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.
THAT'S HER, THAT'S HER! DON'T LOOK AT HER! DON'T LOOK AT HER!
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.
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.