Thursday, August 29, 2019

Back for a Minute...or More...or Not

Just popping back in - a year and a half after my self-imposed hiatus began - because I read this

That is an Atlantic piece by Taylor Lorenz, about Emma Chamberlain and her ilk - YouTubers and other young, Gen Z influencer types who have blown up over the past year or so.

These kids today (and they really are kids) are all about low production values (or, at least, the appearance of low production values) and embrace the kind of messy, casual aesthetic that was all the rage back when I was in high school. They're not on YouTube trying to be famous - or, at least, that's not the only reason they're there. They're just looking to share.

This is the key graf that got my attention:

While Chamberlain’s particular style may not feel accessible to all, the broader shift toward messier, less filtered content is bigger than one star or one look. “Millennials are so curated, and Gen Z is very not,” said [Abby] Adesanya [head of talent and influencers for Bustle Digital Media Group]. “Millennials used social media as a highlight reel … Gen Z is like, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing right now, this is what I look like right now.’”
Sounds like blogging in the old days, doesn't it? Way back in 2005, when I started this blog, curating was far from my mind. Those were the days of Live Journal and MySpace. All I wanted to do was write a little about food and why and how it matters.

Over the next few years, as social media rose and internet culture evolved, I became much more conscious of how what I posted would or could be perceived and what it conveyed about me as a "brand." That's exhausting and, frankly, boring. The fact that it was on my mind all the time made blogging a chore and - in the end - it's a big part of why I stopped writing. I have a dozen half-written posts in my drafts folder. I'd have an idea, start to write about it, then start to worry about making it perfect and making sure it was an accurate reflection of "me" in a broad sense.

That was dumb. 

In the early days, I just wrote and quickly skimmed for horrific typos then hit post. I didn't worry about including images in every post or having Google-friendly headlines or anything related to the Brand Called Kit. I didn't worry about whether or not anybody was going to read what I wrote (I assumed that nobody would). I just thought about the topic and what I was learning and thinking and what questions I had.

These days, I've scaled back on my writing overall, but I'm still doing a decent amount of food writing - restaurant reviews and a weekly restaurant events column, both for Baltimore Fishbowl. That's different from the windy, never-really-sure-it-has-a-point writing I used to do about food as a big, broad, cultural subject.

I miss that writing, even if it was sometimes aimless. In the early days, it made me happy and - as a side benefit - I learned a lot about what others thought and what I think.

I might get back to it. I might not...but I might and I hope I do. And if - when - that happens, apparently I should thank Gen Z for the push.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Video Killed the Radio Star

...and social media killed the blogger. Or, in my case, more like a combination of social and traditional media.

At least that's the best explanation I can offer for the nearly nonexistent nature of this blog over the past year or two. It's not that I've stopped writing - not at all - it's just that I've pretty much stopped writing here.

I used to write about Baltimore restaurants here; that content has found a home both at Baltimore Fishbowl, in my events column, Hot Plate, and at the Sun, where I write longer form pieces here and there.

Other posts - short little ones inspired by random thoughts or observations - end up on Facebook, either as posts of my own or posts in the comments. Facebook and Instagram are also where I end up sharing bits and pieces about meals I've had out, or dishes I've made at home, or even interesting articles or cool things I spot here and there. I don't share as many of those things as I did back when I was blogging daily...but occasionally it happens.

I don't do any real restaurant criticism anymore - once I stopped reviewing for the Sun, I lost my interest in that kind of writing. I'd rather focus on the positive than on what doesn't work (though I always did try to deliver criticism in a constructive way).

There is one type of writing that I've lost without blogging and that I miss: longer form observational stuff. Over the past year, I've started, but not finished, a bunch of posts with names like "What follows peak food?" and "How to be a good restaurant guest" and "The evolution of dinner parties" and "Restaurants as artists." Posts that start with a quick spark, but then require real thought and effort to complete.

I miss that sort of writing and thinking, but I find myself too distracted to actually follow through and finish the posts. That's where social media's doing the damage, I think. It's much easier to post something quick and walk away than it is to follow a thought and explore it in writing.

All of this is a very long - and navel-gazing - way to say that after over 12 years, Mango and Ginger is officially on hiatus. I'll continue to sporadically update the "about" page that houses links to recent articles. And who knows...maybe 2018 will bring me the inspiration and the follow-through necessary to finish one of those longer posts. I'd like to think so, but I'm not holding myself to it.

Even if this is the last post I end up writing in this space, it's been a great run. A dozen years, zillions of words, countless meals, a bunch of trips, many new friendships, and tons and tons of great memories. My life wouldn't be the same without this blog and I will be forever thankful that I started it way back when - and that a reader or two found it along the way.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Twelve Years

Photo courtesy of Winecream

Oh, hello. Do you remember who I am? I'm Kit, the person who used to write in this space multiple times a week, but who hasn't posted anything at all since the beginning of summer. (Trust me, I wish I had. I feel guilty about it every day and the number of draft posts in my blog folder is mortifying.)

I'm popping back in today to say happy fall...and happy blog birthday to me. As of today, it's been twelve years since my first post here and even if I don't show it by writing very often these days, I'm still extremely thankful that I took that initial plunge.

I'd planned to write a big summer roundup post for today (I've done so many fun things including so many great meals in Duck and in Boston and in Baltimore! Everyone should go to Blue Point and Art's Place and Select Oyster Bar and Yvonne's and Pure Wine Cafe and Bluebird Cocktail Room.) I'd like to think that I will still write that post.

But sadly, I don't have time to do that today. I did have time, however, to email the awesome people at Winecream (which is delicious) about their brand new Mango Ginger flavor. (They really are the nicest people.)

I learned about it yesterday! Just in time to celebrate twelve years of M&G.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Catching Up After Two (!) Months

Center Cut Doughnuts have brought me some joy over the past couple months
When I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts was that it's been two months (yikes!) since the last time I posted. That's the longest stretch I've gone without posting since I started this blog back in 2005. Crazy.

In the past two months, I have been around food, though thanks to both the stomach flu and pneumonia, I actually haven't been eating with quite as much gusto as normal.

But still, there was a good dinner with old friends from California at Chez Billy Sud, a charming French spot in Georgetown. And a fun morning with my Dixon, my sister and her new baby at Sub Rosa, a really good bakery she can walk to from her house in Richmond. And The Emporiyum, which is always a great time. A tasting at Center Cut Doughnuts, when Dixon was my plus-one. A fun seafood boil over Memorial Day weekend up at Keuka Lake.

Plus, I haven't stopped writing for other publications. Though it's not all published yet, I've spent the spring thinking and writing about the opening of the Sagamore Spirit distillery, the food policy at Camden Yards, the origin of crushes, the city's best fried chicken, and iconic beach foods.

I've also continued to write my weekly restaurant news column, Hot Plate, for Baltimore Fishbowl. And do some Facebook and Instagram posting, of course - though even that has fallen off a bit, especially over the past month (pneumonia really sucks).

During that time, I've also started, but haven't finished, a few posts with actual substance - things like what makes a local classic actually classic and how to be a good restaurant guest. But - and I hate to say this - much of the larger conversation taking place around food these days frustrates me more than it inspires me.

When I started writing this blog, a dozen years ago, the food world was in a massive state of growth. Every day, something new and interesting was happening. There was debate about topics like authenticity and egregious experimentation and globalism; participating in those debates left me feeling invigorated and excited about what was to come. I assumed it would be better than what came before.

In recent years, though, two things have happened. One is that many of the smaller conversations have disappeared - though I'm seeing interesting chats on Facebook sometimes, much of today's food buzz takes place on Instagram, which doesn't exactly lend itself to thoughtful conversation (though it does lend itself to 20 media/influencer types posting pretty much the same photo).

The other phenomenon is that those debates - the ones about authenticity, experimentation and globalism - have evolved. Or, rather, devolved...and I am decidedly less excited about food as a result. The words "cultural appropriation" don't excite me. They frustrate me - at best. Mostly, they bore me.

People speaking against cultural appropriation are, theoretically, trying to promote respect for other cultures - which is all well and good and it's tough to argue with that point. Respect is great. Duh.

But the by-product of the movement is that it chills creativity and collaboration. And that chills my level of excitement about the food world as a whole.

Overall, I'm not easily offended and I like feeling enthusiastic. I want to be excited about food and drinks and I want to participate in conversations about what they mean to us - the role they play in our lives and our culture. That's what this blog used to be about.

But these days, I'm struggling to gin up any enthusiasm for the cultural conversation.

Fortunately, the pendulum is always swinging. Soon enough, we'll have moved on to a new topic within the food world - hopefully one that gets me more excited.

And until then, at least I have doughnuts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Recent-ish Adventures

Two months without a post? Ridiculous. Things have been busy in our world lately - and blogging is, apparently the first thing to go when I have too much to do. Well, blogging and folding laundry.

Instead of blogging and folding laundry, we have been doing these things:

Clockwise from the top left:

Dixon drinking a blood orange fizz at Silver Queen Cafe. (Remains a terrific BYOB.)

Gorgeous hamachi crudo at Pen & Quill. (First visit in a while - and it was really, really good.)

Spying on the fish cutting operations at J.J. McDonnell. (Locally owned, impressively operated.)

Raffle baskets lined up for Fake St. Patrick's Day at Ryleigh's Oyster. (This year, benefiting House of Ruth - it was an enormous success).

Cooper at Dylan's Oyster House. (Short, good menu, fantastic space, instant classic of a restaurant.)

Iberico ham at La Cuchara. (Literally melts in your mouth. La Cuchara is still breathtaking, with fabulous food and service.)

Bmore BRD sandwich at R. House. (Breakfast, lunch and yoga at R. House/Movement Lab has become my Wednesday routine. I'm here right now. It's amazing.)

Laura Black photographing Dixon - and waffles - at Iron Rooster. (Our (cool) progeny collaborations are bringing me so much joy.)

Crab soup and pizza at Silver Queen. (Seriously, go there.)

And in the middle...the cheese knife Dixon made for Mike and Alicia. (It's pretty awesome.)

Good times, all around. Just busy ones.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Deep Creek 2017

For the third year in a row, we went to Deep Creek to spend MLK weekend with some of my high school friends and their kids.

One of the highlights of the weekend, for me, was getting to break in this gigantic camo onesie,
gifted to me by Cooper's Aunt Noreen. It was both enormous and very, very warm.
But it was not slimming.

It was a meat-and-cheese fest, as it is every year. We start on Friday night, with meatballs from Mastellone's, and don't look back. Chili, tacos, burgers and steaks, sausage and bacon at every breakfast. And literally a pound of cheese available for every single person in the house, including those who are still in diapers. It's fabulous.

It's also a game-fest. We don't do a whole lot while we're there, but we do play board games. One of this year's hits was Speak Out, that game that gets so much play online because it involves weird dental torture devices that hold your mouth open.

It is hilarious, but also very, very creepy. And I'm pretty sure those devices are at least part of the reason why several of the people in the house (including Cooper) closed out the weekend with the stomach flu. Germs, people. Germs.

Though the weekend as a whole is a blast - how bad can it be when it's filled with meat, cheese, booze and board games? - one of our food-related highlights actually occurred before we even made it to the house.

On our way, just about five miles out, in the town of Accident, Cooper and Dixon and I made a quick pit stop at the FireFly Farms store. As is typical, pretty much everyone coming for the weekend had forgotten at least one thing in their travels. Like crackers. we were about to enter a house with massive amounts of cheese...but no crackers.

For whatever reason, I didn't immediately make the connection between the name of the store and the cheese that I often pick up at Atwater's and see on menus all over Baltimore. But as soon as we walked into the shop, we made the connection.

It's super cute, with an excellent selection of cheese (both from FireFly Farms itself and from other makers), plus tons of wine, a handful of locally made stuff (think Popsations popcorn and Snake Oil hot sauce) and, yes, crackers.

While I can't, in good conscience, recommend drinking the Maryland blueberry wine we picked up, I do think it might make for a nice ingredient in a savory dish. And I can recommend just about everything else in the place. We walked out with our arms full and big smiles on our faces.

Those smiles stayed planted all weekend long (until the stomach flu reared its ugly head...fortunately, the weekend was almost over by then). I'm already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Fourth Quarter Dining and Such

Everyone agrees that 2016 was a tough year on the grand scale, but on a personal level, for me, it had a lot of high points.

We ate and drank some fantastic things. I tried new places and hung out with food friends as often as possible. We drank tons of Hazanas Rioja. Cooper and I spent an interestingly large chunk of the year inside distilleries, both in the U.S. and in Ireland (one day I'll write about the rest of that trip). Dixon and I started collaborating (those articles are so fun to write). It was a good time.

But now, here it is in 2017 and I haven't written about some of the meals I ate in October. That's embarrassing.

So let's take care of that. Here's a look at some of our end of year highlights:

Towson Tavern
Towson Tavern got a new chef this fall - Josh Vecchiolla, the former sous from Parts & Labor. I've always liked it there, but under Vecchiolla's guidance, the menu has gotten a meaty upgrade that's really strong.

We had dinner there in late October with our friends Will and Karen. The drinks were excellent, as always, but the best parts were the stinging nettle dip and this chicken, which was seasoned perfectly, cooked in a cast iron pan, and just great all around.

Visionary Arts Museum Food Exhibit
The new exhibit at the AVAM is all about food, so we, obviously, had to go. It's pretty cool.

I mean, how could I not love this? A note about celebratory meals, posted right over a book called Muskrat Cookin'. That museum, it is the best.

The last weekend in October, we celebrated Bill's birthday with dinner at Henninger's (always the best - I could go there every night) and after dinner drinks at Cat's Eye Pub.

It was Halloween weekend and the weather was gorgeous, so Fells was wild. We made some friends - including an older guy who was dressed as "half naked" (literally, he was half naked). And I remembered why Cat's Eye is one of the best bars anyplace.

We barely took any pictures, but for whatever reason, I did snap this pre-dinner shot of Cooper and his duck lips. Why? Who knows.

Bar Vasquez
Foreman Wolf's new Argentine spot, Bar Vasquez, opened in the old Pazo space this fall and in early November, I had the chance to try it out with a fun group of food friends. It was so good. So good.

I've been recommending it right and left - it's an absolutely perfect place for a special occasion dinner, or even just to meet up with friends if you're looking for something a little more sophisticated than your average Baltimore evening. It's expensive, but between the food, the space, the drinks and the service, it's well worth it.

These potatoes were spectacular, but then, everything was. The duck I had for dinner might be the best duck I've ever eaten.

I made fig-rosemary jam! I had to. Our fig crop this year was hilariously large and it hung on until...well, it's January and there are still figs on the tree. I doubt they're good, but they're hanging on.

No Kid Hungry at Food Market
Also in early November, Cooper and I went to a dinner at Food Market, benefiting No Kid Hungry. Charm City Cook Amy organized the event, which involved a bunch of local chefs and raised a boatload of money for the organization.

We were thrilled to be a part of that, but we were also thrilled to be on the receiving end of some incredible food. One thing this city does well is a chef-driven charity dinner. I have heard stories of boring "rubber chicken" fundraiser food. Seems to me, Baltimore has risen above that.

Our table was an absolute blast; whoever did the table assignments was a rock star. And every course was terrific. This, venison lasagna by Bryan Voltaggio, was more like a napolean than like lasagna. Incredible.

Wicked Sisters
Wicked Sisters, the new spot in the old McCabe's space in Hampden, opened earlier this fall. It's the latest effort from Charlie and Lori Gjerde and Carrie Podles, who own several other local spots, including Papi's Tacos.

Cooper and I found ourselves with an unexpected Dixon-free Friday night in mid-November, so we stopped in to see what it was all about. It's casual and fun and we liked the food a lot. We started with Brussels sprouts (solid) and I had an excellent burger.

After dinner, Charlie handed us this glass full of Winecream, and we couldn't say no. I mean, they're a local company. Who doesn't want to support that?

Mock Thanksgiving 
Our annual pre-Thanksgiving party was a small affair this year, with just a few friends and their kids coming over for dinner on the Sunday before the big holiday. I made a mess of the turkey and I might not be ready to talk about that yet (or ever), but the night was an overall success, thanks largely to Piper and Hadley, who came over early and set a mean kids table.

Those two design stars have started their own YouTube channel and Facebook page. If you're a fan of short videos of hilarious girls, I strongly suggest you follow them.

Clavel and WC Harlan
After Thanksgiving, we jumped straight into the busy holiday social season.

The first weekend in December, our friend Stacey came down to visit us from New York. Alicia and Mary and I took her to Clavel and WC Harlan. We knew she'd love them both - who doesn't?

Stacey took this picture!

Carol and Crawl
For the ninth year in a row, we spent the first Saturday of December with our friends, celebrating the holiday season with way, way, way too much booze and a lot of off-key singing. Not caroling - despite the name of the party, there is no caroling. If there's any crawling, it's done after the party has officially ended, when people are trying to make it to their beds. It is a fun party. With lots of mozzarella sticks.

Also, this year, lots of ridiculous outfits:

Buck Buck Moose at Volt
Cooper and I spent one day after the Christmas party licking our wounds, then we got back into it, heading to Frederick for a book signing dinner at Volt. Hank Shaw, the blogger behind Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and the author of several cookbooks that we love, was at the restaurant, and Bryan Voltaggio was in the kitchen, cooking recipes adapted from the book.

It was our first time at Volt and we took Cooper's cousin Sarah, who lives in Frederick, with us. Dinner was great - fun and interesting and delicious - and we were especially happy to have another go at the venison lasagna from the No Kid Hungry dinner was just a warm-up. That stuff is so good.

R. House
This fall also marked the opening of R. House, the food hall in Remington.

I've been twice now - once on opening night with Nikki Marks (of Madame BBQ/Mindgrub fame) and again before seeing the Hampden lights with Mike, Alicia, Maggie and Dixon (Cooper was sick, so he stayed home).

They've done a great job over there. It's casual and easy and the food is good. Technically, it's a food court, but it's such a cool one!

I've tried a bunch of different things so far and have liked all of them. The only thing I've photographed, though, is the shawarma from ARBA. It's great.

Clavel at The Charmery
After R. House but before the lights, Dixon, Mike, Alicia, Maggie and I dropped by The Charmery, where they were in the middle of a busy Clavel pop-up. Mexican cinnamon ice cream, wedding cookies, Mexican hot chocolate, lots of other things that were great - unsurprisingly, this was a collab that worked.

I turned 41 this year, which means I've been celebrating my birthday at McGarvey's for 20 years straight. TWENTY YEARS.

This year was a fun one, even though bad weather and illness meant a lot of people couldn't make it. But still, a bunch of high school friends joined Cooper and me for oysters, crab dip and Aviators at McGarvey's, oyster shooters at Middleton's (pictured), quite a bit of Irishness at Galway Bay and a mildly sloppy close to the evening, featuring good red wine and French whiskey at Harry Browne's.

We always close out the night at Harry Browne's, which is by far the nicest place we go, and we're always a little unruly when we get there (not too unruly, but still). The bartenders there, though, they are fabulous. The one working during my birthday celebration was a total pro - keeping us engaged and put together and having fun. He was the best.

Matisse/Diebenkorn and Parts & Labor
Earlier this year, when word got out about the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibit at the BMA, my brother and sister and I hatched a plan to meet there while they were in Maryland for Christmas. And we actually made that happen!

The Friday before Christmas, Dixon and I met Tom and Cail and Erin and Clark at the museum. The first thing we did was head to the exhibit itself; I was completely blown away.

I love both Matisse and Diebenkorn; I wrote college papers about both painters (though not about them together). They're two of my favorites, so purely from an aesthetic sense, I enjoyed the exhibit. It's pretty.

But even if I wasn't a particular fan of either of the artists, I would've been impressed. It is so smart and hangs together so well. It reminded me why art history fascinates me. I'm planning to go back again - this time without a 10 year old boy (who was not quite as enamored as I was). I could spend days just soaking it in.

After the exhibit, we wandered through the Cone Collection and the Contemporary Wing; Tom and Erin hadn't been to the museum since they were kids and Cail and Clark had never been. Dixon had a blast in the contemporary collection, taking pictures of the pieces with his iPod and getting really into it. I'm not sure I realized how interactive it is. It's great for kids and I loved watching him have fun with the art.

After all of that, we headed over to a very busy Parts & Labor, where I got their version of a pit beef sandwich and it was killer. Highly recommended!

New Year's Eve
Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the few days after passed in a bit of a blur. Cooper and I both end up working a lot during the week between Christmas and New Year's, but we also always have friends in town, so we're out a lot. This year, that meant seeing people from Denver and Seattle - and also doing a lot of work.

New Year's Eve, we had friends (with kids) over here for a dinner showcasing various cuts of meat from the Jack Straw Farm cow we split with friends. (Oh yeah, we have a freezer that is jam-packed with beef right now.)

The meat was very good, as was the Barefoot Contessa sauce I made with it and the Barefoot Contessa cake Alicia made for dessert. Ina is everywhere these days.

But the highlight of the night wasn't on our plates - it was the kids. Piper, Hadley and Maggie went live on Facebook a couple times and made tons of videos, including one at midnight, when Cooper sabered a magnum of Champagne.

In retrospect, we probably should've opened that big boy earlier. Everybody went home at like 12:15.

Overall, it was a big quarter. On New Year's Day, all we could pull ourselves together to do was order some Chinese food. We're exhausted.

But we're not slowing down. This weekend, we'll be celebrating Kyle's birthday at Bar Vasquez. And after that...who knows. I'm sure it'll be something good.


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