2010 in Review, Part 1: The People We Met

With all the snow here, not to mention a car that’s on shaky tires right now, there’s not much to do except nosh on Christmas leftovers, watch videos, play with the toys Santa left us…and do some writing.

2010 was a memorable year. Yes, it’s cliché to say that, but consider the alternative: “this past year was uneventful…don’t even bother reading this summary, because it will bore you to tears…seriously, if you need something to do, get yourself a red-hot poker and jab your eyes right out”. So I’m sticking with the cliché, and put down that red-hot poker! You could put an eye out with that!

We run a food blog here, and while you’d expect the focus to be on the food, one of the things that makes doing what we do so fun is the people that we meet along the way. At the end of each year, we try to mention some of the folks who touched our lives through their words and/or deeds in the food and wine arenas.

Food Bloggers

Michael Savett is, simply put, on a mission: to help those with celiac disease find joy in eating good things that are gluten-free. His Gluten Free Philly site is a treasure trove of products, restaurants and events that offer gluten-free options. We got to meet Michael at a food event earlier in the year, and he is one of the most genuinely nice people you will ever meet. The highest level of existence is to be of service to others, and Gluten Free Philly is that in spades.

You could argue that any food blogger we meet is a kindred spirit, and yet there are some bloggers that we seem to click with right away. When we met Holly Burtchaell at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, we hit it off straight away. As she states on her Random Cravings blog, she does not have any formal culinary training, but a strong passion for food and cooking. And her passion comes right off the screen.

In the latter part of the summer, we enjoyed a wonderful outdoor wine tasting party at “Bistro 25”, which is the home of Jersey Foodies Mark and Pam Jahnke. The food, the wine and the conversation that night were such a treat. And if you fancy yourself as an oenophile, you’ll find their blog a treat as well. At this same party, we met up with Frank Nerney, who runs a fun little blog called South Jersey Wine & Dine. I like Frank’s blog because it’s a reminder as to why we like to go out to eat: it’s to have fun. Frank is also kind, friendly, and gracious in person.

In addition to these guys, there are a few new Jersey food blogs that I think are going to be great. Let’s start with two right here in South Jersey: ChewJersey and jerzEATS. Both blogs still have their new car smell, but Marie DiFeliciantonio and Colleen Wood are quickly showing that they will be giving out lots of good food info from Camden County and the surrounding areas. It’s exciting to see new faces in the food blogging scene here in South Jersey! Moving out of South Jersey, Nick Gisonna is just looking for a good burger. If you are as well, follow along at New Jersey Nick. Nice pics and great descriptions. And, covering all things ethnic in Jersey, is Anthony’s EthnicNJ.com site. It’s an ever-expanding site covering ethnic cuisine all over the state. It has the potential to be a great resource.

Memorable People

Ever meet someone and wonder if they were really brilliant or really wacko? Louis Caracciolo of Amalthea Cellars is such a person. But the more we talk to Lou, I think the needle is heading towards the direction of brilliant. He truly believes that top-notch wine can be made right here in South Jersey, and after tasting his Europa red blends, it’s hard to argue. Lou will talk your ear off, but you can’t help but get caught up in his passion and enthusiasm.

One of the folks that Lou gave an earful to was Joe Roberts, the 1WineDude. We dragged Joe down from Pennsylvania so he could give South Jersey wines a try and see what he thought. Not only was he happy to do so, he was even gracious enough to not get ticked when we arrived very late to the winery (so embarrassing). Joe is a genuinely good guy who gives it to you straight, and if you want to talk shop, he’s a great person with which to converse. And his blog is consistently one of the best blogs out there for quality content. It doesn’t hurt that he has a strong love for Rush as well.

You just never know who might be following your blog. Evidently, South Jerseyite and beer expert Gary Monterosso was following ours. And after chatting with Gary via email, we ended up serving as judges for the chef cookoff at the Cape May Food and Wine Festival that Gary hosts every year. When we first met Gary in person on the day of the cookoff, he greeted us like we were old friends. We look forward to interviewing Gary sometime down the road.

Another interview and restaurant review you should expect as well will be from Michael Hauke, the man behind Tony Boloney’s in Atlantic City. We first met Michael at the cheesesteak battle at the AC Food and Wine Festival, and we thought he was a crazy person. Months later, we were invited to attend one of his pizza making classes, and we got to see the personable and intelligent side of him. Michael is a wealth of pizza knowledge and has a strong passion for what he is doing. He may just save Atlantic City, but that’s for another post.

At the same AC Food and Wine Festival, we were given the rare privilege of getting interview time with none other than Paula Deen. We had no idea what to expect; would she be phony, distant, give us attitude? No no and no. In fact, we left the interview room feeling inspired. Paula Deen is much more real than you might imagine. She talked about her struggles and how she overcame them, no glossing over. With all the struggles we have gone through this past year, she delivered a great message of hope to us.

In Part 2 of our 2010 review, it’s all about the restaurants and the festivals we liked best this past year.

– John

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