Virginia B. Wood explains why she regrettably missed her reservation at the French Laundry in Yountville, California, and updates readers on local food events and restaurant changes.
Bad News/Good News
My dinner reservation at the fabled French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley hamlet of Yountville was for 6:15pm on Sunday, Nov. 7. Due to flight delays caused by bad weather over San Francisco Bay, dinner time came and went while I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on U.S. 101 in the pouring rain. I apologized for missing my reservation and sucked up obsequiously but could not secure a replacement that week. A guest instructor at the CIA-Greystone Writer's Week raved about her French Laundry experience, a 19-course meal with many different wine selections. I gnashed my teeth and resisted the urge to strangle her.
I didn't exactly go hungry, however. During the four-day seminar, our lunch was prepared in the Greystone teaching kitchen by new Chez Panisse chef David Tannis. The food was fresh and full of flavor, really remarkable every day. Thanks to a great tip from Austin restaurant manager Karen Rush, I had dinner one evening in the relatively new La Toque restaurant at the Inn at Rancho Caymus in Rutherford. Dinner there begins with an aperitif of crisp Alexander Valley champagne. La Toque's $69 tasting menu changes daily and offers five elegantly served courses of understated French bistro cuisine prepared with the freshest local and imported ingredients. For an additional $32, there's a wine-pairing menu which complements each course. The cheese course of imported French artisan cheeses arrives with a basket of warm walnut bread toast paired with a glass of a nearby vintner's reserve port. From start to finish, it's a memorable dining experience. I fully expect La Toque's chef Ken Frank to join the ranks of highly regarded wine country chef/restaurateurs very soon.
Tonight is Tagalong Tequila Thursday at Ranch 616 (616 Nueces, 479-R616), which offers live country music and a three-course tasting menu paired with fine tequilas, all for $29. Dinner is at 7:30, so get a move on... While vegetarian guru Deborah Madison was signing books at the Tarrytown location of Texas French Bread (3112 Windsor, 478-8845), she made some suggestions to augment that particular outlet's new all-meatless menu. Check it out, and while you're there, sample TFB's new rustic fruit tarts, divine in flavors of apple and cranberry/walnut... Author Katherine Helms will sign copies of Merry Christmas From Texas: Recipes for the Season (McClanahan Publishing, $19.95) at 2pm Saturday, November 20 at Borders Books & Music (4477 S. Lamar)... Celebrate the last Beaujolais Noveau of the Millennium at Jean-Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) on November 22 with a four-course prix fixe menu. Call for reservations. They're also pouring that fresh French vintage at Chez Nous (510 Neches, 473-2413) from its arrival this weekend until the 1999 supply runs out... The burgeoning Southwest Austin area just got a much-needed new dining establishment when Flipnotics owner Mark Kamburis opened Flip's Satellite Cafe (7101 Hwy. 71 W.) in Oak Hill Plaza. The breakfast and lunch menus look inviting, and they'll be adding dinner and live music in the spring.
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com