Going Out West…a top ten(ish) journal

September 29…Fly to Phoenix. Lunch at Joe’s Farm Grill. Dinner at Vincent on Camelback.

September 30…Rehearsal with Red Mountain High School Band. Drive to Flagstaff. Dinner at Atria.

October 1…Adjudication for Bands of America Arizona Regional Championships.

October 2…Clinic for Regional Participants. Drive up to Snowbowl to find rain and sleet…Drive back. Lunch at Proper Meats + Provisions. Dinner at Shift Kitchen + Bar.

October 3…Drive to Grand Canyon to find the canyon TOTALLY shrouded in clouds and what they called a monsoon. Drive to Flagstaff. Lunch at Tourist Home All Day Cafe. Drive to Sedona. Check into L’Auberge de Sedona. Watch Barbra Streisand Documentary. Sun sets on the rocks outside our room. Swoon. Dinner at Cress on Oak Creek.

October 4…Brunch by Oak Creek. Late Lunch at The Hudson. “A Three Hour Tour” Private Car and Tour of all the best of Sedona. Hot Tub.

October 5…Breakfast in Room. Crystal Bowl Sound Bath. Lunch at Mariposa. “Hike” West Fork Trailhead. Hot Tub. Dinner at Shorebird.

October 6…Drive back to the Grand Canyon on a clear sunny day. Breakfast at Burger King on The Navajo Reservation. Drive back to Sedona. Hot Tub. Dinner at Cress.

October 7…Drive to Phoenix. Brunch at Eggstasy. Brandt flies to MEM to see Swede Kitty. Tim flies to LAX. Dinner at Medici.

October 8…Adjudicate for Western Band Association at Ayala High School, Chino Hills, CA.

October 9…Fly to SFO to meet Todd Prince. Drive to Martinez to see Glenn Robinson, BeBe and Baxter. Greek take-out lunch. Glenn Robinson cooked Fried Chicken, Peas, Mashed Potatoes and Biscuits for dinner.

October 10…Go to favorite spots in Berkeley. Buy Pasta Dinner from Market Hall.

October 11…Drive to Yountville. Dinner at The French Laundry.

October 12…Glenn made Biscuits with Tomato Gravy and Bacon. Drive into San Francisco. Shop for clients. Drive to Sausalito. Lunner at FISH. Drive to Martinez.

October 13…Fly to MEM to see The Sweetest Man in the World and Swede Kitty. Dinner at SOB.



I’m not sure I was actually ready for the vast range of scenery we experienced. Having stayed home for two+ years has had detrimental effects on all of us. Our world became very small. Our communication was limited to electronics. And, more than anything our personal relationships were severely diminished. Let’s go ahead and say this trip dramatically thrust us back into the land of living.

It wasn’t enough just to have a breathtaking view but we were in Sedona which we found out is one big Vortex AND it was Full Moon…there was some serious energy swirling all around us.
Lunch with a VIEW!!! We had no idea lunch on the terrace of The Hudson would provide this kind of experience. Lunch was good but it really couldn’t compete with this view on this day.
Whether or not one has a religious affiliation…the sheer magnificence of the Architecture meeting Nature
was a site to behold. Our guide took us right up to the door of the chapel and we did go inside.
However, the chapel itself doesn’t have the kind of magnificence this shot does.
One of the luxuries of having a private tour is being allowed to go where large groups can’t.
This scene is actually in the front “yard” of a home overlooking Seven Canyons Golf Resort.
I don’t know why but Brandt and I have numerous “the fingers of God” shots from our travels.
We learned that Sedona has been “under the ocean” three times.
The red rock has been under water. The white rock never has.

I told one of the instructor’s at the Sunday clinic we were going to the Grand Canyon. She responded, “get ready…it’s just like the pictures”. The truth has never been more true…seeing is believing. We were both glad we made the effort to go back. I have nothing else to say because the pictures are explanation enough. I will say we were astounded at how small the river has become. Then again, geologist and archaeologist are making discoveries which were not possible when the river was wider/deeper. There is a reason why all things are as they are.

This pales in comparison to The Grand Canyon but I love that the Sky Club at LAX has an outdoor lounge.
It was great to step outside while waiting on my flight.
This beauty greeted me as I got out of the car in Yountville.
…and behind that zinnia bed is Thomas Keller’s magical garden…manicured to perfection.
A little research found they have a Farm Hand position available. Starting salary is $108K.
San Francisco from atop the Historic Bethlehem Steel Building…the new home of RH.


Just like the sites the dining felt like new experiences. Prior to this trip we’ve eaten inside a restaurant six times since February 2020. I’ve cooked a lot and we’ve enjoyed the company of our Quaranteam in their homes. We stepped out and didn’t wear masks. We did a combination of table and bar seating…indoor and out. All comfortable and ranging from delicious to Oh My GOD in levels of Dining Experience.

The dessert course at The French Laundry is Number 10 only because my adjudication experience has taught me how to rank and rate. Each dessert could absolutely stand alone and win any cooking show in the world. I had the Chef’s Tasting Menu. The dessert on the left is mine and the dessert on the right came with the Tasting of Vegetables.
My desserts were…K&J Orchards Poached Fuji Apple | Chai Tea Ice Cream | K + M Chocolate “Pot de Créme” | Frozen Cappuccino. At the top of the second photo the Donut Holes which came with the Coffee and Tea service. Additionally, there was the Mignardises of Mini Yuzu Macaron, Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts and Salted Caramels.
All decadent and absolutely spectacular but it was A LOT after already having eight courses…but I look forward to doing it again!!! It was great but I really missed my Sweet One…we’ll be back!!!

We passed up steak at Atria in Flagstaff because we were there too late to eat that much.
Thus, I had been hungry for steak for five days. This sandwich at Mariposa soothed that urge and then some.
Number 9 is the Gaucho Steak Sandwich…
Charcoal grilled center-cut ribeye on grilled ciabatta with chipotle aioli, pico de gallo, and crispy onions.
Every bite was better than the last.
It’s really hard to put these so far down the list at Number 8. Shift Kitchen + Bar is known for their Pickled French Fries. We had to try them. On first taste it’s just a really crisp French Fry. Then on the backside you get a whammy of acid and burst of garlic and dill…a true flavor explosion. They cut the fries then brine them in dill pickle juice…dry and fry.
The sauce wasn’t comeback but it was certainly…”Come On”.
How could something this gorgeous not medal??? Shorebird in Sedona offered this amazing Starter at Number 7.
HAMACHI CRUDO…Yellowtail, jalapeño, avocado, scallions, ponzu
Art on a plate and tantalizingly delicious.

Our visit into San Francisco ended on the side of town which made a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge necessary. Just beyond the bridge is Sausalito. And, in Sausalito is FISH. Brandt and I discovered this seafood mecca on our first trip to the Sausalito Art Festival. I recall ordering so much food it took three trips to bring it to the table. Coming in at Number 6 Todd and I narrowed it down to Clam Chowder, British Columbia and Newport Beach Oysters and Fish and Chips. This place ranks in top of the top for fresh and delicious seafood. It doesn’t hurt that it’s literally sitting on a boat dock.

We actually ate at a table inside a restaurant in Phoenix. Vincent on Camelback provided Number 5.
Seared Foie Gras with Poached Apples and Balsamic Reduction.
It was classic French, perfectly cooked and a symphony of flavor on the palette.

This is what I chose instead of Steak at Atria. Brandt was thinking Gnocchi but being the Sweetest Man in the World he acquiesced due to my passion for seafood. Number 4 is Artria’s version of a Seafood Tower along with a Smoked Salmon Spread with Fresh Fried Potato Chips. James Beard Semi-Finalist Rochelle Daniel put together a custom made pottery vessel full of oysters, shrimp, pickled mussels, ceviche, crab, apple mignonette and cocktail sauce which stands up to all the towers I’ve had including those in Hong Kong and Marseille. I wouldn’t even attempt to make the salmon spread. The flavor had depth but the texture was like silk…how does one do that with smoked salmon? I know the steak would’ve been amazing but we enjoyed every brilliantly composed bite.

The Bronze Medal…
Cress at L’Auberge de Sedona gave Brandt his Gnocchi and oh my goodness was it a hit. We actually went back for a second meal and ordered it again. This is a true Italian Bolognese…veal and only enough tomato paste to give a hint of color.
The gnocchi was cut, not hand rolled or forked but tender and flawlessly al dente.
It might appear to be an appetizer portion but was plenty for two.
The Silver Medal…
The French Laundry delivered a fourth course which answers yes to every question regarding every detail of the perfect dish. Sweet Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster
Parsnip Ravioli, Nantes Carrots, Nasturtium Leaves and Sweet Carrot Butter
I could go on but you see the photo speaks for itself.
The Gold Medal…I know you’re not surprised it’s yet another seafood dish…and raw.
As a third course Chef Keller’s highly skilled staff offered Pacific Shima Aji Tartare.
Brokaw Avocado Mousse, Cured Radishes, Crispy Black Rice and Young Coconut-Curry Vierge
Every Chef should aspire to compose something as simple yet dramatically complex.
As Brandt would say, “they didn’t even have to cook”. For me…as amazing as every other course was there was nothing to compare to the flavor profile, combination of textures and delicacy of this. I’ve looked at the menu since we were there and this preparation hasn’t been repeated. I feel like I was meant to be there on Tuesday.
Thus, the Gold Medal of all the courses I had over the 15 days of travel.


All those who know me well and certainly those of whom employee me know my motto is “It’s all about the details”. I was fortunate enough to be asked to clinic with some of the bands which attended the BOA Arizona Regional. We talked a lot about details and it’s always so special to me when I say something and I see the light bulb come on for educators.

Likewise, during our time at L’Auberge de Sedona…sooooo many things were amazing but their in house communication was not to standard for a resort of their caliber. They too got a clinic about details in my review. I mean…don’t ask for a review if you don’t want the truth. Todd and I visited several designer showrooms and retail establishments which rely on their attention to details to set their business apart from the rest. Some had the perfect level of customer service and some…not so much. It doesn’t matter how great you look if you can’t be kind enough to say hello.

I have to admit the visit to The French Laundry introduced me to the next level of details. I call it details but Chef Keller says, “It’s all about finesse”. I have to admit I may not always be finessed in my path to detail. But, at The French Laundry every single detail is Finessed.

I was already emotional. I had texted Brandt a photo of the exterior saying I was missing My Sweet One. He responded, “Missing you as well but if anyone deserves to experience this restaurant, it is you my dear!” So, I was a mess walking in the door. I was greeted at our table by a signed copy of The French Laundry, Per Se cookbook. My friend’s who joined me for dinner felt like the book was for me and kindly took the other seats. Service Captain Patrick said hello and then said, “I think the book is yours……………Tim”. The pause got me…I was literally moved to tears and couldn’t speak. They literally make it their business to personalize the experience. At the time I didn’t know it was an amazing gift from our friend Thomas Williams. The book was tied with a lovely white ribbon embossed with black laundry pins…Mom called them clothes pins but there is a theme at 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA. I didn’t remove the ribbon until I got home because I wanted Brandt to see it just like it was. When I removed the ribbon I found that the dust jacket was holding place for me to open the book to see…

It’s all about finesse
T Keller

…not just a cookbook but a personalized and signed cookbook. As Ina would say…”How FABULOUS is that!!!”

I could write multiple blogs about the details we experienced after that introduction but I’ve used Brandt’s statement and will continue to. “The food was second only to the service.” Not since our dinner at Alain Ducasse, Hôtel Plaza Athénée have I experienced that level of detail, service and unparalleled finesse. I thought I had seen some great wine lists. However, the FL list is staggering…in every way imaginable!!! Again, those of you who know me personally know I’m a hugger. As we left Patrick and Ben, one of the Back Runners who took us on a tour of the kitchen were saying farewell and I asked them both “if they hugged”. Funny…but both said, “pardon me?”. I repeated the question and they both replied, “Oh, of course”. Now here I am again typing…with my eyes tearing. I hugged and they hugged back…with both arms. Their embrace felt as if they both enjoyed the evening as much as I had which made it all extra special. <<<<<I typed the word extraordinary but changed it because there was nothing about the experience where any iteration of the word ordinary applies.


The view after we watched the Barbra Streisand documentary and the sun broke through the clouds to welcome us to Sedona.

The wine list at The French Laundry

The grounds, sculpture gardens and our Crystal Bowl Sound Bath at L’Auberge de Sedona

The surprise of getting to return to Martinez by way of The Golden Gate Bridge

The joy of ALL things…Berkeley!!!

Finding service pieces at Anthem which look so much like me…displayed with a cookbook I just received from Perk and Jules for my birthday!!!

I don’t need to explain…❤️

Non-Hikers who don’t own Hiking boots or Trekking Poles going on a HIKE where they had to cross wet rock and log “bridges”. What were they thinking…Lord Have Mercy!!!

To say something is the best is a HUGE statement. I’ve by no means been to every fine dining establishment in the U.S. However, the three Michelin stars are fully deserved and I will say it’s in the top three dining experiences I’ve ever enjoyed…as long as I don’t think about Mom’s Cooking, dinner at Kirk’s, Robert Kyles Don’t Burn the House Down Steak, Delia’s Crab and Mushroom Dip, Catfish at Nan’s and Dinner on Highland Circle/Oak Grove Road. Other than those…it was really FABULOUS❣️

This is Ben and us. He offered to take a photo of us in The French Laundry kitchen. Then, all of a sudden he turned the phone around and took selfies. I guess you can tell how much I LOVED this moment. Oooops..my eyes are leaking, again. Memories made to last!!!

Finally, the best memory of all. So far, we’ve dodged Covid. This was Brandt’s first time to fly since 2020. We went into more public places in a week than we have in the last 30 months. We survived and thrived. Never for one second did we mind being home and isolated but we both enjoyed the fresh air, new scenery, food which I didn’t cook…living, laughing and loving!!!

Good times and bum times
We’ve seen them all and, my dear
We’re still here!

The West was lovely and a good time was had by all!!!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Patrice Kelly says:

    One of the reasons I got a res at French Laundry was because I promised to bring a bottle of aged Cruzan Rum … and Owner Mr. Nelthropp signed the label to Chef Keller for me. About midway thru all those courses the staff started stopping by to say how good the rum was lol. I knew they were really drinking it when the server described a course as asiago with “shaved” walnuts. Teresa and I always joked about those shaved walnuts.

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