French Laundry: Remembering Lunch at a Legend

Merry Christmas! Here’s a delicious memory to stuff in your stocking: A prix fixe lunch at French Laundry, on May 30, 2003. This meal remains one of my most delicious memories–not only the best lunch I’ve ever had in my life, but one of my top three meals ever.

Because it was late spring, the menu was studded with gems from local farms. Thomas Keller was still basking in the glare of media adoration, still red-hot after Ruth Reichl “outed” FL in her now-legendary New York Times review of 1999. I only got a reservation because Mr. Keller remembered me from a dinner we attended at an IACP convention in 2000 (I was the cookbook editor for Amazon.com, and his French Laundry cookbook won a prize that year). In fact, I got two reservations, one for dinner (thanks Karyn!) and lunch.

Dinner was wonderful, but we wondered why he inspired such a fuss. Lunch, the day after, was transcendent. Divine. Unforgettable. We saw the Light. The exact menu follows, but mere words cannot do justice to the food, which was technically perfect, whimsically joyful, and deliciously yummy. Haute cuisine with soul and heart–a rare combination to be treasured. We ate for 4 1/2 hours, and instead of choosing between options, we tasted everything.

1) Cauliflower “panna cotta,” Bagaduce oyster glaze and Iranian Osestra caviar
2) Marinated Holland White Asparagus, “confit” of field rhubarb and Perigord truffle syrup
3) Moulard duck “foie gras en terrine,” with frisee and black Perigord truffles, with toasted brioche
4) Extra-virgin olive oil-poached Florida red snapper, Globe artichokes, Nicoise olives, basil, roma tomatoes, and “Barigoule nage”
5) Sweet butter-braised Maine Lobster, Yukon Gold “pomme fondant,” garden herbs, and lobster “emulsion”
6) Sirloin of Cloverdale Farms rabbit, fennel and carrot salad, crispy lentils, and a curry vinaigrette
7) The now-iconic and deservedly so “Bacon and Eggs”, a “rouelle” of slow-baked “tete de cochon” with frisee, poached quail egg, and sauce “Gribiche”
8) Elysian Fields Farm saddle of lamb “roti entier,” fava beans, roasted spring onions, and Tokyo turnips
9) “Camembert de Normandie,” slow poached apricots and shaved almonds
10) Espresso sorbet with hazelnut “financier”
11) Sweet polenta cake with Port-marinated cherries, Port sorbet, and chocolate “sabayon”
12) The most delightful assortment of mignardises ever

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Filed under Food for Thought, French, Out of Town

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