The Year of Drinking from Goblets! The Year of Using Tube Socks to Make Artisanal Cheese! The Year of Deep-Fried Twinkies! Miss Dish is blessed. When you're on the food beat, you're always assured that you'll have something to write about by day 365. Change is inevitable. As the doyenne of food writing M.F.K. Fisher once said, "First we eat, then we do everything else." Here's some high- and lowlights from the Dish desk's 2002:
1. Miss Dish vs. Bella Napoli.
Miss Dish wasn't too keen on the food at this downtown Italian restaurant and said so. The owner, in a page swiped from the P.T. Barnum handbook, took out big ads in WW challenging the public to try his cuisine and questioning Miss D.'s usage of the plural form of antipasto and her attack on pre-packaged desserts (among other things). Citywide discussions about the place of criticism were spurred, which Miss D. thinks is just dandy. Long live publicity stunts!
2. Small plates + wine = Trend of the Year.
Noble Rot, Navarre, 750 ml and Vigne, to name a few, all opened with a focus on the fruit of the vine and creative dishes served à la carte. Even though you can end up spending (and eating) just as much as you would at a traditional big-plate place, that slight internal grift that makes you feel as though you're just pecking has made this program the right fit for our not-so-new austerity.
3. Portland Public Market Marches On.
Miss Dish wasn't a fan of the elite $800-a-head "Dinner of the Decade" fundraiser the Marketeers hosted earlier in the year, which brought a bunch of hotsy-totsy chefs to P-town to cook for the rich and almost famous, but she's pleased to see that the momentum for an all-season food pavilion is still on track. One to watch.
4. Meat Is Murder?
During a recent concert in San Diego, famed songbird and ardent animal-righter Morrissey told the crowd, "The best people in the world are vegetarianos. The rest of you can go to hell." While this lockstep opinion may not reflect the movement as a whole, this was a year where animal consumption was table talk writ large. Two New York Times Magazine cover stories--one on the life and death of a steer and the other on the philosophy behind the animal-rights movement--caused a stir, while Eric Schlosser's acute portrayal of the modern meat industry, Fast Food Nation, remains No. 1 on Powell's bestseller list almost a year after its paperback release. Miss Dish even went vegan for two whole weeks (and survived!) for a July cover story. To make us all even more dazed and confused, the legit scientific community seems to be coming around to Dr. Atkins' point of view that carbs are the fat culprit while protein has been unjustly maligned.
5. Cart Attack!
Downtown Greek restaurant mogul Ted Papas mounted a public assault on city-center food trucks on the basis of what he claims are different rules of engagement than those for brick-and-mortar eateries. The public, fans of the scrappy individualistic bent (not to mention quick, cheap hot lunches and bacon-caramel milkshakes) of the meals-on-wheels crowd, dissented loudly. All's quiet on the cart front at this writing.