By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Personal epiphanies. I learned a lot about food this year, and not all of it was good. Among the insights: Fresh fish is in deep, deep dudgeon. Among our heavily endangered locals you can count grouper, Atlantic sturgeon, and several species of bass. We shouldn't be eating any of it. Nor should we be sucking down any tuna, Atlantic cod, halibut, orange roughy, or farmed shrimp and salmon. True fish lovers will feed low on the food chain: clams, oysters, jellyfish, sardines, anchovies, and squid are all solid choices. South Florida chefs are way behind the curve: They ought to suspend serving endangered species, if we hope our kids will ever taste a fried grouper sandwich, and start experimenting with sustainable seafood. Nix the toro, Marimoto!
Secondly, we've got the vodka blahs. Broward and Palm Beach cocktail whizzes really hit their stride this year — I've tasted drinks infused with roses and elderflower, or garnished with homemade maraschino cherries and jalapeño peppers. But too many barkeeps, out of laziness or for the sake of convenience, are vodka-dependent to the point of coma. It's those damn potatoes again! Yes, you can infuse vodka with just about any flavoring, but most other good quality liquors offer far more complexity of flavor. More gin, bourbon, absinthe, and 10 Cane Rum would go a long way toward putting BPB on the mixology map — to say nothing of homebrewed bitters.
And: Décor is a bore. The days of the culinary circus act may be drawing to a close. Who's going to spend millions on water walls and cathedral ceilings these days? We're probably going to see new openings trending toward the smaller and cozier in 2009 as restaurants get more serious about the food they're serving and less beholden to their interior designers. In this, we'll be following Manhattan, where the most interesting boîtes do little more than slap on a coat of whitewash and give the terrazzo floors a once-over with Johnson wax. Rule of thumb: There's an inverse pleasure ratio between the eye-candy and the amuse bouche.
I'm bullish on dining in 2009 because in the absence of cash, things are bound to get creative. South Florida restaurateurs are a resilient bunch, and no matter what happens to our retirement funds, we still gotta eat. I'm looking forward to lots of cheap lobster (there's a national glut), braised shanks and butter-fried organs (smart chefs are going to be using everything but the squeal next year), local produce, and wines from places you never knew could grow a grape (Missouri, anyone? Great Britain?). Here's a charm for the new year: May we live in edible times.