Just for Fun Friday – Baking Days Past

Organizing photos and thought, what better post for a low-key summer Friday than a bunch of pictures of pie, cupcakes, cookies and breads from years past?  Perfect way to while away some time before the weekend starts..scroll and enjoy…

TBT – Songs Through The Years

Every summer has a song.  Every year has a song.  I have no idea what this summer’s hits might be, too busy with pastry & baking, but I thought it would be fun to look at the Rolling Stone top single for today’s Throwback Thursday, highlighting some years that were special to me.

1977 –  Arrived into the world to “Night Moves” by Bob Seger.  Mom loved his music.  It’s a good tune.

1987 – Age 10.  10 is fun age when you’re a kid.  “Tunnel of Love” by Bruce Springsteen, another one of Mom’s favorites and an American icon.  Not one of my favorite artists and I definitely did not like this song.  “Luka” by Suzanne Vega was a runner up. Now that is a good song.

1995 – Graduated high school.  Always a good time watching white kids sing along to “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio.  I vaguely remember a lot of that during my senior year.

1999 – Graduated college and got married.  Apparently TLC’s “No Scrubs” was the hit.  I was busy (duh) and guess I missed it.  Never heard of the song.  “Scar Tissue” by Red Hot Chili Peppers was # 4.  Now that one I remember!  Love the Chili Peppers.

2004 – Finished grad school, bought a condo, started a finance career.  This is also the year I would officially declare myself old, again I had not heard of the top song that year, “99 Problems” by Jay-Z.  Down at # 7 was “Float On” by Modest Mouse.  Can’t believe that was eleven years ago.  Such a fun, spot-on song.  Love it as much now as I did then.

2007 – Turned 30.  Great year.  Living in our house in Glosta, doing lots of home improvement, spent a week on Nantucket to celebrate my birthday, career humming along nicely.  Forget the first 6 songs, moving down to # 7, odd coincidence with 2004?, to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”.  She was amazing.

2014 – Worst year ever.  Mom passed away.  Job madness. My old ass self had to look all the way down to # 18 to find a song I liked.  “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers.  How fitting.

Wonder if any of the songs I know and like will even make the list for 2015?!?!  So far I really like Tame Impala’s “Let it Happen”

After Pastry School – Shortcut Baking, a.k.a “Dirty Baking”

Prior to attending pastry school and doing two baking/pastry internships I approached baking projects as full or half day endeavors that needed to be carefully planned in advance.  I was fairly slow and painstakingly methodical, often times overwhelmed by more complex recipes or doughs/batters/sauces that weren’t coming together exactly as stated.  Now, I can mix a bread dough, make an ice cream base and pull together a cookie dough in a couple of hours.  I always read through each recipe from start to finish twice, measure all my ingredients in advance and when something doesn’t look right I try to figure out why, adjusting as necessary.

However, there are still times when I find it more practical, not mention fun and nostalgic, to indulge in some shortcut baking, or what I refer to as “dirty baking”, as in quick and dirty.  I would define dirty baking as baked goods and sweet treats made with boxed mixes, sprinkles, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, candy, etc.  Is it easy to make a cake from scratch rather than a box mix?  Yes.  But does it involve finding a reliable recipe and assembling various ingredients you may not have in the house?  Yes.  And are the results as reliable as a boxed mix?  No, not at all.  At least not until you have many years of practice.  And so dirty baking lives on.  Many (most?) of the recipes you see on Pinterest would fall into this category as well as hundreds of recipes on baking blogs, the back/sides of cake mixes/chocolate chips/bags of flour and in popular food magazines.  They’re quick, easy, somewhat reliable and usually very popular with kids and those who like their sweets really, really sweet.

There is much disdain for dirty baking in professional kitchens and by food nerds, “serious” home bakers and your garden variety food snobs.  I understand this, I do.  Why eat processed food, trans fats and lab created food coloring when you could have something just as tasty for almost the same amount of time, money and effort?  There’s that key word, almost.  It’s almost as fast, cheap and easy but almost is not quite close enough for people who are busy with jobs, houses, kids, gardens, aging parents, community responsibilities, long commutes, etc.  They have other, overriding priorities. Or, they don’t want to buy a quart of milk that will go bad for the half cup in a recipe or invest in a special pan or plan far enough in advance to let a dough rise overnight.  I freely admit to being one of those people, even now with all the knowledge and skills I have there will always be a place in my heart for dirty baking.

This past weekend after a long day at work, the culmination of a long week, and a long ride in heavy traffic back to Glosta I wanted to make a few beach treats for the next day.  I also had to make fruit salad, do some laundry, pick up the house and most importantly, have a few drinks and get off my feet.  So I made some Funfetti Gooey Bars and Peanut Butter Scotcheroos.  There was cake mix, sprinkles, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and butterscotch chips involved.  I used one pan, one bowl and my Kitchen Aid mixer.  That’s it.  One was baked, one was not.  Including a run back to the store for corn syrup they were both done in 45 minutes.   I took 10 minutes to cut them the next morning and pack them for the beach.  Everyone liked them and Sam’s coworkers enjoyed the leftovers the next day.  Do I wish I had the time/energy/ingredients to make jam for homemade shortbread bars or triple chocolate caramel sandwich cookies or Neapolitan cupcakes with fresh strawberry filling? I do.  But I didn’t.  Having grown up with a decent amount of dirty baking in my life and being “one of those people” who do like the occasional tooth achingly sweet treat I also don’t mind sampling some dirty baking now and again, my own or others.

I feel it my personal responsibility to end this post with two thoughts.  The first, dirty baking is not baking in the proper sense of the word.  It can be done with thought and with love, but it doesn’t involve the art and science that true baking does.  I would never compare boxed brownies frosted with a quick American buttercream to scratch made brownies frosted with a Swiss meringue buttercream.  No one should.  Second, there will always be people who will argue to the moon and back that there are no acceptable circumstances under which dirty baking should be done.  The purists.  Whatever.  These people take themselves and their sweets way too seriously, IMO.  As my very wise manager said the other day, “there is a place at the table for all of our baking”.  How cool is that?!?!  #Truth.

Here is one of my absolute favorite dirty baking recipes.  My mom and sister found this years ago.  I cover the top with a second layer of Cool Whip.


And a slightly “fancier” version, with marshmallows:


I’d love to hear about your favorite dirty baking recipes!

TBT – It’s A Hard Knock Life (Annie), Hot Summer/Long Days

Going back to 1982 for today’s Throwback Thursday…  Anyone who knows me will tell you I HATE musicals*.  The mere mention of the word sends shivers down my spine.  There are a couple of exceptions, but only as movies, never as live performances: Annie, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan.

This particular scene from Annie captures my mood today, cranky, tired and hopeless.  It’s hot in the kitchen.  I’m old.  My feet hurt.  Poor me.  We love you Mrs. Hannigan.

* I saw Wicked when it came to Boston, it was a great show.

After Pastry School – Macaron “Research”

Intending to take full advantage of our proximity to urban culinary delights, I have been visiting restaurants, cafes, bakeries and specialty shops in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville sampling desserts, pastries, cookies and confections.  Some of these treats I have written about here or shared via Instagram, but many were enjoyed in the moment without a photo op or pausing to take notes on taste, texture and appearance. These treats simply said, eat me! There are a few special items that I have made an effort to sample at several places and take pictures of to share.  The first of which is French macarons.  There was no love affair between me and macarons, said to be the new “cupcake”, until I went to Paris in May 2012.  It was on that trip that I discovered truly great macarons, eclairs and croissants.  I have been pursuing their American counterparts ever since.

Different than the moist, chewy coconut stacks that are their American macaroon cousins or the flat, almond Italian Amaretti, French macarons are small(ish) cookies made with almond flour, sugar and egg whites sandwiched together with jam, buttercream or ganache.  A good macaron shell is shatteringly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  They have little “feet” on the bottom, letting you know the shell was prepared and baked correctly.  Often times the shell is colored to indicate the flavor of the filling as the shell is sweet and almond-y, but subtle.  The shell can be flavored with extracts or crushed cookies, nuts, etc. but that is a more advanced pastry technique and so somewhat less common.  The filling should be thick enough so that you can easily discern the flavor and that the ration of shell to filling is just right.  In my very unscientific, fairly random sampling of macarons in the area:

Until this past April I had no idea that Boston had it’s very own macaron truck, Cameo Macaron.  I made this happy discovery one day outside of Back Bay station.  I met the owner of the truck, a delightful young woman who had studied fashion (and apparently macarons!) in Paris and after working in the industry back here in the states decided to trade fashion for food.  She developed the perfect recipe and now has a baker produce the macarons, handling the business aspects, marketing and selling of the macarons from the truck.  Flavors range from the traditional (vanilla, pistachio) to contemporary (creme brulee, island coconut).  The size was about 50% larger than the usual macaron and the inside of the shell a bit cakier than I had expected.  The filling to shell ratio was good and the fillings were sweet yet true to flavor.  I liked these a lot and given their shareable size weren’t too expensive at $2.50 each.

A coworker at Sofra introduced me to Praline in late May, it’s about a mile up the street on a nondescript block of small businesses.  I was surprised that I wasn’t aware of this fabulous, little new-ish French Bakery & Cafe, but given that they opened during the worst winter in recent history I wasn’t doing a lot of exploring from January to March.  The macarons were similar in size and filling/shell ratio to those I had in Paris, although they offered some decidedly fun American flavors such as the cookies & cream (above, right).  The shells were wonderful, crispy and chewy with their fat little fee and the fillings were spot on in texture and flavor.

Sam & I have a friendly relationship with the frozen food manager at the Gloucester Stop & Shop.  He’s a former foodie turned parent who loves to hear about all the places we’ve been trying in the city over the last few months while he eats mac & cheese and fish sticks at home.  When he heard I was going to pastry school he insisted I try these.  In the past he’s special ordered a few things for me (ice cream bars, pearl onions, etc.) so against my better judgement I decided to be a good sport and give them a try.  They were imported from France and all.  After defrosting according to the directions we tried them.  Yep, they looked like macarons and the shells had the crispy/chewy/feet thing going on but there was less than zero taste.  Bleh.  Moving on.

Few gourmet food shops make their own macarons, even those with in-house bakeries. They can be notoriously difficult to make and even more difficult to produce consistently which leads many places to source from vendors that specialize in macarons. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge is the exception.  Known as Alice’s Macarons, named after their baker of over 20 years, the macarons are made weekly and offered in raspberry, pistachio and chocolate.  Comparing these to the ones made by places that specialize in macarons/french pastry they have a definite handmade appearance and they filling/shell ratio can vary from batch to batch.  Filled with American versus French or Swiss Buttercream they are a bit sweeter, but the flavors were well pronounced and the shells had a nice crunch, although there were some air pockets at the top, interrupting the chewy interior texture.  Priced similarly to those at Praline and other shops these are a nice addition to the bakery case and would be great on a plate with some of the Lakota Bakery cookies that Formaggio also offers.

While in Harvard Square at Formaggio I remembered that L.A. Burdick sold macarons as well.  Fantastic!  I’ll try those as well.  I’ve only been to L.A. Burdick twice, both times for hot cocoa, and it is the best cocoa I’ve ever had.  So good.  I enjoy their chocolates as well, especially those little chocolate mice.  I’m not sure if the macarons are made in house.  At first I thought they must be, given some small inconsistencies in the shell appearance, but flavor wise they tasted rather bland.  There was a lot more shell than filling and none of the flavors really popped.  The shells were crisp and chewy and the size was a perfect two bites.  Overall, the only way I can really describe them would be to say they tasted “corporate”.  I’ll be back to L.A. Burdick for cocoa and candy but I’ll pass on the macarons.

Last, but certainly not least, was this dazzlingly colorful assortment of ten macarons from Cafe Madeleine in the South End.  Intending to buy just two or three, only one flavor was available individually.  Wanting to finish this post in the next week or so, I decided the only responsible thing to do was to “buy the bag”.  I’m nothing if not dedicated.  Not made in house, I asked, they are sourced from Sugar & Plumm, an “artisan macaron-maker and chocolatier” in NYC.  The macarons were the perfect size, uniformly crisp/chewy shells with nice feet.  The flavors were a mix of traditional, raspberry, and more adventurous, green tea.  Some of them had accents on the shell, a nice touch, and overall it was the most eye-catching assortment.  The fillings were nice, but a bit on the skimpy side on a few of them.  They were good but tasted a little old, not stale, just not super fresh.  If I was giving macarons as a gift and was assured the macarons in the bag were fresh these would be my choice, consistent and visually stunning.

My favorite?  A tie between Praline and Cameo Macaron.  I loved the flavors and filling/shell ratio of Cameo Macaron, but the size and chewier interior of Praline’s.  They are both excellent choices.  I’ll certainly visit both again and these would be the ones I would eat with fellow pastry peeps.  But no, nothing quite compares to those in some of the smaller, out of the way places in Paris.  I’ll just have to go back.

Just For Fun Friday – Trio of Summer Beers

summer beer

The above trio represents the best summer beers of 2015.  Hell Or High Watermelon and Del’s Shandy are two returning favorites while the Big Squeeze Shandy is a perfect addition to the line up.  Sold in cans so they’re great for the beach, boat, or pool patio.  Lower in alcohol content, light and refreshingly fruity (but not overly so) you can enjoy more than one without feeling full or in need of a nap.  The Hell or High Watermelon is the real craft beer of the three, reflected in it’s slightly higher price and richer flavor, it pairs very well with food, from cheese and fruit to grilled fish and vegetables.  The lighter shandies were made for picnic lunches or a post-beach, pre-dinner beer on the deck.  Liquor stores seem to share their product rotation schedules with drugstores so stock up now before they’re replaced by pumpkin beers and cranberry shandies.  We had difficulty locating the Del’s Shandy as early as mid-July last year.  Enjoy while they last!

TBT – Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne), Crazies in the Kitchen

Today’s Throwback Thursday post is one of my favorite Ozzy Osbourne songs which I would like to dedicate to all the bat shit crazy people that I’ve met working in kitchens. From the Bluewall Coffeehouse on the UMass Amherst Campus (1995 – 1999) to the fine dining establishments I’ve staged at in the last year. Many of them are the good kind of crazy; fun, outgoing, boisterous, passionate and just a little left of normal.  These are my people.  I love them as my own.  Then there’s the other kind of crazy.  The people who thrive on the informality and transient nature of kitchen work to bully, harass, gossip and hate their way through kitchens in and around Boston.  They elevate passive-aggressive to an art.  They love themselves above all others and have egos that would rival any NBA player.  They hoard knowledge and dole tidbits to favorites and Universal Picture-esque minions.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, these individuals are often times very talented and in positions of leadership. This is not to say there aren’t crazies in corporate, in fact one office job boss in particular was one of the few people I would characterize as a horrible human being, but the formalities of corporate culture tend to keep the worst of it at bay.  What to do?  Try to find the kitchen with a) the least amount of bad crazy or b) the kind of bad crazy you can deal with best.  Good luck to us all!

After Pastry School – Practice, Practice, Practice

I recently asked my pastry school teaching assistant whether or not he thought the two six week basic techniques of (savory) cooking recreational classes would be a good foundation for me given that I won’t be continuing into the professional pastry program and getting the included five weeks of savory cooking.  He said that they would indeed be helpful but that they key was not the courses but “practice, practice, practice”.  Makes sense, practical, rational advice usually does,  but for some reason it was not what I wanted to hear.

Do you know how many pivot tables I had to do, how many budget seasons I went through and VLOOKUPS I wrote before they became second nature? A lot.  A whole lot.  So why did I think pastry and baking would be any different?  I don’t know.  Simply delusional I guess.  There were rare occasions when I would puzzle out a financial model or formula at home but for the most part I learned and practiced on the job.  Long days, nights and weekends spent in Excel spreadsheets, reports, PowerPoint slide decks and forecasting models made me an expert in no time.  I’m working now, but in production baking you learn one “station” before moving to another station and ultimately the oven.  That takes time.  And similar to software systems at corporations, each bakery has their own specialties so if your bakery doesn’t sell cupcakes and cakes your only option for practicing is at home.  By yourself.  With home equipment.  Not the same.  Besides the challenges of baking on a smaller scale with smaller, less advanced equipment there is the cost of the ingredients and question of what to do with all the end product.  You need to try everything you make, but one cupcake, cookie, scone, piece of pie is enough.  The rest needs to be given or thrown away.  I absolutely positively despise wasting food.  It makes me sad to think about how many people don’t have enough food and I’m throwing it away.  It makes me anxious to think about the cost of the ingredients and the time invested.  But the alternative is gaining more weight and eating too much sugar.  Much of what I make goes to work with Sam or is given to my dog walker and her husband to “test”.  At least the stuff that comes out good.  There is a fair amount that does not come out as hoped and with baking, unlike cooking, you don’t find out until it’s done and too late to correct.  Into the trash you go!  The worst feeling.

One of my chef instructors told us that her husband would frequently remark that he didn’t know there was so much “French” in pastry.  The frustration you experience with overcooked custards, fallen cakes, spreading cookies, etc. tends to be expressed in creative expletives.  I’m not very creative and tend to stick with the tried and true, WTF!?!?, OMG, Sh*t! and I quit.  Yes, I quit pastry and baking entirely and vow to immediately find a finance job at a bank, law firm or investment company at least once a week.  I don’t really mean it.  Even if I go back to finance at some point in some capacity it will have something to do with food.  Too much time and effort invested at this point to do anything other than onward and upward.

So I practice.  The results are mixed.  Below are a few of my post-pastry school projects.

Looks good and tastes good!

Didn’t read recipe all the way through.  Rookie mistake.  Used twice as much dough for the tart. Tasted delicious, once I trimmed four inches of brioche off the bottom!

New white cake recipe and first attempt at strawberry buttercream.  Cake was good, icing was excellent, for an american buttercream.  Decorating skills need work. Also learned that for white cake you need to use bleached cake flour.  Duh.

Two very different cookies that both came out great, chocolate chip and strawberry/rhubarb/sage crumb bars.  My only complaint is that cookies just don’t get that same “puff and crack” in a home oven as they do in a commercial convection oven.

Then there are the fails.  This one was not epic and was edible, but not shareable.  Good recipe, but missing steps/instructions for making at home.  I will attempt pita again!


I’ve also done some ice creams, but sadly, they don’t photograph well.  

Pie and tarts on the brain, maybe some practice with dough and fillings this weekend.  Also working on my cake decorating skills.  Everyone wants cakes!




After Pastry School – Food & Social Media

In the last 10 years or so food has become a “thing”.  Everyone is a foodie, or a food enthusiast who detests the term “foodie”. There are food tours, food blogs, culinary trips, cooking classes, online cooking tutorials, food tv shows and the old standbys, i.e. magazines, cookbooks and in-store cooking samples/demonstrations.  It often seems that no one eats to live, we’re all living to eat.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than on social media.  From Twitter and Instagram to Facebook and Pinterest, food is everywhere, represented in pictures, recipes, stories, and characters of 140 or less.  As a person who has had food on the brain 24/7 for as long as I can remember it is refreshing that the rest of the world has caught up.  Planning vacations around dining destinations (five star, white table cloth dinners or out of the way, hole-in-the-wall breakfasts), spending hours making one meal, having an ever-growing, always evolving list of “to-try” places and spending hours looking for just the right recipe for brownies is no longer considered odd in many circles.  This is a positive thing, IMO, now I have one less thing to be considered odd for, of course I still have many others.

The downside? Information overload and time management!  Not only do I have a list of places in Boston and around New England to try, I now have lists for DC, NYC, Ohio, Chicago and Toronto. Do I stick with my proven, tried and true recipe sources (Fine Cooking & America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated) or do I take a chance with this blog/Pinterest/Food Network recipe?  Why don’t my cookies look like the picture?  Did I order the right dishes at that restaurant?  Why wasn’t my experience the same as the 1,001 reviewers on Yelp/Open Table/Trip Advisor?  It feels like you could never get to a point where you’ve tried all the bars, cafes, bakeries, restaurants, cooking classes and food tours you want to if you lived to be 100 with an unlimited travel budget, both time and money. Time spent on social media is also time spent away from the kitchen or doing recipe/technique research. I get frustrated with myself, constantly realizing that if I spent as much time practicing my baking as I do on Twitter and Instagram I would probably be a better baker.  However, I let myself of the hook a bit when it occurs to me that a good majority of of social media time takes place on the T, or waiting for the T. And it’s fun, so fun!  I get so many ideas and so much inspiration.


Twitter – I’ve been on Twitter since 2011.  Not an especially early adopter but a huge fan nonetheless.  I sometimes miss the “old” days before Twitter became super mainstream, a lot of the people (particularly chefs) that I used to follow are no longer active as they view Twitter as irrelevant and too mainstream.  These are much cooler people than I.  I still love “the Twitter”. Short and sweet.  Very little drama, usually, and focused more on events, places and news versus personal lives.  140 characters or less, maybe a picture, a link to a great site or an interesting article. Tidbits of information from breaking world news and local restaurant openings to articles on the best ice cream in America and the latest IPO’s.  You select who you want to follow, share what you want and interact as little or as much as you see fit.   I am fairly active on Twitter, sometimes more, sometimes less.  I Retweet quite bit and enjoy sharing the some of the better tweets I find with my followers.  I don’t have a large number of followers, although I have seen an increase since I started my blog and Instagram account , have become more focused on food and started to develop a style of my own.  Most of the accounts I follow on Twitter are food related; chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, food bloggers, food media, restaurants, bakeries, etc.  I also follow national and local news organizations, having stayed informed about the marathon bombing trial entirely through Boston.com’s  Hilary Sargent (@lilsarg) whose coverage was exceptional.   The smallest number of accounts I follow are people I know, friends, cousins, coworkers and assorted characters from the Gloucester area.  I did an earlier Just for Fun Friday on Twitter where I listed some of my favorite accounts to follow, below are a few more.  I find the best way to find good accounts to follow is to look at who your favorite accounts are following.  This tip also applies to my second favorite social media, Instagram, as well as Linked In.

Instagram –  A few months ago I found a new love, Instagram.  Pictures!  Beautiful, adventurous, funny, intriguing images of food, people, places, events and special moments all captured and shared.  As the old cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Very little commentary and to date I have encountered no drama.

Unlike Pinterest the pictures don’t take you to another site for more information, a recipe, etc.  There might be a link in the comment or profile but the idea is to let the image speak for itself and to appreciate it in the moment.  There aren’t any boards to pin to and as I discovered recently, no way to view the pictures you had “Liked” in the past.  Some of the pastry chefs and cake decorators I follow are amazing artists.  Instagram is great for baking inspiration, discovering places to travel, learning about restaurants and bars and keeping in touch with friends, family and places.  I follow several people/business based on Nantucket.  Each picture is a tiny trip to my favorite place, giving me a vicarious Nantucket experience to hold me over to my next visit.  When I wake up several times a night due to our thoughtless, crazy Somerville neighbor a quick peek at my Instagram feed is often times enough to quiet my mind and let me get back to sleep. Nice pictures soothing the savage beast or some such thing… There is much less activity on Instagram than FB or Twitter so it is easier to look at all the posts since your last fix, I mean visit,  which I really like as sometimes keeping up with a Twitter feed can feel overwhelming, at least when you’re working a kitchen job and can’t take those special little desk job social media/CNN/Lily Pulitzer sale breaks.  I’ve included some screen shots of accounts I follow; food businesses, my CSCA classmates, coworkers from Sofra, pastry chefs I admire, Nantucket businesses and cake decorators around the world.

Linked In –  Best described as an electronic, dynamic Rolodex, Linked In has primarily been a tool for white collar, corporate job professionals.   Users set up a profile, very similar to a resume, with education, work experience, technological skills and volunteer activities.  From there, you connect with current and former colleagues, follow companies you are interested in/would like to work for and search for new job opportunities.  Often times recruiters will reach out to those who they believe may be a good fit for a client and on the other side, users reach out to their connections to inquire as to openings at their company or to pass along a resume.  As the average tenure at a job gets shorter and shorter Linked In becomes more relevant, you can keep track of those in your network as they move around.  What about those in the food industry?  Linked In seems to be creeping (very) slowly into the industry.  No matter what city you are in, for better or worse ,the food world is small.  There are a finite number of places to work, keeping track of your connections is much easier.  Then there is the fact that chefs, pastry chefs, kitchen managers, and front of house managers spend their days in the kitchen or on the floor, not in front of a computer.  Precious office time is for inventory, costing, scheduling and ordering, not social media.  If industry workers are on social media it is usually Instagram (pictures of food!) and Facebook and almost everything is done on their own time.  However, I have seen more pastry chefs and chefs, along with front of the house managers and administrative staff, getting on-board with Linked In, especially as the Boston area food scene expands and evolves, leading to more moving around and a bigger network to keep track of.  There is also the gradual acceptance and inevitability of smart phones being used in the kitchen, giving kitchen staff greater opportunities to share and connect.

Blogs – According to a quick Google search, blogs are indeed considered a form of social media.  Blogs that share knowledge, foster community and discussion are included in the major definitions.  I agree, especially when they have multiple contributors and cover a range of topics.  The best example I know of is also one of my favorite blogs, Good Morning Gloucester.  Not a huge blog fan, I find that many blogs can be inconsistently maintained, there’s no regular scheduling for posting and often times they simply fade away, i.e. North Shore Dish.  I do follow a few blogs, listed on the right side of my homepage, and I am well aware that my tepid relationship with blogs is not a reflection of their popularity.  There are hundreds if not thousands of food blogs, everything from cakes gone bad (Cake Wrecks) and Christian cooks (Rachel Marie Stone) to brunch focused (Brunch the Fuck Up) and couples who cook (Two Peas and Their Pod).  One of authors of a restaurant “review”/local food blog gets invited to restaurant openings and industry events.  I suspect paid advertisements might be a next step.  Kudos to her!   Blogging is a lot of (unpaid) work.  As long as you are true to yourself,  your vision for your blog and your food there’s no good reason not to be rewarded.

Facebook – No FB for me, thank you.  I am not very articulate in my venomous hatred of the social media that everyone except me is on, I just know it’s there.  There are people in my past or on the periphery of my life that I have no desire to connect with.  YES, I know there are privacy settings but said people can see that you have a page and then starts the agony of why I’m not accepting their invitation.  I don’t care to discuss politics, religion, babies or weddings with the public, just a few close friends and family.  Finally, I believe very strongly in social filters.  FB is too much information for me.  I’d rather not see the parties I’m not invited to, trips I’m not taking, drunken relatives embarrassing themselves, that my favorite coworkers is a right-wing nutter, etc.  I haven’t been on FB in years but freely admit i check restaurant pages for hours, special events, etc.  I imagine food is as prevalent on FB as Twitter and Instagram.  Correct me if I’m wrong.

Other Social Media – There is Snapchat, a bunch of dating websites and probably some new, cool sites.  These are all for “the kids”.  I stay away, particularly from the dating sites (duh!), to avoid embarrassing, hurting or overwhelming myself…

Social media = entertainment, job search tool, inspiration for cooking/baking/home decorating/tattoos, social networking, professional networking and staying connected.  Yes it’s a time suck and makes it hard to get off your phone to interact with others, in person, but as a natural born old lady curmudgeon who resists many forms of change and technology, I love it.

What is social media replacing?  Static websites.  Most businesses will always have a static page for pertinent information (directions, hours, parking), an email contact form and a few details such as services offered, menus, photo galleries, etc.  Static sites can be difficult and time consuming to maintain, often requiring specialized knowledge.  Not so for social media, anyone can learn to use Instagram, FB, Twitter, etc. in a matter of minutes.  You can also get information out fast, last minute specials, seasonal menu changes, closing for private events, water main break in the neighborhood, etc.   And social media makes your audience feel as if you are contacting them, speaking to them versus your customer having to go to your site.  Much more proactive and conversational.  And who doesn’t want to converse about food?

Off to check my Instagram feed.  It’s been an hour!