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In a year in which much of the national debate has focused on how we as Americans should consider health care, very little of the public conversation has touched on the food industry.

The hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on cardiovascular disease, obesity-related issues and diabetes ought to position American eating habits at the center of the health care dialogue, but such a conversation is greeted instead with persistent denial.

Our refusal to cop to the ill effects of fast food and factory farming is so potent, respected author Michael Pollan explained in a New York Times op-ed, it has pushed the government toward "the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup."

In town after town on the American interstate, independent restaurants that serve fresh, innovative cuisine, created with healthy ingredients, are nowhere to be found among the thick forest of franchise operations and pit stops for chunky, supersized refi lls of preservatives, fats and sugars.

Not so in Santa Fe. One could say Santa Feans are fortunate to be inundated with so many restaurants relying on high-quality and regional ingredients in distinct approaches to many cuisines, but there's really no luck involved. Skilled chefs and entrepreneurs continue to both be drawn here and to spring from local talent. Not only has the varied tapestry of food and styles across all price ranges redoubled in recent years, but the number of restaurants eschewing mass-produced ingredients in favor of seasonal menus inspired by the local food shed has become a genuine movement.

This is evidenced in the new restaurants—A la Mesa, Real Food Nation and Vinaigrette, to name a few—that have muscled into this year's list of 40 Favorites. These vanguard establishments didn't spring from a vacuum, however, as demonstrated by SFR's list of classic restaurants, which have proved themselves over many years of faithful operation. Our restaurant of the year, Tune-Up Café, is as notable for a clever fusion of food styles available at recession-busting prices as it is for its exemplary status as a neighborhood joint, a long-standing Santa Fe restaurant affection.

There's no need to be cloistered in a closet full of brown rice and vitamin supplements to eat healthy in Sante Fe—unlike the country at large, we can eat out with abandon.


Links to highlight articles:

Restaurant of the Year 2009/2010

Reverse Gratuity