Since TFL, Keller has opened the 1 Michelin Star Bouchon (1998) and a few years later, it's companion Bakery next door. In September of 2006, he opened Ad Hoc, orginally meant to be a temporary community restaurant that magically transformed into a popular permanent restaurant where, every night, a different 4 course meal is served family style for $52, with optional wine pairings for $34, and usually an optional additional 5th course addition.
Before yesterday, I had only been into Ad Hoc for drinks, and after dining at The French Laundry in 2009, Bouchon and it's Bakery several times over the last couple years (mostly while bartending at Yountville's now-gone Cantinetta Piero), Ad Hoc had been high on my list of restaurants to dine at for some time.
Last night felt like the night to do just that, and I had no better person to dine with than my lovely partner Lynn, and as it was a spontaneous trip, did not have reservations (which are highly recommended, especially this time of year). The good news is that they managed to fit us in onto a nice patio seat just before sunset after a nice sit at the bar for a starter glass of wine. Sporting a diverse and accessible wine list, choices were many, but with the nights menu (vegetarian option for us), I felt the dinner would be matched best by some floral white wines. I opted for the Meulenhof Riesling Kabinett, an off-dry Mosel wine of peaches, nectarines, honey and good acidity that we enjoyed with my first course of chopped lettuces, pickled red onions, red beets, hard boiled hen egg, pea shoots and an orange vinaigrette that started the meal beautifully, as well as our second course, a flavorful and rich spring risotto with baby artichokes and english peas, acommpanied by a dish of butter beans and greens (note: this was not the normal entree course, but Ad Hoc does provide an unlisted vegetarian option every night-the normal menu entree for the night was a spiced beef hangar steak). Lynn had a glass of dry, slightly effervescent Muralhas de Monaco Vinho Verde from the Minho region of Northern Portugal, made from native grapes such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Loureiro, and Trajadura.
After the hearty entrees, we moved on to the cheese course, presented with an Italian raw-milk Gorgonzola Dolce with peppered flatbread and blackberry jam. By this time, a beer sounded good, and I spotted a Bavarian Aying Dunkel Weizen, a classic style of the region (Lynn sensed a German theme in my drinking), amber colored, mild in alcohol and full of aromatics such as clove, banana, caramel and cinnamon.
Finishing the evening were a duo of desserts, as they were in the transition from 1 dessert to another, and so we got to enjoy both the Rocky Road Sundae with chocolate ice cream, roasted marcona almonds and marshmallow fluff (yummy!) and a bowl of coconut and strawberry sorbets with shorbread cookies (also yum!!).
With an excellent service staff that was attentive, fun and knowledgeable (led for us by our server Daniel, who was a pleasure to talk to), and taking classic dishes and styles and doing great wonders with them, I finished with a higher impression than I expected, and had wished I had dined here sooner. The seating outside was delightful, and we enjoyed great conversation with a U.K./Australian couple, bathed in the good weather, and enjoyed the most loverly of dates in a region that always offers up culinary and romantic delight, and proves that even with living and working in an area of such spoiling beauty, that you can always be surprised and have new experiences to revel in and get excited about. Cheers!