the french laundry cookbook. beginning and ending.

currently in search of a good brunch dish for my buddies’ easter potluck. came across this excerpt of thomas keller’s “the french laundry cookbook”

After you arrive at the French Laundry and begin to peruse the menu, a waiter in a white collarless shirt and ankle-length apron will bend to offer you what looks like a miniature sugar cone with a scoop of pink ice cream and say, “Salmon tartare with red onion creme fraiche in a savory tuile.”

Some diners, whole tables even, stare for a long time at this salmon ice-cream cone, glancing up to see if anyone else is eating it, and how. The first brave soul will tip the small cone sideways, nibble at the edge of the pink orb, and look up, noncommittal. “Oh.” Another tiny bite. “Mmm.” And then another, capturing a bit of cone and some of the onion creme fraiche inside. “Mmm. This is really good.” Genuine surprise. Others will regard the cone, shrug, then decapitate it with a smile. But everyone always stops to look.

All meals proceed in various ways from that moment, and after the meal, some people wander back to look at the kitchen and watch Keller, towering over his expediting station, called the pass. During service, when you stand in the broad kitchen entryway, Keller won’t pay much attention; he’ll more likely be studying the tickets lined on the cloth before him. He’ll say, “Ordering four tastings. Ordering two tastings and two regular, agnolotti and crab salad, one salmon, one scallop, one veal, one lamb.”

The kitchen is clean, cool, and bright. The pans are a uniform brushed silver. The air is calm and quiet, the brigade gliding across the carpet below their feet, bending at right angles over white china to construct dish after perfect dish. Visitors stand to the side and watch. A mother and son wander down the breezeway after their dinner and half at the kitchen’s entrance. The young man is grinning hard, his eyes wide. He is a cook himself at a well-known San Francisco restaurant. “It’s so quiet,” he says. The mother whispers, “It’s like a watchmaker’s shop.” – M.R.



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