10 in '10: The Top Food News Stories of 2010
This list of the top 10 local food stories of the soon-to-become Old Year should give you plenty to chew on. . . or perhaps lick all over.
Porn shot at local restaurant. Normally when you get screwed at a restaurant it's by being overcharged or having your credit card number ripped off, but at Fort Lauderdale's Off the Hookah and pizza joint Squiggy's, the screwing apparently was for real, part of professional porno shoots. BJs, group sex and more gave new meaning to the term "food porn," and probably made it a lot more difficult for the restaurants to sell any dish with cream sauce.
Local locavore movement picks up steam. It may be old news elsewhere but the stirrings of a real locavore movement in our little corner of paradise deserves a year-end shout-out. Restaurants like Market 17 and Joey Giannuzzi's Green Gourmet, new and expanded greenmarkets throughout the area, and quality purveyors like Swank Farms, Farmhouse Tomatoes and Farriss Farm are helping make "locavore" more than just a buzzword.
"Upscale casual" restaurants rule. High-quality, high-comfort food without the high-end prices and high-toned ambiance is the formula restaurateurs are hoping will help them ride out the Great Recession. Menus can cover everything from DIY burgers to truffled pizza, priced affordably and simply served in stylish yet comfortable spaces. Examples: Mojo, Racks Downtown Eatery + Tavern, Deck 84, Suite 100, Yardhouse, Patio Delray.
Clematis and Atlantic thrive, Las Olas struggles. Despite the down economy Clematis Street in West Palm and Atlantic Avenue in Delray are booming. Las Olas Boulevard. . . not so much. New to Clematis are an impressive mix of restaurants, from Off the Hookah to Bahama Mama's to Raw Kitchen. And add Deck 84, Prime Steak, Seafood & Sushi and the coming Atlantic Ocean Club to Atlantic. Hopefully, the arrival of Rocco's Tacos and Rare Steakhouse will pick things up on Las Olas in 2011.
Celebrity chefs head north. As Miami gets more and more expensive, overbuilt with restaurants and choked with competition, celebrated chefs are seeking more fertile territory. Michelle Bernstein opened two eponymous restaurants in the posh Omphoy resort in Palm Beach; her successor at Azul, Clay Conley, will debut his own eatery on the Island in January. Other "name" chefs who've come (and sometimes gone): Todd English, Allen Susser, Ralph Pagano, Kenny Gilbert.
"Name" restaurants go bye-bye. The Grim Reaper paid a visit to several high-profile eateries in Broward and Palm Beach counties this year. Gone, and in some cases already forgotten are Wild Olives Café (Todd English) in CityPlace, Taste Gastropub (Allen Susser) in Delray, and Bova Prime (Tony Bova) and Smith & Jones (Johnny Vinczencz), both on Las Olas. Other notable casualties: The Blue Fish, Amici's, Sonoma Bistro and Creolina's Dixie Take-Out.
Mark Bittman goes off on Allen Susser. The New York Times food writer and author of How to Cook Everything went after Taste Gastropub's Allen Susser with a meat cleaver in a blog post entitled "An Open Letter to an Unnamed Chef." The identities of both were uncovered later, but Bittman pulled no punches blasting "Not very good food at high prices" and a chef-owner "who never once took the time to ask any patron how things were going." Ouch!
The collapse and (partial) rebirth of the Bova restaurant empire. Scott Rothstein giveth and Scott Rothstein taketh away, that was pretty much the story of the restaurant mini-empire built by Tony Bova and the now-imprisoned fraudster. The last of Bova and Rothstein's restaurants, Bova Prime in Fort Lauderdale, went belly up in 2010, though Bova rebounded later by opening Viva Partenza in the old Bova Ristorante space in Boca Raton.
Food trucks are on the move. Food trends may take awhile to get here but eventually they do, and pretty soon food trucks may be as common in our neck of the tropics as elderly drivers clogging the fast lane on I-95 during commute hours. Among the local culinary truckers: Latin Burger and Taco, Nacho Bizness, Porky & Beth's BBQ and Rolling Stove. Also keep an eye peeled for the Fort Lauderdale-based Slow Food Truck (that's slow food, not slow truck.)
Food TV discovers BPB. From celebrating our very own Diners, Drive-ins and Dives to ripping our Kitchen Nightmares a new one to discovering The Best Thing I Ever Ate, foodie television shined a national spotlight on several local chefs and restaurants. Guy Fieri touted Whale's Rib on "Triple D," Anna Vincenzo's and Le Bistro got the Gordon Ramsay treatment, and Rosario's Ristorante served up the best garlic bread Alex Guarnaschelli ever ate.