Ok, not Paris, but how about Bouchon in Yountville, California? This French style bistro that according to Nicolette is bang-on and text-book perfect in its imitation of a classic Parisian bistro was the site of dinner number two in Napa for this Chickwithtongs and the Boss Lady.
Bouchon is one of several restaurants owned and created by chef and food guru Thomas Keller. He is also owner of the famed French Laundry in Yountville. I had the pleasure of pressing my cold little nose up to a window to peek inside. Who needs to eat there? Puleeze, eating is so passé. Ok, truth be known, it takes years to get a reservation. Stalking the chefs and peering at them from outside is good enough for me.
Thomas Keller was just one of the guest judges of Top Chef this past week, and if you saw it you would know that he makes chefs’ knees tremble and causes them to stumble when speaking. He is it. His attention to detail is impeccable and legendary. Not that his food is overly ornate or overly garnished. What he prepares he expects to be done with great integrity and attention to technique and detail. He is THE MAN in my opinion.
We had a lovely evening with salads; mine was topped with creamy chèvre chaud. Nicolette had moules frites, (mussels and french fries – the french fries were to die for delicious; hot salty and fried in real lard!). I had the special – Fried Sweetbreads and Vanilla Parsnip Purée. The parsnip purée is something I do at many of my classes, so kudos to Thomas for flattering me by using it on his menu. (Well, I would like to live in the fantasy of Thomas Keller knowing me!)
It was the one place that we did have dessert and we couldn’t have made better choices. I had a luscious tarte citron with pastry that I am SURE was made with pure butter. The lemon curd was light, tangy and wonderful. Nicolette had île Flottante, which is a “light as air” dessert of poached meringue. It was presented in a pool of almond anglais caramel, topped of with flakes of fleur de sel. I think this was one of the highlights of the trip.
The place itself was bustling, full of energy and fun. What I did find interesting was how the diners there, and frankly in most restaurants in the area, treated these dinners out as if eating like this was simply an everyday occurance – as we would eating at a Kelsey’s or Pizza Hut. They just expected good food of the best quality… and to them hey no big deal.
At the end of it all, it was wonderful to see that Thomas Keller, who I have elevated to the highest level of superiority, is a chef that realizes that good food need not be unapproachable for the masses, overly expensive or full of sauces or ingredients one needs to a dictionary to decipher. Some may say his approach is pure marketing and all business, but being a chef, that is always secondary to what matters most… that is food and the love of preparing and sharing it.
“Once in a while you might see me at ‘In and Out Burger’; they make the best fast food hamburgers around.” Thomas Keller