Sure, many people go to the Bay Area to view the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, ride in a cable car or stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf, but foodies should flock to the area to eat their way through the 55 Michelin star restaurants that stretch from Silicon Valley to Wine Country.
With stunning scenery paired with great food, the best way to try several of the top tables is road trippin’ through the area on a long weekend. Bypass busy SFO and fly into San José. Not only will you avoid crowds, but you’ll also have the chance to start the trip off with the city’s first and only Michelin Star restaurant.
Chefs Jessica Carreira and David Costa
Opened in 2015, ADEGA, which means “wine cellar” in Portuguese, is only the second Portuguese restaurant in the United States to score a star. It’s a family affair, with owners Carlos and Fernanda Carreira turning the kitchen over to their daughter Jessica and her fiancé David Costa. The chefs cut their cooking chops learning the art of Portuguese fare working at Michelin Star restaurants in Lisbon. Portuguese native Chef Costa brings a modern flair to classic dishes like Caldo Verde soup and Bacalhau à Λdega, while San José native Chef Carreira focuses on creating delectable pastry.
“My philosophy is that less is more; the ingredients have to be the focus of each dish,” says Chef Costa. “It was our consistent, simple-quality, fresh dishes that helped ADEGA become San José’s first Michelin Star restaurant.”
True to its name, ADEGA boasts an extensive wine list with more than 500 Portuguese wines creating a perfect pairing to the cuisine. The restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe menu along with five- and seven-course tasting menus.
Piegon, Coi Restaurant
Your stop in the city proper must be Coi, one of only seven three-star Michelin restaurants in the Bay Area, and the only U.S. restaurant to gain its third star in 2018. The chef who took Coi to the culinary stratosphere left the restaurant shortly after the third star was awarded, and Chef Erik Anderson now leads the kitchen.
“It’s a huge thing to go into a kitchen with three stars. I try to not think about it or dwell on it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t,” he says. “I am very fortunate to be able to do whatever I like for the menu at Coi, so it will be 100% my food. I have really been trying to change the focus from things that swim to things that fly.”
Expect to find a menu rooted in French philosophy in its approach to ingredients.
“Ingredients have to take precedence over anything; quality is No. 1. I don’t care if the ingredient is sourced from 100 feet away or 1,000 miles away; it has to be the best,” says Anderson. “We look to our backyard first, and we are very fortunate to have what we have in California. It is amazing here.”
Chef Anderson began his career under Thomas Keller in the perennial three-star French Laundry. Since then he’s been a James Beard Foundation Nominee and a Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef Midwest finalist.
Bring your appetite to enjoy the 10-course tasting menu featuring decadent dishes like geoduck, pigeon, and a torte of foie gras, sweetbread, Armagnac prune, and black truffle.
Broth of spring lamb and artichokes, Meadowood Restaurant
Napa is known for some of the best wines in the world, and at Meadowood, a Relais & Chateaux property, you’ll also find some of the best food in the world at its three-star restaurant. The restaurant was also just named the seventh best in the world by Elite Traveler Magazine. The kitchen is led by Chef Christopher Kostow, only the second American-born chef, and the youngest ever to receive three stars when he did it for the first time in 2011 at age 34.
“I was very fortunate to work for a number of talented people, and was given a wealth of great opportunities that I was able to capitalize on early in my career,” says Kostow.
He trained in several Michelin Star kitchens around the world before settling in at Meadowood in 2008. Kostow was also named best chef in the west by the James Beard Foundation.
Enjoy a 12-course tasting menu in the intimate dining room, where you can expect a modern, playful approach using ingredients grown in the garden on property and from local purveyors. Dishes like scallop dried brassicas or beans and caviar are representative of the kitchen.
“Inspiration tends to come from what we’re growing in our farm, what we find around us, and all the great products that are at our disposal here in the Napa Valley,” says Kostow. “Our philosophy is simply to make beautiful things, create joy with the products that we are blessed to have around us, and to truly respect the primacy of nature.”
For an even more memorable epicurean experience, elect for a seat at the four-top chef’s counter located in the kitchen. You’ll be in the midst of the evening’s service and enjoy 15 courses with dishes like eel smoked over cabernet staves, beef tongue, and chocolate spring pine. (Food allergies and dietary restrictions cannot be accommodated at the counter service.)
No matter what experience you opt for, you’ll be able to pair the courses with wine from a list that is 1,200 bottles deep.
Scallop and corn, Farmhouse Inn restaurant
Located in a luxurious family-owned inn in Sonoma, Farmhouse Inn has enjoyed 12 years as a Michelin-starred restaurant under the direction of Chef Steve Litke. Chef Litke is everything about California cuisine embodied in one person. He is an avid gardener and was at the start of the Slow Foods movement. It can take him two hours to travel 10 miles to work as he stops at farms, gardens, and other local suppliers on the way.
“The inspiration for the food at Farmhouse comes from what is fresh and seasonal, but also my travels around the world,” says Litke. “I travel to Asia on a regular basis and am inspired by the fresh, clean, bright flavors of the food that I find there. I bring that home and use the ingredients that are abundant and beautiful in Sonoma County to create the dishes that I put on the menu.”
Unlike many top tables, the menu here offers epicureans several choices for the three-, four- or five-course options from a local heirloom tomato salad with Dungeness crab to grilled octopus and rabbit done three ways. Don’t miss the sweet corn ice cream for dessert. Wine pairings are available, or diners can bring a bottle of their favorite Sonoma sip.