Wednesday, August 17, 2011
THE CHICKENS & GARDENS OF YOUNTVILLE
We spent last week in the Napa Valley, making Yountville our home base.
One of our favorite "attractions" in town is the French Laundry's gardens that are right on the main street. It is OK to wander through them, but they discourage taking a dog through the gardens; we kept Louie on the outskirts when we visited.
I love looking at what Chef Thomas Keller is growing for his renowned French Laundry Restaurant.
The gardens are right across from the restaurant and it is not an uncommon sight to see one of the kitchen staff dash across the street to pick some fresh ingredients.
Early in the morning is when much of the harvesting goes on. This array of tomatoes made me so envious, particularly this year with our cool summer...my tomatoes are still mostly green.
The gardens aren't just about vegetables and fruits too. Throughout, there are colorful flowers and in one area, not far from the chickens, is one of Yountville's pieces of public art.
The surprise of this year is that the gardens now have chickens in a caged area.
There are about 20 chickens living there and they are not your ordinary chickens: they are multi-colored and have fluffy feet.
I was so fascinated by the chickens that I visited them every day, sometimes more than once a day.
Not only do they have a feeder for chicken feed and a water dispenser, they also have an area that is planted with either cabbage or a lettuce that is balled up like a cabbage. They munch on their plants as they please.
But every day, these pampered chickens get a little something special from the gardens.
One day it was chunks of melon.
Another day, it was lettuce and tomatoes.
And, on my last day in town, they not only got their lettuce, they also feasted on strawberries and tomatoes!!!
They have a very fancy Chicken House, where they go to rest and sleep.
I asked the garden staff and my hotel staff about the chickens and got a variety of stories about them. What seems to be true is that they've only been there for about a month and are quite young. They are going to be laying eggs but have not yet done so. There are a few roosters in residence for the short term; I guess to inspire the chickens to lay eggs.
One morning when I was taking a close-up of one of the roosters, he tried to bite my finger. This is the guy in the lower left.
The chickens are only being raised for their eggs; they won't show up as coq au vin in one of Thomas Keller's Yountville Restaurants (in addition to the French Laundry, there is Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc)