Sorry it's been so quiet over here lately. I'd love to tell you I've been deep in thought, reflecting and ruminating on the year and decade as they come to a close. But frankly I'm still coming out of a bit of a food coma after a three-day visit to New Orleans (here's a preview: Stanley, Lüke, Mr. B's Bistro, Dante's Kitchen, Cochon, and Stella - and one word summary: wow).
I thought perhaps this evening I'd take a shot at some sort of year in review (I'm not big on New Years' festivities), but when more modest plans fizzled out, we actually stumbled into seats at Michael's Genuine tonight when there was a cancellation. I'd take that as a promising omen for the year to come. In the meantime, here's some good year-end reading material:
Eater Miami gives recaps of several favorites and predictions for 2009 and the coming year (this post links to all their various lists), including from yours truly.
Lee Klein of Miami New Times gives an interesting "Top Ten Most Important Restaurants of the Decade" list. I'd agree with many, though I'd question whether Barton G's food is anywhere near as impressive as its presentations, and suspect places such as Altamar, Pilar, and even Grillfish might wonder whether River Oyster Bar was the only place serving fresh fish in a contemporary manner. Red Light may have been given short thrift by being lumped in with Pascal's, very different places, though I think there is a point that they are both very personal visions of very honest, heartfelt food. A couple glaring omissions, in my opinion: Ortanique, which Chef Cindy Hutson opened in 1999 and successfully elevates Caribbean cuisine to high dining; and Talula, which opened in 2003 and is one of the few places left in South Beach where you can find great food without the hype and pomp of a trendy scene (and the prices that go with).
And finally, Frank Bruni resurfaces from hermitic seclusion after stepping down as the New York Times' food critic (just kidding: I think one of the trends of 2009 that is hopefully over is learning not only what the food critics ate, but how long it stayed in them) to give his glowing take on Miami's restaurant scene, including much praise for Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Sra. Martinez, Pacific Time, Red Light, Area 31, and Hakkasan. These are some of my favorite places as well, though I have to say his take on Red Light is puzzling. Though he seems to lump it into the bacon-intensive, animal-style, "This is Why You're Fat" genre ("If you're looking for spa cuisine, don't go to Red Light"), I actually find Chef Kris Wessel's cooking to be fairly health-conscious (maybe my standards are low). There is typically not a single fried thing on the menu (I don't think they own a deep fryer), it is usually heavy with seafood (including always at least a couple fresh fish options), and even items like the ribs or the burger come with lighter sides like an apple-slaw or a salad.
In any event, I think it all points to a promising 2010 for the Miami food scene. Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year. As my grandfather used to say, "Always better, never worse."