Entries tagged with “The Foodie”.


On Tuesday a blogpost on FoodBlog.Cape Town, entitled “My opinion is important because I am a blogger”, caught my eye, and was reTweeted by a number of bloggers.  On reading the blogpost a number of times, it appeared to focus on the ethics of both restaurants and bloggers in respect of free meals, and pleaded for blogs to be respected as a viable source of information.  Tongue-in-cheek, we have turned the title around in this blogpost!

In her blogpost, Kayli highlighted the poor image she feels bloggers have, with the strong statement ‘People hate bloggers’, and ‘People are bloggist’ (meant to imply anti-blogging).  She does not explain her view, nor does she give examples of such negative sentiments.  I have only seen one article that was anti-bloggers, written by Mandy de Waal in Mail & Guardian about a year ago, and  was an attack against food bloggers, and the threat that they pose to the traditional food writers in mainstream media, especially magazines. The reality is that blogs are gaining in popularity, with ordinary citizens from around the country and even internationally reading blogs, and participating in the dialogue on blogs through Comments.

We have previously written that the output of food bloggers appears to be on the decline, well-known local bloggers such as Andy Fenner (JamieWho), David Cope (‘The Foodie’), and even the polemic Spill blog publishing blogposts less frequently compared to when they started.  However, blog readership must be on the up, as more and more readers get hooked on the views of their favourite bloggers. The lack of statistics about blog reading and publishing makes it impossible to quantify the size of the blog market, relative to readily available figures about mainstream media circulation and readership.  Each blogger can read his/her readership on Google Analytics, but cannot compare this with that of other blogs.

Kayli attacks restaurants for offering free meals to bloggers, in the hope that a positive review will be written.  She told the unbelievable story of a restaurant to which she was invited, and that she had to endure the presence of the manager throughout the meal, who encouraged her to eat more and more, and then had the ‘pleasure’ of having the bill presented to her!  There must have been a serious communication problem for something so unreasonable to have happened.  One wonders why Kayli did not dispute the payment, and why she did not ‘name and shame’ the restaurant concerned.  Sharing the details of this incident, which sounds far-fetched, has no value if the perpetrator is not mentioned.  Is this a criticism one can level against the majority of bloggers – that they are trying to be too nice, and thereby compromise their own ethics by glancing over the flaws of the restaurant experience?  If ‘honest reviews’ are written for the public, as Kayli claims in her blogpost, then she must be true to the honesty she emphasises. ‘Honesty’ does not mean that faults should not be mentioned – in fact not mentioning them would be dishonest to the reader!

No blogger is obliged to write about a product or service they have experienced, as much as a mainstream media journalist is under no such obligation.   A restaurant invitation is no guarantee of any, or even of positive, coverage.  Many bloggers don’t want to offend their hosts, and would rather not write a review, than have to criticise the meal or service.  Every blogger is under the obligation to disclose the free meal, and it is likely that the blog reader will evaluate the information about the restaurant differently to the restaurant review of a meal that was paid for by the blogger.  Ultimately an anonymous visit to the restaurant is the best way to write a review, but taking photographs of one’s food and asking lots of questions can give the game away.

Kayli also mentions ‘hot-shot’ bloggers, who she says are loved, have been around for a long time, and inspire others, but then attacks them for implying that they are better because they have worked in restaurants or have trained as chefs.   I have never seen any such criticism from bloggers, and perhaps Kayli, who describes herself as a younger and newer blogger, may be over-sensitive on this issue.

Bloggers need restaurant news to feed their blogs, while restaurants (usually) benefit from reviews that are written about them. The restaurant-goer Googling a restaurant has one of five options in being informed about the restaurant:

*  Reading a short write-up on Eat Out, usually high up on Google’s page one for the restaurant

*  Similarly, reading a short write-up on Food24

*  A review by Rossouw’s Restaurants‘ owner JP Rossouw, but increasingly one picks up readers’ reviews via Google because of a special security sign-in procedure, not being conducive to JP’s own reviews being read.

*   The restaurants’ own websites, which rarely feature on the first page of Google, because they don’t have one (mainly being listed on Dining Out), or because they don’t update their websites regularly, to obtain a SEO benefit (via their own blog, for example).

*   The remaining five – six reviews on the first page of Google will be by bloggers, and would not feature on Google’s first page if they are not read regularly.  Obviously a first page Google review will ensure more frequent readership than those on subsequent pages, which means that bloggers need to get to write the reviews first, or have a huge readership to ensure that their reviews land and stay on page one.  I have never heard anyone discount a restaurant review written by a blogger, because the writer is a blogger.

Ultimately bloggers will only have their blogs read if they remain relevant and interesting to their readers. Bloggers blog because they love to write.  Blogging takes up a lot of personal time.  The dedicated and regular bloggers will be those that will retain their readers, as will be the bloggers who have an opinion, and are not afraid to express it, even if they know that they may never return to a specific restaurant because of their opinion!

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

We have written about six issues of Crush! since it was launched a year ago, and the initial excitement of opening a new copy of the digital food and wine magazine edited by Michael Olivier has faded, to such an extent that three issues of Crush! were sitting unopened in the Inbox.  The magazine appears to have developed a rythym, and regular features can be expected in each magazine, with few new surprises in it.  After reading Crush! 7, Crush! 8, and Crush! 9, and looking back at the pevious Crush! issues, our evaluation is that Crush! has settled down, that it knows where it is going, and that it has mastered most of its technical and design problems highlighted initially.  But its quality remains inconsistent:

1.   The design flashes have been largely removed, having been irritating in initial issues. Yet they remain in the focus on a personality (Squashed Tomato’s Linda Harding in Crush! 7; I’m no Jamie Oliver’s Matt Allisson – nice that the five point overview is about his lifestyle of food writer, stay-at-home father, and avid vegetable gardener – in Crush! 8; and Norman McFarlane in Crush! 9), distracting one in reading the content.

2.  The covers don’t need to sell a magazine as the print equivalent have to, but it was disappointing to note how the cover photograph choice in the last three issues was far more unattractive than those of some earlier issues.  The cover pic is usually one of four recipes developed by Sophia Lindop and beautifully photographed by Russel Wasserfall.  The problem lies in the choice of photograph for the cover, and the placement of text on the pics, often making the text unreadable.  Most front-cover flashes have been removed.  The Crush! design and publishing team has no print magazine experience, and it still shows!

3.  It is easier to navigate the magazine now, with clearer instructions of how to continue reading a story, but one does make the odd mistake in jumping to a next page, and not finishing a story.

4.    A problem that continues is that pack shots in the ‘Essentials’, ‘High Five’ and ‘Quaff Now’ features are too small to allow pack recognition, bad news for the marketers of these products, no doubt paying a placement fee. It was odd to see a sunhat in an ‘Essentials for the kitchen’ collection, in Crush! 9!

5.  Advertising support remains poor, and the state of the economy must be making itself felt at Crush! too, with the last two issues reduced to 42 pages, and carrying very few advertisements – only Old Mutual and Fairview having been regular advertisers.  Insurer 1st for Women started advertising, and Le Creuset and Tokara olive oils have had once-off ads.

6.  The contribution by ‘The Foodie’ blogger David Cope has changed dramatically – from initally having messy looking red-and-white check pages reflecting his blog design, the design linkage has been dropped in the past two issues.  This has been replaced by far smarter looking features, but they have no credibility, as the pot and the knife features have the Chef’s Warehouse branding on them, almost hidden in a corner, and Cope does not declare that he does the Public Relations for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School!   The photography however is excellent, probably the best ever seen in any issue of Crush!

7.   The main features vary in their quality, and there has never been consistency in their design and quality - the Hermanuspietersfontein feature looks fantastic, with many beautiful photographs.  The Glen Carlou and Hidden Valley features look less attractive due to black and white photographs on the first page of the features.  It seems as if Oliver has run out of material to write about, in featuring Hidden Valley, and Overture’s Bertus Basson, twice in the first year.

8.   Re-opened Massimo’s Pizza Club in Hout Bay is featured in Crush! 9, but does not have enough pizza photographs to create appetite appeal.  The oddest restaurant feature, a six page story by David Cope on Le Quartier Français’ The Tasting Room, does not contain a single photograph, and it takes Cope three pages to start writing about the Tasting Room, via a profile on Spanish chef Ferran Adria!  Cope did not make notes of his nine-course meal, and therefore he is quite vague about what he ate there!

9.  Recipe features do not interest me generally, but the most stunning feature ever is that of soups paired with Monis products in Crush! 9, including the lesser known Monis Muscadel and Port.  The photographs are outstanding, and one wonders why all the photography used for and design of Crush! cannot be of this quality. 

10.  The features on winemakers Morné Vrey of Delaire Graff and Russell Retief of Van Loveren, on charcuterier Richard Bosman, and on the Steenberg Hotel are ineffective, in being broken down into blocks, some profiles having as many as 27 blocks to click, a guarantee that one would lose interest to read it all.  Chef Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff, the Foodbarn, as well as the Vineyard Hotel are also featured.  However, none of the three issues contain a restaurant review anymore.

11.  The ‘Fine Print’ book page and ‘Crushifieds’ remain too busy, although the latter has improved greatly – ‘less is more’ should guide design in these features.

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

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

Whale Cottage and I have been the subject of a most vicious defamatory and destructive Twitter campaign in the past week, with unsubstantiated untruthful allegations made, aimed at damaging the reputation of our company and of myself.   The Twitter campaign fabricated information for the benefit of causing a sensation.  Initially the account was set up as an impersonation of myself, by appearing to be my personal Twitter account.  Twitter closed the account down temporarily last Friday, until the perpetrator changed the Biography on the Twitter page.  Not only was it malicious in content and libelous, but it was also threatening in its aggressive tone.

I have written this blogpost with the purpose of acknowledging that we are aware of the campaign, that we know who drove it, and that we believe in what we do and what we stand for.   We do not want to signal through silence that the abusive campaign contained any truth, other than the colour of my jacket that I wore at the OYO lunch on Friday, referred to in one of the Tweets, bringing the perpetrator and his companion into the foodie blogging community!

So how did this campaign arise?  About 2 weeks ago I wrote a review about Crush!3, as I have also done about the first two issues of the Crush! digital food and wine magazines, of which Michael Olivier is the editor.  A number of food bloggers and our readers posted comments on the Blog, the majority being in agreement with our point of view.  We have regularly requested input from Olivier in response to our reviews, but have received none.  In fact, his reaction has been to block us on Twitter, to not respond at all to communication, and to not acknowledge my presence at a recent industry function, even though we have been acquainted for many years.   On Saturday 16 October, the Crush! team of editor Olivier, and contributors Sophia Lindop, Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) and David Cope (of The Foodie blog) , who also owns the PR company called Established & Partners, with Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School as sole client, it would appear, and Caveau/HQ/Gourmet Burger, Rudera Wines, Cape Classics and Hippo Hotel as ex-clients) had dinner at Lindop’s house to celebrate Crush!3.  On Twitter one was informed about the dinner through the attendees’ Tweets.  A Tweet by Fenner “Having a whale of a time with the @Crush_Online team” first caught my eye that evening,  which was reTweeted by Cope (but since removed), and echoed by the Crush! designers on the @Crush_Online Twitter account “also having a whale of a time. Flap Flap”, a few minutes later.  

An hour later a full-scale campaign began, with a total of 99 disparaging Tweets sent over the period of a week, one more demeaning than another.   A number of clues allowed us to link the campaign to Cope, information which we have handed to the police.   An abusive collection of e-mails was received from Cope as well, and there were clear parallels in what he wrote by e-mail and in the Tweets of the abusive Twitter account.  When we alluded on our blog to the Crush! team, and Cope in particular, being responsible for this childish campaign, there was no response from Olivier to deny it, and thereby he has condoned it.  We invited him to comment on our exposure in this blog post, and were surprised to receive a response from him for the first time since Crush! was published (we are delighted that Olivier acknowledges our input, but surprised to read that he values it, given his reaction to it, as detailed above): “I am not aware of any campaign, by any member of the Crush team, to defame you or Whale Cottage.  We would not embark on a defamation campaign when we are trying to build an online community willing to engage with us in an open, honest and constructive manner.   At Crush we value all constructive feedback and the fact that you have taken the time to read Crush and to make suggestions.  Crush magazine is in its third edition and determined to establish itself in a new market.  Needless to say, the Crush team would not like its brand linked to campaigns that aim to defame. I would therefore appreciate it, if you could forward any material that uses the Crush brand without our permission”.

Our Whale Cottage Blog has been controversial (no surprise that we were nominated and voted a Top 10 finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category in the recent 2010 SA Blog Awards).  We have exposed the dishonest claim by Carne restaurant that all its meat is organic (claim since removed from their website); we have awarded Sour Service Awards every Friday, never popular amongst its recipients; we have exposed the conflict of interest in the running of tourism matters in Hermanus; we have been critical of many restaurants that we have reviewed; and we have been critical of Crush!, but have acknowledged that it is improving.  This does not always make us popular amongst those businesses that we have written about.   We are proud of this Blog, and present the truth as we experience and see it.  We are not afraid to tackle any topic. Our reward is the 40000 unique readers reading our Blog every month, and our more than 1300 Twitter followers.

I have asked myself whether one changes tack in the face of such an abusive and emotionally violent and terrorising Twitter campaign.  Some people I spoke to used the PR adage that all publicity is good publicity.  Others said that social media memory is short, and that Cope would run out of things to fabricate, which is what happened.    But the overwhelming response was that I should change nothing about this Blog, and that I should continue with what we do.  This is wonderful support.   Some very special readers and followers were brave enough to react to the campaign publicly, and I am most grateful to all of them.  We are also grateful to our Twitter followers who saw the petty campaign for what it was, and unfollowed or blocked the abusive Twitter account. 

One of the characteristics of social media is that the boundaries of what one can say are blurred, with no clear guidelines of what is acceptable, and what is not.   There is no consistency in the different social media platforms and their codes of conduct.  Freedom of speech seems to be the overwhelming principle of this new method of communication, often at the expense of the truth.

Freedom of speech brings with it responsibilities, and cannot ignore the law, which dictates that one cannot disparage and defame others.  Good journalistic practice – yes, Bloggers, Facebookers and Twitterers are “New Age” journalists – is that information presented must be checked for accuracy, and that one cannot make statements about others unless they are proven.  The word “alleged” should precede any label one would give the action of any other person one is writing about, unless they have been convicted of the action they have been accused of.

This raises the question as to what the limits are for social media users, and what responsibility sits with Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.

Blogging seems to have few restrictions, as there are numerous blogging platforms.  Many bloggers use WordPress, but the company does not specify a Code of Conduct.  The servers hosting the blogs may have a code of conduct, but these are not normally visible to the blogger, especially if one works via a webmaster.

Facebook’s Code of Conduct is lengthy, and appears to be the most protective against disparagement and defamation.  It is also very reactive to complaints in taking action immediately, not a surprise when one sees ‘The Social Network’ movie about the establishment of Facebook.  It states the following in respect of protecting one’s rights, the closest it gets to addressing what one may or not say:

“1.     Protecting Other People’s Rights

We respect other people’s rights, and expect you to do the same.     

1.     You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.

2.     We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement.

3.     We will provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. To learn more, visit our How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement page.

4.     If we remove your content for infringing someone else’s copyright, and you believe we removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal.

5.     If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.

6.     You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.

7.     If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

8.     You will not post anyone’s identification documents or sensitive financial information on Facebook.

9.     You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent.”

Twitter has a Code of Conduct too, but seems very loath to take action against Twitter abuse, believing in freedom of speech, and Twitterers’ rights to expression.  It does not disallow disparagement, a major weakness of its Code.  It also does not demand honesty in Twittering, which means that anyone can say anything about anyone else on Twitter, without it necessarily being truthful.  It abdicates its legal liability in any dispute between Twitterers, yet does call for local country laws to be respected: 

·         Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others

·         Trademark: We reserve the right to reclaim user names on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those user names. Accounts using business names and/or logos to mislead others will be permanently suspended.

·         Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.

·         Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.

·         Copyright: We will respond to clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement. Our copyright procedures are set forth in the Terms of Service.

·         Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

·         Verified accounts: You may not use the Verified Account badge unless it is provided by Twitter. Accounts using the badge as part of profile pictures, background images, or in a way that falsely implies verification will be suspended” 

      The abusive campaign has created food for thought for many Bloggers and Twitterers, many wondering how they would react if they were targeted by such a 140-character onslaught on a daily basis.   There are no clear rules.  There also is no precedent in South African law as to any Blog post, Tweet or Facebook entry having been the cause of a defamation claim to date. In the USA, a young Twitter user last year sent a disparaging comment about an apartment rental agency to her 20 followers, and she was sued for $50 000 by the agency.

We welcome your point of view on Freedom of Speech in Social Media Marketing.

POSTSCRIPT 27/10:   The abusive campaign recommenced this morning, the first Tweet denying David Cope’s involvement, a little too obvious!   Another Tweet refers to a lunch I have booked at Tokara this weekend, a violation of my privacy relative to the restaurant, meaning that this information has been leaked by a staff member of the restaurant.

POSTSCRIPT 12/11:   We have established that food blogger Clare Mc Keon/McLoughlin from Spill Blog is passing on information to David Cope for the abusive Twitter campaign.

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

We have been critical of Crush!1 and Crush2!,  the new food and wine digital magazine under the editorship of Michael Olivier, respected food and wine guru, as he calls himself on Twitter.   Our opinion has not changed after seeing Crush!3  We are heartened to see that our feedback is being acknowledged and implemented up to a point.   The overwhelming feeling is that the designers are trying too hard to add design ‘bells and whistles’ which distract rather than add to the magazine. This was reflected in the following Tweet on Twitter earlier this week:  “luv your magazine idea but the technology you using is not user friendly. Why don’t you do trad website?”  

We are sad that Michael, a friend for many years, has taken our feedback about the magazines so personally that he has chosen to not comment on our blogposts at all, no longer acknowledges my presence at functions, and has blocked us on Twitter, a rather unprofessional reaction from what we have always believed to be a mature gentleman.

Our review of Crush3! is as follows:

1.   The cover page has appetite appeal, but a new design feature is to show the cover shot change into a dirty used plate, not looking appetising at all.   The photography of this plate of food, from a feature on rosemary, does not come near the beautiful shot which was used for the cover of Crush2!   The type relating to the content runs over the photograph, making most of it unreadable.

2.   We are delighted that the video button has been taken off Micheal’s face on the Introduction page, our complaint of the previous two issues.   Michael also talks on the video without any clanging kitchen noises, as was the case in Crush2!  The Content listing is an improvement.

3.   Advertisers Old Mutual, The Kovensky Quartet of restaurants, Pick ‘n Pay, Pongracz, Arumdale and Welmoed remain faithful, with new advertiser Avontuur.  Arabella wines is no longer advertising.

4.   When reading the Chenin Blanc sub-page on the “Michael says” page, the page rolls down too quickly when one clicks onto the arrow, for one to be able to read the page.  

5.   On the ‘Essentials’ page there are no distracting flashes, and the brand names are typed at each product, but brand and pack recognition for Dalla Cia, Imhoff Jams, Fairview Chevin and Madécasse Chocolates is poor.

6.   The Morgenhof advertorial is visually intriguing but totally spoilt by the Uwe Koetter ring competition block, spoiling the appeal of this page.   The promotional box stays open when one clicks onto one of the four editorial boxes, making it impossible to read the windows about the restaurant, the coffee shop, the cellar and the owner, defeating the object of the exercise.

7.   The double page spread on snoek pate has five beverage bottles on it too, and one can only recognise the brand name of Steph Weiss beer.  Even when “rolling” over the pics of the bottles of Danie de Wet Cape Muscadel, Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling, Douglas Green Fino No 1, and Mullineaux one cannot read their labels.

8.   Andy Fenner’s “Jamie Who?’” page looks as it did in the previous issue, but the flashes are no longer petal-shaped, now being balloons.  The content of these is boring.   One bubble opens onto ‘After Work Drinks’, and three are meant to be featured, but only Harvey’s Bar is visible.   The balloon bubbles flash even when one opens the balloon, giving it a tacky feel.

8.   The “High Five” page is blocked by a promotion “Share the High Five with your friends”.   The Table Bay MCC Brut brand name is barely legible, being light blue.

9.  JP Rossouw has been overseas, so there is no review by him in this issue.  Michael has taken over the role, and has done a feature on La Motte, but once again a competition block blocks the photograph of the grounds and buildings of the “new” La Motte.  One cannot see how to close this block, which incorrectly spells the wine estate as ‘Lamotte’.   The competition does not call the reader to action – it leaves one feeling confused as to how to enter the competition. Whilst the La  Motte pages have three La Motte wines on the page, with unreadable brand names, the placement of the Pongracz ad on the same page seems to be an error of judgement, especially given that La Motte recently launched its own sparkling wine!

10.  The ‘Quick & Delicious’ page is also blocked with a “make sure you are subscribed” block over the week’s recipe cards.  A tiny packshot of Bisquit Cognac is barely readable and when one clicks onto it, it is yet another attempt to get one to subscribe.

11.  The “Cellar for later” page is fine and all wine brand names are clearly readable below the packs.  However, on the “Quaff for now” page, the brand names of the white wines are typed in green, making them barely legible. 

12.   A dreadful old-fashioned burlesque-type typeface is used for the main food feature, being “4 Ways with Rosemary”.  As it is an ingredient, it is not visible in the food shots, other than in its subtle use in the styling.   The information about each of the four recipes in respect of baking time and the number of persons that the recipe serves is barely readable.   This food feature is nowhere as yummy as the Lindt chocolate one was in the previous issue.

13.   David Cope’s “The Foodie” page looks much better than in Crush2!, and has some brand carry-over from his blog with the red tablecloth.  The “Midlands roadtripping” story has little interest to the mainly Cape Town readers.   There are tiny links at the bottom of the page that are barely visible, being so small.

14.   On the “Fresh Summer Food” one dish for Thai prawn cakes can be seen, yet a flash highlights ‘five delicious recipes’.  When one clicks onto that flash, it just enlarges it, and does not reveal the other four recipes.

15.   The feature on The Kitchen restaurant has a collection of photographs to the left, but one cannot see that they are linked to the restaurant story.

16.  The endlessly long “We love Real Beer” feature is blocked by yet another subscription sign-up block!

The design team clearly still tries too hard, making Crush! off-putting to read.  It is also too hard-sell, in pushing its free subscription (most readers would not be reading the magazine if they had not subscribed to it)!  Pushing its competitions at the expense of its own features or of advertisers’ brands is off-putting too, and reduces the value of their brands.   Our invitation to Michael to comment, issued in each of our reviews, still stands.  To read Crush!3, click here. (page 1 of the magazine has not been loading for a week now).

POSTSCRIPT 17/10: We are shocked that Michael Olivier, as editor of Crush!, can endorse a malicious campaign against us on Twitter as of last night, born out of a dinner of the Crush! editorial team, which included Michael Olivier, Sophia Lindop, Andy Fenner (Jamie Who?) and David Cope, in reaction to our three reviews of Crush!.  The driver of the campaign appears to be David Cope (the so-called ‘The Foodie’).  This is a most childish and unprofessional reaction, that one would not have expected from the once highly regarded Michael Olivier. 

POSTSCRIPT 18/10:   David Cope has taken great exception to having been outed, and is now hurling abuse at this writer via e-mail.  Surprisingly Michael Olivier has done nothing to protect his honour and that of his publication.  His broken page 1 has also not been fixed. 

POSTSCRIPT 4/11:  Andy Fenner (JamieWho?) has announced his exit from Crush!  He bases the decision on a collaboration with Woolworths, which has just been signed.   He may be smart in using this as a way out of Crush! to save his reputation, as he was part of the Crush! editorial team that launched the Twitter smear campaign, and is David Cope’s best friend.

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

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for the bloggers of South Africa, who had been judged by a committee of three, and voted for by their fans, in making the short-list of ten finalists in 25 categories of the S A Blog Awards.  We are delighted to have been selected as a Finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category, and thank our loyal blog readers, friends, commenters, and Twitter followers for their votes in making the Finalist selection possible.

Now we are like Idols contestants, in that we please request your vote for our Blog, to win in the category (there is no prize, other than a badge that goes onto the blog). The Most Controversial Blog category is quite far down the list, and you need to please click on our blog name to vote, and then to scroll down to the bottom of the list, to enter your e-mail address.  You are allowed to vote for us every 24 hours, per e-mail address, until the competition closes on 17 September.

The Whale Cottage Blog had been nominated in a number of categories, including Best Food & Wine Blog, Best Blog Post, Most Controversial Blog and Best Travel Blog.  Being a unique blog that does not fit fully into any specific category (e.g. Food, Travel), we were delighted to have made the finals (somehow we never got to enter last year).  The Most Controversial Blog category is a new one introduced this year, and it seemed to suit us ideally!   If we have created a unique identity for our blog, it has been to be ”independent * incisive * informative”, and it is described as being controversial, due to our lack of fear to write the truth, no matter the consequences.

We are in excellent company in this category, with 2Oceansvibe being a fellow finalist – last year its editor ‘Seth Rotherham’ won almost every category in the Blog Awards, and his blog became the benchmark for many of us (this year a blog can only be nominated in two categories).   The rest of the Finalists’ list is a little more dubious, sex and swearing broadly summarising the content of the other blogs in the Most Controversial Blog category.

The WhaleTales newsletter has been distributed for the past nine years, and has been the foundation of our writing about controversial issues.   It has not always been easy to be outspoken, in that we have experienced the following:

*  being told to not come back to the Opal Lounge, due to an unfavourable review that we wrote (in fact the instruction to not return was issued telephonically by the co-owner before the review was written and published)

*  being escorted out of Beluga by the police during a invited lunch for members of an association of guest house owners in Camps Bay, of which I am the chairman, because sister restaurant Sevruga received a Sour Service Award on this blog for a Cape Times book launch lunch, which the restaurant handled poorly, both food and service-wise

*   being threatened with legal action when we tackled Carne about falsely claiming that all its beef, lamb and game served comes from its Karoo farm and is organic, our most controversial blog post in the two year history of blog-writing.  This blog post was nominated for Best Blog Post.  The Carne blog post, and its follow up, took investigative journalism of the bravest kind, in obtaining documentation from the suppliers of the meat, and in obtaining (by luck) a telephonic admission by a supplier of meat to Carne, resulting in Carne withdrawing its legal threat, declaring the matter closed, and taking the dishonest claim off their website.

*   being on the receiving end of FEDHASA Cape’s attempt to cancel our membership, which resulted in my resignation as a Director of the hotel old-boys’ club, when I wrote about the dangers of small accommodation establishments signing with FIFA’s MATCH for the World Cup, over the past five years.  My views about MATCH were not in line with the hotel interests which dominated the FEDHASA Cape Board, and Nils Heckscher, GM of the Winchester Mansions, tried his best to get me off the Board.  Ultimately, we were vindicated in our advice when MATCH cancelled the bulk of its booked small and hotel accommodation throughout South Africa, the Winchester Mansions being one of the hotels badly hit by the cancellation of booked rooms by MATCH.  

*   being threatened with legal action by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, after our blog post of 28 December 2009 raised questions about the conflict of interest created by Clinton Lerm being the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and of the DMO.   Nothing has come of this threat to date.  Yesterday we published a follow-up story on the DMO’s lack of transparency.

*  writing critical restaurant reviews, without “white-washing” them

*   awarding Sweet and Sour Service Awards on the blog every Friday.

We would also like to recommend the following blogging friends and colleagues, for your vote:

*  Food & Wine Blog category: Cooksister (Jeanne Horak-Druiff), My-Easy-Cooking (Nina Timm), JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) and The Foodie (David Cope) (all of last year’s finalists have dropped out of this category, other than Cooksister and My-Easy-Cooking)

*   Best Travel Blog category:   SA Venues and Cape Town Travel (Cape Town Tourism)

*   Best Twitter Microblogger category: Relax-with-Dax, Gus Silber, and Spit or Swallow

We thank you for your support and your votes.

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

On Friday I received the second edition of Crush!, “South Africa’s finest digital food & wine magazine”, says the e-mail providing the link.  To make sure one knows how good it is, it promises “yet more brilliance for you in this issue” – that is if you thought that the first issue was brilliant!   I did not think it was, and wrote a blog post about Crush1, which respected food and wine guru and Crush! editor Michael Olivier was not happy about, but I am happy to see that he has taken note of some of the feedback (we did invite Michael to comment, but he declined).   Crush!2 is much improved, but it is not there yet.  Let me tell you why:

1.   The cover design of Crush!2 is much better, with barely any distracting design features on it – it reflects the best story of the issue, a wonderful chocolate spread, with the most beautiful photography.

2.   On the “editorial page” Michael’s face is covered by the play button of the video again.  The video was shot in Sophie Lindop’s kitchen while she was preparing the Chocolate article, he says in the video, and one can hear the ‘kitchen clanging’ in the background.   I could only get the video to run halfway, and then it broke off abruptly.  I re-tried it numerous times.

3.  Michael has addressed the feedback about providing details of his editorial team (the button for it being very subtle), and a block can be opened to read this detail - Petaldesign is the design company, with Matthew Ibbotson the Art Director, and Graham van de Ruit responsible for Flash animation.   The Crush! team is thin, it being mainly Michael and his wife on the editorial side, with guest input from JP Rossouw, David Cope and Andy Fenner.   The block is so small that one struggles to read all the names.

4.   A “How to Use this digital magazine” block is welcome, but contains numerous symbols that one must remember to be able to read the digital magazine more effectively.

5.   The magazine has grown to 36 pages, and the multi-page Lindt Chocolate feature is wonderful, proving that the content does not have to be crammed onto one page, which happens on the “Michael Says” page.  On this page, there are 3 book reviews, a focus on a Vineyard dog, “Michael’s Wine Finds”, a focus on Lynne and John Ford of Main Ingredient, and a “Wine Myth”, despite there being numerous other wine pages on which the wine stories could have been featured.

6.   Advertiser support by Old Mutual, Pick ‘n Pay, Pongracz, Arabella Wines, and the Paranga/Zenzero/Kove/Pepenero group has been retained, with new ads for Welgemoed, Arumdale and an advertorial for Spier.  Michael has assured me that Pick ‘n Pay is not the owner of the magazine.

7.   On the “Essentials” page one cannot read the labels on the Dalla Cia Grappa, NoMu and Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil packs, making pack recognition difficult.   If you click onto the packs, they are a little bigger.  A green i-sign provides more information.  When one has clicked on a section to blow up the size, it does not guide one as to how to reduce the size again, so one has to click to a previous page to get back on the page one was on, making this repeat process tedious over time.

8.   The Spier double-page advertorial is weak, in being an illustration of the Spier estate.  One assumes that if one clicks onto each of the “noticeboards”, that one can obtain information.  If, however, one has opened one such information block, and not closed it, one cannot open the next block.    The worst problem about this page is the dominant Uwe Koetter competition announcement, which clashes with the Spier promotion.

9.   The brand names of the wines presented with the recipe for Vegetable Cauliflower Cream Soup are unreadable, with the exception of Glen Carlou.  When one clicks onto the “Rollover” flash, it enlarges the packs a little, but does not make the labels more readable.   Once again, when one has enlarged the labels to such an extent that one can read them, one cannot get back to the full page, and has to go ‘backwards’ to get back to where one was.  A different recipe is matched to each brand of wine when one moves the mouse over it.  However, the Glen Carlou recipe rollover provides no details about serving numbers, difficulty of preparation, and prep and cook times.

10.   The “JamieWho?” page is really odd, in that Michael is clearly trying to add a younger and more hip touch to Crush!.  Blogger Andy Fenner, who recently “outed” himself as being “JamieWho?”, when he relaunched his blogsite, has almost two pages to himself, with his branding in the centre.  As an ueber-brand and marketing conscious person, I am sure he must be shocked at the presentation of his page, with the funny petal-shaped buttons, inviting readers to read his La Mouette review, his muesli recipe, his visits to L’Avenir and Delaire Graff (very disappointing short one-paragraph summaries), and a lovely feature on Roxanne Floquet, the “Queen of Cakes”.  I am not sure if the thousands of readers Michael claims his magazines go to will know who “JamieWho?”/Andy Fenner is, and will be impressed by his involvement.

11.  The “High Five” wine page has the same problem with label readability, as described above.

12.  The “Eating Out” page is interesting in that it is prominently branded with JP Rossouw’s name over two pages, but has a flash in the top right corner saying “The Foodie Fast Eats”, which is a short write-up by “The Foodie” (see below) of the Sunrise Chip ‘n Ranch (I did not pick up that there were mini write-ups about Jardine’s Bakery and Cookshop too, until alerted to these).  However, “The Foodie” has his own pages in the magazine elsewhere.   A review of Johannesburg-based DW Eleven-13 by Rossouw is of no interest to Cape Town readers, probably making up a large proportion of the magazine subscribers.   A competition block blocks the readability of the restaurant review.   At the bottom of the page it mentions four restaurants under the heading “Crush also liked”, listing Blue Water Cafe, Wild Woods, Casa Labia and Foodbarn (the name of this restaurant is barely visible), with only a telephone number and address, but no review, or summary about what these restaurants stand for.  One is not sure if they are recommended by JP or by Michael.

13.  The “Quaff Now” and “Cellar for Later” wine pages have the same problems with pack recognition and branding, but a neat label at each bottle helps one to identify each brand name.  One wonders why this approach is not used throughout the magazine to assist one in reading the pack names, rather than using so many different design styles.  An Old Mutual information block seems out of place on this page, other than to communicate that Old Mutual encourages one to drink a lot, with an inevitable outcome, requiring insurance cover!

14.   The “Quick & Delicious” page has recipes for a week ahead, nicely presented as ‘recipe cards’.   But the content is blocked in part by a block asking if one has subscribed.

15.   As stated above, the “4 Ways with Chocolate” feature is fantastic, with mouth-watering photography by Russel Wasserfall.  One wonders why Russel does not do all the photography for Crush!

16.  By contrast to the “JamieWho?” pages, “The Foodie”‘s pages are a disappointment – “The Foodie” does not receive the same branding and identity treatment compared to that of his friend Andy Fenner, and his pages look more messy and unfocused.  What is a huge surprise is that “The Foodie” is outed as being David Cope, an identity which David has been at great pains to protect.  David’s blog “The Foodie” does not even identify his surname!   David works at a PR agency, and writes for such clients as the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School.   He, like Andy Fenner, likes to hang out at &Union, and one wonders if Michael’s readers have heard of ”The Foodie”.   He writes about a Houseboat stay at Langebaan and has a recipe for making “Perfect Guacomole”.  I wonder why Michael has chosen two “man’s men” bloggers to contribute to Crush! when there are many talented (lady) food bloggers who may have far greater credibility and be of greater interest to the readers of Crush!

17.  Crush!2 was sent out early on Friday, a bad day of the week for distributing newsletters, and getting them read.   This is evident by the few comments made about it on Twitter (many Twitter users read their Tweets on their phones, and Blackberry and iPhone do not support Adobe Flash required to open the magazine on their phones).  Also, Crush! does not appear to have editorial deadlines - Crush!1 was a month late in being launched, and this edition was published 7 weeks thereafter, not at the beginning of a month, if it is meant to be monthly or bi-monthly.

My overall impression: the “style over substance” approach to this digital magazine will not win it loyal readers – if only the style were good - and that has huge potential to improve.  Its “journalism” is light-weight,  and as someone said to me: ”this is not an online magazine  – it is a picturebook”!  Harsh words, but perhaps he is right.  Crush!2 says it is “Food & Wine with Passion” – the passion is there, but the execution is not yet!

Once again, I invite Michael to comment, which I am more than happy to post.  Read Crush!2

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

I have come across a blog called “Food Blog Code of Ethics”, compiled by two food bloggers in America, which has raised the important issue of ethics in food blogging, which principles can apply to wine and other blogging too.  The Code raises important issues for South African bloggers in dealing with the ethics of blogging.

Brooke Burton writes the blog ‘FoodWoolf’, subtitled “the restaurant insider’s perspective”, and Leah Greenstein’s blog is called ‘SpicySaltySweet’.  They got together with other food bloggers to create an ‘union of ethical food bloggers’, setting “Reviewers’ Guidelines” and compiling the Code of Ethics.   We do not necessarily agree with all their principles, but welcome it as a foundation for a Blogging Code of Conduct that we may jointly subscribe to as members of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club.

The blog post on reviewing restaurants states the following principles they subscribe too – our comments are in italics.

1.   One should visit the restaurant more than once, and state if the review is based on only one visit – we do not agree that a review should be based on more than visit, as the strengths and weaknesses of a restaurant are usually the same and apparent immediately.   Restaurants should strive for consistency, so that the reviewer should experience it in the same way on any visit.  Reviews help restaurants improve their food and service quality, if they are smart about facing them and learning from them, not always a strength of restaurantsMultiple visits are expensive, as most visits are paid for by the reviewer.  On our Blog we will update our impression with a Postscript, as we did recently for La Mouette, for example, in that the experience was vastly different compared to previous ones, highlighting a consistency problem.

2.  One should sample the full range of dishes on the menu – this is a hard one to implement, as many menus are excessively big.  Taking a partner to lunch/dinner and ordering different dishes helps, so that the reviewer can try a larger number.  Recently we were criticised by Richard Carstens’ sister-in-law, Leigh Robertson, for not having a starter at Chez d’Or, and that writing a review based on tasting three dishes only was not fair to the restaurant.  I doubt if a starter would have made my review any more positive.  Having a wide range of dishes, when paying for it, is a cost and a space consideration.

3.   One should be fair to a new restaurant and wait for a month after its opening, to give it a chance “to work out some kinks”, and should qualify reviews as ‘initial impressions’ if the review is done in less than a month after opening – bloggers have become very competitive, and some want to write a review about new restaurants before their colleagues do.  Our reviews state when the restaurant opened if it is new, so that the reader can read such “kinks” into it.  The first ‘Rossouw’s Restaurants’ review of La Mouette raised the issue of how quickly one can/should review a new restaurant, one of Rossouw’s inspectors having been at the restaurant on its first or second day of opening.  Two visits to Leaf Restaurant and Bar on two subsequent days showed their acceptance of customer feedback by moving the ghetto-blaster they have set up on the terrace from on top of a table, to below it, after my comments to them about it.   No other business, play or movie has a second chance in reviews being written about it, in that they are normally done after opening night - so why should restaurants be ‘protected’ in this way?   No business should open its doors when it is not ready to do so (Leaf held back its opening because it had problems in getting a credit card machine installed by the bank)!

4.  One should specify if one received a meal, or part of it, or any other product for free, and should also declare if one was recognised in the restaurant – absolutely agree on the declaration of the freebie, and we have regular Blog readers and Commenters who delight in checking blogs for the freebies.  Some bloggers are labelled by such readers as not having credibility, in that they usually only write about meals they received for free, and usually are very positive about them, so that they can be invited back in future!   The recognisablity of the reviewer is an interesting issue.  I always book in the name of “Chris”, with a cell number.   If I know the owner or a staff member of the restaurant, I will state that in the review.

5.   One should not use pseudonyms in writing reviews, and reviewers should stand up and be counted by revealing their names – absolutely agree.  In Cape Town we have a strange situation of Food bloggers who hide behind pseudonyms.  Andy Fenner (JamieWho) wanted to remain unidentified when he started blogging, yet appointed a PR agency to raise his profile, and was “outed” by Food & Home, when they wrote about him, using his real name.  He is now open about his real name (probably being irritated by being called Jamie more often than Andy, I assume).  One wonders what bloggers using pseudonyms have to hide?  Wine bloggers seem to be more open and upfront about who they are.   I would like to add here how difficult it is to make contact with Food Bloggers in particular .  Most do not have a telephone number nor an e-mail address to contact them on their blogs, and one has to use a Comment box to contact them, which most do not respond to.   Yet many of these bloggers are looking to make money from advertising on their blogs. 

The Code of Ethics which the two bloggers prepared with their colleagues is as follows:

“1. We will be accountable

  • We will write about the culinary world with the care of a professional. We will not use the power of our blog as a weapon. We will stand behind our claims. If what we say or show could potentially affect someone’s reputation or livelihood, we will post with the utmost thought and due diligence.
  • We understand why some bloggers choose to stay anonymous. We respect that need but will not use it as an excuse to avoid accountability. When we choose to write anonymously for our own personal or professional safety, we will not post things we wouldn’t be comfortable putting our names to.
  • If we review a restaurant, product or culinary resource we will consider integrating the standard set of guidelines as offered by the Association of Food Journalists.

2. We will be civil

  • We wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge that our experiences with food are subjective. We promise to be mindful—regardless of how passionate we are—that we will be forthright, and will refrain from personal attacks.

3. We will reveal bias

  • If we are writing about something or someone we are emotionally or financially connected to, we will be up front about it.

4. We will disclose gifts, comps and samples

  • When something is given to us or offered at a deep discount because of our blog, we will disclose that information.  As bloggers, most of us do not have the budgets of large publications, and we recognize the value of samples, review copies of books, donated giveaway items and culinary events. It’s important to disclose freebies to avoid be accused of conflicts of interest.

5. We will follow the rules of good journalism

  • We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever possible. We will do our best to make sure that the information we are posting is accurate. We will factcheck. In other words, we will strive to practice good journalism even if we don’t consider ourselves journalists”.

The above aspects are clear and need no elaboration.  The last sentence of the Code is odd though, in that we are “new age” journalists, and must play by the same rules as the print, radio and TV media do.  That means we must research our stories, to ensure their accuracy.   One can correct a blog post if one makes an error, including spelling and grammar ones.  An American food blog recently added a note about getting the name of a restaurant reviewer wrong – she did not change it in the blog post, but wrote an apology at the bottom of her post, highlighting the error, which most readers probably would not have picked up.  A controversial issue is the announcement of Reuben Riffel taking over the maze space at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town, which Riffel has denied.   No correction or apology to Riffel or the hotel has been posted,

We encourage Bloggers and Blog readers to give us their views on the Code of Ethics as well as the Restaurant Review guidelines, which we will be happy to post.  I would like to get the ball rolling by stating that the Code should include the publishing of Comments, even if they are controversial, as long as they do not attack the writer or the subject of the blog post with malice, and the Commenter is identified, as is the family or other relationship of the Commenter (e.g. JP Rossouw’s and Richard Carstens’ sisters-in-law).   I would also like to hear views about revealing to the restaurant that one is writing a review, in that I was recently criticised by the co-owner of Oskar Delikatessen for not asking permission to write a review and to take photographs, which contradicts the Code on writing unidentified.  A third issue is the acceptance of advertising on one’s blog, or accepting sponsorships for brands, and how this should be revealed.

POSTSCRIPT 22/8 : Reuben Riffel’s appointment as the new operator of the restaurant at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has been announced in the Sunday Times today.   We congratulate Spill blog on having had its ear to the ground in announcing this news ahead of all other media.  The One&Only Hotel had denied speaking to Spill about Reuben’s appointment at the time that they wrote the story, and Riffel had denied it too. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/8:  Since writing this post, the identity of The Foodie as being David Cope has been revealed by Crush!2.  Furthermore, Clare “Mack” of Spill Blog (with her husband Eamon McLoughlin) has been identified as being Clare McKeon, an ex-Irish TV chat show hostess, columnist, author of “The Emotional Cook”, magazine beauty journalist, and owner of the Bliss Beauty Salon.  

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

South Africa’s first digital food and wine magazine Crush! was launched last Friday, a long-awaited online publication under the editorship of respected food and wine guru Michael Olivier.

Olivier studied at the Cordon Bleue Cookery School in London, has done PR for the Lanzerac Hotel, has owned restaurants (Paddagang, Burgundy and Parks), has been a wine consultant to Pick ‘n Pay, has published books (including one called ‘Crush! 100 wines to drink now’), and presents wine programmes on Classic FM and on FMR radio stations.  He announced the launch of Crush! at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting in May, with an original launch date of 3 June.  The actual publication date was a month later.

Digital magazines have been published in the United Kingdom for a number of years already, but have not made it into South Africa until now due to the lack of ample broadband capacity.   Crush! is published with software bought from Redonline, a British company which publishes GQ, Tesco, FHM and many other digital titles.  It is available for free to what is projected will be just under 1 million readers, and its production is funded by advertising, sponsorships and product placements.  The advertising rates seem reasonable, at a discounted R 7548 for a double page spread for the first three issues.

For me Crush! is a let-down, not only technically, in navigating the 26 pages of the digital magazine, but also in terms of its content:

1.   Its size is smaller than the full screen size, giving the impression of an A5 magazine, something one takes less seriously than an A4 size.

2.  One has to click to the top right hand corner of the right page to turn the pages – it will take some time for one to get used to doing this expertly, without feeling silly in turning the pages efficiently (luckily I saw a “fools’ guide” to turning the pages at the top left, which shows arrows to the right and to the left).

3.  The cover of a magazine is what sells it – I found Crush!’s cover to be unattractive and far too busy, with all sorts of electronic “nick-nacks” to attract one’s attention, seriously lacking a good design hand.

4.  I missed an “Ed’s letter”, in which Michael should explain what Crush! stands for, remind readers of his background and strengths, and detail who is in his editorial and production team.  

5.  Michael does talk on a YouTube video on the third page, but unfortunately the “play” button is on top of his face, a design problem that can easily be addressed.

6.  Crush! has little advertising, but needs advertising support to finance the venture and to pay the royalties to Redonline.  The Pepenero/Paranga/Kove/Zenzero group, Pick ‘n Pay, Old Mutual, Constantia Glen and Pongracz are direct advertisers.   I liked the more subtle advertorial feel of the Arabella wines page.   The double page spread on Warwick is the most attractive of all pages in Crush!, in my opinion, and while I am sure that it is paid-for advertorial, it is the “cleanest” page, with the fewest “gimmicks” and pop-ups of all. 

7.  Given the cost of setting up such a venture, one wonders if it is Pick ‘n Pay financing the venture, given Olivier’s relationship with them.  

8.   Having been earmarked for launch more than a month ago, most of the copy probably was written at that time.  The danger with a delay is that the information gets dated, and the page written by JP Rossouw is dated in two respects – JP Rossouw’s image has been seriously dented by the reaction to his La Mouette review (read here).  Olivier would have done better to write the page himself.   Secondly, Rossouw chose to focus on La Colombe, and Luke Dale-Roberts, just 2 days after the La Colombe chef announced that he is no longer the Executive Chef of the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurant in the World restaurant!  Ironically, it was Rossouw that alerted the industry to this news, but the information about Luke Dale-Roberts’ relationship with La Colombe was not updated in the two days before launching the publication.  The fact that Rossouw’s Restaurants book is offered for sale on the page commercialises the page and reduces its credibility even further.  When entering the La Colombe competition, I lost the link to the page I was on, and had to go back to the Homepage, and run through all the pages again.   In the running link it mentions, amongst others, that JP Rossouw has reviewed La Colombe, but there is no review!  The next issue of Crush! is to feature a review of a Johannesburg restaurant – while I understand that Crush! is a national publication, reviews about restaurants in other areas have little interest for Cape Town readers, a weakness Rossouw faces with his on-line reviews too.

9.   Alongside a recipe for Salmon Fishcakes, as well as on the “High Five” wine page, the labels of the bottles of the wine options suggested are unreadable.  One is encouraged to click onto each bottle to “roll it over”, but it only pops up with information about that particular wine. 

10.   A profile of Chef Liam Tomlin of the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School is disappointing, in that little information is provided on the page, which mainly is filled with a photograph of Tomlin.  If one clicks on a small “interview” button, Tomlin’s answers to a set of questions are provided, hardly giving one a feel for the character and personality of Tomlin, nor of his background. 

11.   Every page has a running script at the top, a little like on SkyNews and other news television stations, distracting one’s attention from the main body of the page.  

12.  The “back’ page refers to an Uwe Koetter competition, and it is not immediately clear that one does not have to do anything to stand a chance to win jewellery.

In general I found Crush! to be too superficial in that it lacks depth; it is too “thin” in terms of number of pages compared to a regular magazine; it is too hard-sell in encouraging one to buy wines via ‘Crush Cellar’ which takes one to Grapefuel, travel (never heard of Pick ‘n Pay having a travel agency), and Rossouw’s book; and it is too “busy” in terms of pop-ups, running messages and buttons one has to click to read further information.  Ultimately, a digital magazine cannot compete with a glossy printed one.  It cannot be kept for future reference, it cannot be displayed on a coffee table, one cannot tear a page out of it, and it does not offer 100 pages or so of reading joy in bed, which a magazine can do.

To read Crush!, click here.  Twitter: @Crush_online

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

&Union Beer Salon and Charcuterie is a very trendy pub that is one of the favourite haunts of bloggers Dax of Relax-with-Dax, The Foodie and JamieWho, and they give its beer brands regular coverage via Twitter,  so much so that I had to try it out – the first time about a month ago – and then I went back for the Brazil versus Portugal match last week. 

To review &Union one needs to know that the owners were the founder owners of Vida e Caffe (Brad Armitage and Rui Esteves), who broke away to create &Union.  &Union does not give one a Vida franchise feel at all – exactly the opposite is true, and it is commendable that the owners could start and maintain a business so radically different to what they did before.  Also, untypically for Vida e Caffe, &Union has no visible exterior branding on Bree Street, but those that love the brand and share the passion, know where it is!

&Union is not a traditional pub – one sits outside on wooden tables and benches in summer, and for the World Cup a Moroccan style tent has been erected to cover all Cape Town winter weather options, with heaters if it gets cold.  The tent has three strips of material on it, which are linked to a painting near the entrance, all related to the Puma Africa Unity Kit.   It would be lost to most present, unless they had been invited to the launch of the new Puma beer a few days before.

We arrived just before the match starting time, and there was only a little bench available to sit on, a little removed from all the other benches, and without a table.  I was impressed with Simon Wibberley, the Operations Manager, who seemed to know everyone coming into &Union, hugging and kissing (the ladies at least), and the guys all seemed to be friends.   Simon stood near the entrance, and kept an eye on things continuously – no sitting back and having a beer and watch the soccer for him.   It became so full that he eventually locked the gate, yet it did not feel crowded.  The only problem was a lack of seating for everyone.

The beer list is an unusual brown A3 recycled sheet which shows its seven beers and tells the &Union story.  The owners wanted to develop beer brands that are authentic, truthful and honest, and that stand for quality, heritage, tradition and taste.  This led them to find “some of Europe’s oldest family-run breweries in search of artisan-produced beers that we are not only proud to produce for our customers but love to drink ourselves.  We don’t believe we can single-handedly change the world of beer as it exists but with a little raw passion, blind optimism and reckless resolve, we can perhaps make a difference”, the beer list says.

This mission for &Union has led to the development of “luxury beers, handcrafted by our artisans from the finest natural ingredients.  Our pils and amber ale are brewed using only 100% barley malt, yeast, hops, and water”.  The beer is brewed for up to 8 weeks.  The Pils and Amber are unpasteurised, the beer list says, to allow a “fuller, richer taste”.   The passion comes from “Eating. Drinking. Living. That’s what we love. Pairing real beer with real food…”.  This passion is lived in a small selection of food options, the seven beer choices, and, surprisingly, wines.

The beer list has a prominent packshot of each beer sold, and as an infrequent beer drinker and having been ignorant about the brand, the seven beer names meant nothing to me at all.  The beer list is there to help, with better-than-wine descriptions of each:

*   Unity Lager was developed for Puma’s “African Unity Kit” football campaign.  It is “medium-bodied”, “silky smooth”, “malty”, “hints of apple and honey”, and has a ”bittersweet floral finish”.  It costs R40 for 500ml

*   Brewers &Union Unfiltered Lager is “unfiltered, unpasteurized”, “bursting with flavour”.  Cost is R 40 for 500ml

*   Steph Weiss is a wheat beer, “delicate, smooth and creamy”, “aromas of vanilla and clove”. Cost is R 40 for 500ml

*   Berne Unfiltered Amber is German-style, “buttery”, “toasty, bready malts”, “hints of caramel and toffee”.  It costs R 40 for 500ml

*   Brewers &Union Dark Lager is “beautifully hopped”, “dark roasted malt flavor” (sic). Cost is R 40 for 500 ml

*   Touro Tripel Blond has a “creamy palate”, “fruity spicy malt flavour” It costs R 125 for 750ml

*   Touro Tripel Amber has a “honeyed-amber malt aroma”, “hints of vanilla and caramel”.  Cost is R 125 for 750ml

The menu is short and sweet: eight food options- a biltong bowl (tasted a bit vinegary) at R25; pate – made from charcuterie off-cuts and a bit too coarse for my taste – at R35;  grilled weisswurst with mustard was excellent – at R60;  Prego rolls cost R 60, available in beef and pork; the Charcuterie Board costs R65, and consists of coppa, parma ham and felino sausage; the “grilled juicy saucisson” board  – a North African sausage made with 16 spices – costs R60;   a 3-cheese board costs R65; and the salmon carpaccio board R75.  Three ”sweets” are offered, almond croissants (R15), Italian chocolate liqueur (made by Massimo from Hout Bay Pizza Club) at R20, and an espresso chocolate at R25.  &Union also serves organic coffee.  One can also have an early breakfast at &Union.

Two white and two red wines are served by the glass: Haut Espoir Sauvignon Blanc (R35) and Tamboerskloof Viognier (R40), and Landskroon and Boer & Brit ‘The General’ red blends, both costing R 40.  Ten wines by the bottle start at R 130 for the Haut Espoir, and The Hedonist is the most expensive at R 210.  I loved the name of the sparkling wine brand – Suikerbossie ‘Ek wil jou he’, made in Kimberley, a surprise wine region.

&Union is a refreshingly (pardon the pun) different ‘beer salon”.  It cares about beer, food and its clients.   It knows how to build relationships with its customers.   It is not pushy nor hard-sell, maybe a little too laid back on the service, but regulars go inside and order what they want, not waiting to be served.  The soccer did not have much “gees”, despite there being so many soccer fans.   It is trendy, and no doubt will grow into an eatery and beer salon that will set new standards in responsible eating and drinking in Cape Town.   The only dissonance for me is that wines are served (with some unfortunate typos in the wine list), given its name and beer focus.   The challenge for the owners will be to keep it small and personal, the opposite to what they achieved with Vida e Caffe.

&Union Beer Salon and Chacuterie, 110 Bree Street. Tel 021 422-2770. www.brewersandunion.com. Twitter @andUnion. Blog: www.andunion.blogspot.com  Free wireless internet.  

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