Ad Hoc

6476 Washington Street

Yountville, CA 94599

(707) 944-2487


The Food:

Spinach Salad; cherries, apricots, pecans, Laura Chenel goat cheese, pickled red onions, mint, house dressing

Cornmeal Fried Soft Shell Crab; pimiento cheese, hot chili jam, coleslaw

Grilled New York Strip; Anson Mills grits, peas & carrots, balsamic rosemary jus

Marin French Brie; griddled bread, strawberry rhubarb jam

Smores Pudding; graham cracker, toasted meringue

The Wine:

2021 Turley Zinfandel Old Vines   93

Thomas Keller has built quite an empire from his home base in Yountville. The French Laundry remains a destination restaurant for serious foodies. Bouchon is Keller's version of a Parisian Bistro, while Bouchon Bakery is massively popular, as evidenced by the long line that snakes out of its door most of the time. La Calenda offers quality Mexican-inspired cuisine. Of these, Ad Hoc is probably my favorite. (I have only been to Keller's RO Lounge once, when It first opened, and only for a snack, so I don't consider that a full experience.) Keller opened Ad Hoc in 2006, initially to use an empty space as his team developed another concept. The prix-fixe menu of American classics turned out to be a huge hit, and Ad Hoc went from being a temporary restaurant to one of the fixtures of Yountville’s bustling restaurant scene.

Ad Hoc offers delicious interpretations of American comfort food classics but with added touches that elevate the cuisine far beyond household fare. The four-course menu (starter, main, cheese, dessert) is an ode to France in design, with American informality in that everything is served family-style. The set menu changes daily and is offered at $69 per person. Optional dishes are available for guests who want a more extensive meal. Note that these are added to the existing menu and service rather than presented as additional courses.

Spinach Salad: cherries, apricots, pecans, Laura Chenel goat cheese, pickled red onions, mint and house dressing.

The Spinach Salad is a terrific starter. Goat cheese, pickled red onions, pecans and dried fruit offer refreshing, savory and sweet accents to play the bolder flavors of the salad dressing. The soft-shell crab is an addition to the standard four-course menu. It is fabulous. The cornmeal breading is perhaps a bit sweet for my taste, but everything on the plate works beautifully. My only real quibble with this meal is that the crab and steak are brought out at the same time rather than coursed. I would have preferred a bit more time to enjoy the crab, especially as the steak is a bit cold by the time we get to it.

Cornmeal Fried Soft Shell Crab; pimiento cheese, hot chili jam, coleslaw.

Speaking of the steak, it is perfectly cooked and seasoned. What a delight. The two sides, Anson Mills grits and peas & carrots, complete a super-classic American main. This is quintessential Ad Hoc food. Marin Brie, with a touch of strawberry rhubarb jam, is refreshing after the steak. Smores Pudding is another dollop of Americana, a slightly grown-up version of comfort food. I love it.

Grilled New York Strip; Anson Mills grits, peas & carrots, balsamic rosemary jus.

Ad Hoc offers a small but well-chosen wine list, with some very good by-the-glass options. It is interesting to see how many tables are drinking cocktails instead of wine. This might be perfectly normal in Chicago, Houston or many other parts of the United States, but in one of the world’s pre-eminent winegrowing regions, it surprises me. I have seen the same thing at other Napa Valley restaurants for many years, so this is not unique to Ad Hoc.

Smores Pudding; graham cracker, toasted meringue.

The list is small but perfectly fine for the restaurant and its vibe. I am familiar with many, if not most, of the estates and wines on the list because my life is wine. But even I don’t want to spend 15 minutes looking over a list to try to find something great. I bet many diners don’t want to either and end up saying, “Let’s just do drinks.” But that is a story for another time and article.

Back to our dinner. The 2021 Zinfandel Old Vines from Turley is fabulous. No, it’s more than fabulous. Bright, vibrant and full of life, the 2021 is an absolute delight. Floral aromatics, vibrant acids and a core of crisp, red-toned Zinfandel fruit all run through the Old Vines. I underrated this wine on release. Tonight, it is drop-dead gorgeous, both alone and with this menu. Superb.

Everything at Ad Hoc was terrific. Food, wine and service were all tops. Ad Hoc remains a fine choice for readers visiting Napa Valley who want to enjoy delicious, refined American cuisine in an informal setting.

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