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Volume XVII, Issue 9 - February 26 - March 4, 2009
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Letter From the Editor

Annapolis Restaurant Week

A stimulus to good eating that deserves repeating

I’m writing from the gym, where I’m spending lots of time in the aftermath of Annapolis Restaurant Week. Which means that restaurants aren’t the only businesses boosted by the February 16 to 20 week of specials. The benefits naturally extend to fitness centers, personal trainers and weight-management counselors.

And, of course, to all of us who enjoyed $15.95 lunches and $29.95 dinners at 35 restaurants in and around Annapolis.

Lifting the February doldrums of a loss economy, starting with restaurants, was the purpose of the week, organized this year by the Annapolis Business Association. (Previous restaurant weeks had other sponsors.)

How big a boost did the 35 restaurants enjoy?

Bay Weekly’s unscientific sample showed lots of room at lunch but many full houses during the dinner hours, especially on the week’s only Friday.

We know because we recognized Restaurant Week as a deal too good to pass up. Roving Bay Weekly crews ate out every day of the week, sometimes overlapping meals.

Organizers are also reporting good vibrations.

“I’ve heard nothing but excellent reports,” said Erin McNaboe of Rams Head — before numbers across the board were compared.

Many restaurants are continuing the pricing through February, she reported. Others are considering adding the fixed-price three-course special to their lunch or dinner menus.

“It shows off what we can do,” explained Kip McConville, manager at Tsunami. As he spoke, the bonito-flake garnish on a bowl of fried tofu undulated like the wings of many small, mottled brown moths. That, he said, explains the adjective flying in the signature dish. It is not alive, just flapping in the hot breeze from the tofu. We needed that explanation.

The week’s showcase value in drawing new customers and introducing new dishes explains why Tsunami, and many of the other 34, gave customers their best, in choice and quality.

Not everybody’s best was equally good. That’s a lesson we’re glad we learned relatively inexpensively — and infrequently.

It’s a lesson — reinforced by the eating out we did last month in preparing Bay Weekly’s restaurant guide — we want to share with the owners, managers and chefs.

Simply put, it’s the fittest who are going to survive in this economy. Competition is going to weed out the less fit. As Chesapeake Country is colonized by chains that have perfected a narrow niche, local restaurants are especially at risk.

Locals that flourish are going to have to do as well or better than those predictable chains. That means serving distinctive dishes to increasingly sophisticated customers who’ve come to expect fresh ingredients and healthful preparations — and to prefer local ingredients.

The deep-fried whatever transported from who knows where to restaurants across the country: Its era has passed. Vegetables are in.

Events like Annapolis Restaurant Week do more than boost business in the short term. They help make more sophisticated customers and better restaurants. For all those reasons, we hope to see more of them — in Calvert and throughout Anne Arundel County, as well as in Annapolis.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher


© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.