For years I have had dining at The French Laundry in Yountville, California on my bucket list. It always felt unattainable because one, reservations are extremely difficult to get and second, it’s not exactly affordable. But if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is too short and the things we love and take for granted can be taken away from us overnight. So, I’ve learned to really live life and do the things that I’ve always had on my list as long as we have the means to do so and as long as we are being cautious.
Live your life! Be careful, not fearful!
The French Laundry is a 3 Michelin Star fine dining restaurant located in Yountville, California by the famous chef, Thomas Keller. Due to the pandemic, they have renovated their outdoor garden area and converted it into a dreamy outdoor dining space. It is BEAUTIFUL!
Across the street from The French Laundry is their large outdoor garden where they grow their own produce. They decide what will be on the menu depending on what vegetables are in season and what is good that day.
Tip: Arrive early prior to your dinner reservations so that you can spend some time strolling the garden. Take some pictures and check out their fresh produce. I’d say reserve about 30 minutes to enjoy the garden in its full glory.
How To Make Reservations
The reservation system that The French Laundry uses is TOCK. The restaurant releases its reservation availability on the first day of every odd month at 10:00am so for example, September 1st at 10:00am. However, I have heard that reservations sell out within 20 seconds which is crazy!
The way we were lucky enough to book a reservation was through our American Express Concierge. If you have an American Express Platinum card, one of the services it offers is a concierge service. Through this service you can book hard to get concert tickets, broadway tickets, book car service and so much more. In addition, you can have them help you get damn near impossible reservations at the most popular restaurants…like French Laundry.
So here’s how it went down for us…
We contacted Amex Concierge, told them we wanted reservations at French Laundry for 5 people. My nephew was joining Rowell and I and the kids. We didn’t dictate the date and time because we knew we would just have to be flexible and take what they had available. Amex Concierge then contacted French Laundry directly. However, here is the twist…since The French Laundry didn’t want to release their reservation availability to Amex (that’s how super secret it is), they offered to work with us directly on reserving a date and time.
After that, Amex Concierge was removed from the equation and we worked directly with The French Laundry to book a date and time for our dinner. They offered two separate seatings: 5:00pm and 8:45pm. We opted for the 5:00pm seating and I would highly recommend the earlier time slots because it does get pretty dark and you’ll be able to see the food better and take better photos!
The Dress Code
Time to head to the back of your closet and dig out that suit or dress you haven’t worn in months! We can thank COVID-19 for that. However, this is your chance to get all dolled up! You will want to dress up, trust me. For men, typically they require jackets but because of the outdoor dining and warm weather in Yountville, they removed this restriction. However, I would suggest at the very least a button down shirt, and a tie. For the ladies, a nice flowing dress and heels is perfect.
The Menu & Price
The chef’s tasting menu changes daily, depending on what is fresh that day from their garden or what’s in season. They post their menu for the day on their website.
The chef’s tasting menu is 8 courses plus a couple of amuse-bouche which is a single bite size hors d’oeuvre meant to stimulate the appetite and is separate from the appetizers listed on their menu. The truffle chocolates in the end was the perfect ending to an incredible meal.
There are 4 items in the menu that is available as an upgrade. During our visit we chose to upgrade all 4 items.
- ROYAL OSSETRA CAVIAR
“Oeuf’s Mimosa,” Toasted Brioche and Fines Herbes ($60.00 supplement)
- HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS “ROUELLE”
Pearson Farm Pecan “Pain de Gênes,” Peach “Galée” and Garden Sorrel ($30.00 supplement)
- “MAC AND CHEESE”
Hand Cut Macaroni, Parmesan “Mousseline” and Shaved Australian Black Winter Truffles ($125.00 supplement)
- JAPANESE WAGYU “POÊLÉ”
Brentwood Corn “Pain Perdu,” Garden Spinach, Sunny Side Up Quail Egg and “Bordelaise Consommé” ($100.00 supplement)
These prices are in addition to the $350/per person so choose wisely. In my opinion the caviar and the wagyu are a must!
So what does the $350 include?
The $350 is a set price and with it you get the 8 course dinner, plus beverages such as sparkling water, espresso, soda, etc… The wine is not included unfortunately. I wish! But what was included (and I was super impressed with) were the kids meals!
The kids were also served a 4-course dinner and it consisted of: cold tomato soup, gnocchi, American wagyu steak and all the desserts! I was so impressed with the quality of the food that they were served considering we did not get charged extra for them.
I will let the pictures tell the story….starting with the kids meals. Every single dish was phenomenal and we savored every bite.
Not pictured here is the cold tomato soup that were served to the kids as an appetizer.
Chef’s Tasting Menu
The last course is an assortment of desserts of fruit, ice cream, chocolate and candies.
The Kitchen Tour & Meeting Chef Thomas Keller
This was hands down the highlight of my night. While the meal was epic and the entire experience was hands down one of the best dining experiences of my life, the tour of the kitchen and meeting Chef Thomas Keller was the best part. I was completely awestruck the entire time and could not believe I was really there!
The kitchen was impeccably clean and watching the Chefs at work was inspiring. I just stood there in awe as they created art with food with such precision like they were performing surgery!
This experience was once in a lifetime and the food exceeded my expectations. With restrictions in place and the challenges that dining establishments are facing, The French Laundry did an amazing job adjusting and transitioning to adhere to our “new normal” way of life.
When people ask me if it was worth it, I tell them 100%! I would dine at The French Laundry again in a heartbeat and I can’t wait for the day we get to return.
For more places to visit in Napa, check out my post here.
Have you dined at The French Laundry before? If so, what was your experience like? Tell me in the comments below.