I love leafing through The Saveur 100. I can spend many fun-filled hours mulling over the magazine's choices. It just made it to my mailbox, and as usual, is filled with mostly thoughtful, surprising choices, with a few puzzlements thrown in for good measure.
My Favorite Thoughtful, Surprising Choices
Number 8: Les Blank, the Bay Area filmmaker who loves food and music in equal measure. Rent or buy Spend It All, Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, or A Well-Spent Life. Last year, after a 20-year absence from the scene, he released All in This Tea, in which he follows a tea enthusiast through China.
Number 30: I appreciate the shout out to wonton soup. But it has to be good wonton soup, which is in perilously short supply in America. And bad wonton, unlike bad pizza, is not still pretty good. In fact it's dishwater bad.
Number 42: Writer and cookbook author Sheila Hibben, who initially championed local food and regional specialties with the 1932 publication of The National Cookbook: A National Americana. 1932! That's cool.
Number 45: Honeybees. And I am quoting verbatim here: "In a mystery that carries more than a whiff of the apocalyptic, billions of honeybees all over the world have gone missing. Colony Collapse Disorder, as scientists have dubbed it, has affected the livelihood of not just makers of honey but also the farmers who depend on bees to pollinate their crops. The bees' plight has made us newly respectful of the subtle but substantial role these creatures play in our daily lives."
Number 85: Marks & Spencer. I like any department store that sells Honey Roast Wiltshire Ham-flavored potato chips (or crisps, as the Brits call them). Then when I went online to see what over flavors they had, I discovered roquefort and bacon, Stilton and pork, and cheddar and caramelized shallot-flavored chips. C'mon, Frito-Lay, get with the pork chip program.
Number 100: I loved this one: The Year the Farm Bill Became Sexy. 'Nuff said.
Number 13: Tomato aspic? This is Saveur at its romanticized wayback-machine worst. Do we really need to celebrate tomato aspic?
Number 36: Hand-washing dishes. Hand-washing a few dishes is satisfying in an elemental sort of way. It might be a noble chore. Hand-washing a dinner party's worth of dishes, when you're really tired and want to go to bed, is no fun.
Number 49: Asian fruits, including durians. Durians smell like, in the immortal words of one famous New York chef, a gas leak. Plus, the carbon footprint of a durian, shipped from Southeast Asia, would make Al Gore gasp.
Number 60: Independent butchers, whose cause I have lionized for years. But Napa-based Fatted Calf, one of four places mentioned, is, as far as I know, a charcuterie maker and not a butcher. And if Saveur were going to focus on charcuterie, New York's Salumeria Biellese should certainly have been mentioned (maybe they have already been on the list). (I did love reading about a real independent butcher, Fleischer's in upstate New York, which I have heard wonderful things about.) Plus, in New York at least, there are many independent butchers worth mentioning, including the Florence Meat Market in Greenwich Village, Schatzie's on the Upper East Side, and Oppenheimer's on the Upper West Side, Staubitz's in Brooklyn, to name but a few.
Number 80: Cincinnati chili. Have they run out of truly delicious regional foods to celebrate? Cincinnati chili is perfectly OK, but I'm not sure it's worthy of inclusion in the Saveur 100. Maybe I'm wrong, but have you ever had a transcendent bowl of Cincinnati chili?