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What It’s Like To Eat At The French Laundry In Napa Valley

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat dinner at the French Laundry in Napa. Check out our photos to see why this Napa Valley restaurant is so famous.

2foodtrippers at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
2foodtrippers at The French Laundry

We’ve eaten everywhere from food trucks to destination dining at Michelin rated restaurants and so many places in between. We pride ourselves on our sophisticated yet down-to-earth palettes, and it makes us happy when friends ask for our opinions and recommendations.

When planning our a 2013 California adventure, we managed to score a reservation to The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and of course we had to go. How could we not jump at the opportunity to dine at one of the most famous restaurants in the country, if not the world?

Photos From Our Dinner At The French Laundry In Napa Valley

This brings us back to our French Laundry dinner. We documented the march of multiple courses with our handy camera. Without further ado, here comes the parade!

Salmon Tartare Cornet at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Salmon Tartare Cornet – A French Laundry Classic
Gougeres at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Gougeres – Even Better with Schramsberg Champagne
Oysters and Pearls at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Oysters and Pearls – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar – We’ve Heard about this Dish. We’ve Read about this Dish. Now We’ve Eaten this Dish.
2011 Massican Annia Wine at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
2011 Massican Annia – The blend of ribolla gialla, tocai friulano and chardonnay grapes was a unique and fresh melding of Italian and Californian wine traditions.
Hen Egg Custard at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Hen Egg Custard with a Ragout of Perigord Truffles
Salad at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Salad of French Laundry Garden Potatoes with Heritage Buckeye Hen, Egg, Radishes and Cornichon Relish
Pretzel Roll at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Pretzel Roll – From the Bread Service Selection
Butter Two Ways at the French Laundry in Napa Valley
Butter Two Ways
Columbia River Sturgeon at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Columbia River Sturgeon with Ruby Beets, Dill “Gnocchi à la Parisienne”, Mizuna and Horseradish
Maine Lobster at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with Globe Artichoke, Mokum Carrots, Red Pearl Onions, Italian Parsley and “Mousseline Barigoule”
Four Story Hill Farm Poularde at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Four Story Hill Farm Poularde with K&J Orchards Yellow Peaches, Tokyo Turnips, Komatsuna and Mustard Seed Vinaigrette
Lamb Rib-Eye at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Herb-Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye with “Croquette de Petit Salé”, Garbanzo Bean Purée, Jingle Bell Peppers, Arugula and Lamb Jus
Andante Dairy
Andante Dairy “Legato” with Caper-Sultana Condiment, Dark Raisin Purée, Celery Branch and California Red Walnuts
Toasted Oat
Toasted Oat “Glace” with Santa Rosa Plums and Japanese Plum Jam – A Fine Segue from Savory to Sweet
Delta Blueberry Cheesecake at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Mindi’s Dessert – Delta Blueberry Cheesecake with Compressed Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Ice Cream and Puff Pastry “Arlette”
Dark Treacle at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Daryl’s Dessert – “Dark Treacle” with Devil’s Food, Valrhona Chocolate “Marquise”, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Marshall Farms Burnt Honey Ice Cream
Selecting Hand Crafted Chocolates at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Selecting Hand Crafted Chocolates
Hand Crafted Chocolates at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
The Chosen Hand Crafted Chocolates
Macadamia Nuts at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Macadamia Nuts
Doughnuts at the French Laundry in Napa Valley
Doughnuts for ‘Coffee and Doughnuts’
Coffee and Doughnuts at the French Laundry in Napa Valley
‘Coffee and Doughnuts’ part II. In this scene, the doughnut is dunked in an ice cream-like cappuccino semifreddo.
2foodtrippers in Front of the Kitchen at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
2foodtrippers in Front of the Kitchen
Inside the Kitchen at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Inside the Kitchen
Boxed Chocolates at The French Laundry in Napa Valley
Boxed Chocolates a/k/a French Laundry Swag

Thoughts About Our Dinner At The French Laundry In Napa Valley

The restaurant’s attentive focus toward every last detail of the dining experience separates it from all other American restaurants. It’s not even a close competition. Compared to other high-end dining establishments, The French Laundry’s service is like Secretariat at the Belmont or Michael Jordan on the basketball court.

Seriously, the service is impeccable to the extreme. In fact, we quietly commented on not liking one server as much as the others, and we never saw her up close again. It’s as if our table was under surveillance. We’re still wondering about that.

Great food deserves great wine. Not surprisingly, the wine list was extensive, sophisticated and accessible. The sommelier gave us the perfect recommendations, especially the Retro Cellars 2009 Petite Sirah from Napa Valley. We liked the red wine so much that we hunted it down the next day and bought some bottles to bring home to enjoy later.

The food, you ask? Of course, it’s excellent. Though it’s a shame that California passed the arcane foie gras ban. Every other great luxury meal that we’ve eaten has featured the rich, buttery delicacy, and its the one thing that would have propelled the food experience into the highest stratosphere. (The restaurant does offer a $100 upcharge for truffles, but that was a little too steep for our wallets.) Even still, the food was memorable, albeit in a somewhat predictable way.

Dinner at The French Laundry in Napa Valley Californiav

You see, for Daryl especially, the eating experience felt like a movie where we already knew the major plot points. Daryl idolized Thomas Keller long before he met Mindi. Like many people, we own the cookbooks, we’ve enjoyed Chef Keller’s appearances on TV and in person, and we’ve perused more than our share of critically fawning articles.

Daryl knew that Oysters and Pearls would be on the menu along with Salmon Cornets, Butter Poached Lobster, and, of course, the restaurant’s play on ‘Coffee and Doughnuts’. These are all great, classic dishes. However, the lack of surprise muted some of the electricity that we experienced last year at Maison Lameloise in Burgundy, France.

In addition to asking how the meal was, people keep asking if we’ll go back. Though one should never say never, it’s fairly unlikely. There are so many great restaurants to try in Napa and Sonoma, and most don’t cost as much as The French Laundry.

But we shouldn’t complain about the meal too much. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to eat filet of luxurious, flaky sturgeon served with a classic sauce reduced to the nth degree or a wonderful chicken roulade that is silky smooth in texture with flavors that evoke the comforting essence of a grandmother’s kitchen. It’s also not every day that a favorite cookbook is brought to life in a way that pleases all five senses.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to the food. And the pictures of the food.

The French Laundry is located at 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599, USA.

Napa Valley Planning Checklist

About The Authors

About The Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.

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Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

We self-funded our dinner at the French Laundry.

Original Publication Date: August 1, 2013


Wednesday 5th of May 2021

It's Palate. Palettes are used by painters.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Sunday 11th of July 2021

Noted and fixed. Thanks for catching the typo!


Tuesday 19th of May 2015

Sounds like such an amazing experience. It was great to see all the photos and hear your thoughts. I only live an hour away but haven't had the chance to try it. I do agree though that there are so many amazing culinary experiences at lower prices in the area that it can be hard for us average folks to want to splurge. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle Dunner

Thursday 21st of August 2014

You had a very different menu from the one we had at lunch. Some good-looking dishes! I loved the experience but because I'd also been to Per Se earlier in our trip there wasn't too much of a surprise factor. Still it's a very special treat.


Saturday 7th of September 2013

I worked at The French Laundry in the late 90's, during its real heyday. Glad to see this post about how things are going there now. No surprise about the "classic" dishes that you refer to (Oysters and Pearls, Coffee and Doughnuts, Sturgeon, etc). That's a bit disappointing. However, it sounds like you had a good experience. When you spoke about your wondering about the server that you didn't like, they probably didn't hear you. The service style there (providing it hasn't changed since Laura Cunningham left) is a team service. Meaning, you never see the same person twice at your table. Hope that clarifies some things. Cheers!


Friday 9th of August 2013

I am hoping that I will try the restaurant one day, it reminds me a little bit of Melisse in LA, which I did not find as good as expected.