Let's talk food, from restaurants and recipes to farmers markets, food issues and wine. Lee Svitak Dean, Rick Nelson, Kim Ode and Bill Ward will start the conversation.

Posts about Locally-produced food

Burger Friday. Where are you eating?

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: August 11, 2013 - 12:21 AM



If it's Friday, it must be time for a burger.

Rick Nelson has plenty of favorites for you to choose from. Find out where he's been dining at www.startribune.com/burgerfriday.

Look for more in coming weeks. So far he has visited:

Sun Street Breads

Bread & Pickle


Gather at Walker Art Center 

Victory 44

Be'wiched Deli



Modern Cafe

Convention Grill

The Sample Room






Free pepper plants available now for two hours

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: June 10, 2013 - 11:52 AM


Hurry! There's a 2 hour window NOW in downtown Minneapolis (Warehouse District, specifically) to get a free pepper plant, grown at Gardens of Eagan.

Here's the press release:




Over 2,000 organic pepper plants will be given away in two hours in Minneapolis’s Warehouse District today (Monday, June 10).
Haberman/ Modern Storytellers for Pioneers declared last Monday as "Free Tomato Day" and gave away 1,000 organic, heirloom tomato plants. They had so much fun that they are doing it again except this time they are spicing things up and it’s going to be double the fun: more than 2,000 organic pepper plants in two hours. Gardens of Eagan and Haberman have partnered to encourage everyone to cultivate their own garden, whether it’s one pot or a whole backyard, and enjoy a homegrown bounty.
Gardens of Eagan is a certified organic farm growing plants and produce since 1972. Gardens of Eagan believes every season is an opportunity to feed people great certified organic food. Haberman is a Minneapolis-based full service marketing firm that has a number of organic food clients, as well as its own company-run garden that staffers enjoy as an employee benefit.
Monday, June 10, 11:30 a.m.
Pick your pepper at the corner of 1st Avenue North and 5th Street (outside the Kickernick Building across the street from The Loon).


Taste is two-time finalist in the Association of Food Journalists awards

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: May 24, 2013 - 9:05 AM


Food entrepreneurs featured in the Taste 50, a finalist in the AFJ competition.

Food entrepreneurs featured in the Taste 50, a finalist in the AFJ competition.



Time to toot our own horn! The Taste section is a two-time finalist in the journalism competition that is held by the Association of Food Journalists. Both projects  are competing in the Special Food Section category.


 One is the "Taste 50" section from last year, which featured 50 people in the Twin Cities who have been noteworthy in local foods. The special project featured terrific text from Rick Nelson, stunning photos from Tom Wallace (who shot 125 photos for this single issue), amazing design by Nicole Hvidsten (who fortunately did not develop carpal tunnel from all that intricate work necessary from all those photos), with coordination from me (that would be Lee Svitak Dean). The special section included an interactive online site, too. Find it here.



Ripe olives. Photo by Mary Jo Hoffman

Ripe olives. Photo by Mary Jo Hoffman














The three-part series by freelancer Steve Hoffman, "A Letter From France," is also a finalist in this category. Steve eloquently wrote about olives, figs, goats and cheese as he told stories of life in a tiny village in France where he and his family spent the fall. His wife, Mary Jo, served as photographer for the series, which included a video that she and her daughter produced. Find the video here.


The Hoffman family in Autignac, France: Eva, Steve, Joseph and Mary Jo

The Hoffman family in Autignac, France: Eva, Steve, Joseph and Mary Jo 























We've been proud of these projects from the start. But being acknowledged as finalists is extra sweet. The winners will be announced in September.

See below for the full roster of award finalists.


2013 AFJ Awards Competition List of Finalists

Finalists below are listed in alphabetical order. More than three finalists in any category indicate one or more ties. 

Best Newspaper Special Food Project
“This Is Pittsburgh Food,” Bob Batz Jr., Food Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Letters from France,"
Steve Hoffman, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“On Our Plate,” Nancy Stohs, Food Editor, Milwaukee Journel Sentinel
"Edge City,” Jill Silva, Food Editor, Kansas City Star
"Taste 50,” Lee Dean, Food Editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Best Newspaper Food Coverage, above 200,000 circulation
Boston Globe, Sheryl Julian, Food Editor
Philadelphia Daily News, Food Editor: Laurie T. Conrad
The San Francisco Chronicle, Miriam Morgan, Food Editor
The Washington Post, Joe Yonan, Food Editor

Best Newspaper Food Coverage, below 200,000 circulation
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA, Cheramie Sonnier, Food Editor
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bob Batz Jr., Food Editor
San Antonio Express-News, Karen Haram, Food Editor

Best Newspaper Food Feature, above 220,000 circulation
Andrea Adleman, The Washington Post, “The Psychology of Cupcakes”
Katy McLaughlin, The Wall Street Journal, “Get Your Goat On”
Greg Morago, The Houston Chronicle, “Barbecue Nerds”

Best Newspaper Food Feature, 125,000-220,000 circulation
Cindy Hoedel, The Kansas City Star, “Rabbit Revival”
Jackie Loohauis-Bennett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Creating More Than a Stir”
Jill Silva, The Kansas City Star, “Growing Change”

Best Newspaper Food Feature, below 125,000 circulation
Drew Lazor, Philadelphia City Paper, “Acts of Will"

Stacy Schultz, Sauce Magazine, “A Second Shot”
Katharine Shilcutt, Houston Press, “Chef Endures Cancer, Loss of Sense and Taste”

Best Non-newspaper Food Feature
Nadia Arumugam, The Atlantic, “Expired”
Todd Klimon, Washingtonian, “Everywhere at Once”
Chad Robertson, Food Arts, “Baker in the Rye”

Best Restaurant Criticism
Bobby Ampezzan, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Ian Froeb, Riverfront Times
Tejal Rao, The Village Voice
Laura Reily, Tampa Bay Times

Best Food Visual
Joaquin Herrera, The San Antonio Express-News, “S.A. Food Savvy?”
Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune, “Winged Salute to July 4th"
James Nielsen, The Houston Chronicle, “The Great State of Barbecue”
Richard Stokes, Reno Magazine, “Savor Summer”

Best Food Essay

Darra Goldstein, The Wall Street Journal, “A Bribe-Worthy Chicken Dish”
Todd Klimon, Washingtonian, “Champagne & Sippy Cups”
Marge Perry, Newsday, “Cupcakes That Say Love”

Best Writing on Beer, Wine and/or Spirits
Jon Bonne, San Francisco Chronicle, “Restoring a Napa Legend”
Wendy Goldman Rohm, Playboy, “The Talented Mr. K”
Jason Wilson, TableMatters.com, “When Wine Talk Gets Weird”

Best Story on Food Policy or Food Issues
Carolyn Jung, Food Arts, “Foie and Its Discontents”
Andy Mannix and Mike Mullen, City Pages, “Milk Money”
Hanna Raskin, Seattle Weekly, “Peaches and Dreams”

Best Food Column
Kellie Hynes, Sauce Magazine
Martha J. Miller, EthnoTraveler Magazine
Hanna Raskin and Dan Person, Seattle Weekly

Best Food Blog, Multiple Writers
Phoenix New Times
The Salt, NPR
Inside Scoop, San Francisco Chronicle

Best Food Multimedia Presentation
Feast magazine, Hannah Radcliff
Indy Week, D.L. Anderson and Victoria Bouloubasis
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Gretchen McKay and Steve Mellon

Best Student Writing on Food
Stephanie Parker, University of Montana writing for The Kaimin, “Investing in a
Little Produce”

Shelby Vittek, Drexel University writing for TableMatters.com, “My Endangered Dinner”
Shelby Vittek, Drexel University writing for TableMatters.com, “Old Nordic”










Lenny Russo in Slovenia #11: A near brush with death

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: April 17, 2013 - 11:49 PM


Photos by Christopher Wurst

Photos by Christopher Wurst


On April 3, 2013, I almost died ... twice. That sounds a lot worse than it was since I did escape relatively unscathed, and I anticipate a full, if only gradual, recovery. The long and the short of it is that the footage that was shot that day has now ended up on the cutting room floor per the desire of sponsors Pop-TV and the U.S.Embassy here in Slovenia. I have hesitated communicating this to you because it was my earnest desire that the following details be viewed in a more anecdotal nature rather than be sensationalized. Consequently, my reporting for the last few days has been out of sequence. Here's what happened.

The day started off well. The weather was beautiful as we headed to Idrija. It is the home town of our sound guy and first camera Matias Mrak. He is rightfully very proud since Idrija is a beautiful city set in the picturesque foothills of the Julian Alps. Once there, we toured the old mercury mines with our guide Jana. The mines are fascinating, and they once were a leader in mercury production at one time supplying 13 percent of the world's consumption.

In between takes, I was able to drop in on a local butcher shop where they create and age all of their own salumi. They also have their own farm, and some of the fresh meats were a product of that farm.

Following the mine sequence, I was introduced to two professional Yugo rally drivers.  Their cars were no ordinary Yugos. The piston cylinders had been bored out to increase the horsepower from the original 65 to 120, and they were fitted with roll bars and safety harnesses. 












The idea was to take me as a passenger in one of the cars on a breakneck ride along the twisting hilly road, after which I was scheduled to receive a lesson in žlikrofi from an 83-year-old woman, who is considered to be the finest maker of these traditional tortellini-like pasta purses. Then, we were scheduled to head to Kobarid for dinner and lodging at Nebessa, which is a spectacular location set in the Alps. The next day would find us in cheese caves and at Hiša Franko, which is considered one of the finest restaurants in all of Slovenia, with the cheesemaker Valter Roš and with his wife, the acclaimed chef Ana Roš. I was scheduled to cook with Ana.













So here is where things get interesting.  I was strapped into the passenger seat harness of the Yugo, given a safety helmet and instructed to hold on tight while my driver took me on an adrenaline-pounding run up the hillside. The switchbacks were plentiful and narrow as we gazed at the ravines passing us by as we ascended the hill. As the car continued its climb, the driver did not to seem to fully understand that, at one point, he was supposed to turn around and come back for a second shot. Instead he continued to barrel up the hill.

As we approached one particularly hairpin turn, he hit a patch of gravel, which caused him to lock up his brakes. We skidded to a halt on an embankment above a ravine, with the Yugo hanging precariously over the edge.  Just when I thought we would be safe, the car began to tip. The dash-cam footage shows that as the car started its fall into the ravine below, I got a big smile on my face and began to laugh. I was thinking a few things.First, I was thinking, "What the hell. I might as well think of this as a carnival ride and enjoy the thrill." 

Then I thought, "With all the crazy stuff I have been through in my life, this is a hell of a way to go."  I had a few other thoughts that were mostly concern for my wife, who had no idea where I was or what was happening, and I just wanted to be sure that she would be okay, no matter what happened.I am sure there were several other things going through my head at the time such as what I would do once we landed. But everything happened so quickly that I am not completely certain what else I was thinking.

The car rolled hood-over-wheels about four times before resting right-side-up in about two feet of snow at the bottom of the ravine. Fortunately, my window was rolled down, so I avoided taking shattered glass to the side of my face. I had kept my eyes open the whole time, which were protected by my trusty Ray Bay Wayfarer sunglasses, but I did watch as the windshield busted out, and I fully experienced the head-over-heels visual as we tumbled down the steep embankment. If you have ever seen a movie that pictures a rolling car interior during an accident sequence, then you know what I was seeing as we headed for the bottom. 

I am certain that if they had not taken the proper safety precautions by strapping me into the harness that I would have very likely been tossed from the vehicle and quite possibly lost my life. As it turned out, I only suffered a small contusion to my left knee, another to my right shin, one to my hip and a badly sprained right thumb, that has recently made gripping a knife and driving a car very difficult, not to mention securing the opening on my button-fly jeans. It has certainly made me appreciate the fact that we evolved as a species with opposable thumbs.


















After checking into a triage first-aid station in the village below, I was relieved to find that my bumps and bruises appeared to be relatively minor in nature. The bigger problem, which persists as I write this, is a massive escalation in blood pressure to a dangerous and potentially life-threatening level. I was consequently taken to a hospital in Ljubljana (the capitol of Slovenia), where precautionary X-rays were taken and where I received some medication to reduce my blood pressure. (Side note: I was told that Josep Broz Tito, the much revered leader of the former Yugoslavia, died there on the seventh floor of that hospital.)

I am still undergoing treatment for my blood pressure as I fight to return it to normal and while I try to rest my thumb. The recommended course of action at that point was rest and a well-prescribed day off. Consequently, the rest of the taping for that episode was cancelled, and we resumed two days later at a different location.

On another side note, it was hard to believe how incredibly inexpensive health care is here in Slovenia. A full set of X-rays and doctor visits, including prescription drugs, did not exceed 150 euros. This is what it would cost the average private citizen not covered by insurance in Slovenia. That is certainly something to think about. I can only imagine what all of that would have cost in the U.S.

So now, with filming complete and the wrap party put to bed, I have only one last interview with Pop-TV before Mega [his wife and business partner] and I head to Paris for a week of exploring the markets and visiting with Parisian chefs. It was really hard to say goodbye to the many wonderful friends we met here while in Slovenia, but I am certain we will have the opportunity to cross paths with them again.  
-- Lenny Russo









































Lenny Russo in Slovenia #10: Wine, bocce ball and goodbyes

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: April 15, 2013 - 9:43 PM
Today was our last day of filming, and all I have left is a live interview with Pop-TV and perhaps something with Radio Slovenia. We are getting ready to head over to the wrap party.

As I had reported, after our first trip to the Kras region, we headed back to Ljubljana for the reception at U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli's residence where I sampled Slovenian wines and foods from Eastern Slovenia in a kind of stump the chef segment. I must admit that I was at least partially stumped, but I think I did pretty well for the most part.

Yesterday, we headed back to Kras still accompanied by Sommelier Gašpar Čarmen, with whom I had developed quite a rapport, and the village of Zemono where we met up with Chef Tomaž Kavčič of Gostilna Pri Lojzetu where the kitchen has been run by members of his family, both male and female, for generations. It was Tomaž' mother that passed the torch to him, and, when the gostilna was in danger of being purchased by Russian oligarchs, he was able to secure a mortgage and finally bring its ownership under his family's name. The place is amazingly beautiful and set on hills surrounded by vineyards and olive groves with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Legend has it that none other than Casanova spent three nights there doing what Casanova was famous for.

The chef likes to go by "Tomi", and he prepared the traditional sauerkraut soup jota, which was served in a bread bowl, followed by his own modern take on jota, which is served dry and employs agar agar. Both versions where outstanding.

We were joined by Primož Lavrenčič of Burja Wine Estate who presented some of his fantastic selections. The vines which produced the grapes that were used to make those wines could been seen from our perch on the hillside above.

Then we headed to Movia Winery. Mega has two Movia wines currently on the Heartland wine list. Once there I prepared a meal of roasted pork loin scented with lavender and rosemary; carrots, fennel and potatoes pan fried in rendered pork fat; and wild asparagus served with lemon and Movia's own olive oil. The sauce was a reduction of pork stock with preserved wild mushrooms. Winemaker Aleš Kastančič paired his bio-dynamic Lunar 9 Chardonnay.

Later, we toured the cellars where Aleš took us into a cave that houses vintages dating back to 1943. Once there, he choose a bottle of 1958 Merlot in honor of the year of my birth, which tasted so bright and fresh it was difficult to believe that it was 55 years old. Nonetheless, the markings on the bottle, which date back to the former Yugoslavia when the wine bottles were only 700 ml, verified that the wine was indeed authentic. He packed a second 1958 in a small wooden crate with a certificate of authenticity and presented it to me as a gift.

After a good night's sleep, we headed down winding roads bouncing back and forth between Italy and Slovenia until we reached Plisokovica where a stone mason carved me a mortal pestle from the local stone which is exceptionally hard and perfect for such an application. I even had the opportunity to take a few whacks with his decorating mallet as the mortar was being crafted.

Our final destination was the walled medieval village of Štangel where Gašpar and I were challenged to a game of bocce ball by some local residents, all of whom were well into their later years. Of course, we lost badly, seven to three, but I think we accounted well for ourselves by at least scoring that many points.

There will be some additional voice-over work to do and some additional footage to film at Heartland, but this brings our trip to Slovenia pretty much to a close. It has been our joy and privilege to be here, not only representing our country, but also meeting and learning from so many wonderful Slovenians. We hope to not only maintain the relationships we have forged here, but also to continue to grow and foster them while helping our friends and business associates in America better understand the many wonderful things that Slovenia has to offer.

I especially wish to thank Mr. Christopher Wurst of the American Embassy here in Ljubljana for conceiving and planning this exchange, and I also wish to thank Lee Dean of the Star Tribune for allowing me to share it with you. More thanks should go out to POP-TV and especially Felina Films, whose marvelous crew made the filming of this trip possible. -- Lenny Russo

Note: There will be one more posting from Lenny.  


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