When people talk about Thomas Keller, they talk about French Laundry, his Michelin star restaurant where Sous Vide is king, and the dining is an evening long gastronomic orgy. But, a reservation there is difficult to come by, and you might feel as if you are getting second best when they recommend Ad Hoc down the street.  Such a feeling would be a mistake.

The experiment was a restaurant that Keller called, Ad Hoc. The idea:  cooking food that Thomas Keller liked to cook at home. It became more than a temporary respite- it has become an institution – instead of an ad hoc, temporary restaurant- it is Ad Hoc a temporary relief from hunger.

The menu is fixed- there is a choice of one item on the menu- sometimes you can order a bit of this or that, but one item, and they can pair it with wines, or you can have a few from their list. This is a good thing for me – as my wife still takes time to see what she wants from a menu!

Simple food, made well, and fresh food- as from the garden out back  (in this case, Ad Hoc has the garden out back)– prepared perfectly- provides a taste that cannot be replicated by processing, freezing, packaging, or even a quick trip via FedEx.

The restaurant is casual- from the waiters wearing blue jeans, simple shirts- and clearly encouraging you to do also. The table is simple, comfortable, spacious,  zinc-top. The wine is served in tumblers; and amazing wine at that. Add a bit of rock and jazz in the background.

But it is the food that is the star here- and the food – how do you spell amazing? Pork Loin- and add the Ribs.  Yes- the ribs spend 48 hours in the Sous Vide- but why not? I have Sous Vide at home, and most of America will eventually- the point is, the ribs were moist, tasty- something you cannot achieve without Sous Vide, so why compromise?

Ad Hoc is the type of restaurant that serves the food you wish mom could have made. Simple dishes- be they chicken, or pork, or fish – accompanied by vegetables grown “out back” (literally).

Some find Per Se a bit stand-offish, and are intimidated by the delicate flavors of French Laundry- but here, here is a restaurant that you could dine at every evening, and feel at home.

You know the joke- a customer asks a waitress, “Do you have cherry pie like my mom use to make?” And the reply is “Yes, sir.” “In that case,  I’ll take apple.”  Here the food is elevated to perfection,  the ribs moist – yes moist.  I know, all the BBQ fans say ribs should fall off the bone, and when they fall off the bone it is because the meat is dry and the bone is hot.  Here, the ribs are moist, and you taste the meat, not the smoke, not the char.

Yes Pork Loin is an inexpensive meat, and it is simple to make- but try it here.

And chicken- oh, who wasn’t disappointed when Jonathan Waxman was tossed off Master Chef because he made chicken and they said he should have gone outside the box and made more? Have you tasted great chicken? Probably not- yes everyone makes it- but who makes it perfectly – a few places – and here is one of them.

Simply the best

This won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You will taste food you have tasted before and wonder if it is the same. Come here- try it—when you come to Napa- this is food you can relate to.  I love French Laundry- but Ad Hoc is what I eat daily- and aspire to make in my kitchen.

Thank you, Thomas Keller, for raising the bar in my kitchen, to make my food better. Simple formula really – starts with great ingredients and make it perfectly.