OUR “TONY’S TURNING 50” TRIP TO WINE COUNTRY – SEPTEMBER 2019: DAYS 3, 4, AND 5

I know what you’re thinking – “Days 3, 4, and 5? Wow, did I win some type of blogg-ery, which is like a lottery but for people that read blogs? I never win anything. Well, unless you count that trophy I got at my bowling alley birthday party that said “Best Birthday” and wasn’t really awarded for any type of skill. I just got it because my parents paid for the full package.”

Well, first – you did still earn that trophy. For having awesome parents, obviously.

And second – no. Day 3 is really the only Wine Country day I will be writing about in this post. Day 4, I was called away to LA for work while Nickie did some San Fran exploring and Day 5 was pretty much just our flight home.

So yeah, Days 4 and 5…merp. But BUT Day 3? Day 3 is bomb.com. Because Day 3 is our French Laundry day!!! Get. Excited.

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No, stupid.

French Laundry, the restaurant.

What a hilarious miscommunication.

But before we get to the most expensive meal I have ever eaten, we do have a whole day to get to. So onto….

TONY’S 50TH WINE COUNTRY WINESTRAVAGANZA 2019: DAY 3

On Day 3, everyone seemed to be up pretty early. Most likely because we were all on edge since it was Sunday and we were all unsure if we would be able to watch the Patriots game as it wasn’t being shown locally.

Thankfully, Ramone came through and found a [REDACTED] [AMENDED] perfectly legal way to stream the game. Nice work, Ramone!

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The game wasn’t on for a couple hours (it started at 10:00) and we needed breakfast so I threw on my Troy Brown jersey and headed down to Oliver’s to pick up some breakfast stuff. We already had avocados at the house so I said I would make some avocado toast if everyone was up for it. Which they were. I mean, it’s avocado toast.

When we got to the store, Nickie immediately pointed out the donut shop in the parking lot. So I mean, of course I went over. Place was called Tan’s Donuts and interestingly, I guess it serves both donuts AND Vietnamese food? Could this be the best place ever?

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But while I love me some pho, I was here fo’ the do…

Nuts. Donuts. I was here for the donuts.

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I grabbed a dozen for the house, going relatively traditional with some glazed, sugar, and sprinkles but threw in some maple frosted, vanilla frosted, and chocolate coconut. I also grabbed a couple apple fritters (not pictured).

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The chocolate coconut was delicious, but honestly their vanilla frosted was bombness.

After the donut shop, I walked back over to meet up with the girls at the market. Oliver’s was a cool little market. Their sandwiches looked amazing. But we were there to get our breakfast on. So we grabbed some avocado toast essentials (super yummy bread, eggs, garlic (olive oil and avocados were at the house)) and some breakfast sandwich stuff for those opting out of the avocado toast (English muffins, cheese, the aforementioned eggs.) And I mean, bacon. Because bacon.

We got back to the house and Nickie and I started cooking. She handled the bacon while I handled the avocado toast. Man, avocado is a rull hard word to type.

But, I must say. My avocado toast was kind of a thing of beauty. Ain’t no time to be humble.

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Avocado, egg, and donuts in my belly, I was ready to watch some Patriots. There is something so magical about watching what would be a 1:00 football game at home at 10AM.

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Well, it would have felt magical. If we weren’t so hungover. Which we were. I mean, not our fault. People just kept giving us wine yesterday.

I only bring this up because the first half of the game was kind of meh for the Patriots. They just didn’t look good. Now, when I watch a Patriots game, I typically drink a 40oz. of malt liquor. For good luck. Well, good luck for the team. Not so much for my insides.

Being that we were in wine country, 40oz. of malt liquor were hard to come by. And being that I was hungover, I wasn’t even drinking beer. Like, of any kind. So once the second half rolled around, I decided I needed to have a beer. For the sake of the team. I am a true hero.

And it worked. The Patriots ended up beating the Bills 16-10. Whoop to the whoop.

OK so here is something crazy. I have legit no pictures of anything that happened on Day 3 between the Patriots game and dinner. Which is so unlike me.

But a quick rundown will have to suffice.  Well, I mean, quick…for me.

On Day 2, I noticed that I actually didn’t pack a belt for my dinner suit. And I mean, I can’t go beltless like some sort of savage. So I asked if anyone wanted to venture to the mall. And you know what? Lots of people did!

Nickie wanted to see if she could get her makeup done somewhere while Larissa was looking to potentially pick up a new pashmina. Tony, meanwhile, was considering picking up a new suit.

Yeah, a completely new suit. Tony on vacation is a wondrous thing.

So off to the mall Tony, Larissa, Nickie, and I went. Fun!

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I did end up finding a baller belt. Like, totez baller. Nickie got her makeup done at one of the makeup counters in Macy’s FOR FREE. Again, totez baller. Larissa found a new pashmina and some jewelry for Nikki (other Nikki) to wear.

Tony. Well, he was not AS successful. Despite trying on a number of suits AND me playing “Pretty Woman” on my phone as he tried them on, he didn’t find anything he liked and ended up sticking with the suit he brought. Which I thought looked better than any of the ones he tried on anyways. So, you know what he found at the mall? Confidence.

When we got back, I did a tiny bit of work and Nickie and I jumped in the hot tub for a hot second. I mean, obviously it was a hot second. It was Nickie and I in the hot tub.

And soon enough, it was time to get ready. For THE MEAL. Our dinner tonight was at The French Laundry. Yep. THE French Laundry. The three-Michelin-star, one of the best restaurants in the world, French Laundry. Place is legend. A definite bucket list experience.

And for all of you clamoring for some semblance of Disney in this post. On a Disney blog. French Laundry and the chef, Thomas Keller, played a big role in bringing the film, Ratatouille, to life. Keller served as a consultant for the film, the kitchen at Gusteau’s was modeled after the old French Laundry kitchen (before they remodeled it), the title dish in the film was based on an actual dish served at French Laundry, and the character of Remy is very Keller-esque.

But totally, when I saw the kitchen, I def got Ratatouille vibes.

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Haha no no….I mean, like this…

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Place is super fancy, y’all. So we got all kinds of dressed up. It was legit Fancy Pants time. So of course we grabbed some pictures before we left.

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And we made use once again of the birthday banner and props.

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Tom pulled up and we shared in a champagne toast before taking off. Tony shot that cork far off into the trees. Which I took as a good sign for the night.

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On the ride over, I remember having this anxious-excited feeling. Like we were really going to The French Laundry. I don’t think I had been this excited for a meal since I first heard they were having deep-fried lasagna at the state fair.

As soon as we arrived, I started snapping pictures. Like, get ready you guys. Settle in. This meal is gonna take a while.

We started with a walk through the grounds…

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And of course we got a picture in front of the sign.

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And in front of the famous blue door.

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We were shown to our table on the patio. And man, look at this table.

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It was like we had our own private space. Our own private space AT THE FRIKKIN FRENCH LAUNDRY.

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We also had a view of the kitchen from our table for the entire meal.

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Seriously, it was perfect. We were a little worried about being cold out there, but the heaters kept it at a perfect temperature.

Now Larissa being Larissa, she of course plussed up our meal. She had ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon (2006) to start our meal, which was mmm so good.

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And even beyond that, she didn’t feel that 8 courses were quite enough so added on a course of canapes to start the meal. Unfortunately, while our menu has all the courses listed, it doesn’t list out every canape so I am going to do my best to remember everything we got.

We started with these salmon mousse…um…things? Let’s call them things. Salmon mousse things. We are off to a good start. And these were paired with a cold pear soup.

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Both of these were delicious. The salmon mousse was very tasty and the pear soup surprised me with how good it was.

I should also mention that since Nickie doesn’t eat seafood, the restaurant was super accommodating and alternated in dishes from their vegetable menu whenever seafood was on deck. For example, here she still enjoyed the pear soup but rather than salmon mousse, her…thing…was filled with some sort of carrot puree I think.

They also brought out these cheese and cracker things, which I described as like, “fancy Ritz Bitz.” And that should by no means be seen as an insult.

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The next canape was this thing they called an avocado cigar. So it was this crispy outer shell filled with this creamy avocado mousse situation inside.

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So all those canapes? Really good. Delicious actually. But they were no match for the canapes that followed. Check out these deviled eggs.

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I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I LOVE deviled eggs. And these were super good. OK fine. I actually still think the deviled eggs at Homecomin’ were superior. But these were very very good.

The last canape on the menu were these mini brisket BLTs. And what they lacked in size, they made up for in flavor. So. Yum.

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As we were finishing our canapes, Chef Keller walked over to our table to ask how our experience was going so far.

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Such a nice guy. Super down to earth. Plus, I love that now when I look at my Google Photos, Thomas Keller’s face shows up as one of my “People.”

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I’ve really made it.

The final canape was a custard with black truffle sauce. The presentation here was like whoa. Yeah, that was a hollowed out egg shell. And thankfully, Nickie wasn’t the biggest of fans. So I had two of these.

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So the canapes were finished. It was time for the main event. We all ended up opting to do a wine pairing with dinner just so we didn’t have to try and navigate their extensive wine list. Larissa did give them a few instructions – mainly that none of us like Rieslings or dessert wines.

So they started us off with a Riesling – A 2007 Wegler “Whelener Sonnenuhr – Vintage Collection.”

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LOL. I mean, it wasn’t bad as far as Rieslings go, but the table just really didn’t have a palate for those kinds of wines. Ah well, at least it’s not a dessert wine, right?

Foreshadowing.

Our first course was the famous French Laundry Oysters and Pearls – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Regiis Ova Caviar.

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This dish totally lived up to the hype. I mean, there’s a reason why this is pretty much always on an otherwise-rotating menu. The oysters had a nice, clean taste to them and the caviar was insane. The tapioca added a nice bit of texture to the cream as well. So good. Plus, it was kind of cool to be eating oysters from back East (and Larissa’s hometown) all the way out in Napa.

Nickie was served a gazpacho, which was funny because we had literally just had this whole “cold soup” discussion before it was brought out. The discussion was brought on by the cold pear soup (which was delicious) and both Nickie and I were saying how we didn’t really care for gazpacho.

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This didn’t do much to change Nickie’s mind. She wasn’t a huge fan of it.

The next dish was a K&J Orchards Apple Salad with Belgian Endive, Toasted English Walnuts, and Pickled Beet Puree.

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Look how pretty that dish was. We all agreed this was a great course. The apples were so sweet and paired well with the more tart endive. And I think maybe those walnuts were dusted with unicorn tears or something.

Our server also brought out some Mini-Brioches to pair with our Apple Salad.

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Speaking of servers, I should mention how great the table service was. From our main server to our Somm and everyone else, it was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I also loved how with each course, a number of servers would come out at once so all dishes were delivered to the table at the same time.

And If you ever get up to leave your table, you will always come back to a fresh, new napkin.

But the best part was none of our servers were what I would call “stuffy.” They joked with us throughout the night, answered any questions we had, and never once made us feel like we shouldn’t be there. I don’t know, it was definitely a plussed-up experience, but it had a casual feel to it.

Our wine pairing essentially paired a wine with every two courses so our next course brought our next wine – a 2017 Domaine Dujac Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatieres. While I do usually prefer Reds to Whites, I can enjoy a good White. Which this is. And it paired very nicely with the next two courses.

First up was a Sauteed Filet of Mediterranean John Dory served with Cherriette Radishes, Brentwood Sweet Corn, and Green Tomato Vinaigrette. There was also this brioche crust on the top that really added to the dish.

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The fish had a nice fresh taste to it and THAT CORN. Seriously with that corn.

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But poor Nickie. She was served a pear salad of some sort. And like, these pears? None of us were sure how one is supposed to eat them. They were very hard. I ended up having to use my fish knife to cut them and even then? I sent pieces of Nickie’s salad flying into her water.

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The last of the seafood portion of the meal came in the form of a Alaskan King Crab “Pierogi” with Creamed Romano Beans, Sungold Tomato, and an Oloroso Sherry Emulsion.

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Soooo good. And once again, while the crab pierogi was the star of the dish, the accompaniments were the big surprise. That tomato? It was like eating a piece of candy. And I mean, I really like candy. So.

Nickie’s dish this time around was very good actually. It was this warm cucumber and eggplant salad I tried a bite and it was quite good. And thankfully, this was her last “Nickie-only” dish as we were done with seafood for the night. But it was a good transition back to our table society.

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Our next wine was a 1989 Seghesio “La Villa” Barolo. So much yum. And it was paired with our Four Story Hill Farm Poularde (served with Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach, Caramelized Cipollini Onions, and “Sauce Vin Jaune.”)

And like, yeah. It was chicken. But like RULL good chicken.

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The Poularde was also served with a homemade Sundried Tomato English Muffin and this Olive Oil butter. INSANELY good. I almost ate that butter with a spoon.

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The next course. Oof, the next course. While I would probably say the Oysters and Pearls was my favorite standalone dish, this dish along with its wine pairing was probably my favorite all-around course. The wine was maybe my favorite of allllll the wines. Like all weekend. It was a 1995 Ridge “Monte Bello” Proprietary Blend. Incredibly full-bodied and bold, this thing was my kind of wine.

The dish was the Charcoal Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte de Boeuf” served with La Ratte Potato Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Nantes Carrots, and Red Wine Consomme.

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The beef was so tender. No knife necessary. And those potatoes were perfection. Whipped so perfectly, they looked like butter. The mushrooms also added another level of flavor to the dish.

The Ridge kept pouring and we moved on to our next course – our Gougere. Which is a choux pastry made with cheese. But this was no ordinary gougere. Wait, is there a such thing as an ordinary gougere? This one was served with an Andante Dairy “Etude” and an Australian Black Winter Truffle “Fondue.”

And it was sparkly.

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Thing was cheesy.

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Which is by no means a knock. The more cheese the better, I always say. Also, “ouch I’m cramping up,” I always say.

But yeah, so good.

I should probably mention that while we were seated, we started to notice some commotion behind us and the flashing lights of an ambulance. Our server immediately came over and informed us that a young man had fallen down the stairs and had to be taken out on a stretcher. Which was a bummer for sure. But being told immediately what happened did help put us at ease. We even saw Chef Keller walking alongside the guy when he was being brought out in a stretcher. Accidents happen but it did seem like the staff were right on top of it.

Oh, and interestingly…no sirens. French Laundry like a boss.

We had finally made it to dessert. And beforehand, our sommelier informed us he would be serving us some sort of dessert wine. Which, as you might remember, was something Larissa explicitly asked to not be served. After a little bit of nudging, the Somm agreed to instead serve a 2016 Robert Biale Zinfandel.

The dessert course started with, of course, birthday cake!

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That cake was hella-good. They called it a Mounds Cake, so it was covered in dark chocolate and full of creamy coconut.

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But just because we ordered a special cake doesn’t mean we didn’t also get ALL THE DESSERTS.

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Working from left to right, that first dish I actually don’t fully remember. I think it had fig in it though. I wasn’t the hugest fan. It was the only main dessert I didn’t finish. But everything else was delicious. Next to the fig thing was the aforementioned Mounds cake, followed by a frozen cappuccino, and a bourbon brown sugar ice cream incredibleness. I could have had multiple bowls of that stuff.

And you can see in the back there, we were also served macarons and caramels. Both of which I sampled as well.

I ordered myself a non-frozen cappuccino to go along with dessert. Which was, of course, wonderful.

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Nickie ordered herself a mint tea, which she loved.

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But wait. There’s more. They followed those desserts with more desserts. Truffles, to be exact.

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The top row were mint truffles, followed by chocolate hazelnut, and salted caramel. So pretty. And so at home in my belly.

Being outside on the patio also had another benefit. We got a nice visual representation of how much we have had to drink on the wall behind us.

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But since that isn’t enough, our awesome server Decland gave Tony his own “You’re Super Special, Tony” bottle.

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And we were all also presented with our own little gift bags with copies of our menu (Tony got his signed), copies of our wine list, and a tin of shortbread cookies.

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But our night wasn’t quite over. After we finished with our meal, Decland took us into the kitchen. Super exciting, right?

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Chef Keller met up with us again in the kitchen and was once again gracious and down to earth in keeping with the whole casual vibe of the place.

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And that was it. Dinner at The French Laundry. 7 Word pages in 11-point font. It was an incredible experience. The full meal took 4 hours and like I said, while the food was all kinds of high-class the atmosphere was super casual and fostered a lot of conversation, laughs, and expressions of gratitude around the table. Yes, there were a couple missteps with the wine but overall the night was amazing. And I personally feel so lucky to have experienced it.

After leaving the restaurant, we hopped back in our van and Tom took us back to the house. I unfortunately had to fly to LA for some work meetings and Nickie was going to head to San Francisco for the day, so the two of us said our goodbyes and headed straight for bed. I had a Lyft scheduled for very early the next day.

 

TONY’S 50TH WINE COUNTRY WINESTRAVAGANZA 2019: DAYS 4 AND 5

So I think I will pretty much leave the post at that. Like I said, I ended up having to fly to LA for work on Day 4 so my day was filled with flight delays and work. Wanting to sleep in the same room, Nickie opted to head down to San Francisco and I flew back up that night to stay with her at a hotel near the airport.

She did have a fun day exploring for sure…

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…and she got to end it with me rolling in after midnight. Lucky her.

On Day 5, we woke up and had breakfast (and of course, a Bloody Mary) in the airport. Larissa, Tony, Nikki, and Chris met up with us and we all ended up flying back on the same plane.

And that was pretty much it.

But man, what a trip. Thanks so much to Larissa for planning the whole thing and for the whole “being one of the most generous people on Earth” thing. And of course a Happy Happy Birthday to my good friend Tony. I love you guys.

It was so nice hanging out with and getting to know Jess, Ramone, Nikki, and Chris a little better. I mean, what better place to get to know someone. We’d be happy to travel again with you guys anytime.

And of course, it was so nice having some time away just Nickie and I. It’s nice to know that, even though we have been together for nearly 20 years, we can still have so much fun together. Love you, baby.

Hope you all enjoyed coming along for the ride. And if you did, stay tuned. Because we have a lot more travel planned over the next year.

 

 

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