Friday, September 16, 2011

How To: Book Reservations OUS

Since July, I've been busy booking lunch and dinner reservations nonstop for our international travels. As of now, I'm still booking reservations! In my experience, restaurants outside the U.S. seem to be A LOT easier to book than, I dunno, the French Laundry! Next Restaurant is another story. I've already given up on that.

Anyways, I realized that there wasn't a comprehensive site to give me tips on how to land these coveted reservations. Shit, it's hard work! Some days I have to wake up early in the morning (I don't like waking up early), to call a damn phone line and to allow it to ring for 15 minutes before someone picks up and says, "Sorry loser, we're booked." So I decided to add another tab on this site to help people like me out. I'll even take an extra step and CALL the restaurant to ASK, "How do I make a reservation here?" Seriously, this stuff is important.

For example, Alinea. Ok, so I've dined there two times already but that was back in 2009. Times change, there are more crazy people out there that will pay large sums of money to eat there. So now what? Well, three months prior, I called the restaurant to make sure the information on my file was current and I asked when the books open for reservations in November. I already knew it was something like 2 months prior BUT I wanted to make sure. As I suspected, it was two months prior but on the FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH. So for the entire month of November, I had to call on September 1st at 10am CST. It's no surprise that when I called at 8:55am PST (9:55am CST), the line was busy. Oh hell no! So what did I do? I woke up, got dressed and went to work. I called them back at 11am PST (1pm CST). I actually got through on the first ring and booked a reservation.

So what was the difference? I avoided the "crazies" calling at 10am CST who were trying to book all of the Saturday reservations for the entire month of November. Lessons learned: If you want to dine at Alinea, book a day during the week or Sunday. THE END.

See, no one would never have known that if I didn't write about it.

Of the reservations that I booked this summer, Tickets in Barcelona was probably the trickiest. Something like 90 days prior (not to the day) and I had to book it at 12am local time (3pm PST). Tickets had the same online reservation concept as Next Restaurant but I wasn't competing against millions of Americans compared to maybe a 100 people around the world. Big difference there. I kinda feel sorry for tourists visiting the U.S. Like, how do you get reservations among the "crazies"?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Road Trip: Pismo Beach, SLO & Morro Bay

Hubs and I took a road trip to Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay during the Labor Day weekend. I wanted to do something low key during the holiday since we're traveling quite a bit in the next 30 days (more on that later).

Our first stop was at Pismo Beach. It was roughly a 2 hour drive from my in-laws place in Delano, CA (Hubs hometown). The only place worth noting in Pismo Beach is Splash Cafe. I was told it was the best place to get clam chowder. It was crazy hot last weekend but fortunately it was surprisingly cool near the coast. A nice 73 degrees. Cool enough to wear a jacket.

Anyways, as we drove up to Splash Cafe, there was a LONG line that snaked around the corner of the cafe. From then on, I knew this was the place to be. After a 45 minute wait, we ordered 2 clam chowders and fish and chips. I wasn't sure I wanted the bread bowl but I figured the chowder would photograph better in the bread bowl. After a short wait, our food arrived.

The fish and chips weren't good at all. Sorry, I've had better. FAIL.

Ahh, the star of the show, the famous...clam chowder. It definitely lived up to the hype. I don't usually get bread bowls for soups but this bread bowl was actually pretty darn good. It was a sourdough bowl but it didn't have that hard outer crust that is usually inedible. I liked how we were given the inside and the lid of the bowl PLUS it was buttered up and grilled to perfection. It was great for dipping into the chowder. I believe the ultimate indulgence is to request for the seafood topping on top of the chowder for an extra $1. I think I'll try that the next time we're in the area. Otherwise if I get a chowder craving, I'll order it from their website. The chowder is supposedly sold frozen at select Costco stores in the area but I have yet to find it.

After our chowder fix, we dropped by a local bakery to pick up two freshly made cinnamon rolls to bring along to Morro Bay. As we were leaving the area, we dropped by downtown San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly where Hubs once went to school (he ended up finishing at Cal Poly Pomona). The campus was smaller than what I expected but the buildings for its Engineering school were new and quite large.

Finally, our last destination was Morro Bay. Morro Bay is not only known for a large rock in the middle of the bay (Morro Rock) but it was also the place where the first Filipinos immigrated into the U.S. from the Philippines.

Cinnamon Rolls topped with Candied Pecans from Old West Cinnamon Rolls

Next to this huge rock was a beach where Hubs and I decided to dig into our cinnamon rolls. I loved how the cream cheese frosting was spilling over the bun. It tasted pretty awesome as well.


We're leaving to Europe in less than 30 days PLUS I may tag along with Hubs to...


After that (about a week later), I leave to Chicago. I landed reservations at both Alinea and L20. Oh, I also landed lunch reservations at Joel Robuchon in Monte Carlo during our trip to Europe. Very exciting and expensive dining adventures are coming soon.