Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Story Behind the Food Porn


To judge by the current content on every news outlet, blog and social media platform, it's not possible to move forward into 2015 without first recapping 2014 through lists and more lists. Best songs ("Shake it Off?"), best movies, best new restaurants, best bites, best recipes made to solicit pins and repins on Pinterest, and, naturally, one's best moments on Instagram according to the number of likes received.

Iconosquare, a platform that analyzes Instagram account activity, conveniently packages these "moments" together in a short little video that users can then post and share to feel very special about all the accolades they received on the shot of their pedicured toes in the foreground of a beach setting, their avocado toast on an Anthropologie plate, and another shot of their toes with a different pedicure in a different beach setting.

Toes and toast are like so hot right now.

A product of my generation, I am, admittedly, equally narcissistic and obsessive about how many people like the image of my bowl of chia pudding. (#health #superfoods #mydayinla) I've even been late to work on more than one occasion this year because I had to "style" my breakfast for optimal Instagram engagement. You know, with a mismatched bowl and plate and one of those little tea towels "casually'' thrown to the side as though an afterthought. (It's never an afterthought.)

So, obviously I love all this Iconosquare analytical business and was quick to jump on the train to make my best Instagram moments of 2014 video. Yet, as I sat there all Gen Y-like watching my five "best" images fly by on the screen of my iPhone 6, it felt slightly depressing that my entire year was condensed into a 20-second video montage. While the cliche dictates that a picture tells 1,000 words, the inherent model of Instagram only shares a very small piece of the story behind each image.

While it's probably, again, narcissistic of me to assume that anyone would want to know the story behind a handful of food photos that supposedly were my "best moments" of the year, I feel inclined to say a bit more about each picture for my personal gratification. Not because I expect people to care, but because it's the holidays, and I'm feeling nostalgic about another year gone by… in an instant.


#5 - Heirloom tomato salad. (102 likes)  
As soon as summer hits LA, everyone starts going insane for heirloom tomatoes, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't similarly smitten. My ritualistic Sunday morning visits to the Melrose Place Farmers Market were always punctuated with a stop at the heirloom tomato vendor, a trip that was subsequently followed by the production of some form of salad that was basically an excuse for me to eat an entire gargantuan tomato in a single sitting.  This excuse, scattered with fresh shucked corn, slices of avocado, and copious amounts of basil and mint, was perhaps my favorite of the bunch. If summer could be summed up in a single dish, this would be that summation.


 #4 - Homemade English muffins with housemade cultured butter, sea salt, and rosemary. (103 likes)
Since I started working in restaurant public relations 3 1/2 years ago, I've maintained a strict no-fly-zone policy when it comes to mentioning clients in this space. Beyond the obvious (that whole conflict of interest thing), I've wanted to keep my identity as a publicist separate and distinct from my identity as a writer. It's often frustrating to keep that part of my life so carefully concealed, particularly as it occupies so much of my time, heart and headspace. The restaurants I'm privileged to work with come to feel like my children, and I get excited when they do great things and receive praise, and it all makes me want to go do weird things like brag about them on Facebook and affix their accolades to the bumper of my car. Instead, I just post pictures of their food to Instagram with lots of annoying hashtags. (#sorrynotsorry) These particular English muffins came from this incredibly talented chef at this new Manhattan Beach restaurant that opened this past November. And, yes, they are as good as they look.


#3 - Ricky's Fish Tacos. (109 likes)
My friend Sam Kim was one of the first people to respond to my often asinine tweets when I joined Twitter in 2009. I remember thinking, "Who is this @samkimsamkim person who keeps giving me advice on where to eat?" While not affiliated with the food industry in a professional capacity, Sam Kim (we always refer to him by his full name), has an incredible ability to bring like-minded people within the dining community around a table to enjoy a great meal. Likely, immediately followed by another great meal (and trip to the bakery around the corner to get cookies for later). He lives in New York City now, but whenever he's back in LA, he brings a laundry list of things/places he wants to eat while he's in town. Sarah and I were more than happy to help him check Ricky's Fish Tacos off the list during his most recent visit this fall. And because we were with Sam Kim, we went to Go Get 'em Tiger for coffee/tea after, where we snacked on the chocolate chip cookies he'd picked up at Gjusta earlier that day for later


#2 - Christmas Cocoa Cookies. (111 likes)
I wasn't sure I loved, let alone even liked, these cookies when I first tasted them this past Sunday after nearly three hours of mixing, rolling, baking, and glazing. I had bookmarked the recipe in Amanda Hesser's The Essential New York Times Cookbook years ago because they sounded like trail mix in chocolate cookie form, which is basically everything I love in the universe in one convenient Christmas… package. Naturally, I was a little confused when I took a bite (see: Diana Takes a Bite) and didn't immediately want to shove all 44 in the batch in my mouth. In spite of this initial hesitation, I've found myself continuing to sneak a cookie here and there over the past few days, each time liking the contrast of the tart lemon glaze against the spiced chocolate more and more. I'll save the rest of my words on the matter for when I actually share the recipe with you, but for now, know that these cookies are very much worthy of their #2 ranking on this list. 


A booze-fueled brunch with your two closest friends in LA is the best excuse to spontaneously cancel an appointment to get your car serviced. Who needs to get their tires rotated when there's smoked trout and avocado toast, French fries, vegetable and white bean soup, Moroccan eggs, and lots and lots of sparkling Rosé to be had? Of course, you can see all that from the photo above. Not pictured? How hard we laughed at everything and nothing at all for four hours.

No comments: