I can think of no better way to begin this trip than with my dad on his birthday at one of the most expertly executed dinners I've ever experienced. If you've never been, get to Babylon! If you have--when would you like to go again? But I digress. To description!
At the suggestion of the wine guy at Silenus, before dinner we decided to avoid a wine pairing, though one was never offered nor did I see one. I chose a Schramsberg blanc de blanc from just up 101 to begin our meal as I thought it would complement the first two or so courses especially well, but on account of the wines we tasted earlier, that bottle lasted clear through our whole meal. Oh well; at least I chose well!
The major decision one has at French Laundry is the choice between the Chef's Tasting Menu or the Tasting of Vegetables. As neither of us are vegetarians, the choice was relatively easy, especially out of deference to my ancestor's--and ours--omnivorous, hunter-gatherer past. The "Chef" label didn't hurt either.
The Chef's tasting is a nine course prix fixe dedicated to humility in the presence of pristine ingredients. Before that testament commanded my obedience, however, we were presented with two amuse-bouche in quick succession: a pastry filled with sauce mornay and the famous French Laundry Cookbook opening salvo, the salmon tartare cornette. As to the first, sauce mornay certainly lives up to this blog's theme and raison d'etre. I can't say it was a life changing experiences, but one cannot expect each bite to change. And the tartare was good; the best fish tartare I've had (see the Bistro Jeanty entry for the best yet), but I get the feeling that perhaps this course is more for continuity's sake than because it represents the represents the direction of the restaurant right now. The dish is now more than an amuse bouche and is perhaps coterminous with the restaurant's public identity (but only its public identity, and that's a good thing, even though I thought the dish was quite delicious). My major issue with the dish is that the creme fraiche is a little overpowering; the tartare needs to be eaten on its own to be appreciate.
Next up... Courses 1-4.