Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.
I tend to study critics' lists and guidebooks the way some people search for meaning in baseball stats ― I argue with the author in my head, rethink my own opinions, vow to visit places I haven't tried. That these lists are limited, subjective, and controversial is their selling point. The pleasure is reading them ― the Michelin guide
, the Eater 38
, Michael Bauer's annual Top 100 list in the San Francisco Chronicle
― as a topography of the authors' tastes as well as a map of the zeitgeist.
So of course I enjoyed checking out the Chron
's 2011 Top 100, which came out on Sunday and is now online
. As I read, though, something about the scope of the list, rather than Bauer's individual choices, nagged at me. So I did some counting:
Restaurants on the list: 100
Restaurants specializing in Western European/California cuisines: 82
Restaurants blending non-Western and French-based haute cuisine (Aziza, Ame, etc.): 5
Number of non-European/Californian restaurants: 13*
*Asian restaurants: 11
*Mexican, Central American, and South American restaurants: 2
Should a critic's favorites conform to the contours of Bay Area
demographics? Hardly ― I can't think of any drearier selection scheme. But do 80+ French- and
Italian-based restaurants really represent the pinnacle of dining in the Bay Area? It makes the top seem a narrow peak indeed.