Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Day: T Doodle Face

Do you remember those teachers that couldn't be bothered with teaching some days so they'd just throw a movie on? Those days were awesome right? Who wants to read
Of Mice And Men when you can just watch the damn thing? I had a math teacher that was always trying to quit smoking. It was usually on Fridays. We'd walk into class and she'd be face down, asleep at her desk. Just passed the fuck out. On the board would be a note. "I'm sick." Then below that there would be an assignment of some sort. At the time, I totally believed it. Or I didn't care. It meant, FREE TIME! We’d just hang out. No one would do anything. “No more tea-chuz, in the clawz-rooooom” [use your Pink Floyd voice]. I wonder what she was really trying to quit?

Well that’s what this post is all about. The Nieratkos were in town all last week with their buttfucker dog Bennie and New Jersey skateboard sensation, Ron Diely. Full house. It was a lovely time, but Reality had to sleep outside and thus little to nothing got done. “Food On Drunk” certainly was nowhere near the top of the list of things to do. You will go to the French Laundry. I promise. It’s done. But Tania has yet to add her two cents. The job that pays her money is actually a job at the moment and she hasn’t had time to attend to the greatest story about the greatest meal we’ve ever had. Muslims can face Mecca a million times a day, but Tania can’t even spare a second to write a few words about Him. Hm?

So, here’s your movie. When Tania and I cook, usually one of us cooks, the other plays sous chef/court jester. And reads food magazines. On a recent drunken evening, I was behind the stove and Tania was behind a magazine. With a pen. Giggling her ass off. I had no idea what she was doing. But I’m glad she did. I’m still finding these stupid faces all over the stupid magazines. (All art by Tania. Photos appeared in
Saveur and Food & Wine.)

EDIT: I put faces on just about everything. See!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beckett vs. Fritos

Beckett has a very distinct smell. It’s especially strong and potent when he wakes up. It’s like he’s been incubating it. It’s not a bad smell. I’d liken it to smelling someone else’s pillow. Even though it’s not your smell of sleep, it’s unmistakably the slightly sour smell of sleep. Although saying Beckett smells like someone else’s pillow isn’t quite right. Tania thinks he smells like a bag of Fritos. I enjoy Frito snack chips, but I can’t say I eat them very often. Thus, the smell of a bag of Fritos isn’t exactly at the front of my mind. Still, I’ve been meaning to compare Beckett and a bag of Fritos for some time now. I’m not sure why the experiment hasn’t been at the top of my list of things to do, but it just hasn’t. So for the last year or so, Beckett smells like Beckett, and Fritos smell like… like whatever Fritos smell like.

That all changed when we were watching a show on Animal Planet the other night called Dog 101. One of the dogs showcased on the episode was the Bassett hound. They basically summarize the breed for you: short legs, great sense of smell, good with kids, loyal, etc.. Frankly, they look a lot like dachshunds, just bigger. And instead of badgers, they hunt rabbits. But there’s something else similar about the two. During the middle of the Bassett hound checkout, a Bassett owner described their smell. “Basset hounds have a very distinct odor,” he said. “I guess you could describe it as a bag of corn chips.”

“SEE!” Tania blurted out.

“Hm,” I said. “Alright, I believe you. I need to check this out, now.”

A few days later I stopped at the gas station on the way home and bought a bag of Fritos. I had been gone a couple hours and knew Beckett would be napping when I got home. I opened the door, and, sure enough, there he was blinking his sleepy eyes at me on the couch. I approached, pet him, and then took a big whiff. Okay, yeah, that’s Beckett. Then I opened the bag of corn chips and took a big whiff. “Hm.” I said to myself. “Yeah, there is something to that actually.” It’s not exactly the same, but the smell of the dachshund and the smell of a bag of Fritos is pretty darn close.

If you’re interested in experiencing the world of the dachshund, I would recommend purchasing a bag of Fritos. It’s $600 cheaper, and it won’t poop behind your couch.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The French Laundry. Chapter Six.

Tania and Denise on the inside!

Thank you, George W. Bush, for gaining me entrance
to The French Laundry.

I have been trying to get reservations at the French Laundry for about two years. And when I say I have been trying, I mean seriously trying. I stay up until midnight trying to get a reservation, via, months in advance. I sit poised next to the wireless router in Dave’s office, getting everything ready at 11:45 (entering in all of my info and adjusting my reservation request for 4:00pm, hoping it will search for a reservation at either of the two seating times) and then pressing RESERVE just before the stroke of midnight, wine glass in hand, and then cursing at my laptop when it tells me that there are no reservations available for that date. And then I still hit REFRESH at least forty times.

I have to do this cursing and stomping and whimpering quietly too, or Dave will know what I’m up to. Well, he might not know what I’m up to, but he might conjure up some interesting explanations for the funny noises he’s hearing while he’s asleep.

Anyways, I also call two months in advance for reservations too (which means I dial the number on my cell phone at 9:50 and then press SEND and then END and repeat), hoping that I’ll get through and someone will actually answer. Someone always does, but they usually get around to my call at about 10:05, at which time all the reservations for the day have been filled and I put my name on some list in hopes of a cancellation. No one cancels the French Laundry (so I thought), so month after month, year after year, I have a lackluster dinner at some other restaurant. Never with five exotic salt options, always thrown together haphazardly, never explained by one of five servers, and never enough wagyu. It’s a wonder I’m even still alive after eating so much bullshit restaurant food. Phooey!

So yeah, I have been doing this, faithfully, for about two years; night after night, morning after morning, pining away for the unattainable reservation at the best restaurant in the United States, only to get rejected every time I try. But this year, for Dave’s birthday, I really turned up the effort. I called twice as much, I internetted like crazy, and I enlisted the help of our close friends Tom and Denise. I finally conceded that the French Laundry was bigger than me and I was gonna need some help to get inside. So Tom and Denise agreed to join in on this effort, despite the outrageous cost, to make December of 2008 a month to fucking remember. Tom and Denise live in Petaluma, which is a lot closer to the French Laundry than LA. I figured they’d have some kind of home field advantage. Denise even went to the restaurant to try and make a reservation in person (after calling and putting her name on a list just like me). She tried finding anyone who might have some kind of association to the place via catering and restaurant connections, but October came and went and no reservations were made.

"Here is a photo of me after talking to the hostess and convincing them that we were really going to need a reservation," Denise wrote. "It is a funny photo, but shows my determination- we are going to get into that place. I am sure they thought I was a screwball because my scarf was longer on one side."

At one point I tried to pay someone to get me a reservation. No shit, I found a guy online who used to have a website that boasted about him getting reservations whenever he wanted and he’d accept money for that service. When I contacted him, however, he had since given it up (FUCKER!). I also tried booking reservations at hotels with fancy concierges that bragged about their ability to get reservations for their guests, but when I cornered them on the phone they wouldn’t make any promises. So I said nuts to that also.

I wasn’t giving up on my plan though. I booked us a sweet room in San Francisco so we could celebrate with some friends in the city for the first night of Dave’s birthday extravaganza. And then I booked us a sweet bed and breakfast (with a hot tub and a fireplace all to ourselves) in Yountville for a couple of nights. I don’t fuck around when I wanna vacation. Even Thomas Keller can’t stop me from shacking up in a hotel room with my old man when I want to. I made reservations at a couple of fancy pants restaurants for the weekend we were up there and decided to just suck it up. Dave might not be getting French Laundry for his birthday, but he’s getting blowjobs in a bed that we don’t have to make the next morning, by golly. And Napa’s got no shortage of good food so we’ll just have to go another night eating at a restaurant that’s not the best on the continent. What-everrrrrrrrrr.

Until… oh yes… until… I got a full on text, phone, email assault from our angelic, wonderful, miracle-working, remarkably good looking, well-rounded, genius-friends Tom and Denise, in Petaluma. About one week before our northern California adventure (on this day, actually) Denise got a call from the French Laundry and then called me at work to let me know the news. They called! They had a cancellation! They wanted to know if we would like to come for a lunch seating on – Oh my fucking God, hell yes I want a lunch seating! I would sell my first born child to Angelina Jolie for a lunch seating! – Friday.



What the fuck, Keller? I am driving to SF on Friday, my shit’s booked, I can’t get a refund, and even if I could I can’t drive all the way to Yountville by noon on a Friday. I have a job, dammit! How else am I gonna afford your $1000 menu? God fucking dammit. Fucking shit damn hell.
So I sadly told Denise to tell them we couldn’t take that reservation and I sulked in my office parking lot for a minute. As if being underpaid and underappreciated at my workplace wasn’t soul crushing enough, now I have to sit through the rest of the god damned day knowing that I was seconds away from the best experience of my life. Laaammmmmmmmmmmme.

But wait...

My phone was ringing again. What the fuck? It was Denise and she said that when she declined on the Friday opening that the lady on the phone said that a Saturday cancellation just happened and asked if we’d like that. Would we wa-FUCK YES WE WANT THAT! HOLY SHIT WE WANT THAT AND WE WANT IT NOW. Oh hells yes, we were gonna eat at The French Fucking Laundry and Thomas Keller (Thomas fucking Keller!) was going to inspect each of our plates at the pass and we were going to talk about it more than we talk about our wedding or our trips to far off places. All those months of saving huge chunks of my paycheck and buying the generic brand of toilet paper were gonna pay off. Yes, yes, yes. I want to find the table that cancelled on that wonderful day and kiss all of them on the mouth. I know they probably cancelled because their fancy stocks plummeted or they got laid off because the economy’s bullshit right now and they probably have to sell their vacation home in Hawaii and I don’t care. Not one bit. In fact, I will slap George W. on the ass like he just made a touchdown for fucking up the economy so bad that a bunch of rich douche bags had to cancel their fancy pants luncheon, making possible for me, my husband, and our best friends to eat at The French Laundry. Beat that, Obama!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

French Laundry. Chapter Five.

This is our laundry pin. We don't go in in this chapter, but we're almost there.

When we parked on the main street in Yountville, just a couple hundred feet from the French Laundry, Tania and I noticed a fairly odd couple emerging from a car. “They must be going to the French Laundry, too?” I said. They had the same jaunty, expectant disposition that Tania and I had. They were kind of dressed up. But on closer inspection, I decided there was no way they were going to the French Laundry. “Who dresses like that and goes out in public, let alone to the fanciest restaurant in the United States?” I thought. “Someone got to dress themselves this morning,” Tania said dryly. Simply put, the woman was wearing a huge, white, sweater dress. It was just a big sweater that ended just above her knees. Some would argue that the Irish knit pattern made it even worse. I don’t think her ensemble—keep in mind that an “ensemble” implies articles of clothing in the plural, and she was only wearing one thing… what’s the singular for ensemble?—anyway, her ensemble wasn’t appropriate in a formal situation regardless of who she was, or even if she was attractive. Which she wasn’t. I’m being generous when I say the large, blonde, Eastern European looking lady was “husky.” I wanted to yell over, “HEY! I LOVE THE WAY YOUR SWEATER ACCENTS YOUR GUT!” Imagine a fat woman in a white wetsuit. A beluga comes to mind. But I’m a gentleman and I never say mean things to women, even if they’re wearing a windsock to dinner.

The man was even more curious. He was small and slight compared to his giant date. He had kind of an R. Crumb look about him. His shirt was as curious as the sweater. The only way to describe it is that it looked like a Las Vegas casino carpet. A Mexican gentleman in a cowboy hat would have felt very comfortable matching his aqua-blue cowboy boots with it and going out dancing. What I remember most, though, was his camera. We already felt like complete dorks stashing our li’l Canon Elphs in our pockets, but this asshole had a full on Nikon DSLR slung over his shoulder, with a bright yellow NIKON strap, a zoom lens, and, to top it off, a lens hood that was as big as the lens itself. Have you ever seen a sports photographer’s camera? They come with a tripod just for the lens? It looked like one of those. It was a “monster truck” of cameras. Really? REALLY? You’re going to bring that into the French Laundry? I didn’t think anyone was that stupid, but apparently I was wrong.


Imagine my surprise when halfway through our meal Tania pointed them out. They were sitting right behind us. And dude was wearing a jacket. Apparently everyone but me saw this in the waiting room, but they had to lend him a jacket. And this is what bothers me the most about them: there’s a dress code to eat there. And you’re told that dress code over and over again at every step of the way. DINNER JACKET REQUIRED, NO JEANS ALLOWED. I’ve never even heard the dress code, but even I know what a formal setting is. It’s like going to a wedding: you wear a suit, right? You don’t wear a pair of camo-fucking-shorts (like a certain someone who attended our wedding… fucking idiot).

“I was born wearing pants.
Be prepared.”

I was prepared. Ultimately because of Tania. She got my suit pressed and packed my nice shoes. And I was ready. Even though I had no idea what I was ready for. I had made a few attempts at the French Laundry’s reservation list before, but I had failed. So I gave up. But Tania and Denise persisted and somehow they made it happen. I don’t know how, but they did.