Friday, June 19, 2009

One Too Many

The famous phrase "I have had one too many" can mean a variety of things , but one thing is certain...whatever it refers to has repercussions. For example, I have a friend who went to jail for having one too many speeding tickets. He spent most of his time behind bars devouring romance novels and bologna sandwiches. My mom has had her fare share of skin cancer from having one too many sunburns. Actually, in her case it may have been more like 100 too many sunburns due to basting herself in oil and iodine before roasting in the hot Louisiana sun. Then there is of course, there is the most common too many drinks. Most of us know what that means, and most of us would like to forget.

Cocktails, particularly on ice, can be really tricky. They are cold and refreshing, and can go down quick if you are already thirsty. I have spent many a morning-after trying to pin down exactly what drink put me over the edge. Thinking back, I can recall a number of times when a shot of Jagermeister was the culprit. This is because of two reasons. Number one, it seems to be the choice round of shots a man will buy a group of ladies at a bar that he has never met before as a token of his appreciation. Number two, I think Jager is disgusting and I would never drink it in a million years sober.

Another hazard of cocktail drinking is the intermittent shots of liquor taken in between sipping mixed beverages. The liquor hits your system and next thing you know you have gone from sipping a gin and tonic to trying to take a shot of tequila from the cleavage of a total stranger.

The inevitable outcome of having one too many drinks is the head pounding, stomach churning, cotton mouth hangover. Two years ago, in Napa Valley, Chef had one of the worst hangover experiences of any person's life...and I was there to share it with him.

Every year we go to San Franscisco and Napa to visit family. Lil' Bit's godmother, one of my best friends in the world, Meghan lives there as well as my cousin Sarah. This particular trip was especially fabulous, namely because...drum roll please.... Chef and I had reservations at the French Laundry.

For those of you not familiar with this extraordinary restaurant, let me give you a quick run down. The French Laundry is always rated one of the top five restaurants in the world. Yes, the world. Located in Yountville, Napa Valley CA it housed in what was an old laundry building. Chef/Owner Thomas Keller is an absolute genius. He is the greatest living American culinary artist, and to get a table in his 60 seat dining room is nearly impossible...unless you have the luck of the Nan.

Most people buy their plane tickets to CA after they have secured a reservation there. They plan their entire trip around this experience. Chef and I had already booked our trip, then we decided that we were going to try and get a reservation. To get a reservation at the French Laundry you have to call exactly 2 months in advance to the day you wish to dine there. Their reservation offices open at 10 am sharp, and you better be on point because it fills up within a hour.

The morning of go time, Chef, his dad Poppy, and I all stood at attention...cell phones in hand, The French Laundry number programmed, we hit our send buttons at exactly 10 am PT. For 45 minutes we each kept calling and calling...busy signal after busy signal....until finally I got through! "I'm in!" I yelled to the boys as if I had just cracked the vault at Ft. Knox. I managed to secure the last reservation available...a 2 top at 11:30 am. At the French Laundry you take whatever you can get.

The night before our big day we went to dinner in Calistoga with Meghan and Sarah...and then we went to have a few drinks at Hydro Bar and Grill. Here Chef rediscovered his love for the Negroni. It was one of those drinks he hadn't had in a while, and he and the dazzling pink cocktail made of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin made up for lost time that evening.

The next morning, Chef could barely get out of bed. He is one of those people who gets the skull crushing headache hangover. After taking 4 Ibuprofen he dragged himself into the shower and managed to get dressed. It is a 45 minute drive from Calistoga to Yountville, and by the time we arrived at the Laundry his headache had subsided, but his stomach was in no mood for food.

For a chef, to eat at the French Laundry is like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. For Chef to have even the slightest hangover on this occasion was totally tragic but at $300.00 a plate tragic would have been an was downright apocalyptic. The 8 course meal (actually 12 once Chef Corey Lee the Chef de Cuisine had thrown in all his extras) is a perfectly constructed masterpiece from start to finish. Once we were seated and our service captain introduced himself, Chef's tummy had settled down enough to eat but even a sip of wine was out of the question. I ordered myself a half bottle of viognier and we both hunkered down for what was one of the best meals of our lives.

For the first 20 minutes we both found ourselves whispering to each other, as if we were witnessing something sacred. I asked Chef, "Why are we whispering?" We both laughed. Poor Chef...he looked like crap. He managed to get through the meal, and afterward we were invited for a short tour of the kitchen...which is another blog post unto itself.

This weekend enjoy a good cocktail or two. In the hot season it is easy to suck down one too many. What I do is drink a glass of water for every cocktail after my second round. It slows me down and gives me a moment to clear my head a bit...and to be honest hangovers just aren't the same when you live with a 1 year old.

Good Life Recipe #5 / Tuscan Lemonade / Alli Sobel,

Mixologist, La Tavola Trattoria
*One of Chef's southern cousins, Alli Sobel is a Mixologist and fantastic artist from Atlanta. You can check out her work at She took the lovely picture above..
This is her recipe for what I think is one of the best summertime cocktails ever! It is so crisp and refreshing...enjoy!

  • Limoncello (You can get this gorgeous liquor from the Amalfi Coast at most liquor stores. It is an essential spring/summer addition to any liquor cabinet.)
  • Sprite/7 up
  • Soda Water
  • Lemon
Mix a healthy shot of limoncello with a splash of Sprite and soda water to taste. Add two lemon wedges. Cheers!

1 comment:

Marcy Gordon said...

Hey Nan-
Great post. Negroni is my favorite drink. By the way you can use OpenTable at French Laundry. (Why I keep plugging people i no longer work for is beyond me but it is a great service.) I would think Chef could drink way more than the average human...but even the greats have an off day I suppose.