Dear French Laundry

It began with a good-natured letter to the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville.

Mateo and I had just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and we made every attempt to honor our special occasion by dining at the French Laundry. Despite following the reservation protocol of booking two months in advance (only to get on the waitlist for several days), calling almost daily, even showing up on the day of with my hand-written sign hoping that we would come off the wait-list, we were unsuccessful in getting in.

We still had a fabulous and memorable anniversary celebration in the wine country. Once home, I sent a letter to the restaurant with a clip from my last blog-posting. Some expected that I would receive a call back from the renowned ‘temple of all things delicious’, but I wasn’t sure. Several days after putting my letter in the mail, however, I received a call from the general manager at the French Laundry!

He acknowledged our plight and asked if he could assist us in securing a reservation and before I knew it, I was agreeing to dinner at the end of the week. Babysitting lined up seamlessly. The heavens were aligning and we found ourselves giddy with excitement over our fast-approaching reservations.

On Friday evening we drove up to Yountville. Exhausted after a long week, we were running on the fuel of excitement and anticipation. Our reservation was for 9:15pm, so we did our best to conserve our energy and appetites.

We arrived early at the restaurant and sat in their lovely, enclosed garden until our table was ready. A host offered us complimentary glasses of French Laundry blend “Champagne” in honor of our anniversary and we sipped in the perfectly manicured garden, surrounded by flowers, candlelight, and others awaiting their special experience.

Once we sat down, much like our wedding day, time stood still and Mateo and I kept saying “We’re really here!” The service was first-rate, impeccable, and the food was, as I call it “chef-on-a-plate!” Artful, decadent, heavenly, and fit for a king and queen. We dined on lobster, caviar, oysters, foie gras (no issues here!) served with three types of exotic salts, a hen egg, pork belly, lamb, morels, handmade truffles produced by the restaurant’s own chocolatier, and “coffee and donuts”…all truly transcendent.

Toward the end of our four-hour dining experience, I explained to our host that we had made an attempt to dine there the weekend prior. I showed him the photo of me and the sign outside the restaurant and he was tickled, and gladly co-conspired to get a photo-op after our dinner.

At 1am, tired and well-sated, after feasting until the seams in our stomachs began to burst, we were led into the kitchen. Now, I was really in heaven! We met the executive chef (not Thomas Keller that evening), a visiting chef from Per Se in New York, and the supporting cast. They were sitting around on stools discussing the menu for the next week, sipping from cold cans of Budweiser (I kid you not!), all graciously taking turns signing our personalized menu. We snapped our photos, expressed our gratitude, and said our farewells.

Now, I have my opinions about the cost of the occasion, the inaccessibility of the restaurant to the common-man, and all the hype surrounding the place. Still, we had the time of our lives! We felt special, treated, and a little royal. I can now check “Must eat at the French Laundry” off my life-list. I am simply filled with the satisfaction of having had an amazing dining experience with the love of my life, in celebration of fifteen magical years.