My visit to The Restaurant at Meadowood rounded out my tour of California Wine Country’s Michelin 3-Star restaurants – all within three months. First was French Laundry on November 1st. Second was SingleThread on January 19th. And, I dined at The Restaurant at Meadowood a few weeks ago on January 30th. Unfortunately, I wasn’t blogging yet when I dined at French Laundry so I didn’t post about it. And, I didn’t take any photos.
I’ll admit that I was intimidated and nervous when I first dined at French Laundry. I knew a little bit more of what to expect when I dined at SingleThread. I definitely had some “lessons learned” from those experiences and was ready and comfortable at The Restaurant at Meadowood which I’ll now just refer to as TRAM because it’s just too long of a name.
If you read about my visit to SingleThread, you may remember that I was disappointed that I didn’t ask more questions about the wine pairing I chose. I received all Old World Wines. They paired wonderfully with the dishes. But, I wanted something a bit more local. When you make your TRAM reservation, you pay a $100 deposit towards food and have the option to select one of their two wine pairing experiences. I initially chose the lower-priced option. Then I read some reviews of what the higher-priced option included and asked to “upgrade” when I arrived at the restaurant. I also mentioned my SingleThread wine experience and how I hoped to avoid that stating that I’d prefer some local wines but that I also realized a great wine will trump geography any day. Ultimately, I received a wonderful balance of wines.
Let’s dive in! I regret not taking a photo of the “box of veggies” that was presented to me by one of the chefs. It was explained all of their vegetables are grown on their farm and I’d be seeing them throughout the meal. I would really love to go back and examine what was in that box more closely. Before leaving, he invited me to grab the turnip and munch on it. Ummm…not the biggest fan of turnips. But okay. Apparently that turnip is also considered one of the official bites of the first course – it’s on my menu! Officially it’s a Hakurei Tunip and must have been dipped Goat’s Butter or something.
The wine for the bites of the first course was whatever is pictured below. It’s not printed on my wine list. I’m bold enough that I explained to the somm that I’m not a big fan of bubbles. But would sample it. I really wish I appreciated champagne.
There were four more small plates included in the first course that came out pretty quickly. Each pictured below….
First were “Green Almonds Treated Like Olives”. We were not off to a good start – first a turnip, followed by champagne, and now olive-like things. They tasted like olives. There are few foods that I actually hate. Olives are one of them. A few times a year I give them a try but the result is always the same. I ate one and politely asked the rest to be removed.
Second is a “Salad Roll Nuka Vegetables”. Okay. I think it was tasty. But it wasn’t a stand-out by any means either good or bad. It just was.
Third was an “Oyster ‘Bubbled’ in Smoked Sea Water”. I like oysters. And there was definitely a smoky flavor to it. Also a lot of sea water.
Finally, my favorite of the first course – whew – a “Beignet filled with Chestnut Miso”. OMG. It was so yummy and delightful. I jokingly asked for a dozen more. Only the beignet was edible. I don’t think you’d want to eat those spikey things.
I’ve decided I like Daikon radishes – thanks to dining in these fancy restaurants. I’m not a fan of a regular radish. But Daikon are quite lovely.
I was a little excited and a little disappointed by the first wine pairing. Let me explain. I was a little disappointed because Matthiasson is a winery I just recently visited. However, that disappointment quickly vanished when I realized what he was bringing me. It’s their 2017 Ribolla Gialla which I didn’t get to try on my visit. I’m familiar with their Ribolla Gialla so I was now excited that I was getting to try it.
The food pairing is listed as “Daikon Pear Benne Seed Oil”. The three pinkish piles are actually frozen and quickly thawed. It was super refreshing, light, and yummy.
Moving onto the third course… This was one of my favorites. I wish I’d gotten a photo before the “lid” was removed from the kohlrabi. But, it looked like a whole kohlrabi when it was initially presented to me. It honestly freaked me out a little. But when that layer of caviar was revealed, I was instantly excited. The caviar is topping a custard-like substance made from the kohlrabi. It was SO good. I just can’t even begin to tell you.
It was paired with a 2008 Reinhold Haart Riesling Spatlese Piesporter Domherr. The pairing was perfection. However, I was quickly realizing I wasn’t able to finish the pours I was receiving. My initial thought was – I can’t waste any! But then I remembered there are a lot of courses to go and I am driving myself the hour back to my rental house via a dark and windy road. Wasting a little wine was okay.
And maybe it’s because of all of the wine that I was starting to get bold and punchy. Let’s talk about the wine first. They brought me a 2013 Domaine Francois Carillon Chardonnay. The menu also says Puligny Montrachet Champs-Gain. Silly old world wine. I don’t know what that means. But, I was delighted to learn it was aged in neutral oak barrels so I hoped for something a bit more full.
Then the food was presented and I was really wishing I had a California-style Chardonnay. But, the pairing was again perfection.
The box came out. Inside was revealed half of a Spiny Lobster tail. Apparently it was already sliced with only the middle two portions being served to me. I quickly realized that the portions on each end of the tail were leaving. And I stopped him! I was like – woah – let’s not waste any lobster! He reluctantly gave me the end piece on the larger end of the tail. But he explained that the chef didn’t want the end pieces served. I won. He then brushed the lobster with lemon myrtle leaves dipped in butter. That’s what’s sitting on top of the box in the photo. You may be wondering about the little round dish. This dish was not presented with any silverware. It was finger food. Therefore, there were moist towels in that vessel for me to clean my hands. So thoughtful!
Out came that California Chardonnay that I wanted in the previous course. Here they were pairing the 2013 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay with Black Cod steamed in Mustard Greens and Cultured Butter. It was amazing. And the pairing worked beautifully (not that I was worried). I even had some of the previous wine leftover so I could play around. Ultimately, I preferred this particular French Chardonnay to this particular California Chardonnay. Gulp.
The sixth course may very well have been my favorite course of the evening. I even dreamed about it later that night. I’m not kidding. I was practically jumping up and down in my seat when I saw what wine was being served – the 2012 Marcassin Pinot Noir from their Marcassin Vineyard. Since I’m kinda new to the cult world of pinot noir, I hadn’t heard about Marcassin before my “30 Wineries in 30 Days” experience. I was first introduced to it earlier in my trip at Bouchon. I ordered a rather pricey glass of their 2013 vintage and was in love….and immediately put myself on their five-year wait list.
I’m pretty sure he gave me a really healthy pour – and I didn’t waste an ounce or complain. Then came the food. Here’s where I really wish I’d taken a photo or at least paid closer attention to that box of vegetables at the beginning. The next course was a carrot. HUH? It certainly didn’t look like a carrot. But, it was indeed the fattest carrot I’ve ever seen. It was an “Oxheart Carrot” being served like prime rib. I believe the chef explained that they grow them for six months.
Here again I was supposed to get one slice out of the middle. I don’t think so! Carrots are my absolute favorite vegetable. I was intrigued by this monster. And was the rest going to the compost pile? He reluctantly gave me a second slice. I’m assuming tables of two shared a single carrot. I didn’t watch that closely. It was the meatiest carrot I’ve ever eaten. And paired with that Marcassin Pinot Noir? Oh my goodness! I’m not kidding about my dreams. This very well may have been my favorite course.
Here’s what was left at the end of the course after I played around with the accompaniments. The green is carrot tops. The white was like creme fraiche, I believe.
The seventh course may have been my least favorite. It was a Stuffed Quail with Rice and Black Truffle. They also brought out a roasted Quail leg. These were paired with a Domaine Du Vieux Telegrahe Granche Blend La Crau Chatteaunef du Pape from 2010. I enjoyed the wine. I usually enjoy a nice GSM blend.
However, the quail left me wanting more. The “stuffed” quail was kinda dry and flavorless. I’ve had some amazing quail in my life. This wasn’t it. I really enjoyed the leg. I wanted to pick up that thing and suck on it. So, they redeemed themselves with the quail.
I knew I was in for a treat when I was brought two identical Bordeaux Zalto glasses. This had to be the Wagyu course. I’d no idea how many courses I was in at this point or how many there were in total. I wasn’t trying to keep track. I knew I’d get a menu at the end. In reading some reviews of others’ experiences at TRAM, I saw that one person was served Screaming Eagle as part of the Cultivated Wine Experience. It’s kinda the thing that pushed me over the edge to upgrade. When else am I going to taste that $1000+ bottle of wine? Sadly, there was no Screaming Eagle tonight.
Instead, I was able to enjoy a side-by-side pairing of two delicious Cabernet Sauvignons. First was a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Corra. The second was a 1999 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. I’m very much familiar with the Cask 23. I’ve had it before – but maybe not a 1999. Initially it was my favorite. But by the end of the course, I actually preferred the Corra.
I was absolutely right, this was the Wagyu course. And you may be wondering why I’ve posted two seemingly identical photos of my Wagyu. Look closer. The second one is wider.
So, here’s what happened. I enjoyed that Wagyu very much. But there was just not enough to enjoy with the two lovely Cabs. See, it’s their fault they didn’t serve me a single, more expensive Cab! Ha Ha! And, now in course eight, I was pretty comfortable with the entire staff. So I joked to a couple that there just wasn’t enough meat to pair with the TWO wines they gave me. We even started to move onto the next course as I expected would happen. The wine was introduced and poured. Someone else came by and I continued to joke. That’s when he asked if I wanted another portion of Wagyu. Honestly, that’s not what I was trying to accomplish. I was really just a little buzzed at this point and teasing. But, I hesitated and said – why not!
It certainly messed up the cadence of the meal. I had to wait slightly longer for that second helping because they certainly weren’t planning to serve it to me again! I won’t complain about that at all! They were super nice and even offered to keep the next wine chilled while I waited and enjoyed round two.
The chef came back out with round two and said he gave me an even better, fattier piece this time around. Both were accompanied by “First Milk” and topped with tiny onions. I asked and learned that first milk is milk from the very first time a cow is milked. It apparently contains tons of protein. I think I was more impressed by two helpings of this milky substance since I now know it only happens once per cow.
And now it was time to turn towards dessert and wind down the meal. I was pretty excited to see what this last wine was being paired with. It was a “Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes 1er Grand Cru Classe Superieur” from 1997. Totally lost on me, but it was tasty.
The wine was paired with their “fondue course”. It was a Pumpkin Mimolette Fondue. I absolutely adore Mimollete cheese. It’s a regular on my cheese boards. In the left gourd were slices of butternut and acorn squash. On the right was a yummy bread thing. I didn’t come close to finishing the pieces on the right. I ate just enough to get a good taste. I was getting full – darn that second slice of carrot, extra piece of lobster, and second helping of wagyu!
The description on the menu for this course is not entirely helpful. It says “Local Citrus”. However, what I can tell you are that those are slices of Mandarin Oranges, Shortbread Cookie Things, a Tea, and a citrusy custard. I played around with pairing the wine, but it did not work! So, I stuck with my tea.
The eleventh course was all about corn. And, preparing for the meal to end, I ordered coffee. I tasted both the corn ice cream with homemade caramel sauce and took a few bites of the hickory corn tamale. They weren’t bad. But at this point I was only eating things that knocked my socks off. Little did I know that ended a few courses back with the Wagyu.
I thought I was done at the previous course and even made a comment. And one of the servers quickly asked if I didn’t want the final, last bites. Oh. Yes. Yes, I didn’t want to miss anything.
It took me awhile to work through this plate. Nothing appealed to me. I don’t even recall the flavor of the macaron. The licorice definitely wasn’t a favorite. And the chocolate could have been filled with something different. I’ve forgotten what’s on the green plate. It came with a lengthy, impressive description. But, I didn’t like it. So, I sipped my coffee and waited for the bill.
The Restaurant at Meadowood is probably my favorite of the three restaurants. The food was more along the lines of cuisine I preferred.
It was also so much fun to dine alone. I wasn’t looking forward to dining alone at this 4-hour meal. I’ve had company when I dined at the previous two. However, without someone to chat with I could take in the magic of the service. It’s a relatively small dining room. There were eight tables of people with maybe three or four empty. I believe there were three tables of two, two tables of three, and two tables of four in addition to lonely little me.
Because I was alone, I didn’t get to personally enjoy synchronized service. But I got to watch it play out as a team of servers would place each dish in front of everyone simultaneously. Or, watch the “parade” of servers with food circle the restaurant only to walk away with the food and return later because something wasn’t right with the table – maybe they were studying the wine list or something. It was so fun to watch. It’s practiced. There are rules. For example, one of my servers whose responsibility it was to bring me glasses and silverware then remove most of my empty plates explained he could never remove both stemware and plates at the same time. Interesting. I hadn’t initially noticed.
I was the very first diner to arrive. So I got to see it all. My reservation was for 5:45. But I had read that you’re welcome to arrive as early as 5 for a pre-dinner drink. Since my wine tasting of the day had wrapped up a few minutes before 5, I knew I was going to sit and enjoy a cocktail (maybe a mistake due to the amount of alcohol). I even got to eavesdrop on the staff’s pre-service meeting.
I sat facing out towards the rest of the restaurant. So I enjoyed watching the wines they were poured and eavesdropping. At one point one of the other diners stopped by my table to chat with me since I was eating alone. Uhh…okay!
I also keep going back and forth about the experience I selected. There are different dining levels offered. You can choose to have a limited menu in the bar area (four courses), fireside snacks, the regular tasting menu I chose, or the Chef’s Kitchen Counter Menu. The Chef’s Kitchen menu is the same menu I enjoyed, but you’re seated in the kitchen. I watched a couple of guests get led back to what I assume was the kitchen. I kicked myself a little. That experience costs an extra $250 for the same food. I don’t think I regret spending more for higher quality wines. However, next time I think I’d switch – eat in the kitchen with the regular wine menu or maybe just order wine by the glass for a few of the courses.
The menu presentation may have been one of my favorites, too. The parting gift was certainly something useful! Inside the black sleeve is a menu and a wine list both printed on vellum with a photo backing card. Due to the vellum, they’re not very photogenic. Apparently they also took a bit longer to prepare as I changed up my wine order and had some specific requests. Tied to the bottom of the bundle is a cute canvas TRAM totebag. I’ll definitely use it with fond memories!