When fine dining enthusiasts are on the hunt for a world-class establishment, few would seek guidance from a tire manufacturer. But the Michelin Guide, produced by its namesake European tire company, is exactly what those diners are looking for. Michelin first rolled out its three-star scale for fine dining venues in France in 1900, and over time it has slowly expanded its guides to cover destinations in Europe, Asia and the United States.
Michelin’s unique three-star scale is among the world’s most revered, in large part because it’s so discerning: Out of the entire world, only 81 restaurants have received three full stars, which is defined by Michelin as a restaurant of “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” One star is defined as “very good cuisine in its category,” while two stars indicates “excellent cuisine, worth a detour.”
Performing Under Pressure
In the restaurant world, ratings and reviews are vital to business. Strong word-of-mouth reviews help a restaurant endure, but critical reviews and fine dining ratings like those available in the Michelin Guide can make or break an establishment. Chefs, restaurateurs and other staff are under constant pressure — not only to earn positive critical reviews, but to live up to those evaluations for the average customer is a constant pressure — particularly for venues drawing the highest industry praise.
A truly excellent dining experience encompasses many other facets of the meal beyond the food itself. In addition to the quality of cuisine and the overall dining experience, wine plays a huge role in the rating of a restaurant. Given that the Michelin Guide originated in France, this is no surprise. An extensive and quality wine list is a key component of any highly rated Michelin restaurant. An experienced sommelier, a professional wine steward knowledgeable of wines and wine & food pairings, can also help elevate the status of a restaurant and earn a higher Michelin star rating.
Michelin always reviews its restaurants anonymously in order to experience the restaurant as any other diner would. This gives the reviews a more trustworthy practicality, since restaurateurs aren’t pulling out all the stops to impress the reviewer. In many cases, reviewers evaluate restaurants over the course of multiple meals, even enduring overnight stays to make sure they gain an accurate, comprehensive perspective on the restaurant in question.
Michelin Guides cover a number of regions in the United States, primarily major cities. But given the fine dining oasis found in California’s wine country, Michelin has devoted itself to covering this region as well. And good thing, too, because it’s home to some of the world’s most highly rated destinations. Here’s a look at what sets them apart from the pack.
The French Laundry, Yountville, CA
The rustic exterior of The French Laundry belies the experience waiting inside. Ceiling beams, wood railings and other beautiful elements of the wine countryside are woven into an elegant dining experience. From the chef on down, the staff of this restaurant creates a dining experience informed by deep culinary knowledge and an innate sense for how meals should be presented and enjoyed.The requested photo source cannot be loaded at this time. Generic Instagram error.
The restaurant is run by owner and chef Thomas Keller, who is world-renowned for his expertise — in 2001, Time Magazine named him America’s Best Chef. Guests aren’t surprised when they sample the seasonal fare, which could feature sautéed pompano fillets or a fava bean agnolatti. The French Laundry offers nine-course tasting menus in which no single ingredient is ever repeated, a demonstration of the restaurant’s commitment to variety, creativity and excellence.
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA
Asserting itself as a restaurant of the highest order, The Restaurant at Meadowood is a tour de force: sleek, modern and dynamic. Its menu is similarly demonstrative, offering diners a nine- or 10-course tasting menu, with an optional wine offered with each course. Diners are also welcome to choose their own wine from an extensive list. The restaurant is attached to the five-star Meadowood Resort and is the work of renowned chef Christopher Kostow.The requested photo source cannot be loaded at this time. Generic Instagram error.
Kostow is known for being only the second American-born chef to earn three Michelin stars, and he was the third youngest to do so, achieving that goal before the age of 30. At The Restaurant at Meadowood, Kostow blends French cuisine with a farm-to-table approach. In addition to three Michelin stars, The Restaurant also received the rare distinction of a four-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle.
One of the beautiful benefits of making visits to wine country is that fine dining is often attracted to destinations drawing sophisticated palates. Many wine regions of the world have Michelin-starred restaurants worth trying out. Check out a few of those selections below.
Notable Wine Country Michelin Star Restaurants
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