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From the Editor: Armchair Travel

The heavy snows and polar vortex in February and much of March took a toll on restaurant sales. Years ago when I moved from San Diego to Denver, I used to joke that the 7-Eleven by our house probably went out of business because my kids and I were no longer there to deplete their Slurpee machine daily. So I wondered if my leaving the Twin Cities for a week in mid-March also caused local restaurants to take an even bigger hit than the weather’s. 

You can catch up on my vacation on page 17 and not just because I’m tempted to write the trip off on my taxes. Some lucky chefs in town are able to take off and travel to get new perspectives on food, but many are too busy working in their own kitchens to check out what kitchens in other countries are trying. 

What Costa Rica lacks in haute cuisine it makes up with spectacularly hot sunsets. 

Full disclosure: I had more of the tourist experience in Costa Rica than the traveler’s. I didn’t make it to the local markets or supermarkets where the locals shop, nor did I sample street food. I did, however, buy several pottery birds that double as whistles from the vendors who walked the beach. (I like local art even more than I like local food.) But even so, I did make some observations I think you’ll find interesting.

And even better, when I returned most of the snow had been rained out.

As far as putting a dent in restaurant revenues, I know I eat out way too often—sometime twice a day, seven days a week. But in my own small plates way, that’s my contribution to foodservice.

Another contribution Foodservice News makes is with the Charlie Awards, which celebrates the greater Twin Cities foodservice and beverage industries. Next year’s categories will be slightly different, but the big news is that we’re adding a new category: coffeehouses. 

Last year we attempted to honor the pervasive independent coffee culture by awarding the Outstanding Barista award. What we found, however, was that the nominations included just first names. We do have investigative skills here at Foodservice News, but the task of tracking down all those last names (sometimes without an address of which coffee shop in a chain) seemed daunting—and like we missed the mark. 

We decided that maybe it’s the place where the drink is made, not who had a hand in it, that makes the experience of buying hot and cold, decorative drinks so special. I, too, am on a first-name-only basis with my favorite barista, so no judgment on my part. 

But just think about all the great coffeehouses we have. Many display local artists’ work, provide games to occupy your time, free Wi-Fi, a bulletin board of business cards for services and experiences you didn’t know you needed until they were held up to you by a thumb tack. 

We’ll have more information on the categories, the voting and the kick-off in the next couple of months, but in the meantime, I want to just bask in the glow of my time away before I’m all in again. 

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