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.
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.
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
Shelby Vittek, Drexel University writing for TableMatters.com, “My Endangered Dinner”
Shelby Vittek, Drexel University writing for TableMatters.com, “Old Nordic”
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
We arrived at Gostilna Ostrouška (pictured, above; all photos by Christopher Wurst), early yesterday where I met Gašper Čarmen (note: "Gostilna" means restaurant). He is the top wine sommelier in all of Slovenia, and he had recently returned from an international competition in Tokyo. He will be traveling with us for the next couple of days. Also there was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bay Fang,who traveled over from Croatia where she was visiting with the diplomatic team stationed there. She, too, will be joining us for the remainder of our trip.
While there, we sampled several eau de vie made from everything from basil to fennel, all from their own gardens, as well as wines also produced there. They also cure there own salumi and prosciutti. We dined on a frittata-like egg dish stuffed with fresh herbs called fritalja. It is flatter and more pancake-like than the Italian version.
Next, we traveled to Praprot, crossing into Italy to the Zidarich Winery, where we met with Benjamin Zidirich. The winery is perched on a hillside overlooking the Adriatic, and it is spectacular. I am afraid that the pictures do not do this locale justice.
The wine cave is dug down several hundred meters into the rich iron ore laden terra rosa, and it took 10 years to excavate and construct. The work was done by stone masons, and it is supported by large stone arches that house giant wooden fermentation tanks and Slovenian oak barriques, as well an incredible large sink that had been hand carved from solid stone. I have seen many wine cellars and caves over the years, but I have never seen anything that compares to that.
We tasted several of Ben's wines, including a lively Malvasia, made in the traditional fashion using a form of carbonic maceration, and a remarkably full bodied Refusco.
I was then treated to a tour of his curing room where dozens of prosciutti, pancetti and salumi were hanging in various stages of drying, which is done in the traditional way by allowing the northern wind to blow through the room. Suffice it to say, I was green with envy. Later, we enjoyed a lunch comprised of those, with local cheese and some more of Ben's wines.
That evening, we returned to Ljubljana (the capitol of Slovenia) where we attended a reception at the ambassador's residence, where I was challenged in a blind tasting of wines and foods from eastern Slovenia, which is the area of the country that chef Cassie Parsons from North Carolina will be covering. Cassie had just arrived in the country, and I was quick to alert her to get as much rest as possible before her adventure begins in earnest. She will be facing very long days, some as long as my day yesterday, which started at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m.
Today we venture back to the wine growing region of Goriška Brda with a trip to another gostilna and a second visit to Movia Winery, where I will be cooking this evening. -- Lenny Russo
We were finally able to locate a "black kitchen" that was able to host a meal bringing together many of the folks we had previously visited on our tour of the region encompassed by the Julian Alps. A black kitchen is most akin to a smokehouse for those of us in the U.S.
I prepared a meal of heirloom beans and aromatic vegetables with klobasa and poached duck eggs topped with chives.The attendees were the two little old ladies who taught me how to make krape, and it was their gift of heirloom beans and duck eggs that took center stage. I also used the award-winning klobasa from Arval, and the sausage maker was at the table along with Tomaž Bolka of Gostilna Krištof, where I first tasted that sausage. Also in attendance were our friends the Lecters from the mountain village of Radovjlica, as well as chef Uroš Štefelin of Restavracija 1906.
As the meal was being served, we were paid a surprise viist by a mountain man character from a popular kid's show that dates back to the 1950s who proceeded to stick his fingers in my food, prompting a quick exchange of plates. Gifts were exchanged by all. Tomaž' handcrafted beer was consumed, and apple schnapps was hoisted in a toast.
Earlier in the day, I gave two interviews to Slovenian media. Late that evening, I gave a phone interview to Minnesota Public Radio.
The next day calls for a trip to the mercury mines of Idrija, where I will also take a ride with some professional rally drivers who race souped-up Yugos. That will be followed by a lesson making zlikrofi, which are like tortellini, and a visit to a top Slovene chef in Nebessa. -- Lenny Russo
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