As the New Year approaches, it’s time to remember a few of the stories that got Buzz’s attention in 2011:

1.  The unexpected death of Naomi Wise, San Diego’s only truly anonymous food critic.  She wrote for the San Diego Reader and was scrupulous to keep her identity hidden.  I was an occasional member of her eating posse as she sometimes referred to her dining companions.  Back in 2007 a post appeared here and Naomi wrote a perfect comment about what she did to be the critical and (sometimes unpopular) restaurant reviewer in the county.   While San Diego does have writers and bloggers extolling the latest dish about a place, none are completely anonymous–ask any of the PR agencies that host media dinners.   These days, everyone thinks they know food, just look at Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other social media.  Naomi’s  honest, food knowledgeable voice will be missed.

2.   National TV beckoned Nine-Ten‘s chef Jason Knibb who took on Bobby Flay in an Iron Chef America challenge.  Knibb lost but had a good time with the “all business” Flay who barely bothered to speak to Knibb after the show.  Riviera Magazine lost food writer and editor Troy Johnson to San Diego Magazine.  Along the way he had time to create and star in  Crave, a new show for the Food Network.  Bernard Guillas, executive chef extraordinaire at The Marine Room appeared twice on the Today Showand also was inducted into the Maitre Cuisiniers de France, a very high honor.

3.  Brian Malarkey who brought us Searsucker continues on a material tear, opening places all over the county, all named for fabrics that include Burlap and for 2012, Herringbone, Gingham, and Gabardine.  Interesting concept and Buzz wonders if he didn’t get the idea from Washington DC chef/owner Tom Power who, a few years ago, named his first restaurant Corduroy.  His second, Herringbone opens in 2012.  Malarkey picked up the shuttered La Playa Bistro and plans for it to become Gabardine. It will be worth watching how Malarkey unbuttons this small space located on a corner at the end of Point Loma’s business area.  For anyone other than area residents the restaurant’s location is nearly a dead-end destination.  And what about the food?  Will Malarkey’s name be enough to fill the spot?  Someone remarked the restaurant could have had a more nautical name such as Canvas, to reflect the neighborhood’s well-known tenant-–the San Diego Yacht Club is just two blocks away.

4.  Chefs making news:  Amy DiBiase now oversees The Shores in La Jolla, working with executive chef  Bernard Guillas; Paul McCabe left his executive chef duties at Del Mar’s Kitchen 1540 for a partnership with the owners of Rancho Santa Fe’s Delicias; Jason Maitland left Flavor del Mar and will open Red Light District in the old Sushi Itto in the Gaslamp while CIA schooled and highly credentialed Brian Redzikowski took Maitland’s spot.  Chad White jetted to Sea Rocket Bistro in North Park.  At the Hotel Del Coronado’s 1500 Ocean Brian Sinnott chose family over running the kitchen, Aaron Martinez is now in charge and wine director Joe Weaver just moved north.  Jason Shaeffer opened 1500 Ocean in 2006, then moved to Windsor, Colorado, bought a restaurant, named it  Chimney Park Restaurant and Bar and was just named one of OpenTable Diner’s Choice Overall Winners for 2011 (as was Addison at the Grand Del Mar).  Carl Schroeder made it to the semi-finals for a James Beard Foundation Award in the Best Chef Pacific region (as was William Bradley of Addison in 2010), neither made the finals…

5.  San Diegans like to drink.  According to a survey in The Daily Beast , San Diego ranks 9th in drunkest cities…This may not be an honor the city needs.

Happy New Year…May 2012 bring San Diego’s chefs, restaurants and diners great food (and service, too).  And perhaps this year will bring a James Beard Foundation award to a deserving chef and restaurant.  It’s last minute, but you can put in your own nominees for the awards here–just do it before December 31, 2011 at midnight.

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