While I’m just as thrilled as anyone to put 2020 behind me, I’m grateful for the passion and perseverance demonstrated by our local chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, winemakers, and distillers last year as they faced their most challenging of times.
One might suggest that food and beverage writers had a shortage of content to cover last year because of the pandemic. Au contraire, I say, especially when I look back at the stories that I was honored to cover last year.
I recently asked my esteemed web editor, Mike Truelsen, to dive into the data to see which of my stories resonated the most with our readers in 2020. This research produced a top ten list ranked by your digital engagement – your clicks, likes, and shares.
In the spirit of giving back, a downtown Thai restaurant decided to feed a local hospital’s staff with gratitude for their work on COVID’s front lines. My story about this community calling, with coconut milk and curry, landed at the number 10 spot.
The canned wine craze continued to grow last year, and my story about a local winemaker’s vision of sipping quality wine from a can while hiking and lounging by the pool inspired so many popping of tops that it popped up to number nine.
Collaboration is a common practice in the craft beer community. One collaborative brew built a bridge between Tucson and Phoenix last year, and my sudsy story about solidarity came in at number eight.
Sadly, the pandemic kept me from judging the nation’s largest barbecue rib competition last year, but a local pit master consoled me by sharing a few secrets of his own success. My story that revealed them was smokin’ number seven.
Fans of single malt whiskey rejoiced last year when the highly anticipated seasonal release from a local distiller hit the streets. At 112 proof, this number six story about the soul of the Sonoran Desert in a glass should be sipped slowly.
With social distance guidelines in practice, a local chef offered some suggestions for responsibly doting on mom last Mother’s Day with his take-out brunch kits. The kits were a hit, and apparently so was my story that earned the number five spot.
A local Italian eatery is pushing culinary boundaries in ways that honor the traditions of old school Italia while introducing seasonal and modern expressions. My generations-connecting tale of two tables, and the love story behind it, was number four.
If there's a greater honor than having a meat box named after you, I know not of it. So when I heard that a local craft butcher named his barbecue box after yours truly, I blushed a sauce-like crimson. This smokey and sticky story landed at number three.
The local culinary community lost one of our very best last year. He was the quintessential family man, a true pizza pioneer, and a treasured friend. My tribute to the beloved Dino Chonis was our number two story.
So what was the top story of the year based on our readers' digital engagement?
You’ll obviously never have trouble finding a great taco in Tucson, but my story about a pop-up taco concept that regularly reveals itself inside an eastside diner earned enough favor, and flavor, to give it the coveted number one spot.
Despite the virus-centric setbacks, 2020 was a delicious year. And I look forward to the day this year when mask-less moments return to our favorite restaurants.
Happy New Year!
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.