Stevens, political consultant and author of whimsical travelogues (Malaria Dreams, 1989, etc.), accepts the formidable challenge of dining in all 29 of the Michelin three-star restaurants in Europe on consecutive nights, and lives to tell the story. He embarks on his lunatic quest in the company of Rat, a glamorous and bright lady whose boyfriend has offered to pick up the tab—if they do the 29 restaurants in 29 nights. Off they set in a 1965 Mustang convertible, seemingly used more for its comic possibilities than because of its virtues. From one hotsy-totsy eating house to the next, Stevens and Rat indulge in over-the-top gustatory concoctions prepared by the likes of Bocuse, Loiseau, and the other great heroes of European cuisine. There's no stinting in meals that often dictate a crise cardiaque as the final entry on the bills of fare. The hungry author offers his assured takes on the master chef, the maitre d', and the waiters of each establishment, as well as the cunning of the menus, not to mention the meals. Befitting places where, as the old tag line has it, the elite meet to eat, the chow is emphatically Francophilic. How about a taste of ``La Griblette de Bar aux Rondelles d'Oignon Meunier,'' or a bit of a ``tomate confite a l'huile d'olive et gros sel, mesclun d'ici, au gout mediterrane, pommes de terre moelleuses et croustillantes''? After five lines of such, Stevens says, with a straight face, that there ``was a simple directness about the menu that was vastly appealing.'' To add to the mystique, this frou-frou is generally sans traduction. The food writing isn't quite as nourishing as that of Calvin Trillin, Waverly Root, or A.J. Liebling (to whom Stevens pays appropriate respect); it's more of a lark in the Bertie Wooster mode, and cosmopolitan to a fault.
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