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!

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

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

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

When Food meets the Web

I have two main loves in life. One is for journalism and media, the other for food and when these two things merge together in a cohesive way I am like a little kid on Christmas morning – staring wide-eyed  at the bounty under the tree.

Being a self-professed foodie I have my arsenal of media sources I check on the regular when I want a new recipe or restaurant to try.

I have a love affair for  Zagat’s Boston Blog as I have gushed before -The site visually is simple, clean and sophisticated. Just like the persona of Zagat itself. A mogul in restaurant reviews  Zagat is certainly an expert source in knowing where to go and what to order.

The reason I love their Boston blog is because it is tailored to my lovely city! A creative quark of the site is it has weekly themes, this week being coffee- which is àpropos for all the Boston college students muscling through exams this week. Last weeks theme was burgers! and who wouldn’t love that.  Zagat’s Boston blog does a great job of  profiling local restaurant news, chefs as well as incorporating national news and how that relates locally. It involves its audience by providing a link to sign up for their weekly newsletter  as well as there being a comment section/ linking ability to social media sites if you wish to share the particular story. – The site also has links for blogs in other major cities likes Los Angeles or New York City so if you are traveling you can still find the best ‘eats’ around you. The site also has a link to its original claim to fame- its reviews and ‘Best Of’ lists on Zagat.com

A few close seconds I also love to peruse are Renee Hirschberg’s blog, Eat. Live. Blog. I enjoy her site because it is more personal. Hirschberg is a local restaurant reviewers and food blogger and I originally came across her blog through her Twitter.  She live tweets comments and photos when she is out reviewing a new restaurant which I enjoy and you can really sense her passion and excitement for food through her writing and through her tweets. Her site is easy to navigate with different tabs for reviews and recipes and has a fun logo.

And lastly, an oldie but goodie  The Boston Globe’s Food and Dining Section. In its classic style you’d imagine your grandmother cracking open a copy of the paper on a weekend morning looking for a new restaurant to try. With mouth-watering photos, the front page of the section lays out every facet of foodie related news at your mouse-click. From its ‘Recipe Box’ to Q&A articles, reviews and news on food trends it is a no-fail way to find whatever local gastronomic news your stomach desires.

Maybe you will find me writing my next blog post at one of Zagat’s recommended ‘10 Hot indie Coffee Shops in Boston‘!

Happy Eating

Restaurants opening in 2013

This week I found many  new and exciting things happening on the Boston culinary scene just by digging around on Twitter.

I have made a list on my personal Twitter account of other food bloggers, local chefs, restaurants and others like Open Table Boston that I like to follow.

After professing my love for Zagat in my earlier post, here is a link to an article I LOVE that I found through their Twitter : ‘2013 preview-  10 Boston Restaurants and events we can’t wait for’

A list of all the up- and-coming events in Boston including restaurants that are preparing to open and different food festivals. Here are a few to point out from Zagat’s list:

-Chef Ming Tsai who is as well, a restaurateur and a television host of ‘SIMPLY MING’  is set to open a new restaurant in the city in early 2013. Ming already has a restaurant in Wellesley, Mass. called Blue Ginger.  He is now set to open, Blue Dragon Boston- an Asia gastropub in the Four Point Channel neighborhood of the city.

-Local chef, Christopher Coombs and his partner Brian Piccini’s newest undertaking is Boston Chops, an urban steak bistro set to open in the South End in mid-January. Coombs has also worked at dbar in Dorchester and Deuxave in the city. Boston Chops is said to be more relaxed, serving delicious steaks along with an endless pile of fries. Coombs was named on Zagat’s ‘30 under 30‘ list as one of Boston’s best up and coming chefs- having become dbar’s executive chef at just the ripe age of 23.

– Rivaling Chef Coombs is local chef Tim Maslow, who is also opening a new restaurant, Ribelle in Brookline, Mass. Maslow is the current chef at Strip T’s in Watertown,Mass. Ribelle is set to serve-up  modern-American fare.

I can’t wait to get out and give these a try once they’re open for business!

Do you KNOW what you’re eating?

The beginning of any gastronomical experience starts with where the food you’re eating comes from. Your local Stop ‘n’ Shop or Shaws imports (some, not all) ingredients from all over the world. The peppers on your salad could be from Chile and the strawberries on your cereal in the morning could be all the way from California.  A foodie recognizes the importance of eating local because is it healthier for you and has fewer preservatives -it also helps stimulates local business.

Another thought to this affect:  Do strawberries that have been picked at an unknown time then shipped 3,000 miles in a refrigerated car sound appetizing?

Eating local can be challenging, but Boston and all throughout Massachusetts there are farmers markets open everyday. You can find one near your home or near your office that is convenient for you.  Here is a link to the Massachusetts Farmers Market Association.

Innovators in the great city of Boston have been coming up with even more ways to make local, fresh produce easier to obtain … by starting, The Fresh Truck!

Coming sometime this year, Josh Trautwein and Daniel Clarke, co-founders of The Fresh Truck have created a mobile farmers market out of a retrofitted school bus. Bringing local produce to the greater Boston community, regardless of neighborhood or income.

The ‘Truck’ trend of food-on-the-go has boomed within the last few years as well as the allegiance to local farmers markets is happily growing. The Food Truck combines these two popular fads into something that will hopefully stick around for a long tome to come! Farmers markets are really making an effort to reach new communities and educate. For instance there is a weekly farmers market open year-round at Northeastern University supplying fresh produce to students. This is a fantastic idea because it is teaching students who are just beginning an independent lifestyle about the importance of buying local and eating healthy and provides this service right at their doorstep. 

Food Snobbery 101

To introduce this blog, I feel it would only be appropriate to define (in my terms) a ‘Foodie’.

A foodie is someone who is interested in what goes into his or her bodies. They have a genuine love for all food- healthy and otherwise.  Foodies have a curiosity for different cuisines, unique pairings of ingredients, where they get their ingredients from, how they are grown and raised. Foodies have a flair for different cooking techniques and a thirst to continue to learn more.  They are the people you see spending hours in restaurant warehouse stores drooling over stainless steel knives and La Creuset pots. They are the people with more then one kind of salt in their pantries; grey sea salt and Himalayan pink.  They look at each meal of the day as a new opportunity to explore, create and enjoy. Spending hours scouring the Dining section of the New York Times reading the latest reviews.  Foodies look at the gastronomical experience as another way to enjoy life…to slow down and savor the moment.

For those not as acquainted with the culinary world; or for those who would like a good laugh, here is a link to an excerpt from ’The Food Snob’s Dictionary: A Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge’ written by David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld and illustrated by Ross Macdonald.

This is a dictionary that literally defines different techniques, terms, types of food; bios of chefs, menu terminology and even more.  All that is defined would be an essential part of a ‘foodie’ repertoire.

For anyone who is looking to expand their food knowledge or merely wants to understand the menu at a 4 or 5 star restaurant, this would be a great read for you.