I’ve heard people refer to Yountville, California as Keller-Ville because renowned Chef Thomas Keller has so many excellent restaurants that dominate the foodie scene in the small Napa Valley town. There are other restaurants there, too, but I know that when I come into town I’m probably heading for The French Laundry, Bouchon or Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc is the most casual of Thomas Keller’s restaurants. It serves one set 3-course menu every night and all of the food is served to each table family-style. It’s a great concept, especially if you’re eating with a large group, because it has a very homestyle feel to it. They change the menu daily and it features seasonal, locally produced ingredients, so you never know what you’re going to get until you arrive (unless you check the website for the updated menu a few hours in advance).
No matter what is on the menu, you can be pretty sure that dinner at Ad Hoc is going to be good – and ours definitely was. Simply prepared with great flavors – what’s not to like? I’m going to dedicate this post to anyone who loves food photos, because there are a lot of them ahead!
We started out our meal with a TFL Garden Celery Salad. The TFL Garden stands for The French Laundry Garden, a large garden out behind Thomas Keller’s signature restaurant that supplies much of the fresh produce for not only The French Laundry, but for Ad Hoc. Yes, this means that at least some of the ingredients of the salad were grown mere blocks from where they were prepared and served. The celery reminded me a lot of a waldorf salad in terms of flavor. It had red leaf lettuce, apples, toasted walnuts, celery several ways (one slightly, one thinly sliced), thinly sliced radishes and a celeriac aioli dressing. It was actually surprisingly simple and a great way to start the meal.
The main course was a barbecue plate, with Santa Maria-style grilled Snake River Farms waygu beef tri tip and baby back pork ribs. Santa Maria style barbecue usually has a dry rub of salt, paprika, garlic and lots of pepper on the meat before it is grilled. The meat was accompanied by a savoy cabbage slaw.
The ribs were very meaty and tender, and although I was very tempted to pick them up and eat right off the bone, the meat easily came off the bones with the touch of a fork.
The waygu was absolutely delicious, with an intensely meaty flavor no doubt from the preparation as well as from the meat itself. I usually like tri tip rare, but I found that the parts of the meat that were slightly more cooked were actually much more tender and just as moist than the center pieces (which were still close to melt-in-your-mouth tender, too).
My favorite part of the tri tip – and I suspect many bbq fans will agree with me – were the burnt ends, which came out at Ad Hoc with a plate of Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy. The biscuits were delish (and tasted identical to the buttermilk biscuits that I make at home, with a touch of salt on the top!) and the gravy that was made with the tri tip juices was good, as well, but those super-tender, flavorful burnt ends were amazing.
The cheese course featured Central Coast Creamery’s Seascape Goat Cheese with plum jam and sourdough toast. I could easily had done the jam and cheese without the toast here, or with the softer, chewier bread that came out as an appetizer at the start of the meal.
Dessert was a Banana Cupcake with a salted caramel filling and a rum buttercream topped with finely chopped, toasted macadamia nuts. I tend to be a tough cupcake critic, but the whole cupcake was very flavorful and moist, with a great overall combination of flavors. I loved the salty-sweet mac nuts on top of the cupcake and could easily have done with even more of them, but the cupcake was great as it stood, too.
The whole meal was excellent. Ad Hoc charges $49 per person and, as I said, the food is brought to the table family style so that everyone can serve themselves and share. The portions are very generous and it’s a good thing that the desserts aren’t huge, or you would never be able to finish. Fortunately, they’ll box up anything you don’t eat for you to take home ( I saw lots of people taking their cupcakes to-go). The only thing I’ll fault the restaurant for is playing overly loud music during service and the fact that I didn’t care for the glare off the mirrored tabletops while I ate, but I would go back next time I’m in Yountville. It’s a generous three course meal with great ingredients, great flavor and very good service.
Ad Hoc Restaurant