Ubuntu - Napa, CA

Dinner - Sunday, July 17, 2011

Having greatly enjoyed our meal under Aaron London's care on our previous visit, we decided that a return for dinner was necessary on this trip.

Given that we had just run the Napa-to-Sonoma race in the morning, we were starving way before our appointed reservation time (this despite some rather large burgers at Gott's and a nibbling tour of Jacobsen Orchards). The restaurant was bustling when we arrived at 7.00 in the evening. One thing I love about Ubuntu is the amount of natural light in the room, and the airiness of the space. Corny as it sounds, the open environment has a soothing, relaxing effect.

Saison - San Francisco, CA

Dinner - Friday, July 15, 2011

This was a meal shared with Gary of Veal Cheeks, our last before he ended his stay in the Bay Area. Saison has been on our to-visit list for a long time (since before it was a regular restaurant, if I recall correctly), and Gary has written favorably about his previous visit. As is our routine, we caught a late flight into town and rushed to make our 7.30 pm reservation, speeding through the light traffic on the road.

We (surprisingly) ended up being 10 minutes early, and were seated immediately. The environment at Saison is warm and inviting, bare and rustic but for a few flourishes - a large plant arrangement dominates the indoor seating area, whereas the oven and open hearth commands the attention of those seated in the outdoor section. Complimentary champagne was poured for the table, and after opting to order a single bottle of wine for the evening (a beautiful 2008 Meursault from Domaine Joseph Voillot), dinner commenced.

addendum at ad hoc - Yountville, CA

Lunch - Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thomas Keller has literally infiltrated every level of cuisine, from the ultra high-end (The French Laundry), to mid-level dining (Bouchon), to family-style dinners (ad hoc), and now take-out (addendum). Perhaps it is only a matter of time before he invades the local supermarket's frozen food department? Of course I jest, but it is fascinating to see how he has made his mark along each step of the rung. No place showcases this more than the town of Yountville, where Keller's establishments are incubated and where they naturally flourish.

addendum is a brilliant way to bring Keller to the masses, giving the customer a taste of one of America's most celebrated chefs for the lowly price of $16.50. It only serves lunch 3 days a week, and the food is parceled out on a first-come-first-serve basis, typically running out well before their stated closing time of 2.30 pm. On a hot Saturday afternoon, we decided to brave the legions and make a stop for a quick picnic lunch of fried chicken and barbecue.