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Ad Hoc cookbooks Thomas Keller

A Morning with Thomas Keller: Ad Hoc at Home Book Signing

Ad Hoc hosted a special book signing event called “A Morning with Thomas Keller” at the restaurant yesterday, and I was lucky enough to get an invitation. Chef Keller spent the morning signing Ad Hoc at Home cookbooks alongside Ad Hoc Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz as the Ad Hoc staff served up hors d’oeuvres featuring selected recipes from the cookbook.

InvitationThe Invitation

It was an exciting day for me because I finally got to meet Thomas Keller and shake the hand of a man whose restaurants have changed my life. As I’ve written before, my first meal at Ad Hoc in June 2007 was a major culinary epiphany for me. It changed the way I thought about how food was prepared and sourced, and it made me appreciate a level of dining that I normally would’ve avoided based solely on cost.

Plowing through booksAd Hoc Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz (left) and Chef Thomas Keller

When I approached the table, Chef Cruz leaned over and told Chef Keller about my blog and the Ad Hoc Menu Archive. I told Chef Keller about our dinner at the brand-new Bouchon Beverly Hills last weekend (took my mom for her birthday), and he was glad to know we had a great dinner. I also let him know that the entire city of Los Angeles is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Bouchon Bakery. He didn’t really respond to that, but I think he knows that LA wants that bakery. :)

Meeting Thomas Keller...Is he really interested in what I’m saying or does he think I’m a crazy fanboy?

In the end, Chef Keller shook my hand, thanked me for all the support and graciously posed for a picture. Thanks, Simone for snapping this pic. :)

I think this moment could only be topped if I ever met Magic Johnson. :)

Now that that’s out of the way…on to the food! The first thing we were offered were the Albondigas, a veal meatball atop a tomato compote. Unfortunately, I was too busy devouring these to take a picture. Here’s the rest of the spread…

Toast with Fig JamToast with Fig Jam

It’s not really an Ad Hoc party without some fried chicken.

Fried Chicken LollipopsFried Chicken Lollipops
Beef StroganoffA bit of beef stroganoff.

The ratatouille was a simple and brilliant spoonful of soffrito topped with tomato confit, eggplant confit, and zucchini confit.

RatatouilleRatatouille as you’ve never seen it before.

The lemon bars were like mini lemon meringue pies but also reminded me one of my favorite desserts, Bouchon’s Tarte au Citron.

Lemon BarsPerfect Little Lemon Bars

What more do you need when there’s chocolate cupcakes?

Chocolate CupcakesChocolate Cupcakes

Overall, it was a really fun event, and I was honored to have been invited. Thanks to everyone at Ad Hoc for always making me feel at home. Here’s the full set of pictures:


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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 Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc Debuts New Brunch Format Sunday

Ad Hoc is changing things up for Sunday brunch, offering several options over two courses instead of the previous three-course set menu. It’s also going to be cheaper; the new brunch price is $24, down from $39.

The first course will feature pastries from Bouchon Bakery, as well as a choice of fresh fruit or a yogurt parfait. Next is a choice of an egg dish, sourdough waffles, stone-ground oatmeal, and a special for the day. The oatmeal will be served with a number of jams, syrups, granolas and sugars. There will be no dessert course, but cookies for the table will be delivered with the check.

The impetus for the brunch changes occurred when Thomas Keller came into Ad Hoc one Sunday for brunch with a pancake craving, but that morning’s menu didn’t really feel like breakfast. Keller felt simpler and more traditional breakfast options should be available for brunch and worked with the Ad Hoc team to make it happen.

We’ll be there Sunday to check it out and will report back. The sacrifices I make for my readers…I tell ya! :)

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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

~

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

~

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

~

Red Velvet Cupcakes
white chocolate-cream cheese frosting

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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

 

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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!

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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.

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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 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

~

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
tfl garden cucumber salad
country style whipped potatoes

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The Cheese Board
marshall’s farm honey
spiced nuts

~

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

~

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

~

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.