media

Groundbreaking Immersive Journalism Project Takes You to an Iowa Family Farm

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Each day this week, the Des Moines Register is releasing a new chapter of its innovative series Harvest of Change.
The project examines the reshaping and reimagining of Iowa farms and farm families as they respond to sweeping changes in American life. Their stories are told through a fascinating blend of print journalism, 360-degree video, and the emerging technology of virtual reality.

The series is getting a lot of attention for its use of new tools of the journalistic trade.
One of the series’ chapters is being hailed as a first-of-its-kind virtual reality news report. It tells the story of a sixth-generation Iowa farming family that’s challenged to maintain its traditions while adapting to the globalized world of agribusiness. It incorporates spiraling video that records sound and images in all directions, and uses the technology of Oculus VR, a computerized gaming platform that puts you into a simulated 3-D version of fields, grain silos, and cows.

You need an Occulus Rift virtual reality headset to achieve the immersive 3-D experience, but it’s impressive just with a plain old laptop and their plug-in app. The virtual tour roams the 1888 farmhouse, barns, fields, and various workshops. You can pause to interact with family members and farm animals, listen in on conversations, poke around inside of machinery engines, or click through to 3-D infographics and explorative video.

The whiz-bang effects are fun and fascinating, but it’s the very human stories that make the series so compelling.
The series examines five change agents that are remaking rural America—aging, culture, immigration, technology, and globalization. Each day views a topic through the lens of a different farming family. There’s an aging father and son, a same-sex couple, and a Laotian immigrant. Their stories bring to life the broad themes of change: a graying urbanite who’s returned to his rural roots and ancestral home; a conventional farmer whose miller refuses to process his genetically-modified corn; and a rookie farmer with a commitment to chemical-free practices but whose crops are crowded out by weeds.

I’m guessing you’re not a regular reader of the Des Moines Register.
It’s a pretty safe bet these days when even an influential, Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper has an annual readership that adds up to about 20 minutes worth of traffic on Buzzfeed. And yet the Register has undertaken this risky, ambitious, and technology-driven endeavor. The parallel that runs between newspaper journalism and agriculture, the storyteller and the story, is itself one of the more powerful narratives of sweeping demographic and economic change told through Harvest of Change.

 

 

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A Cautionary Tale for Yelp Reviewers

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Yelpers beware!
Last week the Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed a lower court’s ruling that ordered Yelp to pass along the full, legal names of seven reviewers to the business they had reviewed. Posting anonymously or using their Yelp screen names, all seven individuals had left reviews that were highly critical of the Alexandria carpet cleaning service.

The ruling sent a chill through on-line communities.
There’s an assumption of privacy when you sit at home sounding off on sites like Yelp; you’re just one more disembodied voice in the cacophony that unites in digital forums. The ruling is intended to pierce the veil of privacy so that the carpet cleaner can challenge specific claims contained in the reviews and potentially sue the reviewers.

The carpet cleaner would not be the first business owner to sue for a negative review. Defamation lawsuits are becoming more common as the free-wheeling chatter of review sites collides with the growing importance of online reputations. Judgements–some running into millions of dollars—have targeted individual reviewers on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List.

Where’s the First Amendment in all this?
Anonymous communications have always been privileged and protected as an important element in our political and social discourse. If those communications are deliberately false and damaging to a business, they’re illegal; they lose their First Amendment protection and the target can sue for defamation. You can freely give your opinion, and it can be as vulgar, abusive, or outrageous as you want, but if you’re making a statement of fact, you’d better have your facts straight.

Dining reviews: where chef egos collide with sharp-tongued critics 
Restaurateurs are especially litigious toward reviewers but incidents of genuine defamation are rare. There’s a lot of leeway in the highly subjective world of dining reviews, as long as you stick to opinions. Go ahead and bash the meal but be careful of suppositions about the grade of beef, health code violations, ingredients that you think you do or don’t detect, or anything else that can be countered factually. That means a meal can be described as nauseating but unless you can verify the salmonella bacterium you better not claim food poisoning.

The review sites themselves are off the hook.
Sites like Yelp are merely the messengers and are not liable for the messages. They can be aware of or even make editorial judgments regarding objectionable content, but they’re still treated as simple intermediaries for third party content. Legal claims can only be directed at the reviewers themselves.

A cautionary tale for the social media era
As the internet continues to mature the stakes are getting higher, and we can expect to see many more lawsuits. Online reputations keep growing in importance and their significance is extending to more and more business sectors. This makes businesses that are targeted by defamation more inclined to sue, and the courts are growing more cognizant of the scope of damages and are awarding plaintiffs accordingly.

 

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Two New Magazines Mix Food and Fashion

Egg Dress designed by Agatha Ruiz De La Prada

Egg Dress designed by Agatha Ruiz De La Prada

 

You’d expect it to be the unholiest of alliances.
In the Venn diagram of life, food and fashion aren’t supposed to intersect— food is what fashionistas avoid so the fashion will fit. Isn’t hunger supposed to be the ultimate fashion accessory? As Kate Moss once said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Two new crossover magazines are proving otherwise.
There is some common ground. Both food and fashion are seasonal and colorful. They can be stylish or trendy, and they both photograph well. Purists may grumble but the coalition gives a much-needed boost to the food publishing business. While most print media spent the last few years struggling with online challengers and a balky economy, fashion magazines have been busy breaking sales records for advertising pages. Food gets to hang onto fashion’s coattails with this new category of mashup publications.

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Cherry Bombe thumbs its nose at Kate Moss with a breezy, sample-size-be-damned approach to food. The magazine’s founders have their food industry bona fides, but they also worked together at Harper’s Bazaar, and that’s what on display. Cherry Bombe has the look and feel of a traditional fashion magazine, from the cookie-baking supermodel on the inaugural cover to the glossy, stylized photography inside.

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Alla Carta’s founders say that they bring together food and fashion (and art and design) by exploring the social act of eating. The publication’s fashion-related interviews, editorial content, and photo spreads revolve around meals; good food and good design pull it all together.

There’s one more thing that ‘foodies’ and’ fashionistas’ have in common: both groups detest those fatuous and disparaging nicknames.

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News and Booze

 

Newspaper and magazine wine clubs
The first time you saw one, it struck you as a bit odd. Then you saw another one. And another.
This is no ordinary brand extension. It’s not like selling crossword puzzle books or sponsoring a lecture series. It doesn’t flow naturally from the core business; in fact it can pair as jarringly as a big Cabernet with your sole meuniere.

The Wall Street Journal was the first major newspaper to offer a wine club membership, launching its Discovery Wine Club in 2008. Today there are dozens of publishers in the wine business, from the Dallas Morning News to Rolling Stone. Most of the clubs are open to readers and non-readers but offer special deals and promotions to their subscribers. The more successful clubs, like the Wall Street Journal’s, come from publications appealing to an affluent demographic with an affinity for fine wine; some, like USA Today’s, have been a total bust.

Some are natural pairings.
A wine club was a natural extension for Touring & Tasting, a lifestyle publication based in California’s wine country that can claim cozy, insider access to some of the area’s producers. Sunset Magazine has been writing about food and wine in California since the 19th century and sells the ‘kitchen-tested’ expertise of its wine club’s curation. And of course the club from the magazine Food & Wine comes from Food & Wine.

Rolling Stone and Playboy are two publications that are looking to build their lifestyle branding with wine clubs.
Rolling Stone calls its club Wines That Rock, with bottlings like ‘Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon,’ ‘The Police Synchronicity Red Blend,’ and ‘Woodstock Chardonnay,’ explaining that “Each wine we deliver is a reflection and interpretation of the music itself, inspired by legendary artists and the rock ‘n roll mythology behind these classic albums.”

Playboy has dipped its toe into the wine business before. There was a successful 2006 collaboration with Napa Valley’s Marilyn Wines that produced a Merlot with a peek-a-boo peel-off label based on Marilyn Monroe’s 1953-centerfold photo from the inaugural issue of the magazine. In 2008 Playboy sold a different high-end bottle each month with photo labels featuring vintage magazine covers from the 1960’s and ’70’s. A press release from Playboy Enterprises stresses the lifestyle connection of the new wine club:”We carefully select a handful of wines that represent the essence of the Playboy brand – delightfully jovial, indulgent and carefully crafted — while catering to the consumer’s desires to celebrate life and live it with a little style.” The wines are offered in themed ‘encounters’ like Blind Date (surprise selections), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (white varietals), and the Mansion Collection (a vertical tasting of Bordeaux).

For all their talk of ‘lifestyle,’ newspaper and magazine wine clubs are really about money, plain and simple. Paid circulation is down, advertising is going the way of the web, and newspapers and magazines haven’t quite cracked the monetization model for online content. Most of the publishers are just looking for a cork to plug the flow of red ink. With challenges to the traditional publishing business model coming from every direction, the hope is that this new revenue stream from wine clubs can help the old-line publications age as gracefully as the wines they are pushing.

Wall Street Journal Discovery Wine Club   Rolling Stone Wine Club   Playboy Wine Club   Dallas Morning News Wine Club   Touring and Tasting Wine Club   Sunset Wine Club  Food & Wine Wine Club

 

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Girly Beer

image via Philly.TheDrinkNation

Pink is for girls, y’know.
That’s why the beer industry is using it to sell beer to women. After years of disenfranching and objectifying women, it’s time for a little condescension.
Ladies, cue the squeals of delight and air kisses because this one’s for you.

Molson Coors Animée: the bloat-resistant beer

Mhttp://www.beer-pages.com/stories/news/images/animee.jpgolson Coors is pre-tty pleased with themselves for this one. Bloat resistance is just one of its charms. According to the company’s press office, Animée is “lightly sparkling and finely filtered with a delicious, fresh taste [and an] unexpectedly sophisticated appearance.” That translates from PR flack-speak as fruity flavors and pastel hues. Instead of 6-packs, Animée is sold in lighter, daintier 4-packs. Animée was launched in the U.K. in late 2011 with a big bucks promotion, and we can hardly wait for its appearance on our shores cause, you know, we hate to bloat too.

Heineken’s Jillz: “Fresh and exciting. Just like you.” Uh huh.

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Heineken’s entry, also thoughtfully sold in 4-packs, is Jillz (with a Z; the original name of Charli with an I was withdrawn when the company realized that is a nickname for cocaine) a sweet beer and apple cider hybrid that would never be confused with either of the two beverages. Type your name into the online Jillz Datemaker and a buff and shirtless bartender will personally invite you to ‘Come bite my apple.’

 

Is that really beer? I mistook it for a hip stylish purse.

 

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Finally a beer that matches your slingback sandals. The Chick Beer website explains: “The bottle is designed to reflect the beautiful shape of a woman in a little black dress. The six-pack looks like you are carrying your beer in a hip stylish purse. Chick’s unique reflective bottle blings you up! It’s fun, fabulous, and female!”

 

 

…and the lady in the bold Pucci print will have a Carlsberg.

 

http://cached.imagescaler.hbpl.co.uk/resize/scaleToFit/427/285/?sURL=http://offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/news/OKM/2DAA6980-05EB-5A98-17A4236C1FDEF1C8.JPG
http://i.huffpost.com/gen/280219/thumbs/s-CARLSBERG-COPENHAGEN-BEER-large300.jpgIn the beginning, there was Eve.
Introduced in 2006, Eve’s Press Kit asks that its girly flavors (litchee, passionfruit) be served in girly glasses (flutes) at suitably girly occasions (“where women meet and socialize in company with their best friends.”) But what about those situations when you want a real beer in a real bottle and darn it, none of them look good with your outfit? It happens to women all the time, according to  Carlsberg’s International Innovation Director: “There may be situations where they are standing in a bar and want their drinks to match their style. In this case, they may well reject a beer if the design does not appeal to them.” Thank goodness Carlsberg’s new Copen♥hagen (the heart is silent) is on the scene to rescue us with its tasteful, go-with-everything bottle.

 

Is anyone surprised by the missteps?
Beer marketing has a long and shameful testosterone-drench history. The industry has always flogged its products with sexist, dude-centric imagery like sports figures, cowboys, rappers, farm animals, physical labor, and above all frat-boy humor. These clumsy, condescending, pink and fizzy attempts to appeal to women are about what we expected.

Half the market is still waiting for their beer.

 

 

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Free Food for Facebook Fans

image via Troll.me

This week alone you could have eaten for free at Chick-fil-a, Hooters, Applebee’s,  IHOP, Baskin-Robbins, Waffle House, Subway, TGI Friday’s, and Denny’s. There were free cans of Campbell’s soup, beans from Green Mountain Coffee, and enough free energy drinks to keep you up all night surfing the web for more.

A whole new form of promotions has grown up around the Facebook ‘like’ button. Companies offer freebies to induce us to become fans of their Facebook pages. It’s called inbound marketing, and most brands and consumers feel it creates winners on all sides. Companies love it because it creates customer leads for their brands at about half the price of traditional marketing campaigns. They not only get the individual’s contact information, but  ‘likes’ appear on the wall of the user’s Facebook page, leveraging that person’s social network. And of course we like it because who doesn’t want to get free stuff?

The average Facebook user clicks 9 ‘like’ buttons every month; we tend to ‘like’ it most if it involves chocolate, milk, or ice cream, although Coca Cola alone picks up 4 new fans every second. Giveaways have gotten so ubiquitous that some brands generate interest by distinguishing their promotions with unusual twists: Campbell’s soup will send a can to a sick friend, Denny’s fans can win a year’s worth of Grand Slam Breakfasts, McDonald’s has been picking up 50,00 new fans a day by offering a second chance to win its popular annual Monopoly contest, and Burger King drew gobs of attention for its offer of a free Whopper to anyone who would ‘unfriend’ 10 of their contacts.

Looking for some free food? Here are some sites that can tip you off to the latest giveaways:

Hooray Free Food
Sweet Free Stuff
Daily Free Stuff
Oh Yes It’s Free
Free Stuff Finder

Food and beverage brands are social network stars. They dominate Facebook’s popularity rankings with 11 of the top 20 spots, including the top 4. You can follow the rankings on Social Bakers and FameCount, two sites that track social media followers for the food and beverage industry.

 

 

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Herman Cain: The Man and the Pizza

He’s Herman Cain, the man who would be President, one of the most successful African-American food entrepreneurs in American history, and Bill Clinton’s sparring partner during the 1994 health-care fight. That’s the man. But what about the pizza?

Godfather’s Pizza has over 600 locations in more than 40 states, according to the company’s website. This nationwide pizza company boasts several crust varieties and 100 percent real cheese. The Godfather’s Pizza website also tells us that one slice of a classic cheese pizza provides 290 calories, with 9 g of fat, 4 g of which are saturated fat. Cholesterol content is 20 mg and sodium content is 530 mg.

This is heartland pizza, sturdy, earnest pies with a toppings menu that includes middle-America faves like ground beef, sour cream, and bacon bits. There’s no hint of Naples, Italy or even New Haven, Connecticut.

By most reports Godfather’s produces a reasonable alternative to the Domino’s, Shakey’s, and Pizza Huts of the world (full disclosure: like most coastal, urban dwellers, I have no first-hand experience with Godfather’s Pizza). An unscientific twitter survey conducted by Politico turned up mixed reviews, while in a subsequent blind tasting, the Politico bipartisan panel ranked Godfather’s dead last (sample comments: “that is so bad”…”the most unappetizing”…”the cheese is really sour”…”the crust is like a sponge”).

Through a strangely ironic turn of events, nearly 100 Occupy Wall Street protestors were taken to area hospitals in various stages of gastrointestinal distress. The suspected culprit: food poisoning from a tainted delivery of Godfather’s Pizza.

Earnest, cheesy, and all-American. An underdog with national ambitions. Enemy of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Seemingly unremarkable, no better or worse than the rest of the field, but with a potentially dangerous edge. The man and the pizza.

 

See the song stylings of Herman Cain as he unleashes a rich baritone for this pizzafied cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Sample lyrics:

Imagine there’s no pizza
I couldn’t if I tried
Eating only tacos
Or Kentucky Fried
Imagine only burgers
It’s frightening and sad

 

 

 

 

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The Best Food Magazines You’ve Never Read

Conventional wisdom tells us that print is dead.
Its death knell sounded loud and clear in food-oriented publishing when the print edition of Gourmet folded in 2009. If that beloved legendary publication couldn’t make a go of it, who could?

A handful of hardy, independent publishers have managed to beat the odds, surviving and even thriving. Even more improbably, a few new food magazines have been introduced in the post-Gourmet era. They recognize that they have to offer something special, some added value over the other ways we have of consuming text.

Each of  these publications succeeds by offering heft and depth, nearly ad-free pages, and price tags high enough to make it all viable and sustainable. Their graphics are striking, the writing is of a long form seldom seen outside of print, and they have a book-like physical permanence that defies you to toss it in the recycle bin.

Remedy is a good, old-fashioned read masquerading as a modern magazine. Each issue uses stories and recipes to explore a single theme: cravings, growing up, celebrations. The current issue is Stealing— true food crimes, stealing away a private moment out of a crazy day, or stealing a boyfriend and his to-die-for breakfast dish—all stories to curl up with, coming from a variety of voices.

 

http://69.89.31.216/~jsguntze/slideshows/utne/meatpaper/600_450/mp0.jpgMeatpaper is -surprise!- all about meat. Every form of animal flesh is fodder for Meatpaper’s pages, from birth to roasting pan, plus insightful takes on this bedrock of masculine Western culture. It all comes courtesy of a team of former, presumably very broad-minded, vegetarians. Coming soon: the new Bones issue.

http://www.etsy.com/storque/media/articles/2010/11/11168-GC_Paul_header_3.jpgSweet Paul is Paul Lowe, a food and prop stylist with the crafting sensibility of Martha Stewart and an eye for whimsical, flea market style aesthetics. The magazine is stuffed with ideas for creative, hands-on cooking, decorating, and entertaining that is within reach of even the DIY-challenged, and accompanied by sumptuous, naturally-lit photography.

http://www.boiseweekly.com/imager/b/magnum/2349679/6ef0/find1-1_LuckyPeach.jpgLucky Peach burst on the scene last summer and immediately became the must-have fetish object for die-hard foodies. It’s a high profile collaboration between the expletive-sputtering culinary bad boy David Chang (chef-restaurateur of New York’s Momofuku empire) and former New York Times writer Peter Meehan, with contributions from celebrated friends like Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl. A single subject (issue 1: Ramen; issue 2: The Sweet Spot) is probed through a dense, idiosyncratic mix of essays, recipes, art, photography, and rants.

http://harlanturk.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Alimentumi11Winter11.jpgFood writing for the literati or literature for the foodie? Alimentum is a literary review that celebrates food, both figurative and metaphorical.  Short fiction, poetry, and essays give new dimension to the experiences of standing on the grocery checkout line or sharing a glass of wine with a former lover.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_edjLb_JcFN4/TEfzji2NTFI/AAAAAAAADFQ/spK9Tfx71ws/s1600/Condiment.jpgWith a mere two issues under its belt, we’re keeping an eye on Condiment. It occupies the intriguing, conceptual space between food, community, and creativity, with topics like anarchist gardeners, mutant fruits, and a clam dig.

 

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The Art of Eating has a traditional mix of recipes, producer profiles, wine, book, and restaurant reviews. Its long (since 1986), ad-free run speaks to the fine writing and its in-depth (often obsessively so) articles.

 

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Gastronomica calls itself “food-focused scholarship,” but don’t let that scare you away. Yes, it is cerebral and erudite, but it is also lively and accessible. It explores such esoterica as the history of hippie-style cooking, caterers to the Third Reich, to our love of hamburgers, and it’s all wrapped up in a glossy, stunningly photographed package.

 

 

 

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Time Magazine 100 includes 4 Foodies

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Time Magazine’s annual roundup of the world’s most influential leaders, thinkers, heroes, and artists hits newsstands this week, and this year the list includes four individuals from the food sector whose ideas and talent transform the world we live in. [...]

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Stemming the Flow of Red Ink: Publishers’ wine clubs

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The Wall Street Journal has one. And the New York Times. Playboy Magazine too.

We’re talking about wine clubs; the newest revenue stream for struggling publishers.
Readership is down. Advertising is going the way of the web. Online content has been resistant to monetization.

What’s a news organization to do?

Newspapers and magazines have turned to selling wine as a new way of generating revenue from readers. There’s nothing new about the business model. Classified ads were the traditional way for publishers to take advantage of the communities they created. With subscriptions dwindling and the advent of free Craigslist classifieds, a diverse group of publishers has applied the same principles to wine clubs. [...]

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Yelping Without a Net


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Notice anything different on Yelp? Beginning this week, you can read reviews that the site’s automatic filtering system had previously hidden from view.

Did you think that Yelp was a level playing field? Silly you.

Yelp has been stung by charges that it manipulates its users’ feedback to favor businesses that advertise on the site. The review site insists that its filter serves to maintain the integrity of the site by screening out reviews that are biased and untrustworthy, such as positive reviews written by the business itself or negative reviews that come from a competitor. [...]

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Celebrities Endorse the Hollywood Cookie Diet

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Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet is the latest diet fad to grip Hollywood. It seems like every day we hear of another knobby-kneed celebrity signing on to the six cookies a day regimen.

Of course strange eating habits and crash diets are nothing new in the land of the incredible shrinking starlets. Uma Thurman only eats raw food, Christina Aguilera limits herself to foods of one color for each day of the week (white, red, green, orange, purple, yellow, and rainbow), Reese Witherspoon snacks on jarred baby food, and Beyonce downs a mix of lemon juice, maple syrup, water, and cayenne pepper (and nothing else) for 10 day stretches. [...]

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Real Men Eat Cupcakes: Dude Food

Men are taking back the kitchen..

Of course plenty of men have always enjoyed cooking. What’s different now is that so many of them aren’t just men— they’re guys, they’re dudes, they’re bros.

The bros are a subculture that’s been closely associated with take out pizza and happy hour chicken wings. When they venture into their man-cave kitchens, they’ve been best known for barbeque skills and beer can chicken, eschewing anything as wussy-ass as salads and vegetables and any dish that requires a recipe. But this new breed of food dudes is stretching its culinary muscles. [...]

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Just Because You Eat it Doesn’t Make You a Restaurant Critic

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                 vintage cartoon via Serious Eats

The internet speaks with many voices

Restaurant criticism has become a democratic activity. This has not always been the case. Restaurant reviewing, like all forms of cultural criticism, was an elite enterprise. It was undertaken by individuals who brought disciplined tastes and cultural and contextual perspective. They adhered to an established set of ethical and journalistic standards. It was precisely because they were not one of us that we valued their opinions.

The rise of social media has changed all that. We’ve seen the flowering of millions of cacophonous voices and a forum for each of them. But do we really want to swap the lone, authoritative voice for the collective wisdom of many? [...]

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Cyber Cheese

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Milk’s leap toward immortality.

We do like our cheese. Not as much as they do over in Europe, but here in the U.S. we are eating more cheese than ever. We are also eating better cheese, turning away from highly processed products and toward natural and artisan-made varieties. We are showing a growing interest in style and variety, seeking out regional farmstead cheeses as well as cheese produced organically and from different milk blends.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than online, where age-old traditions meet new technology. [...]

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Going for the Gold with a Pitstop at the Golden Arches

 Ketchup + Mayo Ronald courtesy of Magnús Elvar Jónsson
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Years of training, commitment, and sacrifice have brought them to this singular moment.

The Olympic Village in Vancouver has opened its gates to play host to thousands of the world’s elite athletes.
They are toned, muscular, and disciplined; thoroughbreds, every last one of them.
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Obviously the athletes receive an exceptionally pure and high quality diet to maintain peak conditioning and fuel Olympic-caliber performances. Obviously, right? [...]
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A Bumper Crop of Food Films

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2009 was a very good year for food on film. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress for Julie & Julia, and Food, Inc. was among the nominees for Best Documentary Feature. Both are landmark developments: Julie & Julia because of the brilliant convergence of two iconic women, Meryl Streep and Julia Child; and Food, Inc. for bringing food consciousness to a new level in the U.S.

The nominations are bringing viewers and attention to these two worthy films, but there are many more recent food-related films that should not be overlooked. [...]

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Food Porn: Look, but don’t touch!

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“It is a matter of physics, a scientific fact that the human body reacts in very similar ways when anticipating food and sex. Capillaries swell, lips and membranes become engorged, saliva thickens and the pulse rises. It’s no accident that the two pleasures have become… confused.”

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Anthony Bourdain,  No Reservations

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What’s Your Food Porn Preference?

Fat or skinny. Exotic or plain. Enhanced or au naturel.

Food Porn and the x-rated variety make use of the same visual language and techniques, full of provocative camera angles, exaggerated features, and saturated colors. The subject matters differ, but they push our primal buttons in the same way.

Lust-inducing, visceral images of food porn are everywhere. It’s the lingering, loving shots of decadent burgers in fast food advertising. It’s the food-centric shows on television, which long gave up on practical instruction to focus on feats of performance and visual spectacle.

The fetishists are all represented: the raw foodists, the bacon-worshipers, the cupcake-lovers, the kink of butchery, the puritanical vegans, and plenty of plain vanilla.

Does Food Porn Make us Fat?

Jam-glazed pears glisten atop butter-brown pastry; golden rivulets of herb-flecked butter overflow the pillowy center of a steamy biscuit; deeply charred fat surrounds the just-grilled steak sliced to reveal its ruby interior. We understand that the imagery of food porn is a hyper-idealized version of what we go home to in the same way that we know that our romantic partners are not Penelope Cruz or Brad Pitt. And just like the bedroom variety, culinary porn is about voyeurism— the daring, exotic, and extreme may be watched by many but practiced by few.

Evidence suggests that tempting food imagery might actually serve as a deterrent to indulgence. New Scientist cited a study in which weight-conscious women were shown images of either food or flowers (under the guise of a memory test). When the women were offered a snack, those who had been shown a lushly-photographed chocolate cake were significantly more likely to opt for a healthy option than the flower group. As counterintuitive as it seems, researchers believe that tempting food images can actually heighten self-control in a dieter, strengthening their resolve to make healthy choices.

Food porn: you know it when you see it!

Go ahead and take a peek:

Flickr has a vast repository of more than 300,000 photos submitted by members of its food porn group.

The blogs Tastespotting, FoodGawker, and FoodPornDaily are curated collections of user-submitted food photography.

The Tumblr blog This Is Why You’re Fat celebrates the fatty, cheesy, greasy, meaty, and over-sized. Destined for glory, it dazzled the online food community by reaching 1.3 million page views on the day after its launch. The inevitable book deal took a few more weeks.

Midtown Lunch started by cataloging the inexpensive options available to midtown Manhattan’s rabid, ravenous office workers with no more than a lunch hour to spare. Snapshots of styrofoam and foil-wrapped bundles, takeout containers and diner dishes are artfully assembled to create a daily collage. Midtown has been joined by lower Manhattan and Philadelphia editions with more cities in the works.

 

 

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