Where is our own Chef Shack on this list of Best Food Trucks in America? Or Brisket Bus in Miami, or Odd Duck in Austin, or Buttermilk in LA??? The Smithsonian list is a tough one to swallow. ***** Check out all your SOBE Wine and Food Fest news here. Minnesota was well represented: The Salty Tart herself, Michelle Gayer, was all over, cooking dessert for Saturday’s Charlie Trotter Tribute Dinner and serving up 3,000 portions of insanely killer Shaker Lemon Pie at the Trucks on the Beach festival closing party. The Deuce was indeed hopping each night, Eddie Huang and I decided to start a band. And in other news, I can tell you that Marlins Park is insanely cool. It has a rooftop that retracts, and after getting a guided tour and talk from the creators of the space I am convinced that the idea is the only one that will work here in Minnesota. It makes weather irrelevant. I rest my case. It pays for itself. ***** Looking for another reason to go to Sardinia? Check out my friend Sophie’s project. Starting this April for two weeks initially, she will host and teach cookery on a stunning estate in Sardinia. At one of the largest privately owned and most beautiful residences in Italy, you will have comprehensive classes on Sardinian and Italian food, in insanely luxurious surroundings. Please check out the website cuccumiao.com and click on Sophie’s blog page for the finer details. I adore this woman, she’s a great instructor and Sardinia is amazing. ***** Beard Award nominees list came out last week and finalists are announced next month. Local representation is really strong. The 2012 James Beard Award semifinalists in restaurant and chef categories range from the Midwest's best chef to the nation's best new restaurant, bar program, and pastry chef. The Midwest region covers Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. The Minnesota semifinalists for Best Chef: Midwest are Mike Brown and Jim Winberg from Travail, Steven Brown from Tilia, Doug Flicker from Piccolo, Russ Klein from Meritage, Lenny Russo from Heartland, and Stewart Woodman from Heidi’s. Bachelor Farmer is given a nod in the best new resto category; Mannys, La Belle Vie, Alms, The Fratelli D’amico, and Michelle Gayer from Salty Tart are also given nods in other categories, as is Sameh Wadi for rising star chef. Rick Nelson put it best last week on his blog: “In the first round of judging, the foundation selects 20 semifinalists in 20 categories. Judges (hundreds of critics, journalists, food professionals and past winners) vote for up to five names in each category. Here's where the syntax gets a bit confusing: The top five vote-getters among the semifinalists advance to the nomination stage, and are called "nominees," and not "finalists." A second round of voting commences and the top vote-getter among the five nominees is declared the winner at the foundation's annual gala. Restaurant and chef nominees will be announced on March 21 (follow the action on the Beard's Twitter feed ) from Las Vegas, along with nominees in the foundation's cookbook, design and journalism categories. Winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony on May 7 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.” Thoughts? Anyone overlooked? Who will win? All I know is that we have won Best Chef Midwest three years running so odds might not favor our local chef heroes. Or maybe we are that much better than everyone else. Who knows. ***** Alan Richman gave us his annual top 10 restaurant list and Husk in Charleston was not on it. Really? Yes, really. Now I have eaten there before and I have eaten in almost all of his choices and I gotta tell ya, it’s an insane oversight. Husk is superb, casual, but superb, with a level of execution that is phenomenal. New menus every day, and everything from hot sauce to pickled cauliflower garnish on a pork sandwich are house made. Everything. They even grow most of their food themselves. I am in shock. And I am surprised Richman had a bad meal there, it’s that good. Now, that being said, everyone gives Alan a world of crap about much of his work but he gets most stuff smack dab spot on and he nailed it with this list . . . almost perfectly.