Summer Travel: Maine #twlsb

The place I spend the most time in the summer outside of NYC is Maine. My family has a house on Prouts Neck, a small colony on the Atlantic Ocean between Kennebunkport and Portland. I’ve been coming here my whole life, as my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather did before me. I’m typing these words from the screened porch of my house, readying for the Labor Day weekend.

Here now, to round out August, photos from this summer in Maine. (Bonus: all content original to LS.com; no Instagram repeats. Must credit LS.com.)

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June dandelions.

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Checkley Point in June, at its most perilous.

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Upstairs at Eastways in July.

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The original #sunsetgrammer, in his element, late July.

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Late July crew at the Black Point Inn. (Okay, one Instagram rerun.)

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Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, on a hike last weekend made possible when my brother and I ventured up the coast to Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

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View from the Bubble at Acadia, top of our hike.

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Northeast Harbor garden in August.

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Eastways garden in late August.

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Late August goldenrod along the Prouts shore.

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Sunset from the PNYC, last weekend.

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Dusk over Scarborough Beach.

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Stratton Island, a nature preserve owned by the Audubon Society, famed for its terns and seal colony, in late August.

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Picnic on Stratton Island, late August.

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Kayaking with my brother, end of the afternoon today.

Another great summer in the land #twlsb. Now, commencing the long weekend before getting back to it next week in NYC. Catch you then.

Summer Travel: Stockholm, Sweden

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Our week in Scandinavia finished with two days in Stockholm, a city I’d never been to before. Having visited, I’m now convinced that we’re going to move here, maybe tomorrow.

Stockholm in mid-August is pretty close to heaven. Above, the view from our room at the Hotel Diplomat, which we could have stared at the entire trip and left happy having never exited our room. Everything we’d heard about Stockholm turned out to be true: a fabulously cosmopolitan city, spread across a series of islands, with stunning architecture and an even more stunning local population.

Our friend Rachel, who works for a company headquartered in Helsinki, met us in Stockholm and instructed us upon our midday arrival on Sunday to meet her at the restaurant Milles, which opens right onto a major promenade and ferry terminal. By this time, my wife, who is famous for loving and/or hating things, and often forming such opinions within two minutes, had already decided that she LOVED Stockholm — a decision that took her approximately two minutes to arrive at after we landed at the airport. But sitting out on the promenade, drenched in sun, people-watching and eating a perfect brunch confirmed her snap judgement.

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For the rest of the day we just followed Rachel everywhere. Afternoon stroll along the waterfront — where every barge, boat, and seaside bar looked better than the next — led into the Djurgarden, a huge public park, and then to open fields of flowers and vegetable gardens, and then into the sort of huge, open-air restaurant Bushwick can only dream about, Rosendals Trädgård. Wandering back into town, I discovered the joy of the Aperol spritz while sunset cocktailing on the patio of the Lydmar Hotel. We strolled from Lydmar through the picture-perfect streets to dinner.

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Rachel had dined at Nybrogatan 38 — I took the 38 in the name as further proof that this city really gets it — a few nights before but declared it our move. We ate outside as dusk fell, consuming quantities of wine including but not limited to those in the bucket above.

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Rachel left us Monday morning, and we spent the day walking the city, checking off a few items from the Stockholm tourist itinerary: the Vasamuseum, the old town, and some serious shopping at upscale department store extraordinaire NK. For our final night, we booked a dinner cruise out into the archipelago outside of Stockholm, possibly the best decision we made all trip. Even given that my wife LOVES dinner cruises, it was something special, ferrying us from Stockholm (above)…

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To the town of Vaxholm (above), two hours later, just in time for sunset.

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Stockholm. We will be back. Maybe tomorrow.

Summer Travel: Noma

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When Eater editor Gabe Ulla told me he needed to talk to me last fall, I knew it meant bad news. “If you’re leaving us to go to Bon Appetite, I’m going to kill you,” I said.

“Actually, I am giving notice,” Gabe said, “but to move to Copenhagen and work for Rene Redzepi at Noma.” Alrighty then. Probably the best giving of notice in work history, nbd.

Rene and the Noma team run the annual MAD Food Symposium, this year’s edition of which just wrapped up in Copenhagen. It post-dated our trip by a few weeks so we couldn’t make it, but they probably wouldn’t have let us in even if we could have: for 300 available seats, this year MAD received over 5,000 ticket requests. (Eater’s Amy McKeever made the cut, however, and covered it extensively for the site, if you’re interested.)

When I spoke with him early in the summer, Gabe was in a frenzy getting ready for MAD, which he’s overseeing. What Gabe could do for us, though, was get us a reservation at Noma. Which we walked up to, through the streets of the neighborhood, with Gabe, who left us for his office and pointed us in the direction of the front door. Where, out front watering the greenery, stood Rene Redzepi, who greeted us with a hearty handshake.

What follows are some of my photographs from the meal, which stretched to 20-plus courses. The first dozen or so were the small bites, followed by more substantial dishes. The menu, given the season, used very little meat; our extensive wine pairing featured only white wines. The names below are Noma’s, from the menu they gave us as a take-away.

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Flower tart.

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Peas and radishes.

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Flatbread and wild roses.

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Burnt onion and walnut.

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Blackberries. (My favorite course, seemingly just berries in a briny broth. Sensing my excitement, Lindsey sternly advised me, “Do not try this at home.”)

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Butternut squash and caviar. (Equally unreal.)

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Beef tartare and ants. (Note expression. Proved delicious.)

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Turbot and nasturtium. (Final savory course.)

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After the savories, they encouraged us to take a stroll outside, along the waterfront. Talked to a professor from Cornell unsurprisingly thrilled to be dining at Noma. Then it was back inside for dessert, and a tour of the establishment and the mad scientist labs they’ve got going out back. (The arms race between the world’s top kitchens is honestly a bit terrifying.)

Thanks to Gabe, Rene, and the Noma Team for an unbelievable evening. Given fair winds and following seas, we’ll be back.

Summer Travel: Copenhagen, Denmark

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I’d visited Copenhagen once before, in 1998—to see Phish, of course. Given the city’s unlikely transformation into The World’s Most Important Food City™, I’d been looking to get back. The excuse came in the form of an invitation from my old friend Rufus and his partner Stephen to join them at their house north of Copenhagen in early August to celebrate Ruf’s 40th birthday. Linds and I decided to go bigger than just the party and spend four days in Copenhagen, then head up to Stockholm for a couple bonus days of vacation.

The Danes were not feeling us on our first day (or, really, any day). Check-in at our hotel, Bertrams Guldsmeden, was met with two separate lectures from management about how, by changing the schedule of nights we planned to spend at the hotel, we’d put their entire existence at risk. Then our cab driver treated us like idiots. First smile we got from anyone local was a waiter as we ate a late lunch at one of the touristy Italian joints along the Nyhavn Canal (above).

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Our first night’s dinner was at Amass, a year-old restaurant that chef Matt Orlando’s former boss, Rene Redzepi, said might just be “Europe’s opening of the year.” No pressure. The restaurant’s in a remote corner of Copenhagen that resembles pre-Ikea Red Hook, and the space’s industrial feel echoes that. Walking down the stairs into Amass, the sunset view above greeted us, as did two glasses of rosé.

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Amass has its own garden out back, and the staff suggested we enjoy the rosé out there to watch the sunset. Uh, yes.

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The space at Amass is key to getting the food, which is worthy of a chef with Per Se and the Fat Duck on his resume, but somehow looser. And Nordic, in its way, as in the dish above, which I think is a potato preparation dressed with marigolds? (I really should take better notes. Who knew I’d start blogging again?) Matt the chef came out and chatted with us, which he seemed to do with everyone, and was just the nicest guy with the biggest dreams. This place deserves its hype.

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One odd thing about Copenhagen is that, surveying friends who’d been to and lived in the city about where we should eat, there was near-unaminity about everything. Perhaps that means the city isn’t quite as vibrant as it could be, but it’s hard to complain when the tips all pay off. Thursday, our first full day in town, we spent the morning on Jægersborggade, a hip street in the hip neighborhood of Nørrebro. Coffee at Coffee Collective, which some hold to be the best coffee in the world (it was real good); pastry at Meyers Bageri across the street; jewelry shopping at a cute little shop a bit down that way; then back up the street to lunch at Manfreds (above).

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Of Manfreds, a very aware food-world friend emailed us, “If you go anywhere to eat, eat here.” And sitting outside for a casual lunch in the middle of August is everything that Europe in summer is about. (Including bees. Which plagued our lunch here and subsequent outdoor lunches across Scandinavia, such that #bees became our hashtag of the trip.) But man this food delivered. Above, an exquisite tartare — which they’re big on here — and grilled cabbage. Which, if I learned anything on this trip, it is: grill everything all the time.

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After Manfreds, an afternoon of sightseeing around Copenhagen. Above, Rosenborg Slot, “slot” being Dane-speak for castle.

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Dinner at Thursday night was at Noma. About which, more tomorrow. Before the dinner, we met up with our man at Noma, former Eater editor Gabe Ulla, who treated us to a dock hang outside Ved Stranden, after we’d had an early cocktail at the very cool cocktail bar Ruby down the block, where we’d somehow return after Noma.

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Friday, we somehow got up and checked out of the hotel, breakfasted at the nearby Granola because several friends had checked in there previously on Foursquare (good call), then picked up a rental car and headed north to the coastal town of Tisvildeleje on Gabe’s recommendation. Word from Gabe was that Copenhagen restaurant Atelier September had a pop-up going at the Tisvildeleje Strandhotel, and that’s where we lunched. Lindsey, above, on the veranda, in one of the few moments of this lunch not beset by #bees.

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Okay so seriously how does Joanne do these kind of travel-photo blog posts on such a regular basis? I’ve been working on this one for way too long now, and people are beginning to notice. So in the interest of wrapping this up and hitting publish: Friday dinner, Rufus (above, holding court) took a group of friends to restaurant Geist, near the Nyhavn Canal back in Copenhagen. It was the kind of dinner where the table orders one of everything on the menu and drinks to excess. This is another place that’s on everyone’s Copenhagen to-eat list, so sure, add it to yours too.

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Saturday morning, took a run up the coast of Denmark to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. That’s a sculpture by someone called Calder, above.

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Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen spent table and store hopping with new friends made at Friday’s dinner, the rainstorm problematic only insofar as we had one umbrella for four people. Upside: no #bees.

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Furniture browsing at Klassik, because Copenhagen. How great is that bench with the fold-down arms?

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And then the 40th birthday party we’d come all this way for on Saturday night. (Linds and I dressed to impress, above.) And an evening for the ages, but not one that should or will be blogged about here. What happens in Copenhagen, stays in Copenhagen. #bees

Summer Travel: Nashville and Blackberry Farm

Clearly, the master plan is working: this morning brings the news that Elizabeth Spiers is returning to personal blogging. As the founding editor of Gawker, Elizabeth was pretty much the first person to link regularly to this here blog, so things really are coming full circle. She’s going to try to do the one-post-a-day thing, so we can hold each other accountable for that. As she likes to say, “Muahahahahaha.”

The two one-post-a-day bloggers that I based my goal on are, of course, Joanne Wilson and Fred Wilson. It’s their practice of daily blogging that I’m looking to emulate here. And one type of post that I intend to steal from Joanne is the travel post. If you’re not a regular GothamGal reader, Joanne is the master of a certain style of travelogue-slash-photoblogging, whether she’s chronicling a day in Berlin or a meal at Alinea. I don’t expect to match Joanne when it comes to recording every detail of a day or a meal, but I do like travelblogging. So in this mellow last week of August, before fall really starts, I’m going to blog about some of my summer travel.

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I’d never been to Nashville before, so when Pando asked me to speak at the Southland conference in early June, I immediately said yes. All one needs do is study the photograph above that I took of the burger at Husk Nashville to know it was the right call.

Nashville blew me away. I was blessed with the guidance of Eater Nashville editor Matt Rogers in navigating the city’s food scene. Where we ate: Rolf & Daughters (solo dinner at the bar my first night in town, fantastic); Husk for lunch the next day (didn’t love the vibe as much as Husk Charleston, but the food is just as good); then an aggressive second-night crawl of new places; capped by a final day lunch at Arnold’s Country Kitchen for traditional Meat+3.

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The second night crawl started at Pinewood Social, a combination hipster coffee shop, sprawling bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. (That’s my wife, Matt, and Eater’s Amanda Kludt in the bar-ish portion of the place, above.) Holy hell. We didn’t get to taste the food, which is overseen by former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger, but the cocktails were great. (We also didn’t get to Catbird Seat itself on this trip because the place is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) From there it was on to The 404 Kitchen, a restaurant attached to a new hotel and itself housed in a re-purposed storage container, and then to Josephine, a New American newcomer. All fantastic. Nashville!

Southland, by the way, turned out to be the best conference-type-thing I’ve ever attended. Sarah Lacy did a string of great on-stage interviews, and there was the standard start-up competition, but where the event really excelled was in all the ways a normal conference doesn’t. Amazing Nashville BBQ for lunch. A giant dance party after the day’s programming ended. And, for those who could extend their trip, VIP passes and transport to Bonnaroo. If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Nashville, come to Southland next June.

As happy as I would have been to hop on to Bonnaroo after Nashville, Amanda and I had other ideas. Namely, a three-hour drive east into the Great Smoky Mountains, destination Blackberry Farm.

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About half an hour outside of Knoxville, Blackberry Farm is on the list of food-lover destinations that you gotta hit up at least once. (Joanne beat me to it.) It’s a sprawling property with a lodge, private cabins, a giant converted barn for dining, lakeside gazebos, and all the attendant activities: horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, and, natch, eating. When I first stepped out of the lodge, the above view greeted me. “So it’s going to be like that,” I instagrammed.

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Here’s my cottage, tucked into the forest below the ridgeline.

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And here’s me on the golf cart they gave us to get around.

Amanda and I had a bit of business to conduct at the farm: an interview with Eater Young Guns semi-finalist Liz Williams, Blackberry Farm’s pastry supervisor, which included a pastry tasting. Which followed a tasting of cheese made on the farm. Which preceded the tasting menu dinner, which might have been the only letdown of the trip — an oversauced, overly heavy meal that felt like a tasting menu straight out of 1996. Turns out the dinner at Blackberry Farm isn’t the reason to go.

But, still go.

Restaurant of the Summer 2014

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[Photo by Daniel Krieger/Eater]

Everyone knows that Charlie Bird was the Restaurant of the Summer for New York City in 2013. So who wears the crown in 2014?

Each restaurant of the summer contender shares a few key characteristics. First, it opens for business sometime in the spring or early summer, no later than July 1. Second, it’s got a design and vibe that feels like summer, and ideally even a certain take on a certain kind of summer. Third, delicious food. And finally, it must be the kind of place you find yourself going back to without really thinking about it.

Back in June, I had a great dinner at The Clam on Hudson, a seafood restaurant from Market Table’s Mike Price. But I didn’t find myself going back. The first time I went to Team Carmellini’s Bar Primi on The Bowery, though, I knew I’d be back again. And I was, hitting it up on consecutive Monday/Tuesday/Mondays, three straight weeks. It took until the second time there to learn that the the dish to order is the Fiore di Carciofi (above), of which Eater critic Ryan Sutton wrote, “Contemplate the artichokes. Lamboglia folds the meaty vegetable into a pudding-like mixture of mascarpone and eggs, pipes it into a long tube of pasta, bends it like Play-Doh and finishes the affair with smoked bacon. It is essentially what lasagna would taste like if it were shaped like a pinwheel and prepared by a chef with a Michelin-star, an accolade that Carmellini is long overdue for.”

Bar Primi took over the old Peels space, which seems appropriate insofar as there was perhaps never a more disappointing restaurant in recent downtown dining history than Peels. The old Curbed office was a few blocks away, so we were there on opening day, savoring the biscuit program, and again soon after when they rolled out a fried chicken sandwich you could carry away in a bag. But over time, the issues accumulated: surly staff, inconsistent food, and, most oddly, the fact that Michael Wolff was sitting at the counter most every morning I went in for coffee.

The upstairs room of Peels, though, was always gorgeous, and it’s basically the same vibe now at Bar Primi, with the bar slightly reconfigured. It’s a great summery room, airy and bright. And it’s got a great chef, obviously; worth noting that on my three-week Monday/Tuesday/Monday run, AC was in the kitchen each time. All of which helps to make Bar Primi the Restaurant of the Summer 2014.

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[Photo by Daniel Krieger/Eater]

But in a twist, Summer 2014 in Manhattan features a second, equally worthy, restaurant of the summer. It’s Claudette, a new restaurant on Lower Fifth Avenue from Carlos Suarez. I’m a regular at Rosemary’s, Suarez’s joint on West 10th. Claudette’s a harder place to be a regular but one hell of a great place for a summer dinner. In a genius move, Suarez ripped off the old greenhouse that extended onto Fifth Avenue and handicapped restaurants like Cru that once occupied this space. Now, with the tall doors thrown open to Fifth Avenue, it’s a totally different place. The menu here is Mediterranean by way of the south of France (get the chicken tagine or fresh fish). All of which helps to make Claudette the Second Restaurant of the Summer 2014.

And now, without further ado, onward to fall.

The Retro-Futuristic Future of Eater

In the Department of Sheer Coincidence, at almost exactly the moment that I started this blog back up, Ben Leventhal published this interview with Adam Kuban, the man behind the original New York City pizza blog, Slice. This portion of the interview plays as a perfect coda to my posts from yesterday:

But it’s an interesting thing. That kind of voice and personality is exactly what made the site successful.

I think that’s what readers connected with, not only on Slice or Hamburger Today or Serious Eats. But, blogs in general. That was what people connected with. That’s why there were blogs and there was the mainstream media. As blogs became more professional, they lost some of that craziness. I miss the early days when you could just get up a post about whatever and just kind of express yourself without really thinking about page views, thinking about SEO, thinking about how it will play on Twitter, if it’s shareable on Facebook … I do miss the sense that you were making it up as you went along. Now there’s a formula to things. There’s a way to do a lifestyle blog. There’s a way to do a recipes blog. You have to have beautiful photos. You have to have giveaways.

Doesn’t that suck?

It does. It is formulaic. It all kind of blends into the same voice. “Look, we have a giveaway from Kitchen-Aid. Fun!” It’s a little sad to see what was once my baby kind of lingering there. Languishing.

Eater, as Ben notes in his intro to his interview with Adam, has undergone more change in the past six months than in its nine-year history as a result of Vox’s investment in the site and team. Which is unbelievably exciting. And yet the biggest changes haven’t yet come to light. For the past six months, the Vox Product team has also been in the trenches with Team Eater, prepping the biggest visual overhaul to the site that we’ve ever done in conjunction with Eater’s move onto Vox’s publishing platform, Chorus. The results are set to be unveiled next month. If ever this word felt appropriate: brace.

But nostalgia for the old days is palpable with Team Eater, too. Which is why I got excited when I noticed several crucial friends of Eater talking on Twitter that perhaps a gala nostalgic throwback is in order before Eater takes its great leap forward. Could we be talking new IMterviews, people? The mind boggles.

And there’ll be a giveaway from Kitchen-Aid. Fun!

Back to the Blog

OldLS.com Homepage[LS.com homepage, September 2001]

I sat on the roof of my apartment building last week with my old friend Jonny Porkpie, talking to him about this idea I had to relaunch my personal blog. Jonny, thinking it over, didn’t encourage or discourage me. Instead, he asked, “Should I relaunch my blog too?”

Which is really the perfect reply. Back then, we’d had a ton of stupid fun linking to each other’s blog posts for no other reason than that they existed and that it amused us greatly. Who wouldn’t want back in on that?

Regardless, as I wrote on The Verge, I am bringing back this blog. My goal is to write one item a day, every weekday, more or less, starting today. Some of the posts will be about Vox Media, in the spirit of increasing the transparency into the editorial side of the company in my role as Editorial Director. But this is not primarily a promotional undertaking, because that would suck. I’ll also blog about restaurants, travel, the South Street Seaport, the great city of Charleston, the great state of Maine, ephemera, nonsense, whatever. My hope is to relearn the practice of daily blogging, which used to be the most effortless thing in the world for me but now feels terrifying.

Back then, too, Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void used to say  blogging is a great way to make things happen indirectly. In my case, the blogging I did here about my old neighborhood, the Lower East Side, somehow led to the creation of Curbed. My restaurant blogging on Below 14th unexpectedly served as a prototype for Eater.

Can blogging — Jesus fuck, blogging! — still open unseen doors? Seems highly unlikely.

Perfect. So with big thanks to Casey Gollan for getting me set up in this renovated Web Presence home, here goes again.

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Activity for this web presence happens these days at the LS.com Tumblr Outpost. Drop by.

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And watch this space. We’ll get Tumblr integrated over here eventually, and LS.com will be new and magical and bright.