If dining at French Laundry is like a Black Tie gala with luminaries, champagne, and an 80-piece orchestra, dining at Ad Hoc is like a summertime bbq with your best friends, ice-cold lemonade, and your all-time favorite tunes playing in a loop on your iPod. (Albeit a bbq where the burgers are probably hand-ground and the lemonade is fresh-squeezed). But both are great experiences. And both are Thomas Keller.
Last year our pal blogged about a fabulous dinner at Ad Hoc, and at the time I was more than a little jealous. So when the opportunity arose to celebrate his, and another friend’s birthday at Ad Hoc for brunch, I jumped at the chance – even though it involved one of my least favorite things: Waking. Up. Early. (on a weekend, no less). I'm just not a morning person, you see.
Located about an hour from San Francisco in Yountville, Ad Hoc is known for its fried chicken, which is served on Mondays and during dinner only. We lucked out and had what was (in my opinion) the next best thing – country fried steak and eggs. The battered flatiron steak was crispy, juicy and delicious – served with perfectly cooked sunny-side up eggs on rounds of rich brioche.
Barring any dietary restrictions, everyone gets whatever's on the 3-course prix fixe brunch menu that day. (Plus mimosas, of course.) First up was a fresh, tender, butter lettuce, radish and chicken salad with green garlic dressing and some of the creamiest, yummiest avocados I've ever had.
The country fried steak was next, served family style in stainless steel skillets with crispy yukon potatoes and fresh peas. And our meal came to an end with a soft, sweet cashew panna cotta with caramel and shortbread cookies. At $34 for 3 courses, this is one sweet deal.
I became an instant fan of their family-style service and warm, welcoming setting. Everyone, from the staff to the diners, seemed genuinely happy and excited to be there. I also became a fan of their coffee, an award-winning French Laundry blend by local roaster Equator Coffee (you can travel up the street to purchase it at Bouchon Bakery afterwards). And lastly, I became an even bigger fan of Thomas Keller himself, if that's at all even possible.