Saturday, May 3, 2008

Yountville, Ca.

It’s an odd place. The draw is the French Laundry, of course, and also the wine country. I went there for years as Food and Wine Editor of House & Garden and I always felt wonderful upon arriving. The air is gorgeous, and I had this sense that an important adventure was about to take place. Something has changed for me. That quality of specialness is gone. At least I missed it on a recent visit.

My first misgiving came when I saw the sign above Thomas Keller’s newest restaurant, Ad Hoc: “ temporary relief from hunger”. Are you kidding me?? Has anyone in Yountville ever truly experienced hunger? It seems a poor joke in a world where there is so much real hunger. I was traveling with Amanda and we both thought that, barring an actual benefit for hunger relief, this was a joke in pretty poor taste.

We ate at Keller’s Bouchon. Good food, good ingredients but nothing earth shattering except for the bread, epi rolls which were baked next door at Bouchon Bakery. Amanda and I polished off two servings without blinking. I did love seeing Keller’s garden across from the French Laundry with its meticulous design as tidy and pristine as Thomas himself. Their vegetables looked perfect and on there way to Thomas’s kitchen to be used in the most imaginative and profound ways.

I should say this in defense of Yountville: It’s great that so much business can be generated and so many jobs created for this community out of wine and food. But what about establishing some sustainable restaurants?? Also, I was really sad to find that Gordon's, the best and really the only, great breakfast place, has closed.

Well, maybe I’ll return next year and find that the magic is back too. I wonder.


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