Dear Mr. Gold:
I know it's slightly out of your territory, but my husband and I are heading to Napa for our first wedding anniversary and we're wondering if we should spend a million dollars and eat dinner at The French Laundry? We love food. We had an excellent meal at Cyrus a few years ago and could do that again. But as it is our first anniversary, should we blow it out? Is it worth it? Thank you!
–Kimi, Los Angeles
The French Laundry is sui generis, and I would never tell you not to go there. I have had my share of 20-course meals there, albeit mostly in the restaurant's earlier days, and a long evening of Thomas Keller's precise, detailed cooking is something you will probably never forget. (It could not be more different from the glossy bistro cooking at Bouchon, his Petit Trianon of a restaurant in Beverly Hills.) Remind me to tell you about Corby Kummer and the cheese course sometime.
Yet at this point, at least to me, the point of a meal there is not quite about pleasure — Keller's is not sybaritic cooking, and you will probably find yourself thinking “oh, how interesting'' far more often than you will lose yourself in the glory of the food. Me — I'd go to Terra. I always go to Terra. But you wouldn't be mistaken if you decided that The French Laundry was a restaurant more worthy of the splendid occasion.