The New & Improved Amateur Gourmet

It’s 7:45 AM and I can’t contain it anymore. I laid in bed last night, jittery and nervous, anxious and excited. In just a few hours the new version of my blog, the blog I’d been writing for the past six years, would be launching. And now–standing before you in all its glory–is the new & improved Amateur Gourmet.

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Take a moment to soak it in. Why does everything feel so clear and open? What’s that revolutionary new feature on the right? The Amateur Gourmet Community Blog? Don’t ask questions yet, just absorb the beauty and the brilliance of Raphael Brion’s vision. Got it? Ok, now for some explanation. There are three things to be very excited about here.

1. Design.

Riffing off Leah McCombe’s lovely original version of the site (the one that launched almost three years ago) Raphael (who, I might mention here, helped build Serious Eats, redesigned Midtown Lunch and is now the editor-in-chief of Eater National) has done the following to make the site both more beautiful and more functional:

* Instead of colored sidebars, the blog is now a big white canvas with a larger, more impressive banner floating on top (thanks, of course, to our banner designer Lindy Groening);

* Comment counts now appear on top of a post so, when you load up the page, you can immediately see how many people are talking about a given post;

* At the bottom of each post are two easy-to-use buttons: one to re-Tweet the post and the other to post it to Facebook (the buttons also tell you how many times a post has been reTweeted or Facebooked);

* In the left column, three big, clear links to my Facebook page, my Twitter page and my RSS feed.

There are all kinds of other, more subtle tweaks (the site search, for example, is way more functional now) but those are the biggies.

2. A Newsletter.

Did you know that 70% of my planned food blog posts never make it on to my blog? For example, last week I went with my parents to Tom Colicchio’s new restaurant Colicchio & Sons. I also went to the Village Voice’s Choice Eats event, something that–as much as I enjoyed it–I probably won’t write about on here. So what is a reader like you to do if you want to know about those things? Well now, thanks to The New & Improved Amateur Gourmet, you have an option: subscribe to my newsletter!

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I’m really excited to have a weekly newsletter, a place to write more casually, more freely about my food experiences. On my blog, I always have to keep in mind that I’m creating a permanent record–something that will show up on Google searches for years to come. Not so the newsletter. No, in my Newsletter I can be as free as I want to be and I hope you sign up right now (there’s even a link in the left sidebar) so you can learn all about the short rib I ate at The Fatty Crab and the red velvet cake I made for my friends Morgan and Phil. Also, there are other top secret, super exciting things happening in my professional life right now and newsletter subscribers may be the first to find out about them!

3. The Amateur Gourmet Community Blog

This is the big one, the reason that I met Raphael in the first place, the reason–really–for this site’s big overhaul. I had an idea, almost a year ago, an idea that wasn’t necessarily practical, but something that I thought would be really exciting, really, in a way, revolutionary. The idea is what you see on the upper right–a Community Blog for Amateur Gourmet readers like you.

What is it? What’s the idea? What’s going on?

Imagine, for a second, that you score a reservation at one of the world’s great restaurants or, perhaps, you buy a giant leg of lamb to cook a feast for 15 of your friends. You don’t have a food blog, but you do have a camera. You take pictures, you have stories. You want to share those pictures, you want to share those stories. You don’t want to launch your own food blog, you’re too busy for that, but you’d like your writing and your pictures to appear before an audience in a traditional blog format. What do you do? You write about it on The Amateur Gourmet Community Blog!

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This, dear readers, is a food blog controlled entirely by you. It may, in fact, be the world’s very first crowd-sourced food blog. The entries, the pictures, the titles, the categories—they’re all done by you. You can make this page whatever you want it to be and that’s what makes it so exciting.

As a test, last week I invited anyone who was curious to submit an entry. I invited both non-bloggers and new bloggers who want some help promoting their blogs. I expected, maybe, to have five posts on the page before we launched. Now there are 32. THIRTY TWO!

Check it out–my friend Philip wrote about his Mama Masha’s Jelly Cookies, my friend Patty wrote an amazing post about making bagels from scratch

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Foodie at Fifteen wrote about Food as a Bonding Tool, my friend Morgan made Meyer lemon lemon drops, and my friend Alex made Avatar cupcakes with a Hurt Locker surprise inside.

There are also wonderful posts from people I don’t know, people who–after reading their work–you’ll be instant fans of: posts like this gorgeous post about roasted rutabagas with honey and five spice (by cooklocal), an amazing roasted salmon with watercress-herb salad (by Chris Ham)–

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–and this really funny post, “Spaghetti with Mystery Sauce,” (by willothewhisk.)

You’ll notice, if you click those people’s names, it takes you to their profile pages: that’s right, Raphael–who helped bring all of this to life–lets you make your own A.G.C.B. profiles. And as you write more and more posts on the Community Blog, all of them appear archived under your profile info.

Also, notice that on the main page of my blog–right there on the upper right–are links to the three most recent posts; all the work you do in the Community section will be prominently featured on the main A.G. page and if, like many of our original contributors, you’re a new blogger trying to drive some traffic to your blog, this is a great way to do it.

Finally, this blog is a reason to check back here throughout the day. As many of you have probably realized by now, I can only eek out two or three posts a week (my posts being as detailed as they are). Now an army of eager food lovers like you will pick up my slack, making this site–one that many of you have grown to love over the years–even more vibrant and vital. You won’t want to ever leave.

So that’s it! A huge, enormous, unbelievable “thank you” to Raphael for all of his very intensive hard work. Obviously, I couldn’t have done this without him. And thanks, of course, to Lindy Groening for the banner and the graphics at the top of the post. Thanks to Leah McCombe for her original vision, to Ben Lim who brought that original vision to life (and helped Raphael and I with some questions we had) and to all of the people who helped me test The Community Blog.

Now, readers, I leave it to you to make it great. Do me proud!

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