Let’s face it, not everyone can get into French Laundry, even if you have the scratch. Our suggestion? If you find yourself in French Laundry country with no French Laundry reservation, go to Étoile on the Domaine Chandon property for a fine dining experience that, we think, doesn’t feel too much like a compromise.
You have the option of a three or four course prix fixe menu as well as the seven-course seasonal tasting menu. Having been eating and drinking wine all day we opted for the 3-course menu.
The meal began with a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé and a petite Black Mission Fig tasting meant to bring out the strawberry in the bubbly. Very yummy. We love figs, particularly the Black Mission variety.
We choose the creamy Corn Soup with Dungeness Crab from the list of appetizers, had the Beef Tenderloin for our main course and finished with the fanciful Strawberry Pie dessert, which was really a strawberry crème brûleé accompanied with strawberry caviar and strawberry soda. Throw in some never-ending bread rolls with black salt butter and a double espresso for the ride home and we were all set for the coming food coma.
We have to be honest and say that we actually enjoyed our meal at Étolie a bit more that our recent meal at Michael Mina. Étolie wasn’t much cheaper than Mina with the three-course menu going for $79 a person, the four-course $89 and the seasonal tasting menu $105, but the offerings, preparations and prices felt somewhat more harmonious than they did at Michal Mina.
In any case, we’re off the fine dining circuit for a while. We have no idea how Michael Bauer does it every week. Two elaborate multi-course menus in one week just about killed our entire lust for fine food. We didn’t have any bad meals, but man were we overjoyed with the can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and the grilled cheese sandwich we had after our trip to Napa in an effort to detox.
[Photo: An entree at Etoile, via Etoile official site]