It has taken me almost five months to write this post. Reasons for this delay would have varied depending on when you asked me. I might have cited the craziness of spring break and finishing senior year. I could have attributed it to the outrageousness of the days and nights surrounding the event (what happens in vegas…), or I might have complained about our bathroom ceiling collapsing or my vigorous programming training.
I am now ready to tell you about my experience in Kellerville. This is an area of our fine country that is known to outsiders as “Yountville,” California. Being, of course, just down the rue from Napa, Kellerville is the statistical mode of Thomas Keller’s restaurant locations. Including the now infamous French Laundry and Bouchon bakery, he ups the ante with Ad Hoc; the physical manifestation of his almost-temporary-potentially-future-burger joint (but not really). Ad Hoc features a set, daily rotating menu of Keller-quality food served all-you-can-eat family style.
First of all, I would like to say that I had a wonderful experience in Kellerville. From spotting the French Laundry (wait, was that it…? I don’t think that was it…) to the joyful surprise of running up to the door to check the days menu at Ad Hoc, it was a magical experience. Only a month or so previously I had a chance to meet Chef Keller himself, and had the profound experience of cooking with him in the BU SHA kitchen. One of the first dishes I was truly proud of as a teenage cook was a FL cookbook-inspired parmesan tuile filled with whipped chive goat cheese.
When we located the French Laundry on our drive through town, I jumped out of the car like a giddy kid. I took pictures of the now-famous herb garden and I even think I ran inside for a moment just to see the place. I may have dreamed this up. I’ll have to check with my accomplices.
Once I was done spying (how many people do this outside TFL? I wish they had a webcam. I bet it’s lots.), we headed down the street to Ad Hoc.
It was the evening before my twenty second birthday. The constantly amazing Brooke had arranged the reservations through two of her lovely friends. I sincerely appreciate the effort made on my behalf from all of y’all. From Boston to Cali, your willingness to help knows no bounds.
We were seated in sunny, comfortable dining room to salivate over our menus and select our wine (served in lowball glasses). Everyone seemed to be having a good time. From the staff in their dickies shirts to the diners chowing down, the entire restaurant buzzed with a relaxed giddiness. Jake and I both had our cameras out, competing in a discreet food photography competition.
There are no choices at Ad Hoc, other than beverages.
As for the food: the highlight of the evening was the polenta, which I believe they said they made with buttermilk. The chicken was flawlessly executed, as was the shrimp, and there was more than enough food to go around.
That’s all I have to say about the food. Full disclosure is that I have a hard time looking at these food photographs. For whatever reason, two hours or so after leaving the restaurant, I became more ill than I have in a decade and my memory of the specific food items is tarnished. There is no telling what made me sick, I just know that it’s hard for my body not to be averse to lookin at the consumed (and then un-consumed) food.
For a more descriptive and non-tragic experience of the dining phenomenon that is Ad Hoc, I would like to refer you to an old buddy of mine, the Amateur Gourmet. Adam (AG) used to live in Atlanta when I was living it Italy, and we both started our blogs around the same time. He’s now an internationally renowned food blogger. Check him out:
As for my continued review – here is what I want to say:
Ad Hoc has all the markings of a perfect restaurant. It casually basks in the backyard of the best chef in the country, provides diners with no choices in the menu, and allows its employees to exchange formality and stiff attire for knowledge and grace. Ad hoc is less of a restaurant than a public house. You acknowledge that you need to be fed, relax in the comfortable environment and feel at home with the laid back but professional and attentive staff.
Having no choice in what you eat is exactly as liberating as being able to choose anything in the world to eat. As long as the food is cooked and served with finesse, it doesn’t matter what it is. Thomas Keller has built an empire of cooks and staff that can execute at a level of obsession that has been completely abandoned by every chain, company and catering hall in the country.
When you walk into Ad Hoc, or any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, you know exactly where you are. You have come hungry and it would sincerely be impossible to leave less than satisfied. This feeling is the magic of the chef. You aren’t just feeling welcome, you are feeling the combined efforts of hundreds of people, all of whom were led by the vision of chef Keller.
The simple concept of preparing and delivering nourishment has become a multibillion dollar industry, one in which corporations increasingly try to drive each other out with more “Xtreme” or “flavor-blasted” food products. It used to be taken for granted that you could find a local diner, or a mom-and-pop Italian joint. Nowadays people are terrified of a menu that doesn’t include Chicken Caesar Salad. Restaurants, like Ad Hoc, will slowly change this.
Want to do your part? Watch this video after the jump: