The French Laundry

June 27, 2024

The French Laundry

The French Laundry is a restaurant I have dreamed of eating at since I graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in 2006. It's a three-star Michelin restaurant in Yountville, California. This year I decided it was going to happen and I asked my best friends if they would join me.
Getting a reservation is very difficult as they release reservations on the 1st of each month for the following month. You have to be online when the reservations are released because they are all booked within about 45 seconds. Leading up to the time reservations would be released for our dates, I practiced making reservations for 3 months, to ensure I was quick at clicking buttons and able to find an open time slot fast. The day reservations opened, all three of us were online and each took a day. I was able to get a table the day after we were scheduled to leave, so we extended our trip by a day.

Upon arrival at The French Laundry, emotions and anticipation were high. We walked into the restaurant and they greeted us and congratulated me on my recent graduation with my BS in Holistic Nutrition. Our Napa Valley trip and dinner at The French Laundry were a celebration of finishing that degree and beginning my master's degree in a couple of months. Once seated they gave us our menus, which included two options, a vegetarian-friendly menu and a chef's tasting menu. They then poured us glasses of celebratory champagne.

The menu included the logo of the school I graduated from- a special touch.

First Course

The menu included 8 savory courses and 4 dessert courses, but they brought out other surprise courses that are some of Chef Thomas Keller's signature dishes at The French Laundry. To begin, we had two surprise canapes- Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche and "Ritz" Cracker with Caramelized Onion.

Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche
"Ritz" Cracker with Caramelized Onion

Second Course

Next came Oysters and Pearls- two oysters served atop tapioca custard and garnished with Osetra Caviar. One of my friends was a little nervous about this course because she doesn't love all types of seafood, but she kept an open mind and wanted to try everything that was served. We all thoroughly enjoyed this course. It was rich and creamy but also felt light with a balance of delicate flavors. I am not a big oyster fan, I don't dislike them, but I can live without them, and I would really enjoy eating this dish again.

Oysters and Pearls

Third Course

Our third surprise from the kitchen was White Truffle Oil Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout. The custard is served in an eggshell, topped with black truffle ragout, and garnished with a chive chip- basically, a long potato chip made from russet potatoes. To eat the custard, you are supposed to use the chive chip as a spoon, scoop out a bite of the custard/ragout mixture, and eat it along with the chip. This was a fun course to eat, and the truffle ragout was delicious, but I wanted more of the ragout to go along with the custard. Truffle is one of my favorite flavors and I can never get enough.

White Truffle Oil Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout

Fourth Course

The French Laundry has a garden across the street from the restaurant and they source many of the vegetables that they serve from there. It was fun to eat a salad that had many of the ingredients grown on site and you could tell the difference in how fresh everything was. The salad consisted of a base of olive oil "pan cotta" topped with greens, cucumber, herbs, sunflower seeds, and a sweet fennel dressing. Topping the salad was baby popped corn and a delicious cracker. The flavors were delicate and flavorful, without any single ingredient overpowering the other.

Salad of Garden Little Gem Lettuce

Fifth Course

Shima aji is a small, warm water fish found in the Pacific Ocean that is often used for sushi dishes. It is rich, smooth, and buttery. For this dish, the shima aji was grilled perfectly and melted in your mouth. It was served with white asparagus, marinated sungold tomato, arugula, and a preserved horseradish "gastrique." As with every dish we had, the presentation was beautiful, and the flavors were perfect. I tried to eat slowly and savor each bite.

Grilled Pacific Shima Aji

Sixth Course

The Nova Scotia lobster dish was one of my favorite things we ate. The lobster was enveloped in a garden chili butter with Regiis Ova smoked trout roe and served with wilted spinach and mandarin. When the staff placed this dish at our table, I sat there for a few moments to enjoy the aroma that was coming from the plate. It was aromatic and rich with the smokiness of the trout roe blending with the aroma of the chili butter, making my senses do a happy dance. All of us thoroughly enjoyed this course!

Nova Scotia Lobster

Seventh Course

I had seen the bread served for this course on various posts and reviews of The French Laundry and couldn't wait to try it. The day before our dinner, we made a stop at Bouchon Bakery, which is Thomas Keller's bakery in Yountville (side note, you need to try this spot for the best macarons) and I saw these little breads through the window, which added to my anticipation and excitement for our dinner. Bitter cocoa laminated brioche is served with butter, and the brioche is light, soft, and cloud-like. We all slathered the butter on our bread and let it melt in our mouths. It was heavenly!

Bread and Butter

Eighth Course

Next, we enjoyed squab served buttered popcorn grits, cherries, chickpea panisse (which is a chickpea fry), and sour cherry "bbq" sauce. If you have never had squab, it has a texture more reminiscent of red meat than poultry. The squab was smoked, tender, and heavenly with the cherry BBQ sauce. I also really loved the grits. This dish was an inspiration for summer recipes with new and interesting BBQ sauces

Applewood Smoked Thomas Farms Squab

Ninth Course

People think that the plates are small and you will leave the restaurant hungry, but by this course, I was beginning to feel full! The 9th course was lamb prime rib with wild Oregon porcini mushroom tapenade, roasted carrots, broccoli "confetti," and whole grain mustard jus. I usually do not like lamb, but this lamb was tender, mild, and delicious! I loved the broccoli confetti because it was slightly charred, which is my favorite way to enjoy broccoli. If I was offered this dish, I would eat lamb more often.

"Prime Rib" of Elysian Fields Farm Lamb

Tenth Course

The cheese course! It consisted of cave-aged "Comte" and black winter truffle "fondue." Give me anything with truffles, and I know I will love it. Even with being full, I almost licked the bowl because this fondue made my tastebuds so happy. In the center of the fondue was a salty biscuit-like bread, that you would use your spoon to break apart and scoop up with the warm cheese. I need more of this in my life.


Dessert Courses

We were given 4 desserts, along with donut holes, macarons, and caramels. The main desserts included a soft baked meringue with strawberries and vanilla cream, Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream with an aged balsamic "gastrique," cocoa nib nougatine with chocolate caramel, and an espresso ice cream served in a cappuccino cup.

Kitchen Tour

After dinner, they took us to the kitchen to see where the magic happens. The kitchen is immaculate and surprisingly calm. There is a TV monitor that shows the kitchen at Per Se, Chef Thomas Keller's New York restaurant. Under the restaurant is an inscription that reads, "When you acknowledge as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it. Then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy! That is what cooking is all about." 

Unfortunately, Chef Thomas Keller wasn't there that night, but the staff had him sign our menus and mail them to us. It was a magical evening!

The monitor showing the kitchen at Per Se

Dreams Do Come True

Before the kitchen tour, the staff brings a wooden box of chocolates to your table and you get to pick which ones you'd like to try. We were beyond full and could not consume any more food, so they boxed the chocolates up for us to take home, along with shortbread cookies. 

Eating at The French Laundry was something I dreamed of doing and I feel so blessed to have been able to experience it. Everything was wonderful, from the little extra touches to the friendly staff, to the amazing food, and experiencing it with two of my best friends. The night was filled with joy, love, laughter, and tears (yes, I cried at The French Laundry). I loved every dish and would go back without hesitation if the opportunity arose. 


Whether you have a question about a recipe or you’re interested in working together, let’s chat.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.