Wedding Anniversary in Napa
March 19, 2008
Charlotte and I are off to Napa Valley for our 20th wedding anniversary. We decided to make kind of a big deal about it, while at the same time not going too far from home. We'll be spending a few nights in St. Helena at Meadowood. It's an incredibly beautiful place and our room was fantastic. After the long drive, we walked around the whole property for a little exercise and to check out the view.

Tonight we're heading to the French Laundry for a very special meal. It's a good thing we're staying at Meadowood, since I'm pretty sure we never would have gotten reservations otherwise. If you don't know this place, it's one of four 3-star Michelin restaurants in the entire USA. Let's just say, this might be the best restaurant in the whole country. Charlotte and I both choose the chef's tasting menu, and make sure we alternate selections to allow us to sample everything. If only I could eat the vegetable tasting menu also...

First course was a salmon tartare in a black sesame tuile. It looked like a tiny ice cream cone with orange sherbert. A delicious and novel way to start our meal. Very adorable.

Next came a gruyere cheese grougeres, or cheese puff for those less skilled in French. A tasty little morsel as our stomachs begin to expand. Meanwhile I'm enjoying the first few courses with a nice 2000 Schramsberg champagne.

Then came a course of tiny oysters with caviar. An excellent combination of saltiness and softness. I liked how the tapioca complimented the other elements of the dish. Probably the best oysters I'll ever have.

We both opted to the duck foie gras for our next course. This was paired with cute little toasty butternut squash confit, along with 3 types of gourmet salts. The salted pumpkin seeds were a nice combination. Creamy, salty goodness. Everything is going nicely with my 2005 Gaston Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg.

Our first bread course was a small brioche roll accompanied by two types of butter. First was a rich unsalted variety from Petaluma, and the second a salted marvel from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company. I hear they have a small collection of very special cows that produce this to-die-for butter. Being a big fan of tasty carbohydrates, I have now officially entered heaven.

Now we move to a fish dish (daurade or sea bream) for Charlotte, and a hamachi and uni combination for me. Charlotte didn't enjoy the skin on her fish, but I thought the combination was outstanding. The sashimi didn't really do it for me, as the fish was too understated and the avocado sauce lacked the punch of a typical wasabi-based sauce. I really liked how the akita komachi rice was sparingly sprinkled on the plate, but it just didn't all come together.

Now comes a tiny lobster tail dish that more than made up for the last dish. The lobster included a chocolate-coffee emulsion that really did the trick. Just remarkable.

I opted for the bacon wrapped rabbit for my next course, while Charlotte went for the confit de coeur de veau (or veal heart). I wasn't thrilled with the rabbit, but Charlotte's dish was excellent. She didn't want to be reminded what portion of the calf she was eating. My wine selection continues with a 2002 Ridge Cabernet from my backyard in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Next came my favorite dish of the night, grilled calotte of beef (rib eye cap). It was a bit rare for Charlotte, but that meant more for me. The best piece of steak I have yet to eat. If that wasn't enough, the steak was complimented by a cabbage perogi that was just delicious. I think I enjoyed it a bit too much, as I'm starting to feel stuffed. And so many courses yet to go...

Uh oh, now it's time for more amazing bread. Charlotte goes for the multigrain roll, while I endulge myself with a ciabatta and a rye roll. That Vermont butter is starting to get low.

Transitioning towards dessert, it's time for some cheddar with tasty little artichoke puffs. Very nice, but not blow you away cheese.

the first of many dessert courses, a buttermilk sherbert with tiny cubes of rhubarb was light, delicate, and delicious. Very understated and perfect for my bloated state. I wish they would slow down the courses. We've been here for hours, but it's not enough time for so much food.

Yet another course of bread that we are unable to turn down. Charlotte goes for the walnut, while I go for the black currant. I definitely made the right choice. Wow.

Charlotte went for the trio of chocolate with walnut ice cream, while I opted for the granny smith apple bavarois. I'm sure the chocolate was Charlotte's favorite dish, it was amazing. My apple dish was tart, but not exceptional. It's okay, I'll just steal more from Charlotte when she isn't looking.

We finished the official courses on the menu, but it appeared that they just keep bringing dessert until you relent. The chocolate dusted macadamia nuts were spectacular. A pots de creme custard, then an amazing candy selection, and the inevitable "I can't eat another bite". They try the thin mint thing on us, but I tell them to bugger off. Well it sounds good anyway. They package up a bunch of desserts and then roll out the front door.

I don't know when I'll get back to the French Laundry, but I definitely look forward to the day when I do get back. I hope I can talk some friends into joining us, if they can swallow the huge price. I have to thank my wonderful wife of 20 years for indulging my love of great food on this special occasion.