Monday, June 15, 2009

Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery, or my French Laundry consolation prizes

No French Laundry for me this weekend (insert sad face) so I patronized the other Thomas Keller establishments instead.

First up was Bouchon Bakery... we did this Saturday right before dinner at Redd.

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Mr. Insomniac purchased an assortment of macaroons and a roll that was studded with plump raisins. Yum.

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I got the last large cookie which was very tasty and provided a nice sweet treat when I back home to Los Angeles.

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I left this citron tart in the hotel refrigerator without even tasting it. Major suckage.

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Our last meal before heading to the San Francisco Airport was at Ad Hoc. Our reservations were for 5pm - the very start of dinner service. There weren't a lot of people in the restaurant when we first got there, so we got lots of attention.

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Ad Hoc is an unassuming restaurant that serves a single family-style four course prix fixe meal that changes each day. They're open five nights a week and have recently started a Sunday brunch service.

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To say these people are passionate about food is an understatement. At least three different people informed us that tonight was "lobster roll night" and how fortunate we were to partake in lobster. Not in a snooty way, but in a well-meaning way. Like they were so happy for us. lol

This restaurant caters to the locals. I watched the hostess give one armed hugs to diners that she recognized, saying that it's been a while and asking how a birthday went. You can get on the email list to receive the daily menus, call ahead (like we did), check the website, or look out for the helpful "stay tuned" signs in the restaurant. Truth be told, I was hoping for their fried chicken (which they served on Monday - d'oh!) but who hates on lobster? Not me. And certainly not the three people that told us how it was lucky lobster Sunday.

When prompted by Mr. Insomniac ("What's up with the pigs?"), the general manager explained the reason behind the various pigs that were prominently displayed around the restaurant.

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It's a long story, he begins...

A chicken and a pig want to open a restaurant that specializes in breakfast. The chicken helpfully points out that he will supply the eggs, if the pig supplies the bacon. That's what Thomas wants from us - total commitment, total passion. The pigs are a reminder of what we need to be.

He doesn't say this apologetically - or roll his eyes like I would. He says this with pride. He points out the hostess who called him last night to say that she had a great idea for the specialty cocktail (the golden watermelon sangria - delish. I forgot to upload the pic, but it was golden watermelon juice, sauvingnon blanc, sprigs of mint, and a splash of club soda). He also describes an annual award that is given to the best Thomas Keller employee - it's a big deal: vacation, prizes, etc. But it never goes to managers, he adds ruefully. He turns around to adjust something on a nearby table, and before he heads back to the bar area, leans back to our table and repeats with a smile - never.

And now comes the food:

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Bouchon baked bread with butter

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Pole bean and cabbage salad. Yellow wax and bluelake beans, savory cabbage, chopped shallots, toasted pistachios, sherry vinaigrette. Light, clean, with a nice peppery bite to it. I could have eaten an entire bowl of this.

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Maine lobster roll. Pickled red onions, shaved celery, yellow corn, English pea and potato salad.

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By the time the lauded lobster rolls arrived I was pretty much full. The first bite was delicious - all the flavors were perfectly balanced and the roll that came from the Bouchon bakery a few blocks down had a delicious sweetness. The lobster meat consisted of huge chunks and the potato salad and buttery corn were the perfect accompaniments. It was the ideal summer meal - all I needed was a veranda overlooking the ocean.

The servers are all in their late twenties and early thirties and they take their business seriously - when Mr. Insomniac inquired about the sauce in the lobster salad, our waiter returned after speaking with the chef to list out each specific ingredient.

Problems happened after I ate the first roll. I was full. Like painfully full. Mr. Insomniac was finishing up his second roll as our server made the rounds to our table. "You're going to eat that lobster - right?" he said, eyes wide with concern. I nodded quickly, but my alarm was building. I thought about hiding the lobster under the roll, but managed to finish most of it after Mr. Insom ate one of the large chunks.


Old Chatham Sheephearding Company's Hudson Valley Camembert, K & J's Orchard's flavor queen pluots, Marshall Farm's wildflower honey.

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Strangely enough, when the cheese course arrived, I found a way to happily eat my half.


Pain au raisin bread pudding with mixed berry coulis.

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I left most of the bread pudding to Mr. Insomniac who was pleasantly surprised by the dish.

Delightful meal and the perfect way to end our weekend, even though I was too stuffed to move comfortably when it was over. They give a LOT of food for only two people. And everything for $49. A veritable bargain in Napa.

5 comments:

HaveShoesWillTravel said...

Lobster roll night sounds amazing.

weezermonkey said...

What a fantastic deal! And I'm loving the light at 5 p.m. -- I think your pics turned out quite nicely.

Oh, and that chicken is a bastard. She would just have to poop out eggs, but the pig would have to DIE for the cause. Boo.

Ann Marie said...

Funny ... I just received an e-mail from Williams-Sonoma about their new Thomas Keller/Ad Hoc Fried Chicken cooking kit.

{grace} said...

I loved Bouchon when we went years ago. The retelling of the pig and chicken story by the manager is killing me...

I have never had a lobster roll. Sadness!

amber said...

Oh, I'm glad to hear another rave review of this place. We'll be there a week from tomorrow. :)