The French Laundry, Yountville CA

To start off with, I’m a foodie. I admit it.

I’m a food geek who not only really enjoys cooking all kinds of cuisines at home, I’m also an obsessed eater who goes out of my way to search out great food and drinks every where I go. Since I travel for my job, that has presented a lot of opportunities to dine at many different restaurants all over the United States, Asia, London, Venice and Amsterdam (so far).

In addition to food, my other obsession is photography and so I tend to take a lot of food related photos and videos.

For this culinary adventure I made this 4 minute film below with a montage of photos summarizing the foods and wine we dined upon.

Keep reading below for the details behind all the photos.

That night out at The French Laundry was the best dining experience I’ve had so far.

And so it went…..

Last night we dined at a great place in my own state that is world famous and located a mere two hour drive from my house in our country’s famously great wine region, Napa Valley.

I’ve been reading all about this restaurant for years, watching food and travel shows about it, hearing stories about it from friends who have gone. Every time this restaurant was brought up, my anticipation grew exponentially year after year – for nearly fifteen years.

Even my foodie heroes Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert and Michael Ruhlman did a really cool show about their experience dining at this restaurant.  (Click this LINK to watch the 20 minute episode about their visit)

I’ll be honest, dining here has always been at the very top of my bucket list. I was really happy about finally getting to go here, I am still excited about it days later.

My friend John who wrote a book about wine and runs the wine review website www.y9review.com had the idea for getting together and going to this restaurant a couple months ago to celebrate his birthday. Since I had just turned the big five oh a few weeks prior, I figured we’d make a huge celebration out of it… and we did.

He called and made the reservations and we were set.

We all waited with immensely great anticipation for those two months until the day finally arrived. January 16th, 2016.

The French Laundry is a 3 star Michelin rated, James Beard award winning restaurant located at 6640 Washington Street in Yountville California and is owned by Thomas Keller.

This restaurant is consistently in Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 Best Restaurants List and  has won Best Restaurant in the World several times. Anthony Bourdain, who’s been filmed dining around the entire globe on his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown said The French Laundry “is the best restaurant in the world, period.”

That works for me, and after last night I can say I wholeheartedly agree.

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We had reservations for a 5:30pm seating for our group of six consisting of myself and my wife Ronda, John and his wife Shawn and Michael and his wife Tiffany.

We arrived a few minutes early and checked out the restaurant gardens across the street and then went inside to get started.

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Once we were seated we ordered an exclusive bottle of bubbly that is only sold at The French Laundry,  Modicum, “Schramsberg Vineyards,” Extra Brut, Blanc de Blancs, North Coast 2011. We then placed our orders for the Chef’s Tasting Menu with a few of us ordering a couple of the optional upgrade supplements.

My fellow diners John and Michael (who are wine experts) talked to the sommelier and had her do a custom wine pairing leaving the selections in her very capable hands. All she did was ask for a price range and region selection. She did not disappoint us. We enjoyed some very fine local Napa wines along with wines from Burgundy France.

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The service at The French Laundry is simply outstanding, and very friendly.

For each plating, new and unique dishware and silverware were brought out and napkins were replaced frequently as well. It was interesting watching the staff of four change out our tableware so often and it was interesting seeing and dining on the different types of plates. The wine glasses too were all different and very fine for every different wine we had, which made each sip taste all that much better.

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To start we were brought out their famous traditional canapes.
The first starter was Gougéres which were savory cheese puffs. The second starter was their famous Salmon Tartar Cornet with sweet red onion créme fraîche.

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For the first course we had the upgraded supplement option which was Royal Ossetra Caviar with Maine Lobster “en Gelée”, Horseradish ‘Bavarois”, Fine Herbes and Oyster Crackers. This was paired with Weinbach, Pinot Gris, “Cuvee Laurence,” Alsace 2007.

It was delicious! Such interesting textures and outstanding deep flavors.

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The second course was Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm with Spice Poached D’Anjou Pears, Sicilian Pistachios and Garden Chicories. This was paired with Arietta, Sauvignon Blanc, “On The White Keys – Artists Reserve,” California 2011.

I actually liked this better then I was expecting, it was very tasty and textural.

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The third course was Slow Cooked Fillet of Wild Scottish Sea Trout with Ruby Grapefruit Confit, Caramelized Garden Beets, Wild Sorrel and “Beurre Maltaise”. This was paired with Jean-Philippe Fichet, Mersault, Burgundy 2013.

The trout was cooked perfect and tasted great.

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The fourth course was absolutely delicious, Sunflower Seed Crusted Stoning Maine Sea Scallop with Charred Eggplant “Panisse,” Compressed Persian Cucumbers, Globe Artichokes and Brokaw Avocado Yogurt. Paired with Giorgio Rivetti-La Spinetta, Barbaresco, “Starderi,” Piedmont 1998

The crust on the scallop was amazing, really good interesting flavors and the crunch of the crust made a perfect marriage of textures with the soft scallop. We were all amazed with the great tasting eggplant panisse.

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In between courses we were given their homemade butters, cheeses and breads to enjoy. The bread were baked up the street at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.

Everything tasted absolutely delicious. We all loved the tasty cheeses.
Perfection.

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We enjoyed many different types of wines, they were all excellent and paired extremely well with each course that we were served.

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The fifth course was one of my favorites and was another optional upgrade supplement.

I planned on getting this dish for weeks. This was my first time trying real authentic truffles. Needless to say I was very excited to be watching the truffle presentation taking place before me at The French Laundry.

This dish was Carnaroli Risotto Biologico with “Parmigiano Reggiano” and Shaved Black Winter Truffles from Provence. This was paired with Giorgio Rivetti-La Spinetta, Barbaresco, “Starderi,” Piedmont 1998

The risotto and truffles tasted really great, very delicate savory flavors.

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The sixth course was amazing and another first for me. I got to finally try Japanese Wagyu Beef. This course was another upgrade supplement that I had wanted to try for a long time.

The dish was Charcoal Grilled Japanese Wagyu with Gold Potato and Gruyère “Rösti” with Garden Broccoli “Panade,” Sweet Carrot “Buttons” and Wild Mustard Blossoms. Paired with La Sirena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2006.

This was the best beef I’ve ever tasted.

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For dessert we had a variety of dishes starting with Andante Dairy “Mélange” with Golden Raisin “Pâte de Fruit,” Marcona Almond Shortbread and Cauliflower Cream. Paired with Philippe Foreau, Vouvray, “Domaine du Clos Naudin,” Demi-Sec, Loire Valley 2003.

I love desserts, I was in heaven.

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With desert we also drank a Cossart Gordon, Bual, 10 Year, Madeira MV and I had to try a good glass of port so I ordered a Cockburn 1983 Port. We finished things off with a couple glasses of 1953 Hill Vintage Cognac.

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Just when we thought the night was over, we all got invited to tour the kitchen and meet the Chef de Cuisine, David Breeden.

This was an amazing way to cap a night of the best fine dining we’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy. Seeing the kitchen and crew where the “magic” happens was very cool to get to see.

We are truly fortunate people. This was the dining experience of a lifetime.

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Haunted Spiral Staircase, Virginia City NV

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Supposedly the Old Washoe Club Hotel in Historic Virginia City Nevada is haunted.

It might be true, the Travel Channel television show “Ghost Adventurers” and SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” have filmed several episodes in the old hotel.

One of many things the hotel has become famous for is it’s unique spiral staircase.

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A long dead temptress, named Jeni by bar patrons, lingers near the unusual spiral staircase on the way back to the pool table room.

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A sign explains that it was “featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as being the longest of its kind without a supporting pole.” The staircase was built in the 1870s to provide access to the upper story “Millionaire’s Club.”

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Another sign, a pinted piece of paper, notes: “Entrance to Millionaires Club now sealed to prevent fire draft.”

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Worthy Imperial IPA Beer, Bend OR

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While working in Oregon staying in Bend, I found a great locally brewed beer that I liked  while out shopping at a local grocery store. I’ve been to the Worthy brewery many times but this was the first time I’d seen their beers in a grocery store.

This beer is an Imperial Indian Pale Ale made by Worthy Brewing in Bend Oregon.

The bottle label states the following;

Hop lovers rejoice. We use 8 Oregon-grown hop varieties in this big bold balanced beer.

At 8.5 ABV and 85 IBU’s this is one very well rounded great tasting beer. In fact it tastes so good you’ll want lots but watch out because that 8.5% will sneak up on you.

Highly recommend this beer, two thumbs up!

Historic Virginia City Nevada

 

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I’ve been to historic Virginia City Nevada many times before, but always only during the big Street Vibrations motorcycle rally that’s held in nearby Reno.

The motorcycle ride to Virginia City is always fun and the people watching on main street as hundreds of motorcyclists rode up and down the street all day during the rally was always spectacular to see.

On this trip however I got a chance to visit Virginia City on a regular weekend when there was a lot less people and I could actually get around easily and see the many old historic buildings that make up this tiny old western town.

Here’s a mini show below or the sights to see in Virginia City.

I have more stories and photos I’ll be posting soon about this historic town – including a visit to several local historical bars where a lot went down with gambling, drinking and shootings. There is even a crypt in the back of one bar building where bodies were stored
in the late 1800’s during the winters because the ground was too hard to dig graves.

Virginia City is a great town to visit. You’ll learn a lot about western history and how silver (and gold) mining made and broke towns in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

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24 Hours in Venice Italy

I was working in Amsterdam this past summer and had to stay over for a weekend waiting on parts to arrive for my work so during the time I took a quick plane ride to Venice Italy on Saturday and explored as much as I could before having to return back to Amsterdam on Sunday.

Below is a video I made showing everything that I saw while there walking around everywhere.  The scenery, the architecture, history, music and food were spectacular!

24 hours was not enough, I’ll need to go back again someday.

 

Here are a few of my favorite photos below.

San Felipe De Neri Parish, Albuquerque NM

While working in Albuquerque New Mexico I checked out the old town area and found this cool old Spanish church to check out.

The church of San Felipe de Neri was started in 1706 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest who came to Alburquerque [the spelling was later changed to Albuquerque] with 30 families from Bernalillo in 1704 or 1705.

The church was initially named San Francisco Xavier by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, who founded the city of Alburquerque and named it after the Viceroy of New Spain. The Duke of Alburquerque ordered that the titular saint be changed to San Felipe de Neri in honor of King Philip of Spain.

Seeing the Space Shuttle, Coco Beach FL

This is an actual photo that I took of the Space Shuttle about 18 years ago.

I was asked to go to NASA Cape Canaveral in Coco Beach Florida to work on some network troubleshooting and repairs and I ended up working onsite in the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) where I got to see the Space Shuttle being setup and put onto the giant mover that rolls the shuttle from the VAB out to the launch site 3 miles away.

Earlier in the week I drove out to the launch site to see the shuttle all setup on the rocket ready to go – I need to find those photos to post those someday.

Later in the week I was invited to watch the launch and got to see it closer then even the media is allowed to go.

On the Sunday before the launch I got asked if I’d like to go up on the rocket gantry/tower and check out the Shuttle up close and personal – heck yes! They outfitted me in a jumpsuit and taped up the wrist cuffs and ankle cuffs to prevent anything from falling onto the shuttle and I was not allowed to carry anything with me other then my camera.

Went up the elevator and got to walk out and look DOWN on the shuttle – it was scary, there were no safety rails to keep you from falling so I carefully inched my way out to the edge and took this photo of the shuttle looking down on it.  I wish it was more in focus but I imagine my hands were a bit shaky while trying to not fall and take the photo at the same time.

I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of photos over the years and this photo I took below remains one of my all time favorites. I’m glad I got to see the shuttle program while it still existed.

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