Wine Dine and Play: The French Laundry

The French Laundry

The French Laundry in Yountville, California is Michelin 3 starred restaurant by Chef Thomas Keller

. 
A Focused Culinary Journey From One Course To The Next
Yountville, Napa Valley, California, USA
Cuisine Style: French
Average Price: $$$$$
Overall Rating: 5/5
Dined on August 2013
Article Updated on April 2019
By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine, Dine, and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:


French Laundry on Zomato:

The French Laundry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 















French Laundry Executive Chef:
Thomas Keller
Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California










Chef de Cuisine:
David Breeden
David Breeden is the Chef de Cuisine at the French Laundry










Pastry Chef:
Milton Abel II
Sommelier:
Dennis Kelley, MS
*Pictured above with chef Breeden*
Maître D’:
Larry Nadeau


Michelin Guide - 3 Stars

Though I have been in food service since the mid-1990s, I didn’t really pay attention or even hear about fine dining restaurants that this world had to offer until I began working in fine dining, and gained a pure appreciation for it. In the summer of 2001, I read a book by James Patterson called “1st To Die.” This book was the start of a series of books about a group of women hunting down serial killers. This was Patterson’s transition from the Alex Cross adventures into a whole new realm of stories. In this book, the killer hunts newlyweds, and in a chapter, the killer’s target is a couple in Napa Valley on their way to the French Laundry for dinner. I remembered the details Patterson spoke of, and a year later a chef spoke to me about the French Laundry, and it clicked in my mind where I had heard the name. He talked to me about how wonderful it was, and that one day I needed to go. As the years went by, I read reviews, since it topped the charts as one of the best restaurants in the world. Finally, in the summer of 2013, I visited Napa Valley for the first time and had reservations for dinner. My culinary journey was about to begin.

The Laundry: 
The building was built in 1890 as a rustic two-story stone house French steam laundry, surrounded by a country garden planted with roses, perennials and seasonal herbs. The French Laundry Restaurant was established in 1978 and has a dining room with 15 tables with an average dining time is 3-4 hours with two unique nine-course prix-fixe tasting menus to choose from. Reservations are taken two months in advance, and cancelations are very rare. San Pellegrino named them the "Best Restaurant in the World" in 2003 and 2004. Since that time they have remained on the top 50 list.

From Thomas Keller: 
“When I was an apprentice traveling through France, I fell in love with the 3-star country restaurants. More than a decade later, when I began looking for a space to open a restaurant, a friend suggested I see a property in Yountville, California, north of San Francisco in the Napa Valley. When I stepped under the creeping roses to behold the French Laundry I knew immediately that what I’d seen in France could happen here. In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. Fundamental techniques that are the foundation of an exciting culinary imagination and a kitchen that delivers the very best products of the earth to the table. No detail or element can be less important or more important than another. Because a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and taken you to places you haven’t been before.”

The Experience:
The French Laundry restaurant is located in downtown Yountville after I finally found it. From what I could see, there was no visible building number, and no signs posted indicating that it was the French Laundry, until walking up to the building and seeing the small sign that was blocked by the sun going down. The GPS was not very helpful either, because it kept taking me in circles. Finally, when I saw a valet in a tuxedo, I figured that I was in the right place. I waited in the courtyard gardens where they had comfortable chairs and tables, and enjoy the scenery. I had a glass of Riesling by Spreitzer “Oestricher Lenchen,” Kabinett 2010, from Rheingau, then followed it up with a glass of Comtesse Bernard de Cherisey, Puligny-Montrachet, “Hameau de Blagny” 2010, during my wait. The Kabinett tasting notes according to the winemaker were floral hints, yet intense granny smith apple on the nose. Tropical fruit like a compote of Yellow apples, peach pineapple star fruit and passion fruit all blended into a rather rich mouthfeel for a Kabinett. Palate with sweet yet tart mandarin orange and sweet apple. Med-long finish. The Comtesse winemakers notes hinted a beautiful smoke and power, mixed citrus, oyster-shell minerals, lovely flowers, a little buttery oak, white eraser, flintiness that's often found in Puligny Montrachet, are all here in a perfect balance. Most of the rich oak expression has integrated completely. Amazing length and finish. Acidity is pleasantly high, yet it's not too sharp. Overall, this is elegant, yet manages a very long finish.


The entrance to the French Laundry opens into gardens
French Laundry / Entrance to the gardens

I felt that since I was going to eat at the highest rated French-American Restaurant in the United States, I would stick with French wine after having the German starter. A few weeks before being here in Napa on my wine tour, I was in Chicago and ate at Alinea, which is rated with the French Laundry as some of the best Restaurants in North America and the world, so, I would be doing a lot of comparisons to see which one would reign supreme. The concepts are completely different as was the food between the two, but over-all I wanted to see what the French Laundry could do to blow me away. After all Alinea’s chef Grant Achatz worked at the French Laundry.


Once my reservation time had arrived the Maître D’ assistant arrived to escort me into the building. I stopped at the entrance to the kitchen to view the action for a few moments. Like any good kitchen, it was filled with hustling and bustling preparing one course after another along with the Chef de Cuisine putting the main plates together at the expediting table, adding the finishing touches to the dish. I was then escorted to my table in the small main dining room. To me, there is nothing worse than a large dining room with forty or fifty tables with servers and guests bumping into each other, being so loud you have to yell at the person next to you just so they can hear you. The French Laundry dining room was quiet and calm. When I went to sit down, I removed my dinner jacket because the temperature in the dining room was warm, and for me a little bit on the uncomfortable side. I was informed that while in the dining room, my jacket had to remain on. I do understand etiquette and rules, but at the same time if I’m going to spend over three hundred dollars on a meal, then I want to be comfortable as I enjoy that meal. I had asked if they could adjust the temperature, but it stayed the same throughout the course of the evening. It was a little disappointing. When I ate at Alinea in Chicago, the dining room was also warm, but they allowed me to remove my jacket and collected it for me until the meal had come to an end. 

The kitchen at the French Laundry and all the hard work the cooks do
French Laundry / Collage of kitchen pictures 










While outside in the gardens I had the wine list and was reviewing it while I waited for my reservation time. The list was over one hundred pages, and they presented it on a computer tablet with the list attached. All I had to do was click on the wine, and the Sommelier would have the bottle delivered. The restaurant had a choice of two menus; the first being a Chef Tasting menu, and the other a taste of vegetables. Both menus were 9-courses long excluding amuse or intermezzo courses. I chose the main tasting, and the table next to me which was seated a few minutes before were vegetarians, so I asked kindly if I could take pictures of there entree courses, which are included in this article at the end.


As the wine selection was being presented, the Amuse and bread course came out. The wine I chose was the 2000 vintage of Château Beau-Séjour Becot, Premier Grand Cru Classe, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux. It was a 70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. According to the winemakers' notes, it had a nose packed with earth, truffle, crushed stone, juicy plums, and tobacco. Refined, elegant and soft. The finish leaves you with a rich sensation of pure, ripe blackberries, earth, and dark cherry notes.

The amuse and bread service at the French Laundry in Yountville California
French Laundry / Amuse and bread

The first course presented of the nine for my tasting was the Royal Osetra Caviar, with a sea urchin pannacotta, Bonito gelée, cherry belle radishes, and a Brokaw avocado purée. The first course for the vegetarian menu that my neighboring table had was the summer melon “tartar” served with Sicilian Castelvetrano olives, preserved watermelon rind, English mint, and a Riesling sorbet.

The royal osteria caviar with cherry radishes and avocado at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Royal Osetra caviar

Course number two on the carnivore side was a “carbonara” of hand-cut Tagliatelle, served with Indonesian Bantam hen egg, Applewood smoked bacon, squash blossoms, and shaved Australian black winter truffles. I thought the first course was good, but wow, the truffles blew me away on this course. I rated the second course as my favorite of the night. The Vegetarian second course was Compressed Jacobsen Orchard translucent apples served with garden turnips, toasted cashews, Japanese komatsuna spinach and whole-grain mustard “Vierge,” or virgin sauce.

The Tagliatelle carbonara with black truffles, smoked bacon and squash at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Carbonara

Course number three was the “Loup de Mer Cuit A L’Huile D’Olive” which was a compressed garden cucumber, with marinated cherry tomatoes, opal basil blossoms, and an extra-virgin olive oil hollandaise. This was a very nice bite that sent my pallet into the opposite direction from the previous dish. The vegetarian course was the French Laundry garden tomato salad served with summer pole beans, opal basil, Burrata cheese, and extra-virgin olive oil jam.

The Soup de Mer Cuit A L'Huile D'Olive at the French Laundry. A Cucumber salad with cherry tomatoes and basil
French Laundry / Loup de Mer Cuit A L’Huile D’Olive

I was an hour into the tasting, enjoying the wine and the overall atmosphere of the dining room, but it was still hot as hell, and the red wine I was consuming just made it a little hotter. The fourth course was an Alaskan king crab “Boudin” which was a truffle-potato purée,  with a celery branch salad, Brentwood corn pudding, and “Pommes Maxim’s” garnished over the potato. The vegetarian course was a summer squash tart with marinated Pattypan squash, black olives, wild arugula lettuce, and a squash blossom pudding.

The Alaskan King Crab with potato puree and corn at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Alaskan king crab

Course number five was the temptress for the entrée to come. I had the Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit “Rillette” served with tiny chanterelle mushrooms, caramelized bulb onions, watercress garnie, and a red wine shallot jus. This was my second favorite course of the night behind the black truffle Tagliatelle. The vegetable course was the fairy tale eggplant “parmesan” served with stewed sweet peppers, charred Spanish Padrón Peppers, and a parmesan mousseline.

The DevilsGulch Ranch rabbit rillettes dish at the French Laundry
French Laundry Devil’s Gulch Ranch rabbit “Rillette”


It was now time for the main event…entrée’s. I had the herb-roasted Elysian fields Farm lamb, with a garden squash confit, “Ratatouille,” wild arugula, and black olive jus. A very nice flavor cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The vegetarian course was Arrowleaf spinach and ricotta “Agnolotti” which came with chanterelle mushrooms, petite onions, summer savory, and sauce soubise.

Elysian Fields Farm herb roasted lamb with arrow leaf spinach at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Herb-roasted lamb

Dessert:
I was now over 2 ½ hours into the meal. The courses came out with perfect timing, not too fast or too long, but just long enough to give you an opportunity to digest and prepare for the next. The next three selections were dessert, starting with an introduction for the final assortment. It began with the Andante DairyLegato” served with slow-roasted garden beets, Silverado Trail strawberries, Tellicherry Pepper shortbread, and Japanese Mizuna. The vegetarian selection was the “Scumidin di Capra” which was a sour cherry “pâté de fruit,” Piedmont Hazelnut Shortbread, and aged balsamic vinegar.

The Andante Dairy legato with Silverado Trail strawberries and mizuna at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Andante Dairy “Legato
The final course was the assortment of desserts, consisting of fruits, ice cream, candy, and chocolates presented in a case, where you choose five absolutely delicious varieties of chocolate truffles, going down with a nice cup of coffee. I arrived for my reservation at 6:30 and it was now after 10:00 PM, which to me is a true dinner celebration. I commend the service staff in the dining room and Mr. Keller’s Kitchen staff. I look forward to trying some of his other restaurants in the future. Just keep the thermostat and a good level next time.

The chocolate cake at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Chocolate cake
The chocolate truffles at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Chocolate truffles

Please see these guidelines for Tipping in Restaurants and on following proper etiquette, customs, cultures, and avoiding assumptions when you dine out.



Other Noteworthy French Cuisine Articles & Restaurants:
14th-century writer “Taillevent,” wrote Le Viandier, explaining French cuisine concepts that were heavily influenced by the Italian city-states. Old French cuisine was codified in the twentieth century thanks to Auguste Escoffier becoming the modern French or Haute cuisine as it is known today.

Aria Restaurant Modern Australian haute cuisine in Sydney, Australia
Bistrot La Minette Charming French Bistro with movie filmed terrace in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
BLT Restaurants Swanky French-American Steakhouse chain (now called Laurent Torendal)
Bordeaux - A Sip and Taste Wine tours and restaurants in Bordeaux, France 
Chef Bernard Loiseau Is Michelin at fault?
Fleur de Lys Lavish French-Californian by Hubert Keller in San Francisco, California
HobNob Restaurant French & Canadian cuisine at The Charles Hotel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
La Colombe Country-style local ingredients w/French flair in Cape Town, South Africa
La Petite Maison Relaxed French-Italian Restaurant at the DFIC in Dubai, UAE
La TABLE de Joël Robuchon Haute French Restaurant in Paris, France (now L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon)
L’Ecrivain Seasonal Irish ingredients with full modern French gastronomic dining in Dublin, Ireland
Le Grand Chancelier Countryside French Bistro in Cheverny, Loire Valley, France
Restaurant Le Gabriel Haute Gastronomique French restaurant & bistro in Bordeaux, France
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud Impeccably prepared French fine dining in Dublin, Ireland
Rostang, The French Brasserie Contemporary Parisian cuisine at Atlantis in Dubai, UAE
Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B) Bistro w/Southern & Lowcountry cuisine in Charleston, S. Carolina
Tetsuya’s Eclectic French-Asian Tasting Menu restaurant in Sydney, Australia
The Brasserie at the Café de Paris A Parisian style bistro rendez-vous in Monte-Carlo, Monaco
The Dutch Kitchen Buffet of Dutch and French cuisine at the Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam 
The Test Kitchen Modern eclectic and Nouvelle Latin cuisine in Cape Town, South Africa


See the whole list by visiting “The Wine, Dine, and Play Article Glossary”


A Few California Favorites:

3-day tour of Napa and Sonoma
Napa Valley, California
High-End Japanese Steakhouse
San Francisco, California, USA
Farm-to-fork new American fare
Sonoma, California








Final notes, review basics, observations, and more pictures:

Most reviews are subjective, depending on the writer; but they should also be responsible, and respectfully written, upholding the truth, and accurately conveying the experience to the best of the writer's knowledge, even if it includes metaphors the restaurant may not like to read about. My ratings are by the stars I award (from 0 to 5). The rating is calculated on a point accumulation of six separate factors based on individual experience. They include wine and other beverage selections, plate presentation, customer service, restaurant or café ambiance, food quality, and wow factor. To see more details of this rating list, read this article:

Overall from this experience and the score factors outlined in the ‘about page’ section, based on my individual experience and rating, I give The French Laundry a 5 out of 5 stars, meaning that they not only exceeded my expectations and were far above the average dining experience of most restaurants, but they surpassed outstanding and were extraordinary.
Scores are detailed in the factor chart below:

Formula Factor Conclusions and Overall Ratings for The French Laundry
Max Points Possible:
Total Points Awarded:
Total Points deducted:
Ambiance
10
10
0
Food quality
10
10
0
Plate presentation
10
10
0
Customer service
9
8
1
Alcohol and other beverages
10
10
0
Total regular points awarded
49
48
1
Total percentage Before Bonus

0.979591836734694

“Wow” factor BONUS
5
3
0
Total bonus percentage

0.0612244897959184

Total percentage with a bonus for the final star rating

1.04081632653061

Stars Awarded (see chart below)
             0 - 5
5

**A full break down and explanation of the observations and point disbursement is available in the linked article above. To receive a detailed copy of your score, feel free to contact me at any time and I will provide it to you.**


***

Overall Star Rating:
5 of 5 Stars: 
104% Rating with a 3 point “wow” bonus
An Extraordinary Dining Experience
Wine List:
Wine rating:
10 of 10
Old World selections: 
Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Sicily, Spain

New World selections: 
Argentina, Australia, California, Canada, Chile, Lebanon, Mexico, New York, New Zealand, Oregon, South Africa, Washington State
Corkage fee’s:
$75.00 per 750 ml bottle per two guests
Restaurant style:
Formal dining
Cuisine Style:
French
Allergen or dietary accommodations: 
Farm to Fork, Gluten Free, Grass Fed, Local, Low Carb, Organic, Pescatarian, Sustainable, Vegetarian Options
Reservations:
Required
Walk-Ins:
Not accepted
Dress code:
Formal attire
Gentleman – Dress Coats, Dinner Jackets, or Smart Business Attire
  Ladies – Semi Formals, Cocktail Dresses, or Formal Gowns
Child policy:


The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a kids menu or cater to them; however, for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended that kids not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette. 
If not then:
Hire a Babysitter! 
Experiences:
Place for foodies, Contemporary, Business parties, Hot spot, Great bar, Good for special occasions, Beautiful décor, Intimate, Classy, Upscale, and a Neighborhood Gem.
Payments:
Cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Parking:
Valet or Street meter parking
Wifi
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Medium to Loud
Smoking:
Nonsmoking restaurant
Patio or terrace:
Yes




Food Prices 
(excludes, alcohol, taxes & 20% gratuity’s)

$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 (inexpensive)
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 (moderate)
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 (pricey)
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 (expensive)
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 (very expensive)


**Currencies reflect the world’s major travelers, restaurant, or wine connoisseur’s**

Currency:
Price
United States Dollar (USD)
$$$$$
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
£££££
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
$$$$$
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
¥¥¥¥¥
European Union (EUR)
€€€€€

 Alcohol prices:


$200.00 USD



The French Laundry:

6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599 




Contact Information: 
Restaurant website:
Maître d or host:
+1 707-944-2380
Online reservations
Serving hours:
Pacific Standard Time (GMT, Zulu, or UTC-8:00)

Lunch: Fri-Sun
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Dinner: Mon-Sun
5:00 pm - 8:45 pm
Social Media 
Accolades for 
The French Laundry:
Facebook link                







****
The worlds best restaurants is a subjective list on who is writing it and changes on a regular basis. The Wine, Dine, and Play best of list is based on my highest rated stared restaurants, meaning that the visit was an outstanding or extraordinary experience. From cafés, chains, mom + pops, hole in the walls, to fine dining including a few Michelin spots. Visit the Top 100 page to see the entire list.

A few to tease you with…

New American, Southern Twist
St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Safari + Upscale African Cuisine 
Sabi Sabi, South Africa
Seasonal American cuisine
Asheville, North Carolina, USA





Other French Laundry Pictures:

The gardens at the French Laundry
French Laundry / The garden
A summer melon tartar with English mint and Riesling sorbet at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Summer melon “tartar”
The Compressed Jacobsen Orchard translucent apples with turnips and cashews at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Compressed Jacobsen Orchard translucent apples

The fairy tail eggplant parmesan with peppers at the French Laundry
French Laundry / The fairy tale eggplant
The French Laundry building in Yountville, California
The French Laundry
The busy kitchen expediting at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Kitchen action

The Sous Chef builds a plate at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Sous Chef prepares a dish

The clothing pin and napkin display on the dining table at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Clothing Pin

The assorted desserts at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Assorted desserts
The garden tomato salad with pole beans and burrata cheese at the French Laundry
French Laundry / French Laundry garden tomato salad
The summer squash tart with arugula and black olives at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Summer squash tart
The cheese course with assortments at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Cheese with assortments

The Scumidin di Capra is a sour cherry pâté de fruit, with Piedmont Hazelnut Shortbread
French Laundry / Scumidin di Capra
The Macaroon petit fours at the French Laundry
French Laundry / Macaroon petit fours


“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”


-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)


Who is John Galt?


TTFN








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