My Birthday Surprise: The dinner of my dreams at The French Laundry

I love surprises! I love to receive them, to observe them and to create them. Recently, I was the recipient of the most extravagant and very unexpected surprise. A surprise of gargantuan proportions! My husband invited me to the dinner of my dreams at The French Laundry!

My personalized menu and extra gifts of chocolate, cocoa hazelnuts and fresh shortbread cookies fit neatly in a custom made tin. Amazing!


It truly was the fantasy meal and ultimate dining experience of my life, and it was every bit and more than I could have ever imagined. I honestly felt like the most honored guest at a spectacular, gastronomic feast.

The French Laundry is located in Yountville, in the Napa Valley, in Northern California. The building is quaint and the downstairs dining room has low coffered ceilings (which makes it very cozy) and soft lighting (which makes everyone look great). We were greeted by our hostess in the restaurant’s courtyard even before we walked through the famous blue door with: “Are you the Stavert party?” “Yes” “Happy Birthday!”. As I looked at Craig with my “Yes we are taking a photo face” we smiled for the camera and now I have this gorgeous photo to enjoy forever!

The French Laundry
Craig and I posing in front of the famous blue door of The French Laundry


As we were escorted to our table, I was wished Happy Birthday by no less than three servers on our stroll to our adorable, two-seat antique table in the corner. With butterflies of excitement and such personal attention, the evening was so meaningful!

The view from my chair as I quickly took this photo!

This was my Superbowl, my World Series, my World Cup. The pinnacle of the restaurant world and for this midlife adventurer and food lover, a dream come true.

We were each presented a lovely and lengthy menu made of ivory colored parchment placed in a long blue folder. The menus were embellished with “Happy Birthday Suzanne” typed across the top. Are you kidding me? No I am not. The greatest restaurant in the United States (maybe the world) singled me out on this magical night. AMAZING. At that early point in the evening I was already delightfully satisfied with my time at The French Laundry.

Oh… but we were just beginning!

We were given the choice of either the “Tasting of Vegetables” or the “Chef’s Tasting Menu”. Craig and I decided to order one of each so we could experience every course that was available to us. I knew that I would be taking photos as discreetly as possible and since the room was lit almost entirely by candlelight, I wasn’t sure how many of the photos would be acceptable to share with all of you! Not all of the photos I took represented the dishes in all of their glory, so I will share with you a sampling of the very best photos.

There were seven impeccable and refined savory courses and approximately five magically prepared dessert courses. They were all executed, presented and choreographed like a beautiful dance. Near the end of the meal it was difficult to keep an accurate accounting of the sweet delicacies, so my descriptions are a little sketchy. Most certainly the bottle of champagne also contributed to the culinary euphoria and lack of memory. Each course was very tiny and delicate and consisted of only a few glorious bites. That being said, the dishes were almost indescribably delicious and I was already full by Course #5, but I managed to rally and enjoyed every single course!

Here are a few of the delicious, artistic, masterpieces! They were all truly a work of art in every bite.

"Oysters & Pearls" "Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters & White Sturgeon Caviar
“Oysters & Pearls”
“Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters & White Sturgeon Caviar


The French Laundry
Garden Turnip “Panna Cotta” Divine Droplets Sake “Granité”, Santa Rosa Plum “Gelée”, Young Ginger & Garden Shiso


The French Laundry
“Salad Verte”
Garden Cucumbers, Green Tomatoes, Young Fennel, Sicilian Pistachios & Green Goddess Dressing


Garden Potato "Fricassée Cherry Belle Radishes, Jidori Hen Egg Mousse, Spanish Caper Mayonnaise, French Pickles & Watercress Blooms
Garden Potato “Fricassée”
Cherry Belle Radishes, Jidori Hen Egg Mousse, Spanish Caper Mayonnaise, French Pickles & Watercress Blooms


Brentwood Corn “Risotto”
Garden Leeks, Arrowleaf Spinach, Crispy Shallots & Oregon Cèpes


Sautéed Fillet of Stonington Maine Halibut Jidori Hen egg Mousse, Preserved Green Tomatoes, Garden Fennel, Watercress & Sweet Onion Relish
Sautéed Fillet of Stonington Maine Halibut
Jidori Hen egg Mousse, Preserved Green Tomatoes, Garden Fennel, Watercress & Sweet Onion Relish


Charcoal – Grilled Japanese Wagyu
Garden Beets, Young Leeks, Oregon Morels & “Bearnaise Mousseline”


Sweet Butter- Poached Maine Lobster
Arrowleaf Spinach Panade, Applewood-Smoked Bacon & Brentwood Corn “Velouté


The  “Assortment of Desserts” – Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”


The French Laundry
Chocolate ganache cake and lovely Amaretto mousse with a cherry soaked in Brandy.


Gorgeous “funfetti” birthday cake just for me!

This was the “funfetti” birthday cake served halfway through the dessert courses. Unbelievable! Only The French Laundry would have custom made plates to enhance this colorful and pink (my favorite color) birthday surprise!

Oh… but we are not done yet!

Handmade truffles presented in a gorgeous wood box, made of flavors like rich chocolate, hazelnut, peanut butter and jelly and S’mores.
The Grand Finale!
Warm beignets rolled in cinnamon & sugar, macaroons, cocoa covered sugared hazelnuts, and espresso semi freddo served in a real cappuccino cup with foam!


My goal was to attempt to give you a flavor (pun intended) of our glorious birthday dinner at The French Laundry. There were several dishes not represented, not that I didn’t adore each one, but this way it entices you to make a reservation and experience this remarkable restaurant as well! As I wrote this post, I enjoyed reminiscing and recalling (as best I could) all of the details of the meal. It is said that “success is in the details”. This is so absolutely true for this exquisite restaurant in the heart of Napa Valley. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but until that special time comes again, I will be content to sit back and recall the most wonderful dining experience of my life. I am indeed a very lucky girl!


Have you experienced a wonderful surprise? A surprise that took your breath away? We would love to hear about it!






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48 thoughts on “My Birthday Surprise: The dinner of my dreams at The French Laundry”

  1. Oh my gosh – every photo amazing – I had to read the captions to imagine what all the ingredients were. Now I’m hungry! What a special unforgettable Adventure! Genuinely happy for you to experience this once in a lifetime treat!

    • Thank you Sara! You are so sweet! I love hearing the details about places I want to go! You are right! It was an unforgettable adventure!

  2. This is an awesome birthday surprise and knowing how hard it is to get reservations at The French Laundry, your husband planned ahead!

    For my 30th birthday – another lifetime – my hubby surprised me by buying me two dresses to choose from, arranged for my sister to take care of our 3-year-old son and then he took me out to a lovely dinner. I remember everything except where we went to dinner. Ha! Ha!

    Happy Birthday!

  3. Patti: What a great surprise! I would love that too! Buying you two dresses to choose from is such an adorable thing to do! He treated you like a princess! How fun!

  4. Stunning that is the superbowl and I’ve tried toooooo many times to make reservations, unfortunately with only less than a months notice and that never works. What an amazing feast, I would starve the week before i ate all that amazing food.

  5. Thank you so much Noel! Attempting to get great photos with no light and an iPhone! Keep trying for the reservation, it is so worth it! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  6. What a special treat and you declared it correctly – a super bowl – all puns intended. So did you ask for a doggie bag? Once I asked for one and instead of taking home half a steak, they placed a bone in the bag. Sheesh, I didn’t even have a dog.

  7. Oh, my goodness! That looks absolutely delicious. What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday.

    By the way, I love your dress and you look stunning in it. I have to say, even though I hardly know you, that you have great legs. I always wanted those legs when I wore a dress. My poor hubby has to look at mine. (Honestly, he loves me just the way I am!!!)

    Hope you don’t mind me saying that to you!

    Great post. YUM!

    • Cathy, I welcome all compliments! At 53 you hope to hear something occasionally! I am sure your legs are great! The dinner was out of this world and I had no idea he was able to get the reservation! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  8. Oh my, what a lovely surprise! I have always wanted to have dinner here. Maybe I’ll be surprised someday! And yes, I agree with Cathy, you look amazing!

    • Billie: It was at the top of my list as well! There are still hundreds of amazing restaurants we still need to visit! I loved the evening and I hope you enjoyed reading about it! Have a great day!

  9. Suzanne,
    The food looks too good to eat. So glad you were able to enjoy those delicious morsels. I am incredibly jealous!

    • Dear Irene: Its so nice to feel so special! I love birthdays – but I think the giver of the gift has even more fun than the receiver. Craig had no idea I would be this excited! Thank you for the lovely birthday wishes!

  10. A fabulous surprise! You and Craig look so happy, and I’d love to say the meal looks delicious…but I’m not fond of most of the food on your menu. Glad you enjoyed it though! How about making it a yearly tradition?

  11. This looks like a fairytale date for your birthday! I love the photo of you and your husband. Your dress is exquisite 🙂 I recently ate at the Pinnacle restaurant on Holland America’s Ms. Zaandam during my cruise to Alaska. It was a very nice dining experience, but I don’t think it compares to yours. Happy belated birthday!

    • It most certainly was a fairytale!It sounds like your dinner was very special as well! There are many wonderful restaurants to experience, The French Laundry is just a very unique one! Thank you for the birthday wishes!

    • Thank you Linda! I appreciate your comments and thank you for the birthday wishes! I don’t know how this birthday will ever be topped and that is ok!

  12. Wow! Thanks for taking us on this gastronomic journey! I haven’t been to the new French Laundry, but did eat at the original one–which was also exquisite. The thing I remember best about that long ago meal, though, is the break everyone took in the middle of dinner to stroll in the garden.

    • Thank you Carole, they have a garden across the street, but there wasn’t time for us to see it! It is surprising there are no fences around it! They will be closing soon for a bit so they can renovate the small kitchen. I am glad you were able to experience it as well!

  13. What a great surprise! On my 40th birthday my husband organized to have my oldest and best friend and my sister flown to NYC to surprise me. Everybody knew except me, even people at our local bar knew before I did and they all kept quiet.

  14. Though I’m not a foodie, I understand completely what a wonderful and exciting experience this was for you! The photos are mouthwatering – and you and your husband look terrific, too.

    • Thank you Sharon – As we get older we welcome all compliments! I understand that not everyone would want to do this, but I appreciate that you are happy for us!

  15. What a wonderful birthday surprise followed by amazing food and great company! Happy birthday from me and Cez and we wish you all the best, a lot of adventures on the road and a lot of smile on your face! 🙂

    • Agness: You are so sweet! Thank you for the birthday wishes! Adventure is a top priority for these Empty Nesters! I look forward to following your adventures as well!

    • Kris: Its worth it to continue stalking! Lol! I read your post about Asador Etxebarri – wow! That was amazing and exotic! I enjoyed reading it. Adding it to the bucket list. I have been to Madrid and Barcelona, but we need to travel in other areas of Spain! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  16. Beautifully presented & looks delicious. I haven’t tried for a reservation in years, just got tired of constant busy signals. But maybe we’ll try again. You know, Gary Danko has that same style of giving you way too much dessert after you already ordered one. I’m kind of over that part of it–too full to enjoy what they offer and it’s like gilding the lily…

    • Gary Danko is very high on my list. We are in SF very often, I need to make a reservation (way in advance I suspect) The crazy thing is that I love dessert! I knew the doughnuts were coming and I didn’t want to be “over” the sweets. I managed… poor me! Thank you for reading and for your comments!

    • You know Nancie – I know what you mean. Each bite was a work of art! I almost didn’t want to disturb it! However, I got over it quickly! Thank you for reading!

  17. Aha. Now I know what food porn looks like! I think your food photos came out beautifully even under the “difficult” conditions. Did your husband surprise you by telling you you were going out for dinner, but not mentioning where — or do you dress in heels and a lovely red dress every night? 😉

    Gah, I just looked at their website and the cost — definitely a very special occasion restaurant. Your husband must think you are a very, very, very special person — sweet. PS: Happy Birthday.

    • Suzanne: It was most certainly food porn! We already had a trip planned to Northern California and were planning to have dinner in SF. About two weeks before the trip he said “I have a surprise, do you want to know now or wait until your birthday?” I love a surprise, but I love the anticipation of a special event even more. He told me ahead of time and I had two glorious weeks of anticipation! Thank you for for the lovely comments! I am thrilled that he still feels this way after 30 years!

    • Betsy: Yes I could hardly contain myself! I just went with the moment and made him take the photo and didn’t care if he was slightly grumbling about taking it. You would think he would get used to it. Thank you for reading and for your nice comments!

  18. If there was such a thing as a foodie bucket list, this would be on it for me for sure! I first heard of French Laundry watching a tv show called Chopped and the guy said he would take his wife there with his winnings, and I have been obsessed ever since. My mouth is watering thinking of that Halibut followed by charcoal-grilled Wagyu. Delicious post!


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