Yountville and the Napa Valley are OPEN and ready to welcome you back to Wine Country! There are a lot of things that we missed during 2020 (friends, toilet paper in the grocery stores) but one of the things I missed most was eating out at restaurants. Going out to eat is one of my favorite things. I love eating food prepared by true culinary masters and there is no one that does it better than Chef Thomas Keller, the heart and soul of the culinary scene in Yountville. My friend and I decided to attempt the near impossible…enjoy all his Yountville Restaurants in one day! This mission is not for the faint of heart but it is for those that love to EAT delicious food.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to me the perfect breakfast is a cup of coffee and a Bouchon Bakery flaky and buttery pastry. My go-to everyday coffee drink is an iced americano, but when you are on a culinary journey of epic proportion, you might need something a little fancier. I opted for a vanilla latte and it was perfectly creamy. For my pastry I had to try their famous ham and cheese croissant. Make sure you ask them to heat it up so you can enjoy every gooey and melty bite. Take a pistachio macaroon with you for later (their most popular item!) and don’t forget to pick up a loaf of bread to tuck under your arm as you stroll about town. Bouchon Bakery is following strict COVID-19 safety procedures so make sure you social distance in line, wear your mask at all times, and only have one group inside the bakery at a time.
Next up on our gastronomy journey is Thomas Keller’s newest Yountville venture, La Calenda. La Calenda is led by Chef de Cuisine Kaelin Ulrich and features community driven traditional Mexican food from Oaxaca and other Mexican regions. La Calenda is currently serving on their large front patio located in the center of town and perfect for people watching on a Saturday afternoon. Tequila is a MUST, so we had to try one of the impressive cocktails. Personally, I love the La Calenda Margarita (made with blanco tequilla, lime and agave), but you really cannot go wrong with any of the options. After ordering drinks, next up is their amazing guacamole, salsa and homemade chips. I LOVE the smoky red salsa (sala mixe) and could eat an entire vat of their guacamole. Since this is a marathon not a sprint, we couldn’t try the whole menu, but we had to try the much talked about fish tacos and they did not disappoint. Perfectly crisp, light flaky fish and fabulous sauce, that will keep you coming back to order these tacos, again and again. La Calenda is also offering their whole menu to go!
Our third stop on our Thomas Keller Yountville tour is Ad Hoc. Before the pandemic Ad Hoc’s bar was always filled with locals ready to give you winery suggestions. Now Ad Hoc is serving all patrons outside, but the community feeling remains. Ad Hoc offers a daily changing four-course menu of elevated family favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken, barbeque ribs and pork chops. The menu always highlights the best local seasonal ingredients. In addition to the four courses, you can add on extras such as lobster mac and cheese or caviar. Every meal comes with a cheese course which is an automatic win in my book! Due to limited seating make sure to make a reservation.
The last stop on our culinary crawl was Bouchon Bistro. Known for being the late night watering hole of winemakers and chefs, Bouchon Bistro is the perfect place to end your day. Even though they are closing earlier right now due to the pandemic, you can still stop in for a nightcap (The Bistro is currently closing at 9:00 p.m. so think of it as an early nightcap). Somehow we still had room for their famous mussels & frites and deviled eggs to go along with our cocktails.
I know I said we were going to visit ALL of Thomas Keller’s establishments on our culinary tour, but there is one that simply needs its own day and that is The French Laundry. Thomas Keller’s flagship restaurant is a perfect culinary experience. The daily changing tasting menu is currently served in their pristine courtyard with the same attention to detail, warmth, and hospitality that The French Laundry has exemplified for the past 43 years.
No matter where you decide to dine, dining at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants is sure to be a culinary experience you will never forget.