The French Laundry Day: The Manifesto, Part II

July 12, 2008 at 2:09 pm (bread, dessert, food, ice cream, photography, restaurants, review)

… in which I discuss the food in more detail, as promised.

Part I

Because the different menus have their own flow through the different courses, I’m going to go through the different menus one at a time.  I’ll cover my own meal, Huei’s meal, and then Mark/Ben’s.  Christina’s was like a hybrid between mine and Huei’s, so that won’t get a designated recap.

First, my meal.  Here’s a photo of the whole Chef’s Tasting Menu.

Chef's Tasting Menu

Chef's Tasting Menu

puffs

puffs

These are little cheese puffs that are made with a pate au choux.  I know these are supposed to be single bites, but I cheated and made it into a few bites to extend the experience.  I probably enjoy smaller bites more than a typical person, so I think this is okay

beet cornette

beet cornette

Three of us had salmon cornettes (which I had heard about), but I was selected to eat a beet cornette.  The little scoop is actually made of hundreds – thousands? – of little minuscule cubes of beet.  I think all that added surface area really intensifies the flavor.  Also, the texture of the fine dice adds another textural layer.  The cone, unexpectedly full of flavor by itself, was filled with creme fraiche.  Do you see that little dot of green on top?  I think it’s chive?  It’s not just for show; it was actually the perfect addition – perfectly sized and a perfect bit of zing.

oyster and pearls

"OYSTERS AND PEARLS" - "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

If I were to start a food trend, I would have to make sure that balls were somehow involved.  The sabayon provided a deliciously magical* base for all the balls.  The caviar added intense pops, the tapioca added soft, chewy pops, and the green bits (more chive?) added crisp and bright pops.  The oyster, while having a good texture and flavor, had a slight off-ness that I associate with oyster poop and mussel poop.  I’m not sure if that taste is really from poop, I should actually look that up sometime, but that’s what I imagine in my head.  This taste wasn’t strong enough to make this dish unenjoyable, but it’s better to not be so poopy.  So lots of fun pops and, unfortunately, also a little poop.  I loved the pearl spoons.  So smooth on your tongue.  Why don’t we eat more things with pearl spoons?

*There are some really good flavors that I have a hard time describing or pinpointing or deconstructing.  So that’s when I start using terms like magic.

brioche

brioche

Our first bread course – The brioche (from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon) had a great crust – lightly crispy.  And the inside was rich and layered and airy.  Rich and airy at the same time!  And it was a beautiful piece of bread.  Because the bread was so buttery already, it was hard to fully taste the butter with the bread.  So I tried just the two types of butter by themselves.  (The sources of these butters is based on our collective memories, so take it with a grain of salt!)  The unsalted butter (from Andante Dairy) was so diaphanous.  Crazy, huh?  Diaphanous butter?!  You could barely taste it for the first few seconds.  And then the flavor of the butter swells, but only by a little bit.  It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t rich.  The flavor was more of a texture – smooth and silky.  The salted butter (from Vermont, maybe Diane St. Claire) was much stronger – very good and buttery.  I wish I had another strong butter to compare it with though – I think that would have helped me to explain what it tasted like.

plum hearts of peach palm

SALAD OF HAWAIIAN HEARTS OF PEACH PALM - Green Almonds, Mizuna and Santa Rosa Plums

This dish was one of the less exciting ones.  The plums, very thinly sliced, were amazing and beautiful.  I would say that was the focus of the dish rather than the hearts of peach palm.  It was well-balanced and refreshing and appropriate.  But it didn’t get me to say “wow!” or “oh!”  It’s weird that the alternative choice for this course was the foie gras (you’ll have to wait for Huei’s menu), which is completely the opposite of this.  Even though the foie gras was tastier, I wouldn’t have wanted a whole course of foie gras and a bite of Huei’s was enough for me.

tartare

"TARTARE" OF PACIFIC KAHALA BELLY - Akita Komachi Rice, Compressed English Cucumber, Perilla, White Sesame Puree and Kanzuri

This was one of my favorite dishes.  Every component was perfect and enhanced the other components to be beyond perfect.  Good choice, Ranyee.

ciabatta

ciabatta

Bread course #2 – Really good ciabatta.  Godly ciabatta.  I bet Jesus’ bread of the fives loaves and two fishes miracle tasted just like this bread.

scallop

NEW BEDFORD SEA SCALLOP "POELEE" - Summer Squash, Toybox Tomatoes, Greek Basil and Spanish Saffron

Pretty classic flavors and combination of ingredients, but they were done really well.  The tomatoes were magic – they were either extra special tomatoes when they fruited, or they added something to bring the flavor beyond normal tomatoes.  The saffron sauce was SO intense!  Look at the color!  The flavor was at least as intense as that color.  Magic.

rabbit and bacon

DEVIL'S GULCH RANCH RABBIT SIRLOIN - Wrapped in Hobbs' Bacon, Baby Corn, Filet Beans and Black Truffles from Australia

Here’s when my enjoyment of the meal started dipping… Everything was good here, but nothing blew me away.  Even the black truffles from Australia.  Those crazy Australians, apparently not learning lessons from all the other species that they’ve brought in that have wreaked havoc on the whole island, have “inoculated” some trees with truffles.  Pretty good truffles, but I hope that this doesn’t screw up their ecosystems even more.

beef and potatos and morels

SNAKE RIVER FARMS "CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILLEE" - Fingerling Potatoes, Romaine Lettuce, Morel Mushrooms and "Sauce Bordelaise"

This dish needed to be at most 1/5 of the size of this.  There was no way I was left wanting more.  The meat was really good – flavor and texture.  But I got bored after a bite or two.  I decided that I think that morels are best for making other things more magical but are not especially good by themselves.  Huei thought the potatoes tasted like ranch dressing.  She thinks they used Hidden Valley’s powder.  The wilted Romaine was pretty good, but I can’t dissociate wilted Romaine from the times when my mother cooked old lettuce to keep it from going to waste.

JUNIPER GROVE "TUMALO TOMME" - Panisse, Fennel Bulb Compote, Arugula and Nicoise Olives

The cheese course on the Tasting of Vegetables menu was better than this one.  The most interesting thing was the mind-blowing intensity of the olive sauce.  The cheese was subtle, but not in a particularly interesting way.  What’s a panisse – is that the patty thing that reminded us of quinoa and polenta?

CANTALOUPE SORBET - Compressed Melon and "Muscat de Beaumes de Venise en Gelee"

sorbet course, closer look

Sorbet course, a closer look

This was one of my favorite presentations.  The plate itself was nice.  And the glistening compressed melon pieces were so beautiful.  This course did its job, but I wish the flavors could have been more interesting.  I guess melon is seasonal.  But then again, there are so many varieties of melon.  Couldn’t they have used more exciting melons?

oolong tea, from Ben Shan in Fujian

Best thing about  the tea is the “strainers.”

dessert

"REGAL DE FRUITS ROUGES AU RAMARIN" - Rosemary-Scented Genoa Cake, "Creme Patisseriere" and Summer Berries

I thought rosemary and berries were an interesting combination.  The cake almost had a frangipane texture.  The pink sprinkles tasted like some sort of crumble/crumb thing.  It was more floury than sugary.  Notice the texture on the plate – I mean plate plate.  Christina, Huei, and I all got this same dish and we noticed that the berries were placed in the exact same arrangement on each plate and on each cake.  I get annoyed with a lot of desserts that have way too much cake and not enough berry.  This was not the case here.  It was arranged so that you could very easily take a perfectly balanced bite.  My only complaint was that the portion was too large.

coffee and donuts

"COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS"

We got the doughnut and the hole!  The coffee is a coffee semifreddo – a very light semifreddo -that’s topped with a foam.  This is the first time I’ve had a semifreddo and actually felt like it was half frozen.  Other times, it’s either too frozen or not frozen enough.  So simple and so perfect.  I kept thinking “Holy S—” as I was eating this – it’s just a doughnut – but it’s so amazing!

pot au creme, shortbread

pot au creme, shortbread

Here are some more of the extra sweets that we got.  The pot au creme was mildly infused with star anise.  The top of the custard had a little bit of a skin – I didn’t like that.  The custard was very dense.  Very good, but a few bites were enough for me.  The cookie was a really short shortbread.  I was trying to explain to the others at the table what I meant by “short” – because I don’t mean crumby.  It’s the opposite of the chewiness that you get from the developed gluten in bread.  It’s tender and soft.

macadamia nuts, covered with chocolate-caramel

macadamia nuts, covered with chocolate-caramel

The nuts were good – very brittle, not too sweet.  But I loved the lidded pot more than what was inside.

shortbread, to bring the French Laundry experience home

shortbread, to bring the French Laundry experience home

Here’s another case where they are able to put extra flavor into something.  I had one of these shortbreads already.  Texture was very good.  The amazing thing was the strength of butter and vanilla flavors.  I don’t think they used vanilla extract here.  I think they were somehow able to infuse the dough with vanilla bean.  This was confirmed by the presence of vanilla beans in the cookies.  Maybe they infused milk or cream with vanilla beans and then that went into the dough?  I don’t know how they did, but I think I will eat one now.

I think I’ll post about one menu at a time.  So that I don’t get overwhelmed and I don’t overwhelm anyone else.  You’re probably either overwhelmed already or you’ve skimmed over a lot.

Huei’s menu will be next… (Updated with the link to Part III, and Part III.)

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4 Comments

  1. The French Laundry Day: A Full Report, no, A Manifesto, actually, just Part I « Babbling Blueberry said,

    […] when I update this post, you can just click to link to Part II. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)French Intel Report Of The DayTaking It […]

  2. Christina said,

    Maybe credit should be given to the person who did the research and introduced you to the donuts and coffee you loved so much! 😉

    Btw, I have no idea what you meant about cutting the rind off the blue cheese. Were you talking about the veggie tasting menu cheese course? I’m pretty sure the tomme was not a blue cheese. The veggie tasting menu blue cheese was the one that had the “blue” in the rind. The other blue cheese on that tasting menu from Rogue Creamery is is also really delicious.

  3. babblingblueberry said,

    You may be right about the cheese, French Detergent.

    And Christina aka French Detergent did the research and found out about the doughnuts and coffee! Thanks Christina! Everyone give her credit!

  4. The French Laundry Day: The Manifesto, Part III « Babbling Blueberry said,

    […] July 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm (bread, dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review) Part I Part II […]

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