While you scrounge around under the hedge for a plastic egg hiding a waxy chocolate bunny, consider food that’s even more difficult to acquire. One of the hardest reservations in culinary America is for a converted grist mill in Freedom, Maine, and if you want a table, you’ll have to mail in your request.
The Lost Kitchen, the restaurant of self-taught chef Erin French, is not only in the middle of nowhere, but it’s also in the middle of discussions about the future of American farm-to-table cuisine. The experience of dining there has won gushing acclaim from critics and food publications, and her cookbook is an award winner. Accordingly, when she opens the restaurant each April 1 (it’s closed all winter, because Maine), the phone rings off the hook until the books for the entire summer season are filled. That’s no way to start a summer, so this year things have changed.
On the restaurant’s website, you’ll find a downloadable PDF that explains the process. (It’s five pages long, but more earnest than onerous and spends two pages recommending other good local restaurants.) Reservation applicants must put their personal information on a 3 x 5–inch notecard, which then must be mailed in an envelope to 22 Mill Street in Freedom. The envelope must be received between April 1 and 10. On the 11th, cards will be randomly drawn, and lucky diners will be contacted to arrange a reservation date. Persistence will not pay; the only possible advantage an applicant may gain is by sending the request by registered mail or a package service with tracking, but that will only buy you peace of mind. A piece of pie is still luck of the draw.
And yes, we realize that April 1 also happens to be another holiday, and that this has all the trappings of a rich April Fool’s prank, à la The Shed. But if it’s a joke, every gourmand in the country is in on it. If you want in on it, you’re going to have to figure out how much it costs to mail a letter these days.
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David K. Gibson