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Name: Nicole Fleming
Year: Middler
Major: Journalism

You are a self-proclaimed “foodie.” Tell us where that came from.
Three years ago I didn’t know my way around a supermarket, let alone a restaurant menu. I was a “vegetarian” except I didn’t like vegetables—carbohydratarian? The list of foods I had never tried was almost as long as the list of foods I refused to eat. If left to cook for myself, I’d have died from food poisoning or a kitchen fire. I did unholy things to pizza involving napkins and Caesar salad dressing. About two and a half years ago, I was motivated to venture outside my cereal comfort zone when I began regularly hanging out with foodies who had a passion for the Boston restaurant scene. Having passionate friends is a great way to open new doors. I got curious fast, and in less than six months I leapfrogged from Not Your Average Joe’s to the Melting Pot to L’Espalier to Per Se. Food went from being a necessity to being an experience.

Why start a food blog?
I wanted to hone my writing skills. This was my first experience producing writing for an audience other than my professors. Writing outside of school and with no deadlines was a new and beneficial experience. It’s where you learn whether you truly enjoy writing. As it turns out, I do.

What kinds of things does your blog include?
I publish reviews of my most enjoyable dining experiences, including photos of the food. I dine out at many more restaurants than I ultimately blog about; I save my blog for the restaurants I recommend. Compared to other food blogs, my posts are long because I try to combine multiple visits to a restaurant into a single post. It’s difficult to judge any restaurant based on a single visit, and my goal is for readers to be able to decide if this restaurant might be a good choice for their dinner tonight. On the horizon, I want to start including recipes from my at-home foodie adventures. Partly this is because I want to hone my food photography, which has become a fun and important part of my blog.

I understand that multiple restaurants have reached out to you because of your blog. How did that happen? What has it been like?
Just a few months after I began publishing, I started receiving invitations via email and Twitter from restaurants and publicists. “Come by and try our new menu,” they’ll offer. It’s flattering of course, but these invitations are common and every food blogger gets them. Publicists are paid to produce results, and it’s easier to get a food blog to publish something than a newspaper, which has column inches to worry about. And a good blog post with sharp photos can genuinely drive traffic to a restaurant.

Honestly, this poses an ethical dilemma for me. First, because I’m a journalism major, instinctively I want to keep my writing divorced from marketing. Some food blogs are specifically geared toward marketing, and that’s fine, but mine isn’t. Second, I don’t want to devote time to writing about a restaurant I didn’t truly enjoy, so obviously I don’t want to promise a review in advance.

On the other hand, I’m not a paid critic and I’m not trying to be. I don’t have to be neutral. If I dislike a restaurant, I don’t have an obligation to tell anyone. Having my tab paid at a restaurant seemed like a new and interesting experience, so I tried it at a restaurant that I had already dined at before and had an excellent experience. The first time, it was fun. I was upfront about what happened on my blog. The second time, the publicist forgot to tell the restaurant staff so I ended up paying for my meal anyway. The food was great, though!

Favorite aspect of the Boston food scene?
It’s always hard to pick favorites, but I can definitely say that I’m a fan of Boston’s food trucks. The city’s food-truck industry has grown exponentially in the past few years, making a lot of delicious food available at an affordable price even for fiscally conscious college students. Also, my personal experience has been that food-truck owners are uniformly warm and friendly to their customers, to fellow food-truckers, and to potential food-truck entrepreneurs alike. Boston is still adapting to food trucks, but I have every confidence that this scene is here to stay. Our city is remarkably adaptable to making everyone happy.

Any restaurant/meal stories that stick out?
My insatiable sweet tooth has created some funny moments. I ordered an appetizer and two desserts once at Hamersley’s Bistro. Our waitress, who was friendly and good-natured as Hamersley’s staff always is, said it was the first time she had ever seen someone do that. I order desserts to go. I cross state lines in pursuit of Krispy Kreme donuts. I have yet to experience a sugar crash that wasn’t worth the deliciousness.

Anything else readers should know?
Food blogging changes how you approach dining out. I’m particularly conscious of lighting, because natural light is a photographer’s best friend. I pay attention not only to the intensity of the interior lighting and the proximity of the table to a window, but also the time of day. I tend to dine out earlier now than I used to, because the light is better at 5:30pm than 7pm.

Also, I want to include as many of the restaurant’s dishes as possible in my blog post, so I rarely order the same dish twice. I’m also more likely to tailor my order depending on what the other people at my table are getting, because if I can steal a bite of the steak then I might as well order the lamb and get photos of both. This might sound limiting, and it did feel that way at first, but I came to find it liberating. I’m pushed to try dishes outside my comfort zone.

Want to read more about Nicole and her Boston food experiences? Follow her on Twitter: @GirlEatsBoston, or check out her blog at www.thegirlwhoateboston.com.

Northeastern Journalism student
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