Two years ago, when a third stadium was being pushed hard by Chris Hansen, who wanted to bring the Sonics back home, one of the best comments I heard was from longtime local sports journalist Art Thiel. We discussed the topic at our annual Most Influential People of the Year nomination meeting, and Thiel, who was there, pontificated about what archeologists of the future might think of our setup. “In 5,000 years, when scientists dig out Seattle from the Rainier lava flow, they’ll find the remains of three giant stadiums all in a row and wonder if sports were all these primitive people did,” he said, “and perhaps conclude they deserved to be boiled in hot mud.”
I have been thinking a lot about the legacy of this moment as we put the finishing touches on this year’s Best Restaurants issue, which, along with the favorite restaurant dishes our food writing team tasted this past year, focuses on trends in Seattle dining. The sociocultural aspect of dining—and why cities become known for a certain type of cuisine or style of dining—fascinates me almost as much as eating tasty food itself.
What artifacts of Seattle’s food scene in 2014 would be found in the rubble? Certainly iPhones that no doubt would be filled with Instagram filtered shots of dishes about to be eaten. Fuzzy, rustic linen napkins (5,000 years old and they would still shed that clingy lint all over your pants!). Big glass jars of preserved lemons and other vegetation. Apothecary-style cocktail accessories. Buckets of oyster shells. Hanging Edison lights. Lots and lots of Edison lights.
More than ever, dining is as much about the accoutrements associated with it—and the ambiance created by suddenly celebrated local restaurant designers (the architecture firm Graham Baba keeps popping up)—as it is about the food. Many of the people and companies on this year’s Food Establishment list, penned by Allison Austin Scheff and Amy Pennington, put Seattle and Washington on the national food (and pop culture) map. And because dining and fashion similarly reflect the zeitgeist, we paired them up in a feature showcasing this year’s best-designed dining spots.
This issue is Ali’s last as food editor. For the past six years, she has made us drool with her vivid food writing and spot-on observations, which have probably more than contributed to my weight. She, along with the superb Sara Dickerman, spent hours working on this issue, and the results of their labor celebrate the best of our restaurants both old and new. (Is anyone else having a hard time keeping up with the we’re-clearly-out-of-the-recession-now rapid fire of openings? Ethan Stowell’s near monthly announcements alone are giving me whiplash.)
What inspires people to want to feed others? To pour their heart and soul into a fussy modernist restaurant versus one serving downhome slabs of meat or reinvented soul food? As our new food editor, Julien Perry, takes the helm, we look forward to continuing to tell the stories about all the calorie-worthy local things to eat, as well as the stories behind those stories.