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French Laundry

Kirsten | Apr 30, 200101:49 PM

So, I was the lucky person that got a hold of Gini fast enough to secure the reservation for two at French Laundry yesterday. I knew I couldn't afford it, but I also knew I just had to go.

Per Gini's instructions, I called the special confirmation line on Friday to tell them we would be coming and that the name on the reservation had changed. My dear friend and I got all snazzed up and headed to Yountville in eager anticipation after a beautiful day on the Bay for Opening Day.

When we arrived, the hostess greeted us warmly and asked us our names. Uh oh. No record of Gini's old reservation or my new one. Very perturbed looks. I'm wondering if my blush is showing through my sunburn. Hostess disappears. Kind gentleman comes out and asks us if we'd like champagne while they sort things out. Eventually, we are told, they knew of a cancelled reservation for the couple going to New York, there must have been a mix up in the transfer of reservation, but they would find a place for us. Thank goodness. Feeling incredibly lucky.

Seated about 10 minutes later and feeling VERY young in a room full of decidedly older patrons. Server takes some time to get to us, but I guess we weren't expected so it's OK. We see that the fixed price menu is much more than we had seen on the Relais&Chateaux website. Oh well. For that much we may as well spring for the extra $15 and get the $120 7-course chef's tasting menu. We order two half bottles of wine, a Viognier for the first courses, Chateauneuf de Pape for the latters.

First "taster" comes out, a small waifer cone filled with salmon tartar and creme fraiche. It is heavenly. So good I can't help but giggle. This is going to be great!

Our wine comes out. Disappointing, but I can't figure out why. Then the server goes to put it on ice and I realize, "Gosh, that wine was warm!" Second pouring, once chilled, was much better. Kept quiet about it though. Felt lucky just to be there.

Oyster pearls with caviar came out. Amazing again. Giggle some more. This is just too good. Feeling very worth it.

Next course I have asparagus, friend has Foie Gras for an extra $25. Asparagus is fantastic! Foie is sadly disappointing. When friend is half way through, the food runner comes out and says "I should give you some fresh brioche for that". Ah ha. So the brioche was not meant to be cold and stale! Second half of Foie is much better...but would have been nice to have a whole good dish instead of a half one.

Finished third course and sat for a good half hour. Food runner comes out and says, "The chef would like to know how you enjoyed your bass." Friend, polite, says, "It was great!" I say, "No it wasn't, we haven't had it yet!" Food runner smiles guiltily. "Uh, sorry...I was just trying to trick you." Runs back to kitchen.

Server comes by, "You still don't have your food?!" No, we say, and the runner tried to trick us.

Runner comes out with food, puts it down. "Sorry for the trick question" he says. Doesn't seem very sincere.

Bass was diappointing compared to previous dishes. Maybe the mood killed it.

Lobster came out much faster, but now the staff seemed fairly unhappy about us. Getting uncomfortable. Should we be feeling bad?

Red wine comes out. Server puts the corkscrew in and wine sprays out the hole! Very bizarre. He runs to the back for a new bottle.

Meat course is phenomenal! Table next to us chats us up. Wonderful older newlywed couple getting ready to move to Pennsylvania. Food server very upset that I do not stop my conversation to hear what he had just put in front of me. Woops. Sorry. Not sure if we are supposed to be fraternizing with the other tables.

Other tables are starting to finish their meals. Each is invited back to see the kitchen before leaving.

Cheese and desserts come and go fairly quickly. All delicious, but it's been four hours now and the staff seems ready for us to be gone.

The bill comes with small candies. $465 for the two of us. I give the server my credit card without wincing. He comes back and tells us they have taken the champagne off the bill due to our long wait. Now it's only $430.

We smile and say thank you. No invitation to see the kitchen. We hurry out to the car to begin our drive home. Laugh very hard the whole way while we sing along with KFOG.

Bizarre evening. Don't think it was the typical French Laundry experience. I felt fantastic this morning. My friend did not.


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