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Using the term “bong water” to describe a mushroom broth will leave a bitter taste in any culinary artist’s mouth. That’s exactly what happened to award-winning chef Thomas Keller a few years ago when The New York Times reviewed his Michelin-starred restaurant, Per Se.

In response to the negative review, Keller took the high road. The really, really high road.

This week, the San Francisco Chronicle’s food critic, Soleil Ho, paid him a visit at his Napa Valley eatery, The French Laundry. But this time the chef warmed up the reviewer with a little token gift: a gorgeous glass bong brimming with white smoke.

While setting the table — and the water pipe — the server “pulled the bowl and stem out of the instrument with the same flourish he’d surely use to uncork a bottle of wine,” Ho wrote.

The culinary in-joke didn’t escape Ho, who noted Keller’s porcini mushroom bouillon did, indeed, resemble “rancid bong water.” That’s how it’s supposed to look, though.

How’d the meal taste? She never tells us, unfortunately. Based on her word choice, however, it’s safe to assume the mushroom broth tasted nothing like sipping bong water after taking too big a hit.

“I marveled as it cascaded over the vegetarian ‘pot-au-feu’ of carrots, oxheart cabbage and a layer of leeks wrapped around black winter truffle confit, made to look like a beef bone,” she recalled.

For cannabis connoisseurs considering a trip to Keller’s French eatery, the bong isn’t on the menu. It only comes out on special occasions. And it doesn’t exude real pot smoke, either.

At the moment, restaurants in California don’t serve weed, edibles or otherwise. That’s beginning to change, as some cities in the Golden State can now establish social consumption lounges — businesses where adults 21 and over can get toasted on-site.

Until Napa Valley passes its own social consumption ordinances, enjoy the dank décor at The French Laundry. And, yes, bong appétit.  

Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter





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