Every year we do our roundup of the 10 Best Restaurants (and best new spot) and every year it brings into focus an ingredient or dish that has suddenly become the silent star in the kitchens of tout Porkopolis. They’re not always what you expect. A couple of years ago it was the lowly Brussels sprout. Then there was pork belly, which had its three-year strut on the national gastronomic stage before fading into the background (though in this town it will never completely go out of style, for obvious historical reasons). Molten chocolate cake had its time in the sun; now you can find it boxed in the frozen foods aisle. That mini-tower of sliced beets and goat cheese? It became so popular I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s taken up residence on the menu at Cracker Barrel. Even sweetbreads made a run at the big time.
This year is no different. Poached eggs are big, nests of frizzled what-have-you anoint various cuts of braised, marinated, and brined meats, and chefs seem to be doing unspeakably tasty things with squid. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We make a habit around here of proclaiming the wonders of the restaurant scene in the Queen City, but we are not food snobs. On the contrary: we love it all. Fried, dipped, slathered, or crisped? We love it all. Baked, crusted, crushed, or geleed? We love it all. Pickled, sugared, whipped, or just plain raw? We. Love. It. All.
To show our love, this month we gave over the entire feature well to the celebration of the excellent food and dining opportunities—high and low (“Where to Eat Now 2011”), new and old (“Room with a View”), stationary and mobile (“Slow, Food”), canned and farm-fresh (“They Are What You Eat”)—available to Cincinnatians. If that’s not enough, there’s also our annual Dining Out Guide with 587 places to eat (which sounds like a lot, but if we missed anything—and we probably did—let us know). We do not take this lightly. It’s generally assumed that the landscape between the coasts is a vast wasteland of prefab fast food chains. We’ve got our share, that’s for sure. But we also have a heritage of inventive, ambitious chefs and restaurateurs who have nurtured an eclectic and organic dining scene. Lucky for all of us, it’s alive and well.