Five vital tips for food bloggers learned at Camp Blogaway

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be on the good side of a particular food blogging professional by the name of Patti Londre. She’s been around the food media block a few times and recently decided to create a pretty special retreat called Camp Blogaway. It takes place once a year in the San Bernardino wilderness and its campers are an indulgent few, eager food bloggers looking to break into the growing statistic of profe$$ional food bloggers.

camp blogaway hike
the camp walkway
cheese research
wine work

Call it a justified fat camp if you want, I’m sure no one would get offended. There was Kerrigold premium cheese and premium-er wine Wente tasting, spicy Italian turkey sausages in papillote for dinner and just about all the ripe Ataulfo mangoes you can eat thanks to the girls at The National Mango Board.

camp blogaway dinner

our cabin

The topics included in the aggressive 7 AM – 9:15 PM agenda of food-focused sessions varied from heartwarming talks on “How Blogging Can Alter Your Life’s Course” by Ben Rhau of the Bert Greene Award finalist food blog You Fed a Baby Chili and an eye-opening “Seven Deadly Sins of Bloggers” by Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy, to a tense food photo constructive criticism session in the form of a one-by-one brash bashing of individually submitted photos by the food styling veteran Denise Vivaldo.

Anyways, here are the top five things I learned from the whole experience.

1) Only seven out of 100 food bloggers are men.

I know this because I was one of the seven in this retreat! Along with Gerry of Foodness Gracious and a few other cool dudes in our cabin. I know there are brilliant dude food bloggers out there, so why aren’t there more of us out there representin’ man?

2) It is possible to make a living out of blogging, you just gotta work your ass off by either creating recipes for companies with a lot of money or had started blogging before everyone else did.

Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen revealed how blogging has become her main source of income. At one point, posting recipes five days a week to get that traffic up, going and strong. Also, she is firm believer in HIRING someone to do your web design and lay out, although, it might be an investment, it is totally worth it. Being a blogger as a profession ain’t easy, but it is possible, just gotta hustle.

3) Don’t undersell yourself and your precious work!

Amy Sherman was the motivational speaker of the event, advocating to charge big name corporations and affluent companies for every single word and tested recipe you do for them. Although, there are a few exceptions, like if you really like a product and it the free food is enough to continually “feed your family,” like Cheryl D. Lee of Black Girl Chef’s Whites pointed out.  Although, that’s not what the “Working Relationships – Panel of Corporate & PR Reps” session advocated. Hmm, the point is that your blogging time is precious, so be cautious of how you spend it.

4) Bloggers get burnt out on blogging, doesn’t mean you have to quit blogging forever, just find some inspiration for writing elsewhere.

Kelly Jaggers of the Texas based Evil Shenanigans food blog and Erika Kerekes of In Erica’s Kitchen food blog led a refreshing conversation on perhaps the number one reason why bloggers of any genre are not successful — blogger burnout! We all know how that feels like. When you start to put blogging in the end of your to-do list, when going to sleep earlier sounds better than staying up to write and reaping the glory of people commenting and your followers commending you the next morning. They compiled a 30-idea list to get you out of that rut, including suggestions like “do a roundup of your own recipes featuring a specific ingredient or category” and “asking friends to guest post.”

5. Revamp your blog, keep things fresh!

Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama and Dara Michalski of Cookin’ Canuck showed everyone how to keep things aesthetically  fresh on their blog. They provided a premium checklist of things to make sure your blog is offering to readers in order to keep them coming back for more. Questions on the on the vital list varied from “Does [your blog design] help tell your ‘story’? (i.e., Is it YOU?)” to a mini-list of “Items to consider adding to your blog:” filled with things like printable recipes by the way of Ziplist and a FAQ page.

nicole at camp blogaway

camp blogaway swag

If anything else, this retreat is fun as hell and the clear air will do you good. Plus, you will get at least 50 lbs (not kidding) of SWAG that might or might not include a stainless steel knife and cutting board from Cutco, a dozen Ataulfo mangoes and an OXO Good Grip cherry/olive pitter.

A big thank you to Nicole of Presley’s Pantry (pictured above!) for convincing my hardheaded self to go this year and Pamela of Señorita Vino for driving all of us up there!

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guys

(last two photos courtesy of Camp Blogaway website)

 

La Cuevita in Highland Park: A Tequila & Mezcal Bar for the rest of us

la cuevita signage

The ghetto hipsters of Highland Park have a new place to get shitfaced. La Cuevita opens up Friday night (May 4th) and it is just what this lovely city needs: An agave-spirit centered bar where we don’t have to spend a week’s budget. The Glutster was invited for an early tasting this last Tuesday and this is what that fucker drank.

La Cuevita bar
The bar, all new and shiny.

 

la cuevita  cocktail
La Cuevita cocktail

 

Fidencio Mezcal

 

Mezcalada at La Cuevita
La Mezcalada


Mole Manhattan
Mole Manhattan

 

la cuevita drink menu
Cocktail Menu

 

Mezcal Los Nahuales at La Cuevita
Mezcal Los Nahuales

 

La Cuevita Tequila Menu
Tequila and Mezcal List (for now)

“We want this place to be more of a sipping establishment” Jared Mort, the 1933 Group’s bartender that was called into action for La Cuevita tells me as I am the first and only of the night to ask for the pure Tequila and Mezcal menu. And by the looks of the prices for the agave libations, it looks like they actually mean it. There are only a a couple that break the $15 mark and the rest are all ready for working class enjoyment. The cocktails are still in the works, the Mezcalada sounds better than it actually is with only a 1/2 ounce of Mezcal used and probably even less of the roasted poblano tomato cocktail used to flavor it (think of a watery beer-y Mary). But then again, it’s only $8 and there are free AYCE tacos to make up for it if you are there on a Tuesday night.

But if you must cloak your poison with a bunch of sweet syrups and flavors, go for the Mole Manhattan. A bit sweet but still bitter and fully brute with cacao flavored booze.

The ambiance is definitely better than the old Gothic-y Little Cave days. They opened up all the windows and the image of Emiliano Zapata will gaze deep into your eyes as you imbibe Mexican history. Just hope that the live agave crops hanging off the patio walls as you walk in won’t fall on you.

la cuevita art
ambiance
agave wall

 

La Cuevita gets bonus point for playing a steady flow of Ramon Ayala and other corridos through out the night though.

La Cuevita

5922 North Figueroa St,

Highland Park.

323-255-6871.

 

How Low Can A [Food Writer] Get?: A Flustered Five-Year Blogiversary Post

I tend to dwell and dwell hard. Some things just really are a trip if you think about the many other ways you could had handled a certain situation, in particular, the ones that turned out for the bitter-ass worst. But see, the problem with me is that, well, I dwell until I hit something hard. And when you get to that point…there is no turning back. I have grown to accept this neurotic quality of mine but it still wrecks some emotional havoc sometimes.

It was yet another night of senseless partying, the fifth day in a row to be exact. I now knew why the “#partylikeajournalist” stupid twitter hashtag existed. Although, technically I wasn’t a “real” journalist (ie. not getting paid–or correctly paid–therefore, not “real”) it sure as hell felt like it with all this OC Weekly and Saveur stuff happening as of late.

It was Sunday, 1 AM, and I found myself fairly intoxicated with the two people who knew me best in my life for who I really was and not for who I was in my blog or twitter. Both…just friends. In our drunken reverie, they actually walked in to the Ralph’s on 9th and Flower and bought a copy of Saveur Magazine (Issue #138). The one that featured a cover story I produced entirely by myself. They asked me to “autograph” it. I did.

critical coleslaw
The Critical Coleslaw that Started it All

Several Mexican beers later, it was 4 AM and they found themselves hungry for the elusive “Fourth Meal” of the day. And in true “triiiiip-oooouut” fashion, we found ourselves in the birthing grounds of my entire “professional” food writing career: The Pantry in Downtown Los Angeles. “How does it feel man? To come full-circle?” my buzzed friends would ask me. And as I scooped The Pantry’s signature, soupy, slightly-sweet coleslaw on top of their thick-cut slices of grilled sourdough bread in their “Pantry Set-Up” menu option, I stared back and stayed quiet–I didn’t know how to respond.

Nighthawks at the Café was my first ever assignment from Saveur, it was published in issue #127, otherwise known as the “L.A issue” exactly two years ago. It was a 200-word assignment given to me by the editors of Saveur. I guess they must had liked me.

Exactly five years ago this day, I started “Teenage Glutster” as an alternative coming-of-aging distraction
. I fell in love with good food instead of a girlfriend, and I fell deeper in love with my old love…prose. Jonathan Gold became my weekly food sherpa and I did not want to end up venting away on snobby, message-board sites like chowhound and yelp. Foodblogging became my direct output for my unbalanced teenage emotional upbringing. My friends smoked lots of weed and drank 40 oz. to medicate themselves, I took one puff and drank one beer…and then left home early to write about it.

Now, I am twenty-two and find myself jobless, and staying home to write this post instead of going to a match class that I already failed three times. I remain stubborn on my passion of food writing and refuse to let go of my dream job of one day, making a living out of it. Hell, I already got a cover story on Saveur, right?

Well, not so much. For as far as neat and awesome that feature may have been, as much painstaking time and effort I may put into writing every single word and recipe, the ultimate question arises….now what? My great Zen teacher, Edward Espe Brown of San Francisco Zen Center, used to tell me “As a cook, you are only as good as you’re last dish”, so if you’re a writer…are you only as good as your last piece of published work?

I can’t, won’t will not be a one-hit food media wonder but as my inbox remains without reply of L.A Times, Saveur and other food powers and my bank account keeps on shrinking, as I continue to fuck-up in school and have problems taking it seriously, I ask myself….how much longer can I last?

How much longer can I last before I just give in, like a normal member of society? How much longer before I just get a job at a 9-5 to at least have some money to buy lunch with? In the brilliant words of the great 80’s Hardcore punk band Bad Brains in their song “How Low Can A Punk Get?”


I didn’t mean to rip off
I thought it was a get off of mine.
I tried to make the scence off.
The plan was doomed to set off on time
The time that I was wastin’
I spent chasin’ in the pits.
And now I pay the price
To make the sacrifice of a fool.

I was on me.
I choose not to be
Cheated on part of thrill.
Bargained was not fulfilled.
Lost in a crazy scheme
That got strapped up in my dream.
And now my time’s run out.
Oh, what’s it all about?

“Hopefully, this is the start of something special.”

–The Teenage Glutster on his post “Yay”, (published on May 13, 2006)

Kabuki Blogger Dinner: FULL Menu Privileges

As P.R dinners continue to flow in steadily into my inbox, I gain an even stronger motivation to take my writing even more seriously than I do now. I don’t know about other bloggers but these sort of things are what keeps The Glutster going strong, especially since I wish to somehow do this for a living in the someday. I still think its pretty freaking awesome to get invited to cover these sort of events. Not to mention, I wouldn’t nearly have the amount of resources necessary to experience these kind of foods otherwise at the moment…

As is the pricey case usually with Sushi. Where I would of normally only been able to get only the cheapy-est of rolls with a side of rice to fill up, I was able to sample a good chunk of tasty offerings, thanks to being offered the chance of covering the popular Kabuki Restaurant. For the set dinner, their Hollywood location was chosen.

Kabuki Hollywood complex
(photo courtesy of press kit)
Just Walking By: Façade

I would always walk by this place as I got off the metro to catch the Sunset Bus down to the Sunset Strip, the only place classic L.A Hardcore Bands bands play nowadays, those were a splurge enough already though, so I never really had a chance to eat nearby.

I was excited a little more than usually for this dinner though, given that I’m finally twenty one and knowing that it was home to the only Master Sake Sommelier in North America, Yuji Matsumoto. Back in 1997, he was one of the founders of The California Sushi Academy.

Yuji Matsumoto
(photo courtesy of press kit)
Yuji Matsumoto: Sake Is A Way Of Life

Walking in, instead of being greeted with the blaring but warm traditional sushi bar Japanese welcome of irashaimase! You are greeted with trendy-listening, top 40 stuff mostly. If not indifferent, then annoying to me but a plus for mainstream music people I suppose. Tables are filled with easygoing sets of couples, girlfriends gathering to catch up, for a rainy Wednesday afternoon, its pretty cracking. All probably getting a bite before hitting the Hollywood scene.

Kabuki Hollywood 1
(Photo courtesy of press kit)
Comfy But Loungy

Our welcoming cocktail was a Fuji Apple Saketini. A pretty clever concept actually. It was clear in color, thin in texture with an ever-subtle taste of biting into a Fuji apple in the peak of Fall. A definite upgrade from the fluorescent Green Apple Puckers I grew up with.

fuji apple saketini
Balanced: Fuji Apple Saketini ($7.95)

Soon after, we were given a sampling of some their brand new menu items that will make it into the regular menu in a couple of months.

tuna poke
Tuna Poke: Black Sesame, Avocado, Seaweed

At $7.95, it was quite a generous portion. Tuna quality is usually not the point in these style of dressed dishes, wasn’t too bad here.

sashimi
Yellowtail Sashimi w/ Jalapeño: Their Take On The Nobu Classic

The thin slices held a slightly fishier taste than I expected, not sure if it was supposed to be like that but I guess that’s what the spicy sauce was there for?

At this point we were served our first sipping Sake of the night.

kikusui
Kikusui (“Chrysanthemum Water“): $7.50 A Glass

Subtle and soft, this Sake was almost as soft as water, had a slightly vegetal taste, the nose was very elegant hinting of grass.

It always gives me a kick whenever I see rolls on the menu with zany names, only to find out that really only means its going to be some sort of a concoction involving cream cheese or deep frying it. Tonight they were unveiling some of their new rolls soon to be put on the regular menu:

vegas rolls
Vegas Roll: Cream Cheese, Surimi, Salmon, All Deep Fried

I can totally see where the name came from; I would totally dig this if I were drunk as hell with a serious case of the beer munchies, otherwise…kind of excessive.

lasagna rolls
Lasagna Roll: Surimi, Cream Cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Baked

I didn’t know what to think when this landed on the table, looking like some sort of creature that was stopped dead in its tracks with a layer of molten, golden brown cheese. I would of liked this ten years ago in my “Lasagna-Is-My-Favorite-Food-Phase”. But now, with purist values instilled deep in, it just looked like something a stoner would dream up in the peak of their high. I did enjoy my ONE piece though.

Baja Rolls
Baja Roll: Surimi, Pico de Gallo

The only roll that didn’t involve cream cheese actually and a favorite, everyone agreed “why haven’t we had something like this before?”. I remember eating some tasty fusion sushi in Mexico City not too long ago, where they would do these same type of rolls but with a Chipotle Japanese Mayo and grilled, adobo spiced onions, these were in the same realm as those. I just wish the sushi rice was a tad less sweeter, got kind of cloying after a couple of chopstick-full’s.

It was pretty awesome to hear the words “you may now order anything from the regular menu” right after this half baked-nouveau roll assault…

ginjo
Ginjo Mizbasho (“Water Lily”): $6.95 A Glass

The second sipping Sake was a medium acidity Ginjo Mizbasho, a little bit more viscous with more of a zing, just enough to go well with the umami factor of the food though.

lobster dyn-o-mite!
Lobster Dynamite: $10.95

Nothing better–I think–than a heaping platter of soft, lobster chunks baked with the lipid intensive white stuff known as Mayonnaise, Japanese kind of course (a little sweeter).

TORO
Toro Sushi
: $9.95

I think everyone in the table at least got one order of this ethereal cut of fatty fish, buttery and melting at your tongue, I was saving my two pieces for a savory dessert. Although I ended up eating like five pieces by the end of the night because everyone had gotten trigger-happy and full real quick, not to say I didn’t get trigger happy as well though.

chilean sea bass
Sake & Soy Chilean Sea Bass w/ Sauteed Asparagus and Chili Sesame Sauce: ($17.95)

Yes, I know, I know. I’m evil, I got the Chilean Sea Bass. I used to carry around the sustainable seafood watch card in my wallet too, but I never really had it before so I rationalized under that. The order came with not one but TWO thick fillets of the fish, and it only continued with the decadence reign of buttery fish. That accompanying sauce was like a sweet demi-glace thickened with some sort of starch or something.

I ate many more things so by the time dessert came, I was ready for something refreshing.

Before then, a picture of the Award Winning Kids Meal!

award winning kids meal!
Way Better Than IHOP!: Ha Ha

Full dessert menu privileges were also granted.

coconut sorbet
Thawed Coconut Sorbet Served In Shell: ($)

After gorging in rich after richer savories, this hit the spot with its fresh fruit qualities, shredded mature coconut was in every bite. A little too thawed for my liking, edges were watery but great nonetheless.

free green tea birthday surprise!
Green Tea Birthday Ice Cream: Awh…So Cute!

Not even a minute after someone uttered that I had just turned twenty one, the servers had rallied up and were singing Happy Birthday in the fastest of time signatures I had ever heard it in, I kind of preferred it actually, kind of punk rock sounding. I tried to record them in action but they were done by the time I turned on my camera.

Oh, how I love being a foodblogger in L.A.

2009 Malibu Wine Classic for Childhelp®, Saturday, August 29th From 1pm to 4:30pm

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Press Release fresh off the Glutster inbox (taken from site):

The Malibu Wine Classic showcases the Central Coast with the most highly regarded wineries from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, combined with top Malibu and Los Angeles area restaurants.

The tasting takes place in the courtyard setting of the Malibu Civic Center overlooking Santa Monica Bay, and benefits Childhelp, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention, education, advocacy and treatment of child abuse.

The ever-popular afternoon “Grand Tasting” featuring tasting portions from more than 60 top selected wineries and almost two dozen restaurants, will take place from 1pm-4pm, with public advance purchase tickets available for $79 per person. A portion of the purchase price ($50) is a tax-deductible charitable donation to Childhelp, a national children’s charity.

Valet Parking is $8. Sorry, by law, no children or minors are permitted at the event. (participants are subject to change)

2009 Participating restaurants

Water Grill, BARREL Malibu, Monsieur Marcel, One Sunset/STK , Casa Escobar Malibu, Charlie’s Malibu, Engaging Gourmet , Joe’s Pizza of Bleeker Street, The Four Seasons Hotel, Fortun Foods, Malibu ToffeeMichael’s Restaurant, Claud and Company, Moonshadows, Paramount Foods, SaddlePeak Lodge, The Sunset, Beachcomber Cafe/Malibu Pier Club, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Luscious Organic Desserts, Spumoni, and many more!

Confirmed wineries for 2009

Griffin Family Vineyard, AJB, Alma Rosa, Anglim, Blair Fox, Brander, Bridlewood, Buttonwood, Calcareous, Cantara, Carr, Casa Dumetz, Cass, Ciello, Clesi, Clos Selene, Consilience, Cordon/Santa Maria Winery, Core, Curran, Demetria, Derby Wine Estates, DiBruno, Drake Wines, Dragonette, Fiddle Head, Foley, Gioia, , Herman Story, Hoyt, Jaffers, Jim Palmer’s Malibu Vineyards, Kaena, Ken Brown, Kenneth Volk, Laetitia, L’Aventure, Linne Calodo, Lone Madrone, Lucas & Lewellen, Malibu Family Wines, Malibu Solstice, Malibu Vineyards, Martellotto Wines, Rancho Ventavo, Robert Hall, Rosenthal Malibu Estate, Old Creek Ranch Winery, Sanity, Sans Liege, Sextant, Sierra Madre, Scott Cellars, Silver, Stolpman, Strange Wines, Stafford, Summerland, Sweeney Canyon, Tablas Creek, Tantarra, Tercero, Terry Hoage Vineyards, The Malibu Vineyard, Vihuela Winery, Villa Creek, Vina Robles, Vino V Wines, Westerly

buy them tickets here!.

See you there!

Molecular Mixology and Chef Tastings This Thursday: Epicurean Umbrella

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Press release fresh off the Glutster Inbox:

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Los Angeles – Epicurean Umbrella (EU) announces that it will host a special night at the Mark venue to feature a collaborative tasting menu created by Chef Renieri Caceres, Chef Tomas Rivera and Chef Al Gordon, paired with the molecular mixology of San Francisco’s Liquid Alchemy. Titled “Under One Umbrella,” this event takes place on Thursday, August 27, 2009 from 7-10 pm at the Mark (http://themarkforevents.com), a premier event destination in Los Angeles, and the public canpurchase tickets online at epicureanumbrella.com the price of $52.00 per person for this 3-hour event with complimetary valet.

“During each hour of the Under One Umbrella event, each Chef will introduce a tasting
plate that reflects his personal execution style,” states Jennyfer Rodgers, co-founder of Epicurean Umbrella. “Highlights of the menu include: truffle potato salad on crostini wrapped in Kobe beef; ahi tuna tartare ‘nachos’ with ponzu pico de gallo and spicy Asian aioli; and a signature burger bite. A gourmet potato chip, dessert and retro candy bar are also featured. In addition to having an artisanal wine bar, Liquid Alchemy of San Francisco will create 3 three molecular cocktails, one featuring cotton candy and liquid nitrogen.”

A Northern California native, Renieri Caceres is currently Assistant Executive Chef of
Botero at Encore, Las Vegas. Chef Caceres is analumnus of Aqua at Bellagio, Tableau at
Wynn, Masa and Lark Creek Inn.

Chef Tomas Rivera co-founded the highly acclaimed event production group Salt of the
Earth (saltcatering.com). Salt of the Earth offers over 30 years of culinary and event
production experience. Such events include Maloof Entertainment’s Post-Oscar Party, SAG
Awards’ After-Party, Esquire House 360, and parties for People, Instyle, and Variety.

Los Angeles – basedEpicurean Umbrella (EU) is an event catering and culinary consulting
company founded by Chef Al Gordon and Jennyfer Rodgers to create extraordinary and unique food experiences. “Whether it is the company’s private chefs tastings, cocktails after work or a celebrated occasion, EU creates the perfect mix of food and atmosphere,”adds Rodgers. After 10 years of collaborating via long distance, Gordon and Rodgers launched the company in July 2008. While classically trained in French cuisine, Gordon’s cooking style is also influenced by global ingredients. Prior to founding EU, Chef Gordon worked in San Francisco and Las Vegas. He is an alumnus of One Market, Picasso at Bellagio, Nob Hill at MGM Grand, the Peninsula and Koi. Jennyfer Rodgers has a background in marketing and public relations, and specializes in both sweet and savory event menu consultation, production and execution. EU clients include Chateau Marmont, Casa del Mar, Shutters On The Beach and Raleigh Studios, among others.Music will be provided by DJ Derek(djderek.net) and event décor will be provided by Poko Event Productions.

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For ticket info check out the official Website: Epicurean Umbrella.

see you there!

Eat, Drink and Support the Cause: PPLA's Annual Food Fare

Living in East L.A for the later half of my life, I’ve seen a lot of my ‘homiez’ unexpectedly became Daddies, forced to mature (basically drop out and get a haphazard construction job, permanently). Everyday, a new protruding belly seems to slowly make a questionable appearance on a staggering amount of girls around my ‘hood, yoga class, school…everywhere.

Planned Parenthood is hosting it’s annual Food Fare in a couple of weeks.

A.O.C.
Akasha Restaurant/ Bar/ Bakery
Anisette Brasserie
Bar Pintxo
Bombay Cafe
Boneyard Bistro
Border Grill
Cafe La Boheme
Cafe Surfas
Cest La V Bakeshop
Cest Si Bon
Clementine
Dandy Don’s Homemade Ice Cream
Drago
Gonpachi
Il Grano Restaurant/ La Bottega Marino
Il Moro
James’ Beach
Joes Restaurant
Katsuya
Koutoubia
La Provence Patisserie & Café
Lucques Restaurant
Mako Restaurant
Michaels
Monrose
Monsoon Cafe
Nawab of India
Ocean Ave. Seafood & Oyster Bar
Ortolon
Pazzo Gelato
Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs
Rick Royce Premier BBQ Catering
The Victorian & Duck Duck Mousse Catering
Upstairs 2
XIV

+ a bunch more, this is massive.

Eat, Drink, and Support the cause, ese.

PPLA FoodFare