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the french laundry | food photography

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Hope you all had a great one!  I originally was planning to blog a steamy hot boudoir session today, but so many people have contacted me asking how our weekend trip went that I felt I need to blog this now.  Stay tuned for some hot boudoir later this week!

Let me start off this post with saying that no, this is not how we normally eat!  Eating at The French Laundry has been one of the things on our bucket list.  Jonathan was just explaining to me the very few (and difficult) ways of getting reservations – if you’re curious, you can read about it here and on the cute gastronomy couple’s blog.  We were thinking of trying within the next few years when Ngoc of Sky Box Events announces that she is giving away her reservations!  Jonathan wakes me up one morning last week to tell me that we’re going!  whee!  Luckily, I purposely didn’t book anything this long weekend (in case we wanted to go snowboarding), so we immediately booked our flights and off we went to Yountville in Napa Valley!

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They grow all their own produce in this charming garden across the street.  I love that tree & bench!  We spent a lot of time sitting there before and after our nearly 4 hour meal.

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I think garlic was their most abundant crop, which would not be surprising at all.

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They also have a quaint little courtyard for you to hang out in when you take a break from your meal.  (no joke!)

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The pretty blue door entrance:  (see us in the reflection?)

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First up were these cheese balls (please excuse me, I don’t remember the proper & full names).  They were really warm and fluffy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.  Up second was salmon tartare on creme fraiche, wrapped in a cute cone.  The food tastes as good as it’s presented!

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Cauliflower “panna cotta” – with island creek oyster glaze and california sturgeon caviar:

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Salty, creamy, and a little sweet!  The cute little spoon (made of mother of pearl?) was the perfect size to enjoy this delicacy.   I LOVE this next photo:

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And next, we had bread (from Bouchon Bakery) – it was to die for.  It was crisp on the outside & fluffy on the inside.  Slightly buttery like a croissant.  We were also given two choices of butter:  plain butter locally made or salted butter from Vermont.  Both were good, but I absolutely LOVED the salted butter.  (salted butter in the silver dish.)  I also love this next photo:

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Up until this point, Jonathan and I have had the same thing.  This next dish is where we each got something different off the chef’s tasting menu.  I got the Sacramento delta green asparagus:  buttermilk-fried onion rings, Jidori hen egg & frisee:

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Jonathan got the moulard duck foie gras en terrine – yogurt glaze, hosui pear, scallion, hazelnuts and vanilla-bay leaf essence.  The brioche alone was heavenly!  And the vanilla-bay leaf essence jelly thing was so so good!  The subtle sweetness was incredible.

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We also got a selection of fancy salts, perfectly presented of course.

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I forget which salt is which now.  From what I remember, one is called Jurrasic.  Maybe it’s the one in the oval container?  Really ancient and fine, so it tastes saltier.  The gray one is from deep under the sea, so it has a more mineral flavor.  And I forget what the third is.  Educate me if you know please!

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Next I had a sauteed fillet of Japanese blue-fin tuna – young coconut, pearl tapioca, English cucumber, cilantro and madras curry… pictured left:

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On the right is Florida everglades frog legs – green garlic gratin, San Marzano tomato compote and Spanish capers.  The crispy frog legs were my favorite of the above two dishes.

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And what you just saw above was an unbelievable “blanquette” of Maine diver scallops with French Laundry garden white carrots, celery branch and black trumpet mushrooms.  I savored every last bite of this.  So so good!

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The above left is the four story hill harm milk-fed “poularde” – navel orange, nicoise olive, piperade and pernod “nuage”.  Very tasty!  The navel oranges mixed really well.  On the right is “mosaic” of devil’s gulch ranch rabbit – Hobbs’ bacon, royal blenheim apricot, arrowleaf spinach, sunchokes, sunflower seeds and tarragon jus.  This was a saltier dish compared to the poularde.

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Okay, so why is this random photo of the farm here?  We were starting to get full, so we took a break.  We took a little stroll around their garden and watched them prepare all the vegetables. :)

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And then we were ready to resume.  The breads from Bouchon was so yummy!  Above is a walnut bread and below is a black currant bread.

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And up next may be my favorite of the main courses.  “Chateaubriand” of Marcho farms nature-fed veal – “pommes darphin,” red beets, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, and sauce borscht.  The veal was so tender and juicy.  It came with a little hash brown like thing too that was so crispy and yummy!

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This next one is one of my favorite photos from the day.  It’s an “Idiazabal” – basically a baklava with green apples, Sicilian pistachio, white honey & watercress.  I forget what kind of cheese it came with.  Anyone can educate me?

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Next is not the most photogenic dish, but it was Jonathan & I’s absolute FAVORITE:  “Pisco Sour” – Persian lime sorbet, frozen marshmellow, passion fruit pulp, and Angostura bitters.  It was so refreshing!  Tart, cold, and just divine.  It was the perfect treat to cleanse our palettes to prepare us for the flurry of desserts that was about to come our way!  The first of them being this pineapple tart.   There was cake inside too!

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This next one I’ll go a little backwards.  On the left is a bakewell tart – huckleberries, marcona almonds and creme fraiche sherbet.  Tart and sweet!

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Above left and below is the peanut butter “bavarois” – cruncy feuilletine, maralumi milk chocolate whip & Gros Michel banana sorbet.  Very delicious!  And the inside of the chocolate ball delicately housed two peanuts.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, they brought out truffles!  Pictured below is a citrus one.  The also had a hazelnut one (to the left) that I really liked and a peanut butter one (centered left) that could send me to heaven.

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Below is Jonathan’s plate at the end… he doesn’t like raisins.  My plate was clean!  Sadly, they also gave us these AMAZING toffee covered macadamia nuts but we were too full!  I forced myself to eat two of them because they were so darn good, but my stomach was filled to the brim!

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And I love how everything is so novelty there.  Our bill even came as a laundry tag.  Though I must admit, the novelty was ruined a little bit for me towards the second half of our meal, when some VIP regulars ended up sitting at the tables beside us.  We were in a small room with 3 tables, we were one, and the VIPs occupied the other two tables.  The staff and even Thomas Keller knew them and they talked like they frequent The French Laundry quite a bit.  It took the “specialness” out a little for me, but nonetheless, it was still an amazing experience!   I’d do it again!  *looking at Jonathan’s reaction*  haha.  And lastly, a self portrait of us.  hehe.

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Thanks Ngoc for the reservations!!!

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Shawn Van Daele - February 16, 2010 - 9:26 am

Ahhhh I just LOVE YOUR WORK SO MUCH!!! Especially your weddings and engagement photos – so inspiring :)

Sandy - February 16, 2010 - 9:32 am

My dream job would be to become a food photographer, these images are just splendid! This place totally reminds me of a gastronomy restaurant I went to in Chicago called Moto which served foods in forms you aren’t unaccustomed to and they had the BEST service there. I really want to take a trip to Napa Valley with my husband sometime and visit this restaurant! Thanks for sharing and now I’m hungry haha!

Hanna - February 16, 2010 - 9:33 am

I am so glad you guys jumped at the opportunity! It looked like an AMAZING experience. You two deserve it! You captured it all beautifully. . .as always

Jodi - February 16, 2010 - 9:55 am

I’m a HUGE fan of your work and was thrilled to see this post! My fiance and I are going out to CA this Sunday (for our e-session) and we just got reservations to the French Laundry for Monday evening (we were on the waiting list, but someone canceled!)…it’s good to see that we can bring our camera :) Thanks again for sharing such a unique experience and for your LOVELY work!

Nelly - February 16, 2010 - 9:59 am

So lovely Caroline! So romantic!!!

Jared - February 16, 2010 - 2:09 pm

Wow your meal looks amazing!! We dined at the French Laundry last year and it was spectacular. The Moulard Duck Foie Gras was my favorite dish of the night. Did you bring a tripod with you? We sat on the second floor and it was dimly lit. Our pictures were lit with the candle light and I was shooting F1.4. =)

jenny - February 16, 2010 - 2:36 pm

OMG I’m hungry again after reading this blog post and I JUST ATE !! I can’t believe you actually ate all that food ! no wonder you needed a break before continuing ! it’s almost like you can spend your whole day there! Love your food photos, and WANT TO SEE MORE !!

Ariel Yve - February 17, 2010 - 9:04 am

Amazing Caroline! Was is as wonderful as you’d hoped it would be?

Erica - February 17, 2010 - 12:08 pm

CAROLINE. These pictures are so AMAZING. Thank you for sharing them with us!

Sylvia - February 17, 2010 - 12:56 pm

Your eye for the small details in weddings translates perfectly to food photography. Absolutely lovely!

Adrienne Gunde - February 17, 2010 - 3:07 pm

Omg, there are no words! The whole experience looks absolutely amazing – the food of course looks divine, but I LOVE the beautiful surroundings & little “walk” breaks you can take during the meal as well. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos!

Cannelle Et Vanille - February 17, 2010 - 4:43 pm

absolutely beautiful!!!

Kimberly Taylor - February 17, 2010 - 8:42 pm

this post inspired me on so many levels~ your photography is stunning, the food looks incredible, and the fact that they grow their own food is wonderful. We have a restaurant just down the hill from us called the Herbfarm and it too has the five hour meals with the most divine courses paired with fabulous wines. it really is a special experience~ thanks for sharing!

Sissy Lee - February 18, 2010 - 10:36 am

mmm food porn! They looked so delicious but your bill totally scared me. Maybe I’ll just go and visit their garden. Lovely pictures, Caroline!

dorothee - February 18, 2010 - 4:16 pm

mmmm, everything looks soooo good! i’m so glad you guys treated yourself! of the salts, i’m sure one of them was fleur de sal. that salt is so awesome! it’s not too salty, but it enhances any food item it touches. i remember at per se, it was especially good on their breads and the different kinds of butter.

Joyce - February 19, 2010 - 11:01 am

Love your works! You are one lucky girl! I’m sure you totally enjoyed the trip with your great hubby. Thanks for sharing.

jen@greenweddingshoes - February 22, 2010 - 12:09 pm

wow Caroline, so jealous! your photos and story are so beautiful. Eating there is on my bucket list also :) Thanks for sharing – it looked amazing!

ravenouscouple - February 24, 2010 - 3:35 pm

so gorgeous…not sure what we like better, your photo of people or of food..both amazing!

midori - February 26, 2010 - 12:55 am

caroline i’m DYING DYING DYING of jealousy. you got to eat at french laundry AND you have beautiful photos to remember that meal by.

excuse me while i go die some more.

lizet - March 9, 2010 - 11:54 am

gorgeous photo’s, getting hungry watching all of these! :D

Chelsea Chamness - September 19, 2012 - 3:09 pm

Holy moly. I was drooling during this entire post and kept saying “there is more? *drool*”"
What an amazing experience!

   
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