Prior to Mother’s Day – I want to say a couple weeks beforehand – Taro told me we were going somewhere, but it was going to be after work ended.  He didn’t say anything more than that despite me asking a bazillion questions.  ”Is Emi going?” “Are we flying?” “Is it San Diego?”  ”French Laundry?!?”  The last question Taro actually gave me a funny look and said, “No.”  I didn’t think we were going anywhere too far, especially since Emi had a doctor appointment on that Monday (He actually told me the day we were going, which happened to be Father’s Day).  So I patiently – okay, more like impatiently – waited.  And finally Taro revealed the secret plan, but only because I would have to spend a night and some away from Emi.  He told me on Mother’s Day, as we sat at Bouchon celebrating my mom.  The way he told me was quite funny and cute.  He bought me a bento box, which I have always wanted, and at each layer, there was a slip of paper.  As I unfolded each one, I kept on saying, “I don’t know where we are going,” even though in my head, I was shouting, “French Laundry, French Laundry, French Laundry!  Are you we going to French Laundry?!?”  So at that third slip, I still adamantly claimed I didn’t know where we were going and slowly started babbling about whether the place was in Napa…and then I finally knew when I really looked at Taro’s face.  And at that point I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs.

But Taro told me not to say anything, especially to my best friend, Kris, because he couldn’t get a reservation for 4.  (We have been talking about French Laundry for a couple of years now.)  So even though I was ecstatic about going, I was so conflicted that I couldn’t tell Kris and have her be there with me for what could potentially be the best dinner EVER.

And then I accidentally stumbled across an email.  I blame Taro for leaving it open on the iPad and I kid you not, it froze on that email.  I ordinarily would have ignored it except I saw Kris’ name on top and the subject line: FWD: Napa.  And then I couldn’t help but skim over it and realized SHE WAS GOING, TOO!  All I could think was, those sneaky people!  And then I was so happy that Kris and Adrian would be joining us for what could only be an incredible Sunday.

To say it was incredible wouldn’t do it justice.  It was the best Sunday I could ask for.  We hopped on a plane (Thank you, Jet Blue, for that great mystery offer in my email that paid for all four of our tickets!), drove for an hour, and began our day in Yountville at Ad Hoc.  Yes, it was a Thomas Keller filled Sunday.

After brunch, we went tandem bike riding to the vineyards.  The first few minutes of bike riding was me panicking and shouting, “You’re going too fast, Taro!  Slow down, slow down, slow down!”  I have not rode a bike since I was in high school so there was much anxiety and fear, especially since I was just staring into Taro’s back!  However, once we figured things out, we headed over to Opus One and enjoyed a couple glasses there.  Afterwards, we biked to Cakebread, which had a wonderful tasting.  I credit it to Don, who was not only knowledgeable on the wines, but generous with sharing different years for us to compare and contrast!  We had fun tasting and socializing and I am still amazed that we were able to bike back to our hotel!  Our legs were definitely jello-like and I was pretty tired…but not too tired for dinner.

French Laundry.  As I write this, I still cannot believe that we went.  I can’t believe Taro called for a month trying to get reservations.  That is commitment, patience…but most of all, love.  He knew I wanted to go, and he made it happen.  So this is our unbelievable food journey at The French Laundry.

“Oysters and Pearls” – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapoica with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar:

Royal Ossetra Caviar – Lychee, Garden Cucumber, Young Ginger and Meyer Lemon:

Mollard Duck “Foie Gras Parfait” – Blueberries, Purple Top Turnip, Komatsuna, Graham Cracker and Vanilla Glaze:

Grilled Fillet of Gulf Coast Cobia – Ruby Red Grapefruit, Radishes, Cashew, Chili and Shishito Pepper Viaigrette:

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail – Sweet corn “Pain Perdu,” Green Tomato, Zucchini, Frisee and Basil (Left):

Four Story Hill Farm “Poularde” – Hobbs’ Bacon, Haas Avocado, Baby Beets, Romaine Lettuce and Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche:

Blackmore Ranch Wagyu – Turnips, Morel Mushrooms, English Peas, Bearnaise “Mousseline” and “sauce Bordelaise” (Left) and Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rack – “tabbouleh,” Globe Artichokes, Roasted Grapes, Cilantro, Marcona Almonds and Charred Eggplant (Right):

“Landaff En Feuille De Brick” – Santa Rosa Plums, Petite Onions, Parsley and Nicoise Olives:

“Marjolaine” – Praline Mousse, “Dacquoise” and Banana Sherbet (Left):

Cream Cheese “Bavarois” – Acacia Honey “Granite,” French Laundry Garden Strawberries and Black Pepper “Aigre-Doux”:

The service was amazing at French Laundry and I especially cannot thank the sommelier enough for not only giving us a quick tour of the kitchen, but also asking Michael Wallace to sign our menus and take a picture with us.  From start to finish, it was everything I imagined…and more.

On Monday, Kris and Adrian picked up goodies from Bouchon for breakfast before we headed over to Castello di Amorosa for not only a tasting, but a tour.  A castle in Napa! Who could ever imagine? The tour was pretty interesting, especially since there was a torture room – with actual things to torture an individual! – along with the fact that the materials used to construct the castle were brought back from Europe.

After our castle tour and wine tasting, we enjoyed lunch at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.

Before saying goodbye to Napa, I had to stop and get some goodies for my mom at Bouchon…along with macarons for myself.  However, this wasn’t our last stop.  We were crazy enough to swing by Hog Island Oyster Company for a dozen oysters.  Taro said we had literally four minutes to consume them so we could make it to the airport in time.

And that was our trip.  Magical. Fantastic. Amazing. I’m lucky to have Taro, but also great friends like Kris and Adrian who helped plan and make this something that was not only special, but unforgettable.

Taro and I go out for quick bites, but not for longer dinners like before.  So it was definitely nice to get together with some friends for a special, unforgettable meal at Son of a Gun.  Since the ban on foie gras takes into effect on July 1st, Son of a Gun worked with Ludo in order to create a 6-course menu showcasing foie gras.  To say that it was amazing is an understatement.  There were creative dishes plated beautifully, a balance with wine pairings – and delicious cocktail pairings, especially that one yuzu-inspired one -, great service, and wonderful company!  If I am going to spend a night away from Emi, this is how I want to do it.

Foie Gras Chantilly, Crab, Radish Gelee, Tasco May, Lime (Ludo).

This was definitely my favorite dish! Jerk Foie Terrine, Smoked Salmon Roe, Blueberry, Pancakes, Maple Cream (Son of a Gun).

Poached-Roasted Foie Gras, Blue Fin Tuna, Rhubarb, Strawberry (Ludo) and “Eel & Avocado Roll”: Smoked Foie Gras, Carolina Gold Rice (Son of a Gun).

Taro said this dish smelled like Japan.  When I closed my eyes, it brought me back to the splendid cherry blossoms.  I love how food can bring upon and create memories. Dashi Braised Foie Gras, Tokyo Turnips, Roasted Carrot, Favas, Uni (Son of a Gun).

Roasted Escolar, Truffled Potato, Corn, Foie Gras Chicken Jus (Son of a Gun) and Foie Gras Panna Cotta, Caramel, Caviar (Ludo).

We were lucky enough to go into the kitchen and take a photo with the chefs!


Maison Akira

What makes good food even better is the company.  And really there is no better company than our friends, Randy and Donniel.  We love sharing restaurant finds and enjoying food together.  Whether it is breakfast at Richard Walker’s, pizza at Mozza, pasta at a tiny Italian joint, dessert at a top secret location, or Donniel’s bulgogi tacos, all of us love food and just enjoy spending time together.  So of course, Taro and I had to take the two of them to Maison Akira, a hidden gem in Pasadena.  It was a wonderful two hours spent with a lovely couple and we were so glad that they loved the place!  I especially loved the fact that Randy discovered that he did like fois gras – Animal, perhaps???

I am excited for this weekend because Randy and Donniel are going to take us to their favorite Korean hotpot place.  It’s going to be perfect for what looks to be like a rainy weekend!