As is the tradition at Eater, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. This year, we asked the group questions running the gamut from meal of the year to top restaurant newcomers, and will be sharing their responses this week. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Readers, please do add your survey answers in the comments.
Q: Sum up 2014 in One Word
Drew Lazor, freelance writer:
Kristina Jenkins, editor at uwishunu:
Amanda Feifer, phickle.com:
Caroline Russock, food editor at Philadelphia City Paper:
Wood-fired. I don't think you were able to get a restaurant license in 2014 without a waiver ensuring that some sort of live flame action was part of the plan. [Ed. note: Heard.]
Q: What was the best dining neighborhood in 2014?
East Passyunk killed it.
Q: What was your biggest restaurant grievance of 2014?
[NB: This could be a trend in service or menus, a particular restaurant you've "broken up with," or whatever's on your mind.]
Hawk Krall, illustrator and sometimes food writer:
Overabundance of uneducated cheffy riffs on regional American food (or regional international food for that matter). A few people do it right but more people are doing it wrong. If you are doing your take on North Dakota runzas please go to North Dakota first or at least have someone mail you some... and have some respect for the original form and culture. Otherwise it's just a completely transparent marketing gimmick.
I'm not a fan of the non-descriptive menu trend. You know, dishes listed out only by ingredients without any indication of preparation.
I think breaking up with stuff is my biggest grievance. I know people like to eat what's trendy, but I think the best chefs and cooks make food that tastes good. Brussels sprouts and kale taste good in the right hands today and they'll still taste good in the right hands tomorrow. Eli Kulp, Michael Solomonov and Joe Cicala can cook anything they'd like, anyway they'd like, til the end of time and I will eat it with (figurative) relish. Having said that, I will probably walk past a place that has bacon on the dessert menu, just as I have since 2007.
My number one grievance with the Philadelphia food scene has been the same for a whole bunch of years. I'm sick of bar food that's elevated, reimagined, quirky or creative. Jerk wings with chipotle blue cheese dipping sauce or oversized egg-topped burger on a brioche bun? Get out of here.
Diners overthinking things and being so dorky about foodie minutiae that it overshadows the actual act of eating. It's OK to have fun.
Q: What are your headline predictions for 2015?
Pope Francis to Eat a Philadelphia Cheesesteak Wiz Wit!
· Customized kombucha on tap at more bars.
· More mold: I think more chefs will start admitting that mold, like bacteria, has been maligned for too long in the culinary world. We'll see more house-made tempeh, miso and soy sauce.
· Heirloom cultures: Not all cultures were created equal. From Jun (kombucha culture adapted to brew with honey) to the ginger beer plant to a wide-variety of dairy cultures, the natural world has a lot of variation, and that variation results in more varied and complex flavors and textures. I think (and hope) more chefs will explore heirloom cultures to find what works best on their plates. Why make crème fraîche from store-bought stuff or direct-set yogurt when you can get a way more sustainable and flavorful product from cultures that have been used for hundreds (or thousands) of years?
I'm looking forward to more everyday eating options done with care, a la Stock and Cheu.
· My daughter's food show, "Camila Eats Food," gets picked up by the Food Network and immediately dropped once they realize how much shit I talk about the Food Network.
· The Vetri Family starts a jiu jitsu fight club, but none of them ever talk about it.
· The Time/Bar/Garage team's new restaurant opens and Sean Magee finally gets the respect he deserves as one of Philly's best chefs.
· Bing Bing Dim Sum, duh.