Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Defending Boston's Honor as a Great Food City

The new year is here- 2011 is upon us.  It dawned (ok it struck and was cheersed) a week and a half ago, and I allowed it to pass without posting a relfective post for 2010.  I welcomed it heartily without a list of goals and resolves for its passing.  I did this purposefully, resolving to be content with every day, as I am when I eat a delicious meal- savoring every bite.  However, now, as I sit contentedly in 2011, the newness starting to wear off, I feel remiss in not addressing an article that was posted as 2010 was waving goodbye.  Esquire Magazine printed an article (found here) ranking the 10 best food cities in the US.  In this article, Boston ranked 9th.

Let's let that sink in for a minute- in the United States, Boston ranked NINTH in great food cities.  As if that isn't appalling enough, the supporting information that they provided was shoddy, missing vital points.  They referenced our revered chefs, of course, those who we all hold near and dear to our hearts.  Here, I say well done, as they listed such icons as Lydia Shire, Gordon Hammersley, and Ken Oringer.  These are absolutely some of our great culinary giants.  They made mention about us shaking our "beantown" persona (and not a moment too soon if you ask me).  However, anyone reading any old Boston guide book could pick up on these, and if these were our only credits, than I would agree with our 9th place rating.  So much of our colorful culinary landscape was missed however, and thus, I feel I must expose what Esquire left out.

  1. Culinary Stage:  Boston, is, despite being overshadowed by the Big Apple, a cultural mecca.  We have far reaching arms into art, theatre, music, and, of course, history.  The beauty of this is that each of these attributes extends itself into our food.  Our chefs have the beautiful opportunity to appeal to our senses completely, implementing aesthetically pleasing dishes, with perfectly finished flavors.  Chefs here have a wide palate to draw from, our region rich in agriculture, cattle and seafood.  Boston is not dominated by one genre of food, but rather incorporates and plays with different ingredients to make dishes as rich and exciting as our sports teams.  

  2. The Players:  Esquire mentioned some of our most legendary chefs, however they are far from the only players on our stage.  Names like Barbara Lynch, Chris Coombs, William Kovel, Jeremy Sewall, and Andy Husbands have taken the city by storm the past few years.  These chefs are from the new school of culinary practice.  They take risks, they incorporate new ingredients, they use new forms of cooling. In this way, they, working in conjunction with Jody Adams, Jasper White and the others, constantly walk the line of new and vintage, straddling the fence between classic cuisine and modern flair.  It isn't just in the high end hemisphere that Boston has come into it's own in recent years.  Area "foodies" (yes I despise the term but see its merit here) constantly revere small, family businesses, often ethnic in their products, as having some of the best food in the city.  We celebrate all those who move here and treat us to the food of their native countries.  We embrace each cuisine and bicker over which reall is the best.  Boston incorporated food trucks for the first time in 2010, finally allowing the working business man to enjoy culinary creations on their lunch break without breaking the bank.  Surely our players are more than "diverse".

  3. The Passion:  If the Boston food scene was a black and white canvas waiting for color, todays chefs are adding their touches with heart and passion.  From the high end to the trucks, chefs are embracing the bounty of our region whole heartedly and splashing it on their menus.  Here it is a badge of honor to showcase which farm the arugula came from.  Here it is pride that has our chefs name the cattle hands who raised their meat.  Jeremy Sewall, in perfect example, has listed in painstaking detail, who harvested the oysters on his menus.  He has taken oysters beyond just their region, and has included his customer in knowing his purveyors.  He is committed to serving the freshest product he can, and he knows the best way to do that is to be intimately involved with his suppliers (he purchases his lobster from his cousin daily).  Here, our chefs take infinite pride in their creations, wearing their passion for their visions on their sleeves, and on their menus. 

  4. The Applause:  As a food writer, and infinite enjoyer, I feel that one of the greatest assets that makes Boston a great food town, are the diners.  Boston is unique from other cities in our extreme pride.  We cheer for our sports teams, our American Idol competitors, our spelling bee champs, and our chefs.  We stand behind them as they compete on Hell's Kitchen, or Chopped or Top Chef.  We flock to their establishments to show our support when their episodes air.  Love us or hate us, Boston has one of the biggest food blogger communities, full of us self important writers picking apart and dissecting every morsel of a chefs creation.  Citizens of Boston flock to sites like Chowhound and Yelp to review every restaurant, to discuss new dishes, to build hype for not yet opened establishments.  Twitter ignites as celebrity chefs are sited around town.  The people of Boston are food lovers, occasionally food snobs, and some of the biggest cheerleaders for our most revered chefs.

So with that said, it continues to boggle my mind as to how we were assigned 9th place in the US, but Boston know that to me you are the best food city because you have the heart to stand behind it!


Dan said...

I looked at the list, and I am actually really proud to be placed where we are on there. It would be a hard sell to put Boston above any of the top 8 on that list. except Houston. wtf Houston?

That being said, I am not trying to disagree with your post. I think all the reasons you laid out are great reasons for us to have made the list at all! Think about all the city's we beat out. San diego, Miami, Philadelphia... Its pretty impressive.

urbancountrygirl said...

I agree wholeheartedly,

I miss Boston. I describe in
my post how much I miss the food as well.

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Great post! We're such a small city with a loud and proud voice. We'll get 'em next year! :)

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