Joe Pollack passed away early Friday. I didn’t know Joe very well, though we met on a two-week wine trip to South America several years ago, and in such circumstances you learn a lot about someone. I learned that Joe was a sharp wit, quick with a laugh and eager to extend a friendly hand. He was also quick to raise his gruff voice to defend his friends and criticize selfishness. Qualities that, I suppose, helped make him such a great critic over a career in which he wrote about sports, theater, food and wine for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
My wife and I kept in touch with Joe and his wife, Ann Lemons Pollack, over the years since that trip. Joe and Ann both participated in DrinkLocalWine.com‘s Missouri conference last April, celebrating the local vino and chastising restaurateurs who are reluctant to give local wines a chance.
Joe’s old paper ran a fitting tribute to him on Friday, the same day five movie reviews by Joe ran on St. Louis Eats and Drinks with Joe and Ann Pollack, the couple’s lively blog. The obit tells how nervous chefs would get when Joe arrived at their restaurants.
But I like the tribute Ann herself wrote in an email: “I am grateful that, as he began to slow down, he didn’t have to undergo the indignities and trials of a long, slow decline, and grateful that we all didn’t have to watch him crumble. POOF! and he’s gone in a cloud of barbecue smoke, truffle dust and bits of soil from a vineyard visit.”
The chefs in the afterlife better be on their game, ’cause Ol’ Joe Pollack has arrived.