The only screen I enjoy staring at is a fine mesh strainer. The computer kind strains my eyes. And that’s just one reason why I’m a Megan-come-lately to Twitter, the microblogging super-site that launched in July 2006 and has since become the font of all wisdom, or the wisdom which can be expressed in 140 characters or less. My main fear was that it would keep me connected to my computer chair for hours of unproductive digital meandering. Ironically, it has propelled me into the kitchen, and onto the street in pursuit of new restaurants and food-filled events.
Turns out Twitter is a formidable forward-thinking tool for foodies all over the world, and the Hudson Valley is no exception. For those not yet indoctrinated, a “tweet” is a tidbit of fact and opinion delivered at 140 characters and even fewer calories – an informational amuse bouche, easily digested. Now imagine a website comprised exclusively of these status updates flowing like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river after a semisweet hurricane. It’s the bombardment of a 22-course French Laundry dinner times 100 million — the number of active users, as of September 2011, according to PC Magazine. In the Twitterverse, it’s good to be a follower: Sign up to follow your favorite Twitterers with the click of a button, and their streaming thoughts are diverted into your own little tributary of ideas. Based on whom you follow, the website will suggest who you should be following; or you can boldly seek out new tastes and new civilizations via hashtags — keywords immediately preceded by the pound sign, e.g. #HudsonValley, #restaurants, #deliciousness. Searches send you pinging around like a pinball, and lead to a panoply of unexpected discoveries.
That’s how I found Cafe Bocca in Poughkeepsie – @cafebocca in Twitterese. Profiles gives users the opportunity to define themselves more concisely than I ever could – 160 characters or fewer – so I’ll let @cafebocca tweet for itself. It is: “A cool, relaxed Cafe in the heart of Poughkeepsie’s Downtown, just a few minutes walk from the Poughkeepsie Train Station & The Walkway Over the Hudson.” Their regularly updated feed makes me hungry. On Dec. 18, they Tweeted, “Goat Cheese & Crimini Mushroom Pizza, Asiago & Roasted Pepper Pizza, Shrimp Cocktail, BBQ Chicken Breast Skewers.” And I knew what I wanted before I even had a menu in my hands – before I even left the house.
An even more beloved type of tweet is announcement of specials and discounts du jour. Some are exclusive to Twitter; some are supplemental clues. Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck (@GigiHV ) lured oenophiles on Dec. 14: “Today is Wine Wednesday at Gigi Trattoria, all bottles of wine are 30% off.” I appreciate both the discount and the alliteration. And due to the Internet’s exploitation of the plasticity of my brain, gearing me ever more towards instant gratification, I changed plans to avail myself of this special.
Altruistic incentives abut economic ones. In the course of an hour on Dec. 18, Aroma Thyme Bistro (@Aroma_Thyme) of Ellenville reminds us that “Sunday is Burger Night @Aroma_Thyme, SAVE big …” and that diners can pitch in an “help us feed people on Christmas Day dld.bz/a5HNR #ChristmasDay #SoupKitchen.” The truncated URL leads to a video on Aroma Thyme’s website of Chef Marcus Guiliano (@healthychefdude) describing the Aroma Thyme’s Christmas Day Soup Kitchen program. Since 2003, the restaurant has opened on Christmas Day to solely produce meals for families in need throughout Orange and Ulster counties – no questions asked. Last Christmas, Guiliano, staff and a group of volunteers fed 550 people. Through Twitter, I learned that Brasserie 292 of Poughkeepsie (@Brasserie292), my favorite new oyster joint, will donate 10 percent of the evening’s proceeds to the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley on Jan. 10 – so you can make a statement with your Blue Points.
Restaurant tweets aren’t the only food treats to be found. There are plenty of knowledgeable food lovers offering morsels of insight and bon mots about bon bons. One of my favorites is Irena Chalmers (@foodjobsbook), Culinary Institute of America staffer and author or Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers. She’s not prolific, but I lap up everything she has to say: “There are 56 ingredients in a snack food. Is it still a food or a chemical or a controlled substance that should be regulated by government?” (Nov. 21) “I can lend you my ears more easily than I can lend you my e-book.” (Nov. 14) “Salt is what makes foods taste bad when it is not in them.” (Oct. 26) I imagine the conversation and the cuisine at her dinner parties is top shelf.
There are many, many more local food resources to explore: @KrausesChocolat, @Oriole9NY, @ArielleBistro, @woodstockcucina, @CIACulinary, @KarmaLoungePok, @souldogpkny – the list goes on and on. Ah, yes – lists! You can also group followed parties into lists for easy access to desired categories. For example, Debbie Gioquindo (@hvwinegoddess) has an excellent list of 204 Hudson Valley resources you can follow. And I have a modest one, with an emphasis on area food, drink and entertainment. Come follow me, if you like: @MLabrise.