You start to wonder about a restaurant when every person that you know who has eaten there claims it to be the “best meal ever.”  Or when every national ranking of restaurants gives it the #1 spot.  Or when you have to call two months in advance to the day at exactly 10:00 a.m. (and get through before 10:25 a.m.) in order to make an 11:00 a.m. lunch reservation.  Or when you hear about a chef serving 9 courses at lunch.  Or when your friends tell you they would travel 2,531 miles just for a meal.  You start to wonder if it will live up to your expectations.

It has got to be pretty damn good if it exceeds your expectations.  Suddenly you find yourself part of the “best meal ever” publicity club.

So this is it.  My best meal ever.  December 23, 2001 at the French Laundry in Yountville, California.  We had lunch next to a charming little fireplace for about four hours on a cool winter day in the Napa Valley.  I’m sure there were a few other diners in the world as happy as I was at that moment.   Some were in my direct vicinity, while others could have only been in Alba, Italy or Provence.

I had the Black and White Truffle Tasting Menu, while Elizabeth had the Chef’s Tasting Menu.  I take my hat off to Mr. Keller…thank you so very much for this unforgettable experience!

The Black and White Truffle Tasting Menu:

  • A small, light “cone” filled with creme fraiche and chives, topped with an “ice cream ball” of salmon tartare
  • Coddled egg scented with white truffles and covered with grated black truffles
  • Fresh, handmade tagliatelle with shaved white truffles and a brown butter sauce (served in a v-shaped bowl to maximize the aromatic experience)
  • Thinly sliced heirloom beets in a light vinaigrette with frisee and shaved black truffles
  • Hand-selected Maine scallop seared in a bacon emulsion, served in a cauliflower puree with shaved white truffles
  • Duck confit served with frisee on a bed of tiny Yukon gold potato slices with a light vinaigrette and grated black truffles
  • Miniature medallions of veal and veal sweetbreads served with celery branch in a celery root puree with shaved white truffles
  • Brie, whipped with black truffles served with sesame thins
  • White truffle ice cream float: white truffle ice cream floating in white truffle infused cream garnished with a white truffle chip ( me!)
  • Valhrona molten chocolate cake with caramel ice cream and shaved black truffles (that really brought out the flavor of the chocolate
  • Pot au creme
  • Mignardise

The Chef’s Tasting Menu:

  • The salmon tartare ice cream cone
  • A small scoop of cauliflower panna cotta in a Malpeque oyster glaze covered with Osetra caviar
  • Black trumpet mushroom risotto
  • Medallion of cod, pan roasted and served with three types of onion: a leek “fondue”. caramelized onions and cioppollini marmelade
  • Lobster poached in butter, served with thinly sliced potatoes with herbs in a lobster vinaigrette
  • Crispy roasted quail with veal sweetbreads, a chestnut puree and grated black truffles
  • Angliotti filled with Yukon gold potatoes, butter and marscapone served with vegetables and shaved white truffles
  • Vacherin Mont d’Or (alive and kicking and running and running) served with small prune tarts
  • Chocolate sorbet and a warm folded crepe covered in chocolate sauce
  • Tangerine “meringue” tart with tangerine butter and cranberry sorbet
  • Creme brulee
  • Mignardise

A half bottle of a white Burgundy with the first half of the meal and a half bottle of a French Pinot Noir with the second half.

Perfect meal.