Two of the most magnificent meals I have ever eaten were taken at L'Espérance, a restaurant that is roughly 2 hours by car, southeast of Paris.
Owner-chef Marc Meneau created a name for himself throughout la belle France when he earned his third Michelin star in 1984, the first restaurant outside of Paris to receive Michelin's highest culinary rating.
My first meal there was in 1988 with my mother and sister. It was extraordinary. The dessert, poached pears in a creme anglaise, was simply amazing. Someone else at the table ordered a dessert that came with licorice ice cream — made on premises, of course, and out of this world.
I had lunch there during a trip in 2005, and that meal was equally impressive.
Well, just the other day, I was thumbing through the Michelin guide for all of France, and I couldn't find L'Espérance listed anywhere. It didn't show up in any of the lists of Michelin-starred restaurants. The restaurant's website is still functioning, and it is still listed on the website of Relais and Chateaux.
So what gives? It wouldn't surprise me if L'Espérance had lost one of its three stars, but is it possible that Michelin withdrew all three of them? I doubt it. Restaurants may gain or lose a star from one year to the next, but I've never heard of a three-starred Michelin restaurant that later lost all three of its stars.
It's also possible that Michelin mistakenly left the restaurant out of its 2007 U.S. edition. But that would have been a huge oversight.
Anyway, this is a mystery I hope to solve.