Aug 252010

The upscale eatery that invited the blogger to a meal.

Here’s a story that could have happened to any food blogger or restaurant reviewer who receives email invitations to restaurants.

A restaurant p.r. person invited a food blogger to a “food tasting session,”  where she said the restaurant would host him for lunch.

The food blogger couldn’t make it at the suggested time, and later sent an email saying he’d be in the following Sunday for brunch, not lunch. He did not confirm that he expected it would still be a “food tasting session” where he would be hosted.

Lesson #1: If you’re changing the game plan, seek confirmation that you can still be hosted. Just because a restaurant invited you to a specific event doesn’t mean Continue reading »

Aug 232010

Photo by Heather Lunan

This is the best part of being an author: when your book comes out and you have a signing at a terrific food-centric bookstore like Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Photo by Owen Rubin

It also helps to have a great interviewer like food blogger Sean Timberlake of Hedonia, who lives in the neighborhood, to make it fun and dynamic. We talked about food blogging, mostly, but also got in a little bit about restaurant reviewing and freelance writing.

Photo by Kirstin Halgedahl

And it helps to have a good crowd. Among those who came out were food Continue reading »

May 172010

In the last week I’ve been editing recipes for two books by food bloggers. Both have short deadlines, and I’ve been working long hours.

That’s okay. It’s so much fun to see such creativity and invention, to fantasize about which recipes I’m going to try, and –yes– to nitpick. Such is the job of an editor. For one book, I make comments in pen and add little colored stickies to the paper copy. For the other, I make comments using Track Changes within the Word document.

And here’s what I’m finding: errors and inelegant phrasings. I thought you might want to know about  the most common mistakes. First though, let’s review the terminology: The list of ingredients is called (funnily enough) the “ingredients list,” and the directions are called the “method:”

1. Ingredients out of order. This is by far the biggest error. List ingredients in the Continue reading »

Apr 272010

Cooking for a dinner partyWhen three big food bloggers  forwarded an email invitation to me within minutes of each other, I had to take a look. All three were insulted by this offer but knew that other food bloggers would take the companies up on it.

Here’s a condensed version of the invite, with sponsor names deleted:

“We enjoy your culinary blog, and share your passion for cooking and fine cuisine. To provide a fun way to try new recipes with your friends, we offer you the opportunity to host an Easy & Elegant Dinner Party in your home.

“Here’s how it works.You and 1000 fellow foodies across the country will simultaneously host Easy & Elegant Dinner Parties. If selected as a host, you will receive a generous party pack – including Continue reading »

Feb 182010

criticsIt seems that when it comes to reviewing, the food blogging community is more interested in promotion rather than in a balanced critique. I can’t tell you how many bloggers have said, in comments on this blog, they only do positive reviews because “the reader’s time is short” or “I’m only going to write about it if I love it.”

Why? Rave reviews are boring. Totally negative reviews are rare and difficult to do well. How about going for middle ground, where the review is mostly positive, but acknowledges the cons?

Finally, I can point to a few examples from people Continue reading »

Sep 272009

P1100134 BlogHer Food in San Francisco was one long day of group hug. It started at the networking breakfast at 8 a.m. and ended at the after-party thrown by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes beginning at 8 p.m.

Here you can see just part  of the crowd, everyone talking at once in deafening volume, in the hallway in front of the bookseller.

Read about the party… I mean conference, on these early posts from Carrots ‘N Cake and Kath Eats Real Food. Well, girls just want to have fun. And we did.

Sponsors, who subsidized the cost of the event, prevailed between the sessions. Hunky Chef Rocco DiSpirito hawked Bertolli frozen meals over a grouimagesp lunch while they actually served us the frozen pasta as entrees. (Hello?!) Celebrity chef and Citizen Cake owner Elizabeth Faulkner demoed with Scharffen-Berger during a break, and booth people plied us with cans of chicken stock and spray Pillsbury frosting for a cupcake challenge. A classy cocktail party on the rooftop sponsored by Campbell’s Soup Co. capped off the official part of the day. I was so excited about seeing bloggers in person after reading their work online and Twittering and Facebooking with them, I almost didn’t mind.

And oh yeah, we went to sessions on such topics as the blogger’s voice (where I was a panelist), best practices, and new opportunities. More on what I learned later. First I need to lie down.

Did you go or write a post about the day? Have a comment? Let me know.

P.S. Updates: Transcripts of BlogHer Food 09 sessions are now online. More reports on the conference from Simply Recipes, Pioneer Woman, GlutenFree Girl, Tartelette, and Steamy Kitchen.

Jul 292009

julia1David Leite told me I should not rant on this blog. Then he emailed me a 1400-word rant about food writers who are bitter about the success of food blogger Julie Powell and the coming movie based on her book, and of course I got worked up.

Powell wrote Julie & Julia, about a year of cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The upcoming movie, Julie & Julia, is based on Julie’s book and My Life in France, a memoir of Julia Child written by her nephew.

There’s a lot of sour grapes from traditional food writers about how food bloggers are being taken seriously, and hand-wringing about how Julia Child wouldn’t be taken seriously today. As the movie release date approaches this weekend,  the carping increases. David pointed me to Virginia Willis’ blog post and comments as an example.

Here’s the drift of the comments going around and my response. Thanks to David for inspiring me.

1. Julia Child could not get a cookbook published today because she doesn’t have a platform. Rubbish. Publishers still publish books from authors with small platforms. They are also still taken by excellent writing.  If Child was around today, she’d probably start a a blog to help her with her platform. Maybe she’d have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, because she was always accessible to the adoring public, including us food writers. When she died just about everyone I knew had a story about the time they met her.

images2. Julia Child wouldn’t get a TV show today because she’s an accomplished cook. I agree. That wouldn’t be the main reason she’d get the job. But she was also a supreme entertainer, and — hello! That’s what television is all about. The Food Network makes no secret of it. Maybe the fact that she was a Cordon Bleu-trained chef would come third in her list of qualities, after excellent content.

Perhaps the old guard of food writers sees themselves in this victim version of Julia Child, the skilled chef whose talents are not appreciated. But Child would never be a victim. She’d be more like Judith Jones, her editor, who started a blog to promote her new book. These seasoned food writers also dismiss a newcomer like Julie Powell, which leads me to the third comment making the rounds…

3. Julie Powell has no right to be so successful because she’s a) “not a serious (read: formally trained) cook,” b) only a blogger, and c) the Julie/Julia Project was a publicity stunt.

Let’s look at these charges individually. Regarding a), Of course she wasn’t a serious cook. She was learning how to cook by cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a year.

Re b), She might have only been a blogger but her idea and writing were good enough to be serialized on and led to a 6-figure book advance. And the editor didn’t care that she was not professionally trained.

And re c),  I don’t think she ever dreamed that her idea would lead to a book and a movie. We’re a celebrity culture, she was young and attractive, she had a great idea, and once Amanda Hesser wrote about her in the New York Times in 2003, the calls from literary agents and the whole circus began.

Julia2Ironically, Mastering the Art of French Cooking will now sell all over again to younger audiences inspired by the movie. I was a little shocked to see that Knopf put Merryl Streep on the cover. Talk about art imitating life. So Julia Child can sell a book today, even if she looks like Merryl Streep. Julie Powell’s book relaunched this month as well, with a new cover showing scenes from the movie.

I’m going to watch the movie with a bunch of gal pals and enjoy myself. I’ve adored screenwriter Nora Ephron since the 1970s, when she became the first woman to have a column in Esquire magazine, then considered nirvana for serious non-fiction writers. And even though I’ve been a print writer for more than three decades, I’m not bitter. It’s a new world in publishing. I’m just trying to keep up.

P.S. If you need any more proof of the decreasing power of print journalism, here’s an account of Sony’s first-class treatment of food bloggers prior to the movie opening. So far her post has generated 90 comments, none snarky. Thanks to David Lebovitz for the tip. And here’s the Matt Bites  interview with all three stars.