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MEDIA DISH

Celebs, gossip! Sure, we'll bite

January 03, 2007|Amy Scattergood | Times Staff Writer

DO you feel the need to know exactly when Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza's sibling, will open or where Daniel Craig eats when he's with his agent? Is it hard to concentrate at work while you wonder who had dinner at Cut last night and which pastry chef just donned a new toque at the Water Grill?

Now you can log on and find out. The food-blogging world -- once a sanctum of fevered insomniacs up all night baking muffins and writing about it or amateur critics cataloging the best places for pho or fish tacos -- has expanded to include two new, polished Los Angeles-based food blogs, Eater LA and the Knife.

Both launched in November and both cater to a new breed of cyber-foodie: one drawn to the food-scene gossip instead of recipes or full-fledged reviews. Both state their missions: Eater's is to give daily restaurant industry news, and the Knife's is to "blog about restaurants favored by the entertainment industry."

This shift in context from their online predecessors means one thing is often noticeably absent in the new blogs' coverage: the food. You'll learn which chef has just gotten canned but not what his or her panna cotta tastes like; which boite has just been renovated, but not how delicious its new tasting menu is. And you probably won't be reading any recipes.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday January 06, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Blog writer: A Food section article Wednesday about Los Angeles-based food blogs said Eater LA's Dana Harris writes film reviews for Variety. She writes news stories.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 10, 2007 Home Edition Food Part F Page 3 Features Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Blog writer: A Jan 3. article about Los Angeles-based food blogs stated that Eater LA's Dana Harris writes film reviews for Variety. She writes news stories.

Says Eater LA's editor-blogger Lesley Balla: "Personally, I would like to write about the food, but that's not what we are." And according to Dana Harris, the blogger behind the Knife: "If I start waxing poetic about poached eggs, then we have a problem."

Eater LA, the West Coast offshoot of the popular New York food blog Eater, founded by Ben Leventhal, is a joint venture between Leventhal's company She Loves New York and Curbed, a new-media network or "blogomerate" covering aspects of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The network includes sites that report and comment on city real estate communities, the "architectural arts" and the Hamptons.

Variety film editor Harris launched her blog independently, but it was quickly embraced by the entertainment industry trade newspaper's editors and was soon added to Variety.com's lineup of blogs. "The link between entertainment and the food industry in L.A. and the sex appeal of them combined makes sense to us," says Michael Speier, Variety's executive editor of news.

Like so many products of the growing blogosphere, Eater LA and the Knife are venues for opinion, rumor, gossip and personal commentary as well as news. They have the gloss of professionally staffed media outlets but don't necessarily hew to established journalistic conventions -- and seem to operate on the assumption that local restaurant-savvy readers will log on to find out about an electrical fire at Ca'Brea, David Lynch's new line of coffee or what's up with "suspicious postings" on the online forum Chowhound.

Experts, amateurs tell all

IT'S not the quite the global-gossip stuff of New York Post's venerable Page Six or the snarky Los Angeles-based PerezHilton.com, but L.A. foodies are biting. Variety.com editor Alex Romanelli says the Knife averages 250 page views a day and that though it was launched without fanfare, the website received 2,000 hits in its first 24 hours.

But "my traffic is dwarfed by Eater LA," Harris says. Lockhart Steele, managing editor of Curbed, says, "Eater probably does 15% to 20% of all the traffic on the Curbed sites." Though it's just launched, he says, "out of the gate, Eater LA traffic has approached half of what Eater New York does."

"We've known that L.A. was ripe for a site for many months," Leventhal says. "The city has a vibrant restaurant scene, lots of openings and closings, exciting chefs blazing new trails. L.A. is a city that supports that." (Maybe more so than San Francisco; if the order in which Steele and Leventhal are rolling out their Eater blogs are any indication, that city is up next.)

"Food has an obvious connection to Hollywood," Harris says. "It's the way business gets done."

Although Leventhal and Steele are listed on Eater LA's home page as editors, Balla, former editor of LA.com and the only contributor to the blog, says her posts aren't edited by them or anyone else and admits that it's "a little scary not having the boundaries, to play the role of reader, writer and editor all at the same time."

The Knife's Harris, who is edited when writing film reviews for Variety, also acts as her own editor for the blog.

The Knife is a personal blog, with Harris' takes on restaurants, trends and hot spots, and includes "ShortCuts," a synthesis of current reviews in local publications (its name is an allusion to the Robert Altman film, an industry self-reference that is emblematic of the blog).

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