Zach wanted to create a new category of posts dedicated to his formal training in pastries, featuring bakeries! This is our first spotlight on a bakery that exceeds expectations when it comes to freshness, creativity, and authenticity. Bouchon Bakery in Yountville does so in spades, and we were delighted to see their specials for Easter when we drove up yesterday for the afternoon.
The macarons here are giant and delicious. Flavors vary a little depending on the season – for example we selected a malted chocolate robin’s egg – but you can count on the staples like pistachio, caramel, and raspberry to taste just like the names. The robin’s egg, apart from having the flavor of the Easter candy, was even shaped like an egg, mottled turquoise and white, and speckled! The cookie layers had a thin, crisp exterior with a light and chewy interior. The buttercream fillings were all delightfully rich, smooth, and creamy.
The ladybugs were too cute for Zach to resist; he had to get one, even though inside was a real raspberry filling with seeds (he can’t eat unprocessed seeds or nuts). Despite Zach’s assertion that the fondant decorations would be boring sugar, August ate them anyway and thought they were vaguely lemony. The frosting was a simple vanilla buttercream, but appropriately dyed pink for the season and to match the vibrant, sweet, and tart raspberry filling encased in a rich, buttery cake.
Zach’s pick purely for himself was a lemon tart. Lemon is an ideal flavor to welcome the warmer climes. Not everyone loves chocolate, therefore alternative sweets are greatly appreciated by the likes of Zach who is two steps away from being anti-chocolate. The lemon curd was silky in texture and had a nice tartness of lemon flavor without too much sweetness. The meringue was light, airy, and melted instantaneously in the mouth like little clouds. The crust was crisp and slightly flaky, a great texture contrast to the very creamy curd and meringue.
August’s pick purely for herself was a chocolate ganache tart (ganache is a food group in her book). Throughout the tart, the ganache was consistently velvety and rich, a noble representation of this fine class of chocolate. The crust somewhat reminded her of graham cracker, darker in flavor than a typical tart shell. Gold leaf and various egg motifs with bunnies and chicks were super cute adornments.
Yountville, Las Vegas, and New York are lucky to be home to the three members of this bakery family. Breakfast items like muffins and croissants, cookies and macaroons, caramels and toffee, quiche and European-style bread, and even pet treats are abundant and beautiful. The line was particularly long since it was Easter and many others seemed to be thinking like we were, but the line moved quickly and everyone waiting together was in good spirits, anticipating the delicious goodies inside the shop.
We drove to Yountville for Easter today, since most of our things are packed up for moving and you can’t really cook like that, can you? We spent most of the day in town doing lunch, visiting a bakery, walking around the shops, and finishing with dinner at Hurley’s. Like the lunch restaurant, we had our first impression of Hurley’s at the Taste of Yountville, so we were eager to come back today to try dinner. Throughout the year there are themed menus such as a Father’s Day barbecue and a game week in November; today there was an Easter selection of specials, from which Zach chose his entree.
Atop the salad of frisée arugula, beets, spiced pecans, orange segments, and citrus vinaigrette sat a crustini with Burrata cheese. This salad was light and refreshing, with colors to match the zingy flavors. The beets were exceptionally fresh, earthy, and sweet.
We’re not surprised to see mac and cheese, just like we did at lunch. It would seem to be a side dish growing in popularity. This was very creamy in flavor and texture, with more cream than cheese coming through. The panko sprinkled all over the top added a nice texture contrast. It’s a great value, too – this is a big enough side dish for three to four people!
August’s chicken was flavorful and comforting as it started to rain outside. Two meaty portions were supported by a potato puree. It was a good texture to soak up the sweet and savory glaze. Caramelized pearl onions, roasted garlic, and English peas rounded out the meal.
Zach’s Caggiano ham was tender, smoky, and had a mild clove flavor. In all honesty, he wanted the wild Texas boar or the buffalo short ribs, but he chose this because A) it’s Easter, and B) this ham was locally sourced. It came with scalloped potatoes, fried shoestring onions, a pineapple honey glaze and grilled Maui pineapple spears, which were exceptionally sweet as well as tart. Nearly hidden from view in the picture are crisp green beans and mushrooms sauteed in garlic and butter.
We already have the second week of November in our calendar for Game Week – antelope, pheasant, and boar are just a few items to be featured. If today is any indication of the quality of ingredients used at Hurley’s, you can guarantee we’ll be back to see what they do with those kinds of meats.
Our possessions are mostly packed because we’re moving this week. This kept us from traveling to see family that lives a ways away, and we had nothing with which to cook at home for ourselves for an Easter meal. Zach did research to find any place open that had something different to offer, and Bouchon Bistro in Yountville promised a meal well worth the drive.
Bouchon Bistro is known for having some of the freshest seafood. We shared three Chefs Creek and three Cortes Island oysters; both were salty, briny, and sweet, and the Chefs Creek were smaller in size but slightly sweeter. They were served with a traditional cocktail sauce and a sweet vinegar mignonette.
This onion soup was very sweet as it traditionally should be – not overly salted like the typical American style. Zach believes they use a housemade stock instead of a beef base or bullion cubes. The onions were tender and abundant, but don’t get scared! They were deliciously caramelized. Despite having a good amount of strong Swiss cheese, it wasn’t greasy. The thyme was a nice addition.
It would seem that mac and cheese is a very popular side dish nowadays. We’re seeing it in a number of restaurants. Here, the blend of white and yellow cheeses over perfectly cooked pasta was rich and playful with so many flavors. There was definitely Gruyere, but even Zach the supertaster couldn’t get past that because the cheeses were so well balanced and blended. And August always likes a cute ramekin.
A grilled ham and cheese sandwich on brioche bread with a fried egg, Mornay sauce, and a mound of well salted fries was Zach’s entree. The bread was buttery and crispy, the ham smoky, the cheese plentiful, and the sauce very rich and creamy. The fries almost had Zach fooled – crispy and tender, he thought they were cut in house, but we learned they are in fact frozen. One of August’s pet peeves is french fry texture and temperature and so many restaurants mess up one or the other, therefore she has essentially given up on them. However, she sneaked a few of these towards the end of the meal and confessed they were even good cold.
August’s plate was as tasty as it was pretty. Trout is currently on the sustainable seafood list, and this pan-roasted fish from Idaho was super tender and buttery. The green beans, or rather haricots verts, are a French variety that is a bit longer and thinner than the American ones we’re used to seeing. They were verdantly sweet and given great texture by the toasted almonds. The beurre noissete brown butter sauce added to the rich simplicity of the meal.
Hostess Erica was warm and friendly when we arrived, and Chris, our server, was wonderfully attentive and knowledgeable. We met manager Krzysztof Pawlik, who runs a great front of the house. Chef Michael Sandoval took time to step out of his busy kitchen and greet us, and it was a very appreciated gesture and a pleasure to meet him. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, and we’re looking forward to dining here again (as well as at the parent restaurant French Laundry [wink]).