Of ‘Wiches and Witches

One of the things that I love about working at Minnesota Monthly is that I’m surrounded by people who are a lot cooler than I am. Whenever I have a question about, say, what exhibits are worth seeing, what stores are worth visiting, what shows to get tickets for, I can walk down the hall (or, more accurately, yell across some cubicles) to ask one of my oh-so-well-informed coworkers.

This is especially true when it comes to inquiries about the dining scene in the Twin Cities. The magazine’s restaurant critic, senior editor Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, is one of the most talented and discerning food writers in the country—the woman collects writing awards like old ladies collect cats—and her knowledge of the local food scene borders on encyclopedic.

And yet, the best thing about Dara isn’t how connected she is, or even how well she writes. It’s how passionate she is about sharing that knowledge. Several months ago, I had a friend coming to town for a few days. Since this person is a wine snob, I asked Dara where I should take him. In response, she wrote a Ulysses-length e-mail describing the wine lists at more than a dozen places, broken down into various sub-lists: best places for French wine, best places for American wines, best value wines, best organic wines. If I remember correctly, there may have even been a map.

Readers are the ultimate beneficiary of that ambition. Take this month’s cover story, a guide to takeout dining in the Twin Cities. When the idea first came up, it was unclear just how expansive the article was going to be, how many places we were going to include. Then Dara piped up: “I think if I write about all the spots I want to, it’ll be like a hundred places.”

As usual, she low-balled her estimate. The story includes detailed descriptions of more than a dozen great places where you can get everything from sushi to sandwiches to-go. But it also offers her recommendations on what to order at more than 100 spots all over the metro, from Wayzata to Woodbury. In other words, if you aren’t able to use this issue in some way, you are probably serving time somewhere.

This issue also highlights one of the other perks of working with cool people: They tend to go out and find cool stories. Case in point is senior writer Tim Gihring’s piece about the theft of one of the most iconic—and valuable—pieces of Hollywood memorabilia: the ruby slippers (yes, those ruby slippers). The shoes, one of four pairs known to be used in the filming of The Wizard of Oz, were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids several years ago. Gihring immersed himself in the not-so-innocent world of Oz fanatics to find out what happened. And while I won’t spoil the story by telling you what he found, I will say that it’s a fascinating true-crime tale, one that touches on celebrity, greed, and obsession—in the least likely of settings. Very cool.

Andrew Putz