Let's start our year-end review with a question: What was memorable about Memphis food news besides the economic meltdown of the past few months?
Since we know you need a little help remembering (yes, we've been celebrating the holidays too), here are the highs and lows of 2008 wrapped up to spell Christmas.
"C" is for CSA, a trendy food acronym here and across the country. A CSA — or community supported agriculture — works like this: Participants buy a seasonal share of a local farm and in return receive a grab bag of whatever fruits and vegetables are ready to harvest. There are many bonuses. Participants eat more veggies, reduce their carbon footprints, and get to be friends with farmers like Whitton Flower and Produce's Jill and Keith Forrester, who offer a CSA for flowers in addition to produce.
"H" is for Harbor Town Coffee, owned and operated by Glenn and Elizabeth Roseberry. The coffee shop offers fair-trade java along with tea, wi-fi, local art, and an assortment of goodies from Big Ono Bake Shop, Howard Montgomery's new bakery on Front Street.
"R" is for all the restaurants that have opened this year, and lucky for us, they are a mix of menus and locations. Downtown, the Blue Monkey reopened after a devastating fire in 2005; vegetarian chef Bastet Ivery and Creole chef Gary Williams started their own restaurant on Florida Street called Dejavu; Clint Boutwell turned the former Cayenne Moon into Orleans on Front; Don Scott opened On the River Seafood and More (the "more" is a seafood market); and the owners of Interim spun some new magic with Sole Restaurant and Raw Bar at the Westin Hotel.
In Midtown, Cathy Boulden opened Café Eclectic on N. McLean, and Kelly English renovated the former La Tourelle into Restaurant Iris. Farther east, Chris Connor relocated Republic Coffee to Walnut Grove, boyhood friends Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman hit a home run with Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Kat Gordon opened Muddy's Bake Shop in the Sanderlin Centre, and Michele D'Oto turned a historic Presbyterian church in Collierville into Old Church Steakhouse.
"I" is for Italian bar owner Aldo Demartino, who opened a tavern downtown on Monroe near Front. Called Bardog — a moniker for bartenders in the old West — the neighborhood gathering spot features a great selection of wines and beers on tap, along with classic pub fare influenced by Demartino's Italian heritage.
"S" is for South Main, where local food businesses continue to contribute to the development of the city's historic arts district. Frank's South Main Market & Deli opened in early November, bringing the neighborhood a much-needed grocery store and bicycle delivery. Down the street, Onix also opened, featuring $5 lunch specials and live jazz on Saturday nights.
"T" is for Thomas Boggs, the much-loved CEO of Huey's, who died May 5th at the age of 63. In addition to operating his seven-restaurant chain, Boggs was a committed community activist, a generous mentor to the next generation of local chefs, and a person who, in the words of Grove Grill's Jeff Dunham, "always put Memphis first."
"M" is for Mantia, a gourmet market in East Memphis that closed after 12 years due to a drop off in catering. The recession has hurt other businesses, as well, and caused a number of closings, including two downtown favorites, Lolo's Table and Conte's Italian Restaurant, and The Red Rock Tavern in East Memphis.
"A" is for Automatic Slim's, Karen Carrier's flagship restaurant on Front Street. After 17 years, Carrier sold the restaurant, but started her next culinary adventure a few weeks later: Noodle Doodle Dō, a lunchtime Asian noodle bar inside Carrier's Dō restaurant in Cooper-Young.
"S" is for Simone Wilson, who wrote more than 100 food articles for the Memphis Flyer before reluctantly giving up the column after the birth of her second son, Ari.
So what's ahead for 2009? In the spirit of the holidays, look for these "C" words from both professional chefs and family cooks in the kitchen: crispy, casserole, comfort, chick pea, Chilean, and cheap.