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A lot has happened since Best of the Bay 2016, hasn’t it?
Oh, that innocent time before the storms and the strife and the divisive leadership of a small-minded despot. Let’s just say it’s been a relief to concentrate on the best of this turbulent and lately rather terrifying year.
Not that we shied away from smack talk (hey, if it’s OK for the prez…). And many of you seem to be on a similarly dark wavelength, judging by your answers to the Readers’ Poll question “Best Place to Dump a Body.” The winner? “I can’t give away my secrets.”
But the chief raison d’être for any issue of BOTB, including this one, is to celebrate the talented, the tasty — and in recent weeks, the heroic. We are honoring the heroes of Hurricane Irma in these pages — the people who helped us make it through the storm, who went above and beyond. And last week another storm hit close to home. Our creative director, Julio Ramos, continued to work tirelessly on this, our biggest issue of the year, at the same time that he had to endure the agony of not knowing how his family in Puerto Rico was faring after Maria. (He has made connections now; they’re OK, but recovery on the island will take a long, long time.)
Among the people we honored this year are those who take special care of animals. Via our Furricane Relief campaign, you helped us raise over $1,000 for Suncoast Animal League and Humane Society Tampa Bay in their efforts to care for animals affected by Irma (read more about their work on p. 34). As it happened, we’d been planning way before Irma to build this issue of BOTB around animals — specifically, the canine variety. We’re not all dog owners around here — there are cat lovers, too, and there used to be someone who kept snakes but I don’t think she does anymore — but staffers and readers kept coming up with so many dog-centric picks that a Best (Friends) of the Bay issue had to be. For instance, it turned out that our critic’s pick for Best Beach Cocktails, Grace in Pass-A-Grille, names all of its cocktails after local pups. Thanks to the patience of photographer Laurie Ross and the assistance of owners Lisa Masterson and Marlin Kaplan, we got dogs, owners and cocktails together for the group shot above.
This year’s Best of the Bay Readers’ Poll drew a record 436,000 online votes, entered by 27,300 voters. Readers could vote in more than 300 categories. Staffers and contributors wrote up more than 200 critics’ picks. They’re all in the pages that follow and online at cltampa.com/BOTB2017.
We couldn’t have done any of it without CL’s extraordinary staff, the folks that not only put out this mammoth once-a-year project but care deeply every day and every week about doing the best job and turning out the best publication they possibly can. They’re the Best. —David Warner