California Lottery offers a foodie’s dream prize

The French Laundry in Napa Valley
The French Laundry in Napa Valley AP

This month, the California Lottery is dishing up a delicious enticement for one lucky Scratchers ticket buyer.

From now until Jan. 30, anyone buying an Emerald 10’s Scratchers ticket can enter an online contest to win what the Lottery is calling “The Ultimate Foodie Experience”: dinner for two at highly acclaimed restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville. And there’s more: a two-night stay and spa treatment at the Napa Valley Lodge, plus BMW car service between the restaurant and the resort.

The winner and a companion will be treated to the restaurant’s Black Card Experience, valued at $2,500, which begins with champagne, followed by an 18-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Diners also leave with a gift from Chef Thomas Keller, the only American chef to have multiple restaurants with three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide.

Why pair a $2,500 meal with a $10 scratcher ticket? California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso said lottery officials wanted to focus on California-specific prizes.

“As far as restaurants and dining, there’s nothing more unique than The French Laundry,” Traverso said. “If you’re looking for a really fine dining experience, look no further.”

Certainly, an 18-course tasting menu is not your typical lottery prize, but Traverso said it’s designed to appeal to a different player base.

“We’re hoping to attract people who would be motivated to win a weekend in Napa,” he said.

On Monday, the first day of the promotion, some lottery ticket buyers weren’t yet aware of the contest.

At Choice Food & Liquor store on P Street, Mitch Wheeler, 41, and Britton McFetridge, 39, hadn’t heard about the prize, but they both immediately bought Emerald 10’s. Wheeler often buys Scratcher tickets, but this was McFetridge’s first time buying lottery tickets.

“That sounds like an awesome promo,” Wheeler said. “I’ve been wanting to try that place for years.”

“Yeah, there’s like a year waiting list,” McFetridge added.

To enter, contestants submit a photo of themselves holding an Emerald 10’s ticket and write a caption of up to 500 characters – not words – about whom they would like to share the meal with and why. The winner will be announced by Valentine’s Day.

The Emerald 10’s Scratchers tickets – which sell for $10 each – launched Oct. 27. Traverso said it’s already one of the lottery’s more popular games, with ticket sales hitting 585,000 in the first two months. The scratch-off cards offer varying payouts, starting at $15.

It’s not the first time California Lottery players have been offered “experiential” bonus prizes, Traverso said. Previous prizes have included 49ers’ football season tickets and a New York City trip for a “Sherlock Holmes” movie premiere.

Unlike regular lottery games, the Ultimate Foodie Experience winner will be chosen by lottery staff, not by chance. Traverso said the winner will need to give a unique reason for wanting to dine at the iconic Napa Valley restaurant.

“Whoever is the most creative in 500 characters,” Traverso said. “We’re looking for creativity and a unique story.”

For one lucky winner, it could be the easiest way to snag a reservation at The French Laundry, where a typical menu is $295 per person for a nine-course tasting menu. Reservations for the 60-seat restaurant are notoriously difficult to obtain.

Lottery officials said they purchased the “Black Card” dinner from The French Laundry, which is not affiliated with the lottery. The restaurant is now closed for a six-month renovation. Efforts to reach Keller or staffers were unsuccessful.

The French Laundry was in the news recently when thieves apparently broke into its wine cellar on Christmas Day, carting away about 75 bottles of wine valued at an estimated $300,000.

Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison, (916) 321-1006.