Bon Appetit has really been spreading the love around recently, mostly in the form of lists. Last month it was the "Ten Best New Restaurants in America" (of which our very own Anchovies & Olives was one). The year before, Spring Hill won the same honor. There was also the sort-of-list of all the pros and cons of restaurant review websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon (which, I guess, had as much loathing as love).
Seriously, half those buildings are restaurants
And now, they (meaning, essentially, Andrew Knowlton--BA's restaurant editor and writer of the BA Foodist blog) have gone and named "America's Foodiest Town"--a designation absolutely fraught with the potential for both mockery and frantic Convention and Visitors Bureau pamphlet-making. Though for some of you, the picture above might be a dead giveaway, before you click through the jump, why don't you take a guess. Which town in America do you think deserves such a double-edged honor?
If you said Boulder, Colorado, you are absolutely right. And to be quite honest, I don't think I could possibly agree with Knowlton more.
I spent a lot of time in Boulder during the last decade. While working in Denver, I reviewed restaurants in Boulder. I went there on day trips to walk the mall and eat myself stupid. I actually fell in love with my wife (at least a little bit) in two of Boulder's most storied bars: Juanita's and the Dark Horse. And over the years, I developed something of a love-hate relationship with the place that I will never completely come to terms with. On the one hand, it is a working utopia--a green and gorgeous place, small and intimate yet cored by a large university, cupped in the palm of the Flatirons and seeming, on its best days, to barely be of this earth, let alone of this nation. For an eater, it is something like heaven. For a political activist, it is like the liberal's Valhalla.
But on the other hand, it is also plagued with all the troubles of a utopia--namely being filled with the kinds of people that utopias attract: hippies, triathletes, trust-fund rastafarians, people on recumbent bicycles. It has a smugness that borders on xenophobia, and to walk the streets on a Saturday night is to witness the worst results of the intersections of political correctness, conspicuous consumption, rich indolence and unlimited credit. Boulder is the only place in America where I've seen chunky white teenagers busking on streetcorners for nickels while wearing shoes that cost as much as my laptop. It's the only place where the guy who sells CD's of indigenous South American flute music on the mall drives a Beamer.
And when it comes to the food? Jesus... If Michael Pollan didn't live in Berkeley, he'd be perfectly at home in Boulder. Matter of fact, he might feel even more at home there because Boulder is a place where his various food manifestos are taken as natural law. It has one of the greatest farmers markets in the country, but those who don't shop there every weekend are shunned like pariahs in their own communities. Restaurants give loving ink to every single farm that produced every single carrot on their menus full of quinoa and tabouleh. It's a place where any restaurant can virtually guarantee a successful first year simply by using the words "farm" and "table" in the same paragraph of their mission statement.
But this also leads to certain measures of excellence that are completely out of line with the size of the town. No lie--there are at least three restaurants in Boulder that I would hold up against any other operation in the country as the best there is. In his piece, Knowlton spends a lot of time at one of them: Frasca Food & Wine. And he doesn't even get out to any of the smaller, stranger ones.
Thus, calling Boulder the "Foodiest" town is completely apt--because such a designation speaks to both the excellence of the food scene at its most pure and the breathless passions and fascistic pushiness of the local food-hipsters, coup-counters, trend-humpers and fun-police who populate it; those most accurately described by the word "foodie."
I'm sure his pick of Boulder pissed off a lot of people (all those who don't live in Boulder, to start). But me? I'm totally with him. Even from a thousand miles and nine months away, I know he couldn't have chosen better this year.