day 18 :
tuesday, 16 september
Today was our last day of the Beringer Master Series.
We started the day a little later than usual, arriving at Spottswoode Winery in late morning. Mary Novak, owner of Spottswoode Winery, gave us a tour of the beautiful old gardens on the property. This was followed by a wonderful lunch, prepared by Mary's daughter Kelley, owner and chef of No Bad Days Cafe. We had a chance to try some Spottswoode wine, and once again, a few bottles came home with us.
Mid-afternoon, we arrived at The French Laundry. The French Laundry is one of the top-rated restaurants in the U.S., and chef and owner Thomas Keller has won numerous awards.
Our class had the opportunity to have a garden chat with Thomas. He gave us some history on the building and restaurant, and explained how they source all of their amazing ingredients from people all over the world. (Their FedEx bill is many thousands of dollars every month!) They currently employee 82 people, and serve three lunches and seven dinners every week. Their staff is divided up to work "only" five days a week (where the norm in the restaurant business is six days). The sous chefs, butchers, and other people arrive at 5:30 a.m., and prep until 5:30 p.m.. At 11 a.m., station chefs arrive, FedEx packages arrive, and they plan the menus for that evening based on what's available. They work until at least midnight each night.
After a tour of their garden across the street, Thomas went back to work, and our class had a little graduation ceremony. We also heard a little bit about a Beringer Master Series class that may happen in Spain next fall. We're thinking about signing up!
We had a chance to relax for a bit at our hotel and go for a swim, and then returned to The French Laundry for dinner at 8 p.m. Simply put, this was one of the most incredible food experiences you can imagine! We had somewhere around 17 courses and six wines over the four and a half hours we were at the restaurant. Each course was unique, reasonably sized (usually just a few bites), and absolutely perfect. During one of the main courses, David suggested that Eric ask our waiter for some salt, as there was none at the table. Eric dutifully asked for some salt, and our waiter said he'd be right back. Of course, everyone was sure that Eric would have to speak with the head chef about a minute later - how dare he add salt to an already perfect meal? To our surprise, our waiter brought out a tray of nine types of salt from around the world - four from Hawaii (including a black volcanic salt, and a pink-colored salt called hanapepe that can only be given away, not purchased), two from Japan (amabito and yokishio(?)), grey salt, Jurassic salt (from a 50-million year old salt flat in the Midwest), and fleur de sel. The salts were certainly distinct and very flavorful.
As we all became more inebriated and silly, David and a few of our classmates decided to make a phone call to Katherine's husband. We think that the teary-eyed pictures show pretty clearly how hard everyone was laughing throughout the episode.
We said goodbye to everyone that evening and promised to be in touch.