Bloggers of the Month: D.C. Foodies
How dumb was this: I met March's Bloggers of the Month and not a morsel of food was consumed.
No, Amanda McClements and Melissa McCart and I sat in a windowless radio studio in the barren, windswept ruins of Washington Post Radio, where Raw Fisher Radio is recorded each week, and we talked food, which is what they do so well on two of the best of Washington's burgeoning menu of food blogs.
McClements, a freelance food writer, is author of Metrocurean, a well-reported blog that mixes news of restaurant comings and going with features such as Five Bites, a weekly compendium of some friend or reader's list of favorite dishes at local food spots.
McCart, a high school English teacher by day and blogger by night, features recipes and tips on marketing as well as views on restaurants on her Counter Intelligence blog. She summarizes the reporting in the Post Food section and other big media, tells you how you can get fresh milk delivered to your door just like your grandparents did, and visits local restaurants to introduce readers to the people who make the area's best dishes.
Somewhere on the order of 30 locally-based restaurant- and cooking-oriented blogs are up and running in the Washington area, not counting the big message board, collective reviewing projects such as Chowhound, DonRockwell.com and egullet.org--and quite a few of them are very good, which is to say that they regularly turn readers on to new and worthy eateries and markets, they're written in an attractive and smart manner, and they're at least apparently honest and not purely promotional vehicles.
The explosion of sites and blogs makes it difficult for any one writer to stand out. "For better or worse, everyone's a critic," McClements says. "It's sort of a badge of honor to stay in tune with what's going on around your neighborhood." She advises readers to "try to get to know each blog and what you can trust." As a journalist first and blogger second, McClements would never announce herself to a chef or accept free food if she's on assignment for a print story, but as a blogger, she does go to and report on promotional events--the same ethical stance that critics and writers at major daily papers take.
Both McClements and McCart emphasize being courteous and professional--they'll criticize a restaurant that doesn't live up to their standards and expectations, but you won't find them taking glee in slashing a chef to bits on their sites, as happens on some lesser blogs.
McClements's list of five tables where she's happiest these days includes Comet Ping Pong, the high end pizza place on Connecticut Avenue NW; Cork, the hot new wine bar on 14th Street NW (McClements' home turf); Proof, a downtown wine-oriented eatery; Oyamel, Jose Andres' Seventh Street NW spot; and The Source, Wolfgang Puck's new Washington entry, at the Newseum. She also told me she's been eating especially well lately at Vidalia, Jeff Buben's Southern-oriented standby on M Street NW in the West End.
McCart's pick of the moment is The Source, which opened a couple of months ahead of the Pennsylvania Avenue museum of news and media, which debuts April 11.
And McCart has been checking out the Washington breakfast scene lately. She's been impressed by the "south by southwest cuisine" at Restaurant K, Alison Swope's K Street venture, and, for more prosaic fare, the breakfast burrito at Taqueria Distrito Federal and the full menu at--where else?--Ben's Chili Bowl.
Our conversation was altogether too nice--so many good things to eat. So I asked what's in decline on the restaurant scene--what's not long for this town?
Formal French places, Melissa McCart replied. McClements struck the same chord: Lush old-school steakhouses. It is, after all, hard to imagine the crowd at Rasika, Cork and Zaytinya graduating to Ruth's Chris or Morton's (but maybe it will happen--I'm more than happy to frequent any and all of the places in that sentence.)
Happy reading--but don't repeat my mistake: Don't visit these blogs on an empty stomach.
Meanwhile, for those who are keeping score, here's your roster of Bloggers of the Month so far:
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Posted by: jb | March 26, 2008 10:28 AM
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