Flooding The Zone

With thanks to Bryce for the nudge, let me first blog this piece about blogging that Lucky Peach published yesterday, and now blog a bit about it.

Brette Warshaw, who runs the internet operations of Lucky Peach, approached me last month wanting to talk obsession and the web. (It’s Obsession Month at LuckyPeach.com, following the publication of LP’s new issue, which has the theme of obsession.) She dropped by the Vox office a few days later and I talked for an hour, laying out a fair bit of the backstory of Eater and how obsession figured into it.

Somehow Brette managed to take my ramblings and cohere them into a piece that captures my thinking about web obsession really well while also telling a great story about Eater itself. It’s called Flooding the Zone. Please do check it out.

One more thought. Rereading the Lucky Peach interview yesterday, I was struck by my somewhat wistful tone. While I did love those early eras of Eater, and the strategy that we employed back then to win them, their passing doesn’t trouble me. The challenge of media on the web is always evolving, and as we’ve moved from the blog age into the social age, we’ve adapted our approach. Surprise: it’s still as much fun as ever. And we’re still winning. For the full accounting of how all that’s going down, check back here in 2021.

Racked Relaunch

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Racked relaunches today with the complete Vox Media Makeover Look™: new site design, new logo, new glow. This makeover was a sprint compared to the Eater revamp: 10 weeks from kickoff to launch, but a resulting design that’s the lightest, most beautiful site in the Vox stable, as befits our next-generation fashion and shopping brand. Bravo to Eliot Shepard, who oversaw the product side of the launch, and all the folks at Vox Product that made this magic happen.

Editor-in-Chief Leslie Price has been part of Racked’s DNA since the brand was born in March 2007, serving as the launch editor of Eater NY, then later as editor of Eater LA before returning to the mothership to oversee Racked’s transformation into its new, better self. Leslie’s welcome letter lays out her vision for the site, one replete with a mix of video, feature, and op-ed content, and of course the news and sales reports that have defined Racked over the years.

Among the Racked relaunch highlights:

1) Try Hards, Vox Media’s first scripted video show, features Danielle Gibson and Alexandra Fiber, the team behind SRSLY, navigating absurd fashion trends in the guise of Racked editors. New episodes will drop each Tuesday at 10am.
2) Also on Racked’s expanded video slate: a partnership with with seminal fashion magazine Dazed, directed by photographer Columbine Goldsmith, the first in a series of videos Racked will produce in collaboration with other style-focused editorial outlets and brands; Racked Hauls, obsessive weekly shopping, ever Monday at noon; and the addition of Lo Bosworth of The Hills fame as Racked’s new health and wellness editor, who will helm a video series testing the workouts of the moment.
3) Racked’s launch cover story, Fashion Gateway Drugs, in which 36 of Racked’s favorite stylish people to talk about the moment they first fell in love with fashion. It features contributions ranging from Iris Apfel to Drew Barrymore.
4) And, just trust me on this — follow @RackedShopping on Instagram. It’s the start of a more shoppable Racked. Which is going to be insane.

As is this whole undertaking, as WWD reporter Alexandra Steigrad makes clear in this deep dive on the Racked relaunch which appears in today’s issue. (We ended up talking about ethics, which in a world as challenged as the fashion media, is actually a really big deal.) Bottom line, Team Racked is on it, and the new site finally gives them the tools they need to go crazy. Couldn’t happen to a more awesome team.

Monday’s List, Vox Media Edition

Been a little while since a Monday’s List, so let’s fire it back up. Apologies for the work-centric nature of this week’s list, but work is very much the theme of the week. Check back next Monday for smack talk unrelated to Vox Media and the fine people who work here.

In which Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias of Vox.com sit down with the sitting president of the United States, becoming the first pure digital news source to do so. The transcripts are fascinating because the conversation’s conducted at a very high level (NB Obama’s hilarious burn on Vox: “brainiac nerd types”), but the approach the Vox.com team took to the videos of the interview are where the real ground is broken. Check the transformation of the White House Maps room undertaken by the Vox team — a transformation that made possible the graphical wizardry unleashed in the clip above.

Meanwhile, at The Verge, Bill Gates is guest-editing the site for the month of February. What does that mean in practice? Nilay Patel explains: “Throughout February, Bill will be narrating episodes of our animated series The Big Future to explain and illustrate his vision… Gates is our guest editor, but we have promised his team that we’ll do serious independent journalism against these themes; we will present a complete picture of this future to you.” The first video, above, ran last week; the next one drops momentarily.

Obama and Gates is a whole lot for the first nine days of the month, but the 10th day of the month is bringing something equally momentous on another Vox Media site. Check back tomorrow for this annoying teaser to be FULLY REVEALED.

The Food Network maestro dropped by Eater last week for a live chat with Eater readers in the Eater Forum. Hilarity transpired, as did some real cooking advice. Looking forward to seeing more of these interactive conversations at Eater and elsewhere at Vox Media.


Every December, Curbed NY awards the Curbed Cup to the Neighborhood of the Year in New York City. This year, after a frenzied reader vote, the Bronx enclave of City Island took the cup. That’s all well and good, but where things really got fun was when the local media got all excited about the victory, and Curbed’s own Hana Alberts and Sara Polsky were invited out to a local bar this past weekend to celebrate with the locals. I couldn’t make the voyage, but there’s talk of a return visit this summer, which, rest assured, I will not miss.

Finally, we’re hiring up an absolute storm right now across editorial, product, sales, and corporate. Be the dream. Join us.

A Weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana


As we get older, traditions become more important. They are especially important when traditions are of the guys’ weekend variety. Example: We must all leave New York City and go somewhere fun for Super Bowl Weekend because we have always left New York City and gone somewhere fun for Super Bowl Weekend.

In fact, this year’s getaway was Super Bowl Weekend V, and really technically just Super Bowl Weekend IV because last year we substituted my bachelor party on the weekend previous to the big game. No matter. This year, for the first time together, the Hotline Crew would take New Orleans, a city where one of us went to law school, two of us have visited frequently, and two members of our crew — krewe? — had never set foot. Oh, and for the first time since the extremely ill-fated Super Bowl Weekend III, the Patriots would challenge for football’s world championship before the weekend was over.

My last visit to New Orleans came during Jazzfest in 2010 — a time before Airbnb, or at least before I’d ever heard of Airbnb. This time, it was the obvious choice, and we ended up in the three-story townhouse in the Lower Garden District seen above. Tremendous spot…


… and not just because the house was directly next door to the establishment Tacos and Beer, where the group of early arrivals enjoyed pre-dinner on Friday night. This patio would swell with Seahawks fans on Super Bowl Sunday, their cheers driving into my skull like rusty nails, but until then, hey — Tacos and Beer.


Restaurant report: all Donald Link all the time. We took Friday night dinner at Cochon, complete with fried oysters even larger than I remembered them. The vibe at Cochon is great, and though the food on this visit didn’t blow me away, hard to think of a better place to start a weekend of epic consumption.


After a late Friday and a lazy start to Saturday, lunch came in the form of a 20-sandwich platter pickup from Cochon’s next-door spinoff, Cochon Butcher. I am on record stating that their may be no finer establishment in the United States of America than Cochon Butcher, an opinion arrived at after lunching there back in 2010 and confirmed after this trip. They’ve more than doubled the size of the room, making it a much easier place to sit and lunch, and the menu’s grown as well [PDF], though we didn’t venture outside sandwiches on this trip despite MOP’s plea that the boudin is terrific. (Next time.) The Cochon Muffaletta, the cold roast beef, and a pressed-pork creation all absolutely killed it, along with sides of Brussels sprouts and potato salad.

The one glaring omission from our sandwich binge: the Blackboard Bacon Melt, which Eater’s Bill Addison recently declared the finest sandwich in the country. (Addison: “A genius construction of thick, crisp-soft cured pork layered with stewed collard greens, pepper aioli, and Swiss cheese on buttery toast. I crave it more than any other sandwich in America.”) Didn’t realize we’d missed it until Bill commented on my Instagram of the platter. Fuck.


After an afternoon wandering the French Quarter, getting our two Nola virgins up to speed on Cafe du Monde, then grabbing Buds at old favorite the Chart House, dinner went down at Peche, another Donald Link restaurant and one new to the city since my last visit. Last year, the James Beard Foundation handed its award for the best new restaurant in America to this place, which seemed as good a reason as any to try it.

The space — like Cochon, it’s in the old warehouse district — is airy and cool, and the vibe, like Cochon, active and fun. We went with a bunch of shared starters (the shrimp toast, though boring in name, is absolutely sublime) before splitting a large whole redfish sauced in salsa verde. Excellent. Would eat again.

After dinner, the crowd outside swelled for the Krewe de Vieux parade, one of the first in the season leading into Mardi Gras. Now, for various and uncertain reasons, we somehow managed to miss the parade, but we made it into the official afterparty, which: insanity. Next year we do it right and costume it up.


Super Bowl Sunday dawned warm and wet across the Bayou, and I walked around the corner from our rental to find the Cajun Boy and his renowned dog Sazerac. Cajun took me to this perfect hipster coffee spot, then toured me his house and neighborhood. The plan was to watch the game at a bar right by there, but fate had other ideas, and we ended up watching the game at our townhouse. It was a good game.

Monday dawned with several housemates having made a pre-dawn run to the airport. I followed in mid-morning to find flight into LGA already delayed two hours. Simple sleuthing made it clear that, with weather conditions deteriorating in New York, a flight out that afternoon wasn’t going to happen. When the departure time got pushed back to 6pm, I switched my flight to a Tuesday AM departure and headed back into the city.


Where, over a late lunch at Cochon Butcher, I finally ate the Blackboard Bacon Melt. Worth the whole trip. (Dined solo on Monday night at Sylvain in the French Quarter, which I’d also highly recommend. Good food but an alleyway-entrance vibe that entranced me. Like a divier version of McCrady’s in Charleston.)

Thanks, New Orleans, and thanks, New England Patriots. Les bon temps rouler.


Super Bowl XLIX

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For posterity, having recovered from spending Super Bowl Weekend in New Orleans, my assorted thoughts and observations on the New England Patriots 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

1) The memories from the nights when your team wins or loses it all tend to be blurry, sometimes because of beer, sometimes because of the moment. Sometimes both. Definitely both this past Sunday as the fourth quarter got underway and it felt like the Patriots were on the verge of getting blown out — right before the game took its third major swing and the Patriots powered back to win. From the start of the quarter to the goal-line with a minute to go, my lasting memory wasn’t the Edelman concussion play (though it was incredible) but the completion to a streaking Gronkowski across the middle for a 20-yard gain with 4:46 to go, which found me running into the adjacent bedroom, towards the kitchen, screaming and pumping my fist. That was the moment I felt sure the Patriots were going to win this game after all.

2) And yet. My realtime watch of the final minute of the game will never be reconstructed accurately. An attempt: I was standing behind a chair (?) as the clock dropped below the 1:00 mark and kept running; Jesse, somewhere to my front and right (?), screaming for Belichick to take the timeout. I can’t claim the clarity that I knew this to be Belichick’s finest moment, a belief which would by Wednesday pass into Patriots fan collective lore — but I also wasn’t screaming. I felt a certain peace, knowing that it would either happen or not happen, and all really fast. Then Wilson threw the screen pass across the middle that Malcolm Butler stepped up and picked off, my friends (all Giants fans and veterans of our horrid 2011 weekend) started congratulating me, and Jesse lost his mind over Pete Carroll’s call while I passed out (?).

3) Speaking of that Giants win in 2011, and that Giants win in 2008 — there’s something about the way sports plays out over time that’s not unlike how history itself can’t be written in the present. The bicycle catch by Kearse could have been the third in an unholy trinity. (In the moment, I tweeted this.) Instead, the way the game played out made both Giants catches fade into the distance, painful memories, sure, but all part of the path to the redemption of this past Sunday. I discovered this emotion as a Red Sox fan but never realized I’d feel it as a Patriots fan. I’m being straight up obnoxious about this because that’s really the whole reason to be a sports fan anyway.

4) When looking for the heroes of the Patriots offseason, my mind wanders back to January 10, the Divisional game between the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Early in the third quarter, when Baltimore had gone up by two touchtowns, I tweeted, “Very quiet at Rock Shop.” In patented reverse-jinx fashion, Boston scourge Mark Lisanti tweeted back at me:

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All of which is why I’m convinced this exchange won the Patriots the Super Bowl. Mark, your gift is on its way.

5) Speaking of Grantland, a shoutout to Bill Barnwell, who produces the deepest read on every NFL game every week seemingly minutes after the games end. The fact that this Super Bowl opus was online by the time I awoke on Monday is nothing short of miraculous.

6) Finally, the end of the Super Bowl settled the bet mentioned on this blog back in the fall. $100 to Harryh; kudos, sir, even though thanks to you, we’re still stuck with Goodell.

As ever, onwards. Go Pats. Is it Truck Day yet?

Momofuku Ko Wine Table


Joanne has the practice of not naming anyone she dines with on her blog. Admirable restraint. Here, it’s the opposite: if we’re dining together, expect to get namechecked. In fact, expect more than that: after a few more months, we’re reviving Ken’s genius idea from back in the day and finding out who the various personages here can take in a fight. Stick around for that; good times assured.

Long way of saying that I went to a very special dinner at the new Momofuku Ko on Extra Place in the East Village last week with Joanne and Ken and Michelle and Lindsey, and Joanne beat me to blogging it. As per usu, Joanne’s got the complete rundown, so I won’t double up effort here. The crux of the thing is that the new MomoKo has two six-person tables adjacent to the horseshoe-bar where patrons normally dine, and executive chef Sean Gray and team are creating an experience that’s entirely different from the “normal” MomoKo deal — which, based on a friends and family tasting back in November, remains sublime unto itself.

Dave Chang explained it to me thusly: “I want the people at the bar to be jealous of the people at the tables, and I want the people at the tables to be jealous of the people at the bar.”

And so it shall be, eventually. We were only the second party to dine at the tables, which are being crafted as a wine-first experience by MomoSomm extraordinaire Jordan Salcito. Jordan and I talked in the days leading up to the dinner and picked four amazing wines to accompany what turned out to be a nine-course meal, depending on how you count things like amuses and canapes. Everything was a highlight, but especially the raw platter…


… which everyone couldn’t not Instagram, even as Jordan and Sean looked on…


… because the thing was it was a GIANT FISH STUFFED WITH SASHIMI, and that’s sort of the thing that in my experience one is drawn to Instagram. Pity the amazing uni atop pureed watercress, served with this course but in separate bowls, that didn’t merit the photographic attention.


We were told there’d be pie, but who knew it would be meat pie, even after they showed us two perfectly roasted pheasants then severed up cuts from them alongside, both bathed in foie gras and black truffle sauce? If this isn’t one of my five favorite courses of 2015, then 2015 will have been a really, really good year.


And that after that, we’d get an entire Tribute to an American Steakhouse, with creamed spinach encased in parker house rolls and twice-baked potatoes served along with the New York Strip? And yet, like Joanne, I wasn’t overly full either. It’s possible we’ve genetically adapted in some unforeseen way; studies to follow.

We finished with dessert and then canapes and still more wine. Mercy. All-in, we came to this conclusion: the Momo folks are crazier than ever, and God bless them for it.


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[Duck carnitas at Cosme; photo by Daniel Krieger for Eater]

One goal for this blog is to use only photography taken by yours truly, but that’s not going to work for Cosme, the stunning Mexican restaurant from famed Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera that opened last fall. Cosme is shoehorned into one of those mid-block spaces endemic to the Flatiron which feature a small wall of windows facing the street and a space that stretches back into a forever darkness behind. This layout works well for few places, but it works at Cosme, especially since the owners torn down a wall halfway back in the restaurant that initially separated the bar area from the dining room. It’s a dark room, to be sure, but it works for the food, which is pretty much universally agreed to be great.

I’ve had two big meals at Cosme over the past two months, the most recent in the restaurant’s private dining room with a group of eight. Even more than the restaurant itself, the PDR is a dark den, made worse by the lack of noise baffles that made our dinner an echoey cacophony. At most restaurants, this would have been a huge problem. But the Cosme team made up for it as it does, with the food.

I haven’t had a bad dish at Cosme — or even a mediocre one. Everything here shines. Our PDR dinner was divided into five courses, with two or three family-style offerings per course. Course one, seafood: scallop aguachile, smoked raw sepia, octopus cocktail. Course two, vegetables: eggplant tamal, white ayocote bean sald, burrata with salsa verde and weeds. Course three, more seafood: broiled red snapper, half lobster pibil. Then, finally, the meat, which while fish and vegetables star here, must be seen to be believed. Which is why I’m putting Krieger’s photo of the duck carnitas at the top of this post (equally worthy are the other parts of our the fourth course: cobia al pastor and the New York strip steak tacos).


The one photo I took that wasn’t terrible was the dessert course seen above (clockwise from top): husk meringue with corn mousse, sweet potato flan, and a chocolate ganache with mezcal and blood orange. As good as the rest of the meal was, this course may have been the highlight.

As our dinner wound down, someone in our crew spotted Pete Wells eating in the dining room. He hasn’t yet filed for the Times on Cosme. The immediate debate that erupted at our table about whether the place would get three stars — it couldn’t get four, right? Right? — recalled the early days of BruniBetting. And confirmed Cosme as a restaurant worthy of all the chatter it’s receiving.

Blizzard* of 2015

[Pickup football on Peck Slip last night.]

I found myself bursting with manic energy last night after getting home from work. An impending blizzard will do that to me: it’s part of the deal of growing up in New England. I traded phone calls with Bro Steele and Mom Steele in Massachusetts, then bided some time until I figured the snow would really start dumping by researching past NYC blizzards. My first big one was the April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997; more recently, I remember well the December 2010 storm that Lindsey and I raced in our car from Christmas in Massachusetts down through Connecticut, grinding out the last 50 miles at 25 miles an hour in blinding snow then finding ourselves in a late-night Lower East Side winter wonderland.

But my most memorable NYC storm — caveat: not counting Sandy — goes to the Presidents’ Day blizzard of 2003. It sticks in the mind because I had a couple, an Australian and a New Zealander, staying on the floor of my one-bedroom apartment that weekend. I’d met them traveling in Northern India in the summer of 2001, when they were on month 18 of an around-the-world journey that had so far cost them $6,000. By 2003, they were heading to South America by way of New York City, and might they crash on my floor for two days to save a few bucks? When the storm hit and their flight got rescheduled from Monday until Thursday, they offered to move out and find a hostel, but I told them no way and in return for the extended hospitality, they painted this wall of my place red.

Everyone who ever hung out at my old apartment, at 110 Rivington Street, has heard that story. Sorry about that.

The other lasting memory from that blizzard was going to Alexis’ apartment for the finale of Joe Millionaire — a wonderful show and a memory confirmed by my diary of the snow day I found last night while searching the web for a passage from a William Gibson novel in which two characters walk down a street in Soho or Nolita in the middle of a New York City blizzard. (I failed to find the passage. I think it’s in Pattern Recognition, which it seems I was reading during the storm in 2003. Huh.)

The Blizzard of 2015 ended up being a bust, dropping about 8″ down here at the Seaport. Were I to construct a numbered list a la LS.com 2003, it would read something like this:

1) Stood in a line wrapping around FiDi food store Zeytuna to procure cherry tomatoes, the one critical recipe piece that the wife hadn’t been able to procure at Whole Foods.
2) After dinner — chicken with shallots and tomatoes — I suggested that we walk down the block to enjoy a beer at Paris Cafe, our local, before the heavy bands of snow moved back in. Bundled up and ran down the street to find Paris pitch dark, shuttered up tight. Stupid 11pm subway curfew.
3) Back at the apartment, between episodes of our Season 2 of The-Wire-Now-in-HD rewatch, enjoyed observing various permutations of fun in the snow in the open median that runs down the middle of Peck Slip. This space had been occupied by construction equipment for years until the end of last summer when the work wrapped up and the city tossed some blacktop over it, with promises of a landscaped park to come. (About this, more someday soon.) Scaped in white, it played home last night to several snowball fights and a pickup football game. Today, it was filled with kids cavorting on the snow. Score one for public space.
4) And score one for my beloved Quinciple, which braved the storm to get our delivery through last night. Solid effort in an underwhelming storm.

A Weekend in Texas

[Sunset over Hilton Garden Inn, Tyler, TX]

I love Texas. A pet theory of mine holds that the two greatest states in the Union are Maine and Texas, which means the Bush Family pretty much wins at life. So be it: both states are amazing in totally different ways, and I’m always excited for a trip to Lone Star territory.

This past weekend, Linds and I took a quick trip down thataway to the city of Tyler, Texas, to visit her Aunt Mary. Everything I know about Tyler I learned from Aunt Mary over the past two days: first, that it’s considered an old-money oil town; second, that it’s a whole lot fancier than I would have expected for a place a two-hour drive southwest of Dallas, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; third, that everyone there roots for the Cowboys, the idea of rooting for a Houston team sounding hilarious, if not hysterical.

We flew into Love Field (DAL) on Friday evening, an experience so superior to landing at DFW that I can’t believe I didn’t know this was an option until now. In all the ways DFW is remote and impossible, DAL is easy: directly adjacent to the downtown, with light and airy terminals. (Bonus: one need not drive past AT&T/Cowboy Stadium on the way towards wherever one is going after leaving the airport.) After landing, we made a quick escape from the Dallas environs, hit up the requisite pitstop at a Chik-fil-a off I-20, then drove a couple hours through the badlands of Texas to Tyler.

Our weekend was spent mostly at Aunt Mary’s house, entertaining our nephew and niece, in Tyler with their mother (Lindsey’s sister) and Dad. We did break out of the house for lunch on Saturday, because when in Rome:

[Jalapeno Tree — Crazy Good Mexican Food!]

As solid as this joint turned out to be — and, for a fast-casual chain, it actually was just fine — get the quail kebabs — it wasn’t the best of what Texas has to offer, dining-wise. This wasn’t our trip for culinary exploration, but based on a Spring 2013 Texas dining roadtrip that I embarked on with Eater’s Amanda Kludt, here’s what you need to know: Austin is overrated, Dallas gets it done, but all the best places are in Houston.

Futher proof of these claims come from Eater roving critic Bill Addison, who named one spot from Dallas and two from Houston to his National 38 list earlier this month, while snubbing Austin completely. The two spots Bill chose in Houston — Underbelly and Oxheart — blew Amanda and I away too, as they have just about every major dining critic who has passed through town in recent years. We loved our meal at The Pass and Provisions as well. Bottom line: do not sleep on Houston. It’s one of the best cities in America right now for a weekend dining getaway.

If one needed an excuse for another Texas dining roadtrip, the gas prices seen outside of Tyler this weekend — similar to those seen near Dallas, too — certainly provide it:


Next weekend, New Orleans. Brace.

Shall We Lunch?

The New York City media world owes something to Quantum Theory in the sense that all trends about the New York Media world are true, until one of them is observed and written about. At which point that trend ceases to be true, leaving only all the other trends.

This thought occurred to me anew while reading John Koblin’s Styles piece today on the death of the Power Lunch among the younger New York mediaset. John interviewed me for the story, and included a quote of mine that I’m immensely proud of: “Just walking down the street to go to Pain Quotidien is considered a massive, impressive lunch move.”

Whether or not this is entirely accurate is a measure of some dispute, but let’s take stock of the larger issue here. If lunches are OUT, what are we to make of this Styles piece from 2007 that declared that, among the young movers, power breakfasts are most definitely IN? I’ll let the me of back then make the case from a Balthazar banquette:

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New York media and Quantum Theory being what they are, I expect to be around and be quoted in 2021 when the Styles section declares afternoon snacking either absolutely IN or deeply, completely OUT.