Entries tagged with “Scrumptious Blog”.


Food bloggers furiously re-Tweeted a link to a Mail & Guardian story on Friday, entitled rather meaninglessly “Going to the Blogs”, and posted angry comments on the newspaper’s site, yet no blogger has stood up to defend the reputation of bloggers attacked in the article!  Not everyone in Cape Town was happy with the article, written by print journalist Mandy de Waal, who has no experience of and interest in the food/restaurant industry, and who appears to have been a once-a-month blogger, who last blogged a year ago on her two blogs MandydeWaal and MandyLives!com.

De Waal is best known for her political and business stories that she writes for Mail & Guardian and the Daily Maverick blog.  What she did not disclose in her article is that she is a friend of Rosanne Buchanan, editor of Food & Home Entertaining magazine.  Clearly Buchanan was the inspiration for the article, in being quoted extensively, and she shared with De Waal her experience at a recent lunch to launch the new winter menu of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, which was attended by bloggers and print journalists. Surprisingly for a journalist, who should get a balanced view for the story she is writing, no print journalist other than Buchanan was interviewed by De Waal for the article!

De Waal shows her anti-blogging bias throughout the article, with the following loaded utterances:

*   “Bitter tension between established food writers and the new food media…” – This does not apply in South Africa, and obviously only is the point of view of Buchanan, who De Waal quotes (unnamed) as saying sneeringly (De Waal’s word) “I truly resent being lumped in with them. They are treated like the media but they have absolutely no ethics. Why are we giving voice to these freebie-mongers who cause such damage?”.  What a loaded and discriminatory statement, obviously indicating that Buchanan’s publication could be under threat, and may go the same way as WINE magazine, which is closing down in September!

*   “Instant publishing and social networks dealt the industry (unnamed, but probably the publishing industry) a cruel, culling blow”.  Any print publisher who did not see the growth and resultant threat of blogging and on-line publishing deserves the inevitable.

*  Gourmet (magazine in the USA) brought epicure to the people – but only some people.  Bloggers took it to everyone else, robbing food elitism of its elitism”- another loaded statement, and completely off the mark!  The trend is far away from food elitism, given the recession.  There is nothing to stop bloggers from writing at the same standard or better than their print colleagues.

*   “Perhaps it’s what bloggers write that’s so difficult to digest”, and she quotes an excerpt out of a Real Restaurant Revelations blog review of the Warwick’s tapas lunch Persian love cake – its inclusion in her article is not meant as a compliment to the blogger, one senses!

*    “To publish, bloggers only need a free meal, a computer and the will to write.  Journalists have to contend with crabby editors, deadlines, ethics, research, a declining market and … miserable pay. Small wonder they’re annoyed at having to rub shoulders with bloggers at elite restaurant openings”!  This statement reflects that Buchanan and De Waal have no idea what blogging is about.  Most bloggers do not get their meals for free.  Most have a day job, and blog for fun, sharing their passion for food and writing with their readers.  They burn the midnight oil to stay up to date in publishing their posts.  Most do not accept advertising on their blogs, so there is no financial benefit in it for them at all.

*   Buchanan magnanimously sees a role for bloggers only in posting ‘comments on food or publishing online recipes’.  When De Waal called me and spoke broadly about Food Blogging, I had to explain to her that in my opinion a food blogger is predominantly a recipe writer, and I gave here some examples, such as Cooksister and Scrumptious blogs.  What she was focussing on was Restaurant reviewing, and that is why her article included a reference to AA Gill. Clearly, Buchanan sees no role for bloggers as reviewers.

*   Buchanan continues: “But is their sudden and authoritative voice, which is too often vindictive or ingratiating, that has become an issue.  Although I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, it is integrity and professionalism that is at stake”.  She could not be further off the mark – it is print journalists that publish a photograph with a short write-up about a restaurant, supplied by the PR agency, and is never critical.  Bloggers who write reviews with honesty, as they have experienced the restaurant, have far greater integrity than magazines do.  Honesty in blog reviews shows up the bla bla freebie magazine write-ups.

*   Buchanan has a further blast at bloggers, saying her publication has been around for 20 years, and that bloggers cannot have her level of ‘understanding of the food industry’- Buchanan and De Waal clearly have no understanding that bloggers are not 18-year olds without a past, but are writers that have (or had) careers in and a passion for food.

*   Contentious is De Waal’s broad swipe at bloggers’ ethics (“Then there’s that trifle called the truth”), but more fairly does so too at ‘leisure journalism’.

*    “But some do rise above the sticky sweetness”, she writes, when restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw disparagingly refers to blogs that can be ‘playful and fun’, but ’what is essentially candyfloss’!  De Waal writes that Rossouw said that he started a blog nine years ago, but there was no blogging that long ago.  He is quoted as arrogantly looking down on bloggers, in saying that he has stopped blogging because “I felt the ethics that bloggers were following were dubious.  Bloggers love going to launches, restaurant openings and having free luxury experiences but, unlike experienced food journalists, who understand the industry, do significant research and are modulated by ethics and experience, blogging becomes much like ambulance-chasing” Rossouw was hauled over the coals by bloggers for a controversial review he wrote about La Mouette last year, and changed his blog to a website thereafter, with registered screening of commenters. This may explain his disparagement of bloggers.

*  “In an ocean of quantity, only the few, the differentiated and the excellent will eventually rise to the top” is the closing sentence of the article.  De Waal does not understand that this is not a race or a competition for bloggers.  The only measurement bloggers have of their success is unique readership, but if they do not accept advertising then it is just an academic measure.  Making the Top 10 in a category of the SA Blog awards would be another measure of success for some.

I told De Waal about the blogging bitchiness in Cape Town, and told her what price I pay for my honesty in reviewing, resulting in a disparaging Twitter campaign, which she read while we were chatting, and was horrified about.  She captures some of this bitchiness in quoting her conversations with Andy Fenner of the Jamie Who blog, and Clare “Mack” McKeon-McLoughlin of Spill blog:

    *   Fenner points a finger (or is it his knife?) at who only can be McKeon-McLoughlin when he says “There is definitely conflict with online media because certain bloggers see themselves as ‘Erin Brockovich’ types who want to be first with the scoop.  There is this constant battle about who breaks the story first, and it can get catty and malicious”! 

    *   McKeon-McLoughlin refused to have her name mentioned in the article ‘if the blogger’s name appeared in this piece, or if an interview with the blogger was included in this article’, clearly a reference to myself, given her calls to PR agencies to tell them to not invite me to their functions, and her threat to them to not attend functions if I attend.  De Waal describes her as a ‘former BBC journalist’, but this does not come up when one Googles her real name – she was a chat show hostess on Irish TV station RTÈ.  She and her husband Eamon McLoughlin are part of the team driving the malicious Twitter campaign.  A wine blogger put McKeon-McLoughlin in her place with a post he published in response to the article.   While she claims to only write the truth, she is often cited by fellow bloggers as one who never declares her numerous free meals and bottles of wine on her blog!  

So, from the lengthy (and libellous) Mail & Guardian article we read the threat that Food & Home Entertaining faces of potential closure, and that Buchanan is an arrogant journalist who thinks that she is better than bloggers, whose work she probably has not read extensively, yet who may be readers of her magazine.  There is less of an issue between print food journalists and bloggers, than there is amongst bloggers themselves, some of whom have become so arrogant that they think that they can stand in judgement of others, seeing themselves as being superior.  It also demonstrates that journalists are not to be trusted in a telephonic interview, especially when the discussion has a hidden agenda, and the questioning is dreadfully vague, turning out to be a waste of time, when none of it was published.  One wonders why De Waal allowed herself to be bullied by McKeon-McLoughlin, in not allowing my input to be quoted, given the reputation of independence of the newspaper that she writes for!  It also indicates that the blogging community needs to collectively improve its image, if a respected writer such as De Waal can write such drivel about bloggers in such a respected newspaper! 

What De Waal does not reflect is that both new and traditional media have benefits for the restaurants that are reviewed – bloggers can write almost immediately, with an added benefit of posting comments and photographs whilst at the launch on Twitter, giving a new restaurant instant visibility, and it is therefore no surprise that most entries for restaurants on Google are from blogs, alongside listings on Eat Out and Food 24, and often achieve a higher Google ranking than the restaurant’s own website.  Googling is the way the world finds its information.  Traditional media has far better reach in terms of its audience size in readership, the average newer blogger not achieving more than 5000 – 10000 unique readers a month, but the magazine story takes three to four months to appear, its major disadvantage.  Clearly PR agencies value the benefit of a balance of both new and traditional media to obtain coverage for their restaurant clients.

POSTSCRIPT 20/7:  Respected and long-established blogger Jeanne Horak-Druiff today posted her impressive response to the Mail & Guardian article. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

We have written about Crush!1, Crush!2 and Crush!3, Michael Olivier’s digital food and wine magazine, which he launched last year.   As other publications are being launched which embrace food and wine, both digitally and in print, I chose to evaluate Crush!4 against its competitors, putting myself in the shoes of a food and/or wine marketer, deciding where to spend a marketing budget, and as a food and wine lover, deciding where to spend my time reading.   I evaluated Winestyle, TASTE, and Crush!4, all three magazines focusing on food and wine, with a Postscript on Crush!5.

Winestyle

The first (Summer) issue of Winestyle was sent to subscribers (note one does not pay to receive the magazine) in December, and its concept is a most creative and environmentally-friendly “print on demand” one.  This saves the publishers from over-printing, saving paper and costs, and ultimately the environment.  It is published quarterly.  What makes it unique is that a weekly newsletter is sent by e-mail to each subscriber, updating them on food and wine news.  While the brand carry-over is not strong in terms of the banner design of the newsletter (initially I thought the newsletters were from wine consultant Nikki Dumas, who has a similar company name).   This builds brand awareness weekly, and bridges the quarterly print publishing period.

The 88-page magazine is larger than the standard A4 size, and has an attractive cover, although it is not photographed in a vineyard.  The paper quality is outstanding, as is the photography.  Editor Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright is from Warwick wine estate originally, where her mother Norma and brother Mike make excellent wines, and this makes Jenny well-connected to the wine industry.  In her editorial Jenny writes: “It is our intention to help everyone make full use of every wine-drinking day …. it’s your passport to all things enjoyable, to in-the-know wines, delicious and simple-to-prepare food and accessible travel – all in a large, sexy, glossy, collectible magazine”.   The theme of the Summer edition is celebration, and therefore champagnes and sparkling wines are predominantly featured.

Advertising support is impressive for a first edition, and reflects the confidence of the advertisers in the publication, and wine estates Graham Beck,  Glen Carlou, Clos Malverne, Kleine Zalze,  Nederburg, Highlands Road Estate, OBiKWA, Creation, Eikendal, Adoro Wines, Muratie, and Morgenhof have taken full-page ads.  Jenny anticipates having 2500 subscribers by the time the next issue is launched in March.

The editorial content includes a focus on sparkling wine producers in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, including JC le Roux, Simonsig, Villiera, Morgenhof, Cabrière, Graham Beck, Anura, and Sterhuis, and recommends accommodation and restaurants in the area.  A profile on a very casual looking Jean-Philippe Colmant, making excellent bubbly in Franschhoek and importing champagnes, is written by Cape Talk’s John Maytham.  A travel feature focuses on the Champagne region, which is informative and has beautiful photographs.  A food feature focuses on Tapas, with short recipes, and amazing photography by Christoph Heierli.  A Restaurant feature recommends places offering ‘alfresco dining’ in Johannesburg, Durban, the Winelands and Cape Town.   A feature on cocktails has some that call for sparkling wine. The results of a wine-tasting, a panel comparing South African sparkling wines Silverthorn, Colmant Brut, Villiera, Jacques Bruére, and Simonsig, with champagnes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger and Tribaut Brut Tradition, are featured.  Joint first winners were Silverthorn the Green Man Brut and Tribaut Brut Tradition.  A tasting panel evaluation of the 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc of Groote Post, David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner, Neil Joubert, Arabella, Sophie Terblance, Delaire, Diemersdal, Klein Constantia, De Grendel and Du Toitskloof ranks them in this order.  An article on cigars concludes what must be the most excellent food and wine publication available locally now.

I cannot wait for the Autumn edition.  I do recommend that there be more synergy between the magazine and the newsletter as well as its website in terms of branding and design.  Of the three magazines reviewed in this blogpost, Winestyle is the best by far, and we congratulate editor Jenny on this achievement for her maiden issue.

TASTE

Woolworths’ in-house magazine is written and published by New Media Publishing, and they have regularly won ADMag and Pica Awards for Customer Magazine of the Year for it, most recently in 2009.   It costs R20,95, is published monthly, and is sold in outlets other than Woolworths too.   It is A4 in size, with 134 pages, and does not have a statement to describe what it stands for, but its cover photograph represents food.  Wines appear to be a secondary focus.  The editor is highly regarded Sumien Brink, with Abigail Donnelly ably at her side.

Advertisers are a mixed bunch, including car retailers, liquor brands (Darling Cellars, Krone, Bombay Sapphire, Veuve Cliquot, Brand House), watch brands, kitchen suppliers, decor brands, food brands (Lancewood, Lindt), investment companies, a restaurant (Cape Town Fish Market), and accommodation, most of the brands not sold by Woolworths at all.

The editorial content of the December issue includes a Trends feature, and food related trends are featured with beautiful large photographs by Lee Malan and Jan Ras.  Where recipes are featured, they are short and sweet, and do not dominate the look of any page (something competitors House and Leisure Food can learn from).  A Foodstuff feature focuses on products that are sold at Woolworths, but most are non-branded items, and the Woolworths link is very low key. It even has an interview with and one done by Andy Fenner, who writes the JamieWho? blog, a contributor to Crush! issues 2, 3 and 4, but he has withdrawn his support, probably due to his new (not yet clearly defined) involvement with Woolworths, and not wanting to be associated with his friend David Cope’s disparaging Twitter campaign against ourselves, in retaliation to our review of Crush!3.   A chicken feature by man-of-the-moment Justin Bonello, a fish focus by Sam Woulidge, a canapé feature by Mariana Esterhuizen of Mariana’s, a feature on Dewetshof by Woolworths wine consultant Allan Mullins, and a feature on Oded Schwartz of Oded’s Kitchen and his relishes, chutneys and preserves, follow.  Christmas recipes are featured, but are few in number.  Restaurants featured are the fabulous Babel on Babylonstoren (next door to Backsberg), and the heavenly Hemelhuijs.  Blueberries are featured, with recipes, as are Summer lunch recipes.  An exclusive extract from Australian Bill Granger’s receipe book “Bill’s Basics” is featured.  A travel feature by Judy van der Walt focuses on the Dordogne region, and the magazine ends off with a month’s worth of recipes for snacks, lunches, tea time, and suppers.

I hadn’t bought a TASTE magazine for a while, and remembered it to be more attractive and impactful.  The focus may be too much on recipes, and too little on wines.   The features are written by good quality journalists, and could possibly be expanded.   I liked the way Woolworths as a brand is not ‘in your face’ when reading the magazine – in fact I wouldn’t have minded more direct brand-linkage, to know what to look for when next I shop.  There are so many organic and other quality suppliers to Woolworths of fruit and vegetables and other foods, as well as of wines, which could all be the subject of features, not necessarily linked to recipes only.  A “new Woolworths products” feature would be welcome.  For a marketer, TASTE would be an important advertising medium to consider, given its association with Woolworths, and the profile of the Woolworths shopper, with a reasonable disposable income.    There is little carry-over between the magazine and its website.

Crush!4

The digital food and wine magazine Crush! has no print partner, and is haphazard in its publishing frequency. On Twitter the editorial team hint at how busy they are in doing work for the publication, but on average it appears to take them two months or longer to publish a new issue.  The arrival of the new magazine is announced on Twitter and by e-mail, as one has to subscribe to receive a link to it, and is free of charge.

Crush!4  has 44 pages and was published early in December.  It appears to have lost its restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw, and Olivier has taken over writing the restaurant reviews, something we suggested in one of our earlier Crush! reviews.   We are delighted with another of our recommendations that Olivier adopted, which was to let (lady) bloggers participate in his magazine, and he has done so by giving highly regarded blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs from Scrumptious blog a recipe feature, and he has introduced a recipe competition, in which the recipes of bloggers Colleen Grove, Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Meeta Khurana-Wolff and Nina Timm can be evaluated by readers.

The navigation of the pages, and more particularly the content on each page, remains tedious. The front cover looks better, the copy on top of the photograph being easier to read, but it is not yet perfect, especially when one compares the ‘less is more’ covers of the two other magazines above.  Most flashing gimmicks have been removed from the front cover, and have largely been discontinued.   Advertising support is poor, and appears reduced relative to previous issues, and compared to the two other publications above, with only Hidden Valley, Pongracz, Laborie, Old Mutual and Ultra Liquors advertising.

The content consists of a wine page written by Olivier, and features premium brandy cocktails, a vineyard dog, wine finds, a wine myth and an overview of Sauvignon Blanc.  The Essentials page, as before, has products with poor brand recognition, but the names are typed alongside each product.  A Plaisir de Merle feature is a good promotion for the wine estate.  The recipe pages by Jane-Anne Hobbs have fantastic photography done by herself (perhaps she should become the Crush!photographer!), but I could only get to see three recipes (soup, dessert, gammon) - I am sure there were more, judging by the six bottles alongside the opening recipe, and Olivier recommends a wine per recipe.   The names of the wines are not typed alongside the bottles.   The JamieWho? page by Andy Fenner is blocked by a Laborie promotion box, still has silly moving balloon captions, and focuses on Absinthe, Champagne, Hangover Cures, Jardine’s Christmas cake,  and Christmas cocktails.  In two of his mini-stories the copy ends mid-sentence.  The review of Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren is blocked by a competition box, and one does not know how to close it.  Restaurant names at the bottom of the Babel article are harder to read on the right hand side, especially ‘Cafeen’.

A seven-day recipe card feature by Carey Boucher-Erasmus (a food consultant to the Pick ‘n Pay Cookery School, according to Google) is easy to follow and read, but no information is supplied about who Carey is.  There is no consistency in the colours used for the names of white and red wines alongside the bottles, the white wine names typed in blue (High Five) or in green (Quaff Now).   Sophia Lindop does great food features, but has used herbs in the last two issues (rocket in the current issue and rosemary last time), making it hard to see dishes prepared with these, and thus to have attractive photographs, even if they are photographed by star photographer Russel Wasserfall.   David Cope outs himself as a guest house reviewer, of South Hills, presented on a messy red and white check background which is similar to that which he uses on his ‘The Foodie’ blog.  A summer picnic spead looks good enough to eat off the screen, and is prepared by Luisa Farelo, but there is no indication as to who she is (I could not find any information about her on Google).  The focus on Parlotones wines, named after the group, is fun in having their music videos, but I did struggle to get one to play properly.  I also struggled to find the way to open the Prince Albert feature by Russel Wasserfall, eventually finding it at the bottom right, in the smallest possible type size.  A feature on trendy Artisan Breads tells the Knead story, with colour photographs, and mentions the names of only five other artisanal bakeries around the country - there are that many others in Cape Town alone!  Helen Untiedt’s organic vegetable garden, and a Book Review page conclude Crush!4.

My overwhelming frustration with Crush! is the difficulty of reading it, and the struggle to move forward or to close what one has opened.  The promotional boxes blocking copy remains a problem, which cheapens the magazine and is irritating to have to close.  Perhaps Olivier and the design team can look at Opulent Living’s e-magazine, only 8 pages long but published regularly – it is easy to read, has no promotions, with beautiful photographs – a top class digital magazine!   I was interested to see the Crush! blogger recipe rating, and the low participation is a surprise (the highest vote is by only 100 readers after two months), given Olivier’s claim that the magazine would go to more than 1 million readers!     If I were a marketer, I would not advertise in Crush!, as a digital magazine cannot present a food or wine brand with the appetite appeal that a print magazine can, especially given the poor pack presentation.  I would therefore love to see a print version of Crush!, as it contains lots of good information, and could make for beautiful pages of copy and photography, something one would want to keep.

POSTSCRIPT 8/2

Crush!5 was launched today.  JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) has been replaced by Neil Stemmet, a talented interior designer, and he adds an Afrikaans dimension to Crush!, with all five his recipes in Afrikaans on his “Soutenpeper” page (this is causing a problem for English readers!).  David Cope has lost his name, and is only referred to as “The Foodie”, with no red and white check background to his contributions anymore, and both his article on Paternoster, and on FoodWineDesign in Johannesburg (held in November!!), are long-winded and boring, with few attractive photographs.   Jane-Anne Hobbs (unfortunately) has been replaced by Clare Bock (owner of Appetite catering company, I learnt from Google) in a food/wine matching feature – by chance I worked out how this feature works – if you click on a wine bottle, an appropriate recipe pops up, rather than finding an appropriate wine to match the recipe!   The five food bloggers in the recipe rating section are complete unknowns.  Luisa Farelo (with an introduction in this issue – she is a chef and food stylist) does another feature, this time on Sunday lunches, and the styling is good enough to eat again.  A food and wine events calendar is a good new addition, while a classifieds section probably is not, the ads being so small that one cannot read them.  A feature on The Test Kitchen, and owner and chef Luke Dale-Roberts, is good with great food photographs, as is the one on Jordan Winery, but the labels underneath the bottles are so tiny that one may not see them.  The interview with Bertus Basson of Overture (Michael is a stickler for spelling, but misspells the restaurant name in his introduction) is weird, and probably does not do him a favour.  Advertisers are Fairview, Pongracz, Old Mutual, and Avocado magazine.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter: WhaleCottage

The third Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting takes place next Wednesday 28 July, from 18h00 – 20h00, and will pair Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious food blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte wine blog.

Mike Ratcliffe is the Managing Director of Warwick wine estate and Managing Partner of Vilafonte.  He has a B.Comm (Economics) from the University of Stellenbosch and a Graduate Diploma in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide. He is a Board member of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), has been involved on the marketing committee of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, is the Deputy Chairman of the South African Wine Industry Trust (encouraging black economic empowerment and land redistribution), and is President of the United States/South Africa Foundation, a fundraising charity based in the USA.  He is an international wine judge, industry commentator and marketing co-ordinator, and is an industry leader in embracing social media marketing in the marketing of his wines.

Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner of Scrumptious blog is a freelance journalist, editor, author of three books (on local touring routes, and on raising toddlers), cook, food writer and recipe developer.  She writes as Juno, and her blog is independent, in that she does not accept any advertising or sponsorship, nor does she accept freebies.  She does use Google Adsense.  She is passionate about “food, fresh local ingredients and punchy flavours”. She loves writing recipes.  Jane-Anne was a speaker at the Food Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

Other writers that will be talking at future Bloggers Club meetings are the following:

Wednesday 18 August:       Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir 

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October:     Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Marisa Hendricks of The Creative Pot Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Mike will introduce the Warwick wines served.  Snacks will be served to match the Warwick wines.  The cost of attendance is R 150.  Bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

The meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be held at Cafe Max, 126 Waterkant Street, in De Waterkant, Cape Town.   From Somerset Road turn up Highfield Street (opposite Green Point Traffic Department), alongside the Tafelberg Furnishers/Kfm building, and turn left into Waterkant Street.  Cafe Max is about 200 meters further down the road, on the left.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

The first Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting, held at the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town yesterday evening, was sold out, and a great success, judging by the positive feedback received from the aspirant as well as regular food and wine bloggers that attended.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club “pairs” a wine blogger and a food blogger per Club meeting, which are held monthly, and each speaker outlines his/her blog and provides blogging tips and guidelines. The Wine Blogger brings some wine for the bloggers to taste, while Chef Liam Tomlin prepares snacks to showcase his Cookery School, and reputation as a star chef in Sydney, prior to coming to Cape Town and setting up his Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School.  Liam prepared Tartar of Tuna with avocado and ponzu sauce, as well as Potato Raclette and pickled vegetables.

Anel Grobler from SpitorSwallow Blog was the first speaker, and impressed with her statistics relating to trends about blogging.  She quoted a recent survey in PR Week, which found that 20 % of bloggers do so to earn money out of it, and that 52 % of bloggers see themselves as “journalists” (surprisingly the Public Relations industry has not yet discovered the power of bloggers in promoting their clients’ brands!).   Anel and her partner Jan Laubscher are on Twitter continuously, saying it is an “easy way to get the word out”.  On Twitter @SpitorSwallow has 3900 followers and on Facebook they have 1 900 fans, a phenomenal achievement.   She indicated that from a total of 6 South African wine estates being on Twitter in 2009, there are now 209!   Anel has played an important role in encouraging wine estates to embrace social media marketing.    She indicated that they see immediate click through once they put a Tweet on Twitter.   She recommended that new bloggers focus on a niche.   A provocative name like SpitorSwallow attracts interest, and through word-of-mouth their Facebook and Twitter pages have received a huge following.   Almost 700 “wineflies” have evaluated the close to 600 wine estates they have listed.  Anel recommended that companies blog and twitter themselves, and not leave this to a PR company, as the client is passionate about his/her brand.   With a blog it is important that the bounce rate be low (i.e. readers leaving the page).  The length of time spent on a page is also important, to ensure that readers read what one has written for as long as possible.  A quick survey around the room indicated that WordPress is the most popular blog template used.

Michael Olivier is an icon in both food and wine circles, and many of the Bloggers’ Club attendees came to meet him, having his recipe or wine books (‘Michael Olivier – a Restaurateur Remembers’, ‘Crush! 100 Wines to drink now’ , and ‘The People’s Guide – navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley’, the latter with Neil Pendock).   His all-round experience in receiving his training at the Cordon Bleue Cookery School in London, working at the Lanzerac Hotel and Boschendal, having owned three restaurants (Paddagang in Tulbagh, The Burgundy in Hermanus and Parks in Constantia), having consulted on the wine side to Pick ‘n Pay, and presenting a weekly wine programme on Classic FM in Gauteng and a daily informal winetasting on Fine Music Radio in Cape Town makes him very well-connected and extremely knowledgeable.  Sending out a regular newsletter, which became a website, Michael has reinvented himself and will be launching ‘Crush’, South Africa’s first digital online food and wine magazine, he announced at the meeting.   It will go to a database of 1,7 million on 3 June.

The feedback received from the Food and Wine Bloggers that attended the meeting last night was that they enjoyed the relaxed and informal opportunity to network, to meet their mentors, seeing old friends and making new ones, the quality of the speakers, the snacks, the wine, the positive energy in the room, and the ability to learn from everyone that attended.

The next Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will be held on Thursday 1 July, from 6 – 8 pm, and Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods restaurant and Kitchen Cowboys Blog will be “paired” with Pieter Ferriera of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog.   Pieter will bring Graham Beck wines and bubblies to taste, and these will be paired with Liam Tomlin’s food.   The cost to attend is R 150 per person, and bookings can be made by e-mailing info@whalecottage.com.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting dates and speakers are as follows:

Thursday 1 July:                  Pete Goffe-Wood of Wild Woods and Kitchen Cowboys Blog, and Pieter Ferreira of Graham Beck and Bubbles on Wine Blog

Wednesday 28 July:             The Foodie of The Foodie Blog, and Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick and Vilafonte Wines Blog

Wednesday 18 August:       Sam Wilson of Food24 Blogs, and Rob Armstrong of Haut Espoir

Wednesday 22 September: Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog, and Hein Koegelenberg of La Motte and Hein Koegelenberg Blog

Wednesday 20 October: Clare Mack of Spill Blog, and Simon Back of Backsberg Blog

Wednesday 24 November:  Jane-Anne Hobbs of Scrumptious Blog, and Emile Joubert of Wine Goggle Blog

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com