That three-hour-long dinner has somewhat ruined me as far as fine dining is concerned. The problem that arose from that evening is that since then, any restaurant I’ve been to has not come close to the experience I had that night. As I’ve shared with you in past articles, I grew up on fine dining and the five-star treatment that goes along with it.
There were many things that have left a profound impression on me since that night. The impeccable service that I was privileged to be surrounded by, not to mention, the superb food, the unquestionable quality, the exquisite presentation, that completely did me in. The blissful desserts that arrived at our table, were presented like a love parade and included custards, chocolates, truffles, parfaits and contributing to my continued dining misadventures. But the icing on the proverbial cake had to be the stellar wines we drank throughout the night, which were perfectly paired with the entire meal. From start to finish, it was divine and it ruined me (in the best way possible).
My wife and I do our best to go to a nice restaurant at least once a month. It’s our little escape from the 9 to 5. Delicious food coupled with tasty wine in a charming, beautiful environment. It’s something we both really enjoy. So here we are, seven months after the French Laundry experience and nothing has even come close to the level of excellence that happened that night. Shawn Marie and I find ourselves still talking about it, the beauty of each course, the tastes, and it’s usually while we are Ubering home after a night out at yet another wonderful restaurant and try as we might, we just can’t seem to stop comparing everything we eat to our remarkable night at The French Laundry.
I know it’s impossible to make comparisons to a Three Star Michelin restaurant, that also happens to be owned by one of the best chefs in America. Let’s state the obvious. It’s just not a fair advantage. That said, I have a few favorite spots where the comparison never comes up, like ‘In-and-Out Burger’. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if Thomas Kellar could make a burger as good as they do, but no doubt he’d come close. But really, does anything really compare to In-N-Out? Even Anthony Bourdain stops to get a double-double every time he’s in L.A.
The article I wrote about the French Laundry is one of my longest to date. I wanted to convey the experience to readers in a way that would allow them to really get the essence of the night and maybe even feel like they were there with me. So in an effort to do that, I gave a complete breakdown, in detail, of each course, shared stories about the guests I was there with and included the joy and nuances and every wine we drank, and there were many. Here is a snippet of the experience:
Course Five:FOUR STORY HILL FARM POULARDE Toasted Buckwheat “Blini,” Glazed Cipollini Onions, Sour Cherry Jus and Applewood Smoked Foie Gras “Torchon”or for a $125 upgrade you can get a“CARNAROLI RISOTTO BIOLOGICO” “Parmigiano Reggiano” and Shaved Black Winter Truffles from Provence. Maybe it’s my age or the indulgences I’ve had for years but I’m burned out on truffles; the taste, the smell, the mac-n-cheese truffle, truffle fries, truffle-infused salt, truffle risotto, truffle ice cream, etc., etc. My wife and Dave went for the upgrade. What came next was aroyalpresentation! One of our servers carried to the table what looked like a large cigar humidifier. He opened the box in front of my wife and inside were 4 or 5 cue ball-sized pieces of black truffle. He then pulled out a pretty, shiny shredder and began shredding piece after piece of blackness that formed a small mound on top of the risotto. It was a sight to behold. Then it was Dave’s turn and it happened all over again. Somewhere beneath a mountain of dark fungus was his fifth course. I had a bite of Shawn-Marie’s dish. It was yummy, but I’m still burned out. About this time a bottle ofJean-Philippe Fichet, Meursault, Burgundy 2013 was opened and a glass was poured for me, and even though it was a tad young, it had a nose that burst with flowers and citrus. It’s just what the poularde needed against the sour cherry jus. To my left and to my right, my wife and Dave were having one orgasm after another, with every bite of their black truffle course. At one point, I think they came together and made the rest of the table blush with fungus envy.
Here is the link to the full article.
Deep within a lovely conversation the other night, while enjoying a bottle of Kosta Browne, my wife and I have decided to return to the French Laundry for my birthday in January. This time, it will only be her and me sitting at the table. Hopefully, the bill will be much lower than last time. We are returning for a few reasons. One is we love the area and Yountville has many more places for us to explore. Second, we want to see if our astonishment was real or was it all in our heads? We’re certainly hopeful and have every reason to believe that it will be just as phenomenal this time as it was the last time. Regardless, it’s freakin' wine country, it’ll be an ideal getaway.
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine critic, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science, later switched to Creative Writing, and, finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California with a degree in Graphic Design and Marketing. During his college years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noir from Sonoma County in Northern California. As a way to pay for his wine and book collection he works as a Senior Marketing Manager for one of the largest adult sex toy companies in the world. For the good of his sanity, he is a columnist at ConnotationPress.com, where he writes a monthly wine column featuring only the best bottles. He currently resides in Southern California with his beautiful wife Shawn Marie, a motivational speaker for female entrepreneurs. Enjoy John's latest book 'A Drinker With A Writing Problem - A Wine Lover's Retrospective' available at Amazon in softcover, ebook and audio book formats.