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Louisa Chu

El Bulli 2005 Reservations

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My admiration for Luis Garcia just grows and grows. It's truly remarkable that the most requested restaurant on earth finds the time to carefully go through every application and goes to the trouble of not only acknowledging one's e-mails but of actually responding, in such a courteous way.

We have now been offered a firm reservation in Mid-May (greedily accepted and confirmed, of course!) and, since I asked no one to intercede in my favour, I am very impressed and humbled, being a complete stranger to El Bulli. I was told by many friends that you could only get a table if you had connections - something I always refused to believe, given Adrià's and his team's philosophy. I'm glad to be a witness that the "mafia" slur is indeed a load of tosh. Those I know who've actually been there all say they made their way on their own or with a friend who invited them.

El Bulli could easily take the easy way and fill their restaurant with establishment types, insiders and media people - or just fill up with the classic first-come-first-served. But no - Luis Garcia makes a point of reading each submission and answering them personally, so that enthusiastic people like me who will make the trip at any available date just for the experience of dining there won't be forgotten, even if this means refusing so many more local customers.

I think this is admirable and I have to say, even before the first bite, it's contributed most positively to the El Bulli experience. Seasoned diners know that the way one's treated as a complete stranger is an integral part of the enjoyment. "Getting in" through subterfuge or connections somehow taints the pleasure.

Furthermore, being unwilling to assassinate the beautiful Castilian language - much less make a mockery of my purely instinctive Catalan - I always wrote in Portuguese, my natural language. I was perfectly understood and received elegant replies in lovely, old-fashioned Castilian. I imagine the same would have happened in English, French or Italian - in El Bulli's case, its cosmopolitanism is absolute - another wonderful example. I would encourage others not to attempt garbled or perfunctory Catalan or Castilian and go with their own languages - given their sincere internationalism, it might even count as a plus when considering submissions.

The "little old me factor" is extremely important and bless Luis Garcia, Ferran Adrià and the whole team for showing such solidarity and not forgetting themselves - the privilege of true nobility.

P.S. Thanks for the suggestion, Rogelio - it sounds ideal!


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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My admiration for Luis Garcia just grows and grows.  It's truly remarkable that the most requested restaurant on earth finds the time to carefully go through every application and goes to the trouble of not only acknowledging one's e-mails but of actually responding, in such a courteous way.

We have now been offered a firm reservation in Mid-May (greedily accepted and confirmed, of course!) and, since I asked no one to intercede in my favour, I am very impressed and humbled, being a complete stranger to El Bulli.

Miguel, you should have told Luis the truth: you're going to visit Rafa in Roses and as a secondary topic, you wouldn't mind to pay a visit to El Bulli. :wink:

Now on a more serious key, I really look forward to your report about Rafa. You shouldn't miss it.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Teehee, Pedro! :)

In fact, I'll be going just for El Bulli though, as the old lazybones I am, I'm planning at least two weeks to gastronomically explore a part of France I've somehow missed so far.

My current doubt is as follows: should I make El Bulli the starting-point or the climax to a fortnight's excursions into the surrounding areas? My heart tells me to leave El Bulli till last - as I feel it will be a crowning experience. We'll give Spain a week and France another week (within a 100 kilometres radius). The idea is to gain some insight into coastal Catalan cuisine, whether Spanish or French.

May is a good month and perhaps the most charming of all. I'll be ruthless seeking out what we can't get here in Portugal (sea cucumbers; thumb-sized octopiii, "dactiles del mar") but I'm more interested in the attitude to food than in the food itself. What fascinates me is the treatment and reception, rather thsn the things themselves.

If I do write about El Bulli, I'd very much like to gain even the slightest notion of Adrià's gastronomic and culinary bearings, regardless of how inventive he is. People focus on his creations but it's often forgotten that his lived-through experience as an eater and a cook is probably essential to whst he devises. From what I gather, he's a "gourmet" through and through and - not only that - has a profound respect for great chefs who build on these simple notions.

By eating wherever Adrià himself ate, I hope to find myself a little more able to appreciate what he's trying to do. The whole cultural soup is important, even with him.

I haven't yet contacted Rafa. Oh but I will - in fact, I'll mention you! Hey, it's only fair! :)

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Fax or email NOW. NO phone calls.

...He had over 300 thousand requests last year for eight thousand places.

My dear Miguel,

Oh dear, I am afraid I am about to expose myself as an ignoramus (and not for the first time, I hear you chuckle), but excuse me, am I understanding this thread correctly? Has it really reached the point where one has to 'apply' for the privilege of being able to dine at this hallowed temple of gastronomy. And that such applications are vetted by Luis Garcia, the maître d', presumably in consultation with the Adria's? And is it indeed common public knowledge that El Bulli works in this fashion? I can't help but wonder on what basis such decisions are made? Obviously by some particularly obvious basis or criteria if, as reported, "Luis gets 'the ones with no possibilities' out of the way first." How come these poor dumbs have 'no possibilities'? Do they have three heads or just one potato head? Are they too young or too old, or not clever enough? Do you have to provide proof of financial solvency when you apply (rather like filling in a mortgage application - surely it's not that expensive?)? Do you have to provide ocular proof, a photo perhaps, that one is decorative enough not to offend the sensibilities of other diners? Is it based on ability to prove gastronomic seriousness, whatever that is - perhaps by supplying photocopies of receipts from other of the world's greatest restaurants? Or perhaps (and maybe, just maybe this might make sense), could such a decision be made on the basis of writing skills, the ability to craft an engagingly compelling, not overly obsequious but respectful letter that will prove without a shadow of a doubt dining street cred and ensure that only the righteous, the true believers are allowed to enter into the shrine to worship?

Oh dear, oh dear. I can feel you all throwing back your hands in horror that I care to question, and I do honestly and truly have the greatest respect for Ferran Adria and what he has achieved in pushing back the boundaries of food and how we experience and interact with it. But as I've already intimated (and furthermore now proved), I'm just a simpleton and I can't help but find the whole process, well, just not to my taste. Ferran Adria may be God, but I guess by nature I am essentially polytheistic. I can't help but feel that there are so many good meals to enjoy, so many GREAT meals to enjoy that if I were to have to jump through such tortured hoops (and in any case would never pass Luis' arcane and mysterious Masonic tests to gain entrance), well, I guess I just wouldn't bother. Which is just as well, after all, for the rest of you clambering to be let in, not to mention poor Luis, saved from having to choose from 300,001 for 8000 places rather than just from 300,000.

That said, Miguel, as always, I admire your utter single-minded madness: two weeks of travel and eating in an ever narrowing Catalan gyre to focus and pinpoint yourself on that one anticipatory meal! That is true dedication and I will look forward to reading and sharing with you every single morsel and bite in due course.

No doubt it's the closest I will ever get to the place.

MP

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Oh Marc *intensive giggling and doubling-up preventing coherent expression* your every sensibility will be well represented when I go - and faithfully represented for your amusement and my own instruction. The point about Luis Garcia, though, you strangely missed. What he is is a very classic maître d' who is miraculously unfazed by the trendiness of the restaurant he works for/with. This is surely cause for rejoicing.

I like and cultivate metridees as much or more than the next man but, in the case of El Bulli, his equanimity and courtesy, considering how many people want to dine there, are an astounding example of professionalism and sheer generosity. You well know how "chefes de sala" behave when they're fronting over-subscribed restaurants, whether in Manhattan or Lisbon. Like tyrants. Well, this Luis Garcia is an exception - a true gentleman. "One of us" in the best sense.

There is no vetting - that's the point. Thanks to Garcia, El Bulli is truly open to anyone. As someone with a profound knowledge and experience of restaurants such as you will know, it takes character to resist the fancies of fashion and ephemeral social(ite) networks. Surely it's an example to all if an avidly sought-after restaurant not only upholds the age-old standards of service and "arte de receber" but actually takes them further - up a notch - by treating complete strangers with such politeness and fairness?

I thought such niceties had died and gone to heaven. Well, not so. For me. Luis Garcia's patient attentiveness leads me to believe that, whatever they'll choose to serve, El Bulli is a real restaurant, with classic standards and I know we'll be made to feel welcome.

No small thing, Marc - in fact, enormous. Buck up!

Like you, the restaurants I most enjoy are all over-subscribed and far too popular (though never as much as they deserve), so I'm very used to being sympathetically acommodated, "fitted in", as it were; made to feel grateful. I admit I expected the worst when I sent a simple request to El Bulli - but I was confounded and doubly confounded by their impeccable response. They were just like any other good restaurant, but better. Considering how many people want to book a table there, this simplicity inevitably struck me as glorious. And, more than this, it was a cause for hope and optimism about the trade in general, which I love.

The expert diner's first priority is to get a table - you know that! But the fact that El Bulli manages to remain untainted by pretension and fame is so exceptional that I thought it only fair that I bring other eGulleteers' attention to it, considering that some might think booking a table was an impossible task. It's not. It was dead easy. That is, it must have been difficult, but they had the grace (and Luis Garcia must be praised for this) to persuade customers like me that the honour was entirely their's.

If this isn't inspiring, then filling one's lungs with factory smoke is just as pleasant as smoking a fat Cohiba Robusto after a "caldeirada" at Suoeste.

I shall never forget this (in Portuguese - and I think in Castilian too - we call it an "attention") and, in fact, it has inspired me to be less arrogant and presumptious in general. You yourself will have noticed this by the delicately humble tone of my reply to your missive.

Also, I hope you realize that your comment means that I now definitely won't be bringing back that canister of sea-urchin vapour you requested for the enhancement of the clifftop kitchenette of your second guest bedroom. ;)


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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Oh Marc The point about Luis Garcia, though, you strangely missed.  What he is is a very classic maître d' who is miraculously unfazed by the trendiness of the restaurant he works for/with.  This is surely cause for rejoicing.

Dear Miguel,

Thank you for slapping me on the wrist and pointing out my ignorance, as I fully expected you to. Luis Garcia does indeed sound from your description to be the maitre d' of every discerning diner's dreams. Though I have to say the comment that caused me to respond so ungraciously was the remark (obviously misinterpreted) that "Luis gets 'the ones with no possibilities' out of the way first." I'd still be interested to know how these poor sodding no-hopers are so immediately identified and damned into perpetuity to a lifetime without the chance to ever dine at El Bulli. Doubtless after my insensitive posting, I will forever be placed in that particular circle of Inferno, doomed forever more to forgo the pleasure of sea-urchin vapour that even you, my dear friend, are now denying me.

Can I please take it all back. Can someone please delete all posts bearing my name, now and forever. Or perhaps Marco Polo should cease to exist and I will reinvent myself with a new identity and avatar entirely, one that not even you will be able to identify.

What restaurant anywhere, however famous, however humble, would not want you, Miguel, as their ideal customer? Luis Garcia obviously quickly realised that. But what the chance the rest of us in an uncertain world where money and buffoonery often go hand in hand?

I better shut up now before I get myself in more agua caliente.

Signed,

[anonymous]

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Doubtless after my insensitive posting, I will forever be placed in that particular circle of Inferno, doomed forever more to forgo the pleasure of sea-urchin vapour that even you, my dear friend, are now denying me.

Dear Marc,

My wife just arrived and has typically taken your side, so we've agreed that a bounteous bubble of jellied goose barnacle spittle will soon find its way to your home, along with an example of Adrià's 2005 menu. As you know, it will focus mainly on ideas, so we thought sending you his soon-to-be-famous Idea Of What Irish Stew Made Thoughtlessly In North Wales Must Taste Like To A Naked Man Drowned Off Cape Finisterre With A Stanley Knife In His Pocket - with the one perfectly poached potato chip - would keep your family nourished for a while.

I have no idea about the possibilities you mention but I guess they're bookings for dates already over-subscribed. El Bulli has a fixed price and even this is refreshing, as there's no feeling that being rich will get you anywhere. You know me but, for Luis Garcia, I'm just this Portuguese guy who'd like a table, like all the other hundreds of thousands, no different from anyone else. He has no way of knowing how profoundly charming I am or how my regal presence will - of itself, mind you - subtly reinforce the flavour and impact of their offerings.

And yet I'm disappointed because I can't say I didn't envisage - being an envisagiing sort of guy - the pleasurable prospect of us both dining together at El Bulli, with a thousand pound bet riding on the first to say "Screw all this nonsense - bring us some bread and jamón and be done with all this unholy fuss!"

But your doom has been today sealed. El Bulli have two eGullet readers who earn just as much as the carrot peelers, if not less. Your name has, I'm sure, been inscribed on the little bit of bloodied butcher's paper they keep under the uglier bulldog statuette. I myself, notwithstanding the purity of my intentions, have been tainted by the association.

In future, please act as if you never knew me, lest I too be punished for your frivolous aspersions when I finally show up. I'd hate it if my candyfloss brussel sprout suspended on a bed of hovercraft air would taste of purloined anchovy aspirin, rather than the original and intended McVities Jaffa Cake.

Thank you for this.


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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Dear Marc...

Without prejudice

Dear Miguel Cardoso,

I have been out of my office all day and only just this minute returned. I am shocked to receive the above message apparently addressed to me in response to some postings that have apparently appeared under my eG name. It would appear that some bounder with intimate knowledge of the invision eG software has infiltrated this board and apparently somehow managed to hack into my personal control panel and post under my name.

This mysterious person has even adopted the usual chummy tone between us, in the process jeopardising our longstanding friendship, and ruining any chance of me ever getting a table at El Bulli for the rest of my life. Also generally compromised my reputation and street credibility as a regular guy.

Needless to say, I have already consulted my lawyer and I will be making representations to the appropriate authorities. In the meantime, may I ask you please not to address any such replies as if to me in reponse to the spurious emails above.

***

May I now please be allowed seriously to clarify my position (and I am being totally serious). I am delighted to learn that the booking system at El Bulli is indeed carried out with such scrupulous fairness and of course understand that for a restaurant in such an unusual and unique position, such unusual and unique measures need to be taken. I apologise to anyone if I caused offence by casting unfounded and ill-informed aspersions.

I don't expect this feeble disclaimer to remove me from the 5th circle of Inferno in to which I've cast myself and I fully accept my El Bulli-less fate in perpetuity.

But who knows? Perhaps I shall try, once the dust has settled, to email Luis Garcia myself. Miguel, would you mind terribly if I did so in your name?

[anon]

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Today I received an invitation to dine at El Bulli at the end of July.

I am not ashamed to say that I jumped up and down like a little girl for several minutes. Who am I? Absolutely nobody as far as el estimado Señor García is concerned...

My husband and I took a vow of poverty to move to Spain with our three-year-old son and live out our dreams. The one flight of fancy that I was going to allow myself this year was a trip to El Bulli.

I wrote a short email (in Spanish) explaining what the experience would mean to me.

And now the training begins. I feel as though I have to compete in the Olympics in just eight months. There is so much work to be done to get ready for this experience...

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For whatever it matters, I heard directly from the horse's mouth that Ferran dislikes rich businessmen (but I didn't ask about rich foodie businessmen).

Miguel, the problem is that you have to stay within striking distance of el Bulli since your meal will run late into the night and you won't want to drive much beyond the narrow, tortuous road that leads to and from the restaurant. That still leaves you a fair distance from any other culinary locale except Rafa's if you don't want to pull up stakes. If you go in season, you'll have to contend with a lot of traffic unless you know about my traffic-avoidance shortcut to Figueras. If you don't mind a hotel one step above Spartan, but right on the sea where you get the loud surf (something I live for) there is the Coral Platja. Next door is La Terraza that looks to be a step better. But you need to grab a room facing the ocean. There are two more luxurious places, the Vista Bella and another starting with an "A" (Almahandra Palace or close to it), but these are further east where you don't get the sound of the surf, although they are both on the water. They are also further from the center of Roses as well as from the road you need to take to get out of town.

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Dear Marco_Polo,

Fortunately I too have apparently been plagued by the very same bug - so much so that these very words, however encouraging, should be discounted as the ravings of a disorganized mind not unlike mine or, at a stretch, your own.

´Tis verily true that your name now enlightens - in bright green - the legendary NIAMY/NEIHBOHHAK ledger of El Bulli, which insiders whisper stands for "Never In A Million Years/ Not Even If He Begged On His Hands and Knees".

From this you shall never recover - and, if you do, all of us will stand to lose a lot. I hope you are fully conscious of this and it is my sincere wish that you find a way, however regrettable, of shouldering this burden to the best of your abilities, though without being proud of it or quietly smirking in those few pubs where you are, for some sick reason, above suspicion.

"O Adrià tem o teu número" (How do you say? He has your number) is how we put it in sunny, relatively hospitable Portugal. I'm sure it sounds much worse in Spanish - and I don't blame the bastards. Not a bit.


Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)

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Hey thanks, Robert! I will do as you say and stay where you've stayed. I too dislike much movement (never mind driving) after a good meal - or even a bad one. "Before" I can live with - the getting to somewhere makes sense - but the "After" defeats me and, in fact, ruins the whole experience. Thank you for such sage advice, sincerely!

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Miguel, one more thing. Are you sure you want to do some culinary knocking-about on the Languedoc coast? How far do you want to go? I'm not an expert on that region, but the little I know around Montpelier and Agde makes me not dying to return except if I am on my way to Spain.

I did report in depth on my chilling out in the Catalan Pyrenees, particularly in La Seu d'Urgell at El Castello di Ciudat. There are some restaurants in the provence that I didn't get to that are highly-rated. Of course if you want intensive restaurant-going with variety, then I would have to say there isn't any density there in that regard. I suppose starting out in Montpelier at the three-star, which I have never been to because the reports are mixed and working your way towards Marseilles could be nice. But most of the good places in Marseilles are closed in August. When are you going to el Bulli?

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I'm going in mid-May and, er, I did want to explore the French Catalan shore, although (because!) I know nothing about it. Is it a mistake? Marseilles I know (and slightly dislike) but the bit of coast just after the Spanish border is entirely new to me.

The frilly, fluffy gastronomic bride in me says - in May - it's sea-gazing vineyards, choppy waters and sedate anchovies. Is it awful? If the food is bad - no matter how beautiful the surroundings are - I withdraw my interest. Please give me your opinion, as I value it. Otherwise, we'll just linger and dash around the Spanish side, which we already know is fine.

I have a very high regard for the French and, having more or less covered their whole country, have never been disappointed.

Do let me know as it will affect our plans. In my imagination, we'll find tiny, charming (I can't deny) seaside resorts where mussels, oysters and anchovies are par for the course along with mountain boar and other delicious contradictions.

You're so kind to worry about my plans - how can I ever make it up to you? :)

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Miguel, you needn't raise a hand or lift a finger. I get a certain satisfaction from it and, I must admit, there a bit of ego involved. Most of all, I can't stand the fact that someone would spend hard-earned money on a place or a meal that made them disappointed. I also like that you're a fine writer and a fine guele.

Perhaps I am too harsh on the French coast over the border. Bux is Mr. Languedoc-Rousillon on the site and perhaps he can also give you some guidance. I forgot how charming and romantic the Camargue is, and while I have spent just literally hours there, I found it also enchanting. I still don't think you will dine superbly, but you can probably taste some interesting sea food. One concrete piece of advice is avoid staying and dining at La Tamarissiere near Agde. We disliked it a lot.

Menton1 knows better than I do the part of France that borders Catalunya, west of Perpignan. We enjoyed driving through and I suspect this could be a good area to spend some time in.

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The ones with no possibilities just means those people who have asked for a night that's already booked, the restaurant's closed, etc. No conspiracy. That's it.


Edited by LKL Chu (log)

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I can't help but wonder on what basis such decisions are made? Obviously by some particularly obvious basis or criteria if, as reported, "Luis gets 'the ones with no possibilities' out of the way first." How come these poor dumbs have 'no possibilities'? Do they have three heads or just one potato head? Are they too young or too old, or not clever enough? Do you have to provide proof of financial solvency when you apply (rather like filling in a mortgage application - surely it's not that expensive?)? Do you have to provide ocular proof, a photo perhaps, that one is decorative enough not to offend the sensibilities of other diners? Is it based on ability to prove gastronomic seriousness, whatever that is - perhaps by supplying photocopies of receipts from other of the world's greatest restaurants? Or perhaps (and maybe, just maybe this might make sense), could such a decision be made on the basis of writing skills, the ability to craft an engagingly compelling, not overly obsequious but respectful letter that will prove without a shadow of a doubt dining street cred and ensure that only the righteous, the true believers are allowed to enter into the shrine to worship?

Oh dear, oh dear. I can feel you all throwing back your hands in horror

The ones with no possiblities seem to be the 10,000, or more perhaps, that ask for a particular Saturday night in the middle of the season. The restaurant has only so many tables and chairs. I have no inside knowledge about how reservations are awarded, but it's clear that there's more competition for some nights than others. Asking for a Tuesday in May is bound to result in a better chance than a Saturday in July or August. Letting Luis know you are flexible and will take any table any night is bound to get you a better chance at a reservation, although you may be the last person to get an answer. There does appear to be one advantaged position, and that's in knowing exactly when to apply. For that all eGullet members have to be thankful to Louisa for her timeley post. The moral of the story is that one should stay plugged in to eGullet.

The other side to this is that since reservations are being made months before the restaurant opens and in some cases 9 or 10 months before the actualy dinner date, there are bound to be cancellations and anyone planning on spending months in Roses will surely find an opportunity to pick one up.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux is Mr. Languedoc-Rousillon on the site

A dubious title and one that may come with an admission that I think I'd prefer to be Mr. Catalunya. I'm still a francophile at heart, but I've been eating better in Spain than in France and no place is that distinction more apparent than at the border and perhaps more so at the Mediterranean.

Actually Graham Tigg may be Mr. Languedoc-Rousillon, but he posts infrequently and may not read the Spain forum regularly. Here's his site on the Languedoc and Rousillon. It's more Languedoc than Rousillon although the map extends as far as Roses. At the far other end of his map, he shows Belcastel and Laguiole, the home of excellent restaurant inns. Both those towns are in the Aveyron and distant from Spain. Mrs. B and I have been spending less time with our friends in that area, (they are near Pezenas and Beziers) and it's been a while since we've had an outstanding or even recommendable meal in a restaurant in the region. What we do get are some wonderful cheeses, but even those mostly come from an area a bit north. I don't think Spain approaches France in terms of cheese and pastry in general although they are doing some fine work particularly in chocolate. Nevertheless, and the reason I am allowing myself to talk about France in the Iberian forum, there are no restaurants in the class of Can Fabes, Can Roca, Sant Pau, etc. unless you go as far as Lagioule.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I received a gracious, affirmative email response today for a weekday in August for 6 people. :cool::smile: Now I have to figure out how to make it work! I initially requested anytime in August back when I could have scheduled it accordingly. The response took so long that I wa forced to make some decisions regarding the timing. Now I am dependent on the good will of my partners. :wacko:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I received a gracious, affirmative email response today for a weekday in August for 6 people. :cool:  :smile:  Now I have to figure out how to make it work! I initially requested anytime in August back when I could have scheduled it accordingly. The response took so long that I wa forced to make some decisions regarding the timing. Now I am dependent on the good will of my partners.  :wacko:

Congrats!! I was watching to see if you got your reservations! How exciting for you! Well I know we will be in for a great dining report at the end of the summer!

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First, thanks to all for your interesting commentary so far, and to Louisa for her advice about when to send in requests. I've been lurking on eGullet on and off for a year now, and I've been meaning to subscribe for a while. My interest in El Bulli finally convinced me to sign up.

Has anyone else here who sent in a request not heard anything back yet? I sent a request on October 7th, and re-sent it again (indicating that it was the same request) on the 15th after Louisa posted; I didn't know if they were reading requests from before the 15th. I haven't heard anything at all yet. Did I commit a fatal faux pas by writing in English?

I'm trying to be patient, but the suspense is killing me.

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First, thanks to all for your interesting commentary so far, and to Louisa for her advice about when to send in requests.  I've been lurking on eGullet on and off for a year now, and I've been meaning to subscribe for a while.  My interest in El Bulli finally convinced me to sign up.

Has anyone else here who sent in a request not heard anything back yet?  I sent a request on October 7th, and re-sent it again (indicating that it was the same request) on the 15th after Louisa posted; I didn't know if they were reading requests from before the 15th.  I haven't heard anything at all yet.  Did I commit a fatal faux pas by writing in English?

I'm trying to be patient, but the suspense is killing me.

Welcome to eGullet!

I sent in my request about the same time you did and received my response this morning. I would imagine that you will hear soon. When did you request your reservation for?

Wendy, thanks for the confidence. What will be particularly interesting is that I plan to bring my 15y/o son along. He is becoming very adventurous and somewhat sophisticated foodwise. I will be curious to see his response to the meal in particular. We will be going with our Catalan friends and their eldest son.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I sent in my request about the same time you did and received my response this morning. I would imagine that you will hear soon. When did you request your reservation for?

In fact, it was your post saying that you'd heard something that made me nervous, because unlike Miguel you hadn't heard anything earlier.

I asked for five specific weekdays in May; failing that, any day in May; failing that, any day at all. I've been saving frequent-flyer miles and vacation days for a few years now, intending to use them for food tourism in Catalunya (and El Bulli in particular), and I want to use them before United goes out of business. :unsure:

Thanks for the note. I'll try to stay patient and hopeful.

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Wendy, thanks for the confidence. What will be particularly interesting is that I plan to bring my 15y/o son along. He is becoming very adventurous and somewhat sophisticated foodwise. I will be curious to see his response to the meal in particular. We will be going with our Catalan friends and their eldest son.

Well that sounds like a fantastic meal! I only wish my parents would have taken me to such exotic restaurants! Very nice of you, I'm sure it will be an experience he won't ever forget!

Wendy

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      According to Grant, "You can pull it back as far as you want. The experience is going to start before someone even picks up the phone to make a reservation to this restaurant. It's going to be about their perceptions; why are they picking up the phone to make a reservation? What did they see? What did they read? What's leading them up to that point? They call to make a reservation, that's another experience. The drive to get to this neighborhood is another experience. The minute they open their door and take one step out of their car, now they're surrounded by another experience."
       
      Advancing the functional elements of how food is served is an innate part of the cooking process for Grant, who seeks to render the traditional boundaries of dining obsolete. When asked what he will be able to accomplish at Alinea that he couldn't accomplish at Trio, Grant says, "the obvious is to create the container in which we create the experience. I think that's the very exciting thing for me that I've never been able to have a part in." For Grant, a restaurant's physical space represents the ultimate container and the ultimate personal challenge. The result should break new ground in the world of fine dining.   Grant and Nick are intense and competitive. In both their minds, "crafting a complete experience" is the primary focus of Alinea. According to Nick, "the whole idea is to produce an experience where the food lines up with the décor, which lines up with the flow through the restaurant and from the moment you get, literally, to the front door of the place and you walk in, your experience should mirror in some respects--and complement in others--the whole process you're going to go through when you start eating." Grant takes it a step further. "It's about having a central beacon from which everything else emanates and therefore, it's seamless. The whole experience is crafted on one finite point and if everything emanates from that point, then there's no chance that the experience can be interrupted."
       
      The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea."
      Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them.
       
      "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it."
      While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants.
       
      Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one.
       
      The Path From Here
      In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision.
      * * * * *
      In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here.
      Photos courtesy Alinea
       
      eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
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