Monthly Archives: April 2015

Curbed’s Rearchitecting

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 3.47.44 PM
[Photo courtesy Max Touhey/Curbed NY]

I’m sitting here at my desk in the Vox Media office as I type these words. Next to me, the Curbed team (which has encroached on my island) is talking about the new Whitney Museum that just opened in the Meatpacking District. As the only resident of New York that did not attend a pre-opening event at Whitney MePa, I can’t share an opinion of my own, but Curbed’s editor-in-chief Kelsey Keith just observed of Renzo Piano’s building, “It’s like a cruise ship docked on the High Line.” That’s a good thing (I think).

Speaking of Kelsey and the Whitney and Curbed, today the site ran its review of the new Whitney by Curbed’s new architecture critic, Alexandre Lange. This is Lange’s second piece for Curbed, following the announcement of her appointment and her debut column last week on the nutty (yet delicious?) Pier 55 design concept.

I’ve been a longtime reader of Lange’s in publications ranging from Dwell to New York Magazine, so I was thrilled when Kelsey said she was bringing her on at Curbed. This hire — as well as the addition of Asad Syrkett, who recently joined Curbed from Architectural Digest and is sitting to my immediate right as I continue to type these words — marks the beginning of Vox Media’s investment in Curbed leading up to its relaunch later this year. Just as Eater invested in serious restaurant criticism at a time when local newspapers are cutting back on it (and won a James Beard Award for it), so too does Kelsey perceive an opportunity for Curbed to publish deeper criticism about the built environment at a time of increasing scarcity of same. I’m extremely pumped about this.

If you despise words but don’t mind looking at photography, well, Curbed’s got you there too. Check this post on Curbed NY by photographer Max Touhey which captures the new Whitney from literally every possible angle. Literally every single one. All. Every.

Meantime, as I noted moments ago to everyone sitting in my vicinity in the Vox office, I’m still marinating on my landmark review of One World Trade Center. While other critics rushed to file on the tower, I have kept my powder dry, gathering thoughts and observations, stringing together two- and three-word phrases and rhymes. The time is drawing closer when I will publish my review of 1WTC in this very space. Perhaps even by summer. Time will tell.

Onstage

unnamed

Now that it’s clear to all that I’m back to daily blogging (three = trend), here’s a completely gratuitous photograph of me onstage at Digital Content Europe in London last week, talking Vox Media. This presentation followed one the previous week that Vox Media Creative Director Chad Mumm and I gave onstage at MIPTV in Cannes, France.

“Cannes? Oh, it’s an armpit,” Mom Steele remarked when I told her the plans for my trip. She wasn’t exactly wrong — I knew what she meant, at least — but I’d never been to the South of France and I figured going there in mid-April from New York would not be worst thing. Nor was Cannes’ old harbor non-charming, nor was the food at Da Laura not completely delicious both times I lunched there.

But there’s something funny about these industry gatherings: the main outcome of them appears to be getting oneself invited to more of them. Vox hosted a lunch for MIP attendees my last day in Cannes, at which numerous persons associated with other conferences lined up to invite me/Vox to their conference. Nothing wrong with a nice invitation, and I’ll probably go to at least one of them, because I’ve always wanted to see Antarctica. But as Ezra Klein pointed out to me when I was hanging out at the Vox office in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, the problem with conferences is that arguably the best thing that can happen at them — meeting talent you’d like to hire — tends to happen less often the fancier the conference is.

He’s surely right. Yet abstractions of the conferences world aside, I do love going onstage in front of an audience. The gathering in London in particular was very savvy about Vox Media and deeply fascinated by what we’re doing, so it blossomed into a great conversation. Inside Vox, we’re getting better and better about talking about what we do in these kind of public settings. This Thursday, we’ll put that to the test when Vox showcases at Newfronts for the first time at a big theater in midtown Manhattan. Full report from the front lines to follow.

It’s Eater Hack Week

Damn @qualityrye

A photo posted by Amanda Kludt (@kludt) on

Last Friday night, for the first time in years, I skipped the James Beard Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards. This proved to be a seriously genius move on my part: with my jinx out of the equation, Eater racked up three Beard Awards, this first ever bestowed upon the publication. (Here’s a complete rundown of the winners.)

What’s especially cool about the awards that Eater won is that they came in the two main areas that Editor-in-Chief Amanda Kludt chose to invest in following Eater’s acquisition by Vox: restaurant reviews and feature writing. Eater’s lead critic, Ryan Sutton, was honored for his data-forward approach to restaurant criticism, specifically for three reviews: “Artisanal-Everything Roberta’s Defies the Stereotypes,” “Once an Icon, Per Se is Showing its Age,” and “Six Reasons Why Cosme is One of NYC’s Most Relevant New Restaurants.” For my money, Sutton’s Per Se review was his best of the year, spotlighting how his fascination with restaurant pricing can further inform a review that would already have been a powerhouse without the added angle. (Sutton remains on a roll in 2015, bestowing four stars on Momofuku Ko last week.)

On the features side, Kludt hired Helen Rosner to head the Eater features team. That move paid off in not one but two Beard Awards for the same essay, John DeVore’s wonderful Life In Chains: Finding Home at Taco Bell. DeVore won the Beard for best personal essay along with the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Never prouder of the Eater team.

Meantime, it’s Monday morning in the big city, and the kickoff of Eater’s first-ever Hack Week. Inspired by the Hack Week that The Verge did last August — the very one that roused this blog back to life! — numerous members of the Vox Media product team and the Eater editorial team are gathering at an offsite location in Chelsea all week long for a series of workshops, brainstorms, and building. This sort of radical collaboration is what we do best at Vox Media, and what’s likely to come out of Eater Hack Week are new ways to tell stories as well as a better understanding of how we can collaborate in the future.

I’ll be dropping by the Eater Hack Week venue whenever I can, mostly just to listen. Well, and, if someone will let me, maybe to touch one of those James Beard Award medals.

Maine’s Spring Rebirth

3FB73BF0-F8AC-4B37-8744-D2ED74A924EA
[Ramps! At Eastways!]

It’s a cold, gray Sunday morning on the Maine coast. Spring comes sloooooowly here. In the garden, the peonies have yet to break through the soil (though, to their credit, the lilies are off to the races). Trees are bare. But underfoot, around the yard, vibrant clumps of green leaves, sprung fully-formed from the last of the snowmelt: ramps! Turns out our property is awash in them — here they are coming up around the ledges amongst still-dormant clumps of bayberry, and there they are underneath the pine trees marking the line between our house and the neighbors to the east.

I’m amused to no end that, after years of anti-hyping these first green edibles of spring on Eater, there’s ramps aplenty just steps from our front porch. Yesterday, inspired, I pulled bunches of them from the patches under the pine trees. Cleaned and sauteed on the stove, they made a perfect side dish for my brother’s and my dinner of grilled steak and baked potato. This morning, my mind races — scrambled eggs with ramps? Spaghetti with ramps? All of the above?

The (re?)discovery of ramps on our property adds a new wrinkle to the seasonal cycle of our time in Maine. I blogged last fall about the rhythms of the seasons in a house that we close up in the midst of the baseball postseason on Columbus Day then reopen every April soon after opening day at Fenway. My brother and I arrived here Friday night for the first time this year, and we’ve spent most of the weekend rearranging furniture, scrubbing down surfaces blessed by winter visits from tiny mice, and starting the work of bringing the yard and gardens alive by picking up the biggest and most obvious of the endless supply of fallen branches. Water, miraculously turned on an hour before we arrived on Friday, leaks from a faucet near the garden. My brother’s to-do list grows, and we’ll be lucky to get through most of it by June.

Life has been upside-down lately — a better topic for conversation than blog posts — so this annual rebirth, the unfolding of spring, arrives on the calendar at a much-needed moment. With it, the physical act of reopening the house, of restoring order, carries with it a promise that the wheel will turn, and that everything will be okay. And it will, and will be. But first, there is work to be done.