>> October 4, 2010 – restaurants
I was lucky enough to make a trip out to Napa recently, where I was treated to a blissful meal at the original Bouchon, one of Thomas Keller's handful of amazing restaurants in Yountville, CA. Keller, who has gotten pretty much every chef accolade one can dream of, is a rock star in my food-obsessed world so this was a huge treat for me. If you haven't heard of him already, you may have at least heard of his esteemed restaurant, The French Laundry, which has been named the best restaurant in the world multiple times. Bouchon, which specializes in upscale French bistro style food, is right down the street from its illustrious cousin (and more attainable and affordable too, seeing as a French Laundry meal requires a reservation months in advance and can set you back at least $250 per person). But Bouchon certainly holds its own with an array of epicurean delights that have made this a must-visit foodie attraction in Napa. Keller himself said, "I used to joke that I opened Bouchon, styled after the bistros of Paris, so that I'd have a place to eat after cooking all night at the French Laundry." If they're feeding him, you know it's gotta be good.
When you first step into Bouchon, you walk by an awesome old-school press embosser with a stack of cardstock next to it. Everyone else before us just walked by, but in my opinion, this is a must-try if you visit. Rather than walk away with a business card, you can take one of these cards, place it in the embosser, and press the button for a thundering stamp as it presses the letters of "BOUCHON" into the paper. Course, after we did it, everyone else in the line that followed did it too.
At Bouchon, the menus are wrapped around the napkins, and you can unfold it to peruse the choices for the season. We were here to indulge ourselves, so we got one of everything that caught our eye (I had a very generous host). I think we ended up with the most plates per head in the whole restaurant, and we were proud of it! Here's some highlights from the meal:
As part of our appetizer course, we had a number of selections. We started with the specials of the day, including their salmon tartar. This was a perfect balance of flavors with the creaminess of the crème fraiche, salmon, and hard boiled egg in contrast with the sharpness of the onion, chives, and capers.
We also got a warm and comforting roasted eggplant and red pepper soup. Especially nice because it was a tad chilly in the restaurant.
This was followed by our salad course. I thought the most interesting one was the delicately pickled cucumbers and mushrooms, with crispy crab beignets and a refreshing mint mousse. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Another of my favorite hors d'oeuvres was the duck confit. This was some of the best duck confit I've ever had (and I've had a lot), served with poached apples, foie gras vinaigrette, and a quail egg on top. This paired beautifully with their famous epi baguette.
For my main course, I chose the decadent seafood pairing of black cod with lobster - perfectly seared fish with a herbed cream sauce, and if that wasn't enough, there's some bacon too.
And finally for desert, I had their chocolate bouchons. I figured if they were allowed to share the name of the restaurant, they must be great, and they didn't disappoint. They were served with poached figs, candied hazelnuts and a crème fraiche ice cream. A perfect end to a fantastic meal!
Ok, so actually that wasn't the end. As if you needed any more proof that I can be a gluttonous pig: We then went to the Bouchon Bakery right next store to pick up a bunch of great Parisian bread and pastries for when we'd recover from gluttony part 1.
I also just got my hands on the Bouchon cookbook, so it's safe to assume more of the French bistro will be making it's way to Culinaut in the near future.