Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Wendi from Bon Appetit Hon In the couple of months I’ve known Wendi Mosteiko of Bon Appetit Hon, I’ve seen that she’s an incredibly generous food blogger.  In addition to posting stories and recipes five days a week, she still has time to comment and offer tips on other food blogs, including this one.  Today, Wendi talks about her thoughts on adapting recipes, her favorite meals, and the food lessons she’s learned during her years of blogging. 

My Morning Chocolate:  When did you get interested in food, and who were your biggest food influences?  

Wendi at Bon Appetit Hon:  I got interested in cooking and food about five years ago.  Until that point, I was living a mostly Lean Cuisine, frozen blob life.  I had a tiny apartment kitchen with oddly small appliances (and zero counter space) and I think I used that as an excuse not to challenge myself to eat better.  When the Food Network, and my husband (he brought cable to the relationship), came into my life I began to see that cooking was not out of my reach and that I didn’t have to depend on frozen meals or spaghetti all the time. 

I would have to say that my biggest influences were Food Network (generally) and my grandmother.  Food Network opened the door of my curiosity about cooking, and the memories of my grandmother fixing big Sunday dinners are what grounds my cooking style.  Of course, my grandmother is also the same person who introduced me to frozen meals, cooking bags, and Swanson chicken pot pie.  As a product of her times – she’s 87 now – she experienced the first food revolution when frozen, canned, and convenience foods were the housewife’s salvation.

Continue Reading “Adapting Recipes, Favorite Dishes, and Food Lessons from Wendi Mosteiko of Bon Appetit Hon”

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[BarbFotoEmail.jpg]I made so many wonderful connections during the May Blogathon, and this week’s interview is one of them.  Barb Freda writes a funny food blog called Babette Feasts, which I learned about from Jackie Dishner of Bike with Jackie. Barb has also been a professional cook at restaurants like Union Square Cafe, and a writer for publications like Saveur, the Christian Science Monitor, and Florida Table.  Today, she talks about food writing and blogging and her favorite meals, and offers some excellent, inspirational advice for aspiring food writers.

My Morning Chocolate:  Of course I can’t find it now, but I feel like I read you used to cook in restaurants. How did you make the transition from chef to food writer?

Barb Freda from Babette Feasts: I did cook in restaurants and I still call it the best job I ever had–I was pretty good at it. I cooked for Chef Peter Hoffman at Stringfellow’s (now defunct), a nightclub. Only woman in the kitchen full of truly fabulous men. Then I went to Union Square Cafe, still going strong–I visit every time I am in NYC. I worked for Ali Barker (great guy) and Danny Meyer, the person I still refer to as the best boss I ever had. Danny made everyone WANT to do their best. What a skill.  I left when I had my first child. Looking back now? I wish I had NEVER left. How wonderful it would be to be part of that organization today. AND I’d still be in NYC.

I started writing after quitting a third shift job as a pastry chef (I was NOT that good as a pastry chef). I was three months pregnant with my third child. I came home one day and said, “I need a job where I can stay home AND make money.” Got some books, followed the instructions (I was a good writer, but I didn’t have a clue about how to sell my writing) and that was my start.

MMC:  What do you want readers to take away from your blog Babette Feasts?

BF: I really want to make them smile and sometimes make them laugh out loud. I want to show them beautiful food. I’d like to really work on food essays…so much is tied up in a meal. I need to hone that craft.

Continue Reading “Writing, Blogging, and Eating with Barb Freda of Babette Feasts”

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Patti Woods of Candy Yum Yum As a kid, I could have eaten anyone under the table in candy.  A pound of Skittles?  They were gone in an evening.  A plate of Italian cookies?  Apparently, I ate a ton of them at my aunt’s wedding when I was 4, and then rolled around the Reception Hall until my grandfather picked me up and said he was taking me home.  Even though I’m much healthier these days, I still love candy.

So I was really excited when Kate Reilly of Polka Dot Suitcase told me about the wonderful Patti Woods, who writes Candy Yum Yum, a blog entirely about candy.  Patti knows what’s new and good and exciting in the world of sweets (it was through Candy Yum Yum that I learned about pretzel M&Ms!).  Today, she talks about realizing she wanted to write about health and candy, new sweets, and her favorite old treats.      

My Morning Chocolate:  When did your love for candy start, and has that love changed over the years?     

Patti Woods of Candy Yum Yum:  According to my oldest sister, one of my very first words was “nitti” which meant candy. Clearly I had a sweet tooth from the moment I was born. There are five kids in my family, so there was always some sort of sweet around the house. My mom would buy the big packages of candy bars at the grocery store and there were always six in a pack—one for each kid and mom. My dad always got the short end of the stick.

As a kid, I loved penny candy from 7-11. Fireballs, Zotz, sour balls, gum … all the really sweet sugary stuff. I’d love to say I’ve matured and only eat the finest European chocolate, but frankly, I’m not very picky. The only candy that holds no temptation for me are Bulls Eye’s and any sort of taffy.

MMC:  Tell us about Candy Yum Yum. 

PW of CYY:  I started writing a blog in 2003 called “Patti Cakes.” Blogs were just starting and I really had no idea where I was going with it or what my intentions were. I just thought I’d check out what the kids these days were doing. I found that I was writing a lot about candy and that’s when the light went off. I wanted to write about candy! It was a peculiar situation, because I’m a freelance writer and at the time I was mostly writing for health magazines. I felt kind of hypocritical in a way to be touting the health benefits of a clean-eating lifestyle while at the same time extolling the virtues of candy. But honestly, that’s the way I roll. I believe in eating as healthfully as possible, but I also have an undying passion for candy.

I tried pitching candy-themed articles to magazines, and I did do several articles on the health benefits of chocolate, which was great fun. I realized that I had a lot more to say about candy and a blog was the perfect format.

If you look through my archives, you’ll see that there were no posts in 2005. That’s because I was pregnant and couldn’t keep anything down except grapefruit and donuts. It was the longest period I’ve ever gone without chocolate, alcohol or coffee. It was a wretched nine months. But after I had my son, there was an article in The New York Times Magazine about Limited Edition candies, and it lit a fire under my feet. I went into candy overdrive.

Continue Reading “What’s New and Good in Candy?: Interview with Patti Woods of Candy Yum Yum”

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Breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast Chez Sven on Cape Cod

When I found out my fellow Blogathoner Alexandra Grabbe serves a traditional Swedish breakfast every morning to guests at Chez Sven, the eco-friendly bed & breakfast that she owns with her husband Sven, I saw a cultural food lesson waiting to happen in this week’s interview.  Today, Alexandra talks about making yogurt and salmon pate, entertaining for groups, and the food scene on Cape Cod.  Also, take a look at some more of her gorgeous pictures, both of Chez Sven and the Wellfleet, Cape Cod area, and visit her blog, where she writes about living in and running a bed & breakfast on Cape Cod.  (All images courtesy of Alexandra Grabbe.) 

My Morning Chocolate:  What is a traditional Swedish breakfast, and why did you decide to serve this at your Chez Sven, your Bed and Breakfast?

Alexandra Grabbe from Chez Sven:  I think I have to get my husband to answer this question, because he’s the Swede and the main reason why we offer my version of a modern Swedish breakfast.  Here’s Sven: “Porridge and egg.  People also eat bread with ham or cheese.  The younger generation has cereal, the way we do in the USA, and yogurt.”
Actually, few people request Swedish breakfast.  Only intrepid travelers.  Most of the time I simply serve homemade granola, fresh fruit, and organic yogurt, which I make myself, along with fresh baked bread, scones or muffins.  I try to serve as much organic food as possible, since it’s so much better for health.
MMC:  Wow, you make your own yogurt!  That sounds fun.  Can you tell us about the process? 

AG:  It is really easy to make yogurt.  I start with whole organic milk.  You heat it to a certain temperature, add starter, stir and pour into glasses.  Then you plug in the machine and leave overnight.  I used to use buffalo yogurt for the starter, but then it became too hard to find, so I had to switch to regular organic yogurt.  All you need is a large spoonful.  

Continue Reading “Interview Wednesday: Swedish Breakfasts, Entertaining, and Cape Cod with Alexandra Grabbe”

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Camille Noe Pagan of sveltegourmand.com

After leaving a comment on the excellent food blog, sveltegourmand.com, the blog’s co-founder Camille Noe Pagán and I connected through email, and I’m so glad we did.  As a freelance writer, Camille frequently contributes to Arthritis Today, Forbes.com, Prevention, Self, Women’s Health, and many other publications.  She has recently written about whether juice fasts have any merit for Women’s Health, how to eat alone without overdoing it for Forbes.com, and the best herbal supplements for arthritis for Arthritis Today.   Today Camille offers advice to writers who want to specialize in health and nutrition topics.

MMC:  There are so many subjects to write about.  How did you decide to specialize in nutrition and health?

Camille Noe Pagán: It was really a no-brainer. I’ve always been interested in health, and even considered becoming a doctor at one point. At the same time, I love to cook (and bake!), but eating healthfully is important to me.  During college, I worked as a medical research assistant, which helped me land my first publishing job, at Fitness magazine. There, I learned how to report and edit health and nutrition stories–and quickly realized that I preferred writing to editing. I took one more editorial job–as a health editor at LifetimeTV.com–before launching my freelance writing career in 2004.

MMC:  When you first became a freelance writer, what was the process like for you?  What have been some of your successes and challenges?

CNP: To be totally honest, when I began freelancing I had an advantage because I’d already been an editor. That meant that not only did I know a lot of other editors who I was able to pitch, but I also knew what editors are looking for–and that’s writers who are easy to work with. I can’t stress how important it is to be friendly, competent, thorough and punctual. Those things are as important, if not more, as being a good writer or researcher.

One big success came early in my freelancing career, when I pitched and was assigned a reported feature about inflammation for Health magazine. It’s a potentially boring subject, but one that’s so important to women and almost every aspect of their health. I received a lot of great feedback from both my editors and readers, and it was then I realized that good writing and reporting can turn even the most bland topic into something informative and compelling.

The other big success was launching SvelteGourmand.com last August. It’s something I’d been thinking about doing for more than two years, so to see it finally come to fruition has been extremely satisfying.

My biggest challenge? The past year, because the economy has been tough, and so many of my editors have lost their jobs. But I do feel like everything happens for a reason; in spite of the downturn, I was able to build a stronger relationship with a few key clients, and I used the downtime to write and sell a novel (the protagonist is a diet editor at a glossy magazine; I couldn’t help myself!), which will be out next year.

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Liz Stambaugh, What's to Eat, Baltimore? blog

When I joined Twitter, I quickly realized that Liz Stambaugh knows what’s going on in the Baltimore food scene.  She writes about restaurant deals, food events, and more on her blog What’s to Eat Baltimore?, and manages and writes about local, seasonal, and sustainable food on the Slow Food Baltimore blog.  I spoke to Liz about how food lovers can cover a local culinary scene through blogging and social media.  

My Morning Chocolate: How did your interest in food start?  

Liz @ What’s to Eat Baltimore?: “My mother was a caterer, so I grew up as a child with food. I remember helping her peel potatoes and carrots when I was 10. I thought it was fun, and didn’t realize she was getting free prep help. Through my teen and adult years I would help her with events and parties when my schedule allowed, and also worked at a country club during my college years. Though my official day job is not food, my husband works for Gunpowder Bison which puts both of us in direct contact with the food industry all the time. I help out at farmer’s markets and sometimes the store, so I’m still slightly working the food industry.”

MMC:  What pushed you to start your blog What’s to Eat Baltimore?

Liz @ WTEB: “I decided to start the blog for two reasons:  1) We kept going to restaurants that I couldn’t find any reviews about online, and just wanted to share my experience at these great places, and 2) I had a lot of friends and family who always were asking about where we ate or for recipes, so the blog was a great general resource for everyone to use.

MMC:  I’ve been impressed by how well you know the Baltimore food scene, from restaurant specials to events to who was open and closed during our many snow storms this year.  How do you find all of this information?

Liz @ WTEB: “Most of the information I got during the snow storm was via texts, emails, Facebook and Twitter. I always make a point to get to know restaurant owners and chefs wherever I go. Introducing yourself in person and creating verbal dialogs on social networking sites is key to be “in the know” when it comes to the food industry. I’m not out to separate myself from the Baltimore Food Industry, but rather include myself more and more. Most places hate bloggers because they have no “credibility,” but I make a point to create a relationship.  [Because of] doing that, most owners/chefs see I do have a food background, and I do know what I’m talking about. That way word gets around, and I find myself being more and more welcomed at any food establishment.”

Continue Reading “Interview Wednesday: Covering a Local Food Scene with What’s to Eat Baltimore?”

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Rachel Rappaport of Coconut & Lime

To kick off Interview Wednesday, I talked to Baltimorean Rachel Rappaport, who has been writing 100% original recipes on her blog Coconut & Lime since 2004.  Six years is like decades in the food blogging world, but Rachel’s dedication has been worth it:  Coconut and Lime is on Delish.com’s list of top 50 food blogs and is a Saveur.com “Site We Love.”  In August 2010, Rachel will bring her recipes to the printed page with her first cookbook, The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I spoke to Rachel about her favorite cuisines, her cookbook, and how we can write and experiment with recipes at home.         

My Morning Chocolate:  How did your interest in food and your blog Coconut & Lime develop?   

Rachel & Coconut & Lime:  “I just started the blog to keep track of recipes that I was making, more or less for myself and friends, and it kind of grew from there.  I realized that if I had, say, something to eat at a restaurant, I was pretty good at figuring out what it was, what was in it, and being able to recreate it at home…I had [also] just started dating my husband, and we both like food and like to cook.  I think we like food more than we had money to go out to eat food, so it was one way to eat how we like to eat without spending a fortune.  So we just started cooking more at home and experimenting.” 

MMC:  Do you have a favorite cuisine or ingredient you often go back to when writing recipes?

Rachel @ C&L:  “I really try to base what we make by what’s in season and sometimes what’s on sale at the grocery store, which often is what’s in season too…[Also] if I go to HMart (MMC: an Asian grocery store), then I’ll end up making a whole bunch of Asian foods because I bought the ingredients…I’m sort of been experimenting with doing mini-themes too.  In March, all the recipes I did were homemade takeout; in the summer, I usually do grilling every other Friday.  Recipes for the grill are always trickier because they require a little more prep [and] if it doesn’t work out, you have to start over and wait for another sunny day.  I’m trying to grill a lot now.  [And] the first year I did a cake; it was like a peach upside down cake.  It came out really good.” 

MMC:  Can you take us through the process of writing recipes? 
Continue Reading “Interview Wednesday: Writing Recipes with Rachel Rappaport of Coconut & Lime”

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