The 2010 Michelin Guide to San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country Restaurants offers few surprises for foodies already familiar with the farm-fresh cuisine of Wine Country.
But the burgundy guide added three new categories that reflect cutting-edge dining trends: restaurants notable for their small-plates menus, cocktail programs and sake lists.
Reflecting the tough economic times, the small-plates symbol points Michelin diners in the direction of good value for the money.
?They could be places where you could have a very small bite, and very good quality for the money,? said Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Michelin guides. ?We have 18 of those in this category.?
In Wine Country, restaurants crowned with a stack of plates ? the Michelin symbol for small plates ? include Zuzu in Napa and Scopa in Healdsburg.
?As one of the few tapas bars in the Valley, Zuzu was serving small plates before the fad reached its current levo of trendiness,? reads Zuzu?s review.
?Small plates such as spicy meatballs in a cast-iron skillet, or prosciutto wrapped around oozing fontina encourage sharing,? reads the review of Scopa.
Curiously enough, Willi?s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa ? Mark and Terri Stark?s pioneering small-plates restaurant ? was praised for its ?international tapas,? but it was not awarded a small-plates symbol. Neither was the Stark?s northern outpost, Willi?s Seafood & Raw Bar, which also serves tapas-style small plates.
Likewise, the Michelin guide gave out its cocktail symbols quite sparingly. Although many restaurants in Napa were honored for their wine programs, not one restaurant in the Napa Valley was deemed worthy of a cocktail symbol.
In Sonoma County, however, both Cyrus and Willi?s Seafood & Raw Bar, located around the corner from each other in Healdsburg, earned cocktail crowns.
Sake symbols in Sonoma County went to the usual suspects: Hana in Rohnert Park and Hiro?s in Petaluma. There were no sake symbols given to Napa Valley restaurants.
The Michelin Guide also was extremely careful about giving out multiple stars. The French Laundry was the only three-star restaurant in the entire Bay Area. New York, by comparison, boasted five three-star restaurants this year.
The number of two-star restaurants in the Bay Area dropped from six to four this year. Those who maintained a two-star rating include Cyrus in Healdsburg, the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Coi in San Francisco and Manresa in Los Gatos.
However, the ?famously anonymous? Michelin inspectors were more generous with the one-star category, which expanded from 25 to 34 restaurants this year.
The Bib Gourmand category jumped from 55 to 62 restaurants this year. That award is given to affordable dining establishments that offer two dishes and a glass of wine for $40 or less.
Michelin San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country 2010 went on sale Tuesday for $17.99.
You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane. email@example.com.
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