It’s All About Finesse…

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 ...I didn't realize the phrase "It's All About Finesse" has long been his mantra

Thomas Keller signed my copy of The French Laundry Cookbook in 1999 …I didn’t realize the phrase “It’s All About Finesse” has long been his mantra until our visit to Yountville, Napa Valley earlier this year

What excites me in the food arena are those things which require finesse.  A stunning afternoon tea menu takes a good deal of finesse.  Beautiful, whimsical, petite bites require skillful élan and artistry to pull off effectively.  There is certainly a time and place for quick and easy food prep; however, that’s not what energizes and motivates me.  Experiencing awesome ingredients, finessed into even more awesome food bites is what I seek.  I appreciate the artistry, mastery, and subtlety required to put together a composed dish, along with the effort it takes…whether a home cooked meal or one at a famous chef’s establishment.  Many of my favorite moments in life are spent contemplating, perusing, and indulging in these artists’ works.

Finesse doesn’t have to mean complicated, although at times it is, and it doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive, although sometimes that is the case (I save up for those rare occasions – i.e. The French Laundry 🙂 ).

Several months ago, we were at our favorite Napa Valley town, Yountville …often referred to by locals as “Kellerville” as Thomas Keller has three restaurants, one bakery (talk about awesome), and his beautiful vegetable garden including chicken coop running down the main street in this small burg.  On this visit I noticed a new magazine in our inn titled Finesse, then saw he has this beautiful small store hidden away in town…

Finesse...Keller's magazine, as well as, his cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town...

Finesse…Keller’s  cool shop located in an inconspicuous small center in town…

While undeniably one of the best chef’s in the world, Keller is also an obvious master at branding.  His shop features his clean, cool, finessed style reflected in the items he brands to his French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc environs.  I couldn’t resist purchasing a few small things (as expected, nothing was inexpensive there…but the quality excellent of course) and the store manager knowledgable, conversant, and  engaging.  Below are photos of his teeny shop.

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Inside Finesse, the shop

Inside Finesse, the shop

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Our dear friends, who are Dutch (and J. is an  incredible chef too), introduced us to the French Laundry restaurant in early 1999.  We get to enjoy dinner at their home a few times a year where they now “whimsically” set the table using  “Dutch Laundry” clothespins they’ve created at each place setting (a trademark of the French Laundry is the clothespin with each napkin).  Here are my purchases and a small gift for our “dutch laundry” buddies …


French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin...and our dutch laundry friend's clothespin version :-)

French Laundry kitchen towels, wooden spoons with their trademark logo of the wooden clothespin…and our dutch laundry friend’s clothespin version 🙂

Lately I’ve felt that some main market food media, whether magazines, online or television, have focused content on the “dumbing down” of meal preparation.  Learning the basics is important and a good thing, but let’s elevate our experience too.  Julia Child made French cooking accessible to us…she didn’t try to make it fast…or easy…or diminish your skill in preparing it.  Over the next few posts I will feature some of the finesse in food I’ve recently come across. Sometimes it’s all about the garnish…sometimes the food product.  All of it is perfect with a nice cup of finely grown and harvested tea….of course.



  1. Sorry I can’t share this on FB. I recently deactivated my account for now. I’d love to go along with you and your lovely husband the next time you go to Napa. Your experience there would be invaluable.

    • Sounds good to me…we can carpool up there, ok?

  2. Beautiful shop! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • You are most welcome … and yes it feels good to walk into this little shop…very nice indeed. Thanks for your comment.