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The 2012 Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country on Tuesday announced its 2012 "starred" restaurants for the Bay Area, tapping 47 restaurants with top honors -- the most ever.

Long considered among the most prestigious accolades in chefdom, the European dining guides began giving their hard-won stars to U.S. restaurants six years ago, awarding 39 in 2011 and 36 in 2010. The stars are based on the reviews of its "famously anonymous" reviewers who are notoriously discreet and difficult for chefs to identify.

But despite the breathless anticipation in kitchens throughout Northern California, there were few surprises in Wine Country. For 2012, all but one of the 2011 winners maintained their Michelin status. The only newcomer was Bodega Bay's Terrapin Creek where chef/owners Liya Lin and Andrew Truong received their first Michelin star.

Receiving the highest Michelin honor of three stars were The Restaurant at Meadowood, led by Executive Chef Christopher Kostow, and The French Laundry, headed by Thomas Keller.

Kostow Tweeted the news to his followers minutes before the Michelin Guide officially broke the news: "Congrats to all the Restaurants earning stars in this years @MichelinGuideSF. My staff and I are honored to be in such esteemed company."

Both restaurants received three stars in previously. Worldwide, fewer than 100 restaurants have earned a three-star rating.

Healdsburg's Cyrus Restaurant received two stars for 2012, it's sixth year for the honor. "For the last five years I've been sitting by the phone like a guy waiting for an invitation to a Sadie Hawkins dance. This year we took the dogs for a walk, and when I got back I saw the missed call," chef/owner Douglas Keane said Tuesday afternoon after receiving a second call from Michelin to congratulate him.

After five wins, Keane said he's taking the whole thing in stride. "Last year, for weeks before I was on pins and needles, but last night it only got to me for a moment. I woke up at 4 a.m., but that was it," he said.

"It's great for morale, and for something to keep striving for as long as you don't focus on it.

"They've put us on a national level," Keane said.

There were no other Wine Country two-star winners, though Bay Area-wide the two-star pack doubled to six with the addition of Baume (South Bay), Benu(San Francisco) and Saison (San Francisco).

One-star winners in the North Bay include Applewood Inn in Guerneville despite the departure of executive chef Bruce Frieseke nearly six months ago, Farmhouse Restaurant in Forestville, Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, Terrapin Creek of Bodega Bay and Sante in Sonoma.

Napa one-star restaurants were Auberge du Soleil, Bouchon, etoile, La Toque, Redd, Solbar, Terra and Ubuntu (which will close soon for a winter revamp).

The only Wine Country restaurant that fell off the list was Mirepoix in Windsor, a one-star winner in 2011 that closed last spring. It's chef, Matthew Bousquet, now works at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville.

After receiving his late-afternoon phone call from Michelin, Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren of Madrona Manor said he was relieved and honored to receive the award for the fifth year. "It shows you where your restaurant rates in terms of the rest of the world. You grow up hearing stories about Michelin starred restaurants in Europe, and when you're at them, you always wonder where your restaurant ranks," Mallgren said.

But both Mallgren and Farmhouse Inn owner Catherine Bartolomei said that the star carries a burden. "If you lose a star, people would wonder what was wrong. You would doubt what you are doing," said Mallgren.

"It's like riding a tiger," said Bartolomei, whose Forestville restaurant earned a one-star rating for a sixth time.

"There's a real relief that we got it again," she said. "It's a worldwide validation. When people know you have a star, it tells people you're doing something right," she said.

The announcement follows the Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2012, released in September, and Monday's announcement of the Michelin "Bib Gourmand" restaurants in the Bay Area, which recognizes value-priced restaurants.

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