Bouchon and Bottega, Yountville

by janet on January 10th, 2011

I have been working on some sort of pun/joke about Yountville fine dining establishments that begin with “Bo” and are owned by chefs whose last names begin with a “k” phoneme, but it’s not quite there yet. So I will just straight up say “I went to Bouchon and Bottega. Both are in Yountville, which is a teeny and adorable town sandwiched between Napa and Sonoma.  The former is owned by noted chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame; the latter by celebrity chef and resident skeeze-despite-being-flaming Michael Chiarello.”

I mean, have you SEEN Michael Chiarello’s show on Food Network? He has a crazy lisp and talks about fluting things. Fellow FoodTV junkie Finni and I were sure he was gay, and then one day he mentioned his “wife and kids” and I fell off my chair, texted Finni from the floor, and then she fell off HER chair! There is NO! WAY!

But when he was on the first season of Top Chef Masters I realized he’s not gay, he’s just a snake, and the lisp is a human form of hissing. Ugh. I wanted to shower after that episode where he was oozing all over the ladies who came to his catering station.

Anyway, for my hatch day, R2 outdid himself and swept me away to wine country, where we stayed in an amazing villa in The Villagio Inn and Spa. It was one of these sprawling places that you can just wander around, marveling at the cute corners and paths lined with strings of fountains. They had tea daily complete with tiny crustless sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream. There was a super old couple at tea on the first day with the KEE-YOOTEST puppersons that was waiting on the outside of the glass door, looking in and making intense eye contact with anyone who would look at him/her. I named it Eye Contact Dog, but then I really wanted to know its proper name, so I sidled up to its owner who was refilling her tea.

Me: [Sweetly] What is your dog’s name?
Her: [Sharply] Any milk?

Confused, I backed away. Did she think I was the help? Did she not even notice me and was talking to herself? Or was her dog’s name Enniemelch?

Ennie-way, that night we went to the dark and romantic Bistro Jeanty. The lighting was untenable, despite the fact that we were seated fireside, so I don’t have any postable pictures, but we had a blogworthy but in the end slightly gross set of appetizers - LANGUE D’AGNEAU: warm lamb tongue and potato salad and TERRINE DE LAPIP: rabbit pâté with a celery root apple salad and mustard dressing. Both were mayo-ey and chunky with a not-unoccasional cartilage crunch which wasn’t great. Our entrees, however, glowed. I got Coq au vin, even though I hate bird, just because I spied Buttered egg noodles under sides, which came with the tagline “Yummy with Coq au vin.” I loved the use of “yummy” on this fine French dining menu so I went with it, and good fucking lord. I think I ate just one hunk of chicken for posterity and then inhaled the egg noodles, dipping just the ends in the gravy of the coq au vin soba-style. When people asked me after the fact how my hatch day was, I just say “buttered egg noo…” and trail off in a drooly daze.

The following day we took an epic walk and laughed at some cows that were grazing. The CHRRUUFF sound of the blades of grass getting ripped off their roots and then the CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP sound! And they just ate all day long! We watched them for a long time and then I heard a frog croaking nearby and I hate frogs so we left.
Lunch was at Bouchon. We were seated at our server’s favorite seat in the house – adjacent to the charming Christmas tree. We had the soupe du jour which was a sunchoke soup with creme fraiche, lemon oil, and toasted walnuts. You can just look at it and guess how awesome it was. I could have gone to the trouble of constructing perfect spoonfuls composed of all elements, but just poking at it willy-nilly netted very different flavor profiles (god have I become a person who uses the term “flavor profiles?”) with each bite. I silently snapped my fingers under the table and mouthed “Garcon I’ll take a vatful” and R2 said “Huh?” and I said “Nothing.”

Then, he had the Croque Madame: grilled ham & cheese sandwich on brioche, fried egg & mornay (Bechamel with parmesan and gruyere cheese added, swoon) sauce served with French fries.

Our server, who we both liked exceedingly, was attentive and peppy but not unctuous. She had no make up on, which fit with her “I’m here to make sure you eat delicious food and that is my only job” demeanor. She cracked jokes that I could see myself making. Anyway, she offered to make R2′s fries black truffle fries for a piddling more, but we decided against it (WHY WHY WHY). Instead of crying, I just dunked the fries in the aioli accompaniment, which ended up being truffle aioli so that was a fucking win. The sammy was rich and light at the same time. R2 slurped it up, even the horrifying-looking yolk-edge slime-tendon that was clinging to the side of the plate at the end.

I had the Quiche du Jour, which was Lorraine. It came out quivering with a crusty top.

More mousse than quiche, utterly reminiscent of Japanese chawanmushi. Silky and soft and hung out in a really nice way at the back of my tongue. I found myself eating around the bacon just to get at the egg. I wanted to have it with a spoon at night with PJs on like women in commercials encouraging other women to indulge by oneself in ice cream.

Then, to the Villagio spa, where it is free to soak for guests. My activity plan was as follows: Shower to get clean, outdoor jacuzzi to get hot, read Nook Doggy Dogg in a lounge chair outside to get cold, steam room to get hot, more reading outside to get cold, sauna to get hot, even more reading outside to get cold again, and jacuzzi again to leave me toasty warm. I was alone basically the entire time, and being nekkid in an outdoor spa is really liberating! I did some attempts at naked synchronized swimming in the jacuzzi but it was tough with the bubbles going.

Then, back to Bistro Jeanty for $1 oysters during happy hour. We ordered 10 (why not a dozen??) and then ordered more – a proper dozen. We washed it down with some bubbly and strolled over to Bottega.

This is the thing about Yountville. The whole town is basically two blocks long, and yet it houses French Laundry, Bouchon, Bottega, Ad Hoc, Redd, étoile – it’s really amazing. So Bistro Jeanty was next door to Bouchon was across the street from Bottega, etc.


There, we were about half an hour early. And despite being warned not to blow R2′s cover (he was going to act confused as to why the reservation was at a “different time” than when we made it for), when he gave our name at the front I yelled “WE ARE SUUUUPER EARLY!” by accident.

No matter. We were promptly seated in the restaurant that was packed despite it being a winter Wednesday in the boonies. I ordered a flight of Chiarello’s own wines, which were fine. For our app, we ordered grilled octopus; specifically wood grilled octopus with olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion, salsa verde. We hoped and hoped and hoped that it would be as delicious as the pulpo a la plancha  we had in Spain, and while it wasn’t THAT good, it was the best octopus we’ve had Stateside.

“This is by far the best pulpo we’ve had Stateside,” I said, obnoxiously. Then I heard myself and looked around, but all I saw were approving smiles and nods. Pretentious Yountville jerks.

For our mains, which came in too low of light to photograph, R2 got the whole fish special. While not as horrifying as this, it came out looking like you’d think a whole dead fish would, and tasted fresh and good but not transcendent or anything. I had the brodetto (Italian version of like a boulliabaisse) for the sole (ha) reason that such stews are usually off limits to me as I am mortally allergic to shrimp, crab, and lobster, but this one was: Adriatic Seafood Brodettomonkfish, mussels, rock cod & fresh Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, and paprika-saffron rouille. It’s a FLAVOR PROFILE that I don’t often get to experience, so it was such a soul-warming treat. I’m pretty sure I was crying when R2 tore me away from the little town of Yountville, back to the food desert that is San Francisco (boo hoo Janet).

They’re all on the same road right next to each other, so just map yourself to Yountville.

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One Response to “Bouchon and Bottega, Yountville”

  1. R2 says:

    I want to know your WIP Yountville pun/joke!

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