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Monday, August 22, 2005

Bon Appétit Magazine: America's Top 5 Restaurant Cities

For the past twelve years, the September installment of Bon Appetit Magazine has been dubbed the "restaurant issue" – giving the editors a chance to cover various restaurant trends, standouts and scenes from across the United States.    This year's issue is now out, and the cover story identifies the magazine's picks for the top five restaurant cities in the country.    Here they are:

New York
San Francisco
New Orleans
Las Vegas

No attempt is made to rank order the five, but Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild does note the following:
"With regard to the first four cities, so much as been written about the restaurants there that it was very important to us to make the point about what aspect of these locales is special right now.    These four don't only endure; they continually morph (deliciously), reinvent themselves, and satisfy unconditionally."
And regarding Las Vegas, Fairchild observes that the city is now undergoing its second wave of a "celebrity chef invasion" that started back in the early '90's.    Several pages in the magazine are devoted to each of the five cities, with brief profiles of specific restaurants and recipes provided as well.

The section on San Francisco – entitled "San Francisco Foodie Central" - begins as follows:
"In this highly opinionated, food-crazed city, there's one place everyone can agree on – the Ferry Building Marketplace.   It's the nexus of all things delicious, whether you're shopping for cheese, chocolates, or pastries, or simply grabbing a bite to eat."
From there, the story goes on to feature eight specific Ferry Building food vendors, offering one recipe from each.    The places covered are listed below, along with a description of the corresponding recipe (just in case this information will help you determine whether you want to go out and buy the magazine):

Food VendorRecipe
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar CaféTruffled Scrambled Eggs with Crème Fraiche and Caviar
The Slanted DoorAnise-Scented Beef Pho
Lulu PetiteBrownies with Caramel, Fig, and Dried Cherry Jam
Taylor's Automatic RefresherAhi Tuna Burgers with Ginger Wasabi Mayonnaise
Delica rf-1Japanese-Style Potato Salad with Daikon and Cucumber
Rose PistolaMaple Syrup French Toast with Brandied-Pear and Currant Compote
Boulette's LarderApple Crostata with Cinnamon-Almond Topping
MijitaBeer-Battered Mahi-mahi Soft Tacos with Coleslaw and Avocado Sauce

Now, I should say right up front that I am a big fan of the Ferry Building Marketplace, particularly in light of the fact that it – in combination with the Farmers' Market held there each Saturday – truly offers one-stop shopping for an incredible array of the freshest and highest-quality ingredients.    And there can be no question that this amazing destination is just one of the many reasons that make San Francisco such a food-lover's paradise.    For all of these reasons, I am happy to see the Ferry Building get recognition for being the unique place that it is, and I am equally pleased that the eight featured food vendors are getting some positive national exposure.

That said, if I were going to write an article on what makes San Francisco such an outstanding restaurant city – as the Bon Appetit editors were purportedly trying to do – I would hardly focus on the Ferry Building.   After all, other than The Slanted Door, there really are no restaurants there that have served to define – or that have even played an important part in – our overall dining scene.    Sure, there are some great places to grab a bite while shopping; Tsar Nicoulai and Hog Island Oyster Company come to mind.    But do these places actually prove the assertion that we live in a great restaurant town?    I don't believe so.

So, what does demonstrate why San Francisco deserves a spot in Bon Appetit's Top 5 for 2005?    Well, I can think of several reasons left wholly unmentioned by the magazine, but I will have to save that for a separate post.    For now, I guess we'll have to take comfort in the old adage that there's no such thing as bad press – even if it's good press for the wrong reasons.


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