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This dish from Artisan 179 was among Lori's favorites for 2017.

2017 picks: Lori Fredrich

Yeah, 2017. You were an interesting year. You've been great. And terrible. And wonderful. And tragic. But, in the words of Robert Browning: "How sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet."

This piece is about celebrating the sweetest of those times. And here are some of of the brightest spots from my year in 2017.

Surprises

My usual beat might be food; but, I'm also a music lover. So when Summerfest rolls around and I get the chance to step outside my usual writing zone, it's a welcome change. But writing concert reviews can be a trying affair. For one, I'm doing it at midnight so that the story can post before daylight breaks. And I'm constantly stressing about whether or not I've got good photos to work with. I'm also concerned with writing a review that's educated, insightful and which truly captures the essence of each show. Despite all that perfectionism, let's be honest, how many people usually read a concert review written by a food writer?

Pink fans do. At least that's what I found out this year when the review I wrote of Pink's Amp show became one of the most well-read of the season. The show itself was stellar. And personal. And, well… it gave me a newfound respect for an artist I'd always admired, but had never seen live. It also blew up all my social media channels. For days, I received tweets and comments from fans – some across the world – thanking me for aptly capturing a show they weren't able to attend. But the biggest gift? A tweet from Pink herself.

I'm not one who's easily starstruck. But I am one who appreciates it when a celebrity goes out of his or her way to acknowledge the work someone's done. It doesn't happen every day. And when it does, it's a rare and beautiful thing.

Memorable dishes

I ate an awful lot of great food in 2017. But, some dishes stand out in my mind. It's not necessarily that they were the fanciest, or most expensive. In fact, often they were simple … or simply unique.

Take for instance, this liege waffle (with blueberries and lemon curd) from the Press. food truck. It was simultaneously tender and crunchy. And savory and sweet. Life-changing, really. If you haven't tried their waffles, you really need to put them on your bucket list.

And there were these scallops – panseared and served with pickled ramps, charred green onion and golden raisin agrodolce – at Artisan 179. So lovely.

This roasted squash from Strange Town, served up with a poblano coulis, was also fantastic in its simplicity. (And that's not all. Just last week, I also tried the hummus, which I could've eaten by the spoonful).

Most recently, there were the parsnips from Birch + Butcher, which were sweet and smokey and paired perfectly with an amazing harissa sauce.

Books

Some of my goals for 2018 include cooking at home more often and reading more books. Last year was a pretty scant year in the latter category for numerous reasons, which I'll disclose to you if you take me out for a cup of coffee (better yet, a glass of wine). But, I did manage to get my hands on a cookbook that might change the way I deal with the condiments in my life.

One was "Fiery Ferments: 70 Stimulating Recipes for Hot Sauces, Spicy Chutneys, Kimchis with Kick, and Other Blazing Fermented Condiments" by Kirsten Shockey. It's full of great recipes, and it inspired me to get to the farmers market this summer, buy an inordinate amount of habanero peppers and make some of the best hot sauce I've ever eaten. Highly recommended.

Travel

This year, I made a pact with myself: I'd try to get away for at least a few days every quarter. It was as much about maintaining my sanity as anything; all work and no play really does make Lori a very dull girl. And, with the exception of a few days up north with a girlfriend of mine every summer, I've done very little travel in the past couple of years.

One of the weekend getaways that surprised me the most was a trip to LaCrosse this fall during which I spent time in nature, ate some great food at spots like Love Child and Driftless Cafe, and spent some quality time with Paul, my husband and supportive partner in crime. I also garnered a newfound appreciation for a town that probably doesn't show up often on a list of spots to get away.

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