They-and you-are truly the Best of Columbus.

We huddled in the lobby of the YMCA Downtown, shrugging off the winter cold and clutching bottles of wine in bags, waiting for our escort to the dinner club several floors above. When we emerged from the elevator and into the office suite of Doma-a nonprofit helping victims of human trafficking-music and appetite-stoking smells welcomed us. So did chef Lara Yazvac and her Doma compatriots Kae Denino and Julie Clark, who served us food, filled our glasses and led toasts all evening long, while the turntable spun 'round and 'round.

We were strangers when we started, but when the last dish was cleared from the table, we were sorry to say good night. All evening, the room had buzzed with conversation, first among those who arrived together and then among the unacquainted, united by the long dining table and, maybe a little, emboldened by wine.

The Eat UP! dinner club concept is just one of the 186 things we're heaping with affection in this year's Best of Columbus issue. We can imagine something like Eat UP! happening in another city. But it would be a mere imitation without Yazvac, Denino, Clark and the other lovely folks at Doma. And we can say the same for everything on our Best of Columbus list-the places, foods, events and things we list are beloved, but they would not be nearly as endearing were they not created by the amazing people who make up Columbus.

Reading the story, you'll notice name after name. There's AJ Perry at Sassafras Bakery, Mo Ballouz at Lashish the Greek, Laura Lee at Ajumama. Superfans John Chestna and Katie Mitchell-Blue Jackets and Crew, respectively-face off (and goof off). We talked to gallery owner Duff Lindsay, jazz gem Tony Monaco, cosmetics wizard Tim Maurer, jewelry maven Meredith Piccin and upcyclers extraordinaire Justin Smith and Steve Mills.

They-and you-are truly the Best of Columbus.

I could tell when contributing designer Lindsey Billingsley-who until June 20 was filling in for a staffer on leave-had completed a draft of her cover illustration, even if I wasn't standing near her. I could hear, "The dinosaur!" and "The chicken!" and even "The barcode!" from a room away as colleagues discovered some of the many fun finds Lindsey created for our Best of Columbus cover. These revelations became only more excited when Lindsey completed a nighttime version of the cover image, which we employed as the cover story opening page. We hope you'll be just as delighted as we were to find the Best of Columbus so cleverly expressed in drawings.

Kristen Schmidt

Where I'm headedthis month:

1. Pouring wine at the preview party for the North Market Food & Ohio Wine Festival on July 12. Tickets include a souvenir glass, 20 tasting tickets and a $5 gift certificate to the North Market.

2. Chilling out at the CAPA summer movie series at the Ohio Theatre. "Citizen Kane" on the big screen? Pass the popcorn. Thursday and Friday, July 11
and 12.

3. Over the July 4 weekend, I'm attending the first of a few upcoming weddings. That calls for a pilgrimage to On Paper, my favorite place in the city for fabulous cards.

4. Seeing documentary "Dirty Wars," with an introduction by journalist Jeremy Scahill and director Richard Rowley, July 10 at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

5. Attending the 2013 Lincoln Theatre Walk of Fame induction ceremony on July 27. Saxophonist Rusty Bryant (1925-1991) and multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977) are being honored.