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The Way We Ate 2008: Gold Burgers to 67 Cent Paninis

So that happened. It seems like only yesterday we were having a good laugh about how the $175 burger with the gold leaf flakes at Wall Street Burger Shoppe made the $81 hamburger at The Old Homestead look like rancid dog food. Now all we care about is when the next 69 cent sandwich sale will go down at Swich. 2009 is going to be the year when we learn to cook! (That's where Danielle Sucher weekly recipes come in.) But before we elbow our way onto the rapidly-expanding bread line that is 2009, let's look back in hunger at some of the top food stories this year.

The Year of Hype: Chef David Chang (Momofuku) managed to both personify and earn the ever-increasing hype generated by myriad food blogs and Yelpers. His 12 seat Momofuku Ko, opened in March, is as maddeningly exclusive as it is egalitarian: reservations are allocated to VIPs and nobodies alike through the restaurant's website. It even stymied Times critic Frank Bruni , but when he finally snagged a stool his review was as rapturous as the others. This year Chang cemented his reputation as a chef's chef, and did so with an endearing lack of pretension and self-regard, even going so far as to admonish bloggers for photographing his food when they really ought to be eating it.

123108tomatokiller.jpgThe Year of Fear: Remember that salmonella scare over the summer? At least 224 people were hospitalized, tomatoes were pulled from shelves, and tomato growers lost maybe $450 million. Which was too bad, because then the FDA exonerated tomatoes and fingered raw jalapenos. Oopsy!

The Year of Goodbyes: Beloved Meatpacking District oasis Florent closed in June after more than three decades serving this city's finest misfits. The vintage Cheyenne Diner also closed, but that's supposedly moving to Red Hook. In February La Fortuna, the Upper West Side cafe frequented by John Lennon, decided to let it be, and Park Slope's Tea Lounge on Seventh Avenue closed. Vesuvio Bakery in Soho also bid adieu, and in the space of just a few days we lost East Village coffeeshop Hopscotch (formerly Alt. Coffee), The Tasting Room, and Chez Brigitte. The former speakeasy Chumley's remained closed, and South Williamsburg BBQ joint Pies & Thighs went down and has yet to resurface, despite rumors of a new location. We know there are a lot more we missed, but this is getting really depressing.

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