Highway defeats and sweet retreats. Napa and Monterey Day 5

Highway defeats and sweet retreats. Napa and Monterey Day 5 

We wake to the sound of footsteps outside, other guests of the Bordeaux House are enjoying breakfast. As we lay we can smell the pastries, the coffee and the fresh Napa air. Breakfast is not on the cards for us however, we know that we need to save all the room that is humanly possible for lunch. Today we dine at Bouchon.

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We are greeted with a smile and taken outside to dine in the terrace area. It’s private, only seating around 10 diners instead of being in the hustle and bustle of inside. We choose a seat and soak the Napa sun before the shade is drawn so we can enjoy the food. Josh has gone into great detail in the Bouchon review so I won’t bore you with it all again. I will say, that this is one of the greatest French bistro meals I have ever had. French onion soup that was so delicate yet rich and flavoursome, hand cut gnocchi so perfectly cooked it melted in your mouth, fish that just pulled away from itself and frog legs so crispy it left you wanting more. And don’t even get me started on dessert! For those of you that know me well, you know I can never refuse chocolate.. no matter how hard I tried, I ordered the richest dessert possible. Bouchon is definitely a highlight for this foodie!

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Highway to hell! That’s the only way I can describe the first half of the drive to Monterey. After missing three exits because we are driving opposite in a country that loves confusing street signs and numerous lane changes, the sweat started to once again form on Josh’s forehead. I thought the GPS was going out the window, with me attached. Finally we reach highway 101, the same road we will drive all the way to Los Angeles, with a nights pit stop in Monterey.

Never before have I seen a fishing town quite like this. Monterey smells like the ocean and reminds us of Newcastle, the place we both call home. We check in to the hotel and then decide its dinner time. A quick drive around Fisherman’s Wharf  lands us at Cannery Row, yep you guessed it, where they use to put fish in cans. Sardines! The word is everywhere but luckily for me, not on the menu. This street is right on the water overlooking California’s Central Coast and is lined with shops, restaurants, bars and everything else a tourist needs.

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Dinner is quick. Louie’s Linguine provides the perfect pasta in enormous servings with a spectacular view. Josh must have been hungry because his was gone before I even started.  Home time, oh yeah, its my turn to drive! Only one more thing left to do, candy factory. Since we arrived I have wanted saltwater taffy. We hit the jackpot, taffy in so many flavours its hard to choose so I get one of everything. Josh has hit gummy overload. We are literally kids in a candy store and I never want to leave. A few hefty bags later and we are on sugar highs back at the hotel. Saltwater taffy is so incredibly sweet with a saltiness that just makes it better. Lucky for me, Josh hates it. I’m excited because now I can eat it all, and that’s exactly what I did.

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Jess and Josh.

Bouchon Bistro Yountville
6534 Washington ST Yountville, California USA
http://www.bouchonbistro.com/yountville

Breaking Bouchon. An experience in extravagance.

Breaking Bouchon. An experience in extravagance.

Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s Michelin starred restaurant in beautiful Yountville. It is a restaurant written about, talked about, and it has cookbooks. What it also has is 80 seats that will serve around 250 guests in a single service.

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This place is packed but what you feel here is care. The waiters care about serving you, the chefs want to please. So much so that they’re willing to let a couple of rowdy foodies into their kitchen to check out the well oiled machine that is Bouchon.

It’s a lovely day in picturesque Yountville. This town practically smiles at you with it’s lush gardens and friendly people. We are quickly seated outside and we start rifling through the menu. The sommelier Woody pops over and introduces himself. Well there is a man who loves his job. He was practically beaming just to see us enjoying the place. We haven’t even ordered yet. This is true hospitality at its finest. Now to food.

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We start with an assortment of entrées; a tarte flambée, which consisted of baked Alsatian flatbread with bacon lardons, sliced onions, thyme and creme fraiche. Umm more please? For Jess an enormous, jaw dropping bowl of French onion soup. The soup is topped with gruyere cheese, molten, bubbling gruyere cheese. This is French phenomena! It is so delicious that both of us cannot stop eating shovel full scoops of it. But wait there’s a present from the chefs! We must apologise to Jess’s baby sister because our next course was kermit the frog. Yes, breaded frog legs with sauce gribiche. Wow! This was Jessica’s first experience with frog legs and she was tucking in like it was fried chicken. Bring on mains because I can already feel myself filling up on the awesome bread that came out as well.

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Main course time. For me Fietan Poele. Or to us English speaking folk. Alaskan halibut with seared heirloom tomato, garden squash and basil vinaigrette. My fish is cooked to perfection, buttery, soft and just falling apart. Fish cookery at its finest. The seared tomato adds a touch of acidity to the dish while the basil rounds everything out with herbaceous freshness. It is a lovely summer lunch and I am loving it. For Jess. Gnocchi a la Parisienne. Sautéed gnocchi with garden vegetables and brown butter sauce. This dish is a dish of Napa; it screams summer garden and the sauce is that little bit of lux that everyone needs. We also have side dishes. As if we needed them. Sweet corn with bacon and a whole dish of macaroni gratin. Wow we are so so full but I have to keep eating. It’s going to take a hero to eat dessert.

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This time the hero was not myself but Jess. She stepped up to thetraveltotaste need for photos and ordered mousse au chocolat au lait with fleur de sel caramel. This is a dish from the heavens. Milk chocolate mousse covered in a dark chocolate glaze and filled with salted caramel. Good god that is serious richness.  Thought I couldn’t possibly take another bite but suddenly all I want is more. We polish off the dessert and then Woody takes us into the heart of the machine. The kitchen.

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One word can describe the kitchen at Bouchon. Efficient. There are chefs cleaning every surface while the sous calls dockets. Chefs on the grill look like they’ve been there for years. The kitchen hums with quiet confidence. Not just because they know the Thomas Keller name is behind them but the chefs here have the knowledge that what they’re doing is appreciated by their customers. Everyone here is smiling and the food is truly fantastic. Get yourself to Yountville and get yourself to Bouchon.

The French Laundry may be Chef Keller’s renowned restaurant but Bouchon stands strong on its own very firm feet. You may struggle to get reservations at TFL but Bouchon is ready to welcome you and it is well worth it.

Step into chef Keller’s world. This machine is ready to roll.

Josh and Jess

Bouchon Bistro Yountville
6534 Washington ST Yountville, California USA
http://www.bouchonbistro.com/yountville

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