It was a beautiful, glorious Easter Sunday, Thomas Keller was in the house (eating, not cooking), and Ad Hoc served up an amazing brunch featuring Duck Confit and Waffles. If you haven’t heard, Ad Hoc is now offering Sunday brunch, with seatings available from 10:30am–2pm. Here’s some pictures for ya while you decide whether or not you want to make a reservation. :-)
Ad Hoc says they’re going to start offering family-style Sunday brunches beginning Mar. 23rd, which also happens to be Easter Sunday. If that means there’s more fried chicken and waffles to look forward to, then I’m a happy guy.
The pictures in the collage are from the New Year’s Eve Brunch that I wrote about a couple days ago. I can’t say whether or not Ad Hoc’s ears were burning, but Sunday brunch at Ad Hoc sounds like a great way to kick off Spring.
I just called and made my reservation. You can do the same at 707.944.2487.
In honor of tonight’s biweekly fried chicken night at Ad Hoc, I thought I’d share the amazing New Year’s Eve brunch Ad Hoc offered to close out 2007.
The menu was centered around one of my favorite foods—fried chicken and waffles—and it’s something I’ve always wanted Ad Hoc to offer as a regular meal. I don’t know if they’ll make it a New Year’s fixture, but I was just glad I had the opportunity to experience this glorious meal. Pictures of the full spread follow the menu, and I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Salad & High Tea Sandwiches
baby mixed greens with sherry vinaigrette
ham and cheese, cucumber mint, lobster salad sandwich
Fried Chicken & Waffles
spinach and poached eggs, hoppin’ john
fingerling potato hash with hobbs bacon
cara cara orange marmalade
and candied pecans
We’ve been trying to stay away from Ad Hoc until my birthday (and fried chicken night) on the 22nd, but last weekend, my friend Patty called and said she was going to be in the Bay Area before going home to Thailand, and she really wanted to go to Ad Hoc. Who was I to refuse?
This particular visit was notable because the cheese course ended up being a pseudo-chemistry lesson. Gubeen, a pungent cow’s milk cheese from Ireland, was paired with a spicy housemade Concord grape jelly and crispy baguette croutons. Gubeen smells and tastes kinda like garbage, and eating it on its own wasn’t very pleasant. I almost didn’t want to try another bite. But when you combine the Gubeen with the jelly and the croutons, you see why this pairing works. The jelly was more like a grape syrup with a hint of cayenne for heat, and it cut the intensity of the Gubeen, making it a lot more palatable. It’s definitely not the best cheese course I’ve had at Ad Hoc, but it was certainly the most interesting.
This was also the first time I’ve had soup as a starter at Ad Hoc. The Garbure, a light soup featuring cannelini beans, haricots verts, savoy cabbage, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, was hearty and delicous without being too filling. The main course was Snake River Farms pork short ribs, which were excellent. Prepared sous vide, the pork was juicy and tender and the sweet apple flavor really came through. The rib bones were also included, which contained some of the best fatty meat of the evening. It was served on top of faro, a barley-like “supergrain” that apparently fed the ancient Egyptians, but a vegetable side dish was nowhere to be found, which was unusual for Ad Hoc. Some greens would have been nice.
All in all, another solid meal at Ad Hoc, but I’m really looking forward to my birthday fried chicken.
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map
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
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
For our second wedding anniversary, my wife and I aren’t getting each other presents. Instead, we’re channeling our resources into a series of “fancy” dinners in both Yountville and Los Angeles. As “mildly” obsessed fans of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, we thought it would be nice to check out Keller’s venerable French bistro, Bouchon, especially since getting a reservation at The French Laundry is almost impossible.
Since my wife and I have ties in both marketing and graphic design, it was wonderful to see how Bouchon is packaged for the public. From the swanky-yet-casual French bistro vibe, to the menus that wrap around the napkins, to the logos on the carafes, Bouchon has the details nailed down. This attention to detail carries over to the food, as well, which is all beauifully presented and equally delicious.
We started with the French Onion soup and the Beignets de Brandade de Morue. Featuring a salty cod puree (brandade) that’s incorporated into the batter, these crispy and perfectly fried beignets (served with tomato confit & fried sage) are delicious with a surprisingly delicious fishy kick. The French onion soup was very good, but I wish there were more pieces of onion in it.
My wife ordered the Croque Madame, which was excellent. The brioche is the star of this delicious ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg, and the wonderful mornay sauce was akin to the “icing on the cake.” I ordered the Steak Frites, which featured a flatiron steak, prepared sous vide and then pan-seared and topped with caramelized shallots and a slice of hotel butter. The steak had the beautiful texture that you’d expect from a steak prepared sous vide and the shallot/butter combination was an excellent complement.
Fries were served with both of our orders and they were close to perfect but not the best I’ve had. They give you an extremely generous serving of fries, so much so that we didn’t even finish them because we wanted to save room for dessert. I almost think that they could give you fewer fries so as not to waste potatoes.
For dessert, my wife got the daily special, a pot de creme infused with mint that was refreshing and light. It was served with a Bouchon Bakery shortbread cookie that was good, but it’s not as buttery as a more traditional shortbread cookie. I ordered the lemon tart, something I’ve had my eye on for months after seeing the recipe online, and it did not disappoint. The flavor was really intense, but given my recent penchant for lemony desserts, I loved it. The meal officially ended with some really cute petit fours (chocolate chip cookie, corn meal muffin, mini Nutter Butter, passionfruit jelly candy) The Nutter Butter and the passionfruit jelly candy were the best of the four.
I thought that the service was pretty good, although it did take awhile to get our main courses. Our server was fairly attentive and the basics, like water refills, clearing plates, etc. were all taken care of promptly. Turnover didn’t seem to be an issue as our meal took nearly two hours. The room has very high ceilings, and it can get very loud inside once it starts filling up. The tables are very close together, which some people have complained about, but I think this actually helps replicate the atmosphere of a real French bistro.
Overall, there’s a lot of stuff on Bouchon’s extensive menu we’d like to try, so we’re definitely planning on a return visit.
6534 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map
707.944.8037 Web site
Our second visit to Ad Hoc was for a 9pm reservation on a Monday night with some fellow Yelpers. Monday’s are happening at Ad Hoc because every other Monday is Fried Chicken night. It’s also family night for the staff at Keller’s other restaurants, so you’ll likely be eating with many of them…even Thomas Keller himself! Could Ad Hoc take fried chicken to the next, unbelievably delicious level or was it all just hype?
Baby Iceberg Wedge Salad
hobb’s applewood smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes and herb cream dressing
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
brentwood haricots verts with garden mint
and smashed marble potatoes
Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog
candied pecans and honey
angel’s food with dark chocolate frosting, lemon curd with lemon buttercream,
devil’s food with white chocolate ganache.
I’m not a fan of iceberg lettuce, but the bacon lardons and cherry tomatoes were incredible and made the baby iceberg wedge salad more interesting than it should have been. I ended up making little bite-sized BLTs on my fork.
The highly anticipated fried chicken was a sight to behold when the platter was placed in front of us, and I can honestly say that this is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. The chicken is fried perfectly and every piece, even the white meat, was juicy and delicious, and the skin had a great crunch. The secret is two-fold. First, the chicken is brined to ensure that every piece stays moist. Then it’s dipped in buttermilk and dredged in breading. This produces fried chicken that retains moisture without being greasy while creating a perfect crispy crust that’s got a bit of tang from the buttermilk.
The fried chicken was so good, we actually sang to it, accompanied by songs from Ad Hoc’s dinner music playlist.
(to the tune of “My Girl” by The Temptations)
I guess you say
What can make me feel this way?
Talkin’ ’bout chicken
When the meal was over, we sang…
(to the tune of “When Will I See You Again” by Three Degrees)
Precious moments When will I eat you again?
When will our hearts beat together?
Are we in love or just friends?
Is this the beginning, or is this the end?
When will I eat you again?
Some of The French Laundry staff that were sitting at the table next to us were amused by our enthusiasm for the fried chicken and told us later that they will always remember us whenever they hear those songs again.
Our sides were minty haricot verts and garlic smashed potatoes. This combination is so simple and delicious, it’s quickly becoming our go-to side dishes at home.
I was kind of dreading the cheese course of Cypress Grove Chevres Humboldt Fog with Marshall Farm Honey and Toasted Pecans. We were really full when this arrived because we had asked for a second helping of fried chicken. But amazingly, the cheese course was actually refreshing and it helped me prepare for dessert.
Dessert course was a collection of cupcakes—angel’s food with dark chocolate frosting, lemon curd with lemon buttercream, devil’s food with white chocolate ganache. The lemon curd was easily the best of the bunch, with the devil’s food with white chocolate ganache coming in third.
The second-best cupcake of the night came from our friend Grace, who coincidentally brought some carrot cupcakes with her to share with our party.
Grace’s creations featured a light, carrot cupcake with hints of ginger and orange zest topped with a cream cheese frosting and almond slivers. The accomodating staff at Ad Hoc even plated them for us and served her cupcakes next to the house cupcakes. We were trying to get them to serve one to Thomas Keller, but that didn’t happen. At least we tried!
6476 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599 map
Washington Street is an unassuming country road in the Napa Valley that also happens to be the epicenter of Thomas Keller’s culinary empire. His flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, put Yountville on the map, but Keller also operates Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and the happy accident down the street known as Ad Hoc.
As its name implies, Ad Hoc was supposed to be a temporary six-month experiment before Keller opened a restaurant specializing in gourmet burgers and wine. But Ad Hoc proved to be so popular that it’s now become a permanent member of Keller’s restaurant family, and the “burgers and bottles” concept was put on the back burner.
Under the leadership of Chef Dave Cruz, Ad Hoc serves a different four-course set menu every night, showcasing the best of American comfort food, including braised beef short ribs, roasted Kurobuta pork, hangar steaks and their legendary fried chicken. Each meal consists of a salad course, main course, cheese course and dessert. If you finish your meal and want a bit more, you can always ask for seconds and they’ll happily bring you more. Wine selections are plentiful, and the young, energetic staff is happy to help you pick an appropriate wine.
When we arrived, I got excited when I saw that we were getting braised beef short ribs. I didn’t really care about anything else on the menu because there are only a few things I love in this world more than a braised beef short rib. This evening’s menu:
Frisee and Mache Salad
shredded Liberty Farms duck leg shaved celery, cornichons, fried capers,
duck skin cracklins and a creamy garlic dressing
Braised Beef Short Ribs
baby leeks and fennel, fingerling potatoes, sofrito,
orange zest and spanish black olives
Cana de Oveja
camembert with K & J Farms nectarines
Mixed Berries and Cream
The Frisee and Mache Salad was excellent, especially when you consider that I’m not much of a duck fan because I usually find it too fatty and the flavor can be overwhelming. But this duck leg was the exact opposite; it was succulent and flavorful without dominating the salad, and I forgot I was eating duck for a second. Fried capers were a revelation…they look like they burst open, kind of like miniature bits of fresh green popcorn (or would that be pop-capers?). The duck skin cracklins were a great substitute for bacon bits; there’s nothing like crunchy fried bird skin is there?
The main course of Braised Beef Short Ribs was an eye-opening entree. Our waiter said the meat was braised for 48 hours, which was confusing to me until one of our dining companions revealed that it was technically a sous vide. I had no idea what a sous vide was at the time, but soon learned that this technique produces some of the most delectable meat I’ve ever eaten. Cutting into the meat was like moving a hot knife through butter, but the meat didn’t fall apart. Each slice of meat melted in my mouth and had a really rich, beefy flavor with a hint of citrus from the orange zest. Not only was this among the finest meat dishes I’ve ever eaten, it made me curious enough about sous vide to explore the possibilities of doing it at home.
The cheese course consisted of Camembert wedges and slices of the freshest nectarines I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. You tend to forget how good fresh fruit really tastes if your only source is the local Safeway.
Dessert was a seemingly simple Mixed Berries and Cream with delicious house-made granola from Bouchon Bakery. The twist here is that the whipped cream is mixed with a little creme fraiche and buttermilk, which made it more decadent than one might think possible. I never thought I would go ga-ga over a blueberry and raspberry parfait, but in the right hands, anything can be positively sinful.
Ad Hoc’s casual atmosphere and easy-going staff make it easy to relax and enjoy a truly superb meal. What’s most striking about the dining experience was the simplicity of the food. It’s basically comfort food that’s been refined or redefined by using different techniques and fresher ingredients that elevate it to a higher level. If Ad Hoc is the low-hanging fruit in the Keller kingdom, then I can only imagine how good the food is at Bouchon and The French Laundry.
I think I’ll start saving my pennies now.
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map