Fantastic Food Bloggers in Boston

Click here to see more of my favorite meals in Boston!

This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” — Julia Child

The three food bloggers I interviewed have one thing in common: their passion for food and having fun with their blogs.

Good food blogs have extraordinary depth, express food journalism and provide value to their readers. They share quality recipes, restaurant insights and reviews or other useful information that help them create a following and readers who come back to their blogs regularly. Food blogs have grown significantly in the last few years and usually feature mouth-watering pictures that are extremely detailed, since an image does speak a thousand words. Good food blogs also show the personality and style of the bloggers who write for the site, portraying their quirks, which connect with the readers. The three food bloggers I spoke to have created food blogs that represent these elements.

Meesh Zippelli, from Elliot City,Maryland, and Jacki Morisi, from Milton,Massachusetts, are two friends, both whom graduated from Northeastern in 2010 and are now living in Boston. The chic-dressing twentysomethings met the first day of school, sitting next to each other in their calculus class. A week after their graduation, they were in the process of finding jobs when they created Just Add Cheese, a Boston-based food blog, which has been rated one of the best food blogs in Boston by BostInno.

The three goals they wish to accomplish from their blog are to find the best food in Boston, find the best food wherever they go, and cook awesome food in the meantime. They created this blog to serve as their creative outlet, and to satisfy the passion for food they’ve both had since childhood. They also both worked in restaurants while in school and would always go out to eat, especially when they had some extra money while being on co-op.

“It’s a social thing for me, I cook to make people happy,” Zippelli said. “The time you share over a nice meal at a restaurant is culturally significant as far as relationships with people go.”

Just Add Cheese is primarily composed of recommendations on the Boston restaurants Zippelli and Morisi visit. They started the blog with the intentions of including recipes, which they do provide, but it turned out to be mainly restaurants they try out and photograph in Boston, and also wherever they travel. They only do recommendations, versus reviews, because they don’t write about things they don’t like.

“We like to highlight the good stuff around the city, to show people where to eat, what’s good and what’s happening,” Meesh said. They also like to go to a lot of new places or try to uncover hidden gems in addition to the obvious hot spots in the city. They feature a range of food stops, from food trucks, to high end restaurants and anything and everything in between. A major aspect they focus on in their blog is photography. They wanted to make it as photo-driven as possible and find it significant in blogs.

“We got into food photography. Our pictures have progressed over the years compared to the ones we used at the beginning. We use to not care as much about the pictures,” Morisi said. “For me, having pictures are what makes or breaks a blog I look at.”

Zippelli added that there are some restaurants they haven’t written about because the pictures weren’t the best. Having quality pictures and being excited about a meal at a restaurant goes hand in hand with their blog posts, she said.

When it comes to blogs, especially food blogs, having the perfect name is crucial. It helps you stand out and be memorable in the ginormous cyber world. Just Add Cheese was something that stuck out to me when researching Boston food blogs because of how unique the name was. When trying to figure out a name for their food blog name, Just Add Cheese was available and they grabbed it.

“The name is just because we were thinking of what food is our favorite or what we couldn’t live without,” Zippelli said. “Cheese is constant and we’re both Italian. On any Italian dish, you add parmesan cheese at the end. It’s the finishing touch.”

Just Add Cheese has a strong following. They usually have about 300-500 views a day and even more on days they are mentioned by sites such as BostInno or Boston.com or if someone with a lot of followers tweets about them. The highest number of views they have had in one day was more than 1,500.

Being a well-known blog has its perks. Morisi and Zippelli are invited to events and restaurants around the city to try their food, many times for free, in exchange for writing a blog post on that restaurant for some recognition and a recommendation. They’ve also met a lot of people in the food industry such as food bloggers (there are almost 500 in Boston alone), restaurant owners and chefs. Going to food events helps get Just Add Cheese out there even more.

Sheryl Julian, a food editor at the Boston Globe, has a different opinion on freebies and establishes a strict policy when it comes to her staff taking them from the restaurants they review. “If you’re a blogger who goes around taking free food, you’ll never say anything bad about the restaurant,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a ‘free brunch.’”

Julian also went on to talk about writing restaurant reviews and described an experience she had with a “Mom and Pop” restaurant. She said the meal was terrible, even the second time she went. When it came to write a review, she knew it could ruin their business. “I can’t lie but they probably had their house on the line. I’d rather write about them if they were the type of restaurant that had a lot of money and a big mouth behind it. So in that instance, I didn’t go through with the review.”

Morisi and Zippelli offer a few tips for those amateur food bloggers out there (like myself):

  • Come up with a good title — one that sticks. “People love Just Add Cheese because it’s not boring and cheese makes everything better,” Zippelli said.
  • You have to edit down for blog posts. Morisi said she used to write a blog post on food that would be way too long, and it only takes a few seconds for someone to click away.
  • Put attention into the photos.

Some of Morisi and Zippelli’s favorite food blogs include Cupcakes and Cashmere and Spoon, Fork, Bacon. Their favorite Boston restaurants include Eastern Standard Kitchen and Toro.

Emily Muldoon is the mastermind behind her food blog, Emma Clare Eats. She is a junior at Northeastern studying Communicationsand created her blog about two years ago. She got into cooking the summer before and thought that she should be tracking her recipes. Growing up, her family was constantly in the kitchen, and she has always been passionate about food. Six months after the creation of her blog, she started to show her friends and family.

“I posted it on Facebook and my friends from home loved it because we love to cook all the time,” Muldoon said. “I got a lot of good feedback, they wanted to see what I was making,” Emily said. “It was just a great way to stay connected with loved ones at home who I cant see all the time.”

Muldoon’s blog focuses mainly on recipes, and she likes to try new dishes. She’ll come up with ideas, do some research to see what recipes already exist and create her own twist. For instance, she came up with the idea of Nutella® cupcakes and created her own recipe for it. She also loves the freedom of cooking.

“I have some recipe cards that my grandmother gave me before I left for school like those old, retro cards,” she said. “I try not to make recipes that have been done a million times before. I want them to be unique and interesting.”

Muldoon came up with the blog name Emma ClareEats because she thinks it has a nice ring to it. Growing up, her family would call her Emma Clare. “I like having a pen name for it,” she said. “I’m considering going into the catering field later in life and I feel like Emma Clare Catering sounds really good.”

Although Muldoon believes she could be doing more with her blog, and that she gets satisfaction just from her friends and family looking at it, her blog was viewed in October. She also recently realized that pictures of the food she makes have been pinned on Pinterest. Since she has built up a history of recipes, Muldoon hopes that when she focuses more on the blog within the next year, she could make it into a legitimate website and possibly make money out of it. She also has goals to reach out to other food bloggers in the community and get herself out there more.

“I plan on keeping this blog for many years because I’m not going to stop cooking anytime soon,” she said. “So I might as well keep posting things. I hope to see it take off in the next two to three years but for now, I’m just trying to build a history on it.”

Muldoon also offers a few tips for those amateur food bloggers out there:

  • Don’t be afraid to pursue other opportunities- there’s a big blogosphere out there.
  • Just do what you love.
  •  You don’t have to make money right off the bat. Stick with your original intention and be true to yourself and it’ll be fun no matter what.

Her favorite favorite food blog is  Love and Olive Oil and her favorite restaurants include Henrietta’s Table and Sonsi.

A helpful place for Christmas shopping

I know I’m a little bit off topic for this post, but I can’t get Christmas out of my head! One of my favorite stores is Jcrew and I recently stumbled upon a great section of their website. Their Gifts for Her page (where you can also click to their “For Him” “For Girls” “For Boys” and “Gifts under $100”) is the perfect place to shop for a loved one. Or perhaps for that person in your life who has everything. When in doubt, Jcrew has so many different gifts to choose from (some of which aren’t even made by Jcrew, as they offer a ton of different brands). The page is also color coordinated, which I find to be really cute. The gifts “For Her” vary from socks, to slippers, to iphone cases, to jewelry, to sunglasses, and everything in between. Even make up! The prices vary too, which is also an awesome aspect of this helpful page. You can find every type of gift you need on these pages at Jcrew.com. Happy shopping! 

25 of the most loved Christmas cookies

As I was clicking through bonappetit.com  I came across this: Holiday Cookie-a-day Slideshow. With Christmas break a week away, I couldn’t even try to hide the grin on my face as I was going through this slideshow. Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year.. I have been playing the christmas radio station on my pandora since the beginning of November. And I’m trying to get through finals before I can really start celebrating back home in New York with decorations, friends + family, FOOD, and presents. Anyway, I just wanted to throw this link out there so people can check out these cookies, which have touched each and every one of us during the holiday season. I love how Bon Appetit created this slideshow, providing a different kind of cookie (with big, detailed pictures..duh!) each day of the month of December. So for those extreme foodies, they could make 25 different Christmas cookies and that would certainly make Santa happy. I’m definitely planning on picking a recipe or two out of this, to bake and bring to a Secret Santa party my best friends and I from home have every year… and I’m thinking of trying the savory parmesan shortbread rounds and the chocolate macaroons with orange ganache. 

These sites are a must for foodies to check out

Two of my favorite food websites that I frequent are Bonappetit.com and Boston.com/food. I think they do a fabulous job of portraying food journalism and photography. They both feature interesting articles, recipes, recommendations and pictures of food, which is exactly what every foodie is looking for.

I picked Bonappetit.com because I adore Bon Appetit, the magazine, but am not so accessible to it at school (although I do sometimes download it onto my Kindle Fire). I think its probably one of, if not, the best food magazine on the market. Foodies ditch the Cosmo and turn to Bon Appetit to flip through the remarkable pictures and recipes. I can spend so much time drooling over the pages of that magazine. I feel like the site does a decent job at taking stuff from what was in the magazine, and putting some of it online. For instance, this article on Elizabeth Olsen ran in a copy I got in September. This is an aspect I love about the site- the interviews Bon Appetit has with celebrities. I love how their interviews will focus on the food part of their lives, and shy away from who they’re wearing, what they’re doing, who they’re dating, what awards they recently received, and so on. For instance, in the interview with Olsen, they have her compare the food scenes between New York (where she lives) and California (where she’s from). She also talked about how she travels with sea salts.

Another part of the website I love is the entertaining + style section. It features some great tips, along with pictures, of  ideas you can use when entertaining. This is definitely something I would love to focus on more when I live in my own apartment in New York (one day!). Something like a DIY pizza party definitely caught my attention. These articles on entertaining techniques are fun and creative. I also enjoy the restaurants + travel section of Bon Appetit. They provide interesting information when it comes to specific places one may travel. For instance, if you happen to be traveling to Madrid, you should check out this article which recommends the best gastropubs and tapas in the city. Bon Appetit also has a great blog worth checking out- which displays awesome pictures.  I also love that they are starting feature some Christmasy articles!

I picked boston.com/food because having a food blog currently focused on Boston, since I live here right now, it’s important to check out a site thats completely devoted to all things food in Boston. And you will find this on the food section of Boston.com. It offers an endless supply of restaurant reviews and information in and around the city, which is something I pay particular attention to. You can easily search a restaurant by type, price, or location, which makes it super easy.

The site also includes many delicious recipes, which I think is great. You would usually go to this site to check out restaurants but I think its awesome they also cater to those who focus more on cooking and baking. Another part of the food section of Boston.com I like are the fun articles they come up with. For instance, this article discusses the “unstyled look of hipster food magazines” and there are some more informative ones like this article which talks about how white bread has become “bad.”

A final aspect of boston.com/food that I love is the features they have. For instance, I love this one that portrays the best places in Boston to get french toast. These features usually provide great pictures, for instance, in this french toast feature, there will be a picture of the certain french toast from each restaurant, and lists the price, hours of the restaurant and where its located.  I also love this feature which provides “quirky, fun brunches around Boston.” I love how Boston.com/food ties everything to Boston- between their articles, recipes, and recommendations, its the best site to check out when in Boston and needing to fix your  food cravings.

I believe both of these sites are great resources for any foodie to check out. Although Bon Appetit is a national magazine, so it does cover locations all over the place, versus Boston.com/food, which is specifically devoted to providing information of food in Boston, they both provide elements that contribute to a great food website. They feature awesome articles, delicious food photography, tempting recipes, and descriptive restaurant reviews- all of which I find crucial in food websites.

The best website.. ever

I love food blogs. I think most do such an amazing job at capturing recipes, restaurant reviews and my favorite aspect- food photography. I am so entertained by them and can spend countless amounts of time clicking through.  But nothing comes close to this website: Food Porn Daily.  Pure art. With a catchy, yet truthful, name. The entire website is devoted to enlarged pictures of food. With a simple click of your mouse, you go through a literal never ending slideshow of the most detailed, unbelievable pictures of all sorts of food and dishes (which includes a description of what the picture is featuring). You seriously lose track of time when going through the millions of delicious pictures. A warning to those who check out this beautiful site: you WILL get hungry. And you will be ponder where time went when you were on it.

“Click. Drool. Repeat.” — you got that right.

A favorite in Cambridge

I cross the Charles river some times to head over to Cambridge and have dinner with one of my best friends from home who goes to school at Harvard. I love Harvard Square. I think it has so much character and it’s a nice escape from the city. Another great aspect of it is the amazing restaurants there. One of my favorites is Russell House Tavern. It has such a beautiful decor and ambience especially in the downstairs section of the restaurant.

For brunch, I recommend “The Benedict” which features two garlic spinach and breakfast sausage, creamy hollandaise and hash-browns. For lunch, I recommend the “Hickory-Smoked Pork Loin Sandwich” with melted sharp cheddar, crispy onions, sweet apples, and ginger-male aioli. For dinner, I recommend the “R. House Grass Fed Burger” which is 8 oz. Maine Co-Op ground beef, grilled english muffin, bacon, and caramelized onions. For dessert, I recommend the “Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake” with a toasted pepita crust, and apple cider caramel.

Finally, for a cocktail, I recommend their bloody marys (as pictured above). They have three kinds: the classic, maria basilico, which has basil infused sobieski vodka, or the mezcal mary, which has serrano pepper infused minero mezcal. A warning for you, it definitely has a bite to it! But is very delicious, especially when drinking it along side good company at their gorgeous bar.

A Fall Dip

 

As I’ve posted in my recent blog post, a favorite appetizer for me is my mom’s pumpkin dip, paired with sliced apples. It’s so thick and creamy and delicious! I have always been a huge fan of pumpkin everything so this definitely gets me my pumpkin fix. Definitely a great go-to when hosting guests in your home! It’s also super easy to make with just a few ingredients:

– 3/4 cup (6 ounces)1/3-less-fat cream cheese

– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

– 1/2 cup canned pumpkin

– 2 teaspoons maple syrup

– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 24 apple slices

Preparation:

Place first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add syrup and cinnamon, and beat until smooth. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Serve with apples.

(http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-dip-10000000549850/)

Thanksgiving in New York

This has to be the prettiest turkey I’ve ever seen! Go Mom!

Most delicious hor d’ouvres!

One of my absolute favorite things in the world is going home from school to celebrate holidays with family and friends! Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday, after Christmas, of course, and the weeks leading up to it gets me so excited to hurry home. After submitting a nine page paper last Tuesday, I was off on my merry way back home to New York for a much needed break that would consist of friends, family, EATING, and relaxing. After seeing all of my friends at a bar in my town Wednesday night, I woke up Thursday to glorious smells in the kitchen, which made me leap out of bed help my mom get everything ready since we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.

I have to say, one of my favorite things about family gatherings is hor d’ouvres. I always have to be careful to not get too carried away or else I’ll be full for dinner. The hor d’ouvres at my house this year were just too good though so I definitely got a  little carried away. Obviously, there was cheese… During Christmas, my mom makes this insane cranberry salsa and piles it on top of brie cheese- this is something that will always remind me of Christmas at my house when I was little. There was also sharp cheddar and some type of extremely rich and creamy cheese that was covered in herbs (I forgot to ask my mom what kind of cheese it was) but I literally could not stop snacking on cheese and crackers. There were also mini crab cakes and spanakopita, a go-to in my house. Finally, there was apple slices with pumpkin dip- something everyone goes crazy for. The pumpkin dip is just so appropriate for fall and SO yummy and pretty much consists of pumpkin puree, cream cheese, and some spices.

What’s better than turkey on Thanksgiving? Perhaps the side dishes. This year we kept it traditional and had amazing stuffing that featured sausage and walnuts, creamy mashed potatoes, fancy string beans, pumpkin bread, broccoli casserole, sweet potato soufflé, and assorted rolls (my favorite was the one that tasted like a pretzel). My mom also had a plate of turkey that she smoked– un.real. I highly suggest investing into a smoker machine because you can smoke anything and it’s so flavorful. Dessert consisted of the usual as well- pumpkin and pecan pie, festive cupcakes made by my little cousins, and assorted cookies.

All in all, Thanksgiving this year was perfect.

There’s no way to go about being neat when assembling your Thanksgiving dinner on a plate!

Our Trip to the Boston Globe

About a week ago, our class headed to the Boston Globe. I was definitely looking forward to this field trip since I’m so familiar with the Boston Globe and it’s been a part of my life here as a journalism student living in Boston. Other than visiting the Globe for an interview last year, I never had the change to walk around and see what it’s all about, which I was definitely excited to do.

The tour was lead by Chris Marstall, who is a creative technologist at the Globe. He was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all the Globe has to offer. We first stopped at the printing machines- which I found to be awesome.. they were huge! He then took us to the Globe’s Idea Lab, where ideas and products are made in order to help both BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com succeed. It was such a cool place and I loved the huge projector screen that displayed Tweets from different people around Boston- it was cool that it was updating every few seconds with different Tweets from all sorts of people. Another aspect of the Lab that I enjoyed was the screen that displayed Instagram pictures from all people throughout Boston as well. My friend in class, Megan, Instagramed a picture of the Boston skyline and tagged “#boston” on it, and it showed up on the screen. It was interesting to see different types of pictures that people share with others.

We also learned about Project Caskade, which is a data visualization and a crucial tool for online engagement. It was set up by the New York Times and its useful as it focuses on Twitter. It portrays Tweets and how influential they are and basically how far they can reach. People can zoom in on a particular event and see how the story unfolded. The graphics itself are stunning and so detailed. Definitely a very interesting tool.

On our way out, we stopped at Radio BDC. We met Adam Chapman, who is the Radio Production Director and hosts in the afternoons. He also went to Northeastern so he was definitely excited to see us on a field trip there. He told us that they have live djs, news, interviews and does a lot of events with the community. They also have a lot of advertisers related to alcohol. He said that RadioBBC has a lot of resources and lots of people listening. They take on a sports angle in the afternoon and always play music. There’s all sorts of programming such as RadioBDC Brunch with Paul Driscoll, where they play an eclectic mix of stripped down tracks, London Calling with Ian Camfield, where they play the best of the UK music scene, and Local BDC with Steph Mangan, where they play the best of Boston’s music scene. Chapman said they try to steer clear of commercials, having breaks ever so often, and this helps to attract people. They also incorporate twitter into broadcasting.

All in all, the field trip to the Boston Globe was a huge success! It was fun and fascinating to check what goes on in such a historic newspaper, and to see where its heading in the future.

Breaking is Broken

Today, our class went to listen to a speaker name Michael Maness.  He works at The Knight Foundation, which he joined in 2011 and leads the Journalism and Media Innovation program. Before that, he was Gannett’s vice president of innovation and design, leading the creation of innovation process based on human-centered design and launched many brands. While there, he was also the vice president of strategic planning for Gannett’s newspaper division, and contributed to the launch of several local news sites across the company.

The motto of the Knight Foundation is: “Creating informed and engaged communities.” Maness believes that the Knight Foundation aims to help sustain democracy by leading journalism to its best possible future in the 21st century, by focusing on Media Innovation, Journalistic Excellence, and Freedom of Expression.

Maness was a strong and passionate speaker on the topic of journalism and how it has changed throughout the years. There has been a significant drop in newspaper advertising revenue between 1950 and 2012 and he believes that the confidence in newspaper and television news has dropped significantly as well, between 1991 and 2009. There has been $3.5 million eliminated from the newsroom payroll due to dramatic decline in advertising. This was all very intriguing to me and I didn’t know much on this subject, but learned a lot about it from him.

Maness explained  the “Ever Diminishing Half-life of News Story” and talked about how people respond most to stories with high impact and low probability. What makes up a “Half-life of a news story” is: a weekly, daily, twice daily, every 24 hours, web updates, breaking news, live streaming, and shark jumping.” This was interesting because I was not familiar with this either. What I also found interesting was when he discussed the robot that writes sport articles like the example of the Red Sox article in class- I find that so crazy! Technology….

Maness discussed social media, and how profound an effect it has on journalism. There has been over 17,000 videos released just focusing on Hurricane Sandy alone, which he thought was astonishing as well. He also said that Twitter is one of the strongest ways people can get their news these days, which I don’t find hard to be true at all. I get a lot of my news from Twitter and it’s just a great platform to express anything and everything on, including breaking news or crucial current events.

He stated the following about social media:

1. Social media for the first time allows people to tell their own stories.

2. It’s a platform that allows people to uncover or distribute.

3. Big legacy media finds it or it gets pushed.

4. Big media should filter, curate, amplify, and authenticate.

I learned a lot from Maness, especially when he also touched upon startups and the issues they face such as the gap in the news model, they focus on text narrative formats, and simply the energy around getting going.

He stated the key findings:

1. Data

2. Multitude of funding sources.

3. Narrow and deep over broad and shallow.

4. Distributed brand over a destination site.

5. Technology not an after thought.

A final thought Maness discussed was his take on the “New Unit of Journalism” which would include elements such as:

1. A narrative over the story.

2. Enterprise driven vs. a beat.

3. Narrative based allows you to brand yourself better.

I found Maness to be a great speaker- extremely engaging, interesting, and knew what he was talking about. He is definitely an extremely bright guy especially on the topic of journalism. It’s interesting to hear his current perspectives on journalism, and what he thinks will happen to it in the future. Overall, I thought this was a perfect lecture to attend and get some insight from. I’m glad we had the opportunity to go!

“All big news finds me”- Michael Maness.