Top 12 Foodie Stories of 2012: Part Four
January 8, 2013
Arguably the biggest story in the world this decade, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, tied right into the Monterey County food scene.
Monterey native Leon Panetta, who directed the assault, acknowledged he wouldn't have been in that position of power if he hadn't learned the lessons he did as a young restaurant worker in his parents' area eatery. He also pointed out that the successful operation won him a $10,000 bottle of wine from the Sardine Factory's Ted Balestreri.
Still, those admissions at Spanish Bay last March, mixed in amongst lots of jokes and alpha male teasing, weren't enough to make it one of the top 12 food stories of the year, and certainly not the two biggest, which appear below:
2 • The best get even better.
This year Passionfish swept a raft of five Best of Monterey County reader poll awards including Best Seafood, Best Sustainable Restaurant, Best Restaurant in the County and Best Wines by the Glass. Restaurant 1833 earned a Best New Restaurant in the country nomination from James Beard Foundation. And Pacific's Edge introduced a fresh and flavorful wine dinner series and purveyors showcase, on top of introducing a money tasting menu. But Aubergine, Marinus and Sierra Mar evolved even more dramatically. Aubergine completed a modest refresher to its look as Justin Cogley and Ron Mendoza more than earned a Zagat ranking that bested EVERYONE in Northern California besides Gary Danko, The French Laundry, Cyrus and Manresa. (And it might be the service that shines brightest of all—even more than the foie gras-stuffed turnips.) Marinus firmly stated its case for Michelin consideration with a countryside-style redesign in summer and master Cal Stamenov's most inspired tasting menu yet. Post Ranch simply wowed me repeatedly with new Exec Chef John Cox at the controls. His fiendish creativity, sourcing and flavor will continue to turn more and more heads in the coming months as he starts to pop up on more James Beard and Michelin radar screens himself. All in all, in 2012 these restaurants not only gave us some of the best menus of the year, but they also served notice that Monterey County can and will continue to compare with any of the regions in the country on the fine dining front. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.
1 • Chefs help save us from ourselves.
As I wrote in May, our tastemakers are "part of a generation that has seen its chef status go from second thought to super sexy, its members recast from lowly laborers best kept in the kitchen into much-pursued personalities in the crosshairs of seemingly every other camera in America. They’ve become stars, and deservedly so, but as they continue to advocate the role of healthy foods on new, much-needed fronts in bold and inventive ways, these stars may just become our saviors, too." It was part of a piece on three national stars—Michel Nischan, Rick Bayless and Susan Spicer—being recognized by the Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions who are using their sourcing, influence and insight to affect everything from disease to endangered environment. (Nischan's acceptance speech for chef of the year is required listening, BTW.) Not everyone is engaged in community work, or politics, or social justice, but everyone eats. Constantly remembering and relearning how potent our food choices can be isn't just the most important foodie story for this year, but every year.