....at home

A birthday celebration for Maily- 8/18/12

Table set up The guests Dinner Gifts Behind the scene


On the menu is an 8 course chef menu from the French Laundry cookbook, but let me give you a quick background so you have an idea who is Thomas Keller.

Thomas Keller is the only American-born chef with two restaurants that have received three Michelin stars, the highest rating, from the Michelin Guide. Per Se, his restaurant at the Time Warner Center in New York City, which opened in 2004, was among the first four restaurants to receive Michelin's top honors. The French Laundry, located in Yountville in Napa Valley, was awarded three Michelin stars in 2006 and remains one out of two three-star restaurants in the Bay Area.  The other 3 star Michelin restaurant in the bay area is the Restaurant at Meadowood in St Helena. In 1997, the James Beard Foundation named him the best chef in the United States, and in 2007 he won the foundation's outstanding restaurateur award. The year that Per Se opened, The New York Times gave it four stars.

Let's hope that tonight I will make Thomas Keller proud so let's start the meal.


First Course: Amuse Bouche Trio:Arpège egg, Tuile with salmon tartar and crème fraiche, and gazpacho with balsamic glaze

For starters I served a trio of amuse bouche: Arpège Egg, Tuile with salmon tartar and crème fraiche, and gazpacho with balsamic glaze

  1. -Arpège egg is not from the French Laundry cookbook but I like it better that the White Truffle oil infused custard with ragout and chips.

  2. - Tuile with salmon tartar with sweet red onion and crème fraîche

  3. - Gazpacho with balsamic glaze

I love Arpège Egg because it has all the contrast but work perfectly together: you cold/hot - salty and sweet all in the same bite.

 The tuiles with salmon tartar looks fairly simple but it took me at an hour just to make the tuiles.  The gazpacho is easy to put together and the secret to its powerful flavor is "overnight maceration." which is the only "cooking" involved. This dish is best when you have ripe and flavorful vegetables during Spring or Summer.

Click on LINK to see preparation of the Gazpacho


Second Course : Oysters and Pearls

Made with sabayon of pearl tapioca with oysters and red caviar. This Thomas Keller classic is always on the menu at The French Laundry. This dish is incredibly rich (maybe too rich), buttery hollandaise-like sauce is tasty but you can only serve it in very small portion.

The recipe call for Malpeque oysters (thin oyster) which I was not able to find so I used Pacific oysters which are a bit too fatty for this recipe but in the end it is still work out okay.


Oysters and Peal dish is a staple at the French Laundry and that's why I knew I have to include it on the menu tonight!

Click on LINK to see preparation work

Third Course : Salad of Haricot verts with lobster meat

Made with Tomato Confit, blanched Haricot verts,  and served with poached claw lobster claw meat. 

Doesn't this dish look simple? It is not!

The Tomato confit are roasted in the oven for 4 to 6 hours to bring out the concentrate flavors.



This dish might look simple but it is packed with fresh and delicious flavors!  The star of this dish is the concentrated flavor of the tomato which is explosive while remaining natural.

The dish did not call for Lobster claw meat but I make an executive decision and used it because I had so much claw meat left over from my Macaroni and cheese dish below.

And you can definitely not go wrong with lobster meat!

Click on LINK to see the preparation

Fourth Course: Macaroni and cheese

Made with butter-Poached Lobster with Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo simply known as Macaroni and Cheese at the French Laundry.

With this dish I learned how to butter-poach lobsters and making the creamy lobster broth!  This dish is simply incredible, the lobsters are sweet, flavorful, and so succulent that the meat literally melted in my mouth.  The creamy lobster broth is simply to die for! 


I bought 14 lobsters so that we all get a whole lobster tail per person.  This best dish on the French laundry cookbook!  It is impressive to serve and a very satisfying dish that I can never get tired of.  The dish is fairly straightforward to prepare but it time consuming.. The broth alone takes a least 3 hours to be reduced to the correct consistency!  Poaching 14 lobsters and removing their shells will takes a least a few hours more....

Click on LINK to see preparation

Fifth Course : Surf and Turf

 Made with braised oxtail with sautéed Cod, and sautéed royal trumpets mushrooms.

First you have to braised the oxtail which is at least a 2 days process: 1st day to marinate the oxtails overnight, 2nd day to braised the oxtails for 3 to 4 hours in the oven and then pulling the meat from the bones. 

This dish was made according to the original "French Laundry" recipe, although Chef Keller serves this dish with cèpes, whereas I opted for trumpets mushrooms which are really meaty and delicious.

Once the oxtails are braised the sauce is reduced down to about a cup and therefore yielding an incredibly flavorful sauce.

The fish is sautéed just before serving and topped with sautéed trumpet mushrooms and drizzled with the wonderful oxtail sauce.

Phuc told me that this dish although very creative is a bit difficult to pair (Red, White, or Rose) but in the end He went with the Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere 2000!  You cannot go wrong with  Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere and that is a fact!

Click on LINK to see preparation


The kids enjoying their meal!

What's not to like?  they have their own private table and eating great food!


Sixth Course : Pan seared duck breast with creamed sweet corn

 I served a pan seared duck breast with a creamed sweet corn.   The duck breast slices are set on top of a mount or sweet creamed corn with it is kind of difficult to see the corn in this picture.

The duck was a perfectly cooked, rosy pink, meltingly tender morsel that picked up the meatiness of the concentrated sauce without being overwhelmed by it. The corn provided more contrast: crunchy against soft, sweet against the duck Breast.


In the French Laundry cookbook the duck breast is rolled up and make into a roulade but I simplify and decided to pan seared the meat instead and I think I was a successful dish.


Seven Course : Whipped Brie en feuilleté with arugula salad

This cheese dish is the combination of whipped brie, peppery Arugula salad, the crunch of toasted bread and the sweet taste of the balsamic glaze is like heaven in your mouth. This dish is effortless to make but make sure to use a good ripe Brie.  The secret of this dish is to whip the brie for a very long time (10/ 15 minutes), this will give you that soft, airy and creamy texture that you desire. Also, the best way to toast your bread is spread a layer of delicious butter by either toasting it in the oven, or sauté it on the stove top to get that nice brown color. 

The recipe called for Mache but I replace it with Arugula and I am glad to say it went perfectly with the Brie.

Eating the brie with a perfect glass of red wine, in this case Canon de la Canon La Gaffeliere is simply amazing! 

For me Cheese and red wine is an marriage in heaven! 

Click on LINK to see preparation

Eight Course : Desserts trio-Chocolate peanut and caramel tart, Semi-freddo Coffee and Doughnuts

Okay I have to admit that the 2nd dish that I served did not belong in the French Laundry cookbook is the Chocolate peanut and caramel tart from Le Bernardin. This dessert called simply the Chocolate Peanut is an homage to the Snickers bar. The tart is filled with a layer of caramel, salted peanuts, and a chocolate ganache and peanut butter dust, which playfully appears in powder form.

Coffee and Doughnuts is Thomas Keller's signature dessert!  Made with cinnamon-sugared doughnuts and served with a “cappuccino semi-freddo.” A semi-freddo is semi-frozen desserts that has the texture of frozen mousse. The cappuccino semi-freddo had a texture of a pot de crème with a fluffy mouse up top. Its sweetness was just right.

As for the Doughnuts I cheated a bit but using ready made Pillsbury biscuits.  All I needed to do is cut them into small circular shape and fried!  I saved a lot of them instead of making doughnuts dough from scratch.

Close look at the Chocolate peanut and caramel tart,

Click on LINK to see preparation

Close look at the doughnuts and Semi-Freddo.

Click on LINK to see preparation

Overall it was a very successful meal! This meal is probably a menu I will not repeat in the near future because it took so much work and time to pull it together!

I started preparing for this meal 4 days ahead, spending at least a few hours per day. On the day of the party I started cooking and preparing at 7:00Am and I was done by 4:30PM - a whopping 9+ hours in the kitchen! 

Definitely worth all of the effort but I might run out of steam so I am going to put this meal under the "once in a life time" category.

Oh there is one more thing I forgot to mention.. the challenge was that during my 8-course meals no single ingredient is ever repeated throughout the meal! Did I succeed?

Well, let see... I think I did if you are willing to overlook one ingredient: the claw meat lobster that I used in the salad of Haricot verts. 

At the last minute I decide I used the claw lobster meat because I did not want it to go to waste (lobster meat was used in Macaroni and cheese).  Other than that there are not repeat of ingredients!

Next.. Gifts



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