Thursday, November 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

On the Side: Live and in person, the food bloggers munch

Foodie bloggers Albert Yee (he's Picky) , Kate Donnelly (she's Messy) hosted the potluck. They stir things up at www.messyandpicky.com.
Foodie bloggers Albert Yee (he's Picky) , Kate Donnelly (she's Messy) hosted the potluck. They stir things up at www.messyandpicky.com. ALBERT YEE
Taped to a door on skinny Camac Street Friday was a note confirming that, in the event that you were a first-timer, this was in fact the home of Messy and Picky (better known as www.messyandpicky.com), hosts this particular evening of a potluck meet-up for the city's food bloggers.

Not all of them, of course. That would require more square footage (there are 56 food blogs now) than a Camac rowhouse could manage, though this one, actually, was larger than your average trinity.

It was hard to know what to expect: Bloggers are heard from, but rarely seen - at least in the flesh. So it was comforting to spot a clutch of active and recovering practitioners in animated conversation, one of whom was reenacting rather lasciviously the slipping of his hand beneath the skin of the raw Thanksgiving turkey, the better to give it a good spicy rub: "That was my favorite part," he said.

Messy and Picky are Albert Yee (he works at the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market) and Kate Donnelly (a media researcher at Temple). He's picky. Which means she's the other one.

Their agenda for the evening? "It's for fun," said Yee, though social networking of the reality-based sort was running a close second.

Blessedly, there were no name tags. But there was explaining to do: "I'm at Phoodie" - www.phoodie.info, which recently posted on the flavor of fermented black garlic at Zahav: Tastes like tamarind! - said Collin Flatt, "not PhilaFoodie," http://philafoodie.blogspot.com.

For the record, he's not at Foodaphilia (www.foodaphilia.com), either. That would be Elizabeth Halen: "I'm Foodaphilia, not PhilaFoodie; I'd have to get shorter, manlier and balder for that. . . ."

At a quick scan, it seemed that vegetarians (http://macandcheesereview.blogspot.com), vegans and gluten-frees (http://travsgoneglutenfree.blogspot.com) were more heavily represented than in the dining public at large. The Web world lends itself to niche blogging, Yee said: "You don't have to target a large audience."

Which is not to say there aren't some with large audiences - Urban Vegan, for one, where you can find recent posts on the challenges of eating vegan in Barbados and the joys of a new breakfast dish, "Shiitake on a Shingle."

Nor is it to say that the bloggers' potluck itself was tofu-centric: A generous pot of really good meatballs in red gravy for mini-meatball sandwiches was one of the first things to go. (Yee himself confessed to being a fan of the awesome half rack of ribs at Nodding Head Brewery.)

There was also notable artistry in the salad and dessert departments. Marisa McClellan (www.forkyou.tv) whipped up a fine salad of rocket, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds. And "lifelong extreme cooking hobbyist" Cat Santamauro (the "catFood" cooking column on Phoodie) brought the crowd to its knees with tiny rum cakes with juicy cherry centers.

Not every blogger was blogging away daily. Teagan Schweitzer's compulsion (http://teagans.wordpress.com) has gone fallow as she finishes her doctorate in anthropology at Penn on cuisine in Philadelphia 1750 to 1850. On the other hand, she has become a walking encyclopedia of turtle soup lore.

There were occasional flashes of outrage: "Can you believe the bartender at Butcher & Singer didn't know what Pimm's Cup was!" Contacts were made; faces matched with blog addresses.

But if there was a thread, it appeared to be commiseration: "I think what being a vegan was in the '90s," Mac and Cheese's Taylor High offered to Trav's Gone Gluten's Travis Ingersoll, "is what 'gluten-free' must be for you now."


Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or rnichols@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.
Rick Nichols Inquirer Food Columnist