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!

Boston’s Heart-Warming Classics

With Boston in our hearts and on our minds, I can’t help but share some of my favorite Boston classics. As a child going on trips into the city was always a treat and the hearty New England cuisine will always be apart of my upbringing and holds a soft spot in my heart.

A summer-time favorite is the Lobster Roll (Lahb-stah Roll). It is not officially summer if these have not made it to the menu yet.  Here are some of Boston’s restaurants serving up the seafood sandwich. For the tenacious and adventurous, here is a recipe courtesy of The Food Network to make at home.

Now, what would a Red Sox game be if you didn’t hear the vendors shouting “Chowdah, getcha chowdah heah” in the summer heat. New England Clam Chowder is an institution in this city no matter the season. Here are some of the best places in Boston to get it. If you so desire, here is how to make it at home.

A final favorite, is The Whoopie Pie. I grew up eating these delicious cakes, following in the childhood tradition of my mother and grandmother. A New England classic, the Whoopie Pie is typically a light chocolate cake baked on a sheet pan, resembling a cookie. You take two and add a light whipped cream or marshmallow topping in the middle and eat like a sandwich. It is simple and  a delicious reminder of home for me. Make them at home.

If you can’t get to Boston, create a piece of Boston at home with these recipes.

Happy Eating to all, We are Boston Strong.

Restaurants supporting Boston and the One Fund

The amount of  love and support that has surrounded Boston this past week truly melts the heart.

Mayor Menino tweeted today that the One Fund has raised over 20 million dollars in the past 8 days, which is just incredible. All proceeds going to the victims and families of the bombing.

The world has come together  this week in a way that I have never seen in my lifetime. From donations, to donating time, care and just all the displays of pride and hope that has been seen across the city this past week and the world is enough to make you tear up.  I was riding the T just two days after the bombing and there was a group of young men going around from train to train singing Sweet Caroline just to boost the spirits of the strangers around them. Something so small and so simple made such an impact…

Everyone, in their own way  is coming together to help.  A laundry list of restaurants here in Boston this past week donated from 10-25% of the nights proceeds to the One Fund.

The Harpoon Beer Hall here in Boston, from 6-9 pm. each Tuesday for the next two weeks  is donating 100% of their proceeds from beer and pretzel sales to The One Fund.

Yesterday evening the FBI formally handed over control of Boylston street back to the Mayor, and restaurants slowly but surely will begin repair and re-open.  These restaurants in return are going to need OUR help. Between lost revenue from closure, repairs and spoiled foods these restaurants will need the community to come in and dine after the economic blow they have taken.

We have learned this week that support and love can come in so many forms and that there  is hope to come from tragedy. Boston has always been an amazing city, a strong city, filled with an incredible sense of pride. This tragedy has only reinforced that we live in a community unlike any other and that we are blessed. I am so proud to be a Bostonian.

We are Boston Strong

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

The Sinclair

Friday night I had the BEST octopus I’ve ever had – cooked perfectly on the grill it was smoky and tender. Courtesy of The Sinclair in Cambridge it was served with creamy gigante beans, chorizo and a spicy romesco sauce.

octopus

The Sinclair is a venue / restaurant with a funky  and refined atmosphere. The restaurant side was packed to the gills Friday night with couples and friends grabbing drinks at the impressive bar  while in the dining room guests had the pleasure of watching the chefs at work through the open kitchen. The Sinclair is open for Dinner, Lunch and Brunch. Also boasting on their website lengthy beer, wine and cocktail menus as well as a ‘Boozy Brunch’.

The Sinclair is innovative and fresh and absolutely worth a trip during your next venture to Cambridge.

52 Church Street, Cambridge  MA 02138

Harvard T stop -Red line.

Happy Eating

( All photos taken by Olivia Hesslein)

La Voile – Boston Restaurant Week 2013

This past Thursday I brought my dear sister to La Voile on Newbury street to celebrate the last night of Restaurant Week here in Boston.

A classic french bistro feel with warm lighting and long booth seating La Voile is homey and welcoming.

The restaurant was bursting at the seams with patrons even at 11pm and the wait staff, all with thick french accents were attentive and skilled even among the crowds.

Their restaurant week menu was authentic and satisfying, the only difference being from the menu posted online was a poached salmon dish taking place of the beef bourgignon.

To start I had the beat, green bean and goat cheese salad which was warm and sweet and savory, my sister had the fish soup special. Not overly fishy with a simple tomato base and topped with cheese.

For the main course I had ‘Les Moules’ mussels in a rich white wine cream sauce with lemon and shallots with a side of super crispy french fries. This dish oozes french culture  and was just perfect. Served in a giant  cast iron pot with more mussels then you could possibly eat in one sitting.

And the desert was divine. A rich chocolate mousse served with fresh fruit and a raspberry sauce. But what stole the meal for me was the blueberry tarte, sweet and tangy in a buttery crust.

A delicious 3-course dinner on a week night without the price tag.
Restaurant week never fails to deliver!

Happy Eating

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

Benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet.

A few weeks ago I read an interesting article on the Boston Globe website about the health benefits of a mediterranean diet. It’s a dream! Food so delicious and rich is also good for you.

Since finding out that I will be spending a few months in the lovely country of Greece this coming fall I have become just googly-eyed  with the thought of all the culinary gems I’ll come across and couldn’t help but  pass along my excitement.

According to Kay Lazar’s article and research studies done by  the American Heart Association, it is now found that a mediterranean diet can help prevent heart disease.

A diet low in red meat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil. Replacing ‘bad fat’ from meats and processed foods with ‘good fats’ like olive oil and omega 3 fatty-acids that are found in nuts.
In the spirit of health and fine dining, here is a link to some of Boston’s best Mediterranean cuisine according to Zagat.

Eating good food is not just about fueling the body, but also the heart and soul… and the taste buds!

Try incorporating some mediterranean love into your dinnertime with these recipes.

Happy Eating