After our twilight tour of Yountville, we arrived at Ad Hoc with our appetites. The staff were welcoming, the music was Boogie Nights which couldn’t fail to put us in a party mood, and we were excited to see what was on the menu.
In case you’re not familiar with Ad Hoc’s style of dining, the kitchen prepares the same meal for everyone at a set price of $52/head for dinner and about $40 for brunch. This was originally a “temporary” joint – I guess in some ways the first kind of pop-up restaurant – you can read the story here.
On the menu was their version of Caesar Salad with toasted Brioche Croutons and White Anchovies, Roasted Chicken with Trumpet Mushrooms, Stewed Carrots, Rice and Chard, and a Mandarin Upsidedown Cake with Coconut Sorbet, with an extra dish of mussels if you cared to add it to the menu. They were very accommodating as I tried to navigate my way through my detox requirements bringing me a separate non-dairy dressing for the salad, and dates and hazelnuts for the cheese course. The coconut sorbet was dairy-free so they brought me an extra scoop while I looked longingly at Monkey’s Mandarin Cake.
Overall we had a great experience, although we learned more about the food and how it was prepared, by eavesdropping on the waiter serving the table next to us, than from our own server. Turns out that the chicken is brined for nine hours before being roasted, and if you read my story about salt you’ll know what a huge difference this can make to the flavor and tenderness. It was divine and very generously portioned, so we brought home the leftovers. I took a leaf out of Carlo Petrini’s book, and employing the “waste not, want not” mantra of slow food, I turned our doggie bag into a soup and bone broth the next day.
This was the second time we have eaten at Ad Hoc. The first was a belated birthday brunch last year where they really pushed the boat out and made me gluten-free cookies with raspberry sorbet, instead of the dairy and gluten-ladened ice sandwich which was on the menu, and forever earned a tender place in my heart.
If you want a Thomas Keller experience, but don’t have the wallet to accompany your taste buds’ aspirations, I highly recommend checking out Ad Hoc, and you really can book through OpenTable vs. French Laundry which seems to be merely a vanity listing.