This picture, though 123 years old, pretty much sums up our view of the past twelve months. It was a kidney stone of a year, and we couldn’t pass it fast enough. And since this will be our last post of 2014, we thought we’d feature a few random thoughts and observations about it, and point our loyal readers to what they can look forward to in the time it takes our blue marble to rotate around good old Sol one more time.
2014 in Review
What exactly happened on our food scene this past year?
Answer: not much if you looked on the Strip; quite a lot if you looked off it.
Our local dining scene is pathetic with Chinatown, non-existent without it. — Former Las Vegas Strip F&B Executive
There are many reasons why the prospect of ever having a viable, neighborhood restaurant scene in Las Vegas stinks more than a pound of overripe Epoisses.
The easiest thing to cite is our complete lack of agriculture. Second on most people’s list would be our primarily blue collar populace — who are more concerned with spending as little on food as possible….in order to wile their days and nights away losing their paychecks at the nearest video poker machine.
Thirdly would be the relentless assault on our real estate by national chains and franchised brands — all of whom pounce on our blank-slate real estate developments like blood-sucking remora on the back of a giant (casino-bred) whale-shark. Their advertising muscle, and the top dollar they pay to park all those CVS drugstores and Domino Pizza franchises, virtually ensure that no mom and pop business will ever appear in a brand new shopping center. The best a locally-owned restaurant can ever hope for is to scout distressed locations in older strip malls and hope they can wrangle a good deal out of a landlord, who, despite experience and evidence to the contrary, will always be convinced that a Jimmy John’s or Subway or Walgreen’s is right around the bend, just waiting to sign a 10+5+5 triple net lease* for the space at twice the price per square foot.
I recently sent a holiday e-mail to one of the titans of American gastronomy (not the fellow pictured above – more on him later). The dude I was sending season’s greetings to has major food chops. He’s what I call a restaurant intellectual, as well as being a noted cookbook author and food writer of great renown. My holiday greeting was filled with the usual “2014 was a wonderful year as we discovered the joys of making compost” blather, but in the midst of all the trite, yuletide good cheer I strangely found myself typing these words:
It’s funny that I choose this year to do it, because unlike the last twenty, this one has been a fairly dull one when it comes to our dining scene. Of course the party had to end sometime, but after the restaurant revolution of 1998-2010, these past few years have witnessed little, if any, interesting work being done by chefs and hoteliers, save for the occasional Japanese joint tucked away in places most gringos fear to tread.
In fact, the biggest revolution of all has taken place in my head, where I have become increasingly disenchanted with the tourist-trap pricing of our major hotels. It seems after almost two decades of entreating people to embrace the Strip and its celebrity-chef wonders, I find myself choking on the prices, and deploring the inorganic, top-down nature of our food culture. In this sense I’ve also come around to understanding certain journalist’s (and the James Beard Foundation’s) lack of respect for our casino-driven food “culture” – which has warped and stunted any real growth in our neighborhood food scene.
So basically I’ve become 1984 in reverse – I’ve learned to hate Big Brother (after once being his biggest fan).