Not all dining experiences are positive but then again, some are just exquisite; we had the ultimate meal at Thomas Keller’s pop-up-turned-permanent eatery in Napa Valley, Ad Hoc. Sorry for the long hiatus everyone. With my beloved Canucks losing the Stanley Cup, I crawled into a hole for the past month. However, N’s decision to blog about Ad Hoc has enticed me to come out. Ad Hoc’s tag line is “Temporary Relief from Hunger” and it really should read “temporary relief from hunger but permanent impression of great food”!
The atmosphere is casual and unpretentious. Our server, Nathan, was very friendly and relaxed; right off the bat, we could tell that this restaurant saved their energy from the frivolous things and spent it on producing great food. The wine is served in a cup (never seen that before), the daily menu comes in a file, and the restaurant is quaint and pretty.
All of our meals came in share plates (family style) which I find is a much more enjoyable way to spend an evening with friends. The first course was a baby iceberg lettuce salad which was crisp and refreshing. This surprisingly simple yet ingeniously flavorful dish epitomizes the fare that you will find here; I’m not sure if it was the ripe oranges, the toasted almonds (seriously, I’ve never had such nutty and flavorful almond slivers, and despite the fact that I was very hungry, at this point I hadn’t even had liquor to exaggerate my senses), the subtle dressing or I even considered the fragrant cracked pepper, all I know is that the combination of a few simple and fresh ingredients made this unassuming dish very delightful.
I was hoping that I didn’t come across too snobbish in my review of Teatro and the poor steak I had there. But how can I settle for less after having the flat iron steak from Ad Hoc which was cooked to perfection and so very tender. The steak was a quintessential medium rare but be forewarned all you well-done meat eaters, because it comes in a share plate, you will either have to try the medium-rare, or give it to me!
We had the oxtail pasta as a supplement to our steak and it was also delicious. The pasta was a little overcooked but the sauce was excellent and overall the dish was satisfying.
Next up is the goat cheese with apple butter on buttered toast. The cheese was sharp therefore pairing it with the sweet apple butter was extremely complimentary! Add the wine pairing on top and this course was also superb. I love tasting menus that offer a cheese course to gradually transition your taste buds from savory to sweet. More importantly, I love cheese, especially when it’s paired well (Babbo’s cheese and fennel honey comes to mind!) AND it always means dessert is on its way!!
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for!!!
Panna cotta with short bread cookies. Holy crap this was amazing. Amazing! Incredible! Mouth-watering! Divine! Our group still raves about this panna cotta every time we mention Napa Valley. It truly is the best dessert I have ever had in my life and honestly, none of the us were even fans of panna cotta to begin with. The salty caramel and the dense texture of the panna cotta was amazing and I hope that everyone can try this one day to feel the same enjoyment that we felt while eating it. This dessert is reminiscent of our trip to Paris where I fell in love with the combination of fleur de sel and caramel after having a life-changing soufflé (yep, that’s right, a soufflé that can change lives! Blog post to come in the near future) and this panna cotta has achieved the level of ingenious je ne sais quoi that I thought could only be found in Paris. Now if only Napa were just a drive away…sigh~
The wine pairing with the panna cotta was a 1927 Sherry. The waiter repeated the year 1927 for shock value which we found amusing. It took the repeat for me to realize the vintage! The sherry was a golden color and was syrupy. The sweet, chocolate-blackberry-cigar aromas capped the end to a glorious night.
For the quality of food, I found the price at Ad Hoc to be very reasonable. I recommend everyone to try this place as it will not break the bank like French Laundry but the taste is top notch.
I LOVE LOVE Ad Hoc. Thank you Mr. Keller.
PS: Ad Hoc is famous for their fried chicken (too bad we didn’t have a chance to try it!) and they have just opened Addendum at Ad Hoc for a takeout lunch program so now you can have fried chicken and BBQ to go!