The next stop on our second anniversary dinner tour was an impromptu booking at Ad Hoc in Yountville. We were just in Yountville two days before eating at Bouchon, but our actual anniversary was on Monday, Sept. 17, and we hadn’t made formal plans for that evening yet. I told my wife that if the Ad Hoc menu was compelling enough, then I would get us a reservation, and we would drive back up to Yountville for our “real” anniversary dinner.
Now, we’ve been to Ad Hoc a lot the last three months (five including our anniversary visit), and well, it’s starting to look like an obsession isn’t it? But I wonder…how many times in three months do you go to your favorite restaurant? Would it make a difference if it was 75 miles away?
I called Ad Hoc a little after midnight the night before so I could hear the menu, and it was compelling, to say the least. Let’s just say the word “Wagyu” jumped out at me.
Brentwood Pole Bean Salad
yellow wax and romano beans, haricots verts
toybox tomatoes, red radishes
and walnut vinaigrette
Texas Style Barbecue
snake river farms wagyu beef brisket, pork spare ribs
andouille sausage, creamed corn and baked russet potatoes
Zingerman’s Bridgewater Round
Chocolate Ice Cream S’Mores
house marshmallow, caramel sauce
Salad is almost a throwaway course in a prix fixe setting, but at Ad Hoc, sometimes the salad can upstage the main course, especially when bacon lardons are involved. The bean salad was great despite the lack of lardons, but I will say that Ad Hoc is the one place where I actually love to eat my vegetables.
Even though everything’s family style and the menu is prix fixe, there’s still usually a bit of a wait between courses, and I actually enjoy and usually need these gaps. It not only helps my body process the previous course so that it’s ready to accept more food, it allows you time to have a conversation, maybe drink a little wine or beer, and most of all relax. This concept can be confounding if you’re used to eating at restaurants where turning over tables is a priority and the food is served as fast as possible, but I’ve never felt rushed eating at Ad Hoc, and the slower pace is nice because it prevents you from gorging yourself.
The main course was a trifecta of amazing meats—Wagyu beef brisket, spare ribs, andouille sausage—served with creamed corn and baked russet potatoes (bacon makes its lone appearance here as super salty and crunchy bacon bits). The brisket, from Snake River Farms, was cold smoked for 14 hours and finished with a nice, peppery crust, and well…they had me at first bite. The extra marbling of the Wagyu beef helps give this brisket a little more fatty flavor to enhance its inherent beefiness and set this apart from any other brisket I’ve tried. I really need to go to Texas for some traditional barbecued beef brisket to have a proper reference point so I can compare it to Ad Hoc’s ridiculously good version of it.
The spare ribs were prepared sous vide in duck fat for 20 hours or so and then lightly glazed and finished on the grill. Now, I’m not fan of spare ribs because most of the time, they’re not trimmed properly and I find them difficult to eat. These spare ribs were awesome. The meat had a nice bite but was still easily removed from the bone, and the rich flavor was a mystery until I found out about the duck fat. The andouille sausage was good, too, but since the focal point for me was the brisket, it was sort of relegated to stepchild status. The meal was served with a nice house barbecue sauce that was sort of sweet with a subtle kick to it. It was really nice because it complemented the meat without overpowering any other flavors, but I didn’t really use much because the meat was so good that it didn’t need it.
The cheese course was my least favorite of all the cheese courses I’ve had at Ad Hoc. (The best included some charcuterie and cryovacked cantaloupe). I didn’t mind though as I was still coming down from the meat high I got from the brisket and started looking forward to dessert.
The Chocolate Ice Cream S’mores were a refined take on an American campground classic. A housemade graham cracker serves as a foundation for a delicious marshmallow “brulee” with chocolate ice cream taking the place of the traditional Hershey’s squares. The staff at Ad Hoc was nice enough to put candles in our desserts and wish us a Happy Anniversary. If you go to any restaurant enough, they’re going to remember you, especially if you give them glowing reviews at places like Yelp.com. Ad Hoc is no exception; they’re really good at taking care of their customers and remembering the ones that return.
Thanks, Ad Hoc, for a wonderful anniversary dinner, and I’ll see you again on another Monday in October for my birthday and fried chicken night!
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map
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- Ad Hoc Block Party on Oct. 9 to Benefit Clinic Olé
- Eating Downtown Oakland – Cam Huong and Battambang
- Know Your Ribeye, a.k.a. New Year’s Eve at Ad Hoc
- The French Laundry (with an Ad Hoc chaser)