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On an icy day this past January, my wife and I loaded the accumulated materials of our lives into a sixteen by eight aluminum container. We had decided to take a bit of our retirement early, to spend a year or so simply living, and living simply.
During those months away, I stayed up as best I could with what was happening in the food world back home. The Obamas had come to the White House, bringing their gardening tools with them. Street carts were popping up across the country; craft brewers were using whiskey barrels to make beer that tasted like scotch; breakfast was starting to show up on dessert menus in fascinating ways, like "cereal milk panna cotta."
Hidden restaurants, innovative farmers, culinary craftsmen--our nation's love affair with food was continuing to grow and evolve, in spite of a financial crisis thinning the country's pockets and a food system that seems determined to exchange quality and safety for efficiency and profit.
One day, I started keeping track of all the places I was reading about or had long wanted to experience, like Zingerman's deli in Ann Arbor and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. I started an interactive map to keep track of all these destinations, and before long I had amassed a list of over a hundred places.