Social Media

Anything is Possible - Oysters and Out of the Shell Pairings at Urban Grape

Kicking off the news season of pop-ups at The Urban Grape, The Oyster Century Club co-hosted an evening of inventive pairings with five oystsers expertly shucked by The Boston Raw Bar Company.

Shucking and Slurping

TJ Douglas knocked it out of the park with the pairings:

  • Wellfleets (Crassostrea Virginicas) welcomed our guests paired with a sparkling Gruner Veltliner.
  • Urban Hops' Ben Bouton chose a Leipziger Gose to pair with Sunken Meadows (Crassostrea Virginicas) from Eastham.
  • Kiapara (Crassostrea Gigas) from New Zealand were paired with Bride of the Fox Saké.
  • Kumamotos (Crassostrea Sikamea) from Totten Inlet Washington paired with light Sicilian red: Cos Frappato.
  • and we ended with Pangea's own Standish Shore (Crassostrea Virginicas)from Duxbury. This was paired with an intense new gin from the Schwarzwald, Germany's Black Forest.

I shared some thoughts on the oysters, sustainability, merrroir, demonstrated how to shuck with our Oyster Century Club shucking knife, and chatted with new members. Good time had by all!

Follow the hashtag #oyster100 to see news of upcoming tastings and tweetups.

Thanks to Boston Raw Bar, Pangea Shellfish and the Whole Urban Grape team for a delicious and eye-opening evening!



and you know me, if some is good, more is better...


my night cap:



Sweet dreams indeed. See you at our next event!

Could You Eat Well on $4 a Day? A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit

Four dollars a day. What could you do with four dollars a day that would feed your family? You might be surprised.  

four dollars

Maryn McKenna brings us this fantastic story of an upcoming cookbook (available now on PDF) that aims to fill in a critical gap between food assistance and eating well on a budget, even a food stamp budget.

Key ingredients missing? Recipes and skills.

This clever Canadian started out offering a free PDF on her site, that literally overwhelmed her site with 200K downloads more than once. She turned it into a Kickstarter (finally a Kickstarter we can get love!) and launched in May. You can buy it here still in PDF form and the book should be published by year's end.

Leanne's blurb says:

I'm a food-studies scholar and avid home cook in NYC, by way of Canada.

I think everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.

Cooking is easy — you just have to practice.

Recipes are simple, and include photographs of steps to show someone exactly how to to prepare the dishes. Honey and Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potato? Yes, please.



Read more from the always excellent Maryn McKenna see the National Geographic series "The Plate".

A Cookbook to Help Food Stamp Recipients Cook Cheaply Becomes a Massive Viral Hit – The Plate: Maryn McKenna.

 Eating well on a little more

For another take on the eating well on less theme, I highly recommend Amy McCoy's Poor Girl Gourmet. Amy's book is filled with delicious foods anyone can make and she gives the budget breakdown of every dish. For example: her Height of Summer Blueberry Crumble (p. 164) serves 6 to 8 for $5 - $10 depending on whether you add ice cream. It works out without the ice cream to about $1.21 per person. Amy's Chicken in Cider Gravy is a favorite here, and her Cornmeal Crust Peach Crostata gets rave reviews every summer.


Hi My Name's Bob, Please Give me $700 - Netiquette Rules of the Road - and Chickens in Sweaters

These were the very words I wrote not five minutes ago:

"I'm sorry. We may be Facebook friends but I really feel it's a breach of etiquette to ask me for money when I don't believe you've interacted with me at all online. Have you shared my posts? Conversed with me? Supported me in any way? Would you walk up to a stranger at a cocktail party and utter a request for money before even introducing yourself?"

I wrote this in response to a private, direct request that I support this Facebook friend in his project. This is a person who has not once commented on anything I've posted, not shared a link from me or by me, not interacted at all with me. And yet, he feels it's okay to privately and directly ask me for money.

You might be surprised to learn that I got pushback. "Well I'm not actually asking for money.." In fact the initial communication WAS a request for money, lots of it. Because he really believes in his pet project and offers me the opportunity to support him. And $700 was only one of the suggested donation levels. And it was not a program for the greater social good.

Excuse me, but, WTF?

I'm used to donor-fatigue as a concept. When I've worked with non profit agencies that are supporting programs that fill in the gap between community needs and public programs, these conversations come up. I'm talking about things like Big Sister Association. But these days it seems everyone with a keyboard or mobile device believes they are entitled to have their dreams funded by the public.

Just because there now exist ways to "kickstart" your projects by asking the world for money, does not give you license to act like an ill-mannered boor. A final note about crowd-funding. Please be professional. Some of us have been around the block a few times and we've worked very hard to develop business plans. Some of those have succeeded or failed but when we've done the work, you can understand how it irks us that you have not and yet you still feel entitled to have our financial support for your dream? If you think guinea pigs need socks, show me some data. Show me you've done your homework. Tell me who your competition is and how you're different. Demonstrate your skills and experience that will make your booties rock harder than others'. Then, and only then, should you ask the public for money.


Rules of the Road

As is often the case, there are real world parallels (not that the Internet is not real world) that I think are instructive. I don't think these are new rules, really, just old rules applied to new forums.

1. Make friends first.

Don't ask for money before you have taken the time to introduce yourself. Just because YOU believe in your dream to knit booties for guinea pigs*, does not entitle you to asking for financial support from the world. And they are not obligated to share your dream, to supply you with funds for yarn, or to spread the word on your behalf to support your quest of clothing cold rodent feet.

Sweaters for Chickens * full disclosure, this is not a guinea pig in socks. To my astonishment, I could not find an image of one. This is a chicken in a sweater. This I could not make up.

2. Make a connection between new friends and old.

If you've started following me because you like something I have to say about knitting, introduce me to another knitter you like. That's an easy "give" that costs you nothing.

3. If you see me posting about my latest knitwear creation, share it with your community.

Sharing is caring. We all want to grow our online communities. It's a nice way to show me you care - before you hit me up for a favor or a donation.

4. Check in before you check in.

If we're meeting over coffee to discuss our new yarn discoveries, don't tag or update with my name until you ask me. Perhaps I begged off another meeting without saying I was going for coffee, or maybe I'm taking a midday break but a client might think I'm goofing off (even if I worked through the night) - just ask first.

5. Hello? Introduce yourself properly on the phone.

Now with Siri it's possible to begin a conversation with Janet thinking you're talking to Janice. It happens. Better be sure that you are speaking to the person you thought you were speaking to, and also, not insignificantly, that they can hear you. I don't know how many times someone's launched into a long explanation of why they're calling and all the while I'm politely waiting for the right moment to tell them I can only hear every third syllable due to a poor connection. (remember the poor news anchor who went to the loo forgetting she was still mic'd and wound up saying something unflattering about her sister in law? yikes.)

To paraphrase the wonderful Lily Tomlin, be sure it is the party to whom you are speaking before you speak.

6. Connect in public, schedule in private.

While it's fine and good to connect online, when it comes to actually nailing down the time and place to meet, you should revert to email or direct, private messaging. I wouldn't schedule drinks with friend A right in front of friend B without inviting B. It's rude. Same applies online, no need to make anyone else aware that super fantastic fun plans are being made and they are not invited. Also not necessary to alert the world when you will be not at home.

7. When you meet someone IRL (in real life) or face to face, introduce yourself in a way that let's them know who you are.

Maybe your online name is "RedSoxFanatic" and you have a picture of Fenway for your icon. Those will not help me remember that you are a 6' tall Norwegian named Hank. I'm @LDGourmet and although I have a photo of myself, I try to remember to say, "Hi, my name's Jackie or @LDGourmet" if it's a tweetup so people don't have to feel awkward that they don't know or can't recall who I am. Then, they don't have to call me "LDGourmet" either. (BTW if you're still using an egg for your Twitter icon - get with the program. Pick a photo of you - clothed please - or something that connects to your brand if you must.) (what's with all the bikini and shirtless pics, anyway?)

8. When we meet in person, be there.

Don't spend the time I've carved out to spend with you, on your phone. If you'd rather be tweeting, it's no big thing, I've got lots to do, too. But if we made time to be together, let's really be together. I will often say "I'm just going to update my status because this is a place people have been asking me about, is it okay if I check in with you then I'll put the phone down?" 

9. Tag - you're it! It - being the insensitive clod.

Don't be that guy. Ask before you post a photo and tag someone in it. Also, if you don't like a photo someone posted of you, just ask them privately to take it down. They should do so w/o protest.

10. DON'T SHOUT, don't spam, don't cc.

These seem to be so old and common sense that I almost didn't include them here but you might be surprised that others still don't know this. ALL CAPS is the same as SHOUTING in person. Why are you SHOUTING at me? Spam includes endless chain letter appeals on Facebook (Most are scams by unsavory mills that boost their page views and sell their numbers to advertisers. You're only helping them.) As well as the email types.

And why do some PR professionals still send out emails w/o using bcc? You get only one of those mistakes then you're toast.

What are your top Internet Pet Peeves? What have I missed? How do you feel about asking for RT? I don't think it's as offensive as asking for money or liking your own picture on Instagram, but it should be used sparingly, like when you're promoting an event.


chicken jumpers

Hurrah for rescued chickens and for the ladies who knit to keep them warm!


If Content is King, could Curation be Queen, and Pinterest your Pawn?

On the heels of Adam Japko's excellent webinar on Content Curation (here are a few of the tools he referenced), I have been mulling over a couple of striking ideas. One is etiquette and how it's changing in the online world. The other is the notion of curation as a lens through which to view the old adage "Content is King." Maybe a co-leader is a better term? Curation as Queen? Queen

It's not that SEO is dead, or that content is passé, it's that the massive amount of information available to anyone today creates an unmanageable flow of data. Like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. We need curation, if only to help us identify which stream of info is important to us. Once we do that, then we can write or share content with SEO in mind.

So aggregators, feeds and the need for such things are driving a ton of new apps and services - Adam shared a whole list which I'm looking forward to exploring, see link above for some. We absolutely need help identifying the things that we think matter among the vast array of data coming at us every minute of every day. These apps work like funnels, or off-ramps, sieves or straws, a redirection and sorting for you in ways you determine through choices, search preferences and such. You get the idea.

Pinterest and Smart Curation

In the meantime, consider Pinterest. If used well, we can drive traffic to our sites, create value and establish authority by harnessing the power of curation, and by doing a few smart things with it, or any other social media tool.

Here are some key pointers I shared in comments at TECHMunch a while back, many of which are echoed in this list of Pinterest mistakes new users make. Adam and I both use the cocktail party analogy in coaching people on social media best practices, probably because we both love parties, but also because it's an apt and accessible analogy.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, and think of the last party you went to.

  • Someone there was probably very self-absorbed and you tried to avoid them.
  • Someone else was a little interesting in that they talked about a lot of new ideas but might not have had something unique to say about those things.
  • And someone at that party really piqued your interest because they had something interesting to say about most things, whether it was a fresh perspective on something old, or a viewpoint on something new.

Be that person on social media (or at the next party) and you will rule. Even if ruling isn't your thing, you'll at least establish yourself as someone that people want to hang with, online or in real life.

On Becoming Queen - Three Tips

1. Share the why, not just the what. It's less interesting to simply share a data point (as in a RT) without context. It's harder in the scope of 140 characters, sure. In other places, like Facebook or blog posts, share your unique spin on something to add more value, be more interesting than that simple RT.

2. Don't just amplify, connect. Sharing a link is good, adding your unique spin is better. Connecting others who share this interest but may not know each other - ka-ching! Be that person at the party that says "Oh Adam, you have to meet my friend Rich, you both know a lot about wine."

3. Adopt/adapt, experiment. Change is constant and it seems to be more rapid than ever. Try out new tools as they come along, many have no cost so the only barrier is your time. Adapt as needed. They used to say "find one niche and be all about that, only that".

I actually believe the complexity and diversity of ideas and information available makes it possible to be a more complex and diverse content provider. People can pick and choose which of your posts, tweets or comments they care to respond to and ignore others. Most of us are more than one thing and have more than one interest. Denying things you are passionate about cuts you off from that audience, as well as the joy of being in the space you naturally gravitate toward.

Experiment and don't be afraid to discard what's not working. This is where the speed of change will work in your favor. I used to write a sports blog ("The Sixteenth Minute - because anyone can be an expert for 15 minutes - it's the sixteenth minute that counts.") Probably no one even remembers it. But I've found sports fans on Twitter. Does it dilute my "food writer" cred? I don't think so.


Coming up...

Look for my next post on N'etiquette - avoid alienating audiences or making your followers flee. Old rules, new world.

» What are your pet peeves in terms of etiquette online? Irritating offenses? Practices you find downright rude? Drop a comment here and I may include them in the post.

Oyster Century Club Hosts First Tweetup, Second Event Announced

Our first Tweetup of the Oyster Century Club© included dozens and dozens of oysters, a dozen or so members, friends, a couple of significant others and obviously, ample wine.  

zygomates tweetup Oyster Century Club


Lovely selection - Big Thanks to our special sponsor Les Zygomates. One of the top raw bars in the city with a daily Oyster Happy Hour - $1 oysters Monday through Friday from 4 PM - 6 PM. Can you beat that?

Yes, actually you can!

Special for Oyster Century Club members only: Show your tasting sheet at Les Zygomates and receive a free half dozen oysters along with any full bottle of wine you order. Sounds like a great reason to head over for some oysters, don't you think?

We sipped, slurped, laughed and laughed. And for the members, there was a raffle. The prize went to Rachel Black, one of our first Oyster Century Club members. Congratulations Rachel! Hope you enjoy this saké service and simple but elegant design that allows you to ice the saké without diluting it.

Glass Sake Set


Perfect for World Saké Day! In case you're wondering, sake and oysters are a perfect pairing. Find out why here from Rich Auffrey, Slurping Oysters, Sipping Saké. (hint: umami plays a part.)



October 11 - A shucking demo open to oyster lovers everywhere held at Whole Foods Market (Charles River Plaza) from 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM. "Aw Shucks -


Stay tuned for more prizes to be raffled and for upcoming events.



Paul Barron Explores Restaurants, Social Media with me and Tom O'Keefe. We have an Ice Cream Date!

I was delighted to be invited to appear as a guest on Coco TV, the brainchild of Paul Barron (The Chipotle Effect) who seeks to "help restaurants change the planet." Peruse Paul's site, DigitalCoco to see more about what they're doing to help companies harness analytics. Tom (AKA Boston Tweet) and I were chosen to share our thoughts on how "local" and "social" intersect here in Boston. (Funny our first "Tom and Jackie" show was on pizza and this one ends with ice cream. How is it I got this damn dairy allergy again?) Barron is taking his show on the virtual road, filming a series across ten US cities investigating what influencers are seeing in local markets. How are restaurants using social media to enhance, broaden and deepen their relationships with consumers? What trends are emerging?

I caught up with Paul for some follow up questions while he was en route to present at a conference in Miami. It was a fascinating conversation reaching into future and reflecting on the changes he's seen in the fast casual restaurant segment since his early days at Microsoft.

Back to the Future

In the early days of technology's presence in restaurants, the industry resisted the use of POS touch screens that are today, ubiquitous. "It was like we were bringing them something from Mars. They were still using registers and paper tickets. A restaurant that might've been doing $700 could increase sales to 1.2 million with the right technology." Will tablets replace the touch screens? Perhaps.

Barron sees a parallel with social media in that many in the industry are almost being dragged into the world of social media. "Now when we can show them that consumers, armed with smart phones, can be your best evangelists or your worst enemies. When we analyze the data from venue check-ins, Instagram, etc. we see overlap. In the sandwich segment, we're tracking the top 50 brands. The top 5 in social media stats, were also in the top ten in venue mentions. We went one layer one more and found that these top five also had higher - 70% higher - referral scores in Trip Advisor and Yelp. That's pretty significant ROI, it shows social and local work to increase positive reviews and referrals."

The technology available to consumers today, the use of apps and the drive toward social media connections is as revolutionary, maybe the first real overhaul in the industry since the invention of the automobile.

Beyond an Accumulation of Likes

I asked Paul what companies are doing besides accumulating "Likes" on Facebook. "Most companies are not analyzing the data they get from Facebook, etc. There is gold in that data. If they can starts to identify patterns including  what we call “circular patterns”, they will reap huge rewards."

"For example, if you "Like" J.P. Licks on Facebook, and you're connected to me. And even if I had never heard of J.P. Licks, don't even live in Boston, but we are connected and share an interest in culinary, I can become a fan because of your influence. I travel to Boston frequently, I can become a customer and a fan. Imagine all the people in your circles that live in Boston..."

"Companies have this gold mine of the connections, the audience, your "likes" connect your people and your brands. It's huge."

Beyond that? "Cross-competitive data set, THAT analysis, will be the next frontier, we have just begun to scrape the surface, seeing some trends in more advanced brands like Starbucks are starting down the path. Who in your circle is eating elsewhere that might be eating instead at my restaurant?"

Predictions and Ice Cream

Paul shared an intriguing prediction. In the future, Facebook and Twitter will go the way of MySpace. These closed networks will flourish for a few more years, and more open networks will emerge. Leading brands that embrace technology will create their own open network. "Starbucks has 30 million facebook fans - that could swing the election - imagine that influence if Starbucks picked a side and influenced 30 million fans..."

Facebook and Twitter don't know it yet, but their days may be numbered if Barron is correct.

"Social poaching, it's starting already. Brands are starting to take their own audience to their own networks. Look at what Red Bull is doing on YouTube. It's not just selling energy drinks. With its YouTube content creation, it will become the ESPN of YouTube. If brands are smart, they'll realize they are not selling a product as much as they are selling a lifestyle. They're connecting consumers to their brand. This could completely shift the way the landscape looks today."

"Starbucks is sort of doing it on their digital network, imagine what is possible, it could reformat media, journalism." said Barron.

I hope to be on the side of those doing that reformatting, along with Paul and other forward-thinkers. For my part, I think of the social media as the kitchen in the virtual house party. We gravitate there and the fun starts when come together over a meal.

Nothing is more exciting than thinking about the ways the food on our plate can not only bring us together but also make the world a better place. Thanks Paul, for sharing your thoughts on this exciting time and the changes you're seeing.

And next time you're in Boston, J.P. Licks is on me!



  • What are your observations about how Boston restaurants use Social Media?
  • Who's getting it right? Who could do better and how?

Nuts to You - Pin This Recipe for Chinese Five Spice Nuts

My recipe for these Spiced Nuts isn't really mine. As one who is sometimes paid to develop recipes, I'm careful to give credit where credit is due. Honoring copyright is so important when the world speeds toward a day when the concept may become meaningless. Social media has both aided in the erosion of such concepts as copyright and also aided in full discussion of who owns what in the digital realm. Regular readers will note that I've assiduously avoided Pinterest. I have seen professional recipe developers and photographers wrestling with the one-two punch of a user interface that makes copyright infringement easy and terms of service which foist liability completely on the user. In other words, someone might claim another's work as their own and then when you "pin it" you could be liable for the violation. It seems if they stole your work, you're also on your own to fight it, too. That sort of "community" has no appeal to me whatsoever.

Honestly, though, I was quite surprised when I searched for my Chinese 5 Spice post, just to test out my new site's SEO performance. The first link that popped up was someone's Pinterest page. Luckily they were kind enough to credit me and link back to my site. The rising prominence of that new site/network may mean that I'll have to reconsider. It is also possible that since these copyright infringement issues were first protested, the site has bolstered or altered their policing/policies in some way. I have no information about that. Just saying, it's possible.

If you DO "pin" this, please link back here and credit me, as I will also do, since this did not originate within this tiny little head. The original recipe for these addictive little snack is one I got via Epicurious, which credits Self, which credits Laraine Perri...

Chinese Five Spice Nuts - LDG style


  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP + 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 tsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp 5 spice powder (use my DIY version: How to Make Chinese 5 Spice Powder here, includes coriander)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C pecan halves
  • 1/2 C walnut halves
  • 1/2 C pepitas


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine all ingredients but nuts in a medium saucepan. When sugar dissolves and begins to bubble, add nuts and stir to coat until the nuts are thickly coated.
  3. Spread coated nuts on lined baking sheet (Silpat works great, or parchment paper) sprinkle with 1/4 tsp kosher or a large flake sea salt - bake for 8-10 minutes until crisp.


Chinese Five Spice Nuts


These nuts are perfect for cocktails, for back-to-school care packages, for holiday gifts. They also make an excellent topping for this Blueberry Wheat Berry Salad.

  • What's your experience been with Pinterest? Should I join?
  • Have you had work stolen, or credit or copyright issues?


SEO is dead. Long live SEO. What's for Lunch, Farmers' Markets, and being Content with Content

There is considerable buzz right now about whether Internet marketers should anticipate the death of SEO (search engine optimization). Will good content replace it the primacy of SEO? These debates will swirl around while people continue to try to monetize the giant genie that is now out of the bottle.

Wrestling with Spiders

If you write, market, sell or even dabble in the Internet, host a site, engineer sites, or "just" blog about what you're cooking; you have wrestled with and tried to master SEO at one time or another. Many will recognize that my extra long title, is not designed for clever algorithms, but for humans who think differently, process information in other ways.

Plenty of us have ignored SEO at our peril. The title, above, is an intentional example. More of us have tried to learn proper use, avoiding the appearance of “gaming the system”, while attempting to write in creative ways that don't sound leaden. I still chafe at writing for spiders. (Writing in a style that algorithms will reward, to raise the search engine profile of a given piece can be referred to as writing for spiders. Spiders are the bits of code used by search engines that crawl the “Interwebz” looking for the clues as to authentic content that deserves a higher ranking in Google.)

SEO often feels like the tail wagging the dog to those of us who have been bristling at the advice to write for search engines, preferring people to spiders. I’m not casting aspersions on spiders, I actually kinda like the little buggers. I might be compared to Miss Muffet when it comes to SEO though...

Is SEO is dead? Of course the provocative statement deftly described in this recent Forbes article by Ken Krogue will get people talking. And many of those will be part of the whole industry that has evolved to help us understand how to master SEO. They write books for us to buy, consult on how to do SEO and marketing on the web. That is how THEY monetize the web.

Of course, the article is about SEO and is running in Forbes. So, it will gain a much higher ranking than my little site, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion that will resonate. Maybe not in the halls of industry (or the cube farms, as it were) but at least some of my readers will get it.

How SEO is like Big Ag

All this talk about the death of SEO and whether good solid content & “social” will replace laser focus on SEO alone is akin to the debate between local food passionistas and big AG. How? Allow me...

We used to have a food system that was more local until it became industrialized. There were advantages for many in the industrialization process, advantages many people would rather ignore. Jobs for one, but this is not the main point here.

There’s an increasingly large and alarming body of evidence that the risks of industrialized agriculture may outweigh the benefits.

  • we are not “feeding the world” with our increased productivity, though this is often offered as a justification
  • we are polluting the earth, and draining the water table
  • we are depleting the soil and creating a second Dust Bowl, (only our grandparents remember that tragedy?)
  • we are creating chemically-dependent crops
  • we are creating smarter bugs that are now resistant to antibiotics and which have the power to kill humans (80% of antibiotics produced in the US go to livestock NOT to humans)

At the same time, we have rediscovered the joys of local, sustainable food.

  • we love our farmers’ markets even if they are often inefficient at distribution
  • we have renewed our passion for seasonal food, a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato, pork that tastes like pork
  • we have begun to realize that supporting our local economies has many, direct benefits

There are those that seek to demonize big AG and deify farmers’ markets. Simplicity loves a villain. We must find ways to support local farms, local economies and also to farm and distribute on a large scale in ways that don't create generations of disasters both economic and agricultural.

I believe the rising interest in “content” ("CONtent" which I keep reading as conTENT, as in happy...ironic, don’t you think?) echoes another key cultural shift. Whether or not we all begin eating only local food (not likely) or stop the massive recalls of tainted food, stop the Second Dust Bowl, begin farming more sustainably, find scales of production that actually work, stem the tide of farm thing we all crave is more authenticity. More community. Finding "our" people and our place in the world seems more important than ever.

THIS is why affinity groups are so passionate about their topics, “their” bloggers, their recipes. This is why big corporate marketing departments are seeking out the blogging community support (witness the rise of the “yoga pants mom" demographic.) Social media has taken off partly because it is an efficient way for us to find others who share our passions, whether they live in Oslo or Oswego. I was a Twitter skeptic and now a huge fan. Ultimately, we'll look for hybrid systems - in agriculture, in online communities,

As is so often the case, the thought-leaders and self-proclaimed “gurus” will mine this new debate for their own purposes. People still need to figure out how to make money on the web, but they will need to refine it from simple SEO algorithms and gaming they system/manipulating it, until the next new thing that comes round. The debate needs to evolve into a more nuanced conversation about authentic communications, true communities. The recognition that "social" matters seems to me a very late epiphany for the "gurus" in the field. Many of us who have been ridiculed as unsophisticated are shrugging and collectively saying "duh."

Writing about what Matters

Some of us will go on writing about what matters to us, not necessarily to or for spiders. We’ll feel good when we strike a chord on a topic that never comes up in keyword search tools - but get tons of comments from readers. We’ll know we made an authentic connection with our audience. We revel in the emails from readers who never comment but share howe our stories moved them. These communities of conversation are going to exist whether marketers learn how to profit from them or not.

Depending on your goals, you may pay more or less attention to these prognostications about SEO, about CONtent, or you may be conTENT to write what you are passionate about, even if it doesn’t fit into a nice formula. I take pride in the fact that in the early days of a very well known aggregator, I tried mightily to encourage them to have a food & cooking category. They (being young male geeks who clearly knew more than I) insisted that their membership "didn’t care about food" and would consider my contributions "spam" (not the food product type).

Hey, even geeks have to eat. And yes, they do now have a food category.

This SEO debate reflects evolution in the industry. Some will get that, others will wring their hands and proclaim the sky is falling while they scramble to figure out what their next gig will be. And some will keep doing what we do. Writing what we care about for people who recognize that even geeks have to eat. Hey gurus do, too. We'll continue to try to find ways to monetize what we do and we'll rely on things like SEO or spiders to help readers who would otherwise never stumble upon us, to find us and join our online communities.

In the span of a week, we’ve had a death in the family, a serious hospitalization of a friend, crisis in the life of another loved one. We’ve shared gifts of food with new friends and anticipate the arrival of a new little one next door. No matter what happens with SEO - people matter, families matter. Family farms going under matters. Our country suffering another Dust Bowl, matters. The joy of having enough food to eat, of sharing a good meal together matters.

I’ll take that over page rank any day.


What do you think?

Do you write for people or to spiders?

How much attention do you pay to Meta tags, Social Media and SEO?





Ever Curious, Always Hungry Scavenger Hunt Answers & Winner

Here are the results of the Scavenger Hunt. How many did you know?

  • What club are Taylor Shellfish and ILoveBlueSea sponsoring? The Oyster Century Club©

  • Who said “If you are looking for support to organize an event, I strongly encourage you to consider Jacqueline.”  Yes, I do event planning. Read what one client, Friends of Marviva Foundation had to say.
  • Who are The Shrinking Violet and The Brine Hound and where can they be found? These are two of the Oyster Lover profiles described by Rowan Jacobsen, author of The Geography of Oysters. An autographed copy goes to each of the first ten OCC© members to join.
  • There are ten photos on my Photography page. Which photo by your always hungry friend has been published? The hint here was "always hungry" and of the photos on my photography page, the first one was published in the iWine Report on Navarra Rosé.
  • I’m the “go-to-gal for questions about sustainability, seafood and social media” for what conference-planning, app-developing powerhouse? Clues here were social media, conference: I spoke at Babette Pepaj's TechMunch conference.
  • What is the ironic connection between two of my favorite writing clips? Amongst my clips are a piece for Culture: the Word on Cheese and the Washington Post (on dining out with food allergies). I'm now allergic to dairy which means no more of my beloved cheese.
  • Name one chef that I introduce on a video. Gabe Bremer - Salts; and Peter Davis of Henrietta's Table are two chefs that I introduce and talk to on the Media Clips, here.
  • Name the workshop that Christopher Myers & Joanne Chang said this about? “...we were energized to learn more and to help realize a better future for not only the diners of tomorrow but their children, as well.” The workshops I give to restaurants/chefs on sourcing and using sustainable seafood are called "Teach a Chef to Fish" and I've been doing these trainings for a couple years. They are an outgrowth of the Teach a Man to Fish sustainable seafood  event I do here, in a virtual potluck/teach-in format.
  • What’s my favorite hashtag right now? #Oyster100 follow that hashtag on Twitter to see what fellow members are Tweeting, what oysters they're eating and where they're enjoying them.
  • Name one new thing you learned about me from this site/contest. I hope this little contest helped you learn more about my new site and something about me and my work as well.  

Please feel free to share this post and help me spread the word.  I love and appreciate your referrals!

AND THE WINNER IS: Congratulations to Jenni Fields for getting 8 out of 10 answers right. Let me know which sponsor you choose and I'll send a $25 gift certificate your way.


Seduced and Sated - Saying Yes to Lamb

UPDATE: Vote Here. Vote Often. Maybe even for me?


Upon being invited to join nine invited Boston bloggers for the inaugural American Lamb “Pro-Am Lamb” competition, I did what anyone in my shoes would do. I punted.

On Being Rational

I listened to the little angel on one shoulder who said “decline”. Alternately this angel bears a resemblance to my husband, patiently awaiting the day this “writing thing” takes off (read: makes money.) At other times, this spirit looks like my agent, possessed with almost as much patience. She too, looks forward to the day I begin life as a published author.

Then, the seduction began. I thought about a million recipes, cultures, angles I could explore and all the gorgeous flavors that complement lamb. I could go in a Mediterranean, North African, or Middle Eastern direction. “Accept!” “Do it!” “It will be great fun.” “You’ll be supporting local American lamb.

Being in the midst of a swirling vortex of “broken” - everything going kaput at once (not even kidding: dishwasher, phone, AC, computer, fridge), it would have been smart to say “No thanks.” With all the repair and troubleshooting calls, my time has disappeared faster than [insert illicit substance of choice here] at a LiLo party. Declining would have been the rational thing to do.

Seduced by Lamb

Rational has not always been my strong suit. Naturally, I said "Yes!" My pipeline is skinny enough to make Kate Moss look like plus-size model, but yes, I said, let me create a recipe or two, test them, edit them, cook them, shoot them. Tweak and tinker. I have faith that new work will come, as it always does, in the nick of time.

At the very least, I’ll be able to add a “cooking competition” bullet to the resume. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, I'm a firm believer in doing what scares us - as often as possible.

Look at that gorgeous Lamb!

But First - Some Music

To accompany my Texas-sized flood of ideas, I put on Stevie Ray Vaughn. In addition to being a kick-ass album of bluesy rock, Texas Flood (the last album before his early death) wowed listeners across genres. It includes a clever tune incorporating the nursery rhyme Mary had a Little Lamb. Only he could make a children’s nursery rhyme sound naughty. Listen to his phrasing “...Tisket, ...tasket..” punctuates pauses, spitting out a dare. Whatever tisketing is, I want to do it. If you’re not familiar with the album, have a listen. Lenny, Vaughn’s instrumental tribute to his wife, is so moving, if it doesn’t get to you, I’m gonna have to start worrying.

Listening to Stevie Ray you can fairly feel the Texas dust kick up around you. Or, maybe that’s just the state of my house. Ignoring the hairball in the corner, I get to work.

On the Creative Process

Vaughn muses on the Texas Flood re-release, about the difference between creating from the mind, as opposed to listening to the heart.

“If I go with what’s in my heart and let it come out, then I’m okay.” Not bad advice. For musicians, for cooks. For all of us.

Random ideas swirl, a testament to the diversity of lamb:

  • Mongolian - salty, sweet palate of lamb-loving culture. After some research, I learn the “Mongolian BBQ” of my childhood was not so authentic. Scratch this one.
  • North African - cardamom, cumin, harissa (see Harissa Comes out of the Closet) Love these flavors but I may need more time to figure it into a lamb dish. Pita stuffed with spicy lamb and harissa sauce?
  • Mediterranean - garlic, lemon. Classic. Love it. Too common to excite me for this competition.
  • Korean - never heard of this before but something tells me the garlic-sweet-salty combo might be enticing with lamb. I will come back to this and try it again after the Lamb Pro-Am the first two tries were intriguing enough.


Back to Xi’an

Ultimately, I came back to the cumin-scented Sichuan profile I love. As a child I saw the newly unearthed army of Xi’an Terracotta Warriors in National Geographic Magazine. I vowed to one day see this magnificent army in person. When I was part of a management consulting team that went Beijing and Shanghai, I negotiated for extra time to complete my part of the report so I could make this childhood dream come true.

Imagine an army of these guys, each unique and life-sized?! Breathtaking.

One of the most memorable meals was a hot pot meal that included lamb, eaten alone, in a huge restaurant, where not a soul spoke a word of English. I saw the terracotta warriors and ate the local, authentic lamb. This memory helped to inspire this dish. Xi’an is in the Shaanxi province which borders Sichuan, many of the same flavors appear in each region’s cuisine. This recipe is probably not authentically representative of either, but it gives you a taste of both.

The techniques are familiar enough I didn’t need weeks of time, and a whole herd of lambs, to perfect it. This is simple enough you can make it at home, unique enough to entice you. And it’s very satisfying indeed.

Three Peppers Lamb LDGourmet-style

Sichuan cuisine is characterized by a balance of hot, salty, fragrant flavors. Chilli peppers were not originally part of the cuisine, but Sichuan cooks have fully incorporated them into dishes many of us have come to associate with the region.

Sichuan peppercorns (prickly ash) are not actually in the peppercorn family but are referred to as such. They’re actually more closely related to citrus. Toasting them prior to incorporating is key to getting the full benefit of their fragrant, slightly citrusy-floral flavor. They also are slightly numbing to the tongue.

Lamb is a staple in this part of China. Here, the lamb is sliced thin and tossed with a fragrant spice rub, scented with cumin and coriander, then stir-fried. I incorporate the spices and heat that characterize Sichuan dishes, adding the notes of warm sweet spices, citrus and vinegar.

Three Peppers Lamb

Serves 2-4. Three peppers here are the Sichuan peppers, white pepper and red peppers in the form of whole fresh and dried chilli flakes. The actual cooking time is quick, so be sure to read through recipe and have your ingredients all prepped (mis en place) before you begin.


  • 1.5 lbs of boneless leg of fresh American lamb

Cleaned of silver skin, sliced across the grain, into bite-sized pieces. You could also use other cuts of lamb, the trick is to use small enough pieces they will be tender to the bite and not so small you over cook them.

Make spice rub:

  • 2 TBSP cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 3 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander

Toast spices lightly until fragrant in dry skillet. Cool, buzz in clean spice grinder or mortar & pestle. (Tip: to clean spice grinder place a hunk of soft bread in it, and buzz. A silicone basting brush works almost as well. Be sure to unplug before sticking fingers in there! I keep one for coffee beans only, one for spices.)

  • 1/2 tsp 5 Spice Powder (recipe: How to Make Chinese 5 Spice Powder)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 fresh red hot chilli peppers (try slicing one thinly and leaving one whole)
  • 1-2 scallions, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1 medium onion (halve North to South, then thinly sliced into thin half moons)
  • For garnish: toasted sesame sesame seeds, orange zest, cilantro


  1. Make the spice rub.
  2. Make 5 Spice Powder if blending at home.
  3. Slice lamb, toss with spice rub, refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
  4. Heat large skillet, add one TBSP best quality peanut oil or corn oil. When it shimmers, add onion slices and one whole hot chilli pepper (to scent the oil, but don’t eat it.)
  5. Sauté in 1 TBSP peanut oil (I like Spectrum.)
  6. Push onions to edge of pan, add about 2 teaspoons more oil, then add meat.
  7. Next add scallions, garlic and sliced chilli.
  8. When the scallions start to soften, give your sauce-slurry a good mix, add it to the lamb and give a good toss.

Tip: you do not need a wok, get a good pan nice and hot, add the oil, then add onions. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar on the onions to give them a faint caramelized sweetness.

Sauce-slurry ingredients:

Into a 1 cup measure add:

  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 TBSP Xiaoshang Rice Wine
  • 1 TBSP Soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP fresh squeezed organic orange juice (save peel for zesting)
  • 1 TBSP Chinese Black vinegar

Fill measuring cup up to ~2/3 C with cold water. This should be about the amount of liquid to make a sauce that works for a pound or so. You can thin it by adding more water to the pan if you like. Garnish with any or all of the following: fresh zest of orange, chili threads, cilantro, sliced scallion, sesame seeds.




Please stay tuned for a link to the Boston Chefs American Lamb Pro-Am website. There, you can look at all 9 or 10 of our recipes and vote for the post and recipe you like best. Only four of us will make it to the next round! Please also share this around FB, Twitter, etc.


BBQ Bonanza 2011 - ‘Cued Cocktails at Kingsford University

What goes better with barbecue than cocktails? I'm talking about Grilled Cocktails. Well, we've grilled everything else, why not grilled cocktails?!

I'm thrilled that this week we have a guest post from Melanie Yunk, Founder of the SEO company, Roaring Pajamas. Denise Woodward who shot our BBQ Bonanza logo picture (above) at the Kingsford University. Denise and Melanie are both Twitter buds that found themselves at Kingsford U - sadly, without me. They both enjoyed the experience and came away inspired, lucky for us.


'Cued Cocktails at Kingsford University

Guest Post by Melanie Yunk

The day was beautiful, sunny and warm. The grills were hot and smoky. The cocktails were grilled with Kingsford Charcoal. Yes, that’s right… we learned how to grill cocktails!

Josh Perry, Mixologist, Picán Restaurant in Oakland, California, and Marcus Wang, Senior Scientist, Kingsford R&D, led my favorite course at this year’s Kingsford University in Las Vegas. Who would think that in the midst of all the RVs at the NASCAR Sprint Cup on March 4, we would be grilling fruit, bacon and flavored simple syrups for our afternoon happy hour cocktails?

When Kingsford donated a smoker to Picán for their outdoor patio, Josh experimented with smoked ingredients for his cocktails. The result: a smoky Berkshire Old Fashioned, a smoked Sangria and a Barbecued Bloody Mary.

One common ingredient in all these cocktails is smoked lemon juice, and lemons are so easy to grill. To smoke lemon juice, follow these simple steps:

  • Slice lemons in half through the equator.
  • Dip in sugar and place on the grill, cut side down.
  • Grill 5 to 7 minutes, until grill marks appear.
  • Remove lemons and set aside to cool. Once cooled, squeeze into a pitcher.

Other grilled cocktail ingredients included bacon, jalapenos and oranges. After sampling a delicious Sangria and smoked lemonade, we were all challenged to a Cued Cocktails Competition where the best grilled cocktail would reign. Teams were formed, ingredients selected and we all set off to grill and innovate.

Our team created the “Spicy Bacon Cherry Jubilee”, made with bacon-infused Four Roses Bourbon, smoked orange juice, gourmet Maraschino cherries and a Chipotle Sugar Rim. We garnished our cocktail with a cherry and bacon swizzle.

The judges included Chris Lilly and the folks from Kingsford. The competition was really tough and we were pushed out by the Bloody Pig, a spicy “Bloody Mary” with a pork rib sizzle. Oh well, better luck next time.

So, get your grill ready and try Josh Perry’s recipe for smoked Sangria during your next barbecue.

Louisville Sangria

Makes: 7-8 drinks

Prep Time: 30 minutes; Cook Time: 1 hour


  • 6 oranges, cut in half through the equator
  • 4 lemons, cut in half through the equator
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 chipotle peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces Four Roses Bourbon
  • 12 ounces Seghesio Zinfandel
  • 12 ounces soda water


  1. Build a fire for indirect cooking using Kingsford charcoal. Once the charcoals are ready, push the coals to one side, leaving the other side of the grill void.
  2. Grill lemons and oranges per instructions above, cool, squeeze 4 ounces of orange juice and 2 ounces lemon juice and set aside. Slice remaining fruit for garnish.
  3. While the citrus is cooling, combine brown sugar and water and bring to a simmer over medium direct heat on the grill, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add chipotle peppers and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  4. After cooling the syrup, combine bourbon, Zinfandel, 4 ounces smoked orange juice, 2 ounces smoked lemon juice and 3 ounces chipotle syrup in a sealable container and shake well.
  5. To create the Louisville Sangria, add the mixture to a pitcher filled with ice. Add soda water, stir and serve. Garnish wit remaining slices of smoked oranges and lemons.

Melanie Yunk is a food writer and former founder/saucier at Big Acres Gourmet Foods. She’s also a social media and search engine optimization consultant and founder of Roaring Pajamas.  She lives in northern California with her husband and 2 Cornish Rex cats.

Last Sauce Trio from Our Sponsor - Silk Road BBQ giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces; each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).

Enter a comment here to win the third and final Silk Road Sauce trio (not available in stores.)

I think the jerk marinade would be perfect for tofu or tempeh. Leave a comment here with your favorite vegetarian grilling tip or recipe and I'll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner!

BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Tofu Barbecue

We've been grilling our way through the Summer and I do hope you've tried some of our guest posters' recipes. This month, we've got another fine line-up of guest recipes from friends near and far. Sustainability at the Grill has been our theme and if you're kind of tired of the same old burgers and dogs you'll want to take a look through our July Wrap Up and August, too. We've been to New Zealand via Virginia with Chef Peter Pahk's Cervena Venison (dying to try that!) and fished the coast of Alaska to grill Copper River Salmon on a salt block.

Amy McCoy, author of Poor Girl Gourmet, took us to Block Island (one of my favorite escapes) for Swordfish and we've had beef, pork, and goat. Channel catfish and calamari recipes (from Good Fish) bring sustainable seafood to the table in South East Asian-inspired flavors. Today's entry does not rely on coastal access to sustainable fisheries, nor on pricy but worth it sustainably raised meats.

Today's entry comes from a whirling dervish of a woman, my friend Kim O'Donnel, whose mission is to share the savory side of meatless meals with all us omnivores. As the Washington Post says, "If anybody can persuade Americans to eat more tempeh, it's Kim O'Donnel." Now, I have to confess, if you say the word "tofu" or "tempeh" around these parts, at least one of us is tuning out (I'm looking at you, Doc). If you say "eat less" you've probably lost us both. I think that when many people hear "meatless" they think of deprivation. The bun without the burger is just plain sad.

One of my greatest joys is to find meals that are satisfying and delicious, and it's a bonus if they happen to be meatless. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE meat. But for health, for the planet, for the budget, there's a ton of reasons I know I should eat it less often. And there's the fact that I love animals. I eat them and I want them to have had a good life and fair enough death before I eat them. To some, that's a problem, it's a paradox I live with. The "shoulds" are not really why I love Kim's book. Valid as they are, they cannot sustain interest for most of us, over time. I love Kim's book for the "want" the "oh, yes, please more".

It's only a failure of imagination - and a lack of good recipes - that keep many of us from trying more meatless meals. And this brings us to the heart of it: I get a thrill trying new foods. Making new recipes that work and are delicious is something I try to do as often as possible. This book gives us a way to explore new foods, with familiar enough flavors and profiles, but in new meatless ways. Try thinking of adding one new dish to your repertoire, not subtracting meat. Your heart, your pocketbook, and mostly, your palate, your belly will thank you.

This recipe comes from page 92 of The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour.


The idea: Tofu barbecue. Not baked tofu with some tangy sauce slapped on top, but marinated and slow-cooked over wood, so that you can really taste the spice and smoke, like a brisket. A few rounds of testing revealed good flavor on the outside, but nada on the interior. We even tried one of those flavor-injector gizmos. I was about to hang up my cockamamie experiment, when my friend Jeanne suggested putting it in the freezer. As it turns out, freezing tofu changes both its texture (from cheesecakey to striated and chewy) and porousness (from No way, Jose, to Bring it on!). The result: Knee-slapping tanginess. It delivers both spice and smoke, just like that brisket. In fact, Id like to make a declaration: Freezing takes the oxymoron out of tofu barbecue. Served up with baked beans and vinegar slaw, this is one helluva plate.

Kitchen notes: Just as with ribs or brisket, tofu barbecue is a weekend/ leisure time project. A block of tofu needs 24 hours in the freezer, then about 3 hours of thawing time. (You may also try thawing in the microwave, in 2-minute increments). And thats before you start the coals. Because of its newly acquired absorbability, the tofu needs relatively little marinating time—30 minutes is sufficient. One last note: Given the time commitment involved, its worth smoking two full-size blocks of tofu, which will keep in the fridge for five days for leftovers of the best kind. One batch of spice rub is plenty for two blocks.



  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground New Mexico chile pepper (between paprika and cayenne in heat)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • About 2 cups of wood chips of choice (hickory, alder, cedar), for smoking
  • About 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce, mixed with 1 tablespoon honey
  • Optional sauce: 1/2 cup soy or teriyaki sauce; 1 tablespoon hot water; 2 tablespoons honey; 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced; squeeze of 1/2 lime





  1. Remove the tofu from its packaging and discard the water. Set on a plate and top it with a smaller plate, weighed down with a filled can. Allow to drain, about 20 minutes.
  2. Place the tofu in a zippered plastic freezer bag and freeze for 24 hours. The tofu will turn a shade of pale yellow; do not be alarmed, as the color will return to its original shade of off white when it thaws.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the spice rub: Mix the salt and spices together in a small bowl and place in an airtight container or jar. Stored in a dark, cool place, the rub will keep for a few months.
  4. Remove the tofu from the freezer; allow to thaw in the refrigerator (6 hours) or in the microwave in 2-minute increments (20 minutes—just remember to remove the tofu from the plastic bag before you start!). You may also start the thawing process on the counter for the first 30 minutes, then continue the process in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that tofu is perishable, and food safety precautions apply. Squeeze out any remaining water and pat the tofu dry.
  5. With a sharp knife, slice the tofu block in half, so that you have two smaller blocks. Measure out 1⁄8 cup of the spice rub and apply the rub all over each block. With a silicone or pastry brush, apply the oil all over the surface of each block. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the coals and soak the wood chips for 30 minutes, so they are ready for the grill. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking: Remove the wood chips from the water and place in a smoker tray or disposable aluminum pan or foil pouch, on the floor of the grill, off to one side. Fire up the grill according to the manufacturer’s instructions and bring the temperature to 350°F.
  7. Place both tofu blocks on the grate, on the opposite side of the wood chips (and charcoal, depending on what kind of grill you’re using). Cover and allow to cook for 20 minutes on each side, while trying to maintain the 350°F heat.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare for the final step of lacquering tofu with the following sauce or use your favorite barbecue sauce.
  9. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Apply your sauce of choice all over each tofu block and cook 10 minutes on each side, closer to the coals, if you like, for some charring.
  • Remove from the grill and slice thinly. Serve with True-Blue Baked Beans and Vinegar Slaw.


Makes 4 to 5 servings.


Last Sauce Trio from Our Sponsor - Silk Road BBQ giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces; each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).

Enter a comment here to win the third and final Silk Road Sauce trio (not available in stores.)

I think the jerk marinade would be perfect for tofu or tempeh. Leave a comment here with your favorite vegetarian grilling tip or recipe and I'll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner!

Transparency, Ethics and Lasagna: How Ketchum's Fake Dinner Backfired

This was the tweet that caught my eye:

"Food bloggers invited to "exclusive supper club" hosted by Food Network chef, actually frozen meal focus group. "

By Andrew Hwang (@andhwang) who was linking to the (self proclaimed) "Chubby Chinese" Girl's post.

I thought I could let this one go. A few tweets to express my outrage, then be done with it.

But you know what, I can't just look the other way. You know I hate it when I see PR gone bad (I even wrote my own PR Customer's Bill of Rights.) This PR fiasco shows the willingness of a big firm like Ketchum, to push ethical boundaries. (Here's their Contact Us page should you care to voice your outrage.)

In my past life, I used to design and run research and focus groups were a part of that. As a consultant and as a recovering attorney, it gets my blood boiling when people ignore things like, oh, say, ETHICS. Or PROFESSIONALISM.


Bloggers and Freebies

As a writer with a blog, I get offers all the time. I turn down more than I accept. When I accept, I disclose. And, I usually only accept from a few in the business that I respect and for whom I think I can write a good piece, honestly. There are food blogging ethics, too. And there's also some common sense which several of the duped, later realized they may have overlooked. My first thought was "Sangria is not Italian", but hey, that's just me.

This fiasco shows the danger when bloggers are lured by a "Food Network Celebrity" and the promise of a free dinner. Bad food can happen to good people. Say yes simply because it's a private dinner with a celebrity chef? Think about that. I'm sure they will next time something like this pops up in their inbox.

Every subsequent post I read about these duped bloggers, makes me a deeper shade of red, like the artificial red dye that was added to the frozen lasagna. Even when an invited guest disclosed an allergy to the dye, it's not clear this was handled well.

Lured under false pretenses to a private dinner "Sotto Terra" (under ground or soft ground in Italian, I think) with a "Food Network Celebrity" that turned out to be, in fact, a frozen food focus group for ConAgra's Marie Callendar frozen dinners. People are rightfully incensed.

The conversation before dinner was decidedly vague, several posters/guests asked direct questions that were not answered. They were manipulated at dinner to disclose their food memories, preferences, stories. They were encouraged to talk about CSAs and such (really?) and then they were fed frozen ConAgra dinners.

Here is what Mom Confessionals says:

[Bloggers were encouraged to hold contests and invite guests:]

I want to deeply apologize to my winner and her husband, my children’s beloved pediatrician.  They were expecting an amazing meal and a true experience at the hands of famous Food Network chef they were fans of and were left with a really foul taste in their mouths.  I too was completely surprised and I promise you, had I known, I would not have encouraged you to sacrifice your valuable time and money only to be tricked.  I am profoundly embarrassed and hope that you will accept my sincerest apologies.

FoodMayhem writes an Open Letter to George Duran:

I told you first hand of our focus on wholesome food, particularly with our baby in tow.  We both said to you, with 20+ witnesses and apparently hidden cameras, how much we despise over-processed foods and artificial ingredients.  We discussed with the group the sad state of chemical-filled foods and discussed various chains.  And yet, you still fed me the exact thing I said I did not want to eat.

Chubby's New York Food Diary writes:

"The words "intimate Italian restaurant", "delicious four course meal" and "sangria" tickled my appetite. I accepted immediately. To hype it even more, I was told that this "exclusive" underground restaurant was only open for 5 days. Not only was I allowed to bring a guest, but they offered my readers a dinner for two though a giveaway."


Brand Noise calls the PR debacle:

"[an] exercise broke every basic social media and research rule."

Let the Spin Begin

Now, it seems the last dinner was canceled and Ketchum is back-pedaling - somewhat - in the New York Times. Bloggers Don't Follow the Script, to ConAgra's Chagrin. [note for the record, the photo in the NYT piece seems to indicate a bit of snark on the part of the hosts, like they're laughing all the way to the bank, and acting like your big brother who just played a practical joke on you, then chides you for not having a sense of humour about it.]

As noted writer Rebekah Denn points out, Ketchum's non-apology adds insult to injury: "We apologize that they felt this way." That's like saying "we're sorry they were wrong to have an opinion other than the one we were looking for." How about, "It was wrong and arguably unethical. We are sorry." You'll never hear that from the likes of Ketchum.

The story is blowing up in Tweets and RTs and the ire it incites from the people who try to do this work of Public Relations and of food writing or blogging with honesty and integrity every day.


  • Shame on ConAgra for being so out of touch with the food and social media zeitgeist. It's all about Transparency. Authenticity. Integrity.
  • Shame on the sellout celebs. (I have no idea who these putz's are, proud of that.)
  • Shame on everyone at Ketchum who had a clue and failed to speak up.
  • Shame on the Marie Callendar's team for putting 860 milligrams of sodium, 36 percent of the recommended daily allowance, in a single 8 oz serving of lasagna.


But not for me

As Chet Baker croons, "they're writing songs of love, but not for me." About once every other month or so, someone asks me if I'd ever consider "coming over to the dark side." This stunt is a reminder of why I always say "No, Thank You." Or maybe it's an opportunity to say yes and do it better, more ethically. Who knows what the future holds but I can tell you for certain, I'd never last a day at a place like Ketchum. I'd never waste my client's money on an ill-conceived stunt like this one. I'd never waste the currency in the social media circles whose good will my clients covet.

In just five hours since I saw Andy's tweet, this has been tweeted to my 4,000+ another 8,000+ if you just count my quick circle of followers who picked up on this in the last couple hours.

Don't you think ConAgra cares that it has alienated thousands of food bloggers, their readers, Twitter followers, journalists, "Mommy bloggers" and more? Personally, I think ConAgra and Ketchum deserve each other. Maybe they all believe that any PR is good PR. Who knows but I will be interested to see if ConAgra issues any statement.

To my fellow food bloggers out there, remember no one can disrespect you without your consent. Or, put another way, if you lie with dogs you wake with fleas. Maybe that's a little harsh, but who is that guy that you are being lured by? Ask about the strings attached before you say yes. Your readers will rely on your judgment and your integrity and that is currency that is worth more than a free dinner. They deserve your good faith and judgment.

I applaud each of the bloggers who posted immediate responses to the duplicitous dinner.


More on ethics, PR, food blogging



Go Here, Eat This - BBQSmith Rolls into Leather District

A surprise opportunity for lunch with my husband leads to a savory, sweet discovery. Boston's burgeoning food truck scene delivers tasty results to Chinatown and Leather District neighbors. Real American Barbecue. On wheels and in the hood five days a week. Meet BBQSmith.

Restraint and BBQ

It might sound like an oxymoron, since BBQ is so often about BIG and BOLD flavors. It's about SPICE and SMOKE. It's about FAT and FIRE. But, restraint?

If you find yourself in my neighborhood, and you want to switch it up from Chinese style BBQ, head toward the Chinatown gate and look for the BBQSmith food truck. These guys balance just the right levels of smoke and spice, exhibiting admirable restraint in a menu of really full flavors.

BBQSmith in the shadow of the Chinatown gate.

The menu - with daily specials. Yes, you can find them on FB & Twitter, but they're better in person!

I chose the smoked beef sandwich. Doc had smoked pork. Both sandwiches were fantastic.


We shared a couple sides and the team threw in a couple extras to try. Not only were the sandwiches fantastic, a delicate, not overpowering smoke, tender meat; the meats are natural without added hormones or antibiotics.

Black beans also displayed restraint. Crunchy slaw, green tomato pickle, with optional hot pickled peppers - piquant, textural counterpoints to soft smoky meats.

Sides feature local farm ingredients and the corn, cuke, cherry tomato and dilly bean salad (without the buttermilk for dairy allergy girl!) was a delicious late-summer celebration.

Watermelon lemonade was like a not-too-sweet agua fresca, really refreshing.

Bonus: A frequent diner card!


August Winners - BBQ Bonanza


photo: Denise Woodward


So, it's almost 2:30 AM and I've finally cleaned the kitchen of most traces of, and all dishes dirtied in, the maiden voyage into canning-land. Eight pints and one bandaged finger later we have a tremendous sense of accomplishment and a foreboding sense of what lies ahead tomorrow morning when I try to rise in time for HVAC guy coming to investigate our AC's recent crapping out.

After Irene (who came closely on the heels of Mr. what-was-that?-Here?!-Yes, Earthquake), I realized that having good food put by for emergencies is even more important than ever. Well, it seems so anyway. Could be I'm simply trying to make myself feel better about this horribly bandaged finger. Did I mention I have a latex allergy? Actually all adhesives... but I digress.

One more thing I had to do before slugging the last of my G&T (Knockabout Gin, Ryan & Wood, Newburyport, MA) from a Ball jar, natch, was to pick our winners for August BBQ Bonanza prizes!

I am so genuinely grateful to our sponsors this year. And for the record, this little virtual cookout we've got going here has generated over 5,500 hits on these four August posts. Think this means we've gotta do it again next year. And stay tuned in September - more great guest posts coming!




Thank you to our sponsors for these terrific gifts.


A Sauce trio from the Silk Road BBQ guys. This is an exclusive offering of three of their sauces.

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).


Gloria - Congratulations Gloria!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:17:05 UTC

Ask Jenni how she's enjoying the sauces, she was our July winner. Who will win in September?



Our second prize was donated by The Lisa Ekus Group. Andy Schloss is the author and we both have the honor of Lisa as our agent. Beyond cool to be amongst such a great group of accomplished authors. Mine is coming - promise!

Congratulations Sharon! As a baker, a home charcueterie maker and a great broad who knows her way around a heritage breed pig or goat, I'm confident Sharon will thoroughly enjoy this prize!

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:18:39 UTC

Prize #3

Finally our four piece grilling tool set, courtesy of OXO creator of our favorite kitchen and bath tools. I love the marriage of practical and efficient with affordable good design. Who doesn't?

I could not be happier that our friend the Random Number Generator picked David for this prize. Poor guy has been grilling everything since Irene visited his house and left with his electricity. As a huge supporter of local farms like Blackbird Farms (terrific Angus, pastured and dry-aged) he had a freezer full of good meat for his lucky girls. Unfortunately, last I checked he still had no power!

David will certainly get good use out of these.

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2011-09-01 06:20:11 UTC


Okay barbecue fans, stay tuned to see what's next in our BBQ Bonanza! Like a scavenger hunt?

✘ Find the location on Silk Road BBQ's site that is NOT one of their actual locations and enter the answer here for a chance to win.


Two Months of Sustainability at the Grill

Today I thought I'd collect links from our Sustainability at the Grill BBQ Bonanza series. It's been an impressive run and we're going to be grilling through September as well, so keep this bookmarked and share your own grilling recipes, sustainability questions, tips and traumas. We've got a fabulous crew who are helping us take new steps toward a more sustainable, but first and foremost, deliciously satisfying grilling experience.

[photo credit: Denise Woodward]



Gratitude & Love for Our Sponsors giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces (exclusively available for us); each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).
✘ Find the location on Silk Road BBQ's site that is NOT one of their actual locations and enter the answer here for a chance to win.


Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat, donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really - there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)



The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!


How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.

Don't forget to stop by our sponsors' sites. Share a tip with fellow readers here in a comment.

  • Which OXO tool do you love the most?
  • What's your favorite order at Silk Road BBQ?
  • What would you most love to see a recipe for?


BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Swordfish with Grilled Fennel and Tomatoes

Our BBQ Bonanza continues this week with a sustainable seafood lesson. If you have ever tried to figure out what makes a fish choice sustainable, you might have felt that choosing fish is anything but a walk on the beach. Our guest poster this week is the inimitable Amy McCoy, who was inspired by a much-needed tumble in the waves of Block Island.

photo by Denise Woodward,


I will never forget Amy's hilarious post three years ago about DIY Turkey in a Hole in the Ground. Since then, she's become a published cookbook author. Her Poor Girl Gourmet makes a perfect housewarming gift for your niece or nephew just setting up their own apartment. I incorporated her Chicken in Cider Gravy recipe in my Sustainable Meats Class. It always pleases.

Amy brings us a swordfish recipe inspired by local Block Island swordfish. Her sensible approach to sustainability is one that's near and dear to my heart. Here's a post with five tips for making Small Steps that Make a Difference.



Amy is the author of “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010), and the blog Poor Girl Gourmet, where she shares budget-friendly recipes, tales (sometimes of woe) of raising chickens and turkeys, keeping bees, and particularly woeful this year, gardening (Blight! Chipmunks! Squash bugs!).

Amy was scheduled to speak about eating on a budget at the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans, LA on August 28 (curse you Irene!), and her recipes and writing have appeared in many newspapers across the country.


Block Island Swordfish with Fennel and Tomato

Guest post by Amy McCoy

Fish has been stressing me out for a few years now. And I say this without so much as a hint of hyperbole; such a worrier am I.

I want to eat fish, but I want to do the right thing. I don’t want the oceans depleted, and, quite honestly, pulling out a chart that delineates what’s okay to eat and what isn’t takes a little of the joy out of fish eating. And what I like most about food – the making and sharing of food – is the joy of it all.

So stressed I have been.

But then I read a few words of wisdom from fellow BBQ Bonanza contributor, Mark Scarbrough, that boiled down to this: calm down, make good choices, and enjoy yourself some fish, already, darn it.

So I stopped with the stress (sometimes it only takes one slap to snap me out of it). And decided to apply a trusted mantra to fish shopping: Buy local.

Fortunately, living in southeastern Massachusetts, local isn’t too far away – generally less than an hour by car, and sometimes, it’s an additional 13 miles by ferry. If a jaunt to Block Island is in order. Oh, which it was this past week. Which it was.

Block Island is a quaint, well-preserved Victorian-era village surrounded by rolling hills dotted with stonewalls and stunning golden cliffs rising up above its beaches. The water is colder than on the mainland (of course), and if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself smacked down to the sandy shore by a giant wave. It’s a lot easier to get smacked down and find the wave giant if you’re short. Not that this happened to me, um, two days ago, or anything.

It also happens to be quite the swordfish harvesting ground, with “BI Swordfish” signs posted at local fish markets - on the mainland as well as the island - causing glee at the mere sight (and angst-free glee at that, for it is local). And that’s all before you’ve laid eyes on the fish.

As it happens, harpoon and hand line swordfish are both “best choices” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide (okay, so I checked my chart – I admit it. There’s still some guilt, despite my best efforts at being effortless in fish shopping).

Back home with my Block Island swordfish, I decided to add homegrown fennel and tomatoes (it doesn’t get much more local than your own backyard – and it helps to keep the cost down, too), grill ‘em up, then add the grilled veggies to a pan of sautéed shallots with white wine, crushed red pepper flakes, and oregano (which is also homegrown, and threatens to overrun our property, prolific as it is) for a rich, yet summery sauce.

Swordfish with Grilled Fennel and Tomatoes

Serves 4


  • 1 pound swordfish steak, approximately 1-inch thick
  • 1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed of fronds, sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch wedges.
  • 4 medium tomatoes (approximately 2 pounds), sliced in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


For the sauce:


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper




  1. Be sure that your grill is clean, and has been lightly oiled. Preheat the grill to medium high.
  2. Toss the fennel and tomatoes in a medium mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then season them with salt and pepper.
  3. Brush the swordfish all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the fennel and tomatoes on the grill, and grill until they are lightly charred and the tomato skins are beginning to peel, 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove the fennel and tomatoes from the grill. Using a fork or tongs, remove and discard the tomato skin.
  6. Before starting the swordfish on the grill – or simultaneously, if you are fortunate enough to have a side burner on your grill – start the sauce.
  7. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, and cook until it is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fennel, tomatoes and any accumulated juices, then add the crushed red pepper flakes and oregano. Next, pour in the wine, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Place the swordfish on the grill, flipping midway through the cooking time, and grill it until it is opaque and is easily cut with a fork, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  9. Remove the swordfish from the grill, then cut it into 4 more-or-less equal sized pieces. Place the swordfish pieces in the saucepan, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the swordfish forth, topped with sauce.


This dish goes well with grilled potatoes, and can also be served stew-style: I recommend toasting (on the grill, of course) a slice of country bread, rubbing the bread with garlic, then placing it into a bowl and topping with fish and sauce. No guilt there at all, I can assure you. Only glee.



Great News from Our Sponsors giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces (exclusively available for us); each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).


Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat! Donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)



The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!


How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.


BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Barbecued Beef Short Ribs

Sustainability at the Grill continues this week with one of my favorite meats: short ribs. My friend David Dadekian, one of the organizers of the soon to be happening first Providence Food and Wine Festival, publisher of Eat Drink RI, photographer, and all around good guy. He was one of our first BBQ Bonanza guest posters last year. In addition to his writing, photography and raising his kids, we works with a small Rhode Island farm Blackbird Farm. As you'll see, he loves their beef. He's not alone.

When people start thinking about sustainability they sometimes think they have to give up red meat, forego beef. It's easy to look for simple rules to follow but to ensure your protein is a sustainable choice, you need to ask some questions:


  • Where is it raised? Locally, or in the midwest or west? Factory operation and feedlot or pasture-raised? The carbon footprint is much smaller for local beef than for beef trucked across the country.
  • What is it fed? Grass fed? Grain fed? Given growth hormones, antibiotics? Factory farms feed all kinds of crap to the cattle raised there.
  • How is it harvested? Some farms use huge processing plants and have little if any control over the cleanliness. e. coli, salmonella and other
Read more about what makes beef sustainable here at the Sustainable Table.


As we try to improve our diets, we're diversifying the proteins we eat (like bison burgers or goat empanadas), adding more grains and beans and vegetables. We're choosing meats by different criteria, not just price. We're eating less of it but choosing better quality when we do. Now, many of the farmers' markets include farmers raising meat on pasture, usually grain-finished.

Please enjoy David's post, drop a comment with your favorite local beef farmer, or ask us a beef question. All comments enter you to win "Fire it Up!" the book that he used to make these barbecued short ribs.

BBQ Bonanza 2011 – Barbecued Beef Short Ribs

Guest post: David Dadekian

I like grilling red meat. That’s right, I said it, RED MEAT! Sure fish is healthier, and if you get the right species—after consulting fourteen different charts, twelve books and Tweeting with experts like @chefreinvented and @ldgourmet—it’s sustainable. I enjoy grilling poultry, though I really prefer to smoke poultry, which is probably something I shouldn’t discuss in public. Grilling vegetables is tasty, very healthy, they’re sustainable and, if you pay attention to whoever says things are trends, vegetables are this year’s bacon. You’ll never, ever, ever see me type something as ridiculous as “vegetables are this year’s bacon” again. My belly is one-third pork belly (also good on the BBQ).

Which brings me back to red meat. For me, it’s perfect for cooking over super hot coals. My family and I don’t eat a lot of it, but when we do we’re fortunate to get it from a local farm that raises some of the best beef I’ve ever tasted. It is true I work with this local farm but I do not come to this claim lightly. I found the beef first, loved it and then said, I want to work with you Blackbird Farm in Smithfield, Rhode Island. In the interest of truth, as much as I love the beef from this small, family run farm, we cannot claim it’s 100% sustainable. Both the husband and wife farm owners have other small businesses for income and they have to bring in hay bales from upstate New York to nourish the cows in the winter months. Blackbird Farm is on the path, but the bottom line in all this is, sustainability is very hard.

So I won’t lay claim that the beef I’ve barbecued for this post is completely sustainable, but I will say it is pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free and, from personal experience, pretty content and well-cared for. It’s also humanely slaughtered, which to me is a very important piece of this conscientious carnivore puzzle.

One of the things I do at Blackbird Farm is teach cooking classes. What started this was that people would come to the farm to buy beef, and they would always want steaks (rib eyes, strip, sirloins, etc.) or ground beef. We process two, maybe three cows at a time at Blackbird Farm. There’s only so much steak in a cow, and really only a certain amount of ground beef as well, unless you want to start grinding up all the other cuts like top round, brisket and short rib. So as we get to the end of a cow, we’d try to sell customers these other cuts, and usually people would say, “what do I do with a brisket?” or, “I have no idea how to cook a roast.” There’s a whole larger issue here about our society. But I digress.

So I teach these classes, and when it comes to short ribs, I always braise them. Which, for a three-hour cooking class, requires me to do the TV cooking magic trick of “this goes into the oven for three hours [turn back to audience and switch Dutch ovens] and look here they are all finished!” But I just read something to do with short ribs that I had never done before, and now I was going to barbecue them. What I read is in a new cookbook I was sent that I truly just fell in love with, “Fire It Up: More Than 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim with photographs by Alison Miksch. It just happens to be the cookbook giveaway this month on this very page so make sure you enter because you sure as heck aren’t getting my copy.



I got this book and I thought, “eh, it’s a grilling cookbook.” But my lack of enthusiasm quickly dissolved as I flipped through the book. First of all, there’s a lot of great grilling information in it. Sure, there’s a lot of great grilling information all over the place now, but that’s the point, this book has just about all of the information you could need in one place.  Secondly, the flavor combinations in the recipes, while not hugely unique, are still very interesting and, as with the grilling info, the recipes are very well organized. There’s a seriously huge amount of recipes in one resource. The other thing I love about the book is it really is, as the title says, about grilling everything, and I mean everything. The chapters include: Beef, Veal, Pork, Lamb, Goat, Bison & Other Game Meat, Chicken & Turkey, Duck, Goose & Game Birds, Fish, Crustaceans & Mollusks, Vegetables, Fruit, Cheese, Other Dairy Foods & Eggs and Breads, Sandwiches, Cakes & Cookies.

Now I’m hooked on this book and as I’m going through it I see a page on butterflying short ribs for grilling. As I said I’ve never done this before. All the more reason to try it.


The instructions in the book are very clear and it’s ridiculously easy. Even if you’ve never butterflied something before you should be able to learn this rather quickly.



Depending on your source for short ribs I would usually advise marinating them for a few hours or overnight because it’s traditionally a not-so-tender cut. “Fire It Up” points to a recipe for short ribs using a Korean Barbecue Marinade, though there are a bunch of great marinades you could try from the book. The Salsa Beer Marinade looks great as does the Rosemary Red Wine Marinade. I chose to go straight to a rub because I know these Blackbird Farm short ribs are somewhat tender. I went with the:

Toasted Cumin Rub

Recipe from “Fire It Up: More Than 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim with photographs by Alison Miksch - you can win a copy by commenting below)


  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt or smoked salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • ½ teaspoon sugar


Toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, and then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Combine with the salt, smoked paprika, chipotle and sugar. Store in a tightly closed container for up to 1 month.

I fired up some natural lump charcoal in a chimney starter, put the hot coals on one side of my grill, seared the short ribs for a minute or so on each side—there’s generally a lot of fat on short ribs so watch for flare-ups—moved them over to the other side of the grill and let them cook for another 5-10 minutes. I didn’t want to cook them rare like a steak, but I didn’t want to make them tough by overcooking. Unlike a braise which you could let go for days, by butterflying you’ve created somewhat thin slabs of meat, one third of which is mostly bone, so take the thickness of your final butchered product into account as you cook.

As you can see, because of the high amount of fat in the short ribs, there is a considerable amount of shrinking as the meat cooks. It’s also a bit easy to char that fat, but personally I love a little crispy fat flavor and the interior was a nice color pink. I thought the rub gave enough spiced flavor so while I had prepared a basic barbecue sauce, we didn’t use any. But there are a number of sauces in the book that I could see going well with this dish, depending on your overall dinner. Perhaps try the Espresso Grilling Sauce or the Grilled Tomato Marmalade.

There you have it, barbecued beef short ribs. A great way to grill a different cut of beef than the usual steak. Plus, if you’re concerned about eating too much beef—because portions really can get out of control with places selling 16 ounce or larger steaks—there’s not nearly as much meat on a short rib, perhaps 5-6 ounces, which is really a good thing in the long run for the sustainability of you.


Great News from Our Sponsors giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces; each winner will receive:


  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).



Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat! Donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)



The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!


How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.


A Lake, Tons of Beer, BBQ, and Chicago Blues

What's not to love? BBQ, Blues, Brews? The Fourth Annual Summer Brewfest takes place at Indian Ranch (Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg - really - that's the name) on Saturday, August 27 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.


Are you a fan of Craft brews? Just want a fun excuse to get out of the city? Hankering for some Barbecue?


I've got you covered. We're giving away a pair of tickets to the Fourth Annual Summer Brewfest. Enter a comment sharing your favorite craft brew and why you like it. I'll use the random number generator to draw one winner on Thursday August 25th so you have time to make your weekend plans.



Lots of Brewers - Big and Small


Participants at Brewfest will have the opportunity to sample local, regional and international micro-brews, craft beers and malt beverages:


  • Sam Adams, Harpoon, Narragansett, Sierra Nevada, Guinness and Red Hook Brewery.
  • Joining the familiar favorites are these microbrews & craft brewers: Worcester’s own Wormtown Brewery, Blue Hills Brewery, Wachusett Brewery, 50 Back American Lager,  Ipswich Ale, Paper City Brewery, Watch City Brewing Company and Sherwood Forest.
  • But wait, there's more: Magic Hat and Long Trail Ale, Maine brewers Peak Organic and Geary Brewing, Woodstock Inn from New Hampshire and Olde Burnside from Connecticut.
  • Still not convinced you'll find something to sip? National brewers taking part in Summer Brewfest include Widmer Brothers from Oregon, Kona Brewing Company from Hawaii, and Goose Island from Illinois.
  • International brews include Estrella from Spain and Innis & Gunn from Scotland.
  • In addition, Malt Beverages Woodchuck Cider, Jeremiah Weed and Mike’s Hard Lemonade also will be available at the festival.


More than Beer

Summer Brewfest is more than just beer. From paddle boat rides to pole-ish horseshoes, fun and games will be in full swing on the beach at Indian Ranch. The Racky Thomas Band, (traditional Chicago blues, acoustic country blues, and gospel sounds) will perform throughout the afternoon.



And what is a Brewfest without food? You know we love BBQ around here. Check out our BBQ Bonanza for great recipes and prizes like Silk Road sauce trios, OXO grill tools and more.


Brewfest eats will include: BT’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, voted one of the Top Ten BBQ Joints in New England by the Boston Globe, dishing up Southern BBQ. In addition, perennial favorite Tiny Tim’s Café and Catering will be serving food pulled pork and

other grilled items and the Uxbridge First Night Committee will be selling Del's Lemonade and Loaded Baked Potatoes.






Summer Brewfest takes place Saturday, August 27 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Less than an hour's drive from Boston, Providence and Springfield, Indian Ranch is located at 200 Gore Road in Webster, MA.

Tickets are $20 prior to before August 13, and $25 thereafter.

All concerts at Indian Ranch are rain or shine.

Call or Click for more info. Admission includes 15 samplings, souvenir cup, music from the Racky Thomas Band, some activities. Some activities like the paddle boats have an additional fee. Food is additional as well.


➽ Enter a comment sharing your favorite craft brew and why you like it. I'll use the Random Number Generator to pick one commenter to win two tickets. Alternately, enter a comment explaining what the name of the lake means and in what language. Each separate comment equals a chance to win.

BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Tataki of Cervena, Chef Peter Pahk

We're kicking into August grilling with some fun new prizes (see below) and a great lineup of guest posters. I've been delighted to have had heritage pork and sustainable seafood both on the menu in July. It's fitting isn't it?

Given our theme of Sustainability at the Grill, we should be looking at things beside hot dogs (the new "cancer sticks"?) and hamburgers to grill or barbecue. Don't get me wrong, I love both hot dogs and hamburgers but really, there are plenty of alternatives that are tastier, better for us, and better for the planet. Among people who ate one daily serving of red meat, a new meta analysis shows that substituting one serving of whole grains per day reduced the risk of diabetes by 23 percent. (May I remind certain people that my excellent grain dishes are not meant as penance but offered in love?) The data look different for pasture-raised, grass-fed meats of course but that is easy to forget when it's so often left out of news reports and articles. And we need to diversify our diets for our satisfaction, our health and for the environment.

I'm here to put the sense back into sustainability. Sensual, sensible sustainability. Delicious, healthy and guilt-free - seems a tall order sometimes with relentless news about health risks, food safety failures, endangered or threatened species.

  • Take one look at our July Wrap Up and you'll find links to four posts that fit the bill.

Kingsmill Resort Executive Chef Peter Pahk

I'm delighted to have our next guest post from Chef Peter Pahk. He's now Senior Executive Chef at the Kingsmill Resort coming back East from the Silverado Resort in Napa Valley. There, he was recognized for his leadership, and for pioneering their many green, sustainable practices. He looks forward to bringing the same environmental focus to this resort. He has already begun by introducing the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) Program to all menus, choosing natural proteins, Seafood Watch awareness and local when possible.

I first met Chef Pahk at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions event the year I was invited by the Seafood Watch folks. I got to sample his abalone dish and he has since shared his beautiful recipes in TM2F, including:

Following his success at the Silverado resort, I've noted his attention to environmental issues. I'm impressed at how seriously he's been taking this business of sensual, sensible sustainability, for years. He was doing things in Napa Valley before it was cool to be green.

I got to catch up with Peter recently at the Chefs Collaborative Summit and learned about Cervena - pastured venison from New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand. Before you get all up in my grill (sorry couldn't resist) about the carbon footprint let's hear what Peter has to say. Others are noticing too, Kingsmill Chef Promotes Green Cuisine.


Tataki of Cervena - Guest Post, Chef Peter Pahk

There is no doubt, I’m picky when it comes to choosing ingredients. The products I use must be interesting and flavorful. But I also want them grown in the most natural way possible, minimally processed, and transported and sold in an environmentally responsible way.

Yep, I’m interested on the whole story. That’s why Cervena venison is one of my top choices for grilling.

To start with, banish any preconceptions you may have about venison. Cervena venison farmers have spent the last 30 years perfecting the art of raising venison with a very mild and delicious flavor, that is so tender you can almost cut it with a fork. Quite simply It’s the best venison in the world because it is young, raised naturally on lush pasture, and it’s free of hormones and steroids.

A plus for me is that grass feeding has lower environmental impact than grain feeding because all grass requires to grow is rain, sunshine (New Zealand has an abundance of both) and occasionally nutrients. Also, there are none off the waste disposal issues commonly associated with animals raised in feed lots because farmed deer roam on extensive ranches ranging in size from 200 to 10,000 acres.

And even though Cervena venison is imported from New Zealand, it's transported by sea freight which contributes less than 5% of the total emissions from the production, distribution and consumption of the meat. To put that in perspective, the carbon emissions per pound to transport meat from New Zealand to New York by sea is less than trucking it from Texas to New York – 44gms/pound verses 61gms/pound.

When it comes to grilling Cervena venison is hands down the fastest meat to cook – a 3 oz medallion of Cervena will take less that 4 minutes to cook.

The other interesting fact about Cervena venison is it is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than skinless chicken breast, with more protein than salmon, beef and lamb. So, for those of you who love grilling but want a flavorful, tender and healthy alternative, Cervena venison is a great choice.

Recipe: Tataki of Cervena Venison Salad, Thai Style

Serves 8 as an Appetizer



  • 1 each Whole  Cervena Venison Ribeye, about  24oz.
  • ½ cup Sliced  Bermuda Onions
  • 1 each Seedless Cucumber, sliced into rounds
  • 3 each Early Girl Tomato, cut into 6 wedges each
  • 3 cups Mung Bean Sprouts
  • 3 heads Butter Lettuce, Use about 24 Leaves
  • ½ bunch Cilantro, Plucked into 2” sprigs
  • ½ cup Scallions, Chiffonade Cut
  • ½ cup Roasted, Salted Peanuts, Crushed
  • ½ cup Edible Flower “Confetti” or some whole Pansies, Snapdragons, Nastursiums, Mustard Flowers




  • 1/2 cup Mild Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Thai Fish Sauce
  • 1 cup Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 2 oz.  Sliced Garlic, on Mandoline, thin as possible
  • 2 oz.  Sliced Shallots, on Mandoline, thin as possible
  • 1each Sliced Small Green Chile, on Mandoline, thin as possible, no seeds if milder flavor is desired, seeds if you want it hotter.


Dressing Preparation:


  1. Mix all Dressing Ingredients in a mixing bowl and Chill


Cervena Preparation:


  1. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper and sear Cervena Venison Ribeye on Hibachi Grill, very hot coals to char outside, about 1 minute per four sides.
  2. Roast in oven @350 degrees to rare/ med rare ..120 degrees internal, about 5 minutes, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice into 30 medallions. Toss Cervena Venison Medallions with rest of ingredients, except cilantro, scallions, peanuts and edible flowers with dressing.
  4. In a Salad Bowl, use the tossed Butter Lettuce as a base and build with rest of ingredients…place medallions on top of salad.
  5. Garnish with cilantro, scallion, peanuts and flowers.


To find Cervena in the US, check your local Whole Foods Market, or order through D'Artagnan.


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  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
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