer to me.

We were eventually seated at a table on the second floor, in an intimate room with only one table for four and two tables for two.

gougeres

Gruyere Gougeres. The gooey cheese center and the light, airy choux pastry were a perfect accompaniment to settling in and relaxing into the restaurant after such a crazy day. I believe that before the gougeres, we spoke in slightly-dazed whispers, but afterwards, we found our voices again.

I think that I first heard about Thomas Keller from an article that talked about these gougeres, but I’d always imagined them as walnut-sized, instead of their marble-sized true selves. This set one theme for the night: I may have had some idea about what the French Laundry was about, but everything was slightly different in an interesting way.

cornets

Cornets: Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche. Keller got the idea for these cornets at a Baskin-Robbins, and they’re just so much fun; even the napkins are folded just right. At first, I was concerned that all the salmon was on top, and that eating through the creme fraiche-filled cornet would become monotonous, but the salmon flavors lingers enough as you eat the cornet to flavor the whole thing. Then the biggest surprise of all were the black sesame seeds in the cornet that provided a long finish for this amuse.

Now I wish that I’d gotten a better picture of the stand designed by Keller that they bring them out on; this article says it costs $250.

oysters

Oysters and Pearls: Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Beau Soleil Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar. When I saw pictures of this before, it always looked like the size of a soup bowl, so I surprised that this serving is about the diameter of a tea cup… but that makes sense, because it is so rich and intense. In fact, it was served with an elegant cloche on top, which added just a perfect little suspense and awe until it was whisked off.

This is a perfect dish, so sensuous – every element is so smooth in its own unique way, and full of flavor from the sea; the cookbook says that oyster juice is in the sabayon and sauce. Malpeque oysters and osetra caviar have also been used in the past.

I had a Pierre Gimonnet 1er Cru Blanc de Blanc NV with this, and Chad kept it local with a Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc NV.

butter

Roll and Butters. Although not technically a course, I think that this deserves its own special mention b/c of that butter on the left, which apparently comes from four cows in Vermont. This is how butter should taste; the ultimate of smooth and butter flavor. Incidentally, it’s salted. On the right is a butter from Marin Country, I believe from Straus, which was good, but it’s hard to beat those four cows in Vermont.

The roll was good, but I was expecting it to be better. It is, after all, baked with a pat of butter into it. It was soft and sinewy like a good dinner roll, but was just good. It would have been very good if it had been warm.

gnocchi

Fricassee of Hand-Rolled Gnocchi: San Marzano Tomato Marmelade, Wild Arugula Leaves and Blossoms with Shaved Bottarga di Muggine. The gnocchi were so light and luscious, and the shaved mullet roe was amazing with the tomato marmelade; salty and acid-y and kinetic, with the gnocchi almost as a soft backdrop. The Bottarga di Muggine was shaved over the dish at the table like a truffle.

We then got a Kofererhof Kerner 2004 Riesling, which was a dry, mineral-ish riesling, nothing like the sweet kinds.

asparagus

Salad of Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus: Pickled Ramp Bulbs, Garden Mache and Sauce Gribiche (a sauce, I believe, of mustard, eggs, cornichons, capers, and the like). Chad got this and loved it.

kahala

Sauteed Fillet of Pacific Kahala: Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, French Laundry Garden Radish and Young Ginger Gastrique. Kahala is a rather dense white fish, and I liked the fresh hearts of palm — which were not at all like the water-y, metallic kind from a can. I also liked the simple radishes as an accompaniment.

The other choice for this course was Boudin of Lake Erie Walleye Pike: Cream of Arrowleaf Spinach au Gratin, Sunchokes, Toasted Almonds, and Preserved Meyer Lemon.

rolls

Our second roll serving: I got the pretzel and ciabatta. Chad went for the mini-baguette and pretzel.

lobster

Maine Lobster Tail Cuite Sous Vide: Roasted Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, English Peas, Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Black Truffle Emulsion. Amazing. Read the description of this dish slowly five times, and just imagine the taste. Perfect. And surprisingly, the roasted hearts of Romaine Lettuce were showstopping; deep and rich, somehow, while still retaining its Romaine-ness.

Chad got an HDV Chardonnay, Carneros, 2003 with this.

rabbit

Jambonette of Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit: Melted Jacobsen’s Farm Swiss Chard, Yukon Gold Potato Puree and Blis Maple Syrup. Ok, the swiss chard was over-salted, but everything else was great, including the micro chervil from their garden. I wish I remembered how they prepared the rabbit exactly, but it involved confit, and it was just so moist and flavorful, with a boost of herbs, with a perfectly crispy fried exterior. The little bone thrust into it was cute, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the rabbit that was in this and the cook who hacked away to get these perfect splinters of bone; then again, that’s the world of any food prep. The puree was so smooth and perfect; and the blis maple syrup a stroke of genius.

I started to feel a little full at this point. I remember working with the cracked open jambonette for a while, trying to pace myself.

The other choice for this course, with a $30 supplement, was Moulard Duck Foie Gras Poele: Slow-Baked Royal Blenheim Apricot, Belgian Endive, and Green Peppercorn Jus.

Beef

Snake River Farm Calotte de Boeuf Grillee: Globe Artichoke, California Cepe Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions and Sauce a la Barigoule. A wonderful earthy dish, with just a touch of seasoning on the beef for add’l sparks of flavor. It was so tender and juicy and full of flavor, and the light vegetables that went with it were a wise choice.

I was very full at this point, but it was so good. I applied myself to the challenge, and I. ate. it. all.

We had a 2003 Vall Lach Embriux Priorat with this, which had a subtle, succulent raspberry start for me that went into blackberries and then a smooth finish.

cheese

Ossau Vieille: Marinated Savoy Cabbage, Sweet Carrot Emincee, Caraway. It’s too bad this course was served after my stomach rebelled; at any other time, I would have curled my arm around the plate and gone gluttonously to work on this sheep’s milk cheese and garnishes. As it was, I ate one bite. A glorious, pungent bite.

I do question the use of such a strong cheese course here. After such an onslaught of dishes, I might have been able to handle a subtler, more comforting course; instead it was like a taunting poke to a full stomach.

sorbet

Armando Manni Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Sorbet: Cornmeal Financier and Coulis de Framboise. We loved the olive oil sorbet (which is made with egg yolks), which the pastry chef later told us gets mixed reactions. It was so creamy and with just the right olive oil flavor, and the cornmeal and raspberry coulis were genius accompaniments. I ate most of it, no matter the consequences. After all, it was rather comforting.

coffee

Coffee and Donuts: Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts. This is a classic French Laundry dessert, and was amazing. A fresh, hot donut with a cold semifreddo lying beneath hot milk foam. I love different temperatures in one dish. And the cappuccino flavor is so deep and good; the cookbook says it’s made with espresso extract… who knew. I also like how the hole is served with the circular donut, and who knew that TFL makes one of the best donuts in the world. I ate the whole donut, but couldn’t finish all the semifreddo.

malt

Malt Teaser: Valhrona Jivara Chocolate Malt Creme Bavarois, Candied Cocoa Nibs, Baked Meringues, and Malt Ice Cream. Finally, I met a Bavarian cream that I like. A lot. The flavor, and the simple, yet elegant shape, as well as the aesthetics of the entire dish. Again, the title of this says it all. Each element perfect on its own, and all together. I, however, could only eat a fourth of it, but I think about it. Often.

butterflies

And so began an onsalught of fabulous mignardise and extra treats. Phyllo Dough Butterflies.

macad

Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nuts.

passion

This involved Passionfruit and Cassis (I think) and was given to Chad, but I can’t remember the details.

brulee

Creme Brulee.

chocolates

Chocolates.

box

Chocolate Box designed by Keller with Pistachio Fudge, Mints, and more Chocolates.

shortbread

Shortbread Cookies to take home. Our hospitable server also wrapped up the treats above. I’m trying not to hoard them too much.

lamps

We were alone in the dining room at this point, so I took pic’s. Here are their lamps. Those symbols on the lamps? Laundry symbols.

table

The table next to us.
We were invited to tour the kitchen, where we met the fabulous people who prepared our food, including the talented chef de cuisine, Corey Lee. Thomas Keller was not there, though we were shown a little booth adjacent to the kitchen where he oversees things when he is there (one article I read mentioned that he is switching over from being a team player to the coach… esp since he has so many projects going on). They were sharing a bottle of wine as they went over the meu for the next day. We saw the plasma TV that shows the goings on at Per Se; here’s an article about that feature. It was 1am at that point, and so 4am in New York… and there someone was on the screen, scrubbing away in that sister immaculate kitchen. And Chad noticed a sign with the definition of “Finesse” over TFL kitchen threshold on our way out.

So, we called a cab and waited outside, the last guests to leave the restaurant. An employee came out to go home and seeing us, asked us about how we were getting home… and he actually offered us a ride. We demurred, since we didn’t want to abandon the taxi that was on its way, but … wow… that’s a commitment service.

Additional Notes:

  • The French Laundry is one of the few restaurants that sticks to its Jacket Required policy. I felt bad that Chad had to invest in one to enjoy his birthday present, but… well… I’d never seen him in a suit before, and I rather liked it on him.
  • The servers are very down to earth and friendly, but if you’re serious about food, I think it’s best to make that apparent to them early on by asking questions and maybe sharing your background (for instance, my going to culinary school for baking and pastry). Perhaps they don’t want to be intrusive, but I found that we didn’t have very personalized service so much until we made the moves towards wanting to know more.
  • When I confirmed on their voicemail system 3 days ahead, I stressed that it was my boyfriend’s birthday. Nothing was done about this, though; and I didn’t feel acting like I was 15 and “going to the bathroom” so that I could trail the waiter to let him know about the birthday or simply announcing the fact of the day of his birth at the table. I’d thought that the voicemail msg would be enough.
  • Oddly enough, too, when they announced that our table was ready, they addressed my boyfriend, Chad, as “Mr. (my last name that the reservation was under),” which was weird, and the wine list was given de facto to him at the table.
  • Although we talked a lot about The French Laundry when we were at Cyrus, I have to admit that we didn’t talk about Cyrus at the French Laundry. BUT, the next time I crave The French Laundry and I don’t have scads of money at my disposal, I might just plan to go to Cyrus instead; and frankly, you could probably only go to the French Laundry and really appreciate it, at the most, once every few months, but Cyrus, especially given their flexible menu, could be gone to more often. I also have to admit, though, that part of the fun of being at the French Laundry is the cachet and event of it. If the French Laundry and Cyrus had equal worldwide renown and cost (and back in the day, TFL cost much less than $210/person; in 1994, it was $49/person according to this article), I’d give the edge to TFL b/c I think that the food was just a bit more amazing, but Cyrus is still wonderful, and I’d love to see what they would do with their food if they charged $210/person; it would be a totally different comparison then.
  • The people who would benefit from this tidbit won’t need it: I believe that VIP’ed guests are given about double the number of courses. Given that my stomach only just made it through the 6th course, I was ok to live without it… I guess. 🙂
  • For those of you into numbers: 24 photos are in this post.
  • When you arrive, your napkin is tucked into a clothes pin that says The French Laundry. You get to keep it.