We’ve had the good fortune to interview some amazing local sustainable icons in the past, including eco-activist Jeannie Bystrom of Don’t Cut The Line! This week we’re getting the chance to interview a woman who is usually the one asking the questions. Abby Weingarten is a local freelance writer who has crafted pieces for dozens of local and national publications. You can frequently see her work in Ticket Sarasota where she covers restaurants, and she’s a longtime contributor to Edible Sarasota magazine (one of our personal favorite publications). Today, she dishes on what it’s like being a sought-after food writer in such a bustling culinary scene: Image source: Ediblesarasota.com How did you originally get into freelance writing? What are some of the publications your work has been in? I’ve loved writing since I was 10, and I was in a magnet program for literary arts in high school (poetry, essays and short stories were my interests then). In college, I wrote for the campus newspaper—my first attempt at journalism—and in my senior year, started writing freelance articles for a local paper. The articles turned into an internship that overlapped with my college graduation, which turned into a job (as a law enforcement reporter, covering murders and drug deals—not my cup of tea). I decided to leave that post right as one of my co-workers left the paper to become an entertainment editor elsewhere. He liked my writing and asked me to freelance for him (writing about music, food and other fun stuff!) Word of mouth spread, one editor turned into 10, and the rest is history. I’ve had stories published in the New York Times and the New York Post, and regularly write for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota Magazine, Biz941, Edible Sarasota, and various websites and organizations. You seem to write a lot about the local food scene. What is it in particular that draws you to that topic? From the time I can remember, food has been my favorite thing on the planet. When I hear people say, “I forgot to eat today,” I have no idea what they’re talking about. Luckily, Sarasota-Manatee is brimming with delectable restaurants. I love the eating part, but the most rewarding aspect is interviewing the people who make it; they put their hearts and souls into every ingredient, and hearing about their passion inspires me. What are some of the best and worst things about being a food writer? Best: Eating. Worst: One time, the button on my jeans actually catapulted across the room as I was trying to squeeze into the waist. You get the idea. Image source: Facebook.com/WaterfrontRestaurantAMI What are some things that would surprise people about having a career in food media? It’s actually work! I’ve never been the type of journalist to rip restaurants apart for their food or service, so even when my experience isn’t stellar, I always try to find the positive facets and concentrate on those. I put a lot of time into thinking about how my writing will affect someone else’s life, dream and reputation. I don’t take this work lightly. Do you prefer eating in local restaurants or chain restaurants? Local! But I’m not going to lie, I love some soup, salad and breadsticks at the Olive Garden. Describe your perfect meal. It would start with a chopped Greek salad (extra feta and beets) with potato salad on the bottom. After the savory part was out of the way, I’d just order three different dessert courses: chocolate bread pudding, a stack of rose macarons, and maybe a martini glass full of rice pudding. Image source: Facebook.com/WaterfrontRestaurantAMI Name some of your favorite local restaurants and tell us what makes them stand out in the sea of culinary options. Taste of Asia—amazing family, and the green shrimp curry is the best in town. The chef at Michael’s On East has never made a dish that didn’t cause me to practically swoon, and I love the monthly Epicurean adventures there (I never need a passport to experience global flavors!) The Waterfront, Pangea and Jack Dusty have mouth-watering and inventive craft cocktails. And then there’s Drunken Poet (two words: lobster roll). Because you spend a lot of time with chefs as they’re unveiling their newest menu items, you probably have a sense as to what the newest food trends are going to be. Any insights on upcoming trends we should be on the lookout for? I was in New York City in May and went to the famed Del Posto restaurant, where I experienced parsley gelato (it was invented by their pastry chef!) How can I begin to explain the potency of this flavor, brought to life by a usually discarded garnish? Mind you, for most of my adult life, I’ve had this “weird” addiction to eating the garnishes out of cocktails. Do not put a mojito in front of me and expect me not to devour every muddled mint leaf, or a lemon or orange peel in my martini glass and think I won’t eat it before I take a sip. Those are the best parts of the drink! The parsley gelato was proof of what I’ve always secretly thought: The most concentrated flavors are in the garnishes. So I’m rooting for the underdog and saying the garnish is the new black.
Here at The Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria, we are firm believers in giving back. We’re proud of our friends at the Sarasota Manatee Originals and Seachange Studios for their efforts to support one of our favorite nonprofit organizations, the All Faiths Food Bank during their Skip A Lunch Campaign Against Summer Hunger. We can’t wait for May 3rd when dozens of our neighboring business will stage Food and Wine on Pine, the epic culinary event whose proceeds support a variety of arts and childrens’ charities. And in honor of Earth Day, which fell yesterday, we’re excited to share with you an exciting eco-conscious initiative put forth by our friends at AMI Outfitters. Image Source: Tripadvisor.com Steve Traves, a lifelong fisherman and kayaker, launched AMI Outfitters in Anna Maria in 2012. He got his start in the outdoor industry in the 1970s when he managed the original outfitter shop for a fledgling backpack manufacturer that grew to be Eagle Creek. There, he met important early eco-retailers like Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. Now, decades later, Patagonia is the leading brand at AMI Outfitters and AMI Outfitters is a supporter of an international business alliance Chouinard co-founded. Each business member in this group (which is called 1% For The Planet) donates at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes. And, from April 26th through May 11th, Patagonia and AMI Outfitters will continue their long tradition of partnering in eco-friendly activities when AMI Outfitters participates in Patagonia Advocate Weeks. Image Source: Tripadvisor.com During Advocate Weeks, Patagonia will be donating $10 to Sarasota Bay Watch (an awesome local preservation association of which Traves is a board member) for each pair of men’s and women’s shoes sold in Traves’ shop. The donations will fund much-needed scallop restoration efforts in Sarasota Bay. If you stop by and buy Patagonia shoes at AMI Outfitters on those dates, you’ll be helping support a wonderful local cause with a real global impact. As a thank-you for your generosity, you’ll also receive a free music download card for an exclusive album of 41 tracks from artists that support 1% For The Planet. This in-store only promotion will kick off on Saturday, April 26th and run through Sunday, May 11th. Image Source: Tripadvisor.com Here at The Waterfront, we believe that every day should be Earth Day. So get out there and plant a tree today, organize a recycling program in your school or office tomorrow, ride your bike to work instead of driving on Friday, and on starting on Saturday, April 26th, be sure to support AMI Outfitters as they endeavor to save the world one pair of shoes at a time.
All of us here at The Waterfront would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We thank all of you for your support, and we will continue to keep you posted on our weekly tastings, which are weather and business permitting as we head into season. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2012!