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April 1, 2010

An experience at Bouchon stays with you like falling in love with an amazing someone who happens to live out-of-town. You’re giddy with excitement and still feeling flustered. Your mind wanders throughout the day remembering that last sweet kiss of puckery lemon you shared. The perfect fried egg atop your Croque Madame. The rich smoothness of the mornay sauce that accompanied it and the forgiving way in which it lingered on your fork. So slow, so precise, a bit like drawing both of your initials in wet sand with your finger tip. It only gets better as the Truite aux Amandes is beyond perfect and flanked with garden green beans and toasted almonds. It is one of the best you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating outside of France. And it is so good you realize that you want to wake up next to it, for all of eternity… Even when it’s particular, as fish can sometimes be.

Shall we not forget the loving and mutual laughter of fresh steam rising from those mussels; soft, juicy and tinged with enough shallots and parsley in all the right places. You can’t help but blush as it reminds you of the soapy bath you shared one night, candles lit and not enough white wine to fill the tub because you drank it all. It was good though.

Ah, the last embrace. It’s as delicious and secure as duck fat frites swaddled in a crisp paper cone. You held on tight to one another, with a promise of another weekend visit, maybe even a phone call before bed (granted you’re not liquefied from the Malbec) and hopefully yes hopefully an email with a simple yet arousing message that says: “Meet me at Bouchon”.

Pain d’ Epi with white bean puree

I’ve decided that I could in fact live in Yountville and I could live there quite happily, and quite peacefully. I’d garden, write, paint, and even cook, somewhere. And the nights I am not cooking we’d eat at Ad Hoc on Monday nights for fried chicken, then again on Wednesday for the nightly special and of course at Bouchon for brunch on weekends and dinner on Friday. This is beginning to sound good, as my favorite winery Honig is close by and I’d start a petition to encourage them to open a small intimate restaurant within their winery. I’d volunteer to help wash the dishes. All would be lovely and well fed in Yountville and next thing I’d know Aziza would be opening a new location, followed by Sushi Ran if it all possible (as I have to get my fix of whole roasted squid, with black garlic aioli) and then Gourdough’s donuts straight from the Heart of Texas. Then I’d wake up from this delightful dream and it would be pouring down with much-needed rain. I’d promptly go upstairs and check on the red wine short ribs I was braising and watch the Warriors get pummeled by the Jazz…

Bouchon is not a pretentious restaurant, it is a place that feels comfortable and casual like your favorite local restaurant that you can walk to from your house. The place you might see your neighbors at, and the restaurant where you have your favorite server, and everyone knows your name. Though while you are here, you can’t help but not forget where you are dining. Yes, you are dining in another one of Thomas Keller’s celebrated restaurants (so act normal). The service  at Bouchon is top notch. In other words, it is perfect and seamless and we were delighted by our native Baton Rouge (as in Louisiana) server who had to be one of the most genuinely sincere individuals. He took great care of us during the meal and I’d happily ask for him again. The food is meticulously plated as if  there was an invisible mold keeping each piece together on the plate. I guess that mold is called; skill, precision, and absolutely wonderful. It is definitely there. Bouchon feels like a French Bistro trapped in California and we are all a little happier for that. Thank you, to the school of Thomas Keller.

Truite aux Amandes

It is as perfect as it looks. Generous portions of crisp haricots verts and almonds blanket this handsome Trout, debonair  and intellectually charming in all of its clean nutty brown butter.

Moules au Safran

Staub dish. Perfect ratio of mussels to fragrant flavorful broth. Pommes frites are encouraged to swim. Every bite is juicy, every mussel is open. White wine is necessary.

Croque Madame

Let’s keep it simple and say this is true happiness on a plate. Grilled ham and cheese on brioche (baked next door at Bouchon bakery). Topped with a fried egg (clean, impeccable, non-greasy) and mornay sauce (a gussied up cheese sauce). Sitting outside on Bouchon’s lovely patio, gorgeous day, eating with good friends, pinot noir, life is very good right now.

Classic Profiteroles

As you can see, we didn’t like them that much.

Tarte au Citron

Un-masked, pure, tart, tarte, puckery. Swallow the sun, whole. The sexy sabayon was granted its one wish and finally became a lemon tart. It will not be going back to the other side. Ever. No fruit, no meringue, no sauce. Unadulterated pleasure, you swallow the sun again… mouths are dropped, slight moan, slight groan, pulse is racing, it. is. so. damn good. Keller is a sadist.

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