Look, I’ve been a fan of Bon Appetit since, well, fifteen years before my birth.
My mother collected Bon Appetits starting in 1979, and when I was little, I could open up a chest and find decades of old issues of Bon Appetit for my reading pleasure. And it was a pleasure! I fell in love with the old veterans like former editor Barbara Fairchild, started reading “The BA Foodist” when it began, and admired the lavish dinner parties and ornate dining rooms of the culinary elite.
But Bon Appetit is far from a Vanity Fair these days: The new EIC Adam Rapaport with his trusty sidekick (and my celebrity crush- Shh! Don’t tell anyone!) Andrew Knowlton has started quite the campaign to bring back accessible, unpretentious foodie culture and interesting cultural intersectionality – Now, when you flip through a Bon Appetit or check out its website, you can also find fashion, celebrities, and even playlists among the recipes and reviews. It’s been three years since Rapaport stepped up to the plate and I’m still not sure how I feel about this new campaign. Maybe I’m a little lost in my old ways. Maybe I miss the glamour of opulent dining rooms and gag at the pretension of Gwyneth Paltrow The Foodie. Of course, I can get it on with a slice of pizza or a taco, but I guess for every time I rewatch Knocked Up, I also rewatch Pride and Prejudice… If that analogy makes sense out of my own head. Regardless, I guess I don’t see this change as new era of youthful energy – it’s that feeling you get when your dad shows up at home in a new Camaro with flame decals on the side blasting Kanye. You’re excited, but also worried about when and at what point this midlife crisis is going to end.
So I still diligently follow the release of Andrew and Adam’s Best Restaurants, though warily. Today, they released the top fifty, and I have mixed reviews:
The Hell Yeah
I think I’m a bad Oregonian, but I’m so thrilled to see Oregon only represented twice on this list. Portland, though I love it, does not deserve the hype it gets. Too many restaurants in PDX are simply pretentious and too focused on the “how” instead of the “what.” OF COURSE I care about how my food gets to the table, but dear lord, I care about how it tastes just as much, if not more.
Ohio is on the list this year! Congrats, Ohio. As long as it’s not Cleveland, I’m proud.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya! Thank God we got to see a Ramen place on the list. Ramen, when it’s reeeeally good, is probably my favorite food, and it is one of the most underrated foods on the planet. Pho is great and all, but don’t forget Japan’s contribution to Asian soup fandom.
Wisconsin’s Underground Food Collective made its way to the list this year, which is AWESOME because I love food collectives. I mean, I love all collectives and what the represent (I’m a member of my school’s feminist and queer collectives, thank ye very much), but food collectives are particularly cool because they break down much of the patriarchal systems you find in many restaurant kitchens (dude, you’d be surprised) and oftentimes provide perspectives about a variety of different food communities. The thing about collective food is you get to represent a lot of different flavor profiles without “faking it.” God, have you ever had Ethiopian or Middle Eastern food made by French chefs who think they can cook anything without any real experience? I have. It’s the worst.
Also, good job Wisconsin getting culinary respect for things other than cheese. I believed in you.
Of course, we see a ton of LA and NY – as it always has been and as it always should be.
But… Okay, San Francisco and LA should be a bit more balanced. San Fran’s food scene is definitely on par with LA, and I think that the folks at BA are a little biased. You see a ton of cool food – and cool sustainability and foraging – out of San Fran that you simply can’t find in LA. And, being a West Coast girl, I know that SoCal darkness. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. The hype machine in LA is a little nuts, and some of the dirt there tends to get in the food, if you know what I mean.
The Um Wut
Boston – nay, Cambridge – is represented at the same level as Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Oregon and Minnesota. I’m biased. I know I’m biased. But Boston food deserves a little more love than it gets. Boston Italian is so beautifully classic, and the classically good food in this list is just wimpy. I’m so excited you guys are representing Mexican food and Ramen, but come on. There is Boston Italian on par with the Torrisi folks’ places, but you never visit the North End anymore. We miss you, Bon Appetit! Come back to us, Bon Appetit! Get some lobster ravioli, Bon Appetit! You look too skinny.
Also, let’s talk about Southern food. I love Southern food. I dream about Torchy’s queso on the daily. My family in North Carolina ship me bottles of Lexington Barbecue Sauce as often as possible. I prefer grits to oatmeal any day, I go nuts over a good fried catfish, or etouffe, or jerk chicken. But FOURTEEN of the fifty are from the South. That’s more than California and New York combined! Of course, I can hear all of my Southern friends saying, “Okay, but the South is an entire region and New York and California are two states.” But here’s the thing: What’s happening in the South is happening all across the country. New York and CA cities have always been ahead of the curve. But the South doesn’t deserve more attention than the Northeast, the Northwest, or the Southwest (because let’s be real: “The South” is Texas and everything east). And Andrew is such a Southern boy, a whole bunch of what I see from him on BA is already from the South. I mean, in 2010 his top restaurant was Hus (in SC). So often, the top ten are a couple NY and LA, throw in a SF or two, and then the rest are either in DC or the South. Sure, sometimes he throws in a Minnesota or an Oregon for something different, but there’s always a Southern leaning. I’m not saying forget the South – of course not! – but there are years when you omit my hometown and current city, Andrew. Could you do the same, just once?