A dozen years ago while visiting my mom in Montgomery, I was in her kitchen
One of my little quirks is that like to read cookbooks. Recipes fascinate me and I love using my imagination that way. I was delighted to find that there were more than just recipes to be found in this book. Scattered throughout were essays on a variety of subjects that, in sum, express the philosophy of the chef. I was further delighted to find that almost all of these philosophies could be applied to architecture and urban design. These include concepts such as embracing the innate nature of an ingredient, the importance of sourcing local materials, economy of material versus wastefulness, and respecting the sacrifices that are made to enable a final product. In fact, those essays actually helped shape and reinforce my own professional philosophy as much if not more than any class I had in college.
Over the years I have continually played with the cookbook and attempted to master various recipes. I have had mixed results. The obvious challenge is being able to source exotic and expensive ingredients. Another challenge is one of technique. I have skill in the kitchen, but some of the work in the book is next level stuff. In the end, however, I think the book is less about how to make Thomas Keller’s food in your own house than it is about putting forth a philosophy that highlights why food and its preparation are special.
|Lowering the flag at sunset in The French Laundry Garden.|
|While not ready to trade the German sedan just yet,|
this was fun for the weekend.
|I've now hit the American tri-fecta: |
the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Gulf.
Guess which is my favorite...
When the meal was over, the bill arrived. Not usually one of the highlights of a fine dining experience, but at this point I was willing to open my wallet and welcome them to whatever they wanted. I opened the bill folder to find a hand written note explaining that the meal was compliments of Chef Thomas Keller.*** Apparently, after we made our reservations, a curious staff member came across the blog, and brought it to the Chef’s attention. I protested their generosity, but was told that the decision had come from the top. Who then am I to disagree with Thomas Keller? Tyler then led us on a tour of the kitchen. In the middle of service the chef de cuisine (Tennessean David Breeden) and a number of his colleagues stopped what they were doing and came over to shake hands and have a chat. It was an extraordinary end to a magnificent evening.
If I live to be a hundred, I don’t know that I’ll ever have a more memorable night. It was a most special time for D and I to enjoy together. It was made even more special by the people who worked to ensure that two total strangers had such an experience. I am indeed a lucky man, and thankful to have lived such a charmed life.
*Originally, I thought the idea of driving through Napa Valley in a convertible was bougie and cliché. That actually still holds true, but I must admit that it was an awful lot of fun.
**Ok, I won't walk you through the whole thing, but I have to tell you about one little element. Do to my liver, I can't drink alcohol. For the meal, they had a relatively easy time of pairing wine for D, I presented a much greater challenge. One of their solutions was next level stuff. A flute arrived at the table filled a quarter of the way with grated black winter truffle, it was then filled with Ftiz's root beer. I can't even...I need a moment...
***Is it downright tacky to mention that the bill got comped? Sure. After some deliberation, however, I felt that I had to include it in the story because it reinforces the generosity of spirit that made that night so special. It also goes to show that in addition to being the G.O.A.T American chef, Mr. Keller is also a stand up guy.