I admit it. I was nervous.
I first read about The French Laundry in Michael Ruhlman’s book “Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection” back in about 2001. Hook, line and clothespin, I was sold. Yet, somehow in all of the time since, I’d never made it to Yountville to dine at this world-famous restaurant.
The astronomically high expectations that I had for my first experience at The French Laundry filled me with both excitement and dread. How often have you had utter confidence in a chef only to be disappointed? The best meals often come when (and where) you least expect them. Would The French Laundry live up to my expectations?
Dreams of the meal to come invaded my rest the night before our reservation. In one, we were served a cast-iron skillet puddled with a thick, pasty tomato sauce slopped over frozen battered meatballs. I grabbed the waiter’s jacket, pulling him close, and quietly insisted that this wasn’t fare worthy of The French Laundry. With a brisk shake of his head, he firmly denied my accusations and waved a hand towards the other tables which did have the artfully crafted bits and bites I craved.
Butterflies gnawed at my stomach as I slipped into my dress and heels and helped my husband into his vest and jacket. They picked up pace as we walked the restaurant’s 2.5 acre garden across the street while we waited for our time to enter. I distracted myself by chatting with the gardeners about the squash blossoms and other produce they were sending across the street to the unmarked stone structure where we would dine.
Then it was show time. My senses were on hyper alert as we were invited into the restaurant at the appointed time. As on my wedding day, I silently commanded myself to remember every detail. My first impression: it was so quiet. Six or seven servers sped noiselessly around the small first-floor dining room where we were seated. Folded napkins clipped with the iconic clothespin greeted us as we relaxed into our chairs. A promise of the meal to come.
Look for tomorrow’s post, Part 2, where I’ll share photos of each course and descriptions of each dish.
You can also read about getting the reservation here.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog