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The RFT 2011 St. Louis Web Awards: Best Food Blog 

click to enlarge Iron Stef Stephanie Tolle.

Jennifer Silverberg

Iron Stef Stephanie Tolle.

It is impossible to hate food blogger Iron Stef, a.k.a. Stephanie Tolle, in the way you might hate, say, Martha Stewart. She is not the Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You. She is not smug.

But after reading her blog, you just might find yourself envying Tolle a little bit — if only because she's having so much fun. Let Martha cook with organic herbs and anal-retentive perfection; Tolle cooks with a healthy soupçon of joie de vivre.

To get a sense of Tolle's delightful (and delicious) 2010, you need only read her "Year in Review" post, published earlier this month. There's the photo from her meeting with Nigella Lawson. ("Ummm...I sort of met NIGELLA BLOODY LAWSON. Yeah. My biggest girl-crush in the world, and one of my culinary heroes," Tolle writes.) There's her declaration that 2010 is the Year of the Tater Tot, along with a picture of her Tater Tot pizza. ("I'm not sure why tater tots went by the wayside since becoming an "adult" [term used VERY loosely], but I welcomed them back into my life in 2010 with flair," she concludes.) There's also a recipe for fennel bacon bread pudding. (Yum.)

And then there's the Food Blog Mafia.

The stereotype may hold that bloggers sit alone in their basements — sometimes even in their pajamas — pouring out their souls to the computer instead of interacting with real human beings. But Tolle's experience with blogging has been just the opposite. Instead of retreating into navel gazing, she has used blogging to make connections and even friends.

"I started going to food blog meet-ups," she says, "and they made me want to make my blog better. The community aspect really inspired me."

In 2009 Tolle and fellow food bloggers Kelly Green Gardner, Kelli Best-Oliver and Annie Lehrer decided to make their mutual admiration official: They sat for a professional photographer and even had business cards made for a joint venture, http://foodblogmafia.com. On that site they bounce ideas off each other, cook together and even started a food-themed book club.

Tolle, 31, lives (and cooks) in Ferguson. A graphic designer by trade, she has no plans to try to turn her hobby into a paying gig. "I just do it for fun," she says. "If I tried to do it for a job, I would lose the fun part."

Click here for the complete list of Web Awards winners.

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