City Bakery’s Maury Rubin: “Too Much Philosophy in Too Many Kitchens These Days.”
As we wrote our list of 99 Essential Restaurants™ in Lower Manhattan, we spoke to many of the chefs, owners, and general managers who run the restaurants. We asked them to tell us about the history of their neighborhoods and eateries, recount good memories, and talk to us about what’s hardest about running a restaurant in New York.
Some of these interviews were too good not to share, like the one that follows with City Bakery's Maury Rubin.
What year did you open?
1990. Union Square had just been re-landscaped to drive out the drug trade. Greenmarket was about a dozen farmers twice a week. Both ends of Union Square were dark: On the north, the present Barnes & Noble was a boarded up eyesore; to the south, the Whole Foods today was an old department store from yesterday and empty for years. Lower Fifth Avenue was mostly empty or ancient family businesses, like B. Shackman, a toy store at the corner of 16th and Fifth, which was like walking into a 1930’s time machine. Seventeenth Street, home to the first City Bakery, was an ugly duckling block with crooked sidewalks, and was home to the fall-off-the-truck perfume business in NYC. Lou’s Perfume Palace was across the street from us, with a check cashing place next door. There was a Sanford and Son-like hardware store down the block — an incredible mess in every inch from floor to ceiling. That space today is Journelle Luxury Lingerie.
What’s your philosophy?
Too much philosophy in too many kitchens today.
What was your original vision for this restaurant, and how has that evolved?
A creative, delicious place. I wanted to breathe life and ideas into the neighborhood bakery, to make it a sensory experience, personal, up-to-date with the changing food world at that time, engaging and one-of-a-kind. That has evolved nicely.
What dishes can you not take off the menu?
Pretzel croissant, hot chocolate, cookies, cookies, cookies, lots of salads, and mac & cheese.
What are your favorite memories of the restaurant?
A lifetime of memories. Mostly about staff and connecting with customers and all of the people who are central to growing a business. Stories for ages. Here are five other thoughts that come to mind:
1. The first day of construction of the first City Bakery. Opening the door at 22 East 17th Street into a minefield of dust flying everywhere with plaster being ripped off the walls.
2. Dodging speeding garbage trucks crossing 14th Street at 2:30 a.m. every night walking to work. I remain certain to this day they were hellbent on hitting anything that got in their way and having a grand old time.
3. The peace and quiet of Greenmarket in the early morning, and talking with farmers before the rest of NY woke up (and before Greenmarket became a Thing To Do). Those relationships remain some of the most sacred.
4. Making a birthday cake for Irving Penn.
5. The first time I saw Alice Waters standing in line in the bakery for breakfast one morning.
How do you fit in the neighborhood?
In the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright’s dictum that a house should be of the hill, not on it, I do humbly believe City Bakery is of this neighborhood, not simply in it. We opened at a moment when Union Square was being recast into it’s present profile and fabulousness. We were one of the early businesses that contributed to that evolution, and we remain today vital and part of the fabric of this area.
What is your distinct place in the NYC dining scene?
I further humbly believe there is only one City Bakery in NYC and the country. Our food and drinks, total environment, and experience remain completely unique in the food biz.
What’s best about being part of the NYC restaurant industry?
It’s a helluva town to do well in.
What’s the hardest part about having a restaurant in NYC?
Nothing is not hard about this. Rating the hardest is a thought I’m too tired to even process.
Published April 2 in the Village Voice’s “Fork in the Road”
10:50 pm • 2 April 2014
Austin’s Lenoir Does NYC
After Austin’s Lenoir was named one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants of 2012, chef/owners Jessica Maher and Todd Duplechan were approached by the James Beard House to host one of its famed dinners. Lenoir was there Saturday, Sept. 21 and I was assigned to cover it. A tough job, as they say, but …
One of the most important things to understand about presenting a Beard House dinner is that chefs who accept the invitation receive no portion of the ticket sales (over 70 guests attended Lenoir’s event), and must cover travel expenses for themselves and any staff members, as well as food and beverage costs for the entire multi-course meal. In the end, the dinner itself is extremely costly for the host chef, but according to Maher, the honor and exposure that come with being asked to host the dinner make it well worth the effort, and the cost.
When I arrived early to meet them, Jessica and Todd had been ready since 2pm. Thanks to the married duo’s meticulous planning, everything was in place and ready to go. “I just knew with my personality that if we winged it I would have a nervous breakdown,” Maher said, “so I have lists upon lists of everything that needed to be bought and needed to be prepped.”
To hear Maher tell it, the planning began as soon as they accepted the offer. They needed to pick a date three months in advance and eventually settled on Sept. 21 because not only would the ingredients they were looking to serve be in season, but also, the restaurant would still be able to run smoothly in Austin with a majority of its management gone.
“We knew the restaurant would still flow in September because it’s still hot in Austin, and people are coming off of summer and eating less because of the heat,” Maher said. “We knew it would be a good time for us to come up to New York City and take advantage of the farmers’ market and cooler weather.”
Lenoir is known for using local ingredients whenever possible, so in order to bring their restaurant experience to the Big Apple, Maher and Duplechan made many a call to airport TSA to ensure that their cooler filled with native Texas proteins such as soft shell crawfish and antelope would not be confiscated. Local New York ingredients were purchased the day before the dinner at theUnion Square Green Market.
Prep work was done at Bark in Brooklyn because co-owner Josh Sharkey is a friend of the pair from their days working in former New York City restaurants such as Café Gray and Tabla. On Saturday morning, a cab was loaded up with all of the food (including mint marigold ice cream that Maher transported using dry ice) and barreled through the streets of Manhattan to the James Beard House.
“I think there is no way to get around the sheer insanity of having to bring your restaurant experience to an entirely new state,” Maher said. “Especially to a really big foodie audience and still be true to what you are doing.”
Built in 1844, the James Beard House in the West Village is literally where Oregon native James Beard lived during his time in New York City. One of the dining tables is set up in Beard’s elevated bedroom where, if diners were to look up, they would see a mirrored ceiling. Another table in the glass walled dining room is adjacent to a shower head where the very tall, portly, and bald Beard sometimes bathed in full view of his neighbors.
A small courtyard in the back of the house served as an area for socializing, drinking, and snacking on appetizers before the meal. I met a woman who divides her time between living in Austin and New York. She told me that when she saw her favorite Austin restaurant was hosting a dinner in New York, she made all of her New York friends come out and try it. The woman was quite chatty until she popped an appetizer of toast with warm Gulf shrimp and persimmon into her mouth, then she fell silent.
Once summoned inside, I was assigned to a table next to a portrait of James Beard himself. My fellow diners were all James Beard Foundation members (or invitees of members) who have come here so often they know all of the waiters’ names. One woman estimated that she has been attending these dinners for twenty years. They have seen a litany of up-and-coming chefs go from cooking dinners here to becoming star chefs in the culinary world. They know good food, and they expect to eat it when they come here, especially for the triple figure price tag of each ticket.
But we all agreed, the Lenoir dinner did not disappoint. The flavor combinations were unique and unexpected: fennel and seaweed salad with pecan butter, soft-shell crawfish, poha-crusted cobia with pomegranate, and almond and jaggery caramel cake with mint marigold ice cream. As each course arrived, the chatter quieted as guests savored every bite, only piping up once again to comment on the food before them.
A diner at my table told me that though she has been a part of the James Beard house for decades, she had stopped attending dinners on a regular basis because she left stuffed and drunk (a different wine is served with each course). But surprisingly, after cleaning every plate of the Lenoir meal, all six courses of them, none of us felt overly full. The meal was understated, satisfying, and impressive.
At the end of the dinner, Duplechan and Maher took questions from guests. One asked about why a protein as unique as antelope was on the menu. Duplechan responded that antelope was brought to Texas for big game hunting, but eventually escaped the private game ranches and became an invasive species. Serving antelope therefore is in keeping with the sustainable aspect of their restaurant.
Another question arose about serving light fare in a state known for its heavy dishes, to which Duplechan replied that he prefers to make lighter food due to Austin’s scorching high temperatures. “We live in a hot place, so we need to eat for that,” Duplechan said.
And with that, a representative of the James Beard house thanked the chefs for serving their food in the historic venue. As I left, I overheard someone saying, “If I ever make it down to Austin, I know where I’m going be to eating!” Lucky them.
Published September 25 in The Austin Chronicle
7:59 pm • 26 September 2013 • 1 note
Homesick Texans Can Now Chill with Shiner Beer
When it comes to battling the Texas heat, few things are more victorious than an ice-cold Shiner beer. But what happens when Texans move away from Texas? It may be a sin to leave the best state in the nation, but is it such a horrible sin that penance should be the loss of the comfort of a most beloved beer?
When Emanuell Hernandez moved to New York City for graduate school in August of 2012, he said goodbye to the foods and drinks that signified Texas to him: honey butter chicken biscuits from Whataburger, kolaches from West, Texas, and his favorite Shiner Ruby Redbird.
But a month later, he found himself at Rodeo Bar, a New York City watering hole trying to bring all things Texan up to the Yankee North. For a hefty $8 that could buy him a six-pack back home, Hernadez could enjoy a single bottle of Shiner. “We basically smuggled it in from out of state for a while,” said Rodeo Bar’s Mitch Pollak. “We were the first bar in New York to carry it, and all the Texans in New York were pretty shocked to see we had it.”
But then in April of this year, the incredible happened. Shiner began to distribute in New York, and Texans went wild. At Good Beer, a shop in the East Village, owner David Cichowicz received a shipment of Shiner on April 15, the day after it was officially being distributed in the city. It sold so fast that he immediately had to order more.
At Alphabet Beer Co. in Alphabet City, bar owner Zach Mack had the exact same problem (or fortune, depending on how you look at it.) Before he was able to place another order, Mach sold out of all the Shiner he had ordered. But he was not surprised. “From the first week we opened people were asking us if we sold Shiner Bock.”
So what is it about Shiner that makes Texans so crazy about it?
Charlie Paulette, the chief sales and marketing officer for Gambrinus Company, which owns Shiner as well as Trumer Pils and BridgePort, believes it has to do with the fact that Texans are proud of who they are and where they come from, but more specifically, that Shiner itself is a survivor. “Shiner has been through Prohibition, two World Wars, and all of the competition that came from the bigger breweries that really dominated the beer scene in the 60s and 70s ,” Paulette said. “People get excited because Shiner as a beer is almost a historical figure to a degree.”
For Hernandez, the craving for Shiner is deeply rooted in nostalgia. The Baylor graduate has happy memories of drinking the beer with dinner back home, so when he’s feeling a little homesick, the taste has the ability to take him back to the Lone Star State. “It’s always nice to have something to remind you of back home or that relates to back home,” Hernandez said. “I think the best thing coming out of Shiner being sold here now is it gives us transplants a chance to reminisce about old times and opens up non-Texans to the world of Shiner.”
Will the hype last? Cichowicz has his doubts because he believes once Texans get a fill for their Shiner craving, they will go back to drinking other beers. “People want what they can’t have, and for awhile, you couldn’t get Shiner here,” Cichowicz said. “Now that you can, I’m curious to see how it does after it has been on the market for awhile.”
Paulette said that so far, sales of Shiner in New York City have exceeded the brewery’s expectations. The next step is to build a relationship with people who have never tried or heard of Shiner before. Once they have established roots in the New York community and become “proper friends with the people in the city”, Paulette said that they would consider distributing in more cities. So if New Yorkers take a shine to it, chances are other big cities will get a chance to enjoy Shiner, as well.
Now that New Yorkers have access to Shiner and they’ve sampled Texas barbecue from Franklin’s, Louie Mueller’s , the Salt Lick and others at the Big Apple BBQ Party in Central Park last month, chances are they will be asking for more of Texas’ finest goods. Be prepared St. Arnold’s beer and Sweet Leaf Tea, New Yorkers get what they want, and you could certainly be next!
Published: July 4 in The Austin Chronicle
3:37 pm • 15 August 2013
Owner Carrie Levin Reflects on the History of Just Reopened Good Enough To Eat
Carrie Levin hasn’t slept in seven days. Her restaurant Good Enough To Eat reopened in its new location at 520 Columbus Avenue last Thursday, and she’s been busy settling in, cooking up the classics from her old spot in her new kitchen.
Her debut date is significant: “People think I’m crazy because 13 is my lucky number,” Levin says. “I opened the first location of Good Enough To Eat on June 13, the second on August 13, and now this one on June 13 again.”
But when Levin’s landlord decided not to renew her lease at the restaurant’s Amsterdam and West 83rd location, she knew she was going to need more than just luck, and so she teamed up with Jeremy Wladis of the Restaurant Group—proprietor of a handful of restaurants on the Upper West Side—to save the famous brunch spot. The new partnership allowed her to move the restaurant to the Columbus Avenue address that once housed his pop-up restaurant AG Bistro.
Levin has nothing negative to say about the move. “I roll with the neighborhood,” Levin says.
And roll she has. When Levin first opened up shop in 1981, the Upper West Side was not as nice as it is now. According to Levin, the first Good Enough To Eat at Amsterdam between West 80th and 81st Streets sat next to a Chinese restaurant that dealt drugs. The rent was cheap, but eight years later, she moved a couple of blocks to the West 83rd Street spot where things were not much better. “Every morning there were crack vials on the floor,” Levin remembers. “It just wasn’t a great neighborhood.”
Levin started to notice changes in the area about twelve years ago, and with them came rent hikes and newly enforced rules and regulations. “You used to be able to have a nice, great restaurant,” Levin said. “Now there is just one rule after another. It’s impossible to do a new restaurant in New York without being with a big group.”
Though times may have changed, one thing hasn’t: A line still forms outside of Good Enough To Eat, and it’s filled with many of the same regulars that have gotten to know it over the years. Levin confirms that her neighbors have followed her. “I just said hello to a couple that was once dating and eating in the restaurant, and now they have graduated from college and have kids and are still eating in the restaurant.”
Published: June 20 in The Village Voice’s Fork in the Road
4:38 pm • 20 June 2013
Mezini Opens in Park Slope with Oysters and Italian Food
Despite its traditional billing as a winter item, a platter of oysters is ideal for summer snacking on a patio (and with modern fishing practices, you can enjoy the shellfish this time of year without worrying, too). Perhaps that’s why the raw offerings have been such a popular draw at Mezini, the Italian restaurant that opened at 492 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope last week. “We have people who have been coming back three or four times,” says owner Agnese Mezina. “Mostly neighborhood people.”
Mezina has been working in the restaurant industry for over a decade, and before opening Mezini, she served as the manager of Jean-Georges restaurant JoJo on the Upper East Side. But when she decided to work on her own project, she wanted to leave fast-paced Manhattan. “The city was just too busy for me,” she says. “I like Park Slope. I like the people. I like the neighborhood. It took me awhile to find this place, but I knew I wanted to open here.”
She found the space when decades-old Park Slope Restaurant moved in with its sibling concept Green Kitchen down the block, and she turned over the interior to include the exposed brick wall and hardwood floors aesthetic that’s nearly ubiquitous in this neighborhood.
Mezini supplements its mollusks with an Italian menu that goes way beyond that of an average spaghetti and lasagna joint. Chef Vino Castri is a native of Puglia, and he put together a menu that includes items such as filet mignon served with a chickpea puree and a whole baked branzino. You can wash down all the entrees with a glass (or bottle) of Italian wine.
Mezini is only open for dinner at this time, but Mezina says she’ll open the restaurant for both lunch and weekend brunch in the coming weeks.
Published June 12 in The Village Voice’s Fork in the Road
9:07 am • 14 June 2013
Silvana will bring Israeli Food and Hookah to Harlem
Abdel and Sivan Baron Ouedraogo are building a Harlem empire. The couple first openedThe Shrine, a music venue, in 2007. A couple years later they debuted Yatenga, a French bistro and bar, right next door. And now? They’re gearing up to unlock Silvana—an Israeli restaurant, bar, and boutique—at 300 West 116th Street.
"It was kind of inevitable for us to open another place in Harlem," says Sivan. "We have lived here for so many years and just feel at home here. It was very natural for us to open a place next to where we live."
Silvana was Sivan’s nickname as a child. The unique bi-level restaurant/boutique combo will feature a restaurant downstairs that will serve a menu of classic Israeli dishes such as falafel and shawarma, spit-roasted meat shaved for serving akin to a gyro. Greg Sanchez is helming the kitchen; Sivan notes that he has been trained by an Israeli chef. Hookah will be available after midnight, and there will be two live acoustic shows each night. In the morning, patrons can stop by to grab Israeli pastries and small sandwiches.
Upstairs, the couple plans to sell organic loose-leaf teas, fair-trade coffee, home decor, and other accessories from around the world. “We are also going to have a lot of vinyl records,” says Sivan. “So everybody can just play them whenever they want. They can buy it or not. It will be a really cool and easygoing environment.”
If all goes according to plan, Silvana should be open within the next two weeks.
Photo: Courtesy of Silvana
Published June 13 in The Village Voice’s Fork in the Road
9:03 am • 14 June 2013
The Grange Opens in Harlem Tomorrow
Long-time West Harlem residents Roy Henley and Rita Royer-Henley are showing their neighborhood some love with their new comfort food restaurant in Hamilton Heights: At 4 p.m. tomorrow, the couple will throw open the doors at The Grange Bar & Eatery (1635 Amsterdam Avenue) to showcase the spot’s new drink menu via a soft opening.
The unveiling will reveal a 74-seat restaurant designed to look like a farmer’s kitchen, a space Henley said that he wanted to be open and inviting. The owner did time at GMT Tavern, Swift, and Puck Fair, and he’s enlisted chef Alan Vargas to create a menu for The Grange that focuses on seasonal, organic ingredients.
"We will have something for everyone," explains the owner. "It will not be your ordinary menu." That list will roll out in two weeks.
In the meantime, you’ll be able to sample 11 signature cocktails designed by Bobby Hiddleston of smash hit Financial District cocktail bar The Dead Rabbit plus a variety of craft beers on draft.
And once The Grange is in full swing, look for it to stay open late: “I’d eventually like to stay open until 4 a.m. every night because I know there a lot of service industry people who live up here and work downtown,” Henley says. “I’d like to be a stop on the way home. It’s nice to go for a drink when you get off of work at one or two in the morning.”
Photo Credit: Roy Henley
Published June 4 in The Village Voice’s Fork in the Road
2:45 pm • 5 June 2013
Keeping the City that Never Sleeps Caffeinated
Benjamin Wright Coleman is a connoisseur of coffee but not a coffee snob. The 29-year-old Ost Café barista thinks dark roasted coffee is trying to hide something, and after thirteen years of handling coffee, it’s hard not to take is word.
Located in Alphabet City, Ost Café sets itself apart from other coffee shops in the area by creating a European vibe. After 5 p.m., WIFI is turned off, laptops are closed and patrons sip wine and espresso over flickering candles.
Coleman has been working here since he first moved to New York City two years ago. The Colorado native had been working at a coffee shop, but was itching for a change of scenery. “I moved for probably the same reason everyone moves here,” Coleman says, “The experience and for all its opportunities.”
Ost has given Coleman more than just coffee knowledge. It has given him a chance to showcase his passion: art.
It all started with a love for comic books and cartoons. Coleman began drawing as a child, and after a small speed bump in third grade when a rivalry began with a fellow classmate who drew muscle men and airplanes, Coleman decided that this was what he wanted to do with his life. He went on to receive his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Metropolitan State University of Denver, graduating in 2008.
His artwork mostly consists of illustrations. Derived from his appreciation of comic books, the figures are lifelike with selected exaggerations and blank spaces filled in with patterns. He has shown his work at Café Grumpy in both the Chelsea and Park Slope. Over the last few years, he has been working on a project called “daily drawing” in which he sketches something each day on a Post-It note.
Some of his work now hangs in café. Owner Aaron Hagedorn enjoys promoting Coleman’s artistic career. “Ben’s talent as an artist demonstrated an attention to detail, which is very important to a barista,” Hagedorn says. “We also recognize that the barista position is most likely a temporary position for most of our employees. That is why we support Ben by allowing him to hang his art in the café.”
But Coleman admits that since moving to New York, he has not spent as much time on his art. He hopes to eventually sell his drawings for a living. “I just want to make fine art for fine arts sake,” Coleman said. “It’s my dream to get paid to draw all day.”
The people of the East Village need caffeine in the morning, and Coleman is there to brew it up for them. He wakes up in his Lower East Side apartment at 6 a.m., navigates the city streets on his bike. Sun beams through the café’s floor to ceiling windows as Coleman turns on the silver La Marzocco espresso machine. It begins to gently buzz as he pulls a couple shots of espresso to ensure that the machine is warmed up and ready to go.
And suddenly it is 7:30 a.m. Time to open the shop.
Coleman has been working with coffee for thirteen years. He picked up what he calls “bad coffee habits” at a popular chain in Colorado. While attending college in Denver, he began working at critically acclaimed NOVO coffee. It was there that Coleman learned the art of making espresso: using the machine properly, making latte art in foam and even cupping, a process similar to wine tasting in which one slurps then spits coffee in order to taste its flavor, body, acidity and aroma. That morning cup of joe was no longer a simple pick me up, but a beverage worth appreciating.
The morning rush at Ost begins at 8 a.m. Patrons choose from a short list of drinks handwritten on a chalkboard above the register. Sugary syrups and blended coffee drinks are not to be found here. The menu is simple: coffee, espresso, americano, cortado, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha.
Most of the customers who come in are regulars. They order their coffee and update Coleman on their lives and make plans to meet up later in the week outside of work. “I’ve found New York to be community centric,” Coleman says. “It’s a big city of lonely people away from their families, so everyone wants a friendly environment - Ost is that place for a lot of people.”
By 1 p.m. Coleman has survived two rushes of customers. During slow time, entertainment comes in the form of a game. Coleman and fellow barista Alec Head try to figure out the lives of people that come in.
“Was that that guy’s girlfriend or his mom?” Coleman asks.
“Oh no, that was his mom, dude! His girlfriend is this tall, severe blonde girl,” Head says.
“Well, he must be a bassist, I mean, he seems troubled.”
Coleman says that the people he works with have become some of his best friends. He recently moved into an apartment with a friend and fellow coworker. He even met his girlfriend, Madeleine Aronson, through work. She started working at Ost after Coleman and admired his personality and the way he treats customers. “He eases social tension and is just a breath of fresh, dreamy air to speak to in that he isn’t too perky and optimistic and is able to relate to everyone’s everyday cynicism.”
Coleman and Aronson have been dating for over a year. Aronson now works at a multimedia art space but makes time to visit Ost whenever she can.
By 3 p.m., the third and final rush of the day has begun. Though the orders keep on coming, Coleman takes time to create the perfect latte, a process that he claims is less learned than it is mastered through practice.
So why are patrons willing to wait longer and pay more for a latte at Ost? Coleman says it has to do with an appreciation for the coffee shop experience and the effort put into making the drink.
“Good coffee takes people giving a shit about it all the way from the farmer,” Coleman says. “Good beans handled well by the farmer, roasted to their potential by the roaster and prepared carefully by the barista.”
And with that he hands over the customer’s latte. She admires the rosetta he’s created in the drink’s foam then heads out into the sunny day. If she’s like many of those before her, she’ll be back soon — and Coleman will be there to keep her caffeinated.
Drawing courtesy of Benjamin Wright Coleman
4:47 pm • 16 April 2013
Pounding the Pavement with “On the Racks” Fashion Blogger
Laura Ellner is a typical 25 year old. She has a 9-to-5 job, a budget, a dog and a posse of trendy friends. However, when Ellner gets dressed every day she shares her outfits with fans — thousands of them — who follow her blog “On the Racks.”
Two years ago, Ellner was living in San Francisco working for a Shop It To Me, a start up that brands itself an “online personal shopping assistant.” The fashion forward twenty something was looking for a creative outlet outside of work, and a personal style blog seemed to be the perfect route. And so On the Racks was born. The name is an ode to two of Ellner’s favorite things: fashion and drinks served on the rocks.
But on this mid-March night at the trendy Brooklyn bar Bas’ik, Ellner is drinking draft beer. The high side pony she is sporting looks fashionable and cool, not messy and outdated as it might on others. Dressed in a jeans and silky blue shirt with her beloved coat hanger tattoo peeking out on her inner arm, Ellner looks fashionably pulled together without trying too hard.
Since it’s creation, On the Racks has garnered an impressive following. Ellner boasts over six thousand Twitter followers, four thousand Facebook fans and six thousand Instagram followers. The fashionista has achieved an almost celebrity status in the blogosphere. She has been invited to New York fashion week, featured in the Style section of the New York Times, collaborated with brands such as Scoop and Stylecaster and attended South by Southwest, sponsored by Fohr Card, a blogger directory.
The fashion blog community is constantly expanding, and big name fashion companies have begun to recognize a new means of getting their products out there. “Bloggers are really influential right now,” Ellner said. “From a marketing perspective, designers are smart to invite bloggers to their shows because blog readers can directly click a link and buy whatever the blogger is wearing. It’s easier than looking at a piece in a magazine and then having to pull up the website and find the product.”
Ellner has managed to stand out among those droves of fashion bloggers by donning affordable clothing that looks high fashion. It also helps that her lifestyle borders on every girls’ fantasy: living in New York City, working as the social media coordinator for fashion brand Alice and Olivia, drinking cocktails at the latest hotspot, hanging out with other high profile bloggers.
But becoming the influential fashion blogger that gets invited to fashion week is not as simple as throwing on a pair of designer shoes with the perfect vintage sundress and snapping a photo. Each week, Ellner meets with a photographer to take photos in various places she has scouted out across the city. “I try to pick places that coordinate well with whatever outfit I have planned,” Ellner said. One week found her in Williamsburg wearing a BCBG patchwork blouse and cobalt blue Blank NYC corduroy pants. Another found her at Lincoln Center rocking a Rebecca Taylor jumpsuit and green Topshop coat. “I still get self conscious when taking outfit photos,” Ellner said. “People will walk by and be like ‘Who does she think she is - a model?’ It will always be awkward.”
Posting those photos on the blog is only the first step of building a brand. Next is Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets. A glass of champagne at The Crosby Bar is Instagrammed, thoughts on what to order for take-out are tweeted, inspiring outfits are pinned and new blog photos are Facebooked.
“Without social media, I don’t think I’d have half the following that I currently have” Ellner said. “It’s casual and interactive, so I can connect with readers while promoting my blog and personal brand.”
Ellner grew up in Orange County. In 2005, she moved six hours north of her sunny hometown to earn a communications degree from the University of San Francisco.
Though California will always have a place in her heart, after over two decades in sunshine state, Ellner knew where she really wanted to be: New York City. So, she packed up her bags and made the big move without a concrete plan. The backdrop of her blog posts shifted from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge. Though moving cross-country can be a difficult change, the blogging community eased her into it.
“I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging,” Ellner said. “I moved to New York and didn’t know people, but I already had this automatic community.”
One of those friends is fellow fashion blogger Jessie Artigue of Style and Pepper. “Laura is definitely one of my favorite fellow style bloggers and a real sweetheart of a friend,” Artigue said. “She has an incredible personal aesthetic, and I always love being inspired by her quirky mix of laid-back trends and ladylike separates. It is always a delight to get a warm hug from her at industry events, and I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to know her in the past few years.”
It did not take long for Ellner to find a job in the city. With a hip fashion blog on the resume, she was a shoe-in for a social media position at fashion company Pour La Victoire.
But her first year in New York was not exactly the dream she expected it would be. Shortly after moving into their Chelsea apartment, Ellner and her boyfriend of six years broke up. In a hurry to move out, Ellner signed the lease on an apartment in the Lower East Side, an area known for its loud nightlife. Her sleep schedule went from six hours a night to four, so when the opportunity to live with her best friend in Brooklyn arose, she pounced.
All of this has in some small way been documented in On the Racks. “I try to be honest,” Ellner said. “My life isn’t perfect. We all have our struggles. I know it would have been helpful for me if someone had told me just how hard this move would be.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. Ellner still loves New York, and she doesn’t regret making the move. She’s not done pounding her heels on the pavement of the Empire State. “When I used to visit New York, I’d get off the plane and feel so inspired. That feeling hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it ever will.”
Photo Credit: Lydia Hudgens
4:46 pm • 9 April 2013 • 1 note
In Alphabet City, a Girdle Guru Boost Lingerie as Way to Healthier Life
“The better you take care of your breasts, the less stress and more confidence you will have,” promises Pearl Chan.
Ms. Chan, a self-proclaimed “body-slimming lingerie specialist,” opened Healthier Life to help put some pride in the chests of East Village women. The rail-thin Fashion Institute of Technology grad isn’t shy when talking about the beauty of brassieres: a recent interview turned into an episode of “Shopkeepers Gone Wild” when she lifted up her shirt to show how well her own bra fit.
“See, no double boob!” she proclaimed, referring to the fold of fat that forms between the breast and armpit due to an ill-fitting bra.
You may or may not have noticed Ms. Chan’s shop, a sparse cinder-block space tucked just below street level at 291 East Fourth Street. “Lose 10 lbs in 5 days” promises a sign outside of the brassiere bunker.
The sign actually promotes Nutrimeal, a meal replacement. But when women are enticed into the shop, Ms. Chan, a rail-thin Fashion Institute of Technology grad, swoops in to help them pick out the perfect bra for their body size.
The mass-market bras most women wear are unhealthy because they promote poor posture and are made of low-quality fabrics, said Ms. Chan. On the other hand, “these bras give immediate gratification because they increase cleavage and are made of a light, breathable material,” she said.
For those with a smaller chest, Ms. Chan suggests a bra with silicon inserts that doubles cup size. And for the well endowed, she has a bra with five hooks in the back to ensure full support.
“We have to fight gravity to enhance confidence,” she exclaimed.
The shop also stocks a girdle that the shopkeeper claims slims the body down two dress sizes by containing belly fat. This may sound restrictive, but Ms. Chan insists the mesh material is breathable and comfortable.
The underground location between Avenues B and C may seem odd for a lingerie shop, but Ms. Chan hopes to eventually relocate to an area with more foot traffic.
Until then, you can schedule a consultation with her by calling 917-806-5587. Just don’t be surprised if she demonstrates a bra’s merits by jumping up and down.
Photo Credit: Daniel Maurer
Published March 21 in The Local New York Times Blog
6:08 pm • 26 March 2013
Transplanted Texan Discovers Breakfast Tacos in New York City
While many New Yorkers are in my old hometown of Austinfor South by Southwest enjoying the hippest hipster scene outside of Brooklyn, I’ve discovered the most important thing they’ll want to know when they get home: Where can they service that newly acquired breakfast taco addiction once they’re back in the Big Apple?
When I moved to the East Village six months ago, I knew I’d be leaving a lot of things behind, and I thought breakfast tacos would be one of them. But after a bit of searching, I found this was not the case at all. I enlisted my born-and-raised Austin boyfriend to trek with me through the city on a hunt for the breakfast taco that most reminded us of home. If anyone knows what makes a good breakfast taco, it’s this guy.
My journey started in Brooklyn. BrisketTown is located right on the uber hipster Bedford Avenue. I had heard through the grapevine that the joint has recently started serving breakfast tacos with Brussels sprouts in them. As a Brussels sprout fanatic, I had high hopes that this taco would transport me to breakfast heaven. And it did. Even my carnivore of a boyfriend agreed. Austin, take note. Roasted Brussels sprouts and were meant to commingle with taco fillings in a flour tortilla.
We also gave their brisket taco a try because brisket is what BrisketTown is known for, but as I expected, the flavor of the brisket was much too overpowering. Don’t get me wrong, I love barbeque (I’m from Texas after all!), but in my opinion, brisket was never meant to be eaten in a breakfast taco. Let’s save that for warm summer nights in the Texas Hill Country, accompanied by an ice-cold beer.
The Brussels sprout taco put me in a good mood, so Whirlybird a couple blocks away was really going to have to wow me to get my attention. The small café has only one breakfast taco on the menu. It boasts a hodgepodge of ingredients such as chorizo, jalapeño potato chips, Oaxaca cheese, and homemade salsa. And while it was certainly unique, Whirlybird’s take on the Austin classic just didn’t do it for me. The jalapeño potato chips felt like they were added on purely for the sake of originality.
A quick hop onto the J train brought us back to Manhattan. Essex Street Market, a small but lovely indoor market, houses Brooklyn Taco Co. Why Brooklyn Taco Co. is in Manhattan I have no idea, but I had little time to mull that over. Another breakfast taco was calling my name. Like Whirlybird, they only have one breakfast taco, but this one was divine.
Their version is simple: a corn tortilla is filled with egg, chorizo, cheese, potatoes, and poblano peppers, topped with crema. As I took my first bite, I almost felt like I was back in Austin. The ingredients were fresh, and though the taco was definitely one of the simplest ones I had, it did not skimp on flavor. Plus, the two men working that day were extremely friendly - a trait that seems to be a rarity in New York City.
My last stop was Downtown Bakery in the East Village. Though this bakery may not be the most attractive to look at, it certainly houses some pretty amazing Mexican food. Each order comes with two tacos. Filled with egg, spinach, onion, jack cheese, and refried black beans, the white corn tortillas that housed my veggie breakfast taco tasted exactly like what I’ve had at TacoDeli back home in the ATX. I looked up at my boyfriend and smiled, I had found exactly what I was looking for, a breakfast taco that reminded me of home, and who would have thought that it would be right there in my new neighborhood? Whenever I’m feeling homesick, look no further than Downtown Bakery to find me.
359 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
254 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Taco Co.
120 Essex St, New York, NY
69 1st Ave New York, NY
Printed Sunday March 17 in the Austin Chronicle
10:38 am • 19 March 2013
Q&A with Jessie of Style and Pepper
Jessie Artigue isn’t afraid to get a little crazy when it comes to fashion. The blogger behind Style and Pepper loves mixing prints, wearing bold colors and putting the latest trend to the test. But becoming an “it” fashion blogger in an age where everyone seems to be a blogger didn’t come easy.
And her life isn’t just taking photos of herself in pretty outfits for the blog. She is also a creative consultant, personal stylist and on-air personality. She blogs fitness, health and food and fashion
Along the way, Artigue faced a lot of ethical and personal challenges. She talked to me from her home in Hoboken. N.J. about how her blog came to be, dealing with advertisers and learning to say no.
Jessica Lee (JL): You started out as a street style blogger in Kansas City, MO. Now you are working as a full-time blogger, creative consultant and stylist right outside of New York City. How did you make that leap?
Jessie Artigue (JA): When I started my site, I knew stylists existed, but I don’t think I ever knew there was such a thing as a full-time blogger. Street style was kind of a newer concept, so going full time with it was definitely never the intent.
Whether it be styling or consulting I’ve always known that I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so I knew working for myself in some capacity would happen down the road. At the time that I started, I didn’t have it mapped out.
JL: Why did you start Style and Pepper?
JA: I started the blog as a creative outlet. I was just feeling under challenged and underutilized at my full-time marketing job that I was doing in the architecture industry. I was hired away from that position by J Crew who had found me via my blog, and they were interested in having me work for them. I was hired as the director of visuals and merchandising for the Midwestern region.
During that time, I realized that fashion was something that I always had a knack for so, I started to take on personal styling projects where I would go into people’s closets and help them put together outfits.
JL: What pushed you to work for yourself?
JA: I did it in stages. I had my blog for a decent amount of time before leaving my full time job to work exclusively for myself. Then there were a few opportunities that came my way that I felt would potentially be conflicts of interest for me while working for a large retailer. I had to start to assess how I was going to move forward. So, I quit my job. It was exhilarating and so, so scary at the same time.
JL: Do you find that working for yourself can at times be more stressful than a typical 9-to-5 job? Have you had to learn to say no to certain events, jobs?
JA: I’m a people pleaser in general. I’m a yes girl. One of my favorite things is collaborating especially with other creative individuals. I think that is one of the reasons why I’m a successful consultant.
What I have to teach myself is that it’s ok to say no.
I’ve had to create a criteria. It’s an unofficial one because I make exceptions, but it’s a checklist that I have to go through in my head. One of the first questions I ask myself is “Do I have the time?” The next question is “Is it a good fit from a brand perspective as far as aligning my own personal brand with someone else’s” And then if those two answers are yes then it’s “Is it a compensated project? Pro bono?”
JL: One great thing about your blog is it isn’t inundated with advertisements like a lot of other blogs out there. Instead, you let brands sponsor your posts. For example, Baileys recently sponsored a post in which you created cocktails inspired by Oscars dresses. Do you prefer sponsored ads over basic advertising?
JA: Personally, I know that the majority my audience reads my site via a reader or via mobile. I have brands approach me all the time about purchasing ad space on my sidebar.
One of the first things that I will respond with is that you’re welcome to pay me to put an ad in my sidebar, but A) it has to work aesthetically B) it should be a good brand fit and most importantly, C) I flat out say, I don’t think it’s in your best interest to go about advertising on my site with a button or side bar ad. I know I have an amazing click through rate with sponsored posts and in-content linkage. I will reverse pitch the person and say what I recommend is that we do something more interactive. Then I send them a menu of things we can do that cost different amounts so that they can choose based on their budget.
JL: Do you have any suggestions for people who want to start a blog as a creative outlet for themselves?
JA: My advice would be twofold. One is if you want to start a blog as a personal site and for a creative journal of your inspirations, I would say make sure that you stick to incorporating things that you really love. If you love it, that’s fine, post about it. But try to give it your own spin. If you’re really into polka dots, instead of posting a round up of all the bloggers who have been wearing polka dots recently, maybe try to put together a shopping round up of polka dots you’ve seen on unique Etsy sites.
Photo Credit: Jessie Artigue
5:07 pm • 8 March 2013 • 1 note
Restaurant Review: Kambi Ramen House and Momofuku Noodle Bar
After a long Friday of commuting through the bitter cold wind of winter storm Nemo, I wanted only one thing - a giant bowl of piping hot ramen. I’m not talking about the flash-fried, freeze-dried block of noodles that you zap in the microwave then cover in a neon yellow powder labeled “roasted chicken.” I mean real, authentic Japanese ramen.
And apparently I wasn’t the only New Yorker trekking through the snow because my stomach convinced me to. Kambi Ramen, a tiny easy-to-pass-up restaurant in the East Village, was surprisingly full of patrons. The sound of slurping would make Emily Post turn around in a huff and leave, but as a self-proclaimed ramen enthusiast, I know this is a sign of good food to come.
I immediately ordered kimchi, a Korean dish consisting of pickled cabbage in motley mixture of spices. Is it strange that Korea’s national dish is on the menu in a Japanese restaurant and actually executed well? No. This is New York City, a melting pot of ethnicities. The dish was not spicy as some chefs like it, but instead let the saltiness of the brine shine through. An excellent precursor for the ramen that awaits.
Preferring a little heat, I opted for the spicy basic ramen, which is described on the menu as salt and roast garlic flavor in a pork broth. A steaming bowl of ramen was placed before me ten minutes later. I could not see a single noodle because the top of soup was covered in pork, scallions, seaweed, boiled egg and mushrooms. I dipped my chopsticks in and pulled out a tangle of the thick noodles and twisted them like spaghetti on a fork. They tasted divine. The waitress had suggested thick noodles because they better absorb the flavors of the broth. She couldn’t have been more right. Ramen is one of those dishes that tastes better with each bite because the longer the noodles have to sit in the broth and absorb it, the more of its taste you get to experience.
At the table next to mine, a couple discussed their ordering options. They were both vegan. The waitress worked kindly with them to procure a dish that they could consume (though after she left, I overheard the couple say that they would still be cheating a bit on their vegan diet with the what the waitress had suggested. I’m assuming it has to do with egg generally being used in the making of the noodles). I am sure their dish was tasty, but ramen was never meant to satisfy the vegetarians and vegans of our time. Embrace the pork, the egg, the fish broth, and the chicken! All these elements work hard to create a dish that helps a Texas girl like me forget about the snowpocalypse going on outside.
A couple blocks up First Avenue sits Momofuku Noodle Bar. The hipster watering hole with its long wood paneled bar certainly has a cooler vibe than Kambi Ramen. Expect to wait at least 20 minutes (longer if you are with a party of more than three since the restaurant is quite small). The hostess wedges me into a spot at the bar where I can see the chefs hard at work. I look around and notice many of the restaurant’s patrons are drinking slushie type drinks. A glance at the menu reveals that these are actually Chef David Chang’s alcoholic versions of the childhood beverage.
But my frostbitten body is not prepared for an icy cold drink even if it does have liquor in it. I need ramen, and I need it fast. The menu at Momfuku is short and sweet. I decided for the sake of comparison to order to Momofuku Ramen, a pork based ramen, as it is the closest to the Kambi basic ramen on the menu.
While Kambi sticks to a more traditional style of ramen, Momofuku allows for a bit of experimentation. Rather than a boiled egg, the ramen at Momofuku features a runny poached egg. Locally sourced vegetables make an appearance in the soup, but sadly, the broth is much too salty, and the dish lacks adequate spice. I did not get a chance to taste Chung’s much-acclaimed pork buns or fried chicken, but I have been told those are the real gems of this East Village joint.
If you are looking for authentic ramen that will warm your blood and fill your stomach, go to Kambi. I have never had a ramen that I didn’t like there. If you are looking to impress friends with a really hip restaurant, take them to Momofuku Noodle Bar. Just don’t order the ramen, but if you absolutely have to, I suggest the vegetable ramen if it’s on the menu (the menu varies each night). And get dessert! All the desserts are from Momofuku Milk Bar, which is only a few blocks away. A cookie with pretzels and potato chips in it? Amazing. Soft serve that tastes like cereal milk? It induces instant Saturday-morning-watching-cartoons-on the-couch nostalgia.
Kambi Ramen House
351 E 14th St New York, NY 10003
Price: $12 ramen // cash only
Open everyday 11:30am-11pm
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003
Price: $16 ramen // credit card accepted
Open: Sun-Th 12:00–4:30 pm, 5:30–11:00 pm
F-Sat 12:00–4:30 pm, 5:30 pm – 2:00 am
8:48 am • 28 February 2013
Q&A with Porchetta Owner about NYC Restaurant Grading System
The smell of roasted pork fills your nostrils immediately when you enter Porchetta. Cousins Matt Lindemulder and Sara Jenkins have been selling Italian street food from their cozy East Village shop since 2008. The freshly mopped black and white tiles and modern red bar stools create an inviting atmosphere perfect for delving into a warm roasted pork or fresh mozzarella sandwich.
But owning a restaurant in New York City certainly is not an easy task. Lindemulder sat down with me on a rainy February afternoon to discuss pros and cons of the New York restaurant grading system.
Jessica Lee (JL): What kind of effect does the New York restaurant grading system have on your business?
Matt Lindemulder (ML): Well, it’s expensive. The New York letter grading system is flawed.
JL: How so?
ML: The New York system is strictly designed as revenue generated. It’s essentially a tax on small businesses. It’s not like the fire department. If you have the fire department come and inspect you, and it finds something at fault, it gives you a certain amount of time to fix that. Then they come back and inspect that. If you don’t fix it, the second time they come back, then you’ll get a fine. In every other city where the letter grade system is in place, they’ll come and inspect you and tell you what’s wrong and then you’ll have a chance to fix it. Then they come back and resinspect you. If the problems remain, then you’re fined for that violation.
What they’ll do here is they’ll come and inspect you and give you a letter grade. If you want to keep that letter grade it’s going to be an A, a B, or a C. Or they can close you down. Then you get to choose whether you keep the letter grade or not. Of course, if it’s not an A, you want to be reinspected again. So then they’ll give you a week, and they will come back anytime after that.
It’s somewhat extortionist in the sense that they’ll fine you, and you have to pay the first round of fines. Then they’ll come back, and it will be a different inspector who will be looking for different things and won’t even address the specific problems that you were previously cited for. They can come and find other problems and never see that a problem was ever fixed or not fixed. There is no consistency with the inspectors. They have all their own ideas. We’ve had good inspectors and we’ve had awful inspectors.
If an inspector came in and gave you no points, the very next day that inspector’s boss would come in. So what they have to do is they come in and find something. If you get an A, you don’t have to pay a fine for those violations. If you get the B, and you get fined, you have to pay for those. Then you choose whether or not you want to get reinspected.
JL: Do you think that there should be a system that has B+, A-, A, so that you can better tell the difference between restaurants?
ML: The system that used to be in place before the letter grade system was a number grade system. They would come in and they would assign points for problems. There would be fines for certain problems but not every problem. They would post your grade, and it was easily accessible to anybody who was looking for it.
The letter grade system has an effect on business because the consumer doesn’t understand the difference between grades. Nobody knows why you get a B. It’s just ‘oh, they got a B, I’m not going to eat there.’
Any restaurant on any given day in this city, an inspector could walk in and give them a C if they wanted to. The more fines they collect, the more revenue the department gets. And it’s coming from small businesses that can’t afford that. People are going out of business not because they deserve to or because they are unclean but because of these taxes. It’s difficult; it’s like they want to make you to jump through hoops because they can.
JL: When you go out to eat now, do you pay attention to the grades?
ML: No, not really. I don’t pay attention because I know it doesn’t really matter. I know it’s a scam.
About 6-8 months ago, there was a public hearing, a forum for small businesses to testify to the inaccuracy and the unfairness of the grading system. One of the interesting things they had was a statistician from NYU, a doctoral candidate. He analyzed the other cities in the country that used the non-penal grading system. You could see on a graph how after the restaurants were inspected, cleanliness increased. And then he showed the New York grid. You would think it would be the same. It looked like a shotgun blast. There was no correlation between increased cleanliness and the inspections.
JL: What do you think needs to be done to fix the system?
ML: Possibly they should make the same inspector come in each round. Or have them specifically look for the things that needed to be changed. But like I said it should be like a fire marshal. He says what needs to be fixed and then you fix that. And they come back and see if it’s fixed.
9:52 pm • 27 February 2013
Finding love in (not so) unexpected places
In a crowded coffee shop in Austin, Texas, StorygirlATX began to feel butterflies in her stomach as she scanned the room looking for Animator512, a 3D designer who she had met through OKCupid, a free online dating website.
This first date got off to a bad start when Animator512 immediately called her out for being ten minutes late. StorygirlATX could not help but take notice of the fact that the long black hair he sported on his online profile photograph was in reality more along the lines of salt and pepper colored hair, extra emphasis on the salt.
When she joined OK Cupid, Olivia Watson, a 22-year-old sales associate, hoped to find a long-term partner, not just a causal hookup. More and more young people like Watson/StoryGirl ATX are using dating sites to find a mate. According to Quantcast, a website audience measurer, ten percent of the site’s users are under the age of 25.
It is not a surprise to some experts that GenY, who grew up on the Internet, is turning to the Internet for love, “There is a whole generation of people now that are getting into that period of life where they’re starting to think about settling down or finding a long term partner, and they grew up with online dating being a part of the social conversation,” said Dr. Timothy Loving, a University of Texas human ecology professor. “So, for them, there is no stigma associated with it.”
Loving believes that dating sites serve a valuable function as young adults go out into the work world where their social network tends to get smaller. “As a result we often need to do things to increase the size of our potential partners out there, and dating sites offer one pretty easy mechanism for doing that,” Loving said.
After three years of living in New York City, Maansi Johri, a 24-year-old financial associate, was frustrated with looking for love within her social circle. After hearing about a friend’s success with OkCupid, she decided to give it a shot. She has since gone a few dates and finds the site to be a good way to meet new people, with few expectations.
“It’s more fun and exciting than dating people my friends have set me up with because there are no strings attached,” Johri said. “I don’t have to call them after the date and tell them exactly how it went.”
OkCupid claims to have seven million active members on its site. According to Sam Yagan, the founder of OkCupid, the younger demographic on the site tends to be in search of a different type of relationship than the older demographic. In an interview with Big Think, an online knowledge forum, Yagan said that people over the age of 25 are more focused on marriage. “The younger you are, you just want to meet people,” Yagan said. “And so that may also impact how people use the site,”
Other major dating sites such as Match and EHarmony advertise the potential to meet people and form relationships that will eventually lead to marriage and tend to be used by an older demographic.
Online dating also appeals to those interested in same-sex relationships. Zwee Tran, a 21-year-old University of Texas student, found that it was hard to meet other gay men because he did not go out very often. Since joining OKCupid , he has been in two serious relationships, both of which spawned through the website.
“You get to encounter people who you would never meet in real life, and that can be exciting,” Tran said. One of the men Tran dated long term attended the University of Texas as well, but Tran’s likelihood of meeting him organically in a university with a student population of almost 40,000 was unlikely.
Tran’s experience was confirmed by a study headed by Northwestern social psychology professor Dr. Eli Finkel that found that online dating functions best as a means to meet people not normally encountered in day-to-day life. “As online dating evolves and matures, it seems likely that more and more of us will first encounter romantic partners online,” the study entitled “Online Dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science” said.
But online sites are no a cure-all for everyone’s dating dilemmas. After moving to New York with an undergraduate degree in journalism, Stephanie Kuo, 22, found that she was too busy working as an editorial assistant to go out and meet people. At a friend’s suggestion, Kuo signed up for OkCupid. But it only took a few dates for Kuo to realize that this was not the way she wanted to start a relationship. “Honestly, all the men I came across on the site have the same goal — getting you in bed. I think there is an organic process to dating that you can’t find online.”
After her bad date with the 3D animator, Watson was reluctant to go on another online matched date. Over the course of five months, she had received almost 400 personal messages from men on OkCupid, and while she didn’t date any of them, She found fun in categorizing the different types of men with nicknames: Mr. Marriage, Mr. Handsome, Mr. Intellectual.
After receiving a message from a Portland man who was looking for a friendly local to show him around Austin during South by Southwest, Watson decided to give the site another chance. The day ended up being much more relaxed than her coffee shop date and changed Watson’s perspective.
“I honestly think dating sites would be better for making friends if you’re a newcomer to a city,” Watson said. “That way there’s no awkward tension, nor are there any high expectations of thinking you have met the man of your dreams, then actually meeting him and realizing he used a picture with an exceptional angle and that he is most definitely not as charming in person as he is online.”
6:55 pm • 13 December 2012