A little over a year ago, I started profiling local food artisans in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, on this blog. It continues to be a fun and rewarding experience for me to talk to people in the food and beverage industries every week, and it’s a privilege to get to share their stories, which I hope you find as fascinating as I do.
But even though the Bay Area likes to think it has a corner on great, artisanal food, I realize that’s not the case. (Don’t shoot the messenger Bay Area peeps!) Amazing food stories are happening everywhere these days. As a writer, I consider myself a storyteller first, and writers have to follow the stories that interest them, right? (Write? Or should I say “correct”?)
As such, I’m starting to expand the scope of this blog to reach beyond just the Bay Area. I’ll continue to look for people to profile in my own backyard, so long as this is my backyard, but there are lots of other great artisan stories out there waiting to be told throughout the U.S. and the world. So, when I can, I’ll be featuring stories from other locales, too. In fact, I actually started this summer with my profiles of Iceland’s Omnom Chocolate and Food Sake Tokyo in Japan.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be profiling three food/beverage businesses in Decorah, Iowa, a small town of 8,500 or so in northeast Iowa. Why Decorah? No, I’m not from there. But I did happen to go to college there and was recently there for a class reunion.
Having spent three years there as a student (I studied abroad for one year), Decorah will always have a special place in my heart. But what was the most fun to see while I was there a couple weeks ago was how much this little town has changed—for the better—over the past XX years. (I’m not admitting how long it’s been since I was at school there—a lady never shares her age, right?)
It was really fun to see the thriving community Decorah has become. For a town its size, Decorah has some amazing small businesses and great food going on. From the new one-bite cake shop, Beyond the Bar, opened by a former lawyer to a coffee shop and café, Java John’s, that was hoppin’ on Saturday morning and the new Oneota Coop grocery, I have to say I’m jealous, Decorah! And that’s not even counting the far better booze that there is there now or the fact that my college now has coffee bars in multiple locations on campus. Stella Artois on tap? A craft brewery in town? A resto with an award winning wine list? Where was this stuff when I was in school and stuck drinking crappy ass Coors Light?!? At least Happy Joe’s Taco Pizza hasn’t changed! And apparently, I’m not the only one who’s noticed—Decorah’s been named a “Top 100 Small Town Getaway” by Midwest Living and was named one of “America’s Best Small Towns to Visit” by the Smithsonian. Whaaaaa?
Decorah has, indeed, become more charming than ever, and I really enjoyed going back. I probably could have used at least another day there to explore. So tomorrow begins the Decorah Artisans series on the food and beverage scene in northeast Iowa. Enjoy!
P.S. And in other news, I’m now publishing these blogs on @Medium as well as WordPress. Check ‘em out here: https://medium.com/@lmelsted.