After gorging ourselves silly on duck the previous day, Paul and I turned our attention north to Yountville. If the city’s name doesn’t ring familiar to you, don’t feel bad about it. A small part of Napa Valley, Yountville is on the tip of the tongue for many a foodie for one simple reason: Thomas Keller. Mr. Keller made his name there with the French Laundry, followed by Bouchon, which was then followed by Ad Hoc. Only the foolish or the rich attempt to make reservations at the French Laundry the day they want to visit, so instead we opted to enjoy Keller’s less expensive fare at Ad Hoc with a few stops along the way. Sadly I didn’t take nearly enough pictures to properly convey everything we saw and ate that afternoon. You’ll just have to deal with my sub-par text while drooling over the few images I do have.
Our first stop off was at the Bouchon Bakery to pick up a few pastry treats for the next days activities. Paul quickly engrossed himself watching the highly skilled bakers making bread through the large window at the back of the store. I’ll admit that on my first visit, I too stood there and watched for a while as people bustled around me. The methods and processes are mesmerizing. How often does one get to watch world-class bakers do their thing?
As Paul soaked in the experience I nabbed a few pastries and three gorgeous macaroons before stepping out of the insanity into the Bouchon courtyard. A few minutes later Paul joined me and seeing as it was nearly lunch time we decided to try our luck at the Bouchon restaurant’s bar. Luck smiled on us as we were granted seats with no waiting. Once seated, I ordered us a round of Pimm’s Cups and a cone of the best french fries I’ve ever eaten. Local regulars kept things lively, making the bistro experience authentic and enjoyable. After some deliberation, we ended up ordering the Assiette de Charcuterie and the Tripe a la mode de Caen.
Visually stunning in its presentation with the vivid colors of the pickles mixed with rich reds and muted pinks of the cured meats and terrine wedges, the charcuterie platter was a piece of art. It was tough to start eating at first. Neither of us wanted to disturb such a thing of beauty, but eventually our stomachs won out and we tore into the bounty of meat and vegetables mixed with curing agents and time.
Next was the cider-braised tripe dish which came in a dainty cast iron pot. Served with brussel sprout leaves, carrots, and pearl onions, this might have been the best thing I ate that day. The tripe was ultra tender, its texture more akin to pasta than stomach. The flavor was magnificent, and if I were to take a spoonful of the braising liquid and feed it to you without telling you what it was I’d wager a good amount of money that you’d ask-nay, demand-to know where you could get more.
See, this is why I have a love/hate relationship with Mr. Keller. His food is always perfect down to the very last detail which is inspiring. Yet at the same time, it’s almost as if he’s mocking those of us that take pride in our own food preparation. “Try as you might,” I can hear him say in my head, “but this is a plateau that you’ll never reach.”
The tormenting only continued as we continued on to Ad Hoc.
Part three, coming soon.