Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Discovery: Thomas Keller's Addendum

It's very rare that I dine at restaurants in their early days of operation but this time I made an exception.

It's FRIED F***in CHICKEN, man! The Thomas Keller kind. Enough said.

Thomas Keller's latest brain child is a to-go operation called Addendum that is conveniently located at the back of Ad Hoc in a beige shack. Basically, I read up about it here since there's no official website unless Twitter is considered a "website".

*Update: I found more details about Addendum on the Ad Hoc website.

The menu is limited and simple, Keller's Famous Fried Chicken and Wagyu brisket. I've been waiting for a miracle to finally have that famous fried chicken. Since I had the fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans last year, it was my mission to compare the two and declare once and for all, who has the best fried chicken in the U.S.

I think the stars were aligned this week because this weekend I plan on visiting my mom in Stockton which is about an 1.5 hour away from Yountville. Luckily for me, Addendum opens tomorrow, every Thursday through Saturday in the afternoon from now until October. I guess I'll be lugging around that 'ole dSLR this weekend after all.

6476 Washington St. (behind Ad Hoc)
Yountville, CA 94599
Twitter: @AddendumatAdHoc

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coming soon: Ludo Bites 007

I got this in the mail an hour ago.

I admit I FAILED at getting a reservation to Ludo Bites 6.0 last year. It wasn't my fault that OpenTable sucks. 45 minutes was wasted at refreshing a website that couldn't deliver. I guess it wasn't meant to be. Besides, I didn't feel like driving all the way out to the Valley. The old location seemed doable and better.

July 14 at 4:00PM PST. I think this time, I'll lower my expectation of getting a reservation. But if I do, I think I'll let some friends tag along.

The things you do for food

Whoa, three straight days of blog posts. Someone call my doctor! LOL.

It's been awhile since I've been blogging but man do I have stories to tell. I don't usually mention them on here because most of them are a bit crazy. On the level of, "Damn, were you THAT hungry?" or "You don't even wake up that early for work!"

Here are my Top 5 crazy food stories:

5. Last minute flight to Las Vegas.

I don't know what I'll be doing if I wasn't with Hubs. Most of my food adventures revolve around his traveling schedule. After a trip from Chicago and Wisconsin, a few days later I took a last minute flight to Las Vegas to hang out with Hubs since he was consulting at MGM Grand. When Hubs can't dine with me due to work, I usually go out by myself. Luckily for me, we were staying at the MGM Grand so I was one elevator and walk away from the finest restaurants Las Vegas has offer. I walked into L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon with no dinner reservations and came out 2.5 hours later full and entertained.

4. Chef Michel Richard kissed my forehead.

During my trip to Washington, DC for a conference, I dined at Citronelle in Georgetown. As always, I was dining alone but it so happened that Chef Michel Richard was at the restaurant greeting diners. I didn't expect him to come to my table. At first I could see him at the corner of my eye and then all of a sudden he gently pushed back my shoulders. When I thought he was sniffing my hair, he landed a kiss on my forehead! He then came around and introduced himself as the owner of the restaurant and we chatted for a minute. He was concerned that I was eating alone but I replied that I was in town on business. I enjoyed our brief encounter and his demeanor is classically French. He looked like Santa Claus in a chef jacket. Aside from miniBar, this dinner was one I couldn't forget.

3. Waking up at 6:30AM to book a reservation at miniBar in Washington, DC.

I don't wake up before 9am for ANYONE. The only exceptions are 1. I'm traveling or 2. I have to book a restaurant reservation. In this case it was for miniBar in Washington, DC. The phone queue opens at 10am local time which meant I had to dial in exactly at 7:00AM PST. The phone reservation process was similar to the French Laundry so timing was key. I think 100 redials and 7 minutes later, I got into the queue and practically booked the last seat for the 8:30PM seating. I was so happy! Getting one seat out of 12 seats for the entire day is freakishly hard. My excitement level was just as high as when I got engaged (LOL, just kidding).

2. Waiting 1.5 hours for a hot dog.

The place, Hot Doug's in Chicago. The time, November 2009. Luckily it wasn't snowing yet but I love me a great hot dog. I arrived at Hot Doug's at 10:30am (it opened at 10:00am). Man, it looked like there were 50 people in line. It was a Saturday morning and I guess these people eat hot dogs for breakfast. I had to get in and out before 2pm since I had a 4pm flight back to San Diego. By the time I got to the front of the line, it was 12pm. I ordered a foie gras hot dog, corn dog and duck fries. I ordered an additional two hot dogs for Hubs to try when I got home. WTF? Yup, I wrapped the hot dogs in foil and placed them in a sealed container in my carry on luggage. That's love. Sharing is caring!

1. Dissing Charlie Trotter.

When I was booking travel to Chicago in November 2009, I wanted to dine at Alinea. By the time I called, all of the seats were taken so I was placed on the waiting list. I wanted to dine there SO BAD that I even had Hubs contact Alinea's co-partner, Nick Kokonas. Nick actually emailed us (meaning Hubs) and thanked us for our blog post from June 2009. I had Hubs write this:


Quick question, how soon should we book reservations at Alinea? We
know the book opens on the first of the month for the next two months
so we were wondering if a month or two months notice is necessary. My
wife just called and had Amanda put her on the wait list in November.
She's crossing her fingers and hoping someone cancels. Glad business
is still thriving for Alinea!


He wrote back and said this:


We are still months out on weekend reservations and 3 to 4 weeks on the rest. If you give me some specifics I can check personally on days and times.

We are very fortunate to still be having a record year despite the economy....

Best regards,


After that, we didn't get a reservation confirmation so I booked a reservation at Charlie Trotter's just in case. OMG, it must have worked (or it was luck) because on the day of the dinner, I got a call from Alinea for a opening. I was in the car with my boss and we had just arrived at O'Hare airport from Wisconsin. I didn't bother answering the phone because I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. When I checked it someone from Alinea left me a message that they had a cancellation and had one opening at 5:30pm. As soon as I got to the rental car place, I called Alinea and confirmed the reservation. Since it was rush hour, I had to get into my rental car and drive straight to Alinea. A lot was going through my mind and not once was I thinking about my reservation at Trotters. Basically, I didn't bother calling them to tell them I wasn't showing up. I was charged $100 for the cancellation but I didn't care. I'm glad I did it because based on Achatz's recent memoir, Trotter seemed like an ass**** anyway.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How-To: Book Reservations at Tickets

Note: Reservation instructions have changed from 2011 (changes are in red). Please refer to the booking website for the latest information on how to secure a reservation.

I always have a strategy when it comes to booking reservations to highly sought-after restaurants. A seat at Jose Andre's 6-seat miniBar, done it. Alinea, done it TWICE. Lotus of Siam, many times with zero waiting. El Celler De Can Roca, yup I got one! The French Laundry is another story but I have gotten into the phone queue within 10 minutes every time.


The next reservation I plan on obtaining is for Ferran Adria's newest restaurant in Barcelona called
Tickets. The restaurant recently opened a few months ago but seats are nearly gone every day. Dining at Tickets is probably the closest I'll ever get to having dishes from elBulli.

To prepare my strategy to book a reservation, I first read the
fine print on the Ticket's website. It states:

How to book


Click on the Bookings button in this website.


Choose a date in black and click on it (if there are no dates in black it means that there isn’t any availability, and you will have to wait until another day is opened for bookings or until a cancellation is made).


Fill in the booking form.


Once the reservation is made, you will receive confirmation via SMS and e-mail.



It is only possible to make a reservation within 60 days.


Everyday a new day will become available for booking in 2-months-time (for example, at the end of the 31.03.2013, there will be 100 80 seats available for the 29.05.2013).


There are 100 new seats available for our clients every day.
Every night at 12 am there are 80 places at our clients’ disposal.


It is not possible to book by email or telephone. You can only book in our website option, through the site El Tenedor.

It seems straight forward but it's not. First of all, the 90 60 day reservation window does not mean 3 2 months to the calendar day (for example: Book on August 5, 2011 for October 5, 2011). It's actually 90 60 days from the date of the reservation. So basically I needed to calculate what that date would be. I found a date calculator website to calculate 90 60 days from the reservation date. It can be found here. Enter the date of the reservation, subtract 90 60 days and click on "Calculate New Date!". For example, to book a reservation on Oct 5, 2011, I have to book it on July August 6, 2011 local time.

Next, 100 80 new seats are available at the start of the day which is 12:00am local time. Now I have to calculate what 12:00am local time is in my time zone. I used another website to convert the time zone from Spain/Barcelona to U.S. Pacific standard time. 12:00am local time is 3:00pm PST the day before.

Finally, I tested this theory. Around 3pm to 5pm PST, I would check the reservation book to see what was available. For a Tuesday reservation, I saw a few openings from 7:00pm, 7:30pm, 8:00pm, 10:00pm. I believe the prime time for dinner in Barcelona is 10:00pm local time. I would suspect weekend dates (Friday-Sunday) are probably harder to get than during the week. Fortunately, a credit card is not needed to book a reservation. I assume the demand is much greater than the supply. I believe a few seats are available each night for walk-ins but I bet the line for this will be long.

So my strategy is to book two reservations for two separate days. If I don't get either day, my back up plan is to contact the concierge at the Hotel Arts of Barcelona to see if they can some how book reservations in my behalf. That's it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Video: Mat Plate at Alinea

Mat Plate - Alinea from foodiefinder on Vimeo.

This is some aweful video I took of Chef Grant Achatz plating the infamous mat plate dish called Chocolate. I don't know what the hell was going through my mind but I know I was surprised to see him. At the beginning of the video, you can hear the end of my brief 10 second conversation I had with THE chef. The conversation went something like this:

Chef appears at my table.

Chef: Good evening.

I'm staring at him like a rockstar. I open my mouth and say:
Didn't you just come back from Spain?

Chef: Yes, earlier this morning.

Me: Oh, WOW!

He was probably thinking I was some crazed foodie stalking his every move. Geez, I follow him on Twitter! The truth was, a few days prior to my dinner he mentioned he was traveling around Spain so I figured he wouldn't be in the kitchen when I was there. Well, to my luck he was in the kitchen and I was super excited to finally meet him. This was the reason why I was like, "OH WOW" on the video. Yeah, I sounded like a complete idiot with my Mmm and awe sounds the whole time. At least I didn't cry or what not. Now that would be embarrassing.

Mental note to self: Don't take video next time and second, say something meaningful.

What I should have said was, "It's a pleasure to meet you Chef. You've done a remarkable job pushing the creative process. I'm excited to be here."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Booked: #69 - Manresa

Three strikes, you're out. Sorry French Laundry, I guess it wasn't meant to be this time. Yesterday, I made another attempt to book a reservation at the French Laundry to celebrate our anniversary in August. Unfortunately, it was for a Saturday reservation and by the time I got into the phone queue at 10:10am and had an agent answer my call at 10:17am, it was already too late. By now, I'm not sure I want to try again. I woke up this morning contemplating, "Is it worth it?". Come on, Thomas Keller raised the prices at both Per Se ($295) and the French Laundry ($270). I know the prices include gratuity but still, that's a lot of cash these days and the last time I heard, we were still in a recession. But this post isn't about the French Laundry or the cost for greatest, it's about progression.

Manresa is located in Los Gatos, California, a small town near the Santa Cruz hills. It is the brain child of Executive Chef David Kinch. I've been comtemplating a reservation here for some time. What made me decide to go there was: 1) It was ranked #69 on the World's Best Restaurants list and 2) The price point was just right at $170 per person for the tasting menu. Besides, Manresa seemed to be a good choice given we are going to Spain in a few months.

Earlier I mentioned progression. While Manresa has been around for sometime, it has progressed on the World's Best Restaurant list from #86 to #69. That's quite a jump to say the least given the French Laundry has fallen from grace to #56. 69 is not that far off from 56 so it will be interesting to see how Manresa ranks next year. For now, I want to get in before it breaks into the Top 50 and well, before the madness begins.

Side note: I'm so glad Chez Panisse didn't make the rankings because it really didn't deserve to be there. I'm a hater but it's my blog and I'll say whatever I want.

320 Village Lane
Los Gatos, CA 95030