The French Laundry – Friends, Food, and a Small Fortune

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The French Laundry

Last Friday was the start to what continues to be an epic adventure of friends, food, and adventure.  Our primary destination for this past weekend – The French Laundry.  Some of you requested me to share my experience, so let me put on my food blogger hat and away we go…

The French Laundry – A Bucket List Experience

The French Laundry

If you happen to love food as much as we do, you may have already heard of the French Laundry, a famous dining destination by restaurateur and celebrity chef, Thomas Keller.

The French Laundry has been consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in the world and earned a rare 3-stars in 2007 by the renowned Michelin guide.

How rare is it to earn 3-stars?  Well, there have only been 14 restaurants in the entire U.S. to earn this laurel in the past 11 years!

Reservations – A Little Luck Required!

As you may imagine, reservations are rather hard to come by.  In fact, they are near impossible.  To further put things into perspective, consider that I first promised my wife a trip here nearly a decade ago!  You see, they only have a select number of spots in the restaurant each day and securing a reservation is like trying to win the lottery.

In order to get through, you would have to call exactly at the right time and be super persistent.  After 300+ calls, one of my friends finally got through and booked our reservations on the spot… exactly one month from that date.

If you don’t have time to call repeatedly, try to use your credit card concierge program (eg. Amex Platinum, or Chase Sapphire Reserve, etc.).  You’ll need to check with your individual card to see if that’s a perk available to you.

The good news, however, is that this time-tested system has just been updated this week!  It’s now an online system that you can find on their website.  Apparently, they are changing it up and will be allowing you to pre-purchase “tickets” for your meal.  Perhaps with this change, it will make things a bit easier to snag a spot.  I guess time will tell!

The Meal

Okay, so let’s get to the meal.  Dining is a set pre-fix menu.  This means that dishes are decided by the chef ahead of time for you.

There are only 2 seatings per day – a lunch and dinner service.  The cost for either service is the same, so we chose lunch (or rather, lunch chose us!).

How Much Does it Cost?

Okay, brace yourself…

The cost is $310/person (including service).  However, there are additional supplements you can choose (eg. wagyu beef), as well as an extensive wine menu which most partake in.

Yes, I know.  $310 for a single meal is a bit over the top for most.  And, you’ll need to view this dining as an experience other than just a time to consume food.  It’s also 3-hours, so it’s kind of like a rock concert, but for food!

Here is a copy of the menu describing each course.

Okay, so I won’t go through every menu item since you can read, but I’ll highlight some my favorites (photographed with my iPhone 7.)

The amuse bouche was a smoked salmon cone with a soft cheese inside.

This was the wine that my friends had – a 2014 Paul Hobbs Pinot – $250

Recall that I don’t drink, so I can’t really comment on the wine.  However, my friends seemed to enjoy it a lot! 🙂

This dish, called Oysters & Pearls was delicious!!  I may need to come back just for this one.

The majority of their produce is taken from their private farm across the street to create beautiful, simple, and tasty plates like this.

Surely, you’ve had butter.  But probably never like this!  Super decadent, smooth, and rich.  I could literally eat the entire thing by itself (I restrained myself).

Here is the Atlantic Striped Bass with a perfect sear.

A very unique and buttery croissant.

Lobster with a truffle emulsion – to die for!  This was one of my favorites for sure.

My wife got the wagyu beef supplement which was an additional $100.  (FYI, they did provide a generous portion.)

As much as I love beef, I’ve decided that wagyu is just too fatty for me. I’d prefer a hearty grass-fed steak from the midwest.

There were probably upwards of 7 desserts!  But check out this rhubarb dessert plate.  I love that is was so unique and it wasn’t overly sweet.

How about some gold to sweeten you up?

Handcrafted chocolate domes!

I selected the Toasted Coconut & the PB&J.  Both were fabulous.

Before we left, I asked for a quick tour of the restaurant.

This is the kitchen where all the magic happens!

Final Thoughts

Okay, let’s not sugar coat this.  Our meal cost us a small fortune… about $400/per person after all supplements, etc.

But, was it worth it?

YES.

The service and food were impeccable.  And, my wife and I were able to share a bucket list experience with 4 of our really good friends from college.

Having said that, I’m not planning another one of these in a really long time… whatever that means. 😉

Readers, would you ever dine somewhere like the French Laundry?  If not, do you have some guilty pleasures that you splurge disproportionately on?

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Michael

Hi, I have been blessed to take an early retirement in my mid-30's so I can focus on becoming a better father, blogger, and investor.

My goal is to help you find your personal path to financial freedom, and to enjoy the entire journey.

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25 Comments on “The French Laundry – Friends, Food, and a Small Fortune”

  1. OH MY GOD. I am so jealous!! I’ve always wanted to go to The French Laundry. Congrats on getting in. 🙂 Bah–I wouldn’t even care about the price. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We ate at Victoria and Albert’s for our honeymoon and the bill was ridiculous–but it was a meal we’ll never forget. Worth it. 🙂

    1. Well definitely keep it on your bucket list, MPP! Sometimes a meal is more than a meal. It’s an experience and unique way to connect with loved ones. 🙂

  2. Hey Michael,

    Your pictures are amazing and the food looks delicious! 2 Years ago I had the opportunity to go to Manny’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis with my ex-girlfriend’s accounting team. The total bill for the night was in the thousands, and man, was it good!

    $100 steaks… $30-40 appetizers and desserts… it was awesome.

    Would I go back on my own? Not until I am rich – I’ll stick with a $20-30 meal.

    Thanks for sharing – have a good one

    1. Oooh, Manny’s sounds delicious! Nothing wrong with splurging every now and then, so long as it isn’t a habit that eats into your ability to FIRE. 🙂

  3. Looks delicious! I live 40 minutes from French Laundry and have yet to make it out. Something about having a toddler. Maybe in the next few years.

    Yountville is supposed to be super quaint also. Did you enjoy visiting the town?

    1. EJ, it’s so beautiful up there! We ended up hitting a couple of wineries (Duckhorn & Hall) on our way out, but I’m not sure if they were technically in Yountville. I hear you about the toddler! I haven’t been doing much the past few years until now… my kids are growing up and were happy to hang out with Grandma and Grandpa in L.A. 🙂

  4. Hi Michael. I’d never heard of this restaurant before, but it seems like a really fancy place.

    Thanks for sharing. Although it looks really unique, it doesn’t look all that appetizing. Not $310 appetizing at least.

    1. Mr. Tako, I suspect some others would probably agree with you. Certainly, save your money for something else if it doesn’t look appetizing! 😉

  5. What a cool experience! High end restaurants aren’t my thing, but spending for experiences is the way to go. Thanks for sharing the pictures, that is enough for me.

    I do love that area though – Yountville, Rutherford, and scenery off the main highway.

    1. Yes, experiences are worth a lot more than “things” in my opinion. Although I don’t drink wine, wine country is beautiful up there! I was happy to be the party bus driver. 😉

  6. Michael – Very cool experience. Thanks for sharing! We are going to Deckman’s en el Mogor in Baja for my birthday. He is only a Michelin one-star chef, but I have heard it is fantastic. All of the food is grown or raised on the farm right there.

    1. That is exciting, Jeff! Let me know how it is. I love farm-to-table creations.

      I’ve had some amazing Michelin one-star meals before. 🙂

  7. Michael, this looks right up my ally. Thanks for the report. Would love to make it to French Laundry some day. I find that these meals are definitely worth the price. I sincerely doubt you’ll forget it!

    1. You gotta try it, Josh! In addition to excellent cuisine, the service was fantastic too. I suspect you’ve had some stellar dinners in NY, right? 🙂

  8. Michael, that was really a feast to my eyes, as I couldn’t taste it from the images…..Not just talking about dishes but the first image of scenery was really awesome.

  9. That looks awesome!!! Sure it’s a pricey meal, but it’s not like it’s everyday (or even every year) and the experience sounds fantastic. We stayed in Yountville a few years back and really enjoyed it. We weren’t able to get into the French Laundry, plenty of other awesome restaurants! We preferred Sonoma the best with it’s little downtown square and (relatively) livelier night life, but frankly you can’t wrong in wine country 🙂

    1. Yes HBFI, there are so many great restaurants in wine country! I don’t think we’ve visited Sonoma before, but it sounds nice especially if you stay overnight.

      Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to get into TFL some day. 🙂

  10. Although I have dined at places that are as expensive as the French Laundry, I’ve never done so at places where the “expensive” part comes from the food. For example, we were at the top of the CNTower (awesome view), where it costs anywhere between $100-$300 per person.
    Although I do love awesome food, I’m on a pretty strict diet (low carbs, etc). So that really limits my options for what I can eat.

  11. I had some interest in going to the French Laundry based on the accolades. However, when I saw the sample menus, I realized it wasn’t the place for me. It brought back memories of going to Gordon Ramsey’s signature restaurant and spending $250 only to leave hungry.

    The most interesting item to me is the Wagyu (the $100 supplement). I don’t know if I’d pay $30 for the rest of the menu combined. I’m just more of a steakhouse person I guess.

    1. That’s good that you know what you like, Lazy Man! Nothing wrong with being a steakhouse guy… I am too on certain occasions.
      (If you’ve never tried it, there are some INCREDIBLE steakhouses in NY City, like Wolfgang’s).

      1. I’ll have to check it out. My wife is partial to Mastro’s. I’m going to try to hit as many of the OpenTable top 100 as I can. It’s a moving target, but that’s going to be part of the fun ;-).

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