Chic Spotlight: “wine me, dine me (in Cincinnati)” Blogger Julie Niesen
Cincy Chic: You’ve been blogging on and off for about eight years on dittochic, The Cincinnati Blog and wine me, dine me (in Cincinnati)(wmdmiC). Why did you start wmdmiC?
Julie Niesen: I wanted to work on something that was more public than my friends-only blogs elsewhere, and something less personal.
Cincinnati Blog is a shared blog, so I wanted something that was wholly mine. I still had a story to tell, so I thought about my passions, which are many, and what I’d be willing to write about on a fairly regular basis without getting burnt out.
Since everyone eats, and I eat out and cook a lot, I figured a food blog might be a good start. I noticed that the only other restaurant review blogs in Cincinnati at the time were dormant (Recently, cvgburgerguys.blogspot.com came back), so not only was I doing something I was interested in, but filling a niche in town. I’m pretty passionate about Cincinnati, too — there’s no way I’d do a non-Cincinnati-focused blog.
Cincy Chic: As a freelance writer, editor, project manager and social networker experienced in marketing, publishing and PR, you proclaim to be enamored with all things involving words, food and web 2.0. Of all your interests, what do you love the most and why?
Niesen: Of my professional interests — though I guess food is both professional and personal — reading and writing are my first loves. I’ve been reading since I was very small, and telling and writing stories since I was small as well. Reading is so important — not only does it convey information, but the best way to learn about writing is to read. Reading is intrinsic to everything I do.
Cincy Chic: Honestly, now. Do you think you could live without your laptop/Internet access? How long do you think you could go without it?
Niesen: Between my Blackberry and my laptop, I’m a little over-wired. Last year, when I traveled to Paris at Christmas with my boyfriend, I went a whole week with no internet (save a half-hour to coordinate meeting a friend at a restaurant, as we couldn’t get our cell phones to work!), no laptop, no cell phones, nothing! To be honest, it was great — a true vacation. However, in the long-term, I’m too much of an information nut to be away from the computer for long, though sometimes I try to turn off the computer and Blackberry and ignore the world for a while.
Cincy Chic: Recently, you were slightly miffed that a local publication failed to include females in a recent article about local bloggers. Why was this so bothersome to you?
Niesen: Though the three blogs profiled are great and ones that I actually read on a regular basis, but by virtually ignoring women bloggers, the writer failed to address the breadth of Cincinnati blogs. There are everything from blogs about kids, blogs about weight loss, blogs about dealing with cancer, blogs about food and wine, blogs that address gay and lesbian issues — you name it! We even have a group — Cincinnati Women Bloggers — that helps us to network and meet other like-minded women.
Cincy Chic: In your foodie opinion, how does Cincinnati rank compared to other mid-sized cities? What’s your biggest local foodie gripe? Local foodie praise?
Niesen: Cincinnati has such a rich culinary history! We were huge producers of pork in the 1800s, as most Cincinnatians know, but did you know that the hills of Mt. Adams were to the 1800s what Sonoma is to us today? Nicholas Longworth’s Catawba vineyard produced 150,000 bottles of wine a year and was the subject of a Longfellow poem (which referred to us for the first time as the Queen of the West). Manischewitz (makers of the first commercially produced matzoh) was founded here, as was Fleischman, the first manufacturers of standardized commercial yeast in the US. Our Oktoberfest is the second largest in the world, outside of Munich. Today, we have a much more diverse range of foods than we did even five years ago. With little effort, we can get cuisine from vegan to Thai to Ethiopian to a world-class steak with new places opening rapidly. We have some top chefs here, and some up-and-coming ones, too. My gripe? That so many people are more willing to go to a chain than support local businesses. Only recently have indie restaurants been able to think about opening in the suburbs, as many Cincinnatians aren’t willing to go out of their comfort zones and try something different.
Cincy Chic: What other blogs do you frequent for your daily fix? Locally? Nationally?
Niesen: I read too many blogs to list, but locally, my favorites are The Cincinnati Blog (of course), Cincinnati Locavore, My Wine Education, get in mah belly and CityKin. I, of course, read Cincy Chic! Nationally, I love Salon’s Broadsheet, Serious Eats, Slashfood, Apartment Therapy, Life Hacker, Jezebel…the list goes on.
Cincy Chic: In your opinion, what do you consider to be “best of the web?” Locally or nationally?
Niesen: Content is queen, so I’ll read about anything with really compelling content. The New York Times is one newspaper that really gets new media, and I read it online religiously. The Apartment Therapy websites cover the gamut from interior design to cooking to children. The Gawker family of Web sites has some compelling content, even if it’s my guilty pleasure (though Life Hacker is incredibly useful). I’m also very big into Twitter, del.icio.us and Technorati — anything that allows me to communicate with like minded people and share good content.
Cincy Chic: You have acted in a few theatre productions. Do you officially have the acting bug? Any on stage inspirations? What local show/production company do you recommend?
Niesen: I’ve been acting since I was in high school. I’m on the board of a local theater company, The Falcon Theater, and am their resident costumer. I’ve been involved in some capacity with about 20 shows in the past four years — costumes, props and acting. I’d definitely recommend heading to Newport to see our shows – we have a great season ahead!
Cincy Chic: You like to tinker in the kitchen as well as reviewing local restaurants. What’s your favorite go-to-meal to prepare? Who are your culinary inspirations/heroes?
Niesen: Roasted chicken with mashed potatoes is my favorite simple but fairly impressive go-to meal. There’s nothing better, to me, than a perfectly prepared roast chicken. Add a tossed salad with some homemade vinagrette and you’ve got a meal that takes very little effort. In the summertime, I make a lot of salads using whatever I have in the fridge, or grill out chicken breasts or steaks.
My culinary inspiration is my grandmother. I spent a lot of time as a child in the kitchen with her as she made German food and some of the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted. I still have all of her recipes, and I’m planning on putting together a cookbook of her favorite recipes for my family. My tastes are certainly different than Grandma’s were, but she enabled me to appreciate good food. Aside from her, I am inspired by Nigella Lawson – she is both an excellent writer and cook, who prepares unfussy meals with great flavors. I’m all for simple preparation with excellent ingredients.
Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Niesen: There’s always something to discover here, no matter how long you’ve lived here. We may not be New York or LA, but we have friendly people, excellent arts, a growing dining scene, professional sports and a ton of history. There’s no lack of things to do if you look around. It’s a great location to use as a home base – in an hour or two, you can be on a farm picking your own blackberries, checking out horses in Kentucky, or at a motor speedway. We’re growing our downtown and are slowly regrowing our urban population. It’s a great place to be!
Photo: Courtesy of Mikki Reynolds-Schaffner