Mighty Life List
Sep 29 2009

Dinner at the French Laundry? Check.

Let’s take a momentary break from my sympathetic nervous system to discuss the finest meal I’ve ever had.


Bryan started calling for a reservation three months in advance, and we ultimately secured a table for four on a Tuesday night at 9 p.m. I asked Bryan if that would mean we were getting the B team in the kitchen. His response, “The French Laundry doesn’t have a B team.”

Our dear friends Kayla and Josh Cagan were our plus-two, but Josh called in a bit of a panic two days before. He had a bad case of the flu. The French Laundry being a bit particular about reservations, we were doubly concerned. I wasn’t sure how we’d even begin asking other people. “Hello. Are you free tomorrow night? In that case, I have a personal financial question for you.”

Fortunately, one 48-hour nap and a clean shave later, Josh rallied and the Cagans flew up from Los Angeles to join us. You’d never know from this photo that Josh is sweating espresso:


The day of, Bryan spent a few hours studying wine in hopes of convincing the sommelier that we took him seriously. We got all dressed up, arrived about fifteen minutes early, and stood around laughing too readily.


All of us felt oddly nervous and self-aware until the sommelier came out and asked us if we’d like to have some Champagne in the garden. Yes, we certainly would. We walked outside to find Pink taking a smoke break with her husband.

(Aside: How crazy loveable is Pink? She was having this passionate, animated conversation with her husband — who I recognized from an ancient episode of Punk’d — and it made me feel all glowy for her. Hooray for the strong, fun girls. I didn’t shove my camera at her head, so if you’re curious, she looked like this:


But there was no carousel horse for her to straddle. So maybe more like this?


Only wearing a cute strapless maxi dress. Anyway, I digress.)

The meal was, appropriately, the meal of a lifetime. Our menu:

Amuse Bouche

Ahi Tuna Waffle Cone with Crème Fraîche

Remember what I said about Santorini? This smelled like Greece to me.



Oysters and Pearls

“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar


Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon”

Summer Grapes, Hazelnuts and Frisée

The guys figured out that this was essentially the world’s most amazing peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was served with warm brioche, which was replaced every few minutes to ensure that the temperature would be right for softening the Foie Gras. It was the epicurean equivalent of having someone hand you a dryer-toasty towel right as you step out of the bath.


Very, very old salt from various regions of the world


Sautéed Fillet of Sablefish

Sunchokes, Navel Orange, Pine Nuts, Arugula, and Niçoise


Maine Lobster Tail “Pochee Au Beurre Doux”

Heirloom Beets, English Cucumber, Pumpernickel Purée, and Horseradish Crème Fraîche

The champagne grapes on the plate are not grapes. I believe they were bits of cucumber cut with the world’s tiniest melon baller. Also, they were frozen, which made me gasp.



Salmon Creek Farms Pork Belly

Ibérico Ham, Candy Stripe Figs, Corn Beignet, and Sauce Pimentón


Marcho Farms “Coeur de Veau”

Caramelized Apple Dumpling, Watercress, and Pickled Walnut Condiment


My bread was stacking up, as I was getting dangerously full. All the baked goods are made at sister Bistro/Bakery Bouchon.


Snake River Farms “Calotte de Boeuf Grillée”

Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Broccolini, Tokyo Turnips, and Black Garlic Jus


Andante Dairy “Cavatina”

Sour Cherry “Chiboust,” Fennel Bulb, Nasturtium, and Mustard Seed Shortbread

The top layer of this gave no resistance against the fork, almost like a meringue. I rubbed it all over my face.


Honeydew Melon Sorbet

Compressed Watermelon and Basil “Nuage”

I love how the seeds on the plate read like caviar.


“Gâteau Saint Nizier au Manjari”

Mango-Chili Relish, Mast Brothers Chocolate Cocoa Nibs, Lime Foam, and Coconut Milk Sorbet


Lemon Verbena “Vacherin”

Tellicherry Pepper Panna Cotta, Lemon Verbena Sherbet, and Chilled Silverado Trail Strawberry Consommé





I’ve decided I want one of these bowls. Gorgeous:



Can you tell I was a little tipsy by this point? Yeah:


They even sent us home with little packages of shortbread, which I rationed over four days of afternoon tea.


It’s so rare to come across new flavors and sensations as an adult, experiencing so many in one evening has made me more aware of how much cruddy tasting stuff I eat without thinking about it. Eating like this is one of the most personal ways you can experience art, and I’ve decided to look into more restaurants I’d like to try so I can add them to the list as well. In the meantime, I’m paying a lot more attention to how my everyday foods taste, and investing a little more to buy better produce and prepared foods.

In all, it was an unforgettable night, and the company was just as good.


Intel is making my site more interesting by sponsoring my Mighty Life List as part of its Sponsors of Tomorrow campaign. This meal was just one of ten dreams they’ve helped me achieve.