Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

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Unrequested upgrades and dreamy destinations. Napa Valley Day 4

We start with a casual late check out today at Royal Pacific Motor Inn and feel as though the rest of the day will continue the same. Pick up to the airport arrives as we wave goodbye to sunny San Francisco, when suddenly we are thrown into conversation with the driver. First it’s why we’re in town, then it’s our choice of weed. This New Yorker moved to San Fran because the laws were a little more lenient for his lifestyle, he was a little disappointed when we knew little of the subject.

Suddenly our travels are thrown into turmoil as we’re taken into the almost underbelly of San Fran to pick up some wayward travellers. After an hours drive, a lot of laughs and a few bumps on the head, we arrive at San Francisco airport to pick up our very first rental car of the trip.

Simon, our Hertz customer service consultant seemed to know more about what we wanted then us. “Upgrade to a more luxurious car” “You’ll need more room I’ll upgrade to bigger car” “You need to sit higher I’ll upgrade you to higher car”. It was like trying to lose a salesman in a car yard! Finally we make it out and head to our rental, a silver Chevy, a large, luxurious and fairly high seated car, without the additional hundred dollar a day fee.

It’s Josh’s turn to stress. I get in the right side of the car as Josh heads toward the wheel. He looks nervous. I remind him of some helpful advice from one of my customers, passengers in the gutter!

Thank god for the GPS! If you think driving in Sydney is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This highway is intense. Josh grips the wheel tight as we merge into the middle, an hour passes and as Josh wipes the sweat from his brow we arrive in Yountville, a small town in the Napa Valley.

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Yountville is a beautiful town. Large houses and quaint B&B’s surrounded by gardens, pebble paths and flowers, oh the flowers. We settle at the Bordeaux House, a French Provincial cottage slice of cake. Speaking of cake, Bouchon Bakery is calling our name.. After a lot of salivating we settle on croissants, pain au chocolat, chocolate bouchon, whoopie pie, ham and Dijon baguette, pork belly fouiee, eclairs and lemon tart. Finished with a double Mach for Josh and an iced salted caramel latte for me. This is just pastry heaven. Some of the best and most delicious pastries we have ever eaten.

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Full of Bouchon, we detour to Thomas Keller’s pride and joy, The French Laundry. One of the only restaurants we were unable to book. We stalk the kitchen, behind the restaurant is a smell that could only mean chef is prepping for dinner, it’s garlic, butter and all things delightful.

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For dinner, we head to Ad Hoc, another of Chef Keller’s top eateries. A four course set menu that is added to when fresh shaved white Italian truffle and bone marrow are mentioned, this time we welcome the upgrades. Ad Hoc is everything I love when it comes to eating out, Josh will tell you more about the food in the restaurant review but I want to mention our waiter. It really makes you love your job when you see front of house staff like this, always smiling, singing along to the 80’s retro pop/rock background music and hearing him say “I’m here for you” when a customer had special dietary requests.

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Our stay in Napa is short and sweet.

The leftover pastries won’t last the night.

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Jess and Josh

Now this is Napa Style. Dinner at Ad Hoc

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Now this is Napa Style. Dinner @ Ad-hoc

The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s beacon restaurant, remains one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get reservations at. I mean Jess and I have reservations at Noma, Faviken, Mugaritz, Alinea, the list goes on and on but how the hell you get reservations at TFL. Clueless. So we settle for a peep through the hedges and loads of photos out the front.

Luckily for us The Napa Valley is like Thomas Keller’s house and he has several restaurants, and a bakery, for you to enjoy. We are in fact visiting all of them. Ad-hoc is an impromptu little place where the menu is so produce driven that it changes daily. Served family style, we settle in for a four course menu with a few cocktails. BUT THEN… Our waiter says “oh, we have some additions this evening.” Oh some additions? We love additions. Then he mentioned summer truffles. All the way from Alba. 25 dollars. Sir you have a deal! Then bone marrow is mentioned. I’m a chef. This guy knew when he said bone marrow that I was eating it. I mean bone marrow. Bring it on.

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We open the evening with a salad of asparagus, hens eggs, frisée, and a piquillo pepper salsa. Jess and I are deep into a house made spiced vodka lemonade and a No sleep till…kind of like a whiskey, orange bitter concoction. The salad is just wonderful, the cooking here is refined and sophisticated. It takes a confident chef to send a simple dish of asparagus, lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, and perfectly poached hens eggs. This is clever cooking. A light start, like a kiss on a warm summers evening.

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 Main course is a mans dish. Meat. Roasted meat. Then I of course added mounds of white truffle and bone marrow. This is a seriously great dish. Ribeye cooked on the bone, sautéed chanterelles, carrots and Swiss chard. On the side, a risotto of corn with a Parmesan foam. Also covered in white truffle. The meat is cooked perfectly, the fat melts in the mouth and the meat has a delicious grassland note. The chefs here care about their produce. If it isn’t great tasting you just won’t see it on the menu at Ad-hoc.

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The bone marrow is roasted and served with a caponata of sautéed eggplants and capers. It is everything that it should be, rich, oozing, fatty, white deliciousness. I can literally feel my arteries clogging. We haven’t even had cheese yet and I’m smearing marrow on bread like a Viking warrior. The stomach is starting to fill

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Cheese is served as a dish of its own right. No crackers, no jarred quince paste. San Andreas, a sheeps milk cheese, aged for three months; served with shaved fennel, plums and candied pecan. Now I usually consider the pecan a waste of a nut but everything is better candied. The cheese has an almost pecorino note, it also reminds Jess a little of Parmesan. Firm yet creamy and utterly delicious.

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Dessert is a throwback to everyone’s childhood. A sundae bar. There’s house made fudge sauce, caramel, cookie crumbs and brownie pieces. The sundae glasses are tall and frosty, filled with freshly churned vanilla bean ice cream.

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Excuse me? Can I lick the glass please? Jess and I are up to our elbows in ice cream and giggling like we’re five years old. Are other tables looking? Who cares.

imageThis is the spirit of Ad-hoc, a place to take away the hunger pains. A place where food is the driving force of everything the talented staff do. This isn’t about formality or a waiters stiff upper lip. The staff are in jeans and laughing with diners. This entire place is warm, welcoming and not pretentious in any way. We loved everything we ate and will definitely be back.

Do yourself a favour and add (hoc) this one to your list.

Josh and Jess

 Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St Yountville, California USA
 http://www.adhocrestaurant.com