Social Media on our Plates

By: Olivia Hesslein

By: Olivia Hesslein

Social Media has expanded the world of personal blogging and food writing; turning every-day foodies into experts on local cuisines and the ‘go-to’ for where to wine and dine in their cities.  If you go back in time to just a decade or more ago, this was certainly not the case. Food writers were only found as restaurant critics for prominent publications or a chef publishing a cook book.

“Using social media is absolutely important, you’re not going to grow without it.” Said Reuben Varzea, author of The Foodie Journal. “In the past year I have gained over 1,000 followers on my blog without any formal advertising or marketing” said Varzea. Who gets anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 views on his blog a month, that is less then a year old.

Twitter has proven to be a powerful networking tool for food bloggers as well.

“It is a way to connect in an informal way. It has led me to tons of new bloggers, restaurants and brands” said Rachel Leah Blumenthal, author of Fork it Over, Boston. Blumenthal has been writing her blog since 2008 and averages 400-1,000 views on her site on a daily basis.

“ After I write a post I immediately repurpose it on all of my social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. I will receive even more views to my site if a chef or a bigger blog reposts or re-tweets my post” said Blumenthal after starting her endeavors in 2008.

The amount of followers a person gains has become an increasingly valuable benchmark to measure the value of content.

“In terms of showing your value to advertisers, Twitter is helpful because of how many followers you have.  It is immensely helpful for reaching new people. It is easy to connect to your community, to the media, other bloggers, chefs, bartenders and other like-minded people said Jacki Morisi, one half of the duo behind ‘Just Add Cheese’ alongside Michelle Zippelli. The two having started the blog in 2010 after graduating from Northeastern University’s business school. Morisi and Zippelli receive between 500-1,500 page views per day on ‘Just Add Cheese’ and after a very recent re-launch of their website, their Twitter followers, Facebook friends and viewer hits have sky-rocketed.

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli in Boston - click link for more photos on her visit to Northeastern University

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli in Boston – click for more photos on her visit to Northeastern University

There is no doubt, that behind any food writer, big or small there is an extreme passion for food in all its capacities. Each one of these writers has a strong voice and passion that comes through. Varzea in his blog focuses on the chef behind you meals. Interviewing the great chefs behind Boston’s best restaurants. “Food is never just about the food, it is about the stories of where the inspiration comes from” said Varzea.

“Meesh (Michelle Zippelli) and I started this blog as a project right after we graduated.  The exposure and my writing has led me to the job I have today as the Marketing and Communications director at Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge and for Chef Jody Adams. Meesh and I love dining out and sharing our experiences doing so on ‘Just Add Cheese’” said Morisi.

Food blogging opens a window for the reader into the world of the food beyond the sensory experience of eating. It opens you to the chef, their stories and how the restaurant and cuisines came to be.

“One of my favorite interviews was with Chef Clark Frasier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. I went there and just asked if I could speak with the chef for a few minutes. He took me out to the big beautiful garden he had behind the restaurant and told me everything about how he got started and his passion. It was a great moment and one I was happy to share with my readers,” said Varzea.

“I always loved writing about food,” said Blumenthal. “I actually used to be a picky eater before I started this and that has changed now. I started my blog as a way to generate writing material to apply for graduate school and now it has led me to freelancing and other paid gigs.”

Food blogging gives readers a more personalized experience of a restaurant review in comparison to professional restaurant critics.

“We reach a different audience, we have followers always checking our blog. Readers have told Meesh and I that they can hear our voices in our writing and can even tell the difference between when she writes a post or I do and I think our readers appreciate that,”said Morisi.

Social media has helped these bloggers take their passions for food and fine dining in greater Boston and given them a platform in which to express it with the world in not only a more personalized and detailed way, but also more immediate, so their readers and viewers feel like they are eating right along with them.

“There has been a societal change,” said Varzea, “People want instant gratification and Twitter is the easiest way. You can live-tweet your meals and take a photo at the dinner table and post it to Instagram.”

Food blogging is a way of connecting with your community and appealing to a specific niche, and social media has only benefitted to growing this trend even further.

The Fresh Truck, Josh Trauwein

Massachusetts Farmers Markets, Alison Dagger

Happy Eating!

Spring Produce

 

Fresh Produce

Fresh Produce

Spring is in the air! and this also means tons of fresh local produce. One of my favorite things to do when the weather warms up is going to the local farmers market wherever I may be. Luckily, I live just a few T stops away from the Haymarket year-round farmers market in downtown Boston where there is always amazing things to choose from. Great fresh produce at amazing prices that you would never see in a conventional grocery store. Because of my love affair with the farmers market I have relegated myself to no longer venturing there solo… because I will buy EVERYTHING.

The last time I went to the market I bought a carton of strawberries, a whole pineapple, fresh herbs, a red bell pepper and a bushel of asparagus for $4. Awesome deal!

I found a fun video from Zagat on how to go about shopping at the farmers market and how to navigate what is best to buy. Get out and go shopping!

Happy Eating

Can Global and Local news be one in the same?

Many of us think that local news, national news and global news are all separate… but if our local news is global to someone else, it is somehow all connected. My class had the chance to speak with Maria Balinska, Editor and Chief of Latitude News, whose mission is just that – to merge the local and global news spheres into one.

There are many day-to-day issues we face that people across the world face too. It is unique to see how different legislations and governments both face these issues and how the results differ. For example, the use of plastic shopping bags across the globe. Here in the US you can get a discount on your groceries or a happy nod from the cashier if you bring your own bags… or at least the self-satisfaction that you’re keeping with one less piece of plastic from ending up in a landfill. But, thousands of miles from here in Ireland there is a tax on the use of plastic shopping bags. Charging about 22 Euro cents per bag at the store on top of your grocery bill (equal to 33 cents per bag in USD). This charge instituted a 94% drop in the use of plastic shopping bags in the first week of its institution, according to the New York Times.  The US has taken a far less forceful approach to the use of plastic bags, stimulating knowledge and awareness to be the spur for  the personal choice to switch to a more eco-friendly option… but which option is better? This example of the use of plastic shopping bags brings together what you see in your local grocery store and brings it across the world. These facets of journalism sometimes get lost- this globalized perspective is an important one to realize. We often do not, or cannot make the connection that a minor change here may be catastrophic somewhere else or the other way around.

I touched on this idea of local vs global in a post I did sometime back, of food shortages from poor growing seasons. How here in the US our milk may be more expensive and the prices of bread and grains, but across the world it is causing full on food shortages. Families are instituting ‘food free days’ where they do not eat, in order to save the money so they can. It is incredible to see the massive parallels in the happenings across the globe and to realize we are all much more connected then we think.

Instagram as a News Source?

Instagram has taken our worlds by storm, first looked at as an artsy outlet is now taking on new roles. You can now follow your local news stations on Instagram and more and more reporters/ writers and multimedia outlets are developing their own professional accounts.

Last night,  my Northeastern J-school buddies and I took a trip to The Boston Globe Media Lab. The joyful trek out to Dorchester proved itself to be well worth it!  Creative Technologist Chris Marstall and his staff were incredibly knowledgable and informed us of all the innovative plans the Globe has to morph along with our increasingly digital world.

What I found the most surprising about our visit was how news outlets are using Instagram and Vine along with geo-tagging as a tool. Marstall has us gather around a large television screen showing all of the Instagram photos geo-tagged in Boston over the past 24 hours. We are able to use this information to learn about users and more about the communities we live in. The lab had done the same with Vine videos posted in the past 24 hours and one of  the videos that came up in their search was filmed along Northeastern’s campus.

I think the use of these outlets for News is exciting and a I am curious to see how other news outlets begin to use it. One project by Time Magazine that was incredibly well done in my opinion was using Instagram to document Hurricane Sandy. Time Magazine actually hired 5 professional photographers to go out,  shoot and Instagram photos before, during and after the storm. “Why” is the big question I had- why Instagram instead of just publishing the photos directly to Times website. Time’s photography director, Kira Pollack called the whole thing a big experiment. Having lived in Manhattan and experienced Sandy’s wrath firsthand  I think Time did an outstanding job!

Instagram is providing the world a whole new level of communication and dissemination of information that can be used in countless ways and its exciting to see just how many different and unique ways innovators out there are coming up with.

What is Data Visualization?

Data Visualization is an intimidating name given to a simple concept. It is the study of the ‘ visual representation of data’. We actually use this more in our day-to-day life then you realize.

Sometimes visuals can do a better job at conveying information then our words can, and in today’s world of journalism this is a vital skill to learn!

Here is a link to a visual The Huffington Post put together in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown Conn. and the rising pressure for gun control reform. I think this visual is particularly impactful because we could write an article explaining the thousands of deaths that have occurred since Sandy Hook but instead we can convey the same through the use of a visual timeline.

Another interesting visual Propublica has produced on the tracking of U.S. bailout money is eye-opening. Dots representing each hemisphere that received money, each dot starts at a billion dollars! It helps to put into perspective for readers just HOW much money was put into bailing out U.S. companies in 2008. This is a quick and concise way to convey a hefty amount of information.

 

A less digital form of ‘data visualization’ I think is the use of photos in a succession throughout a story. Which is relied on heavily in restaurant reviews and by food writers. The photos help add depth to the story and bring the reader into their dining experience. A blog I enjoy reading is Eat. Live.Blog which always has great photos of the different restaurants the writer visits.

Data Visualization can be used in stories of any kind. Hard news, feature pieces and everything in between. It is a way to add a level to multimedia to your work as well as an innovative  way to tell your story.

Boston Restaurant Week!

Restaurant week is by FAR one of my favorite times of the year, along with Thanksgiving and Christmas and other occasions revolving around great food.

I could spend hours perusing the different menus offered just drooling. Restaurant Week is a time in big cities all over the country when restaurants come together offering special dining opportunities at a steal of a price. Restaurant Week is a time where you can go to the restaurant ‘you’ve been dying to try’ and get an amazing meal without burning a hole in your pocket.  Boston’s Restaurant week dates are : March 17th-22nd and this week, March 24th-29th

  • 3 Course Dinner for $38.13
  • 3 Course Lunch for $20.13
  • 2 Course Lunch for $15.13

For those who did not take advantage of Boston Restaurant week last week, this week is your last chance. Go, go, go!

Out of the plethora of great restaurants participating this year, here are some reviews of my favorites around the city!

Brasserie Joe – classic French cuisine

Sweet Cheeks Barbecue – Texas barbecue

Empire   -Asian fusion.

MET Back Bay – Contemporary American

Radius – American

Tremont 647 – American

Zocalo Boston – Mexican

Happy Eating

The Role of Social Media in the ‘Food World’

For my next project I want to focus on how different people, in different areas of ‘the food world’ interact with social media and the web. How the use of social media has helped further their businesses in ways it otherwise could not.

The food world in all its capacities has been changed immensely by the use of social media and the web. We can now make our dinner reservations online, restaurants have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Food bloggers can gain their own strides without being published in a mainstream paper.

Renee Hirschberg, a local boston food blogger and restaurant critic who has graciously agreed to speak with me. The web and social media is an integral part of her business and I am looking forward to hearing her thoughts on how her business has evolved other the past decade and how the use of social media has helped her progress.

I have also contacted  the two co-founders of ‘The Fresh Truck’. Daniel Clarke and Josh Trautwein, both Northeastern graduates, have taken an old school bus and retro-fitted it into a mobile farmers market set to hit the ground this coming summer. The aim of  ‘The Fresh Truck’ is to bring local, fresh, affordable produce to lower-income neighborhoods surrounding Boston that do not have easy access to nutritious food. To create community involvement and stimulate change to help build stronger, healthier communities. I am intrigued to hear their thoughts on how social media and the web has made their endeavors possible thus far as well how they plan to continue using it once they are up and roaming through Boston’s neighborhoods.

I am still looking for a few more, local sources and would love any suggestions!

Happy Eating

‘The Burger’ at Radius

RADIUS BURGER

There is no better way to  break up a long, stressful work day then to sit down to a nice lunch.  I was craving a good burger, and in my quest to find just the right place I came across a list on The Boston Globe professing ‘ The Best Burgers in Boston.’

The list covered every facet from fancy to funky and of course your classic greasy cheeseburger. I have frequented ‘Five Guys’ and their delicious cheeseburgers many a time and was looking for something a bit more refined… which led me to Radius. Not a restaurant where you would typically think to order a cheeseburger; when the lunch menu includes octopus and tuna tartare.

“Our Burger is different because we use a different cut of meat then the average. ‘We serve a dense 9oz patty made up of 90% ground sirloin and 10% ground chuck. Which gives it a deeper flavor.” according to General Manager, Augusto Gabriel. 

‘The Burger’ is served on a light and sweet house-made brioche bun. The burger is perfectly complemented with fresh Vermont cheddar cheese and a horseradish sauce which has a bite but is certainly not overpowering. As well, some crispy-fried onion strings… and that can do no wrong.

There is certainly nothing worse than getting a GREAT burger and the classic companion of french fries are lack-luster. Radius does a great job of making their fries crispy!

Radius is clean and sophisticated – a lunchtime favorite for local businessmen but certainly is not stuffy. With ornate crown moldings and bold red walls and modern accents Radius is a great representation of old Boston style meets new Boston flavor.  I sat bar side chatting with the bartender Rudy, who was knowledgable of ‘The Burger’ as well as other Boston contenders in the burger world.

Radius is located at 8 High street, on the corner of Summer street. Adjacent to the South Station T stop on the Red line.

Radius is handicap accessible, serving lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10:00pm

Happy Eating

Mapping as a Graphic Tool

Mapping  and other graphic visuals like infographics and charticles (articles themselves that are entirely a graphic) I think are a beneficial tools that can be overlooked in classic print journalism. I think the idea of incorporating visuals into their written pieces for some journalist can be daunting, for fear that their writing will be overlooked or seen as less as important in comparison. Graphics are more commonly used in broadcast pieces naturally and sometimes in longer feature writing for magazines – but in this ever-changing world of journalism we need to play to the trends of the future by being more multi-media and graphic oriented.

Written content, posted online through a newspaper website, blog or forum should not be overlooked or debased by incorporating graphics, they should be used as a tool to enhance the written story – to make information more easily conveyed as well as just to offer more visual stimulation.

In the world of broadcast journalism you are expected to be a one-man-band. You are your editor, your camera man, your script writer as well as the reporter.

In print and multimedia journalism you are now also a one-man-band. You are your writer, your editor, your graphic designer as well as your reporter.

There are certain areas in stories that lend themselves well to the incorporation of visual graphics and maps. Trying to explain in an article the recent budget-cut plan approved by President Obama  would lend itself well to a graph. Another example I found that worked well is explaining where relief aid went geographically after Hurricane Sandy rocked the greater New York City area and eastern coast. Graphic courtesy of ProPublica.org.

An ‘oldie but goodie’ trend in visual graphics is a US map during presidential races and campaigns– showing party allegiances in the 50 states. Writing out in a lengthy article which candidate has ‘won’ what state and which are still being contested would take a while to read through but taking that same information and displaying it as a visual graphic is not only more immediate but also more impactful and concise.

Mapping and graphics are beneficial on a global scale of large stories, but also in smaller local stories. Boston.com used an interactive map to display reported pot-holes in the Greater Boston. The information seems a bit comical, but being informed that there is a huge pothole along your daily route to work could certainly save you a lot of aggravation. Similar to the map above, this information lends itself well to a graphic because writing out where every pothole is in Boston would make for an extremely long article. With an interactive map you can jump directly to the areas of the city that you travel through daily and see if you need to make adjustments to your morning commute.

The use of interactive maps, graphics and visuals is a way to add a new level to a body of written work. As well, it is an innovative way to appeal to dominantly visually receptive world.

Exploring Reading Terminal Market

Trending in Boston has ventured to explore the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ for the weekend, Philadelphia!

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to explore the local cuisine and hot spots. While in Philly I went to visit Reading Terminal Market. Similar to Faneuil Hall right here in Boston, but much larger and with a bit more variety. Boasting more than 80 vendors, Reading Terminal is a melting pot of different cuisines, local delicacies and an open market  where you can do your weekly shopping.

Full of delicious smells and passionate people, weaving through the aisles of Reading Terminal is an experience not to be missed.