Tagalong with a Food Critic

Jean Oshima
3 min readJan 18, 2024

Every “foodie” should experience actually participating in a food critic’s night out tasting at various restaurants.

I mention foodies especially because I realized several years ago that not everyone is into really good food. I learned this at a dinner sitting directly across from my date as we sipped a very good bottle of Pinot Noir, eating a delicious meal at an excellent restaurant in San Francisco. This guy knows his food. You’d think he’d really be into talking about it like me. Wrong! I could see his eyes glaze over as I pontificated on the details of our meal to the point that probably made him think I was nuts! My first memory of being this way started when I was 17 years old and lied about my age to get a job at the 94th Aerosquadron Restaurant in Orlando, Florida. Not only was I exposed to the best french onion soup and sourdough bread I have ever had to this day, but I also got to hang out with other “foodies” and wine experts during and after work. Sometimes we would prepare full meals at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t remember being happier. The company and food was the best and I learned so much. Don’t get me wrong, until then, I got to eat some of the best midwestern cooking prepared by my aunts at picnics, potlucks, weenie roasts, and family gatherings of all sorts. But finer dining was something I had never been exposed to before I landed this job. Those days remain some of the fondest memories of my life.

One of many “doggie bags” from the evening that Rick shared with some unhoused people.

So many years ago when I was visiting my cousin cousin-in-law in Minneapolis, we were walking down the street, and my cousin’s phone rang. It was Rick Nelson, THE food critic for the Star Tribune on the line asking if we’d like to join him in just a few minutes for what would turn out to be one of the best experiences of my life, my vote was a resounding “Yes!!”

We proceeded to have appertifs, appetizers, main courses, numerous sides too many to count, wine, and desserts from three different restaurants. Rick took notes on his tiny little notepad as we ate and discussed food. A special highlight of the evening was when I’d make a comment and he’d get his little pad out and jot down notes. I don’t know, maybe he was just pretending to care what I had to say. Doesn’t matter, in my mind, that night I was a food critic by association. I’ve thought about this experience and the entire evening so much over the years. And now that I actually live in Minneapolis I get to run into Rick at the farmers’ market and other places around town. He’s retired from his food critic position but does one really ever quit being a food critic?

You can find Rick on Instagram. Even if you’re not a local, he’s a fun and informative follow. His recent expertise primarily shows up in the form of reviewing architecture with a smattering of his ongoing “breakfast sandwich obsession”. He will occasionally mention restaurants and of course, I take note every time. He’s an incredible writer. I was never much of an architecture enthusiast but I could enjoy reading anything Rick Nelson has to say about any subject. Pretty sure you would too. His IG is @ricknelsonmn. Enjoy!

Originally published at JEAN OSHIMA.



Jean Oshima

See my blog, 5 Heart Rating at http://jeanoshima.com I am a Wellness & Wine and Special Events Producer