Laundry time!

I’ve been meaning to write about the meal we had at French Laundry from the minute we were seated in the restaurant. But here we are, nearly two months later. I was clearing up my desk and found the menu from that night so decided I should get typing, before it goes missing again.

When I knew that we’d be visiting Napa after San Francisco, I took a look at the French Laundry website and tried to make a reservation – of course, they were booked up for the next six months. So when we got to Napa, we thought we’d just show up at the restaurant and try our luck.. after all I’m sure lots of people cancel their reservations last-minute after waiting for half a year.

Luck would have it that they were able to find us a table. We had to wait about an hour but they were absolutely charming and served us drinks and let us go and have a walk around their vegetable garden, which was just across the road. It was great to watch chefs running into the garden from the restaurant, obviously to pick something that had run out.

The French Laundry garden

Once we were seated, Simon and I grinned at each other – French Laundry is one of the restaurants I’ve always wanted to try and we were sitting there, about to embark upon one of the best meals we’ll probably ever have.


I’m not going to explain every dish in detail as there were over 11 courses so I’ll just share the photos I took of each one (not the best images, it was very low-lit inside). Each plate that came out was absolutely exquisite – it wasn’t just the incredible pairing of flavours, but also the artful presentation. I stared at each plate for at least a minute or two before trying my hardest not to eat the contents all in one go.

Oysters and Pearls – sabayon of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar

Moulard Duck Foie Gras Au Torchon - fennel bulb, Santa Rosa plum, whipped white honey and pine nut vinaigrette

Three different salts to go with the foie gras

Sautéed Fillet of Atlantic Cod – charred onions, artichokes, toybox tomatoes, arugula and Spanish saffron

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Mitts - Akita Komachi rice, shishito peppers, red radish, cilantro shoots and coconut curry emulsion

Wolfe Ranch White Quail - smoked buttermilk dumpling, Jacobsen's Farm apples, spigarello, red walnuts and sauce perigourdine

Tete de Cochon – ground cherries, Tokyo turnips, nasturtium and Dijon mustard

Snake River Farms 'Calotte de Boeuf Grillee' - bone marrow, hen-of-the-woods mushroom, Brentwood corn, romaine lettuce and jus d'Estragon

Tomme de Brebis, French Laundry piccalilli and watercress puree

Soy Milk Sherbet - black mission fig, young ginger and French Laundry Garden lemon verbena

Caramelia Chocolate Cremeux - Gros Michel banana, Georgia peanuts, Dentelle and salted popcorn ice cream

Peach Melba - Siciilan pistachio, Pain de Genes, Andante Dairy yogurt, biscotti and raspberry sorbet

Coffee and Doughnuts - cinnamon-sugared doughnut and a coffee cup filled with cappuccino mousse

Looking back over the photos, I’m amazed we managed all these courses with such ease. I left feeling happily full but not overstuffed. Each dish was incredibly memorable and I can still vividly recreate the flavours and textures in my mind.

We’ll probably need to go to LA again next year so I’m already trying to figure out how we can take a detour to Yountville.. this time I’ll make sure we book well ahead of time though, we might not be so lucky a second time!

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10 of the best

Travelling for a month in Mexico and California meant that we ate (pretty much) in a different restaurant every night, so I thought trying to pick my top ten dishes out of all these meals would be difficult, but it was surprisingly easy once I sat down and started listing them.

So in no particular order…

1. Shrimp tacos at Taco Fish, Hermosillo

So so tender and fresh, and packed full of flavour, seriously the best ‘fast’ food I’ve ever had.

Shrimp tacos

2. Cheese risotto with sock eye salmon and brown butter sage sauce at Cook, St Helena

I  suggested Simon ordered this then spent the rest of the meal annoyed that he’d gotten it and not me. Hands down the best risotto I’ve ever had, incredibly cheesy but not too rich, the salmon perfectly cooked and fresh, and best of all the brown butter sage sauce. Heaven.

www.cooksthelena.com

Sockeye salmon on cheese risotto

3. Queso Fundido con Chorizo at Restaurant Palominos, Hermosillo

Seriously is anything better than a bowl full of melted cheese (chihuahua!) and melt in your mouth home-made chorizo? I think not.

www.restaurantpalominos.com

Queso Fundido

4. Jumbo shrimps, Water Grill, Downtown LA

I’m actually salivating thinking about this. Plump, juicy and tender, perfectly cooked, served with a delicious cocktail sauce and a garlicky saffron aioli. Love love love!

www.watergrill.com

Shrimp

 

5. Chocolate tart with chewy caramel & sea salt at The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Right, so chocolate tart base filled with flowing caramel, covered in solid dark chocolate and then sprinkled with sea salt? I think I might love you Charles Phan.

www.slanteddoor.com

Chocolate caramel tart

Last mouthful

6. Cinnamon roll, Alamos, Mexico.

Steaming rolls coated in freshly ground cinnamon goodness, slathered in a hot cinnamon sauce…I’d go back to Mexico just for another one of these.

www.teresitasalamos.com

Cinnamon Roll

7. Three Twins Organic Ice cream, downtown Napa/ Sweet Rose Creamery, Santa Monica

The best ice-cream I’ve ever had. Ridiculously creamy, packed full of delicious fresh ingredients. I tried the vanilla chocolate chip and Mint Confetti (mint ice cream with flecks of dark chocolate).

That is ’til we stopped by Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica and tried their salty caramel ice-cream with a good sprinkle of Fleur de Sel on top – absolutely astounding. Didn’t get a photo as my camera broke minutes before this, but that just means I have to go back.

www.threetwinsicecream.com
www.sweetrosecreamery.com

Vanilla chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip organic ice cream at Three Twins

8. Rustic Canyon Burger, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Santa Monica

Wow. Simply the best burger I’ve ever had. Incredibly juicy beef patty, home-made burger bun that was bordering on brioche, just the right amount of melted sharp cheddar cheese, a rich onion fondue, herb remoulade and beautifully cut french fries. Wait, did I mention we added confit bacon to the mix as well? Yep. Went back on our last night in LA to have it again it was so good.

www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

The burger at Rustic Canyon

Burger, cross section

9. Peach Crostata with Homemade Vanilla ice-cream, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Santa Monica

After burger bliss, we almost ordered a chocolate and salty caramel tart, but that would have been a big, big mistake. Recommended by our server, this used in-season peaches and the most buttery, rich pastry I’ve ever tried. The juice of the peaches and sugar leaked a little through the pastry, creating incredible caramelised edges. Not only did we go back and order this again but also went to their bakery for breakfast and fought over a take away strawberry and rhubarb crostata as we sat on the beach for afternoon tea. Simon said he wanted to marry the pastry chef. We could work something out, I’m sure.

www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

Peach crostata.

10. Pretty much everything at French Laundry.

So after seeing that they had an over 6-month waiting list, we decided just to turn up at French Laundry and try our luck. And how lucky we were to get a table and experience their incredible food. A mind-blowing meal, so good I can’t say which was my favourite dish. Possibly all. But the real standouts were probably the oysters and pearls (caviar with oysters) and the butter-poached lobster tail. Awe inspiring.

www.frenchlaundry.com

Caviar and Pearls

Butter-poached lobster tails

The best burgers in LA?

Luis told me we had to go and try ‘the best burger in LA’ (according to GQ magazine) at a place called Umami Burger, where they apparently grind their own meat, pickle their own vegetables, process their own cheese, and make their own ketchup from scratch. Sounded good to me!

We had spent the morning at Santa Monica pier and beach, and by the time we were ready to eat, it was well after 3pm. It took us some time to find the restaurant – the address we had for it was a department store – Fred Segal – so we kept walking and had a look at a few other places including a great deli where we bought some freshly baked peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies (eating healthily has gone completely out of the window by this point of the trip).

Umami Burger entrance

We finally realised it was actually at the back of the department store, and there was no signage or branding anywhere!

Needless to say, we were famished by this point, so ordered straight away. Between us we had the Umami burger ( beef patty with grilled shiitake mushrooms, parmesan cheese wafer, caramelised onions, and roasted tomatoes), truffle burger (beef patty glazed with truffle oil and topped with truffle cheese), the Greenbird (Turkey patty with crushed avocado, green cheese, butter lettuce, alfa alfa and green goddess) and the Pork & Stilton burger (served with port-caramelised onions). We also ordered some sweet potato fries, homemade ketchup and roasted garlic aioli.

The menu - the logo looks like a pair of lips but I guess it's a burger!

I had big expectations and all in all was quite impressed. The Truffle burger was by far my favorite – the beef patty was tender and juicy and the truffle glaze on it complemented it perfectly. The Umami burger was good, same beef patty, but there was perhaps too many other tastes and textures to contend with, however this is meant to be the key to the famed ‘umami’ flavor.

The Umami Burger

The Truffle Burger

The Greenbird

The turkey burger was a little dry, but perhaps it was an unfair comparison after having the truffle burger. the Pork and Stilton was also a little dry, and either there wasn’t enough Stilton or it was very mild, but I could barely taste it.

I really liked the bun the burgers were served in – light and fluffy, almost like brioche, with a lovely glaze on top. Each was branded with a grilled ‘U’ on top, which I thought was a great (design) touch.

The sweet potato fries were delicious – they were twice fried and coated with a mixture of cinnamon, salt and brown sugar, which worked really well. Dipped into the roasted garlic aioli, they were incredibly moreish.

Sweet potato fries

Roasted garlic aioli

We didn’t order more of them though – we decided to share two more burgers between us. After much deliberation we settled on the Manly burger ( beef patty with beer-cheddar cheese, onion strings and lardons) and the Triple Pork Burger (ground pork, chorizo and bacon, served with manchego cheese and pimento aioli).

Luis expertly cut them into four when they arrived and we quickly polished them off. The Manly was a little bit too heavy – the lardons in particular were very salty and chewy. The Triple Pork burger was tasty but the chorizo was the most dominant flavor and overpowered all the other ingredients.

Inside the Truffle Burger

Manly Burger

Triple Pork Burger

Outside the restaurant

Umami Burger
500 Broadway, 
Santa Monica, CA 90401

www.umamiburger.com