Calling all foodies to Facebook

Published 7:27 am Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to my first column. After many news and several magazine articles, I can now officially add “columnist” to my résumé.

No doubt that news has brought you to your feet in riotous applause.

So, why have I not written a column until now? Well, I am the newest reporter at the Austin Daily Herald, having started back in March. I do not hail from Austin, nor do I hail from Minnesota. I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and spent my formative years in Atlanta, Georgia. I was working as a historian in Jackson, Mississippi, when I met my wife, then a graduate student of food science at Mississippi State University. Like so many transplants settling in Austin, my wife and I came here because of Hormel Foods.

Email newsletter signup

With the move came a new challenge. No, I don’t mean the snow. Up here, the roads are actually plowed and people know how to drive in it. In the South, the mere threat of snow causes people to panic, flee to the grocery store, empty the shelves of milk, bread and eggs, and then drive their cars into a ditch.

The challenge was getting to know the city. Not just what is visible on the exterior, but its history, culture and heart. While working for the Herald has definitely acquainted me with Austin more than I ever was with any other city I’ve called home, I learned a great deal about Austin through my favorite source: the food.

I am an unabashed, vehement foodie. Admittedly, I got swept up in the foodie craze prompted by The Food Network and The Travel Channel, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking. I’ve worked in several restaurants throughout my life (including one featured on The Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”) and the experiences from those places gave me the opportunity to learn about the food industry and expand my palate.

That is not to say that I am a food snob whose idea of eating well is an overpriced, microscopic piece of meat served at a restaurant that uses menu terms like “amuse-bouche” and “prix-fixe.” It simply means I enjoy exploring restaurants, from upscale to hole-in-the-wall, from fine dining to grease pits.

With many new restaurants ahead of me, I set out on my culinary quest of Austin. Over the following months I tried virtually everything I could. While I could go on for several pages about my culinary experiences, spacing is an issue, so I’m afraid I will have to sum it up. Here in Austin, you’re not going to see Gordon Ramsey, Wolfgang Puck or any other world-famous, Michelin star chef opening a restaurant anytime soon. What you will find is several small, family-owned restaurants filled with hardworking people that truly put their hearts and souls into their dishes. You do not just taste the food; you taste their culture, their history, their passion and their livelihood.

You taste Austin. And Austin tastes good.

Inspired by these restaurants, and wanting to connect with other foodies, I started the Austin Minnesota Foodies group on Facebook. The purpose behind the group is to share restaurant experiences, make suggestions on what to try and help promote restaurants throughout Austin and Mower County. It is also a place where restaurateurs can reach their customers by promoting their daily specials, post about upcoming events and get feedback.

If you are a foodie, a restaurateur, or just someone who is wondering where you should eat next, I encourage you to join. Simply search “Austin Minnesota Foodies” on Facebook and ask to join. Post pictures, tell us about your dining experiences, or just read the reviews.

Every resident and visitor should know that they don’t have to go far in Austin to find something good to eat.