Let There Be Bite explored the beaches and forests of Point Reyes National Seashore park, north of San Francisco, and then traveled east for wine tastings in Napa Valley–with, naturally, good things to report by way of food the entire journey, including the French Laundry! Click here to see all photos.
While I waited patiently on the phone for a Per Se reservation two months in advance of the date, my lunch at the French Laundry came up rather unexpectedly. Knowing I would be in Napa in two weeks, I put myself on the waiting list in case there was a lunch cancellation. Having assumed that most people make the French Laundry a vacation destination in itself, I didn’t expect a call. Yet, after returning from a hike in Point Reyes National Seashore park, there it was: A missed call from the French Laundry (joy)… but 45 minutes ago! (misery) Arg, surely they had found someone to take the open reservation the next day. But (insert minor hyper-
ventilation here) they hadn’t, and of course we were in. You gotta do it once, right?
So I fell for it. The Olive Press, in Sonoma and Napa, challenged food writers to use four of its extra virgin olive oils in a four-course meal, and there it went: my competitive inner child reared its head. We’re taking this all the way to the end zone. (Sorry, is my football hem showing? Growing up in the Midwest reduces everyday activities to sports clichés, like “That’s gonna leave a mark” and “I’ll have a Leinenkugel’s.”)
This course was inspired by a recent visit to San Francisco’s SPQR restaurant.
I chose the Olive Press Mission extra virgin olive oil (medium fruit) because it lends
a substantial olive flavor without overpowering the delicate fennel; and the apple undertone in the oil marries nicely with the apple slices in the salad.
First of all, what is pesto alla trapanese? The word “trapanese” means “of Trapani,”
a town on the northwest coast of Sicily. Most people are familiar with the typical Ligurian pesto: lots of basil, olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, pine nuts, and garlic. Historically, Genovese (Ligurian) ships would stop in Trapani on their way to and from the Far East. They brought pesto, and Sicilians altered the recipe by using local ingredients, namely tomatoes and almonds. Although there is basil in the trapanese recipe, it is more a supporting character than the star, and the dish has
a subtle and satisfying appeal.
Delicate olive oils, like Arbequina, go very well with fish. In choosing the ingredients to complement the fish, I wanted to avoid using overpowering flavors that would drown out the oil. And since we were having four courses, I also wanted to do something light and simple for this course. I called ahead to my local fish market,
El Pescador in La Jolla, and asked what good white fish they were carrying: he recommended white sea bass from Mexico. I checked the Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to make sure it was a good choice. It was a go!
Everyone seems to be talking about using olive oil instead of butter in baked goods these days, so I thought I’d go for it with the delicate Olive Press Blood Orange extra virgin olive oil. The cake has a nice crust while the inside stays moist for days. I may be an EVOO baking convert!