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Ad Hoc Foodbuzz fried chicken reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Fried Chicken and Waffles

When the prospect of participating in Foodbuzz’s monthly 24, 24, 24 arose again a couple weeks ago, the first thing that popped into my head was throwing a chicken and waffles party. Fried chicken and waffles is one of my favorite meals in the whole world, and being from Southern California, I was first introduced to this combination at the world-famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood. Personally, I think Roscoe’s waffles are much better than their chicken, and the real secret to Roscoe’s greatness is in their amazing syrup.

thigh and waffleRoscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

When I moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area 10 years ago, it was hard to find a decent substitute, and the Roscoe’s that was in Oakland at the time was a substandard knock off of the L.A. original. Over the last few years, chicken and waffle options in the Bay Area have improved, especially when the Home of Chicken and Waffles, which was originally slated to be an official Roscoe’s franchise before the owners decided to do their own thing, opened a few years ago in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It still isn’t Roscoe’s, but it satisfies the craving.

A classic combinationHome of Chicken and Waffles

The most decadent versions of chicken and waffles I’ve had have been at Sunday brunches at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc’s fried chicken is so popular that it has developed a cult following and is the featured entree at the restaurant on alternating Mondays. The recipe was first published in Food and Wine magazine a couple years ago and my post about making the fried chicken is one of the most visited pages on this site.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and WafflesAd Hoc Fried Chicken and Waffles

On a recent trip to Williams Sonoma, I stumbled upon a display featuring the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit, a recent expansion of Thomas Keller’s exclusive line of products for the retail chain…

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit

…that also includes the Bouchon Bakery line of products.

Bouchon Waffles

When I saw the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffle mix, I decided that this 24, 24, 24 event was going to turn into a throwdown: the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit v. Ad Hoc fried chicken from scratch and the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffles mix v. the Best (and Easiest) Yeasted Waffle by Sheryl at Crispy Waffle.

I met Sheryl on Twitter after she started following me, and her blog immediately got my attention because I had been looking for a good waffle recipe since inheriting a Krups Belgian Waffle Maker last year from a friend. Her “Easiest, Crispiest, Yeasted Waffle” recipe really lived up to its name and it’s the recipe I always turn to when I get a waffle craving. (See my Crispy Waffle post from March.)

Chicken Showdown
I deviated from both recipes instructions by cooking the chicken sous vide before dredging and frying. I do this because I’m paranoid about undercooking chicken, and cooking it sous vide for an hour at around 140F/60C ensures that the chicken is cooked and helps keep it juicy. This allows me to focus solely on the color of the fried chicken when it’s frying in the oil.

Water bathVacuum sealed chicken taking an hour-long, 141F/61C(ish) “bath”
Post-Sous Vide chickenIt doesn’t look that appetizing fresh out of the water bath, but after dredging and frying, it’s heaven.

On the surface, both batches of fried chicken I made looked identical, but on flavor, the scratch recipe beat the kit by a mile. The main difference between the scratch recipe and the kit is in the brine. The scratch recipe’s brine calls for fresh herbs and spices, honey and lemons, and these flavors really come through in the final product.

Fried ChickenThe “scratch” batch of fried chicken.

The fried chicken kit relies on a brine packet of dried spices and seasonings instead of fresh, but the most glaring omission was the lack of lemons. As a result, everyone who tried the kit’s fried chicken said it had a strong pepper flavor. I wonder if lemon powder could have made a significant difference, but I think the inclusion of fresh lemon zest and juice into the brining liquid would have been a pretty simple step for most home cooks.

Waffle Throwdown
Although we were dealing with two yeasted waffle recipes, there were a couple differences in how they’re put together. Sheryl’s recipe uses dry instant yeast and calls for a refrigerated overnight rise, while the Bouchon mix uses active dry yeast that is proofed for 10 minutes before mixing the batter and has a rising time of 90 minutes. Sheryl also adds a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract to her batter.

The Bouchon Bakery mix produces waffles that are incredibly light and more delicate than Sheryl’s waffle, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. Personally, I found them to be a little too airy, but I was still astonished at how light and crispy they were.

Bouchon WaffleBouchon Bakery Waffle

That doesn’t mean Sheryl’s waffle was heavy by an means. It was still light and crispy but had just a little more weight and texture (dare I say gravitas?) than the Bouchon Bakery waffle, as well as a creaminess in the middle that every good Belgian waffle should have.

IMG_0677Sheryl’s Crispy Waffle

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Belgian waffles, preferring the thinner traditional waffles like the ones they serve at Roscoe’s. I even picked up a traditional waffle iron to test out some buttermilk and cornmeal waffle recipes to serve along side the yeasted waffles, but I couldn’t find one that I liked enough to feature alongside the fried chicken. Sourdough waffles are generally served at Ad Hoc, but I didn’t have a sourdough starter on hand (or the time to start one), so I tabled that for another time.

If there’s one thing I learned during my research, it’s that I really like Belgian waffles now, especially the yeasted variety, and I am now in the market for a better Belgian waffle iron, preferably one that flips. I think I’ll save the traditional waffle iron for moffles.

Thanks to Foodbuzz for helping to make this event possible. I had a lot of fun researching and cooking one of my favorite meals for my friends. Plus, we generally have a hard time getting this group of friends to come up to Ad Hoc with us, so this was a way that I could bring a small piece of our favorite restaurant home for them to experience. But most of all, I hope it inspires you to seek out fried chicken and waffles wherever you live, or better yet, make it yourself! :)

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Ad Hoc reviews The French Laundry

Memorial Day Maine Lobster Rolls at Ad Hoc

Yeah, yeah…another Ad Hoc post. I know. I’ve been meaning to write about some of the cooking I’ve been doing, including baking my first brioche or my thoughts on liking traditional waffles more than Belgian waffles, but when Ad Hoc’s daily menu email update arrived in my inbox yesterday morning, the words “Maine Lobster Rolls” jumped out at me.

Maine Lobster RollsThis was the full portion for two people.

Ad Hoc recently started doing barbecue nights on non-fried chicken Mondays, but for Memorial Day, they decided to offer the Maine Lobster Rolls to give dinner more of a picnic vibe. Now, I’ve never had an authentic New England lobster roll, but I think I may have spoiled myself by having this one, which features lobster from the same purveyor that supplies The French Laundry, a custom sweet roll from Bouchon Bakery, shaved celery, red onions and garlic aioli.

Maine Lobster RollsThe sweet, housemade pickles were excellent, too.

The meal started off with fried French Laundry chickpeas that were like fried, salty edamame—an amuse bouche of sorts, but they don’t use words like that at Ad Hoc. :)

French Laundry Fried Chickpeas

The leek salad featured more French Laundry vegetables and some crispy Jamon Iberico, what Bac-O’s aspires to be when it grows up.

TFL Leek Salad with Jamon Iberico

The cheese course featured Rogue Creamery’s aged and creamy Caveman Blue, raspberry-vanilla jam and beer flatbread.

Rogue Creamery's Caveman Blue with raspberry-vanilla jam beer flatbread

The toasted lemon pound cake with chantilly cream and macerated blueberries ended the meal on a surprisingly light note.

Toasted Lemon Pound Cake

I was content to spend Memorial Day chillin’ at home and watching Game 4 of the Lakers/Nuggets Western Conference Finals battle, but since the Lakers ended up playing poorly and losing, I’m glad I spent my time up in Yountville enjoying the sublime comforts of a great meal instead of stressing out at home yelling at the TV.

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Ad Hoc breakfast reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc – 4/12/09 (Easter in Yountville)

It was another beautiful spring day in California, a perfect backdrop for Easter in Yountville. Of course for us, that means a visit to Bouchon Bakery to pick up some goodies before brunch at Ad Hoc. We really need to explore more of the area, but it’s hard when you can drop into Bouchon Bakery and get an Easter egg-shaped Thomas Keller Oreo.

We were also lucky enough to score one of the last chocolate doughnuts in the shop. It’s a brioche doughnut filled with chocolate custard and then dipped in chocolate frosting laden with crispy chocolate balls. These are usually gone pretty early in the morning, but apparently they did a second batch for Easter.

Ad Hoc is debuting a new brunch format next weekend (I’ll write a separate post about this soon) and Easter was kind of a “soft opening.” It started with a mixed berry yogurt parfait with warm banana bread. The banana bread was great…lightly toasted and topped with a really nice honey butter.

Instead of the whole main entrée being family style, every diner got their own entree, corned beef hash and poached eggs, but the waffles were served family style.

Two poached Alexandre Dairy hen eggs topped a hash made of perfect, crispy potato strands mixed with Snake River Farms corned beef brisket. The eggs were nice and runny and were great when mixed into the hash.

Dessert was a brownie with vanilla ice cream and salted butterscotch sauce.

Overall, it was another fabulous Ad Hoc brunch, and I’m excited to see how the new brunch format works out. We’ll be back in Yountville next weekend to find out. :)

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Ad Hoc reviews The French Laundry Thomas Keller

The Ad Hoc Swine and Wine

Ad Hoc’s fried chicken nights have made every other Monday night in Yountville a lot of fun, but last night’s “Swine and Wine” was so good that Ad Hoc might be the place to be on the last Wednesday of every month. The four-course, prix-fixe dinner featured whole pigs that were roasted Cuban style in La Caja China or Chinese box.

La Caja ChinaStep 1: Put the pig in a box…

The meal was an opportunity for Ad Hoc to showcase some of their purveyors and they were on hand throughout the evening to talk about their products.

Wines were provided by Dave Miner of the Miner Family Vineyard. I’m not a wine expert or aficionado, but I do like them easy to drink, and the Miner wines fit the bill perfectly. Before the first course, we were served a really nice white wine sangria, and the dinner wines were their Viogner (white) and Enigma (red). I also got a taste of their Oracle, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and I liked that one too.

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Ad Hoc reviews seafood Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 2/8/09

The thing I love most about Ad Hoc is that you never eat the same meal twice, and this was no exception. I’ve noticed from looking at the menus that they’re coming up with some really interesting first courses that deviate from the traditional soup or salad paradigm.

As I was getting out of my car, I ran into Nessim, one of Ad Hoc’s lead servers, and he asked me if I wanted to meet Claire Clark, the former French Laundry pastry chef who’s spending time at Ad Hoc making desserts before going back to the U.K. This was an unexpected treat since we were there specifically to try her dessert course. I also reconnected with Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz, and he was kind enough to send over an additional course to our table in between the first and second courses.

 

 

MENU

Maryland-Style Crabcakes
fingerling potatoes in remoulade,
shaved celery salad, hass avocado

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Brook Trout
hen of the woods mushroom conserva
(additional course)

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Whole Roast Lamb Leg
fennel gratin, borlotti bean ragout,
garden rosemary, dijon mustard
dried mission fig jus

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The Cheese Board
marcona almonds
marshall’s farm wild flower honey

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Red Velvet Cupcakes
white chocolate-cream cheese frosting

 

 

The crab cakes were outstanding. They were fresh and free of any flour “filler”—just crab with seasoned panko to hold it together. It was served with some nice fingerlings in remoulade and some avocados cooked sous vide, which made them even creamier.

 

The lamb was local and less gamey than the Colorado lambs that Ad Hoc sometimes gets, which I liked. It was served with fennel gratin and Borlotti bean ragout that the entire staff was raving about, and it easily outshined the lamb although it was a tad salty for me. My wife, who loves salty foods, had no complaints.

The cheese course featured toasted almonds, cheese from three different animals (goat, sheep, and cow) and was served with a really nice bitter orange jam.

The red velvet cupcakes were smaller than a typical Ad Hoc dessert, but when they’re this pretty, does it really matter? Technically, this was a great cupcake. It was dense (by design), and the texture reminded me of pound cake . The white chocolate and cream cheese frosting had just the right amount of sweetness and the Valrhona chocolate pearls added some crunch to it. However, I’m coming to the realization that I just don’t like red velvet cake. I think my eyes see red cake and expect something bold, but the flavor is always much more subdued.

Or maybe I just don’t get it and that means there’s more red velvet cake in the world for the rest of you. :)

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Northern California reviews The French Laundry Thomas Keller

The French Laundry

It’s pretty obvious from the content of this site that I’m a big fan of Thomas Keller, and up until this week, we had enjoyed every level of the Keller empire (Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery and cookbooks) except for his crown jewel—The French Laundry.

The French Laundry

Despite all the cooking and eating that I chronicle on this blog, I hardly see myself as an authority on food. If anything, I have a lot to learn about food, especially on the higher end of the spectrum, so each dining experience is an opportunity to glean some knowledge about what I’m eating and how it was prepared. This made my approach to this meal simple—trust the chef and enjoy the experience.

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Ad Hoc beef Northern California reviews Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc Sunday Brunch 11.09.08

We went to Ad Hoc for brunch today with some friends (and Ad Hoc virgins). I think brunch is a great way to introduce Ad Hoc to the unitiated. The menu follows the pictures.


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SUNDAY BRUNCH

Deviled Eggs
bibb lettuce salad, fra’mani salami, sweet carrots
shaved fennel, marinated cucumbers, palladin toast

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Rustichella Rigatoncini
with Prime Ribeye Beef

garbanzo beans, baby arugula, shaved parmesean
chanterelle mushrooms

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Blood Orange Granité
sugar cookie
toasted almonds

I’m not really sure if I can pinpoint the real highlight of this meal, but the Blood Orange Granité is a strong contender. Those are strong sentiments when you consider the main course included prime ribeye with chanterelles and pasta and was one of the best entrees I’ve eaten at Ad Hoc.

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Ad Hoc fried chicken Northern California reviews Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 9/17/08 (Anniversary Dinner)

It was our third wedding anniversary, Thomas Keller was in the house, and it was fried chicken night at Ad Hoc. Not a bad way to celebrate.


Salad of Petite Romaine Hearts
marinated white anchovies, pickled red onions
torn garlic croutons, creamy anchovy dressing

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken
tfl garden cucumber salad
country style whipped potatoes

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The Cheese Board
marshall’s farm honey
spiced nuts

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Parfait
house made granola, black mission figs
vanilla cream

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I also found out that our anniversary is the day after Ad Hoc’s anniversary (it was their second) and may explain why Keller was in town. Our waiter, Dan, said Keller was at Ad Hoc three nights in a row, and when I asked why they also served fried chicken last Monday, he said Keller was hosting some friends and they wanted to eat fried chicken. Add that to the normal Wednesday night fried chicken and fried chicken night tomorrow, and that’s three fried chicken nights in eight days. If you’re an Ad Hoc fried chicken junkie…it’s been a good week.

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Ad Hoc beef breakfast reviews steak Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 9/7/08

So we went back to Ad Hoc so that my sister in law could try their brunch. As luck would have it, Prime Ribeye with Poached Eggs was the main entree, but check out the Smoked Pork Bruschetta. Here’s the menu and pics:


Smoked Pork Bruschetta
bailey long pork tenderloin, red onion marmalade, living watercress
tfl garden cucumber & fennel salad

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Prime Ribeye and Poached Eggs
heirloom tomatoes, garlic potato cakes
red wine jus

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Parfait
jacobsen orchard nectarine jelly
housemade granola

 

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As we talked and joked with the staff during the meal, it occurred to me that next Wednesday is not only our wedding anniversary, it’s also fried chicken night. So we’re going back next week, and holding out hope that they might serve fried chicken and waffles for dinner.

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Ad Hoc Northern California reviews Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc – 8/31/08

You don’t have to go to Slow Food Nation to appreciate some slow food. In fact, one of the best ways to revel in slow food is to head up to Yountville, get some goodies at Bouchon Bakery and have dinner at Ad Hoc. My sister-in-law is in town for the next week, so naturally, we took her to Ad Hoc. In fact, halfway through dinner, we made a reservation for this week’s Sunday brunch. If you still haven’t made your way up to Ad Hoc, Sunday Brunch is a great way to be introduced to the restaurant. But enough about brunch…I’ll post pictures of that next week. :-)

Coincidentally, the first anniversary of the Ad Hoc Menu Archive is on Sep. 1, so this was something else to commemorate (although this wasn’t planned out like our Ad Hoc anniversary.)

Here’s last night’s menu:


Three Bean Salad
rancho gordo heirloom beans, haricots verts, red onions,
tfl garden tomatoes, sherry vinaigrette

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin
brentwood sweet corn, wilted spinach, pine nuts,
roasted marble potatoes, eggplant mustard

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Capriole Dairy’s
Mont St. Francis

glazed peaches
toasted brioche

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Ice Cream Sundaes
california strawberries, crushed pecans,
chocolate and caramel sauces


Check out the corn on the cob. It was definitely the unexpected star of the meal. We even asked for a second helping.

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