Subject: Michelin restaurants: three stars, two stars
Over the years, we've probably eaten at more than a dozen Michelin three-star and two-star restaurants. Some experiences were extraordinary. Others were eminently forgettable. Some were hideously expensive. Others were less stratospheric. Some made you feel very comfortable. Others were excessively stiff.

The finest three-star meal we've had was at Girardet (outside Lausanne), when Fredy Girardet was still at the helm. He has since retired. We returned last summer to the premises, which are now under the aegis of Philippe Rochat. We had an excellent meal, but there was nothing special, nor did we have any interest in returning.

We had the pleasure(?) of dining last summer at Marc Veyrat, just outside Annecy. The lakeside setting was magnificent, the service was outstanding, and the food was occasionally, but not always, identifiable. Veyrat specializes in a most unusual cuisine, which resembles nothing we had seen previously. Lots of mountain herbs and cutting-edge variations. The cost for two: $390 while being careful with our wine selections.

We ate at Troisgros many years ago. My recollection was of an especially relaxed, fun evening. The staff does an exceptional job of making visitors feel comfortable. That stood out even more than the food. I'd gladly go back.

Auberge de l'Ill was a disappointment. On more than one occasion during the meal, the serving person accidentally dumped the contents of a pitcher onto one of our plates. The rest was ordinary.

Taillevent: The ultimate Paris restaurant. Vrinat runs the tightest of ships, from planning the menu when you arrive to executing from start to finish. Superb.

Tour d'Argent: Perhaps the ultimate rip-off. Fine view of Notre Dame. Absurd prices. And lots of noisy tourists.

Lameloise (Chagny): Splendid welcome, food, and reasonable prices.

Former three stars that have slipped: Alain Chapel (very stuffy), Marc Meneau (most enjoyable), Pic (old fashioned).

A long while back, we made the mistake of visiting five three stars in a one-week period. Dumb in the extreme. We have since learned to limit our visits to no more than one a week, usually toward the beginning of a trip and again at the end. Unless the three star is a standout, we find the one stars far better satisfaction for the investment. Even so, we tend to favor Michelin's Bib Gourmand restaurants for the majority of our evening meals.

For reservations, we've used both e-mail and fax in English and usually have had no difficulty getting a prompt response.

Once you're in the restaurant, it's important to remember that you're there to enjoy the experience. Do not feel that the proprietor and/or those who are serving you are doing you a favor by allowing you to visit their hallowed establishment. You will be paying handsomely for the pleasure and have every right to expect that the staff will do its part to meet your expectations. If you have any concerns, speak up without hesitation. Not all, but most, will go out of their way to make you happy.

Regards, Russell Connecticut