The Art of Non-Conformity cover“Shoot For The Moon. Even If You Miss, You’ll Land Among The Stars.” – Mary Poppins, The Musical. (I saw it twice in London. Don’t laugh at me.)

After following Chris Guillebeau‘s blog for two years, I finally met my hero at his book launch in New York this fall. Chris is a traveler, writer, entrepreneur, and now book author of The Art of Non-Conformity with the goal of visiting every country in the world by April 7, 2013.

I’ve been following Chris online since 2008 when my best friend Jenna Meister, whom you may remember from my ceviche video, introduced me to his site. While Chris updates his blog everyday, it’s his thoughtful newsletters that I find most valuable. Like clockwork, an email from Chris arrives every Monday and Thursday with a gem of advice exactly when you need it. (My latest favorite is “Who You Are And What They Say.”) Sharing insight on travel hacking to advice on how to think for yourself, Chris covers more ground in a week than I do in a month. Surely, no one’s perfect, but Chris is my reminder that everything will be alright as long as you give it your best and, whenever possible, do something extra ordinary. Or take on a task that scares you senseless. Taking this to heart, I emailed him to ask if he’d like to guest star on Stupidly Simple Snacks. He did.

The day after we met at his book signing, Chris and his lovely wife Jolie stopped by before they had to jet to the next stop of Chris’s Unconventional Book Tour through ten Canadian provinces and 50 states.

In my excitement, my brain skipped this step in the recipe: Keep the dry ingredients separate from the wet. Into the same bowl everything went before I realized my mistake. On my own time, I forgive myself – generously – for oversights, but to screw up with a guest and limited time is a catastrophe. (No, not really.) There was no time for a redo, so we improvised and remained optimistic. Chris named our honey, oat, and rice krispie concoction Unconventional Snack Bars, though “snack blob” would have been more fitting…

Later, I re-shot the video and tweaked the recipe taking inspiration from Mark Bittman’s almond-apricot granola bar recipe. According to Jason, this is my best Stupidly Simple Snack to date. I think it’s one of my best-edited videos too. It wouldn’t have been the same without all those mistakes. amy • november 29, 2010

To keep up with Chris, follow @chrisguillebeau on Twitter and sign up for his email newsletter. I have been subscribed to The Art of Non-Conformity for two years and have cherished every story he’s shared. Also, buy the book here. It’s the best gift you can give for under $10 this Christmas.


SERVES 4 or one Jason

1 cup rice krispies
1 cup instant oats (Quaker oats work great.)
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

MUSIC Julian Bachlow • Stars in the Moonlight / YouTubeFacebookMyspaceTwitter

November 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Blogs, people, Stupidly Simple Snacks, Travel, videos, YouTube. 3 comments.

FOODSPOTTING • I Spy With My Little i

Oreo Cake Tower at Martha Stewart Bloggers Night Out EventMomofuku Milkbar banana cake up close and personalDuck & Bunny iced tea, Providence, Rhode Island (cropped)

IT’S NOT EASY BEING IN A PUBLIC RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD. Even now, I’m self-conscious thanks to encounters with bewildered Le Pain Quotidien servers who stop in their tracks to ask if I’m one of those food diarists he’d read about in the news. Sometimes, men even take it as a cue to strike up conversation about the delicious cheeseburger I’m about to shoot. But as awkward as blogging chow can be, it’d be worse to run a food blog without photos. No matter how hard they try, words only go so far; pictures always say much more.

In July, my old Boston University mentor told me about FOODSPOTTING, a visual guide to food and iPhone app that allows users to share photos of their meal, locate dishes around them, and “nom”-inate the ones they’ve tried and liked. Finally, a socially acceptable way to say, hey, this tastes great and here is proof.

I’m not a fan of underqualified or overly critical restaurant reviews, so I was extra excited about Foodspotting‘s mission to emphasize positive dining experiences by highlighting what looks good in any zip code. At once, you have a culinary compass and a picture guide to food.

There was a job at Foodspotting I was pretty keen on, so, despite the fact that the company is based in San Francisco, I sent in my most persuasive plea. I learned the job was filled that same day, but luckily for my self-esteem, Foodspotting‘s co-founder, Alexa Andrzejewski, reached out soon after and expressed interest in having me work with them in New York City.

While I won’t be moving west, I will be collaborating with Alexa, the new Community Lead Fiona Tang, and their amazing New York-based business developer Soraya Darabi in the coming months to spread the love of spotting food. After all, close-up shots of cookies, cake, and ice-cold beverages will never get old so long as eyes can see and mouth drools. Hoping to meet many more of you through this opportunity too!

WATCH What Is Foodspotting? and hear Fiona narrate the video in her beautiful Australian accent.

MEET the team on their Tumblr blog.

GET the iPhone app. It’s free!

Last but not least… FOLLOW me, please.

amy august 23, 2010

August 18, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Blogs, Foodspotting. 2 comments.


Portobello Road Market cupcake display 2009portobello road storefrontPortobello Road bottlesI WAS CONVINCED I’D GET BEAT UP IN HIGH SCHOOL. After all, I was thirteen and had just graduated with twenty-five other eighth graders from a private, Catholic school. While I knew the New York public education system would be a big change, I was looking forward to burning my schoolgirl uniform. Still, my cousins went to public school and seemed to get in fights all the time so, clearly, I was bound to get my ass kicked. The only thing to do, then, was to take karate class, which I took up that summer (and only that summer) before my Freshman year, and to READ UP on how to survive high school.

It’s especially funny to remember my teen self now, but even then I didn’t feel embarrassed. Because it worked. After all, groundbreaking advice on how to survive high school were actually basic tips on how to make friends, including:

Introduce yourself.
Everyone else is as nervous as you.

So, in the spirit of that ever-helpful guide (I think this might be the latest edition.) that I found at Strand, I give you my own rendition of the Freshman Guide, but to food blogging. I wrote these for Jeremy Jones, an aspiring international food blogger and a friend of my jet-setting friend Adam, who emailed last week in search of tips on how to get a new blog noticed on the “big food blog scene”.

Here are the suggestions I sent to Jeremy. Most are common sense and none promise to bring wealth or fame. Rather, they’re lessons I learned along the way to becoming a more effective communicator online and in person. This way, you’re ready when CNN calls to ask: “Why can’t you cook?”

Without further ado…

Be consistent. Post Monday through Friday; post in the morning; post at night; post once or twice a month. No matter when you post, be consistent. It’s hard to build an audience if you publish new pieces haphazardly. Readers like to see new posts and photos, so you should try to deliver these as regularly as possible. (But don’t become a slave to posting. I’d rather post something thoughtful once a week than put a photo up mindlessly.)

Talk about things you genuinely care about. If you don’t care about the content you create and are only doing it to throw words up on a screen, it shows. If you are mildly obsessed passionate about your topic, your readers will know.

Check spelling and grammar.

Do it for love (not the pennies). You probably won’t make money or gain an audience immediately. You should probably also know that you’ll be writing for your mom and two best friends for a while. To be honest, my mom doesn’t read English and my best friends don’t read every post right away. Riveting as my food musings may be, they’re not for everybody. But what is?

Be positive.
No one likes a whiner.

Find a niche / Be the best niche filler you can be. Provide new information. Write about a never-before-experienced restaurant experience or share a recipe you’ve created. Don’t merely regurgitate others’ content. Be original. If you can, be the only one doing what you’re doing. I met Megan of The Runner’s Kitchen last week. She trains for races and is mindful about what she eats. Maybe there are other runners who blog, but Megan is great about staying “on message” and, in effect, fills a niche. She’s super sweet and helps hungry athletes.

Be social. Use Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook to engage other bloggers, gain feedback, and to let followers know what’s new.

Meet bloggers offline. Attend blogger meet-ups, conferences, and panels where you can chat with other bloggers and share your experiences with one another. Listen and learn.

Keep up with blogs and bloggers you like. I love the focus on aesthetics on fashion and design blogs, like my friend Erica’s funny Design Blahg, so I visit them often for inspiration.

There are no rules. The blog world is still new, so nothing I or other bloggers say promises “success”. You just have to jump in and hope for the best while working to stay afloat. The good thing? No one’s watching, especially at the beginning, so who cares if you screw up?

Stupidly simple ideas work. Seriously.

amy august 10, 2010

Photos were taken at Portobello Market while visiting friends in London last year. At the time, Amy Blogs Chow was just a few months old. I didn’t know how to blog either.

August 10, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Blogs, Europe, Travel. 14 comments.

THE BORGATA • Gamble Lounge Eat Repeat

The Borgata Water Club SunroomGypsy Bar at the BorgataMichael Mina Seablue, The BorgataSmoked Salmon Pizza at Wolfgang Puck

THE WATER CLUB AT BORGATA atlantic city, new jersey, 800 800 8817 click here for reservations

I CAN COUNT THE NUMBER OF TIMES I’VE BEEN IN A CASINO ON ONE HAND and, still, I’d only need two fingers. When I was twelve, I spent a weekend wandering Foxwoods with my mom and sister while waiting for my dad to beat his opponent in a chess tournament that’s hosted annually there. I was too young to gamble then, but even now I’m not inclined to. So what does a non-gambling, non-clubbing, and non-chess playing twentysomething do in a casino?

In March, the Borgata invited eight bloggers, including myself, to experience their Water Club hotel and fine dining restaurants in Atlantic City. In 48 hours I learned 1) eating is always an option. 2) lounging at one of Water Club‘s five picture perfect pools is too. And 3) Conan and Seinfeld will entertain you.

•  •  •  •

To the delight of my insatiable sweet tooth, we were invited behind-the-scenes of Borgata‘s pastry kitchen where former White House pastry chef Thaddeus Dubois chatted about George W. Bush’s love of pie. Chef Dubois also showed us how to make a chocolate bunny:

Izakaya at the BorgataIzakaya scallop

The weekend focused on visiting and tasting dishes from each of Borgata‘s six name restaurants. Saturday began in the Water Club‘s Sunroom with a shot of blueberry mint Greek yogurt smoothie and a bite-sized tower of smoked salmon. It was then I decided smoked salmon is my new favorite food. This conviction was bolstered by smoked salmon with creme fraiche pizza at Wolfgang Puck American Grille where Executive Chef Aram Mardigian stretched and kneaded pizza dough before our eyes as we scooped Parmesan flatbread and pizza slices into our mouths.

I knew I’d never make it through the day if I didn’t pace myself, so I sampled everything, but devoured nothing. I helped myself to second bites of dishes I liked, but declined to clean my plate when it came to overly well-done filet mignon at Bobby Flay. But where Bobby falls short on steak – at least on that particular day – he compensates with a dramatic lobster bar and lounge area designed to accommodate large parties and facilitate “chance encounters” should that be what you’re looking for.

After our steak stop at Bobby Flay, we headed next door to SeaBlue where executive chef Anthony Amoroso modestly downplayed his Iron Chef triumph over Morimoto. “I was lucky to get an ingredient I was comfortable working with (branzino, a Mediterranean sea bass),” he said. I turned my focus on the trio of Seablue signatures before me: tuna tartare, pillowy lobster corn dog, and a kind of caviar parfait. Like Bobby Flay, where showy design elements trumped taste, SeaBlue‘s clubby, electric blue-and-lavender bar area, where we sat, is a little distracting. Then again, you would probably reserve a table in the main room, which is set apart from the bar, for dining.

Amoroso puts palates at ease with food to please everybody: shareable platters, “tasting trios”, red meat, and pot pies, in addition to the bivalves and crustaceans you’d expect to find. I like the idea of having a girl’s night out here. But, in practice, it’d be hard to hear you over the din on a Saturday night and a place called SeaBlue ought to be less cave-like; more open air.

The last restaurant stop, Izakaya, introduced live scallop (pictured left), chewy fluke usuzukuri, braised oxtail gyoza, and sweet Nigori sake into my life. At this point, I figured my stomach was filled with enough food to last a week, but when my fellow food blogger – raw fish-adverse Eric Smith of Geekadelphia – squirmed at the sight of yellowfin tuna, I happily cleaned his plate of sushi too.

• • • •

By hiring the likes of Michelin-starred chef Anthony Amoroso at SeaBlue and inviting food bloggers to experience the culinary offerings in Atlantic City, it’s obvious the Borgata team is working to elevate their dining experience above afterthought (and its current reputation as a way to pad stomachs for the drinks ahead). Coming from Manhattan, the Borgata is not a dining destination. But the convenience of having it all – Water Club‘s stunning spa and swimming pools, Wolfgang Puck‘s smoked salmon and creme fraiche pizza, a performance by the likes of Jon Stewart, and Izakaya‘s sparkling sake – under one massive roof makes the trip worth taking. amy may 10, 2009

• • • •

NOTES • I was joined at the Borgata by (my new favorite person) Jess Rossi of Fries With That Shake, Ben Kessler of super sandwich blog Unbreaded, endearing Eric Smith of Geekadelphia, Miss Elizabeth Halen of Foodaphilia and a professional cake baker, and Scott Reiner who pens The Wine Explorer for the New York Daily News.

The Aces Train provides direct train service between NYC and Atlantic City.

All photos are my own except for Immersion Spa pool and Borgata lobby photo.

May 10, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Atlantic City, Blogs, videos. 2 comments.

EMBRACING THE “GOOP” & Midtown Lunch

I RECENTLY JOINED ZACH BROOKS’ MIDTOWN LUNCH team to write about, well, the best lunch in Midtown Manhattan. I’m super excited to cover ground so close to home and am also kicking myself for not trying $6 spicy chicken biryani from street carts til now. But better late than never I always say.

Zach moved to Los Angeles earlier this month (to take over the world one blog post at a time), but I was able to catch him on his Farewell Lunch Tour at Kwik Meal and Trini-Paki Boys Cart to say good luck and goodbye.

I’ve always been fond of “dirty water dogs”, especially during summer when I’m wandering about hungry in Central Park, but I’m not so adventurous when it comes to ethnic street cuisine. But that changed after sinking my teeth into spicy lamb from Kwik Meal and the chicken biryani Zach got at the Trini-Paki Boys Cart. I was surprised it was so…satisfying. Pungent, for sure, but flavorful and cheap. Much more gratifying than a cold bun and $3 weenie.

•  •  •  •

Without further ado, I present my first piece on Midtown Lunch! It turned out more amusing than intended, but I guess we can count that as a success. Thought I was talking about a gooey Japanese ingredient, but actually made an exciting sexual reference instead. Read it all on Midtown Lunch: Embrace the “Goop” of Onya’s Bukkake Udon.

February 25, 2010. Tags: , , . Blogs, food cart, Midtown Lunch. 3 comments.

SHORTY AWARDS • Earning My Fruit Stripes

IT’S BEEN A GOOD MONTH despite the glum weather and slow starts to new projects. I once spent two months in a hospital bed so if there’s a prize for playing the Waiting Game, I think I’d win it. But while some parts of life have been dragging along, other bits have been speeding ahead, diving off cliffs, and plotting great adventures (like a food-fueled blogging excursion in Atlantic City) for the days ahead.

The Shorty Award finalists were determined earlier this month and, thanks to the support of my twitter-ing alma mater and freakin’ incredible Twitter friends, I made the food list. To be frank, I didn’t even think to celebrate until my favorite food blogger, Melody of Gourmet Fury, yelled in caps: CONGRATULATIONS! Melody learned of the news via Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. Only then did I realize the value of Twitter to businesses hoping to connect with customers. Naturally, they will pay attention to a social media contest even if my friends still have no idea why I’m trying to tweet and beat Anthony Bourdain.

•  •  •  •

I nearly forgot to share the Shorty Award finalist results here after my Please Vote campaign. After talking about the “Twitter Oscars” for over a week, I was just relieved to stop harassing my friends. I doubt I will take the crown from the top five finalists, which include Food Network celebrities and last year’s winner – the encyclopedic Foodimentary with 114,150 followers – but I achieved one small feat none of the above did. I invoked the relationships I’d built with 20% of my 1,000 followers. My math skills are pitiful, but I know this much is true: Twitter allows you to connect with great people behind those thumbprint-size avatars. And when you have positive relationships with people you’ve never even met, that should count as Something Good: Achieved.

•  •  •  •

My digital media-savvy friend Bryan was appalled when I told him I didn’t have Amy Blogs Chow business cards. I haven’t needed them til now, really. Being the generous creative spirit that he is, he created a rainbow batch for me.

The Shorty Awards party will be held next Wednesday at the New York Times building. (You can still buy tickets here). One shouldn’t plan to lose. But, if I do, at least I’ll have some colorful new card sticks on which to chew. amyfebruary 23, 2010

February 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Blogs, event, twitter. 9 comments.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I’M RASH. I don’t like the word but, sometimes, that’s what I am. I also tend to arrive ten minutes late for personal appointments and have a death-grip on what some regard as unrealistically high expectations. To top this toxic cake of bad traits, I’m guilty of cynicism too. For that, Conan, I’m sorry.

•   •   •   •   •   •

Knowing my own shortcomings, I decided to wait two weeks before writing about my January 21st restaurant outing with the Wandering Foodie, Hagan Blount. (more…)

February 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Asian, Blogs, cash only, Flushing, Manhattan, Queens, West Village. 53 comments.

PLEASE VOTE • Why You Should Tweet & Believe

IT’S TRUE. I’M RUNNING A TWITTER RACE in the food lane. Why? Well, if there’s a tool I use more than any other to meet, greet, share, amuse, chat about chow, and generally make a buffoon of myself, it’s Twitter.

On Sunday, I skimmed the food category of the Shorty Awards a.k.a. “Twitter Oscars”  and noticed the Disney Food Blog was sitting comfortably in 20th place with 32 votes. How did a Twitter account with only 32 votes reach 20th place in an international social media contest? So I gave myself a small goal, asked my Twitter followers to vote, and, that same night, pulled ahead of the Disney food blog with 50 votes.

I started campaigning three days ago because not many other Twitter users seemed to be. After two days of messaging Twitter friends, I inched into the top ten. Today is Wednesday; I’m in the seventh spot.

Voting ends on Friday and I’m struggling to squeak past Chef John who is currently in fifth place. The top five continue to Round 2 where their “twittering” is monitored and voted on by a panel of judges and anyone who uses Twitter to determine who makes the most of 140 characters. I won’t win a popularity contest against Food Network star Tyler Florence, but to get that chance to “compete” with a man and his PR team will be one step forward for all unskilled but passionate food enthusiasts IN THE WORLD or, at least, on Twitter.

•   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •

Last week, I found crème brûlée in the fridge. It took a year of wishful thinking, but Jason was bored one night and did that “Surprise! I made crème brûlée!” thing boyfriends sometimes do in the first month of a relationship. (We’re way past that month.)

To friends who use Twitter, please vote and tell your friends! Making friends is free and Twitter makes it easy to connect with individuals who you’ll come to cherish even if you may never meet. Your network is there when you can’t tell the difference between tomato and pizza sauce, when you need a restaurant recommendation and when you want to learn more about urban farms in the Bronx (@ashleywillhite). You’d be surprised what a tweet – and positive thoughts – can do. VOTE HERE. Thank you!

January 26, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Blogs, random, twitter. Leave a comment.



IF I’VE LEARNED ANYTHING FROM BLOGGING IT’S YOU ARE WHAT YOU BLOG. So when I wax poetic on brownies, deep-fried turkeys and show more interest in food than people, it’s easy to assume I’m eating it all too.

I like the way my friend Melody of Gourmet Fury put it: “On the surface, I appear to…spend a third of my day eating, one third cooking, and another third drinking. While one third of that lies true, the rest is merely an illusion...” (Read Mel’s thoughtful post here.)

Those of us who maintain personal blogs are like ducks – calm on the surface, but paddling like mad underneath. If I told you it took me fifteen minutes to photograph Midtown Manhattan behind a bottle of 2006 Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc (pictured above left), you might think twice before trading your badge of normalcy for front row seats to the Foodie Freak Show. When I dine out, five-minute photo shoots with the entrees are routine before my date can dig in, as are Twenty Questions with the server.

One blogger, Kerry of NYCMenuGirl, recently asked me how she can turn food blogging into “something real” and “more than a hobby”. Eager to share my infinite wisdom and turn dreams to dust, I replied: Zach of Midtown Lunch is the only blogger I know who makes an income from maintaining his blog full-time.

I went on to extol the virtues of (multiple) day jobs, the possibility of gaining sponsorships, the chance to sharpen the writing blade, and the inimitable satisfaction of enjoying what you’re doing even when it doesn’t pay the bills. Besides, some bloggers get a buzz from seeing themselves listed first in a Google search.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

Sometimes the brownies I bake are too sweet (this happens when I use semisweet chocolate in a recipe that wants baking chocolate); other times, the frozen maple mousse pie I make for Thanksgiving (pictured above right) just doesn’t taste that good. The truth is: my photography skills exceed my baking abilities and I should make smaller batches because I never eat it all. I’m not a glutton, I just bake a lot and it’s making my boyfriend fat. amy january 20, 2010

Share “I’m not a glutton, I just bake a lot.” on Facebook!

January 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Blogs, brownies, Dessert, Wine. 9 comments.

FOODIE is an F Word

popsicleI JUST FOUND OUT I’m a foodie.

I didn’t always exemplify the word, but today I’m as foodie-like as it gets. After all, if photos and text are all it takes, then let me tell you: I rarely dine without my camera and Moleskine.

Once upon a time two years ago, I recall “food lovers” were so-called for their eating enthusiasm and years of feasting expertise. Even then, only journalists with culinary backgrounds were considered food professionals. (Frank Bruni fell short of this arbitrary qualification. So as a junior editor in the tallest of ivory towers, I actually learned to look down on the man.) Nowadays, a Yelp profile is all one needs to brand himself the next ZAGAT. Or a twitter account.

After multiple attempts to digest the term, “foodie” still leaves a dry taste in my mouth. I love to dine – not so I can dissect the experience – but because I get two uninterrupted hours to catch up with friends over Cryovacked cod and mini macaroons. I panic when I’m left alone in the kitchen with new ingredients; I balk when Jason asks me to bake tilapia fillet; I just learned who Julia Child was a year ago; and I feel bad for not feeling bad about the shuttering of Gourmet.

But, yesterday, a good friend checked in to make sure I was OK: Picture 2

I didn’t realize I was obliged to an opinion. From someone who eats and writes about the F word, only one emotion is expected anyway. For me, the news of Gourmet was equivalent to hearing about the passing of a great-aunt of a friend’s mother’s classmate from Choate. I never met the woman but am sorry for the loss.

The New York Times said, “Killing Gourmet…may have made business sense for Condé Nast. But to the food elite – especially of an older generation – it felt like a gut punch. (Full article here.)

15821830My gut’s doing great, but it has nothing to do with or without Gourmet. Yet the comment begs the question: are the “food elite” the real foodies? Are real foodies old? (I hear “foodies” are food snobs…)

The answer is yes to all of the above – but only a fraction of foodies are truly elite, old, or pompous. Food evokes feelings and some people merely emote louder than others. My take on “foodies” swing between “Down with these Foodiots!” to feeling a thrill for those who enjoy, raise, source, and cook food, all the way to the blogger who’s happy he found a forum to share what went down at dinner.

In the end, foodies (in all its incarnations) come, food fads go, and ice pops go gourmet. Remember when kids made their own with Tropicana, toothpicks, and ice cube trays? These days we wouldn’t come within two feet of a refrigerator at Morton Williams unless the ice pop’s organic, made from 110% juice, and proven to fight cancer. I don’t feel like a food snob though. In fact, I feel great for supporting the girl who’s been scraping and packing ice under the Brooklyn sun. What’s more, her slushies come in Dora the Explorer Dixie cups, which is more than Popsicle can claim.

(Image at left courtesy of @multisync. Main photo by me. The blackberry pear ice pop can be found at Brooklyn Flea.)

October 8, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . Blogs, Brooklyn, Fort Greene, ZAGAT SURVEY. 1 comment.

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