Monday, April 18, 2011

Bisous à Bouchon

In spite of having been inspired (bowled over, really) by celebrated culinary wonder Thomas Keller in The Soul of a Chef almost a decade ago on my journey towards cooking school and into the restaurant—albeit for a short time only, I'd never actually taken the opportunity to try his much-revered and widely heralded food. Until now.

Last week, JA and I took a day off from work and wound our way up to Yountville to drop in for a late and lazy lunch at Bouchon. It was an experience to remember—incredible from beginning to end, and strongly reminiscent of the best Parisienne bistro. I loved absolutely everything that came to our table. Why can't every day be a holiday at Bouchon?

Above: lobster bisque swimming with mildly earthy trumpet mushrooms and a crispy-on-the-outside, molten-and-tender-on-the-inside lobster beignet anchoring the fragrant bowl.
Below: a joyous, harmonious tangle of marinated beets, Tomme Dolce (soft-ripened goat's cheese), roasted garden lettuce, poached rhubarb and toasted hazelnuts with a drizzle of rhubarb vinaigrette.

Then out came the creamy cod brandade beignets with a super crisped-up exterior sitting on top of sweet-tart tomato confit, crowned with fried sage. ... I suddenly felt transported to one of Barcelona's amazing tapas bars.

Gnocchi a la Parisienne doused in a rich brown butter sauce stayed fresh and bright with its fricassee of garden vegetables including tangy rhubarb, sharp wilted greens and the umami flavors of mushroom.

We couldn't leave Bouchon without trying the chocolate bouchons (aka rich, moist brownies) accompanied by a home-made espresso ice cream and skim milk foam—"that's the part that keeps the dessert light," said the waiter.

Riiiigggght, I said. There was nothing light about this meal, but we were more than OK with that. After all, Bouchon is all about butter, beautiful food and the occasional big splurge.

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