~This photo is from the Manresa website~
I have a birthday buddy.
Yes, a birthday buddy. Someone who has the same birthday as me. Granted, we were born six years apart, but whatever. (YES, I’m the older one. Wiser, wrinklier, saggier…..nevermind) In 2010, we discovered this random fact and decided that we would go to the French Laundry to celebrate. On 10/10/10, get it? It’s an important date, our birthdays and we wanted to blow our savings on a meal at what many consider to be the best in the country, if not the world. On 8/10/10, we smartly decided to drive the hour and a half to Yountville at 8:00 a.m. with coffee and donuts so that we could be present when they opened and we could book our table.
We arrived, early and decided to wait in their little garden area. Someone came out and asked if they could help us. We replied that we wanted to make a reservation for 2 months from now. The hostess then informed us that the French Laundry has not taken reservations in person for years. YEARS. We would have to phone it in and take our chances with the rest of the suckers.
Needless to say, we didn’t get through. We wandered the mean streets of Yountville and took mocking pictures of Gray Salt at Michael Chiarello’s store.
We’ve never even attempted those reservations again. Instead, we visited the sadly-now-departed Cyrus, in Healdsburg, and this year hit up Manresa, in Los Gatos.
Manresa does it right. It cost a couple of day’s pay but it was lovely. Pictured above: Top right: petit fours “red pepper black olive”; Bottom right: bread service (brioche on top, green olive bread on bottom); Left: Amuse bouche of abalone and local milk panna cotta. Let me speak the truth. I had some problems with that panna cotta. Texturally and also it was kind of like salty milk. I couldn’t finish it. Those petit fours were amazing though.
Sarah and Melanie go bonkers for a teeny bowl of soup: “Roasted porcini and pears, chestnut broth”.
And the onslaught begins: These are our dinner courses. Of which there were many. Let’s start with the big photo and go clockwise from top right:
- Belon oysters, lemon-seaweed ice and succulents. Imagine, that I deluded myself for 30 years that I didn’t care for oysters? What a maroon. The lemony/salty ice was really good.
- “Into the vegetable garden…” Kind of a dumb name but maybe the best salad ever? So colorful and whatever they dressed it with really perked up my taste buds.
- “Fall tidal pool”; pine mushroom and clams. Another strange and unfamiliar combination of flavors and textures that was really enjoyable.
- Abacore “puttanesca”, lightly smoked, cassava root. Whoa, that albacore was amazing. One bite of amazing.
- Roe deer, slowly roasted, quince, saffron and licorice. Another cacophony of flavors–more than one or two bites of this would be overwhelming, it’s perfect on a tasting menu.
- “Our boudin noir”, apple and toasted buckwheat. Looks like tiny popcorn, right? Totally savory. Served with apples, it nods to the traditional, but this was elevated to quite another level. I did like that buckwheat.
Oh dear, a little bird MELANIE must have told them that it was our birthday. So instead of the usual two desserts, we got THREE. On the left, a richrichrich chocolate torte, obligatory candle. Top right: Kuri squash cake, cassis and red wine, aged Gouda ice cream. Yes, aged Gouda ice cream, that is what I said. It was good. Yes, it was sweet and yes, you could taste Gouda. But not in a bad way. Bottom right: Raspberries, chocolate-coffee parfait, golden raspberry sorbet, almond. I’m not even sure what was what here. There’s that chocolatey bar thing, that was rich and good, then that brown thing that looks like a rock, that was good too. The quenelle has to be the golden raspberry sorbet. To be honest, I had food up to my eyeballs by this point. So full I had to take off my tights in the parking lot. How do I spell relief? U-N-D-R-E-S-S and put on your fat pants if ya got ‘em.
Did I mention that I didn’t even drink? I know, it’s a sad state of affairs. Speaking of drinking though, there was a six-top table behind us and by the time that I left there was more glassware on that big round table than I think I have in my house. And let me tell you, I have A LOT of glassware in my house. There was at least 8 glasses per person. And the drinks kept coming! I wish I would’ve taken a photo.
So that was our experience at the lovely Manresa. If you need a special place to go and you are an adventurous diner, please go. OH! And they give you breakfast muffins and homemade vanilla caramels by the HANDFUL to put in your purse for later. So thoughtful.
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA