So, I'm very thankful that Coolia organized a group outing to Bouchon this past Tuesday. Coolia, Ron and I shared cocktails as we people-watched at the bar (Tom Cruise and Katie with kids in tow slipped behind us into the dining room). The dinner was a 3-hour extravaganza that made me forget about work. The cherry on the top was the kitchen tour that Ron hooked us up with via his friend who's a chef at Bouchon.
*Apologies about the dim photos. I was using my phone and I didn't want to use the flash to disturb other diners.
Bouchon started our meal off with warm cheesy bites of gougères, mushroom tarts and french baguette. I would have been happy with just those items for dinner. It was a beautiful start.
Fresh, creamy fish to get our appetites going. Ha, as if we needed help.
Potted Foie Gras
Best $50 ever spent! This pot of creamy, buttery heaven was enough for the five of us and Bouchon paired it perfectly with thin, slices of chewy bread. I don't eat foie gras often but you just have to have it at a Thomas Keller restaurant where you know it will be prepared perfectly and taste out-of-this-world. With so much food, we couldn't finish it so lucky Coolia got to take it home and enjoy it for breakfast the next morning.
Asparagus Salad with Poached Hen Egg
Now, why can't I cook asparagus like this at home? Well, first I can't quite get the same quality of asparagus as Thomas Keller. This asparagus was tender with no stringiness at all. The anchovy vinaigrette paired very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the rich yolk oozing from the poached egg.
I love veal. I pretty much order it whenever I see it at a nice restaurant. Needless to say, this veal was tender and each bite bursted with the meaty veal juices. The veal was sous vide and then seared before serving which explained the extreme tenderness. The rest of the table ordered off of the special prix-fixe from our Blackboard Eats deal and everyone got this amazing glazed pork belly with bean cassoulet. I stole a bite from Coolia...nom nom nom.
The house treated us to these lovely macaroons, shortbread cookies, jelly candies and chocolates. Just judging from the pastries we got at the start of dinner and these goodies, the Bouchon Bakery that'll be opening next to Bouchon soon will be a great contribution to LA.
I've never had a Floating Island before but I figured Bouchon would be the best place to finally try it. It was a bit too sweet for my taste but maybe it was because I already overindulged in the macaroons. Still, I admired the art in making the egg meringue and the nut topping was really good.
Kitchen tour with Ron and Coolia for size comparison to those giant stockpots. Bouchon's stockpots are going all the time with different stocks (beef, chicken, veal...).
The chef told me how many pounds of chicken they use in the chicken stock but I forgot. They also add vegetables to the stock and it gets boiled down until the stock is very concentrated - about one third of the size of the stockpot.
The chef said if you have no Sense of Urgency, you don't belong in Thomas Keller's kitchen or any respectable kitchen for that matter.
More baguette anyone?
Chickens drying in the meat refrigerator. Ron has tried Bouchon's roast chicken and he said it's the best roast chicken he's ever had. Chef said they brine the chicken first, then air-dry it in the meat refrigerator with a running fan before it's ready to be roasted. And they roast the breast separate from the thigh and drumstick because they have different cooking times and this simple method prevents overcooking and dry chicken. I did that a few weeks ago at home and I can attest that this is true.
By now, I'm sure all the vegetarians and vegans have stopped reading this blog but here's a picture of the produce refrigerator. All the vegetables and herbs are lovingly organized.
One amazing thing I noticed was that the kitchen was almost spic and span when we toured after dinner around 11:00pm. The kitchen staff was cleaning every pot, pan and cooking utensil and their cooking station was practically sparkling. Thomas Keller is very strict with the cleanliness and organization of his kitchens so the kitchen is cleaned every night after meal service is over.
I had serious kitchen-envy while walking through Bouchon's multi-million dollar kitchen. The All-Clad pans, giant stockpots, and rows and rows of organized spices, produce and ingredients in the various refrigerators and cooking stations were very inspiring. It was like peeking into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.