Monday, February 15, 2016

Dining with the Stars

When most people think of Michelin they probably think of the big puffy white guy that tries to sell tires.  At least that’s what I always thought of until a few years ago when Florian introduced me to the world of Michelin Restaurants. Michelin is a company that was started in France by the Michelin brothers in the late 1800s.  The company started by selling tires and then like any successful company quickly tried to find a sneaky way to get car owners to wear out their tires more quickly so they would have to come back for more.  The company then started making road maps complete with hotels and gas stations to entice French drivers to travel more.  The Michelin brothers added restaurants to their travel guide after World War I and started awarding stars to the best restaurants shortly after.  

The rating system is as follows:

        1 star *= A very good restaurant
        2 stars **= Excellent cooking, worth the detour
        3 stars ***= Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

Today Michelin restaurants are among some of the best in the world.  France alone has over 500 Michelin restaurants, the most of any country, making one understand why the French are known for their cuisine.    

Meal at Christopher Countanceau

My first experience dining in a Michelin restaurant took place in August 2014.  Newly engaged, Florian suggested we celebrate by driving two hours to La Rochelle- a city located in western France along the Atlantic coast.  We ate lunch at Christopher Coutanceau, a two star Michelin restaurant located near the beach with an amazing view of the ocean.  This experience will forever rest ingrained in my mind not only because it was my first time eating in a Michelin restaurant, but because it was (and still is) the best meal I’ve ever eaten.  Our table faced giant windows looking out onto the ocean and the servers made us feel like royalty. It was truly a wonderful experience!

Meal at La Cape

Since this day we have visited two other Michelin restaurants.  For my birthday last year, Florian took me to La Cape- a one star Michelin restaurant located just behind our apartment.  Although much simpler than our experience at Christopher Coutanceau the meal was still delicious. Then, this weekend we decided to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple by dining at Le Saint James- another Michelin one star restaurant located just outside of the city center on a hilltop with an exquisite view of La Garonne River and Bordeaux.  Once again we were treated to a stunningly beautiful view, amazing service, and a positively delectable meal.

Meal at Le Saint James

Each experience in these restaurants has been special, incredibly delicious, and taught me a little more about French cuisine.  The amount of work that goes into creating each tantalizing dish is really remarkable.  French cuisine truly is an art and I feel so fortunate that I have had the chance to discover more about it through my trips to these restaurants.

So, here is my advice to you: next time you are in France, the home of Michelin restaurants and world class cuisine, treat yourself (and your taste buds) to the marvel that is dining with the stars.  

Below I have shared 5 tips to help make dining in a Michelin restaurant more feasible:

1. Make a reservation  
Each of the restaurants that we visited required that we had a reservation.  Although some reservations can be made just a few days ahead of time, I would say the earlier you reserve a table the better.

2. Go for lunch  

Almost every Michelin restaurant offers a lunch special that runs about 50€ per person.  This is a huge money saver compared to dinner which runs about 100€ per person.  Most restaurants in France serve lunch between the hours of 12:00pm-3:00pm.

3. Order the menu à prix fixe

French restaurants are known for offering diners two options: A la carte and menu à prix fixe. A la carte allows you to chose items individually from the menu to create your meal, however when added up it is almost always much more expensive than the menu à prix fixe.  The menu à prix fixe is (typically) a three course meal picked by the chef consisting of specials and seasonal products.  This option allows you to chose an entrée, main dish, and dessert from a short list of options created by the chef.  No matter what combination of the three courses you chose the price will always rest the same.

4. Keep drinks to a minimum

The price of beverages in Michelin restaurants is insanely high.  To save money we usually skip the aperitif and the coffee at the end.  Also, if you want wine with your meal (which I highly recommend) consider ordering a bottle instead of individual glasses as buying the entire bottle is usually a better deal than multiple glasses.  As a rule of thumb remember that one bottle of wine serves 6.

5. Forget the tip  

French restaurants are required by law to include a 15% tip and all taxes in their listed prices.  This means that your 50€ per person lunch is truly only 50€. For Americans who are used to tipping an additional 18-20% on top of the bill this is a huge bonus!


  1. I love this! I've really wanted to eat at a Michelin restaurant, but didn't know if it was actually possible to get reservations. The lunch tip is awesome! And bonus points for being less expensive :) Can't wait to try one the next time I'm in France!

    1. Thanks, ma fille! I actually didn't know anything about Michelin restaurants before meeting Florian. I thought they would be way too expensive for us, but actually if you go for lunch they are affordable and so much fun! I can't wait for you and Ty to experience your first French Michelin! ;)