The French Laundry, acclaimed chef Thomas Keller’s premier restaurant in the Napa Valley featuring a 9-course, 3-hour culinary adventure., has changed the procedure for making reservations. They no longer take phone reservations.
To obtain a reservation, you must use their reservation page on their website. They open reservations on the 1st day of every odd month (Jan, Mar, May, July, Sep, Nov) at 10:00 am PST. For example, on July 1st, at 10 am PST, they will take reservations for September and October. Website
Jacket required. Current cost is $310.
Is it worth it?
Is food fuel or pleasure to you? That is the real question. If fuel is your answer, then NO, don’t go.
For those who evaluate, savor, and appreciate every bite of food, an absolute YES. It is the Disneyland of Food, every dish a new ride and new experience. The food is about purity of flavor and putting those flavors together in such a way that the palate finds intrigue, mystery, and ecstasy come together over the course of your meal.
Only a ten minute walk from The Inn On First, a Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is a new restaurant that is getting a lot of buzz for its food. So last week when our friends, Guy and Christina DeMarco, were in town we joined in the fun. No reservations taken. It’s a drop in and “be social” kind of place.
Lots of small plates to choose from, really a restaurant for sharing everything on the table. The Herb Leaf Fries were just yummy for a starter as was the Dungeness Crab Toasts with sweet and sour sauce. Jamie really enjoyed the Twice Fried Brussels Sprouts (you all know I am a hater) and the Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Blood Oranges was spectacularly fun to eat with a lovely contrast of grill marks and the sweet yet slightly acidic orange. We couldn’t pass up the “Angry” Shrimp cocktail with chilies and orange, although Guy thought they were more “Mildly Pissed Off” with regard to the “heat” factor.
We all dug into and loved the Garlic and Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab with Grilled Bread and spicy aioli. Wowza! Just make sure to ask for extra napkins as this is a finger feast with forks given to each person to extract the meat. Don’t worry, they have these lovely wet towels with lemon to clean up at the end.
Also got a chance to try to the Roasted Quail with Soy Glaze, and that was just delicious. Oh, how the menu tempted us to purchase more, but beware!, these dishes creep up on you slowly and suddenly you find you simply cannot partake of another bite. I passed on dessert as I am currently/temporarily no dairy, and everything had dairy in it.
It just means another trip within the month to sample another 1/4 of the menu. I still want to try the Atlas jacks (sweet and spicy cracker jacks), the Crudo with Preserved Kumquat, the Red Curry Mussels, and the Rabbit Pot Pie. Prices range from $5 to 9$ for Snacks, $8 to $20 for small plates, and $34 to $42 for the larger platters to be shared by up to four people. Wine bar only available, by the glass and the bottle. Plenty of Vegetarian options, and I was unable to find out at the end how they manage Vegans or Gluten-free.
Seating tip: they have high tables in front with stool seating, but ask if there are any tables available in the back that are more like booths (not a lot of them) where it feels more restarauntish vs. clubby.
A ten-minute walk from The Inn On First, just off the corner of First and Main Streets, is the restaurant called Torc. The menu is eclectic European ranging from snacks (house made cured olives, or the Iberico ham toasts, and deviled eggs), to small plates (salads, soups, light pastas), to large plate entrees (lamb, beef, chicken, fish). We were fortunate to join our friends Sara and Dan, with their 11-year old son, Charlie, so there were lots of bites to be enjoyed. As Sara is gluten-free they were readily able to work with her dietary issues. It is also clearly stated on the menu that they work with vegans, vegetarians, etc. Basically, “ask and we will accommodate as best we can”- That is service!
The highlights for me were the hamachi tartare with avocado, the delicious gazpacho soup perfectly chilled and flavored, the quail with mushrooms au jus, boar ravioli in a beautiful boar broth, and silky smooth halibut that was perfectly cooked with mushrooms and squash. Why, even Charlie’s plain pasta with grated parmesan was scrumptious in its simplicity.
Prices range from $5 snacks to $10 small plates on up to $18 – $40 entrees. Plenty of wine and beer by the glass and bottle. A lovely meal with a hip-urban environment that is worthy of Napa.
A ten-minute walk from The Inn On First, a luxury lodging property in Napa, is the restaurant called Torc. It opened a few months ago and I wanted to give it awhile before tempting fate with such an eclectic menu. We shared the evening with our friends, Don and Kathy, so that meant more bites to enjoy.
Beginning with the artichoke soup with mint and lemon, I was in love with the velvety finish. The portions are not large (we had read about this beforehand) and yet when I saw what was put in front of me I appreciated that they seemed just perfect for dining on multiple courses. The Kampachi Crudo was incredible, a white fish with a citrus sauce and avocado, as was the Roasted Beets with Burrata and a Sherry-Maple glaze. Growing up on canned beets I thought I would never try them again. Since trying roasted fresh beets my heart has been changed, and Torc delivered it with gusto.
We also tried the Deviled Eggs, and the Pakora, as well as the Jamon Iberica, all great small starter appetizers for the meal. Jamie had read about the Coconut Rice and the flavor on that dish was subtle and fun to eat. We also enjoyed the Pork with the Cheddar Grits and a Buccatini Pasta with a Lamb Bolognese. We enjoyed all of it. Prices for apps and sides run $5 to $15, and the entrees are from $14 to $29.
Torc is willing to accommodate changes to dishes to present Vegans, Vegetarians, and Gluten-Free guests. That is something not every restaurant in Napa offers. The menu changes seasonally so I am looking forward to some really great meals in the future.
Only a 10-minute walk from The Inn On First, a provider of romantic lodging in Napa, is a restaurant called Fish Story. They opened two years ago and chose to follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium lists for sustainable fish that are good for dining. It was good but I could make almost everything on the menu at home; and when I want to eat out I generally look for chefs that will teach me, or tantalize my palate, or offer me things I would never do at home.
When the new chef came one month ago we were intrigued by the new menu. Celebrating our 20th anniversary of our first date we decided to give the restaurant a try. I texted a friend immediately after dinner: “Just go!” Everything we had was delicious.
Jamie started with the tuna tartare with sourdough crisps and balsamic vinegar glee with a violet mustard. Every bite was incredibly wonderful with little bursts of the gelee that would shine through the tartare. I was tempted by the cold green garlic soup that was light, refreshing, and creamy goodness in a bowl. For a main course Jamie ordered the Lobster “pot au feu”, a fish stew with a large lobster tail in the center, mussels, clams, and a luscious sauce to be sopped up with the hot bread they bring to table. I ordered the sturgeon and it was perfectly cooked, a bit meaty and every bite tender, with this bed of leeks underneath that was a great complement to the fish as well as wild escargot bites that were incredibly tender. I didn’t want my meal to end.
For dessert we enjoyed the soft vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and it was a perfect ending to a delightful meal. The wine list for March was 1/2 off (their version of March Madness) so we splurged on a Storybook Zinfandel that was perfect with our meal. First courses run $9 to $15, and entrees $17 to $38. If you’re looking for some incredible flavors to go with fish, this is a great place to dine.
One last note: on the menu they state that “many items can be prepared in a vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free fashion.” That really impressed me as so many of our guests are looking for alternative cuisines due to dietary restrictions.