America's Top "Foodie" Cities: Sure, It's Nice to Be Mentioned, But . . .

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Because of the fondness of web-surfing cubicle monkeys and ease of reading, there are a lot of lists out there on the Internets.

Because food is a perennial favorite search term, because cheeseburgers and barbecue and chicken wings can start digital food fights that make most MMA cage matches seem tame, and because there is nothing a grubnik with five minutes to kill seems to like better than a heads-up comparison between this thing and that thing, this city or that one, there are a lot of food lists.

And because, apparently, the good people over at CNBC didn't see the recent article about foodies on CNN's Eatocracy food blog entitled "Chefs and the (Other) "F" Word" (in which I was quoted as calling foodies "coup-counting, lock-jawed, cake-eating, nose-in-the-air dimwits who, with sticks planted firmly in their flabby asses will make their weekly cruise out to the hottest addresses in town, get weak little culinary boners over year-dead trends, focused-grouped Frog-humping menus and anyone doing New American comfort food or French-Asian fusion in million-dollar spaces."), they just put out a brand-new (and totally non-ironic) list of "America's Top Foodie Cities," in which Seattle scores in the top 10.

I'm not sure if we should be happy or sad about this, but one thing I do know for sure? I just said "boner" on CNN. Take that, responsible American journalism!

So here's what CNBC had to say about their methodology for tracking foodies:

"A city's food appeal is not just measured by fine dining or Michelin stars; you have to also consider the everyday eating experiences. Is there a unique regional cuisine? Have ethnic enclaves left edible legacies on the area's tables? The availability of fresh local produce, meats and seafood are other major considerations.

"In such discussions, certain major cities such as New York and New Orleans tend to be named, but Sperlings Best Places crunched numbers, using the following city data: ratio of local restaurants to chain restaurants, number of Whole Foods and cooking stores, number of wine shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and brew pubs; and the number of CSA (community supported agriculture) farms and local farmers markets."

And what they came up with was "a top ten that isn't dominated by the usual suspects," including places like Santa Rosa, Calif., and Boston. CNBC also made a glancing mention of the fight over the word "foodie" (something I detailed at length in my call-for-rebellion-disguised-as-a-blog-post that got quoted by Eatocracy), saying that any list of food cities will be "a topic almost as contentious as the use of the term 'foodie.'"

But still, semantics aside, the list is interesting--focusing not on the density of well-known, award-winning restaurants and big-name chefs, but on the things that most passionate eaters concern themselves with on most days: a nice farmers market, a good bowl of pho, a local cafe at which to dine and somewhere to get hammered when all is said and done. And when these are used as the defining values in gauging a city's edibility, what comes out of the other end of the equation is this:

Santa Rosa, California

Portland, Oregon

Burlington, Vermont

Portland, Maine

San Francisco, California

Providence, Rhode Island

Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts

Seattle, Washington

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Barbara, California

Notice something missing there? Manhattan. And Chicago. Two huge cities for restaurants, but maybe not so great for eaters.

In terms of Seattle, by CNBC's and Sperlings' count, we have 79.8% local restaurants, 26.6 local breweries per million residents, 55 farmers markets, and 29 CSA farms bringing weird root vegetables to the people on a daily basis. We've got Pike Place Market for the tourists and Fisherman's Terminal for the locals, lots of coffee, and plenty of local restaurants that are well-supported by the populace. And while I guess that inclusion on this list also means that Seattle finds itself among the top-10 cities for density of foodies, I guess you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Maybe they'll all stick to the wine shops (93 of them, by CNBC's count) and Starbucks (also mentioned), leaving the rest of us free to enjoy all the things that make Seattle great for eaters, gastronauts, and crazy-ingredient freaks, if not necessarily for the foodies.

 
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