Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ad Hoc addendum - a Footnote

In the cosmopolitan world of celebrity chefs and hyper-elegant venues, Thomas Keller is an enduring figure. A rock star of menu-planning, he's been the prince of the old-line chef-cum-entrepeneurs now for over 15 years.

Up in the Napa Valley--where I grew up, for those unfamiliar with my bio--the posh restaurateurs have been moving in, summoning the rich and famous to dine in country splendor. You can count the high-ticket European sedans as they toodle up highway 29 or the Silverado Trail on any weekend, until you're blue in the face. So much money sliding by on grease.

Picnics are a European invention, but America has always taken to them with relish. The idea of eating outdoors on a pleasant sunny day, either at a picnic table, or on a blanket on the ground, has always seemed a romantic notion. Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (the luncheon on the grass) has been an inspiration for painters for hundreds of years.

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe by Edouard Manet [1863]

Though few people would consider dining nude in public, at any time, there are apparently some stubborn nudists in San Francisco who insist on cavorting naked in daylight around the Castro District. The City is considering ordinances designed to require some kind of protection on public seats to prevent unhygienic possibilities. Only in San Francisco!

But to get back to Mr. Keller and his menus. Keller's first venture in Napa Valley was his restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, a tiny berg on the west side of the valley, previously known only for its old Veterans' Home facility. Not satisfied with winning 3 Stars on the Michelin Guide for The French Laundry, he opened another place, Bouchon, down the street from the other, and yet again, opened a third, Ad Hoc, in the same town. Now, as an asterisk or footnote to the whole affair, he's opened a little picnic stand behind Ad Hoc, known as addendum (addendum, that is, to Ad Hoc). addendum sounds suspiciously like another restaurant, Bibendum, which wife and I enjoy eating at in London; but I doubt they're related.

Ad Hoc Restaurant - Yountville

addendum's specialty, as you would guess, is picnic food, since there is no indoors, and except for a few picnic tables, no place to eat, in the formal sense. You order your meal from a little double-windowed cottage, and the tray of treats packed in disposable containers is brought to you from the restaurant building (in the front).

On the day we were there, the menu had BBQ Pulled Pork & Baby Back Ribs, or Buttermilk Fried Chicken, both with honey cornbread, and sweet corn succotash with classic potato salad, and carrot cake cupcakes--the whole tab running us $26.50. In today's market, a lunch like this one at that price is a bargain. Or it certainly is, considering the quality of the food. I've never tasted fried chicken or ribs to rival that which we were fed that day, or had better corn succotash. Wow. Perhaps the best part is that you don't have to sit down and be waited upon, pay a big tip, and make reservations beforehand. Certainly, it's no social triumph to order a picnic lunch, in a town with so many chic dining joints. We didn't have any wine.

If the place stays open, we'll visit again sometime.


Anonymous said...

$26.50 for that little bit of grid/greasy food?

You've been had !

Curtis Faville said...


It's all about taste.

It's not about mass. Anyone can shovel rice and potato and hash on your plate for nothing.

Do you base your food budget on weight alone?

What kind of food do YOU find palatable?

Anonymous said...

I try to illuminate most saturated fats
illuminate sugar, salt

I certainly wouldn't eat that fried-in-lard and soaked in nitrates

will, from time to time eat chicken breasts
cold-water fish... NEVER

farm raised or oil-tainted or Mercury tainted gulf or bay sea food

and NEVER eat any Italian food or anything farm raised it's all fried and white flower and over cooked.

the only thing that looks good on that tray is the succotash

if you saw how chickens are raised and slaughtered and what the are fed and the poop that they live in
you'd up-chuck !

1000 Names of Vishnu said...

looks tasty--tho could get that for half of that what it cost down here (tho..socal and not cute napa-land)
italian spicy sausage--barbequed or ...beef ribs wit the trimmings ,and barbequed pollo. sabroso. itz already dead might as well eat it. con chianti!

Unknown said...

You nay-sayers don't quite get it. The Ad-Hoc fried chicken is exceptional and at that price actually a bargain. Trust me you're not getting the same thing for half price anywhere.