This story originally appeared in LA Weekly (December 28, 2015).
Think about your favorite restaurant. How many times did you go there this year? How much did it cost? How often would you go if price and time were no object?
Here at L.A. Weekly, we’re obvious fans of Curtis Stone’s elegant tasting-menu restaurant in Beverly Hills, Maude(our restaurant critic, Besha Rodell, named it No. 1 in her list of L.A.’s 20 Best Restaurants). But it turns out that our fandom is dwarfed by Los Angeles–based wine marketing and event planner Allison Levine.
Maude is well known for its strict and difficult reservation system (until October, bookings could be made only by phone), but through sheer force of will, Levine dined at Maude for every monthly ingredient-themed tasting menu in 2015. Of course, the main barrier to eating at a high-end restaurant 12 times in a year seems like it would be money (Levine admits she spent around $3,000 in her personal quest), but with Maude the added level of dedication required in organization is daunting.
Fascinated by Levine’s journey of obsession, we asked her to share with us her yearlong process in becoming Maude’s No. 1 fan. To be clear, Levine was never given comped meals or priority seating by the restaurant. She had to elbow in for a seat at Curtis Stone’s table like everyone else. Below is her story, shared in email transcripts with the Weekly.
LAW: What made you decide to eat all the monthly menus at Maude? Would you call yourself a huge Curtis Stone fan?
AL: When Curtis Stone opened up his restaurant in Beverly Hills in January 2014, I was actually unaware. I knew Curtis Stone as a television chef with shows like Top Chef Masters and Take Home Chefbut wasn’t familiar with his restaurant pedigree. As a “foodie,” I want to eat at every new restaurant when it opens, so when I heard a few people talk about their dining experience at Maude that first month, I immediately called to make a reservation. Little did I know what I was getting into. I called at the beginning of February thinking I would be able to get a reservation for that month, only to find out that February was already booked and they were taking March reservations. I reached out to some friends to see who was interested in joining me and pulled together three people to join me for the artichoke dinner in March 2014.
After that, I was hooked and a definite Curtis Stone fan. I was fascinated by the concept of selecting one seasonal ingredient each month and featuring it, sometimes dominantly and other times subtly, into 10 or more courses. I was also intrigued by the creativity in how the ingredients were utilized and the beauty of every dish. I couldn’t resist and took lots of photos and posted them on social media. I began getting emails from friends who wanted to join me when I went again. I took down names and managed to visit Maude six different months in 2014. I loved how each experience at Maude was unique and unexpected. So I made my New Year’s resolution in 2014 to eat at Maude every month of 2015, regardless of the theme or cost.
Read the complete story in LA Weekly.