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Biz Savvy Blogger’s Peek-A-Blog: OneFoodGuy

Today on Alphabet City’s Peek-A-Blog: While on book tour, Jon Paul tweets up with @onefoodguy to find out the secret sauce for one of Boston’s most popular food bloggers.

OneFoodGuy likes to remain anonymous

Much has been made of Twitter as a virtual tool that can connect people in real life.  But I hadn’t experienced that until a new online friend @onefoodguy in Boston popped up at my Alphabet City Book Party event in Beantown.  A few months ago, I’d delved into the wonderful world of tweets to get a handle on how I could put cyberspace to use on tour, and began using a program called ReFollow— a “twitter relationship manager.”  Sounds like a title someone would have on The Office.

ReFollow allows you to see all the followers of a person or company and then you can choose ones to follow yourself.  Pretty genius way for me to see who is interested in my book tour sponsor Kimpton Hotels (@kimpton).  I figured if people were already fans of Kimpton, then they would be open to hearing about Kimpton’s support of my book.   That’s how I found @onefoodguy.  I could tell from the moment I linked to his blog from his Twitter account, that this was a guy who could be useful to know in Boston—he was heralding the Extra Funky Sandwich at the All Star Sandwich Bar.

A few 140 character messages later and we were tweet friends.  He even indulged me when I asked, “Where should I eat in Boston?”  Not the best open-ended question to ask a foodie.  It’s like when people ask me, a travelista, “Where should I go on vacation?”  If I don’t really know you, it’s hard to offer advice.  He managed to not let a smirk show through his reply, and I decided he’d be a great addition to the Peek-A-Blog series.

After Kimpton’s Nine Zero Hotel reception for Alphabet City, I was planning on grabbing some nibbles with @onefoodguy at the K.O. restaurant onsite.  Closed on Mondays.  That’s when my foodie hero had to jump into action.  Alas, the first three places he tried to take me were also closed.  What’s up with that Boston?  My Urbanspoon iPhone app road to the rescue—we headed to The Paramount in Beacon Hill. As we walked through Boston Commons, we got down to Peek-A-Blog business.

Your post today is about using a Vita-Mix for Strawberry Watermelon Juice.  My own Chef is obsessed with his.  What is it about you foodie’s and Vita-Mix?

It’s amazing, right?  I’m very lucky to have received it as a gift from parents.  They asked what they could purchase for me that was special—and I knew it had to be the Vita-Mix.

Well, I do love the fresh peanut butter he makes.

I need to try that.

On your blog, you work at maintaining your anonymity, unlike me who puts it all out there.  You call your wife “J” and you hide part of your face in your profile picture.  Why?

I never wanted to be in a situation where my passion and hobby got in the way of my professional life.  My time with my wife is special to me, and I didn’t want to intrude on that.

Have you always been a food guy?

I have always been an eater—I grew up in a kosher kitchen in Boston eating favorites like tuna noodle casserole.  My wife J and I would often spend anniversaries going to expensive, well-regarded restaurants together instead of buying expensive gifts for each other.  At one point, I was a consultant and traveled to New York City all the time for work. I lived at the Grand Hyatt and went to the same place in Hell’s Kitchen almost every week.  They started treating me like a regular and I thought, “I could get used to this.”  On my expense account, I went to many terrific New York spots—that’s when I realized I wanted to share my experience through a blog.

What was your goal when you started onefoodguy.blogspot.com?

In my very first post, I stated my goal very clearly—“I plan on recapping my New York dining experiences and reviewing my favorite restaurants here in Greater Boston. I’m also going to try to convince myself in writing that my career should be in the kitchen, not in a suburban office. We’ll see how successful I am.” Like many bloggers, I was hoping to be able to pay a mortgage with it.  But that didn’t happen, so it evolved into a hobby.  I still enjoy sharing with people my passion for food and cooking.

Has your content changed over time?

When I first started, the site was mainly recipes, but now it includes restaurant reviews.  My first post was about how to grill a steak well, not well done. Later, I did was a post about a dinner party for my wife’s work colleagues.  It was a really big deal with 6 people coming.  I decided to make a rack of lamb, tuna tartar, and angel food cake from scratch. I didn’t really know things like how to time it out correctly, so I reached out to a food blogger Chef Scott Youkilis, owner of Maverick in San Francisco. And Scott was very helpful and wrote a response to my question I figured I could help people out by sharing information like that as they followed me.  Over time, with work and wanting to spend more time with my wife, I just didn’t have time to do the cooking.  So I started weaving in restaurant reviews.

Do you pay attention to your statistics to see what drives traffic to your site?

I use Google Analytics to track my site, and about half of the way people find my blog is through Google searches.  My most popular posts are a recipe for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes and a story about French Street Food when I was on layover at Charles de Gaulle and went in search of this banana Nutella crepe near Notre Dame.  Also popular, the second most active keywords landing users on my site are “homemade turkey burgers.”

Do you like getting feedback from readers?

I respond to everything.  I think it’s courtesy.  If someone has taken the time to come to your blog and spend time with you and leave a comment, it’s the right thing to respond.  Early on, I emailed Zesty Cook a question about a recipe, and I never heard back.  He could have missed it or been busy with other things, but still it affected me.  So I stopped reading his site.

That sounds a little tough.

But I got into this to be part of a community.  I got to know a lot of terrific food bloggers   like EatDrinkNBMerry and Oishiieats.  They took me on a tour of Mexican taco carts in LA’s Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods.  When they came to Boston earlier this year, I went down to Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury with them, and introduced them to Flour Bakery, Neptune Oyster, Myers and Chang, and Toro – four of my favorite places in Boston.  It’s cool to be part of that community.

That positive attitude definitely comes through on your blog.  Like other food blogs, do you get requests from PR people to cover products?

Many publicity people contact me, and whether I am interested in the product or not, I always respond.  My goal out of this is not to get free products.  So when I do take a product, and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it.  This is a hobby for me.  I’m not looking to destroy a business.  Similarly, if I go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, I won’t write about it.  I’ve worked in restaurants and know sometimes they are just having a bad night.  I’d rather focus on sharing good stuff with my readers, the things I want people to enjoy.

Sounds like maybe you had a bad experience at one point?

For Cinco de Mayo this year, J wanted to go to this restaurant she had been to several times.  It’s not a Mexican restaurant but they have what J said were very good fish tacos.  Unfortunately, I was terribly disappointed and shared my feedback with the restaurant manager and felt like it was well received.  Restaurants can not always please 100% of the people 100% of the time. I understand.

It impressed me how quickly you responded to me on Twitter.

Twitter is fun for me, but I don’t do it all the time.  Definitely not at work.  I have around 1300 followers and I follow 2000.  It’s so frustrating that I’ve hit the limit because of the ratio requirements right now.

How do you manage paying attention to all that?  I still haven’t figured it out.

I use UberTwitter on my BlackBerry.  On my computer, I use TweetDeck and have columns that include a general feed, mentions, 120-130 “friends” that I pay attention to, and a dozen or so private lists that I’m following.

I’m impressed that you’re working hard to not let the blog and Twitter overwhelm your life with your wife.  How do you manage your time?

I get up early in the morning and write.  Sunday morning I also sit on the couch and blog—mostly when my wife is away or busy doing other things.  I’m also kind of a DIY guy, so I often blog sitting in front of the TV watching HGTV’s Yard Crashers.  That’s my guilty pleasure.

What do you want to do more of in the blog?

I wish I could cook more using fancy ingredients, making them accessible to home cooks.  Writing more about technique.

All right, well the next time you’re in New York, you’ll have to come over and you and Chef can collaborate using the Vita-Mix!  If you’re lucky, he’ll make you some peanut butter.

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Beantown Book Tour

Today on Alphabet City: On book tour, Jon Paul takes Boston by storm.

I  took it as a good omen when Vanessa Williams was in my room at Kimpton’s Nine Zero hotel in Boston.  After all, Tyra had accompanied me via American Way on my first leg of the journey, and now Chef spotted Vanessa peeking at me from the cover of SpaFinder touting her beauty tips.  I can tell you one of them—fresh honey, read Alphabet City’s Episode 8: As Bees in Honey Drown.

At that point in the day, I took any good sign where I could get it.  Earlier, Amtrak moved down a notch on my fan belt when chaos reigned at Penn Station.  A planned computer system outage left overwhelmed train customer service agents scrambling to help panicked travelers.  If Amtrak has all of our purchase information and emails—why couldn’t they have alerted us to the problem in advance?  Why couldn’t they have put more staff on duty?  Even the exhausted agents were snapping pictures on their phones and emailing it to headquarters.  Have I heard from anyone at Amtrak despite all my twittering?  Adding insult to injury, the engine broke down just outside of New York City, and we waited—with no A/C—for over an hour for a replacement.  The only thing that would have made the trip better was having Frida with me—oh, but wait, Amtrak doesn’t allow travel with pets.  In just a few hours, Amtrak amazingly made the airlines look like customer service geniuses.

On arrival, Chef and I raced to Cambridge for the first Beantown stop on the Alphabet City Book Tour—a party hosted by my in-laws Laura and Miguel.  They were the first members of Chef’s family I got to meet—and Laura has been a fan of my reading and blog, and now has the unenviable task of trying to translate some of the racier parts of Alphabet City into Spanish for our family back in Mexico!  Como se dice “well endowed?”  For the backyard gathering, the hurricane rains held off and I debuted my new Aaron Krach original t-shirt design!

My youngest fan and me in Aaron Krach couture

Laura not only assembled a multicultural crowd—turns out Mary Tyler Moore isn’t as iconic South of the Border—but she also pressed into service a friend with a new cupcake business.  The result had me eating my words—literally.  The behind-the-scenes story was that the owner of The Yellow Cupcake was worried she might be going a little too gay with rainbow flags—my sister-in-law told her not to worry—wait until she met me!  If you’re in Boston and would like your own image on a cupcake email gabs79(at)gmail.com.

Sister-in-law Laura makes me eat my words

In true Kimpton form, the Nine Zero hotel pulled out all the welcome stops thanks to the cute and clever concierge Thomas.  Our room had been transformed into a Princess oasis—for Frida—with bejeweled dog collar and photo of Frida Kahlo.  The only thing that kept me from missing the little goose was the spectacular view across Boston Commons to the Charles River.

The Nine Zero-hosted event was special in so many ways.  It was the first time Chef accompanied me and he had the opportunity to re-shoot the previous evening Flipcam of my reading.  Seems like I didn’t give good enough direction and ended up with video of me talking over close-ups of the cupcakes.  You can take the girl out of the kitchen…

Task Force supporters!

But it was the turnout that really made the evening so terrific.  A range of supporters of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force turned out including Kathy and Patrick from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, who drove up from Providence (this is the next state to grant gay marriage, fingers crossed!).  A new twitter friend Scott of onefoodguy.blogspot.com also attended and I interviewed him after for an upcoming Peek-A-Blog post.  And Michael Hartwig and his partner Steve came.  Michael is special in my life because for many years he was partnered with Don Baker, who passed away a few years ago.  Don was the plaintiff in Baker v. Wade, the case challenging Texas’ sodomy statute, that my father ruled unconstitutional in 1982.  Sitting in the courtroom, hearing the testimony at 13, I saw for the first time a wonderful gay role model in Don and knew that I, too, could grow up to be a loving, caring, smart, professional out gay man.  Thank you Don for teaching me that, and how lovely to have Michael and Steve in my life.

Thanks for stirring up the Alphabet City pot, Beantown.

Note: flipcam videos of Jon Paul’s Boston appearance available here.

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Tour Couture

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul unveils his one-of-a-kind, couture book tour ensemble by artist Aaron Krach.

The Alphabet City Book Tour kicks into high heel gear starting this Sunday as I crisscross the country visiting many Kimpton Hotels near their city’s Gay Pride festivities.  And I’m excited to announce that I’ll be walking the red carpet in a couture look created by Aaron Krach—the phenomenally talented artist, friend, and writer who provided much needed editorial insight on the first draft of Alphabet City.

Now, he’s paired an iconic image from the book’s cover with a question I pose at least seven times a day, “What would Mary do?”  There’s just an extremely limited run of these gems, but show up at the events, and you might just charm me into giving you the shirt off my back—for the right price, that is.

Seriously, readers, I could use your help in turning out the love at all the stops on the tour.  Surely you have a Facebook friend or two at Boston Nine Zero (6/7), Philly Hotel Palomar (6/8), DC Topaz Hotel (6/9), LA Hotel Palomar (6/14), Silicon Valley Cypress Hotel (6/16), San Fran Harbor Court Hotel (6/17) or Portland Hotel Monaco (6/21).  Check this link for more details, or become an Alphabet City fan on Facebook and you can send around the invite!

Make sure to follow along on all the trouble (fun) I’ll be getting into thanks to national sponsors Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, with local support provided along the way by Whole Foods Market (LA—3rd and Fairfax and Sherman Oaks), Hyundai (LA) and Subaru (Portland).

“What would Mary do?”  Why, she’d read ABCityblog!

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