Anyone who’s worked in restaurants, even a little, knows what “86” means.
“Table nine wants a Caesar salad, 86 anchovies!”
“Tell the servers to 86 the cauliflower special!”
“We’ve got coffee still but 86 espresso!”
“86” means it’s gone, done, all used up. It means you don’t want it or don’t have it. It means what once was there is no longer.
Finally, praise-be-hallelujah-hurrah, it’s time to 86 this godforsaken year. Just because 2020 will soon be gone, doesn’t mean it will be forgotten. Far from it. We who’ve survived these last several months will bear them like battle scars for the rest of our lives.
After a year I would love to forget, there is so much I will remember. Many of those best memories, the few shining spots in this darkly tumultuous sea, were of food: of eating food and cooking food; of the resiliency of restaurants; of the boundless imaginations of our chefs and bartenders and brewers alike.
Let’s go back …
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To earlier this week, when I chose 2020’s 20 best dishes
In this wild year, these are the plates (and glasses and takeout boxes) that lingered for all the tastiest reasons. These are the dishes, and the restaurants behind them, that filled my belly and soul. Click here for my roundup in The News-Press, and here for a Naples Daily News link.
To earlier today, when I gave you a taste of Amfora in Estero
Amfora had me at hello. This is a restaurant built for romance. It’s in the ambiance of the glowing patio, the gracious attention of the staff, and the stirring Mediterranean flavors layered through each dish. Find more to love in the Daily News, as well as The NP.
To March 20, when the restaurant industry was brought to its knees
On this fateful Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis closed dining rooms statewide in an attempt to slow the pandemic. While most restaurants saw it coming, it still left them reeling. Mere hours after the governor’s announcement, Annabelle Tometich and Sarajane Sullivan published these raw stories of restaurateurs and staff coming to grips with the news. Find them in The News-Press and Daily News.
To March 13, when things only kind of seemed bad
It’s interesting to think how quickly the world changed. A week before restaurants shut their doors and shifted to takeout, they were already seeing unseasonable declines in sales. Annabelle gave us the grim details, before any of us knew what was to come. Find her story in The NP and NDN.
To May, when I stopped writing starred restaurant reviews
I’ve said it many times over, and I’ll say it again: I should be the least of a restaurant’s worries right now. Quibbling over shrimp cocktail feels ridiculous when thousands of restaurant workers are unemployed, with thousands more forced to choose between their health and safety, and a paycheck. Find more of my thoughts in the NDN and The NP.
To early June, when we celebrated restaurants with Black owners
As the Black Lives Matter protests marched across the world this summer, I was touched at the number of readers who reached out to me asking how they could support our local Black chefs and restaurateurs. I put together this list of 30-some restaurants from Naples to Fort Myers to LaBelle with Black owners. Find it in The NP and NDN.
To late June, when our food writers were losing their damn minds
In March, our food team stilled seemed to be holding it together. They assembled recipes for new and budding cooks to tackle in their quarantine kitchens; recipes for curry and stroganoff and kimchi-cheese-toast. By late June? Fuggedahboutit. Sarajane and Annabelle were SICK of cooking. SICK of complications. SICK of stoves, pots and pans. They took it to their laptops, sharing the “NOT recipes” getting them through this pandemic life. Find them in the NDN and The NP.
To September, when SWFL restaurateurs reflected on six months of insanity
When dining rooms closed, Annabelle reached out to a handful of restaurant owners, asking them to keep what she called “pandemic diaries,” tracking their thoughts, emotions and reactions to everything from PPP struggles to staff falling ill. Six months later, she presented their stories in their words. Find them in The NP and NDN.
To November, when I gave thanks to each and every restaurant in SWFL
Restaurants are my heart. Before I reviewed them, I worked in them: busing tables, washing dishes, cooking, serving, managing. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to be thankful for all I have. For health, family, work, writing, and the thousands of area restaurants that share our home. More in the NDN and The NP.
To December, when we wondered if we could eat pythons
“Chicken of the Glades.” It has a nice ring to it. In the loony year that was, why wouldn’t we consider eating pythons? Reporter Kimberly Miller found a woman who’s not just considered it, but who’s done it — and done it relatively safely. Could these invasives make their way onto menus? Learn more in the NDN and The NP.
To now, when I wish you a happy, healthy New Year
I mean, it can’t be worse than 2020. Can it? CAN IT?!?
Full? It happens to the best of us. Bookmark news-press.com/taste and naplesnews.com/entertainment/restaurants for the latest from the SWFL dining scene.
Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Email the critic at [email protected]