Tuesday, March 20, 2007

TasteMemory: a soft opening to food happenings

It’s the first day of spring – I’ve chosen as a soft opening for my much awaited makings of TasteMemory.com!

Welcome to TasteMemory. What is TasteMemory? I’ve written TasteMemory to identify, report and forecast restaurant, culinary developments and trends. I also intend to focus on the culinary and cultural undercurrents by region as well as globally and in turn perhaps its affect on local restaurant/food happenings.

What is taste memory? Some food for thought from the reverent James Beard in Delights and Prejudices, 1964: The ability to recall a taste sensation, which I think of as "taste memory," is a God-given talent, akin to perfect pitch, which makes your life richer if you possess it. If you aren't born with it, you can never seem to acquire it....And naturally good chefs and cooks must depend upon memory when they season or when they are combining subtle flavors to create a new sauce or dish.

Many of you know me from the cultural programs I’ve developed in Historic Springfield and Downtown Jacksonville that have been arts and film festival based. As residents here you have seen and experienced the overwhelming development in the arts and cultural community in perhaps just a span of few years. A definite credit to all the community groups in making this happen! The creative community grows when you have the neighborhood pioneers as seen in the events orchestrated by Open Gallery in San Marco, downtown’s Art Center Cooperative, Downtown Vision Inc.’s monthly First Wednesday Art Walk, Final Friday’s hosted by Jim Draper’s Studios in Historic Springfield and of course the original Brooklyn Arts Center to name a few. It’s always about the ‘neighborhood pioneers’ that define the cultural identity of a community. It’s always their passionate vision that weaves the community together supported by the traditional cultural venues for example the Times Union Center and Florida Theatre.

A stand out in recent years living in Jacksonville is the ‘no particular’ direction of the local culinary scene. There are spottings of traditional southern inspired fare, barbeque, many many chain restaurants, ethnic restaurants and obvious high end dining. But as atypical as the visual and performing arts scene was in Jacksonville about 5 years ago with no branding of identity, vision, connectivity (as a whole); so does the culinary and restaurant scenario stand to this day in this community.

If you consider what a city’s culinary and restaurant identity is, consider cities mentioned as San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Divide up the locations in that city and you’ll come across sections that are hyper-fat in regionally diverse Italian fare, Mexican: Baja inspired, Yucatan, Northern Mexican, etc., Spanish, Basque, various regional France, Japanese noodle houses, sushi, Japanese Shabu Shabu, Franco-Japanese; now do you get the picture? There are obvious sections in the city with defining regional cultural cooking.

The patronage in those cities demand the quality and diversity as they would in other cultural developments.

Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in area in the contiguous 48 states at 841 square miles. So with the influx of transplants from the northeast, east coast, west coast and globally you would think there would be some sort of identifying resonance in the food culture. Not yet. It is obviously developing in some places, a handful of restaurants here and there; made up of several passionate chefs that believe in quality and not just quantity.

Will it be up to our chefs to keep our regional transplants happily fed to remain here? Would it be the defining dishes at Crush Bistro or Bistro Aix that would woo residents from let’s say Pittsburgh, PA (YES-Pittsburgh – they are culinary savvy there!) to northeast Florida? What about the tourists finding there way through a city ‘Where Florida begins’? Sometimes it’s gotta be more that just ‘fresh’, and btw how do you define what ‘fresh’is? Asking if the fish is fresh to what parameter is my question to my local fish monger!

I hope to provide readers an anchor of concepts for those passionate about the cultural development of their local, regional and global community. Our community is so much more global now with the developments in our means of communications. I hope to share some insight about food, culture, the arts and anything else that propels what defines our cultural identity.

So get ready to step outside of the box, broaden horizons and perhaps your belt size…..

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