I dream of the day when I can have a thick enough wallet to spend all of my hard earned cash on a luxurious dinner Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. At the age of twenty-four, with a job in TV, that day is years and years, if not decades away. Thankfully, down the road from the prized world-renowned restaurant, lies ad hoc, Keller’s more affordable Napa Valley restaurant. Ad Hoc adheres to similar values and flare as French Laundry, a prix fix constantly changing menu that utilizes fresh ingredients from the on site garden.
I requested to sit outside, on their little patio with lamp heaters keeping us warm on the chilly California evening. You immediately feel special here, with a wonderfully charismatic waiter sharing his stories of growing up in Napa and explaining the locally sourced nature of each ingredient. The menu changes daily, keeping the experience equally as exciting for the staff, as it is for us.
We opted to order cocktails for our meal, instead of the recommended wine pairings. We had definitely had our fill of vino during the trip and a little bit of whiskey (in the form of a Whiskey Sour, extra sweet, for Leigh and a Manhattan for me) sounded perfect.
The meal is served family style, which I loved. It makes the dining experience a bit more intimate since we both dig into the large platter in the middle instead of staring at our identical plates.
It started with a salad. And while to the average eye this seems extremely dull, at Ad Hoc, a salad turns out to be something kind of mind blowing.
The waiter explained that the gorgeous golden beets in the garden were perfectly ripe this morning, inspiring the dish. Speckled Trout Lettuce, also from the garden, serves as the base. These large leaves are named for their distinct maroon coloring and bitter, peppery taste, similar to arugula. Brioche croutons have a buttery flavor and soft texture that just melts in your mouth with a real subtle crunch.
The real star, were the golden beets. I have never tasted a beet so wonderful, so sweet, so delicious in my entire life. We both savored every single bite, understanding the reason restaurants use the freshest ingredients to inspire their menu. Can I please grow a golden beet plant on my New York City apartment balcony? Please?
We opted to add the special dish of the day, splitting one order of the crispy chicken livers. Thomas Keller and Ad Hoc are known for their fried chicken, served exclusively on Monday’s, so if you ever see a fried dish grace the menu here, order it.
Wow. Soft, silky chicken livers are encased in a light, crunchy breading. It’s fried, but not in a way that feels greasy or heavy. Sweet bell pepper jam on the side enhances the natural flavor of the livers. This dish is outstanding, and would make any liver hater an addict.
The main course of the meal was a roasted pork rack, prepared in the style of a prime rib.
The pork is prepared in a style similar to prime rib, cooked slow until the meat is extremely tender and juicy. The mustard jus on top is just ridiculous, adding a bit of spice and earthiness. I’m usually not a pork lover, but this preparation completely changes my perspective of the typically dry, unappealing meat. This is delicious, and locally sourced pork adds to the flavor. Underneath the pork hides wilted spinach and turnips, giving a bit of freshness to the dish. I couldn’t believe the portion size, with eight giant slices filling the entire tray.
On the side, (yes, there’s a side) lies the cheesy grits, or as the staff loving refers to this dish, the “donkey” because it’s ri-donk-ulous.
While this dish is probably the least aesthetically pleasing, it’s one of the most delicious versions of cheesy grits. Eat them while they’re hot, and the silky, gooey mixture takes like southern heaven. They’re rich, but not in a way where it feels heavy. It’s easy to devour each and every bite, between big bites of the pork.
Before dessert, comes the cheese platter. They seriously don’t mess around at ad hoc.
Simple, and refreshing. The cheese course calms down your senses, preparing for the deliciously sweet dessert to come. I love a good midnight moon cheese, the perfect milder cheese that always appears on my cheese platters at home.
Finally, dessert. Oh, the dessert. This dish, was not for sharing. We each received our own little plate of heaven.
Words cannot do this ridiculously insane dessert justice. Just look at this beauty. The balanced banana ice cream drips into the crevices of the cinnamon monkey bread which has been soaked in caramel sauce. Each bite helps to build the complex flavors, with the crunchy exterior of the bread keeping the inside sweet and soft. I’m salivating just looking and thinking about this dessert again. As someone who doesn’t always love sweets, this dish is perfect balance of sweet and savory, with hints of saltiness throughout. Perfect.
Thomas Keller. You my friend are a true genius. My desire to experience French Laundry sky rocketed after the absolutely incredible meal at ad hoc. Everything about the meal was incredible. Service was impeccable, with the knowledgeable staff creating a relaxed meal, laughing with us while also giving detailed explanations about each dish and the origins of the ingredients. The food was insane. The team at ad hoc proves how the freshness of ingredients is crucial to creating a meal of this caliber. On my next trip to Napa, you can bet that I will be back for a completely different meal. That’s the beauty of a menu changing daily, you never get the same thing twice. Yet, you know the experience and food will be incredible without having any knowledge of the food ahead of time. Now that’s the sign of a great place.
ad hoc – 6476 Washington Street – Yountville, CA
Location: Yountville, CA
Type: American (Traditional)
Perfect For: Impressing Foodies, Farm to Table, Prix Fix
Favorite Dishes: Fried Chicken Livers, Monkey Bread