Monday, May 24, 2010

A real Ad Hoc dinner. . .

in the restaurant! 

My friend Mary and I drove to Yountville last night for dinner at Ad Hoc, which is located in a nondescript beige building, like where you'd find a real estate office in an upscale strip mall. I didn't pay much attention to my surroundings once we got inside, but can say with confidence that the dining room was light and airy and full of murmuring people. There was no salt on the table; the bread was stupendous. The friendly waiter waxed so enthusiastic about the food that he blushed and got flustered. The set menu consisted of:

-a "living butter lettuce" salad. Mary asked why it was called "living" lettuce and our waiter answered to the effect that the lettuce had been recently living. It was a refreshing salad, quite lively.

-sous vide short ribs. I would kill for this dish. The chunky boneless ribs had the succulence of a braise, but the meat didn't fall apart when you touched it with a fork and none of the flavor had seeped away in a sloppy gravy. I guess thats the magic of sous vide? Worth the price of the whole meal. Now I want a sous vide machine -- and could almost afford one if I hadn't just bought a molded plastic calf hutch. The meat was served with white beans and fat, fresh Brooks cherries. Five stars.

-Sally Jackson goat cheese. Wrapped in grape leaves, this pink-tinged ivory cheese from Washington State was delicate and creamy, but also curiously bland. Neither Mary nor I could understand why this was the cheese. 

-buttermilk layer cake. It sure was purty, like a cake from a Mobile church potluck. Or how I imagine such a cake. If you look closely you can see that there was strawberry jam spread between the layers, which didn't taste quite as wonderful as it looked, but who cares? I love that dessert was a layer cake.

Altogether an excellent meal and, at $49, cheaper than Keller's book, which was prominently displayed near the front door. In my opinion, the meal was a better value, even after tax and tip.  I've cooked soft shelled crabs and a quail and duck breast out of Ad Hoc at Home in the last few days and have more to report. I didn't realize until I sat down to type this that I was done with Ad Hoc at Home. But I'm done. 

Monday morning conversation:

Tipsy: How can you not like cherries?

Husband: Because they have PITS in the middle of them. I think that's reasonable. 


  1. Sometimes they have worms, too.

  2. "Living butter lettuce salad" reminds me of the book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" by Douglas Adams where one of the characters has to pick his choice of entree from a living, talking cow. It looses something in the translation, but a very funny, quirky book.

    FYI, our motto is, if you don't like it, more for me, especially cherries!

  3. And what is that next to the cake?

  4. coconut ice cream. Very delicious.

  5. The gist of your writing about Ad Hoc the book has left me with the impression that they're good recipes, but that they're still really restaurant food: you CAN cook it at home, but they're such a PITA that most of us would be happy to pay for them to be made for us at a restaurant. I returned Ad Hoc to the library almost uncooked from--too much going on. What I tried? The torn croutons. They were yummy.

  6. A couple things. First, why must so any cakes be ruined with jam? If you want to serve jam on the side for Lazlo Toth, fine, but what's good about cake is the cake and frosting. No jam.
    As for cherries, they are a PITA. The only thing with a pit worth eating is a perfect peach or nectarine, of which there are few in any given year.
    Cherry pie is good, but it wouldn't be good with pits.

  7. Get him a cherry pitter. Brilliant tool, if you are into that kind of thing.

  8. Regarding the sous vide cooking, I don't know why a plain old Foodsaver machine wouldn't work as well. (Your dad has one you could probably borrow to experiment.)

    I've been camping, cooking all the meals that way. Fabulous gourmet meals with no pans to wash up.
    In my case I make all the dishes ahead of time, don't cook them all the way through. (For camping I then freeze them.)

    To cook, just throw the thawed vacuum sealed packages into a pot of hot water (usually around 170 degrees, depending on the food.) After 15 minutes or so, again it depends, you simply cut the bag open with scissors and slide onto dinner plates.

    Another example is breakfast. To make omelettes, for example, I mix eggs, butter, cheese, ham salt/pepper, whatever, and then pour this mixture into a bag and freeze. Bacon the same way.I cook ahead then vacuum seal bags, frozen. All this cooks together, bags floating in the pot of water.

    It all tastes fabulous, particularly the nice soft-but-firm eggs, and no clean-up! Just warm water to wash faces and plates.

    I'm still experimenting with foods, water temps, and cook times, and portion amounts but am finding that food comes out surprisingly well, a lot of possibilities here...

    Thinking of a camping cookbook :-)