French Laundry Holiday Party

A giant clothespin ice sculpture greeted guests on Sunday at the French Laundry holiday party.

Yes, the French Laundry is the only Michelin three-star restaurant in California, and one of the hardest reservations in the country to snag.

But did you know that the tres elegant Yountville restaurant sure knows how to throw one heck of a holiday party, too?

This past Sunday afternoon under gray, threatening skies, the stone building was aglow with candles, a roaring fireplace, and gleaming white tents for its annual holiday party. Yours truly was among the throngs who gathered to enjoy the festivities.

Chef-proprietor Thomas Keller cheerfully greeted guests. Keller may be fond of Prada boots, but he donned some rather uncharacteristic footwear that afternoon that one couldn’t help but notice — real-deal red clogs.

Chef Thomas Keller

Keller's footwear of choice on Sunday.

Me to Keller: “Are you pulling a Mario Batali?”

Keller quipped back: “Don’t say that. Don’t say that. Mario’s are orange and plastic. These are leather and wood. A chef has to uphold standards.”

Fun was definitely in the air on Sunday. If you’re used to the serene environment of the French Laundry, this was noisy, crowded and oh-so casual. It was fun to see cooks who normally turn out exquisite “Oysters and Pearls” instead creating fluffs of pink cotton candy and truffled popcorn.

A French Laundry cook makes four-star cotton candy.

Truffle popcorn, anyone?

The signature salmon cornets that usually precede every dinner at the French Laundry were in attendance on Sunday, but in miniature form.

The famous salmon tartare cornets with creme fraiche.

An assembly line to make the cornets.

Mini versions of Bouchon Bakery’s Nutter Butter cookies and chocolate snowman cupcakes also could be found all over the restaurant, including some set around an old-fashioned gingerbread house display.

Christmas tree cupcake

Chocolate snowman cupcakes

Sweets for the choosing.

Champagne and wine flowed endlessly. Tables were laden with all manner of charcuterie and cheeses, including a sinful brie laced with black truffles.

Part of the large offering of charcuterie.

Moreover, there was a make-your-own sandwich station French Laundry-style — with soft, buttery brioche buns heaped with house-made ketchup, horseradish Dijon, velvety butter lettuce leaves from the restaurant’s garden across the street, and the most tender slices of Snake River Farms beef tenderloin.

Beef tenderloin sandwiches on brioche buns.

Cooks slicing tender beef tenderloin.'' width=

If you were lucky, you could also snag a most decadent morsel from a server’s silver tray — a raspberry-filled cupcake with foie gras mousse frosting. Yes, let me repeat that — a cupcake with foie gras frosting. And yes, it was as rich and delightful as it sounds.

Foie gras mousse cupcake

Carolers in costume set the mood with renditions of favorite holiday songs.

Smoked sturgeon canape.

Sugar-dusted donut holes.

And for the kids, part of the kitchen was even turned into a do-it-yourself, cookie decorating station.

Cookie decorating station for kids.

One young girl's cookie art.

It was one stellar party from one stellar restaurant.

Hard at work in the gleaming kitchen.

An unadorned Christmas tree in the French Laundry's vegetable garden.

The entrance, with the posts decorated with holiday greeting cards.

More: Q&A with Timothy Hollingsworth, Chef de Cuisine at the French Laundry

Share and Enjoy
Print This Post
Tags »

Date: Tuesday, 15. December 2009 5:22
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, Cupcakes, Enticing Events, General, Restaurants, Thomas Keller/French Laundry/Et Al

Feed for the post RSS 2.0 Comment this post


  1. 1

    Wow, what a party! How cool that you got a chance to be there! The food & sweets look incredible!

  2. 2

    What a fabulous party! Lucky you! :)

  3. 3

    Sounds & looks like an amazing event! As always, beautiful pictures!

  4. 4

    What a stellar event! Love those green cupcakes, hahaha :-D

  5. 5

    That is so cool that you were invited to attend! Jealous I am. It all looks delicious and very fun.

  6. 6

    The cupcake with foie gras cupcake looks amazing…looks like you had a very fun time :)

  7. 7

    I still haven’t been to the restaurant, the holiday party looks like much fun and lighthearted deliciousness still. And you know I am coveting the raspberry foie gras mousse thingie!

  8. 8

    Oh, the FL’s holiday party is now legendary during this time of year. It must be the most coveted invite in this part of the country! Lucky you. I, too, have yet to dine at the FL or be invited to the party, so I’ll just have to settle for staring at your photos of those cute cupcakes!

  9. 9

    My very good friends have been..but I have not. Lucky, lucky you! Lovely post and great photos!

  10. 10

    What a fabulous event!! Great you’ve been there as well as the endless champagne! and the cute chocolate snowman :)



  11. 11

    Wow – I am envious! We will be in wine country next summer but with five of us and some serious wine drinkers, we think we will have to go to Bouchon instead of FL for $$$ reasons…. Thanks for the peek inside :-)

  12. 12

    Yum. Foie Gras frosting. That wets my palate.

  13. 13

    What are those fried or sugared balls below the cupcakes? (You can see just where my mind goes.) Inquiring minds want to know!

  14. 14

    I’ve heard of the FL holiday party, never eating there but really, really, want to. How does one get an invite??

    I read there’s a cupcake place in Chicago that has foie gras frosting.

  15. 15

    Mark: Those fried balls of dough are indeed sugar-dusted donut holes.

    Ann: I think the invited guests included friends of the restaurant, investors, and purveyors. Also, long-time media folks such as myself get an invite, too. It’s definitely a coveted one that everyone looks forward to receiving.

  16. 16

    omg I’m so jealous – that looks amazing!!!

  17. 17

    Me, too, jealous, jealous! At least I can say that my friend Foodgal got to go!

    Thank you so much for sharing it with us (and for all you share the rest of the year, too!)

  18. 18

    I am in heaven just looking at the pictures. In fact, I may lie and say I was there :).

  19. 19

    […] French Laundry Holiday Party (FOOD GAL) […]

  20. 20

    Meh! I can’t take it… Overload…

  21. 21

    What fun, it looks like an incredible time, and I am oohing and aahhing over the food photos.

  22. 22

    Great photos – ohhh! What a fun and delicious time!

  23. 23

    Color me insanely jealous! Thanks for the delicious report!

  24. 24

    LOVELY event..BEAUTIFUL pics… but OMG am I the only one who finds the salmon cornets extremely phallic?? lol seriously…

  25. 25

    Blueberryd: Actually, come to think of it, the ice sculpture is rather, er, phallic, too. Hah. Wonder what this all means…. ;)

  26. 26

    Wow. wow. wow. I still have not figured out how to get a reservation at the French Laundry. Would love to go some day. Man, that’s one heck of a party. Lucky you! :)

  27. 27

    Jen: It’s a little easier — just a little — to get into the French Laundry these days, what with the economy being what it is. That’s not to say you can score a seat readily anytime you want. But it is much more possible to get a reservation now. Try to see what’s available. Or get on the waiting list by calling the French Laundry. I have had friends who got in that way. Also, if you really want to splurge, book a room at a hotel in Yountville, and the concierge often can get you a reservation at the restaurant. Good luck!

  28. 28

    the food looks wonderful. i’m intrigued by the foie gras frosting. everything is so elegant!

  29. 29

    That’s okay. I can live vicariously. I’m going to go back over the post now for some more vicarious partying.

  30. 30

    What a fun looking party!

  31. 31

    […] Last Year’s Holiday Party at the French Laundry Share and […]

Submit comment

Current ye@r *