The Top 12 Food Stories of 2012: Part One
January 3, 2013
As I reported here this morning, the biggest local sports story of the year went almost ignored, but—fortunately—the biggest food stories did not have to digest that diss.
They were celebrated here with an appetite befitting a team that’s less food critical than it is food enthusiastic.
But where to start?
In 2012, there was history—PBFW 5.0 (a coup)! The first bacon festival (a collapse)!—and hardware, as places like Aubergine and Marinus earned trophies they much deserved. (Aubergine cracked Zagat’s top five in the area and Marinus ranked 27th in the country on a well-respected survey, while Sierra Mar reminded eaters they’re firmly there in the best-tasting-menu-in-town talk, too.)
Independent Marketplace started a whole other type of tasty thing in Sand City.
The iconic, long-loved, and lately slipping Rocky Point finally sold.
Carmel Valley went major with both wine tasting rooms and, when Lokal hit town, the most progressive tastes the village has seen since Bernardus showed up a decade ago. We ended up dedicating an entire Wine & Food special issue to the emerging foodieland.
But what were the very top 12 stories of 2012? Funny you might ask. Here are four of them to start, with the next four as soon as tomorrow:
12 • Chains charm Salinas. The chains were so strong the Weekly broke its rule of ignoring them (partly because it would have meant ignoring most of Salinas' food stories that weren't about the owners of XL Grindhouse allegedly bludgeoning a homeless dude with a bat). Strong, as in carrying estatic cult followings. But while BJ’s Brewhouse and Famous Dave's have followings as big as their portions, it was the addition of Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Harden Ranch Plaza and Ike’s Lair right near by—particularly before the more monied Peninsula got one—that had people saying dayum, dayum, dayum.
11 • Hyperlocal coverage goes global. Pursuit of foodie truths—and craft beer and homemade hot sauce—took the Weekly to Puerto Rico, Denver’s Great American Beer Festival and Sao Paolo, Brazil. (All over California, too, but that's a different story.) First it was "Flavor bulletins from Puerto Rican places" then "At Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, craft beer flies mile-high," and finally "A torrential food-and-music tour through the biggest city in its whole hemisphere, São Paolo."
10 • Controversy comes to Carmel. OK—it's not exactly breaking news that there exists a disproportionate amount of drama in Carmel's postage stamp town. But still, in recent months people (1) got awfully excited about whose downtown wine map is called what (which even led to assault charges being filed, even if no patent beefs were) and (2) whether a burger is really good enough to build a business around (it seems like everyone had an opinion on David Fink's new 400 Degrees Gourmet Burgers and Fries, including our James A. Foley). Bonus controversy: The ongoing back-and-forth about an open air market. And then this, which I first learned of from winemakers at Rich Pepe's first ever Carmel-by-the-Glass: Debate over the direction of Monterey County Vintners and Growers sparked in part by Scott Scheid, which unfortunately led to the layoff of Rhonda Motil.
9 • The Bench Supplants Club XIX. While certain additions were key to the community, most notably Alvarado Fish & Steak House in downtown Monterey and the new Schooners Coastal Kitchen on Cannery Row, The Bench carried the most anticipation and the most history. Fortunately its uncanny blend of wood-fired plates and cross-cultural creativity—spotlighted with my preview, "The Bench lays out an eye-catching reinvention of the longtime Pebble Beach legend" and food contributor James A. Foley's review, "The Bench lives beyond the shadow of its former self"—proved up to the setting.
Whew. And that's only a third of the list. More soon.