Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The French Laundry and Garden Envy

I don't have a lot of sun. My garden slopes down, and faces north. It's damp and gloomy in the winter, in summer the ancient oak trees shade everything. Tomatoes struggle. The soil is thin, the water runs off, the oaks steal the sun. I try, but every year brings disappointments. I read about the Beekman Boys smacking seeds in the soil and harvesting bushels of yummy stuff, and I am green. With envy. Here seeds rot, seedlings wilt, there are leaves on the tomatoes and pumpkins but few fruits.

So a level garden in the sun? I covet it. In an old river bottom with deep rich soil? I drool. With raised beds, organic compost and a host of busy gardeners? Oh dear. And grass paths.

The French Laundry has such a garden. I would like to lie down in the compost and stay. I would like to adopt the garden - or have it adopt me. The well worked raised beds are lined with drip irrigation (or as we used to call it in Landscape Architecture school, irritation).
When planted you can't see the drip, just the lovely labels...
...and the gorgeous chard. Or peppers.
Or salsify...
or pumpkins
and chickens!!
they have a chicken tractor! Check out my old blog posting on Chicken Tractors

I should back up. The French Laundry in Yountville is one of the two best restaurants in the world. The other is Per Se in New York, and they are both the creation of Thomas Keller who has changed the way we all eat. And how we eat - from courses (many and small) to plates (many and stacked. All white sculpture with your food). 

In France people travel and stay in hotels (sometimes in unattractive towns) to eat splendiferous food. Not so here - until Thomas Keller. Altho the Napa Valley isn't ugly...
Thomas Keller has three other restaurants in Yountville: Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc. Try all three - breakfast at Bouchon Bakery, lunch at Bouchon (oysters and shrimp and a glass of rose - quick before Indian Summer is over).  Ad Hoc for dinner (it's really hard to get a reservation at the Laundry) or get take-away at Ad Hoc Thursday thru Saturday. Fried chicken or barbecue. Get the chicken.

Bon Appetit and happy gardening. I will be in my shady garden shedding tears on the thin soil.

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