A MICHELIN Star is awarded for outstanding cooking, but a MICHELIN Green Star is awarded to restaurants that are highly sustainable—working with local farmers, growers, and fishers, utilizing seasonal ingredients, avoiding waste, reducing or removing entirely single-use plastics, and generally working to have a lower environmental impact. For UN Sustainable Gastronomy Day and every day, 11 MICHELIN Green Star restaurants where being kind to the environment is as important as the food.
The French Laundry — YountvilleThomas Keller’s legendary destination doesn’t miss a beat. The cuisine, staff and state-of-the-art kitchen embedded with the chef's renowned sense of purpose and sustainability remain at their pinnacle. This approach has resulted in a curated network of suppliers who share the same reverence for the environment and a restaurant whose structure and water filtration system are designed to reduced carbon emissions. Chef Keller and his team pair classic French techniques with highly local, seasonal ingredients. Dinner may bring signature oysters with white sturgeon caviar in a warm sabayon studded with tapioca pearls, or Pacific shima aji tartare composed with puffed grains for texture and a vibrant tomato and jalapeño "chiffon" for (immense) flavor. "Coffee and Donuts" along with a box of handmade chocolates ends the experience on a sweet note.
SingleThread — HealdsburgExquisite barely begins to describe a meal at this Healdsburg jewel, where spring might bring delicately smoked Ora king salmon topped with arctic char roe and myoga and winter showcases pumpkin tartare with Dungeness crab and a miso-makrut lime foam. The menu is acutely tuned to each micro-season in Sonoma County, thanks to the bounty provided by farmer and co-owner Katina Connaughton. Connaughton's farm is an organic, no-till farm, a regenerative practice that enhances the ability of soil to sequester carbon (thus reducing greenhouse gases in the environment); it provides 70% of the restaurant's produce, and the remaining 30% come from Sonoma Valley suppliers.
Harbor House — ElkThis crowning dining room is perched on a bluff, surrounded by craggy cliffs, the crashing Pacific, and a spectacular sunset. This is cooking that is highly original, driven by impeccable technique and devotion to sustainability. Chef Matthew Kammerer is devout when it comes to hyper-local and foraged ingredients; his efforts include utilizing produce sourced from their organic farm, hydrated with the restaurant's gray water. Rather than relying on delivery trucks, the team forages for seaweed in nearby tidepools, along with mushrooms, edible weeds and other low-impact ingredients. Bread service includes slices of fantastic sourdough, flecked with seaweed. Then, seaweed may return in the form of ice cream with bay nut, quince, and shiso—flaunting an ingenious union of sweet and savory tastes.
Chez Panisse — BerkeleyFarm-to-table dining has spread far and wide, but credit Chez Panisse and chef-owner Alice Waters with birthing the farm-to-table movement in America. Since 1971, the restaurant hasn’t wavered in its dedication to serving nothing but California’s bounty on a plate (all produce is sourced from a 50-mile radius). Moving beyond words like local and in-season, Chez Panisse has become a proponent of the “slow food” movement that requires regenerative methods of growing, raising and cultivating ingredients. For Waters, it isn’t simply a matter of superior taste, but an obligation to future generations. Diners here are privy to one nightly fixed menu of four rotating courses starring peak-season produce—from fresh peas, asparagus and black truffle in a spring risotto, to sweet corn and squash blossoms served with a summer preparation of pork loin.
Atelier Crenn — San FranciscoAt the hands of accomplished Chef Dominique Crenn, guests have rightly come to expect a thrilling meal. Another exclusive hallmark of dining here is a deep commitment to sustainability. Bleu Belle Farms in Sonoma county, a four-acre plot of land 45 miles from the city, supplies the restaurant with a majority of its produce. Farmer William Henpenn uses biodynamic methods to grow fruits and vegetables that can be the stars of the plate, not just flourishes on the side. Food scraps and other compostable items are sent back to Bleu Belle Farms to nourish the soil. Expect caviar crowned by turbot gelée and gold leaf and spiny lobster with dots of apple butter and a warm ginger-whey foam—a wondrous creation brimming with flavor and depth. Pastry chef/partner Juan Contreras’ snowflake dessert, subtly redolent of eucalyptus, is a delicate iced invention that is as much a conversation piece as it is confection.
Bar Crenn — San FranciscoLike its sister next door, Bar Crenn adheres to the same sustainability tenets. Designed with an eye on Paris during Les Années Folles with a splash of speakeasy, this room is a flea market-chic amalgam of lounge furniture, glinting chandeliers and vintage accents. The classic French cooking strives to recreate many of the century’s great dishes, but the concise menu evolves with the seasons—think Fleur de Courgettes Farcies, a squash blossom filled with ground spot prawn, or the tarte a la tomate with a delicate, golden-brown crust filled with parmesan custard and topped with red and golden cherry tomatoes.
Quince — San FranciscoLindsay and Michael Tusk source their produce from Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas, one of the oldest certified organic farms in the country. The menu at Quince is an extension of each season’s harvest. The kitchen sends food scraps back to Fresh River Farm where it is transformed into nourishing compost for the next season’s harvest. A beautiful glass vessel with golden osetra caviar is set atop a delicate oyster panna cotta makes a deliciously high-brow starter. This may be tailed by a special plate of tortellini, which when filled with pork, parmesan and tossed in beurre blanc, forms the very picture of delicacy. Venison coated with vegetable crumbs and enriched by potato purée, quince and chestnut makes for a particularly delightful entrée.
Hero image: Harbor House chef Matthew Kammerer tidepooling along the Elk coast. Photo by Joe Weaver