When diners time their reservations specifically for when fried chicken makes an appearance on the menu, and when lines snake out the door midweek as late as 9 p.m. in sleepy Yountville just for a taste of it, you know that’s got to be some darn good bird.
Since Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc opened a year and a half ago, the storied fried chicken has been a hands-down favorite. After all, who can resist chicken brined for 10 hours in honey, salt and lemon, then dipped in buttermilk, flour, and cornmeal, before being fried crisp and golden? The fried chicken used to be available only every other Monday night at the casual restaurant, where there is only one set menu each day and everything is served family-style. Now, due to overwhelming demand, Ad Hoc has declared every other Monday and every other Wednesday, of alternating weeks, to be fried chicken nights. If that’s a bit confusing, bear with us: It means fried chicken is on the menu this coming Wednesday night, and then the following week on Monday night, April 21. Then it reappears on the menu again on Wednesday, April 30. Whew, got that?
For fans of the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs (cooked “sous vide” or in a sealed pouch in a temperature controlled water bath, for 48 hours), you’ll still have to take your chances on when those beauties pop up on the menu because it all depends on when the meat is available.
As you can tell, none of these photos are of fried chicken, alas. My hubby, aka Meat Boy, and I missed fried chicken by mere hours. You see, we went to Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington Ave., to try its new Sunday brunch. Like dinner ($48 for four courses), brunch also is one set menu each Sunday (three courses for $38). And fried chicken and sourdough waffles (oh my, oh my!) were supposed to be that Sunday brunch’s main attraction. That is, until the restaurant decided to go with fried chicken only at night. Sigh.
Even so, we had a marvelous brunch. It started out with the lovely salad you see above with watercress, and Easter egg, watermelon, and black and white radishes, all tossed in a light lemon chive vinaigrette with toasted pine nuts. The stellar veggies were picked from the “farm” across the street from the French Laundry. Alongside the dish were lady-like cucumber mint finger-sandwiches.
Next came “steak ‘n’ eggs,” beef sirloin tips alongside Clark Farm’s hen eggs cooked like an omelet and then cut into pappardelle-like ribbons. Alongside was a colorful, flavorful medley of fava beans, roasted red peppers, and super crispy and creamy Yukon Gold potato hash.
The finale was D’Anjou pears poached in white wine and dolloped with vanilla whipped cream; and served with buttery shortbread cookies.
We enjoyed brunch on one of those really perfect, sunny days in Yountville, where locals and tourists were strolling about. And where a chef or two could be spotted, including a sporty Richard Reddington of Redd, the one-Michelin-star restaurant just up the block. Reddington cruised by on his bicycle, stopping briefly to check his pulse rate just outside of Ad Hoc.
Possibly next year, look for Keller’s Burgers and Half Bottles (as in wine) to open in the same building. The burger joint will share the same kitchen as Ad Hoc, and a wall will be pushed out from the building to accomodate the 19-seat, largely take-out adjunct eatery.
Meantime, you can enjoy dinner (seven days a week) or Sunday brunch at Ad Hoc by calling (707) 944-2487. You can learn what the next night’s dinner menu is by listening to the recording after 10:30 p.m., and by looking on the restaurant’s Web site.