Chef Thomas Keller’s Wine Spectator Grand Award winner the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., resumed indoor service this month with the launch of a luxurious new dining format. For $850 per person, parties of two to eight guests can book a lone table in one of the restaurant’s three storied dining rooms. The private atmosphere sets the stage for an extended version of the eight-course chef’s tasting menu, with opulent supplements included such as truffles, caviar and Wagyu beef, plus additional canapés and dessert service.
“We did this because we have been hearing from many guests who are looking for extra-special ways to celebrate milestones,” said general manager Michael Minnillo in a statement shared with Wine Spectator. “The limitations in space offer a great sense of privacy."
The meal kicks off with a bottle of 2006 Dom Pérignon, and guests can also order from the full wine list of 2,700 selections. Overseen by wine director Erik Johnson, the world-renowned program boasts numerous regional strengths, including California, Burgundy, Piedmont, Bordeaux and the Rhône. The standard tasting menus are still available at $350 per person, exclusively for outdoor dining.—Julie Harans
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar has flown its way to Dallas. On Sept. 17, 50 Eggs Hospitality Group opened a fifth location for the Southern-cuisine concept in the heart of the Texas city. The new restaurant joins sibling locations in Miami Beach, Fla., Singapore and an Award of Excellence–winning outpost in Las Vegas, plus a Los Angeles location that's still temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
“Seeing the [Dallas] restaurant community evolve firsthand the way it has, especially over the past decade, has been incredible,” 50 Eggs founder and CEO John Kunkel told Wine Spectator via email. “It seemed like a natural fit for Yardbird’s genuine, made-from-scratch Southern cooking.”
In addition to a hefty whiskey collection, there’s a wine list of more than 70 labels, emphasizing picks from California, Spain, Italy, South America and even Texas, with several reds from the Lone Star State. “Dallas has, over the years, emerged as a cultural melting pot, and we wanted to offer a wine program that reflects that diversity,” Kunkel said.
Champagnes and other sparklers are also highlighted, ideal to match with Yardbird’s signature fried chicken. Other comforting menu items include buttermilk biscuits, shrimp and grits, and pork ribs, and desserts like cobbler and deep-fried Oreos. The space itself is contemporary and open, with industrial elements like metal rivets, floor-to-ceiling windows and brass furnishings. There’s also a Bourbon tasting room on the second floor.
After the coronavirus pandemic delayed original plans to open in March, Kunkel is optimistic that Yardbird will become a welcome part of the Dallas community. “Given the current challenges within the restaurant industry nationwide, we hope to contribute to the city’s ongoing positive perseverance,” he said. “We feel confident that the time is right to safely open our doors.”—Collin Dreizen
Chef Curtis Stone, owner of Best of Award of Excellence winners Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant and Maude, opened Picnic Society by Gwen at the Grove in Los Angeles. Opened Sept. 14, the pop-up, slated for a four-month run, offers a full-service outdoor restaurant and market shop inspired by Gwen’s menu. “The world has changed in recent months, and so has the way that we enjoy food and come together,” Stone said, explaining the inspiration behind the concept in a statement shared with Wine Spectator. “I began thinking back to the stories of early 19th century gatherings of ‘picnic societies’ in Europe.”
Guests can opt to dine on-premise or purchase one of the many picnic-ready sets to take the experience anywhere in the city. The sets include baskets, miniature tables, blankets and utensils. “With good food and the right company, you can really make anywhere in the world your restaurant,” said Stone.
The menu offers classic dishes such as steak frites, lobster rolls and salad Niçoise. Led by sommelier and director of restaurant operations Ben Aviram, the wine program has been condensed into an abbreviated selection available to-go, featuring wines from California, Italy, France and beyond.—Taylor McBride
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