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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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Ad Hoc dessert The French Laundry Thomas Keller

French Laundry Pastry Chef Brings Insights to Ad Hoc

Claire ClarkI recently heard that pastry chef Claire Clark left The French Laundry to go back to her native UK after more than three years at Thomas Keller’s crown jewel. But before she goes, Clark is spending her last few weeks dropping knowledge at Ad Hoc, Keller’s “casual dining” restaurant.

Apparently, she started at Ad Hoc a couple weeks ago and will likely only be around for a couple more, so you if you’re a Claire Clark or Ad Hoc fan, you might want to head up there soon. But even if you miss her, Clark’s influence should have a lasting impression on Ad Hoc’s dessert courses going forward.

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Ad Hoc breakfast Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc – New Year’s Eve Brunch 2008

What more appropriate way to close out the year than by feasting on Ad Hoc’s second annual New Year’s Eve brunch. Last year’s was a glutton’s paradise, but it was also Ad Hoc’s first time offering brunch.

Ad Hoc started regular Sunday brunches on March 23, streamlining the meal into a smaller three-course affair that easily competes with their dinners. I think it’s a great way to introduce people to the restaurant, and if you haven’t had brunch at Ad Hoc, there’s always 2009! Here’s the menu:  

NEW YEAR’S EVE BRUNCH

Red Leaf and Radish Salad
red oak lettuce, smoked tuna, red pepper dressing

~

Liberty Farms Duck Confit and Sourdough Waffles
chilled broccolini, crimini mushrooms,
poached hen egg

~

Baked Apples
shortbread cookies, raspberry whipped cream

I forgot my camera, so I had to use my iPhone’s janky camera, but it’s not so bad when there’s a lot of natural light. Still, you can’t go wrong by closing out the year with duck confit and waffles!

Happy New Year and Good Eating in 2009!

Categories
beef musings sous vide techniques The French Laundry Thomas Keller

Contemplating Christmas Dinner

I’m in charge of Christmas dinner again, and I’m still a little torn on what I should make. The adventurous part of me wants to take a rib roast and separate the cap meat (i.e. calotte, deckle) from the actual ribeye…kinda like this:

ribeye-partsFrom left: ribs, eye, cap.
Picture from Ideasinfood.com

Then I can cook the cap meat sous vide to a nice medium rare in attempt to partially recreate this dish:

Calotte de Beouf GrilléeThe French Laundry’s Calotte de Beouf Grillée (12.08.08)

For the center cut, I would oven roast it to medium rare and end up with a sort of deconstructed prime rib cooked two ways.

The other part of me wants to go old school and roast a nice beef tenderloin or standing rib roast. I’ve been successful with rib roasts before but have never tried a tenderloin. But as old school as a tenderloin roast might sound, I’d probably endup cooking that sous vide anyway.

Aside from the main courses, Yorkshire puddings are definitely on the agenda, and I think my wife is going to make her garlic bacon mashed potatoes. I am extremely tempted to make this Macaroni and Gravy recipe by fellow food blogger Lainie as a second entree, and I know my cousin Cristy, who hosted Thanksgiving, has something up her sleeve.

If you’re looking for some Christmas recipes, you might want to give these a try:

I’m not sure if I’ll be posting again before Christmas, but if I don’t, I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season!

Categories
The French Laundry Thomas Keller

Monday Night Laundry

We’ve wanted to go to Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry for a while now, and my wife and I agreed that we would actively try to get a reservation for this winter or spring. What I didn’t expect was that I would get lucky while looking on OpenTable.com the other day when I snagged a reservation for Monday night.

The French LaundryWe’re going on Monday!

The French Laundry is one of the toughest reservations in the world and most people that call them directly end up on a waiting list. They do have two tables available (one at each sitting per evening) allocated to OpenTable.com, which gives you another option for getting a reservation, but I think luck is a big factor in booking success.

Due to the price per person ($240 including service), Monday night’s meal is going to be our Christmas, my wife’s birthday, which is the week before Christmas, and maybe our next anniversary all rolled into one. Luckily we’re not drinkers or else the wine pairings could easily push this meal close to the $1000 mark. I did read that The French Laundry does non-alcoholic beverage pairings, so we’re definitely going to look into that.

While the overall cost is daunting, we also know that this is likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we’re going to roll with it.

Categories
entertainment OMG Thomas Keller

Student Challenges Master in Achatz/Keller Showdown

From The New York Times:

Columbus Circle will be the center of the culinary universe for a few hours tonight as two of the country’s most acclaimed chefs—those without my Timesian fear of hyperbole might just go ahead and say “the country’s two most acclaimed chefs”—collaborate on a 20-course, $1500 dinner at Per Se.

Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz are the chefs in question, and tonight’s meal is the first of three they will be cooking side by side. The next will take place on Dec. 2 at Mr. Achatz’s home kitchen, Alinea in Chicago; Mr. Keller gets home-kitchen advantage for the final meal on Dec. 9 at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

Keller v. Achatz(Photos: Nicholas Roberts/Reuters, Peter Thompson/The New York Times)

Michael Ruhlman gives a great analysis of what this matchup means for both chefs:

“Grant estimated that if you got to the source of 90 percent of what he did, its source would be the French Laundry,” said Michael Ruhlman, who wrote “The French Laundry Cookbook” and the introduction to “Alinea.” Mr. Ruhlman met Grant in his first year working at the French Laundry; following both chefs over the year, he’s watched their relationship from a front row seat. “And I’ve always believed that the rigorous technique embraced while at the FL is the main reason he’s been able succeed at the relentlessly innovative cuisine he’s set out to do every night. He knows it, Thomas knows it, and they’re both grateful.”

Is there more to it than that? Is there, lurking beneath the mutual support and praise, a competitive streak? How often do the two chefs check to see who is winning this Amazon Meter?

“It’s probably more complicated from Grant’s perspective,” said Mr. Ruhlman. “Talk about the anxiety of influence, the need to slay the father. Keller looms so tall in this industry, I’m sure he does all he can to stay out of its shadow without alienating the friend and mentor to whom he owes so much.”

Of course, the anxiety can work both ways. “How did Thomas feel when Gourmet named Alinea best restaurant in the country?” Mr. Ruhlman asks. “How could Keller not feel competitive about this? All chefs are alpha dogs.”

My first reaction when I read this was a Keanu/Neo-like “Whoa,” especially for a dinner costing $1500. I honestly hope some of that money goes to a charity of some kind, but this match up is like the Super Bowl of cooking, and we all know how much Super Bowl tickets cost.

At least at this event, the food won’t suck, and it’s guaranteed to be a good game.

Categories
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

~

Rustichella Rigatoncini
with Prime Ribeye Beef

garbanzo beans, baby arugula, shaved parmesean
chanterelle mushrooms

~

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.