If you are planning some serious Napa Valley wine tasting, you’ll want to consider all of the brilliant culinary options available to you in the area. And if you consider yourself a foodie, you’ll know that this will include at least a few attempts at getting a reservation at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry.
The French Laundry Culinary Garden
There was no way getting a reservation at The French Laundry would happen for us at the last minute. Still, we decided to visit Yountville, CA, before heading off for another tasting. There we discovered that not only has the food scene exploded, but that Thomas Keller’s restaurants take farm-to-table very seriously. The French Laundry Culinary Garden was born out of that philosophy.
A Brief History
What started as a small herb plot in The French Laundry in the restaurant’s courtyard has grown to a sizeable 3.5-acre plot directly across the street. As someone who has just graduated to gardening in raised containers, I have a major case of garden envy.
The Culinary Gardener
Brett Ellis is Thomas Keller’s “Culinary Gardener.” According to the website, Ellis was drawn to working with food at the source; “Brett manages a team of seven, where a routine day begins by checking in with the chefs to coordinate the harvest for that day’s service.” Sounds amazing to me!
To me, it’s an extraordinary way to focus on seasonality when planning a menu. Plus, it would be hard to get fresher ingredients when preparing food than walking across the street and picking what is ready to be harvested. It significantly cuts down on produce transportation costs (Peter Jacobsen’s local fruit trees are also products in Keller’s menus) and has a smaller carbon footprint. And it has become a powerful educational tool. I love that! I think understanding where our food comes from and how it is produced is critical – plus, working with this quality of ingredients will result in even more delicious food.
The farm-to-table movement continues to grow, and I’m a fan. I know that for urban restaurants, this isn’t always possible. But small things can be done – like that initial group of herb containers Keller’s team tended to when it was still in The French Laundry’s courtyard.
Also, I’m an advocate for schools having gardens for which the children are partly responsible. It creates respect and appreciation for food and nature that can be wildly beneficial throughout a lifetime. I know teachers have enough to deal with just trying to get essential supplies (and a million other concerns). However, I would still love to see this become a significant initiative for schools supported by the state government. Heck, I’d start with just having kids plant fruit trees on Arbor Day as a start.
For more Napa Valley wine tasting adventures, click here.