Full Belly Files: Resolution Time: Eat and Report More Diversely

On Hopes to Write About Restaurants, Farmers, and Trends

I’d like to report and write more stories about family-owned businesses like this piece about Enoch Rojas at Los Tarascos. | Credit: Matt Kettmann

I appreciate the concept and am happy when it works for others, but I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. To me, it just paves the path for disappointment down the road when you fail. 

But for 2022, I’m resolving to make at least a few resolutions when it comes to my food & drink coverage, and I’m hoping you can help me reach some of these goals in the months to come. Here they are. 

Report on a wider diversity of restaurants: A bulk of my food & drink coverage focuses on places that have just opened or establishments that have hired public relations professionals to get the word out. These deserve our attention, but there can be a sameness to these stories, from similar styles of cuisine to echoed talking points to, well, a lot of white people. 

So I hope to do a better job covering places that aren’t shiny and new, don’t have the budget to hire that sort of PR help, and come from diverse backgrounds, particularly the many family-run Asian, Indian, African, Mexican, and South American restaurants. I’d like to do everything from highlighting a unique dish in a short article to writing longer features about immigrant success stories. 

Part of the challenge here can be language, and it hasn’t gotten any easier to see what’s happening in these kitchens during COVID. But if you have any tips or contacts, please email me at matt@independent.com

Dive deeper into where our foods come from: I love writing stories about who grows our food and drinks, and have done plenty of that when it comes to wine as well as sporadically decent jobs when it comes to fishing, farming, and ranching. But I’d really like to tell more of these tales as they relate to our foods in 2022, so that we can all learn a little bit more about this carrot or that pork chop. The farmers’ markets will be an easy place to start, but again, send your tips my way.

Covering fishermen, farmers, and ranchers is another goal for 2022. | Credit: Courtesy

Do more trend round-ups: From a reporting standpoint, round-up stories require a lot of time spent visiting restaurants and bars — as much as three or four times the work for the same-sized story. That sounds like fun, and it’s not a bad way to pay the bills, but that also means time spent away from actually writing, dealing with emails, helping to manage the paper, reviewing wines, being a parent, and so forth. 

So I’m turning to you, dear readers, to be my extra eyes and ears on the ground. Send your photos and descriptions of cool new food & drink trends my way, and I’ll do my best to shine a brighter light and help others tune into the latest as well.  

Find more voices: The pandemic cut our slim freelance budgets down to almost nothing, and they have yet to return in full force. That severely limits our ability to foster the next generation of writers, and we have fewer voices than ever represented on our pages right now. 

Thanks to the SBCAN Mickey Flacks Journalism Fund, we will soon be launching an already-funded food & drink fellowship program, but I am always open to pitches from anyone. We still don’t have a lot of money to spend, but I’m good about developing creative ways to make assignments work out for all involved. So send your ideas my way. 

Go to more restaurants, period: I managed to eat out a good amount in 2021, but it still paled in comparison to years past, thanks to our pesky friend COVID-19. These initial days of 2022 aren’t exactly what I’d call a promising start, with the Omicron variant freaking everyone out and driving the biggest surge yet. 

But it feels different, like maybe we’ll get through it quicker, maybe less people will die, and maybe 2022 will wind up being a bit more normal than last year. If so, you’ll find me eating out quite a bit more, and relaying what I find in articles, on this newsletter, and, most consistently, via my Instagram page

Of course, that means maybe I should make another resolution to exercise more. I’ll get back to you on that…


Sign up to get Matt Kettmann’s Full Belly Files, which serves up multiple courses of food & drink coverage every Friday, going off-menu from our regularly published content to deliver tasty nuggets of restaurant, recipe, and refreshment wisdom to your inbox.


Wines to Find

Credit: Courtesy

Anyone who’s ever asked me about my favorite wines knows that I’m a freak for cool-climate syrah, the most peppery style in the world. I recently tasted two worthy of your immediate attention. 

Future Perfect “The Joy Fantastic Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills Syrah 2020: I recently wrote about winemaker Sunny Doench and how she was able to get fruit from this amazing vineyard, hand-planted by Peter Hunken and Amy Christine. This syrah just came out in her tasting room, and it may already be gone, so hurry up. It’s young and fresh but seriously layered and will last forever. 

Potek “Mormann Vineyard” Sta. Rita Hills Syrah 2016: I know Dave Potter makes great wines under the Potek and Municipal Winemakers labels, because I’ve written about him over the years and he’s also a significant chapter in my book. But I still was stunned to uncover a recent blind tasting and find this 2016 standing there. Despite its somewhat advanced age, the syrah tasted as young as any in the batch (above company included), with a powerful pepper spice from sniff to finish. Because this Gypsy Canyon vineyard got ripped out for a cannabis farm, the upcoming 2017 is the last vintage. Grab now.

Holiday Highlights

Credit: Matt Kettmann

I penned my last two newsletters (which were my Year in Review and then an iPhone walk through 2021) before taking some time off for Christmas and New Year’s. As usual, the holidays involved plenty of eating and drinking.

Credit: Matt Kettmann

Photographed highlights included: 

  • Making my annual persimmon-orange-pepper, a k a “POP,” sauce. Every year, more people hit me with their persimmons. I made two batches this year: one with the Vietnamese Black Cobra chilis, the other with orange Thai chilis. Both quite hot. 
Credit: Matt Kettmann
  • Porterhouse steaks from Market Forager. I grilled three with just pepper and salt but really only needed two. More on that below. 
  • Tater tots at Zodo’s, where masking was a bit hit-and-miss and the beer selection remains solid despite the new Bowlero ownership. 
Credit: Matt Kettmann
  • Raclette night with my mom and brother’s family. We love this on-table machine that we first used many years ago in France. Somehow, my mom and bro had never used it before. We certainly will again.
  • Our first Christmas Eve dinner at a restaurant ever, with great food from Costa Kitchen and Bar. The lamb scallopini was fantastic, as was everything else.  
Credit: Matt Kettmann
  • Our traditional breakfast pie for Christmas morning, topped with the POP Sauce. We wound up with potato chunks this year rather than hash browns as the base, and they were even better.
  • Frozen udon from Nikka Japanese Market that became a base for leftover porterhouse. I also went a little crazy in the market — miso dressing, hot peas, rice crackers, things I already forgot I bought — and realized that I need to shop there regularly, if for nothing other than the king trumpet mushrooms.  
Credit: Matt Kettmann
  • A two-day romp through Hollywood with my family, best witnessed on this Instagram story. We stayed at the Roosevelt, hit up Canter’s, El Granjero Cantina, L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, toured museums, and even did that cheesy bus ride. Travel story coming soon.
  • New Year’s Day pozole made by Kathleen Rodriguez, wife of sportswriter John Zant, paired with too much pinot noir. 

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