The culinary-travel book Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne by former St. Petersburg resident Kimberley Lovato, with recipes by Laura Schmalhorst of Tampa, recently won top honors from the Society of American Travel Writers.
Walnut Wine was named the year's best travel book at the group's annual gathering, in Indianapolis this year.
"It's kind of like playing the lottery," Lovato said, about entering the book in the competition. "You play but you never know."
The book was published in 2010 by Running Press but because the society has a wide window for entries, Walnut Wine qualified for the 2012 competition, she said. "I really tossed it out there, never expecting anything."
The book got its start in a freelance article Lovato wrote for the now-defunct Tampa Bay Illustrated about Schmalhorst, who at the time operated the Vagabond Gourmet culinary travel company with her husband, Steve. Lovato and Schmalhorst traveled together in France's Dordogne area, a region they both knew well, sampling the bounty and taking in the landscape.
"It is so cliche to say it was a labor of love, but it really was," said Lovato, who now lives in San Francisco.
The duo's passion for the Dordogne spilled onto the pages of the book which highlights the region's food and customs along with providing a vivid travelogue. Walnut Wine also includes profiles of growers, chefs and food lovers. Regional recipes are intertwined with the stories, and Lovato provides helpful recommendations for restaurants, wine tastings, farms, lodging and other culinary excursions.
For a complete list of Society of American Travel Writers winners, go to satw.org.