Sunday, August 31, 2008

How to get a reservation at The French Laundry

We're using the early November wedding of one of our friends in Healdsburg, CA as an excuse to visit California Wine Country for this first time. And we all know what's in CA....foodie mecca, The French Laundry. I couldn't miss my chance to eat at Thomas Keller's flagship -especially since we were staying in Yountville. By all accounts, the reservation line at French Laundry is busier than the one at Babbo, perhaps because it only has 16 tables. But I gained a resy at the latter a few years ago by coordinating clocks and hitting the redial button like a crazy woman until it connected. I knew it was possible.

Step 1. Use technology

At midnight pacific time, The French Laundry releases two tables of four for their 5:15pm and 9:15pm sittings two months ahead of the calendar date on i.e. tables for August 1st are released on June 1st.

Note: this did not work for us. We forced ourselves to stay up (aided by recently purchased Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City) until 3am Eastern, and faithfully re-submitted our reservation request as the clock turned from 2:59 to 3:00am, yet still we did not get a table. I thought this was our best chance and went to bed exhausted and somewhat dejected.

Step 2. Massive Bombardment via Telephone

Call 707.944.2380 at 10am Pacific Time and pray that you get into the reservations queue.

I figured there's strength in numbers so all four members of our potential four-top called on separate phones: me, my husband, my mother and father. Crazy, I know. But it worked. At exactly 1pm EST the lines started giving a busy signal, so we re-dialed and re-dialed and finally were given the option of pressing '3' for reservations. Then we nervously waited on hold, listening to elevator music and recorded messages teasing us about how great our potential meal would be. After 10 minutes my husband, then I got through. Our options? 5:30 or 9. 9 it was, and the whole family rejoiced!

Our reward? The privilege of paying $240 per head for dinner in the fall. Better be good.

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