Ad Hoc – 12/28/09

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599

Fried chicken night. Served every other Monday, this is probably the most famous dish served at the restaurant. So popular, the chicken brine and mix is sold at Williams-Sonoma (which I’ve tried to make). So, I had to come out and try it here for myself…and I’m glad I did.

 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

The menu for the night, of course, centered around the fried chicken. There was also a celery and apple salad, cheese course, and ice cream sundaes as the other courses. Note that the menu is signed by chef Dave Cruz.menu2 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

Celery and Apple Salad
arkansas black, pink lady & sierra beauty apples, little gem lettuces, herbed walnuts, creamy celeriac dressingsalad1 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

There’s not a ton of celery in this dish, but celery and apples do work as a combination. The apples were crunchy and sweet.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
butter braised radishes & kohlrabi, tfl garden pea shoots, brussels sprouts, yukon gold potatoes

chicken medium Ad Hoc   12/28/09

Ah, yes. What I came here for – the chicken. It was cooked a little darker than I expected, but it was very crispy. The meat was extremely tender and moist – the brine does wonders for the chicken. Delicious.chicken close medium Ad Hoc   12/28/09

side Ad Hoc   12/28/09

The accompaniment to the chicken was this small dish of potatoes, radishes, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, and pea shoots. This dish was fine, but the highlight here was definitely the chicken…so much so, that we asked for more (staff at The French Laundry earlier had recommended doing so). I was surprised by how moist the breast meat was, as that’s much harder to do than the dark meat.

chicken2 Ad Hoc   12/28/09

They brought out one more piece for everyone – definitely worthwhile to ask for.

Crawford Family Farm’s Vermont Ayr
cranberry quickbread, persimmon jamcheese Ad Hoc   12/28/09

This cheese was very mild. The housemade cranberry bread and persimmon jam were both good.

Ice Cream Sundaes
popcorn ice cream, peanut brittle, chocolate sauceice cream Ad Hoc   12/28/09

Popcorn ice cream, peanut brittle, chocolate sauce…sounds wonderful. And it was. The popcorn ice cream was nicely flavored, and went well with the peanut brittle and chocolate sauce.ice cream sundae Ad Hoc   12/28/09

This was definitely a great meal, and I was stuffed after eating all that chicken. Ad Hoc fried chicken night lives up to its expectations and produces some very moist and flavorful chicken with a nice crunchy batter. I hope to be back for fried chicken next time I am in the area, but I also want to try some of the other dishes Ad Hoc has to offer.

The French Laundry – 12/23/09

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

The French Laundry is a food temple – a trek that any gourmand in America must make at least once in their lifetime. I first went in July of 2004, and it was easily the most anticipated meal of my life. I remember not being able to sleep much the night before. The restaurant had just gone through a renovation and had not announced an official re-opening date. I was playing around on OpenTable one night and stumbled upon an availability.  I remembered having to wake my dad to tell him this news, and use his credit card in order to confirm this reservation.

I had gone again in December of 2006, and now in 2009, figured it was time for a re-visit. It’s gotten noticeably easier to get a reservation on OpenTable. With a little persistence, I was able to snatch a 5:30 (in my opinion, the ideal time for a group not staying overnight) reservation over the Christmas holiday. Armed with a new camera (thanks Angela!), I was excited for this next trip.

fl sign2 The French Laundry   12/23/09

fl restaurant medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

Upon entering the premises, you walk into a garden and outdoor waiting area.

front medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

The famous blue door entrance to the restaurant.

door medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

The dining room is cozy and has a very warm and elegant feel to it.

dining room medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

dining room2 medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

Each table is set up with fresh flowers and the signature clothespin holding the napkin together.

table medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The menu has two options: the chef’s tasting menu and the tasting of vegetables. The menu for the day is here: French Laundry menu – 12/23/09 and the chef’s tasting menu, which we all had, is shown below. There was also an optional supplement offering white truffles from Alba, shaved over an option of housemade tagliatelle, gnocchi, or a Carnaroli risotto.

menu medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

The amuse bouche served here have been staples over the years. The first is the Gougères, which are cheez-it flavored light cheesy bread puffs.

gougeres medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The second is the salmon tartare coronet with creme fraiche. Simple and tasty, they make a great start to the evening.

coronet medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

Next was the first main dish of the night, also a staple of the menu.

“OYSTERS AND PEARLS”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

oyster pearl medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This is a really creative dish and a nice play on words. The oysters are trimmed and set into this tapioca sabayon with a dollop of caviar. Really delicious.

The next course had an option of a winter squash soup and a foie gras terrine.

SPICED WINTER SQUASH SOUP
Chestnuts, Arkansas Black Apple, Watercress and Maple

soup medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

There was not much to the soup. It tasted of squash with a little spice, but not much else.

MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS EN TERRINE”
Flowering Quince, Honey-Poached Cranberries, Celery Branch and Black Truffle

terrine medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was pretty good as a terrine goes, as I usually do not like them. The accompanying brioche was delicious and came with three finishing salts.

The next course, a seafood one, was a choice between a bass and scallops.

SHALLOT-CRUSTED ATLANTIC STRIPED BASS
Salsify, Spinach, “Soubise” and Red Wine Reduction

striped bass medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was a great dish with a nice crust and a moist flesh. Definitely cooked well.

NANTUCKET BAY SCALLOPS “POÊLÉES”

Cauliflower, Satsuma Mandarin, Pine Nuts, Arugula and Niçoise Olive “Paint”

scallops medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09


This was one of the more disappointing dishes of the night. I definitely prefer sea scallops to bay scallops because they’re just meatier and less prone to being overcooked. I don’t think the scallops were overcooked in this case, but the olive ‘paint’ was just way too overpowering for this dish.

The next dish, served to everyone, was a highlight.

SWEET BUTTER-POACHED MAINE LOBSTER
Forest Mushroom “Pain Perdu,” Sunchokes, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate “Aigre-Doux”
The lobster was cooked beautifully. The mushroom ‘bread’ was a nice earthy accompaniment, and the brussels sprouts and pomegranate were also a good compliment.

lobster medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

SHAVED WHITE TRUFFLES OVER CARNAROLI RISOTTO

After the lobster course was the truffle supplement. I chose the white truffle to be shaved over the risotto. This dish is quite an experience as well, as the server will bring the huge truffle around in a box to be smelled and then will proceed to shave it on top of the risotto. It was then finished with a little brown butter.

risotto medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The risotto, prepared with shallots, butter and grated truffle, was really well-made on its own. The truffles, as well as the brown butter, completed the dish and made it unforgettable.

risotto2 medium2 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09


The next course was an option between white quail and rabbit shoulder.

WOLFE RANCH WHITE QUAIL
Chorizo, Cardoons, Sweet Peppers, Panisse, Spanish Capers and “Pimentón”

white quail medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This dish was the single most surprising for me of the night.  White quail, as explained by the server, was a cross-breed between chicken and quail. I had never heard of this, let alone tried it, so I had to order it…and was glad I did. The breast was so juicy and moist, shocking as it was white meat (closer to chicken than quail).  The leg was good as well, but by comparison, paled compared to the breast.

“ÉPAULE DE LAPIN FARCIE AU CERVELAS”
Baby Fennel, Michigan Sour Cherry, Pistachio and “Sauce Périgourdine”

rabbit medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09


The rabbit shoulder was stuffed and glazed. Not a bad dish, but it wasn’t as good as the white quail.

ELYSIAN FIELDS FARM LAMB SADDLE
“Pommes Purée,” Nantes Carrots, Snap Peas and Béarnaise Reduction

lamb 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The lamb is prepared sous vide for 80% of the cooking, and seared for browning the rest of the way. This was a great piece of meat that was juicy and tender, and not too gamey.

The next course was the cheese course. Not being a fan of the cheese course, I opted to substitute this out for a potato gnocchi dish. Everyone else, however, stuck with the cheese.

“SCHARFE MAXX”
Hobbs’ Bacon, Roasted Romaine Lettuce and Tomato Compote

cheese medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The substitute dish, a russet potato gnocchi, served with brown butter and grated black truffle, was very simple and good.

gnocchi medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

Next, the first of three desserts.

“DARK AND STORMY”
Maui Gold Pineapple Sorbet, Spiced Gingerbread and Gros Michel Bananas

dark stormy medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was a light dessert, serving to cleanse the palate and give a sweet introduction to dessert courses.

Our next dessert was specifically requested off the menu, due to the fame it’s garnished over the years. Luckily for us, the kitchen obliged.

“COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS”
Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

coffee donut medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was probably the best doughnut I’ve ever had. Warm and soft – it was just delicious. The semifreddo had a rich coffee flavor to it (I took a scoop to show the “coffee” under the “milk froth”), but the highlight was really the doughnut.

The final dessert was a choice between two dishes.

“GÂTEAU SAINT NIZIER AU MANJARI”
Mango-Chili Relish, Valrhona Cocoa Nibs, Lime Foam and Coconut Milk Sorbet

choc cake medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was a flourless chocolate cake, and I really liked the coconut milk sorbet. The lime foam, topped with sea salt, was not really necessary, in my opinion.

BAKEWELL TART
Huckleberries, Marcona Almonds and Crème Fraîche Sherbet

tart medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

This was an interesting dish. A little bit doughy, a little fruity – this would be a nice end to the meal.

MIGNARDISES

The mignardises for the night included a pecan tart, caramel and chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and assorted chocolates.

pecan tart medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

choc medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

The pecan tart and macadamia nuts were not remarkable, but the chocolates were good, especially the pumpkin (orange and white colored at top). Unfortunately, we were so full that we were not able to try all of the flavors.

At the end of the meal, the bill comes out on a laundry tag, a fun touch that the restaurant has had since its inception.

laundry tag medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

In addition, we each got some shortbread cookies to take home.

shortbread medium 500x332 The French Laundry   12/23/09

We were lucky enough to be invited into the kitchen at the end of our meal.

kitchen medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

kitchen2 medium The French Laundry   12/23/09

We were told that Thomas Keller had been in the kitchen and left an hour earlier (DAMN!). However, it was great to be able to check out the kitchen, which was spotless. I was surprised by just how small the kitchen was, and how it was able to serve such an array of dishes in such a small space.

In all, it was a great experience. I was a little anxious that it wouldn’t live up to expectations, because they were quite high, and I had been hearing a lot of peoples’ concerns about Chef Keller’s decreasing involvement in the kitchen. However, the restaurant definitely lived up to my expectations and proved to be a fantastic meal.  We were all very pleased, and I can’t wait for my next trip back.

Ad Hoc – 11/28/09

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599

Ad Hoc is located down the street from The French Laundry and Bouchon in the Napa Valley town of Yountville. Whenever in the area, I stop by Bouchon Bakery to pick up some treats. One of my favorite bakeries, it was opened in 2003 to start serving fresh breads, tarts, cookies, and all sorts of goodies. img 0357 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

A look inside the bakery.

 Ad Hoc   11/28/09

 Ad Hoc   11/28/09

As it was around 5:30pm, a lot of the selection was depleted. However, there was still a variety of breads, cookies, tarts, and macarons available.

 Ad Hoc   11/28/09

Their signature namesake item is a cork-shaped chocolate brownie called a ‘Bouchon.’ Notice the stack of them on the left in the picture below, and on top.  Calling them a brownie does not really do it justice, but it’s a closer, more delicious relative. These are a must-try here, and is also part of the signature dessert at Bouchon Bistro.

 Ad Hoc   11/28/09

With my baked goods in hand, it was time to head down the street to Ad Hoc.

I’m not too sure what’s taken me so long to visit Ad Hoc. Opened in 2006, it was meant to be a temporary restaurant in the space, pending a new concept by Thomas Keller (a burger joint was widely rumored). The restaurant’s concept is fresh, comfortable food, served family-style. It is easily the most reasonable, accessible way to sample Chef Keller’s food. Because the restaurant became so popular, it became a permanent fixture in 2007.img 0362 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

The decor is comfortable and well-lit, with a bar area in front.

 Ad Hoc   11/28/09 Ad Hoc   11/28/09

There is only one menu each day, posted that morning. I consider myself a pretty picky eater, so the idea of not knowing what the food will be until that day is a bit unsettling. Given this restaurant’s popularity and the fact that it’s a Thomas Keller restaurant – I had to give it a try. The menu rubric is typically as follows:

First course: Soup or salad
Second course: Main entree and sides
Third course: Cheese
Fourth course: Dessert

The only really predictable part of the menu is the famous fried chicken.  It’s served every other Monday night. On this Saturday evening, the menu was as follows.

First course – Broccolini Salad with prosciutto di san daniele, lola rossa, shaved crimini mushrooms, shaved red onions, kalamata olives, creamy fennel caper dressing

Second course – Prime Beef Ribeye with wild arugula, fingerling potatoes, meyer lemon vinaigrette, and a red bell pepper and winter squash gratin

Third course – Neal’s Yard Dairy’s Ardrahan melted on palladin toast, pickled carrots, marshall’s farm wildflower honey

Fourth course – Buttermilk Panna Cotta Trifle with pear compote, marinated blueberries and pistachio biscotti

img 0363 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

Given that I’m a pretty big meat eater (especially beef), I was excited to see the ribeye on the menu and was wondering all day how it would be prepared.

The courses came out quickly, starting with the salad.

img 0371 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

The broccolini was fresh and flavorful – I’ve lately become a pretty big fan of this vegetable. The prosciutto added a nice saltiness to go with the broccolini and lettuce. I rarely eat salads..I really don’t like them..but this was easy to eat, with clean, fresh flavors.

We decided to try a Modicum Meritage Red Blend to pair with the meat. Modicum wine is the house wine of The French Laundry, produced in limited quantities as a joint venture with an unnamed winery and the French Laundry.

img 0373 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

Next came the main entree – the ribeye. I found it kind of amusing that they don’t ask how you’d like the meat prepared. It’s prepared medium rare – the way it should be. The loin of the ribeye (on the right) was grilled and then cooked sous-vide. The cap (3 chunks on the left) was grilled.  This is probably the first time I’ve had the loin and cap split apart with different preparations. The cap is definitely fattier and more tender, and the loin is more lean with a beefier flavor in my opinion. The meat was served with arugula and fingerling potatoes topped with a meyer lemon vinaigrette. Definitely tasty.

img 0377 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

Now, was it better than what I could get at a good steakhouse? It was definitely different. A steakhouse is definitely not going to sous-vide my beef – typically it’s a sear and broil or just grill.  In the end, I’m not sure the work put into this preparation was better than a steakhouse ribeye, but it was still a tasty piece of meat – and T. Keller is not going to put a simple steak on the table.

img 0376 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

On the side was the red bell pepper and winter squash gratin. This was also a good dish, showcasing the in-season squash and peppers with a nice breadcrumb crust on top.

Next was the cheese course.

img 0378 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

I’m really never a fan of the cheese course and always try to substitute it out for a different course, but in certain occasions (like this one), it’s unavoidable.  This was a cow milk cheese served with toast, pickled carrots and honey. It was mildly pungent, and not really spreadable on the toast. The honey was delicious, and I thought it went well with the cheese. However, it did not convert me to being a fan of the cheese course.

Next up was the buttermilk panna cotta trifle. I’ve had a number of Thomas Keller’s panna cottas before at other restaurants and have been a fan. However, this one was on a yogurt-like consistency with a hint of sourness. Not being a fan of yogurt, I didn’t really care much for this dessert. The pears and blueberries inside did have good flavor, however.

img 0381 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

The panna cotta trifle came with pistachio biscotti, which I found to be very good, especially when dipped.

img 0382 medium Ad Hoc   11/28/09

In all, this was a pleasant meal. As a fairly picky eater, the menu did not totally go my way. However, I was quite pleased with the first two courses, especially being able to try the ribeye.  Did it live up to expectations? Sorta. Maybe not really. Nothing was really remarkably delicious, but I appreciated the freshness of the ingredients, and the food was executed very well.

The restaurant is deserving of another trip, and I know just the occasion – fried chicken night.

Bouchon Beverly Hills – 11/21/09 and 11/22/09

Bouchon Beverly Hills
238 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

For anyone that knows me fairly well, they know that I’m sort of..umm, well, obsessed with Thomas Keller. My first meal at French Laundry is still probably the most anxious I’ve ever been for a meal. In addition, Bouchon is one of my favorite casual restaurant picks in Las Vegas for simple, comforting food that hits the spot every time. And so when I found out Chef Keller was opening up a branch of Bouchon in LA over a year ago, I’ve been waiting for it ever since. I had been monitoring the food blogs and news for any bits of information that came out – expected opening date, the design of the restaurant, when they got their liquor license, when the reservation lines would open, etc. So when the reservation lines were set to open at 11am on Nov. 2, naturally, I was on the phone calling at 10:55am and was lucky enough to score two reservations on opening weekend!

I thought that the food  seemed to be pretty consistent with the other Bouchons (in Yountville and Las Vegas) where I’ve eaten. To start out with on both nights were the bread (baked in-house, slightly still warm) and white bean puree with crostini. I love the bread (Bouchon Bakery is one of my favorite bakeries) and the white bean puree was a nice touch, and good start to the meal.

bread medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

Over the course of the two nights, we tried a variety of dishes. Appetizers first:

Celery root puree soup

celery root puree medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The soup was tasty. Now, I don’t think ‘celery root puree’ is on the top of anyone’s lists of soups to try, and maybe that’s what made this a pleasant surprise. It had an earthy flavor with a little bit of cinnamon – my friend remarked that “it tasted like Thanksgiving.” How fitting!

Florentine quiche – There is a daily quiche each day, and it was a simple Florentine quiche on Sunday, which has spinach, eggs and cheese as the primary ingredients. The custard filling was very smooth and creamy, and the spinach was not overbearing. Overall, a very nice quiche.

Another of the daily appetizer specials was escargot covered in puff pastry.

escargot medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

I can’t say I’ve had a ton of experience with escargot, so I thought this was a great opportunity to broaden my escargot horizon. The puff pastry was interesting, but I don’t think it was necessary. The size of the pastry was larger than the escargot itself, and made fitting the whole piece in your mouth a little troublesome. The escargot was cooked in a pesto-like sauce with a lot of olive oil.  Pretty tasty.

Mussels and Oysters – Bouchon has an extensive seafood bar consisting of lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels, clams and oysters. There’s nothing exactly special with the seafood here – it’s quality seafood presented in a very simple manner. We decided to try some of the mussels and oysters. They were both good; however, there wasn’t anything that stood out about these over any reputable seafood restaurant’s offerings.

Next, on to the entrees:

Braised lamb shank

lamb shank medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The presentation here is beautiful. The lamb shank was quite good, although it may have been a little dry compared to what I remember it being in Las Vegas. There was a lot of meat (which I like) and a knife was not really even necessary. Also, the lamb was not gamey at all.

Short rib

short rib medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

As can be seen, the short rib was a large square, a little different preparation that I’m accustomed to. However, it was rich and delicious. The accompanying Savoy cabbage was nice as well, soaking up the juices of the meat.

Steak frites

steak frites medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

I think Bouchon has some of the best steak frites in the land. This is partially because I think these are some of the best french fries. They’re cut and shaped similar to McDonalds’ with a good ratio of crispy outside to fluffy inside, and seasoned with just salt. Just like that. Good stuff. The steak is a flatiron with a caramelized onion topping and a compound herb butter.

Sauteed gnocchi – This is the only vegetarian entree on the menu (though, there are various vegetarian options elsewhere on the menu), and there’s nothing really special about this. It’s served with various vegetables and a butter sauce. Simply made, but I can see someone getting tired of it after a few bites.

Roasted chicken

chicken medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The roast chicken here is really good. I don’t really order chicken very often, but it was probably the most surprising dish.  It was moist, juicy and flavorful, and the jus adds an extra flavor boost. I’m not totally sure how this is prepared, but it’s a great example of a successful roasted chicken.

Finally, dessert. Always save room for dessert when coming to Bouchon – it’s not to be missed!

Pistachio Pot de Creme – There is a daily custard, which was pistachio on this night. The custard was nice and smooth, sweet with a good pistachio flavor.

Profiteroles

profiteroles medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

These are basically “cream puffs” stuffed with homemade vanilla ice cream and topped with a Valrhona chocolate  sauce.  Each of these parts are executed perfectly, and the resulting dish is just delicious. My favorite dessert here.

Bouchons

bouchons medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The bouchons are a signature dish (cork-sized brownies, essentially) with homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce (the same ice cream and sauce used in the profiteroles). For some reason, the bouchons seem to taste better alone, when purchased from the bakery. I’m not sure why, but even though this is a tasty dish in itself, it seems to be less than the sum of its parts. I recommend trying to get the bouchons alone to snack on later.

The service was professional and on-point – quick but not hurried. Impressive for a brand new restaurant – the service was without a glitch. The staff really seems to genuinely be happy to be there..and hey, who can blame them – the TK Restaurant Group is really a special group to be a part of.

I was lucky enough to get a kitchen tour which was just incredible. Love it. The staff was open to any questions one may have about the kitchen, and it was an experience witnessing the whole kitchen in motion. There’s a live camera feed to the Bouchon Yountville, similar to the Per Se – French Laundry setup. It was a really nice treat to a great meal.

kitchen1 medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The kitchen looking straight ahead – notice the Bouchon live feed in the background, and Chef de Cuisine Rory Hermann on the right in the middle.

kitchen2 medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09

The kitchen looking to the left.

kitchen3 medium Bouchon Beverly Hills   11/21/09 and 11/22/09The kitchen looking to the right.

Overall I had a great experience here. I would say Bouchon is probably my favorite casual-ish dining place in LA, and I will be back.