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A Golden Age

American Restaurants Reach New Heights in Food and Wine

Posted: March 29, 2000

What should you expect, other than fine wine?



Foie gras


Sweets, Petits Fours and Mignardises

Proper Tea Service

A Golden Age

American Restaurants Reach New Heights in Food and Wine

By Harvey Steiman and Thomas Matthews

Let's make it official. America has entered a golden age of fine dining. With homegrown chefs, a modern cuisine that transcends international boundaries and a wine sensibility that brings terrific bottles from all over the world to America's dining tables as never before, American restaurants have taken on a distinctly and uniquely American flavor.

For the first time since 1995, Wine Spectator set out to rate the best restaurants in the United States using our unique set of standards. By these criteria, a great kitchen will not pass muster if the restaurant doesn't take wine seriously enough to have a deep wine cellar. And a great wine cellar will not suffice unless the food provides its own excitement. Service and ambience must also be first-class.

The best restaurants offer a seamless experience in which each element reinforces the character of the place. The top spots use no shortcuts or mass-produced products. They use different garnishes for different dishes, crystal stemware for wine, and they think through every aspect of service and decor to create a coherent whole. And wine is more of a driving force than ever at the top restaurants. Wine lists are expanding, knowledgeable sommeliers are helping us find the best wines to drink with the food, and astoundingly good wines are being poured with the glass and with tasting menus. We never had it so good.

Increasing sophistication and understanding of wine wasn't the only trend that we noticed as we dined at these restaurants. The side bar to the right contains other elements that are becoming staples in the repertoire of a great American restaurant. Click on the images for more details.

-- Harvey Steiman, editor at large and Thomas Matthews, executive editor

For full coverage of America's best restaurants, see the March 31 issue of Wine Spectator, page 43.

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