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!

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‘Spring’ your must try Recipes.

I recently came upon a great website that I use to bookmark recipes I want to make. Similar to Food Gawker or Pinterest, Springpad uses ‘notebooks’ to help you organize your interests. The ones I use the most are ‘restaurants to go to’ and ‘recipes to make this week’. Springpad is a great place to organize those lists of things you’ve “always wanted to try” so you can actually do them!

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

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.

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)

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.

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

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