Over the holidays, I went to visit my brother who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a Renaissance man – athlete, artist, academic, and all-around-great-guy. On top of that, he has a super refined palate! So when I showed up at the airport, I wasn’t surprised to hear he made several reservations for us between Monterey Bay to Napa Valley.
The next day’s plan was to hit Napa County, which is a 2 hour drive from my brother’s home in San Jose. We left early at 7 AM PST which is 4 AM EST! Fortunately, as my vacation chauffeur sped us along the highway, I got to doze in and out of a nap with the sun on my face (sorry people back home in -30 C weather).
Our first stop was a no-brainer. With French-pressed coffees in hand, we stood in line at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery for our first meal of the day!
While at first I was super impatient and scowled at those taking their sweet (pun intended) time at the bakery, I developed a lot more empathy once I ditched my ‘Outside in Line’ status and became an ‘Inside the Bakery’ folk and witnessed the jaw-dropping French patisserie splendor that was being created. We were faced with tough decisions in there, evidenced by the fact that I spent $70 USD on baked goods.
This is what a small fortune in sweets looks like. My bag was filled with: 2 dozen macarons (a mix of pistachio, salted caramel, black cherry, lemon meringue and vanilla…all with light and crisp outside and soft and chewy inside), Chocolate Bouchons (small brownie-like cork-shaped treats), and my breakfast…
A delicious savoury bacon and cheddar scone. Although light and moist, it was also so rich and filling I could only eat half!
With my closely-guarded treats in hand, we wandered around Yountville, enjoying the sun, checking out artisan craft stalls and felt a similar vibe to Toronto’s Distillery District. Basically we were killing time until our next meal at:
Yep. Bouchon Bistro! (FYI: the line at Bouchon Bakery next door was still ongoing!)
The table bread was straight from the bakery next door. Crispy exterior and chewy interior, I could have easily eaten the entire thing for lunch and been a happy camper.
I can’t remember what was in this cocktail but it was refreshing and easy to rationalize as my vitamin C intake for the day.
I am a sucker for a good French onion soup so I couldn’t resist testing Thomas Keller’s. It was, as expected, perfect. Savoury rich wholesome broth that wasn’t oversalted, and perfectly broiled crispy melted cheese…I was in onion-breath heaven.
I am also a sucker for duck (my favourite dish of all time is Peking Duck) and I guess I was testing the ‘standards’ so I ordered a Confit de Canard. Now this dish I did want a bit salty because there’s nothing better than crisp fatty duck skin with salt melting on your tongue. It’s a fancy potato chip on steroids, really. And did they ever deliver – and it balanced so nicely against the earthy lentils with root vegetables.
My brother ordered the pan-fried trout which he said was quite enjoyable!
Holding our full bellies, we decided, naturally, to walk to Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and gaze wistfully outside like sad groupies.
**SHAMELESS ASK: If any of you know someone who knows someone and can get me on their 3 months in advance reservations list, I will be FOREVER grateful. My brother and his friends have been trying for over a year. Let’s just say, now that I’ve tried Bouchon Bistro, I KNOW I will need to go to French Laundry!**
Of course nobody inside French Laundry responded to our telepathic pleas so we settled for a tour of their farm which is right across the street from the restaurant.
The rest of the afternoon we toured around Napa Valley, visiting wineries, shopping at gourmet shops…basically killing time until our dinner reservations! (See a theme?) Stay tuned for my next post – dinner was Morimoto’s omakase!