A Grand Adventure: Dining At Michelin-Starred Restaurants?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Because we’re addicted to MasterChef, Gini and I have always wanted to taste the judges’ food: yes, we’ve heard Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliott, and Joe Bastianich critique foods, and we’ve been told they’re awesome at it, but how do we know?
So I’m pondering whether one of my 2014 goals shoud be taking some trips out to visit their restaurants.  Graham Elliott is in Chicago, a pretty easy weekend trip; Joe Bastianich’s Babbo is in New York, a little trickier, but that also gives us a taste of what Mario Batali can do.  Both are Michelin-starred – Graham got his rating last year, whereas it looks like Joe’s dropped a star or two but that’s still pretty good.
(And it’d be nice to plan weekends alone with Gini.  We love spending time with friends and family, but here it is six weeks after our anniversary and we still haven’t managed to get away for it, and I doubt we will.)
The problem is that Michelin’s snooty.  They only seem to cover New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.  (There’s idle rumors of Cleveland getting its own Michelin Guide, but never having dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I literally can’t say how we’d stack up.)  And if Gini and I want to drive out to eat at snooty restaurants, we’d like to hit some of the best within driving distance.
The question is, how do we determine the absolute finest dining experiences within an eight-hour driving range?  Michelin stars are a nice, easy thing to shoot for.  And Yelp reviews or friends’ recommendations seem a little low-scale for a meal we’d be basically treating as a mini-vacation.  Is there a better guide than Michelin that top-tier cooks treat as, essentially, a little Oscar, or is Michelin it?
 

3 Comments

  1. Eric Wagoner
    Oct 23, 2013

    You want the James Beard Award winners: http://www.jamesbeard.org/awards.
    They’re broken down by US region, so you can find the best of the best near you. And they’re very prestigious and hard-fought for among chefs. I’m lucky to count a number of well-known restauranteurs among my friends, and it’s something they jostle over every single year.

    • TheFerrett
      Oct 24, 2013

      A good start, but there’s only fifty of them and only a handful within reach.

  2. Steve Gutterman
    Oct 23, 2013

    What about using the highest Zag at ratings? They extend down lower than you are looking for, but At the high end there should be overlap with Michelin.

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