My 100 Foot Journey to Heaven
I love to cook… obviously… and I love to eat, and drink! I started really getting into cooking (and drinking I might add) when I was in my early twenties after a decade of being old enough to watch and learn from my mother. Nancy cannot only cook her ass off (and drink her ass off too), but she can put together and throw the most elegant and beautiful dinner parties. Taking a note out of her playbook I purchased every Martha Stewart and Carolyne Roehm book out there. I loved to thumb through their beautiful tomes and draw inspiration from all their glorious ideas. Imagining the day I would throw my own sophisticated and elegant parties.
Around the same time that I started to dive into the kitchen I went to a dinner party where the hosts cooked the entire meal using recipes from The French Laundry. That is the moment that the foodie in me was born. The week after that dinner I went right out to my local book store and bought The French Laundry Cookbook. That Christmas I foolishly followed in the path of my friends and attempted to cook my family Christmas dinner using only recipes from TFL. I started prepping two weeks in advance, burnt my right and left hand, about four times; and, ultimately enlisted the help of my sister to get everything finished and on the table before midnight. You’d think that the whole experience would have tuned me right off, but alas, you’d be wrong. It only strengthened my admiration and respect for Thomas Keller and made me long to sit at his table and have him do it right for me (that sounds dirty, but you know what I mean!).
Which brings me to a recent trip Josh and I took to Napa Valley for his birthday. Sitting on the sofa Thursday morning, sipping my tea, I started thinking about the boring plans I’d made to take Josh skiing and for dinner on his birthday. I looked over at him sitting in his chair sipping his coffee and said, “Why don’t we take that trip to Napa we’ve been talking about for two years instead?” He studied me for a minute waiting to see if I was joking; and, when it was clear that I meant it, he got on the phone with Delta. I called the sitter and booked a hotel room and by that evening we were packed and ready to go. I have never, and I mean never, planned a last minute vacation in my life. This was literally the first time I have ever traveled by the seat of my pants and it was extraordinary! It was also the first time in six years the two of us took a trip without the kids and extended family members. I realize it’s not like we suddenly decided to go to Bali, and Napa is only a few hours from Utah. But baby steps people, baby steps!
We stayed at a lovely place our friend recommended in Yountville called The North Block Hotel which just happened to be steps away from… you guessed it, The French Laundry! I wasn’t planning on trying to get in since it usually takes booking months in advance to get a table. However, I couldn’t resist calling to see if it was possible since we were so close I could practically taste it (see what I did there?) As luck would have it we managed to get a seating but not until 8pm the following night. I’m sure for all you hipsters out there that doesn’t seem all that late to you, in fact it’s probably a bit on the early side. For me, someone who generally eats around 5:30/6pm, it was late. It took some effort to pull myself together and rally but I did it! I put on my makeup, I did my hair, I wore heels and I threw myself out the door and walked 100 feet to heaven.
I know you’re all thinking “Oh you only got a table cause you threw your name around.” Yes, yes I did throw my name around. I would have promised my third born child if I thought it would get me a reservation, so I’m obviously not above using my name. Though I was just as likely to hear a “no” as I was to hear a “yes.” I mean it’s a pretty prestigious and incredible place. I’m guessing no one there was all that impressed by my resume. However as I said, I was not above giving it a shot. A shot totally worth taking. Even if it only paid off because someone else canceled at the last minute or because of my excellent work in Killers (say what you will but a few people really liked that movie!).
When we walked in and were graciously taken to our table a sort of reverence came over me. Here I was in my culinary hero’s three star rated Michelin establishment about to have the meal of a lifetime. I sent out a silent thank you into the universe for my good fortune, sat down, put my napkin in my lap like a lady and started giggling uncontrollably. I was like “a pig in shit” the whole night.
The food was beyond description. That, however, won’t stop me from trying. It was gorgeous, imaginative and yet still delicious. Now I sound like I’m interviewing to be the food critic for the NY Times. Our waiter was gracious, kind and incredibly on it. The wine… oh man the wine! It seemed to pour from an endless bottle and each time our glass was taken away it was replaced with another full of something even more delicious than the last. It was truly one of those “once in a lifetime experiences” people talk about that I hope to have at least three more times before I die.
Yes, the meal was the price of an iPad, and yes, it is a totally extravagant, luxurious experience. But if you love food, Thomas Keller and good wine as much as I do, I recommend forgoing the iPad one more year. Not to mention, cutting costs where you can, putting your French Laundry intentions out there, (read previous post on intention work); and, if you have one, beg a wealthy family member to take you. If push comes to shove just promise Keller your first, second or third born child. I mean they take Amex so I’m guessing they take children too. I’m sure they could use the free kitchen help.
Josh walked every morning to Bouchon, Keller’s baker in Yountville. He would pick me up a chai latte and their donut of the day and get himself a coffee and brioche. Bouchon was the inspiration behind Josh’s recent fervor for baking. So far he’s tackled croissants that are to die for, rye bread, challah bread, and buttermilk biscuits. Thank you Bouchon!
Yountville has the most beautiful walking paths that take you right through the small town and it’s lovely parks. It’s the perfect place to take leisurely strolls, especially since there are a bunch of tasting rooms along the way!
The night we arrived in Napa we had a fantastic meal at Morimoto where we indulged in the chef’s choice menu. The food, ambience and waitstaff started our trip off with the perfect food coma bang.