Swallow Food is Toronto's newest food web site
Swallow unveiled itself last week to a throng of hungry party-goers at the Drake Hotel. Founded by veteran food writer Ivy Knight along with pastry chef (and web developer) Kristina Groeger and barfly Kerry Knight, the new web site aims to provide a new spin on local (and international) food coverage with recipes, chef interviews, restaurant reviews and wine writing. Far from a daily blog, Swallow promises updates three to five times per week and to provide a perspective that only those who work in Toronto's restaurant industry can bring to the, um, table.
I recently connected with co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Ivy Knight who gave me a rundown of what Swallow is all about.
When did you decide to launch Swallow and what were some of the challenges from that moment to finally launching the web site last week?
Swallow started slowly about a year ago but didn't really start to come together until six months ago. Kristina Groeger wrote all the code and designed the logo, her challenges were many, juggling a job as pastry chef at the Ritz by day and coding a new website by night. My biggest challenge was keeping it a secret until it was ready to launch, it was tough not to shout it from the rooftops each time we posted a new article or review.
There are plenty of sites to go to these days for food coverage and restaurant reviews. What was the insight you had that compelled you to add a new food-focused site to the mix?
We felt that there were no sites that we knew of doing this mix of high-low fun content with a food focus. Also, we're professional chefs and food writers, we're not mommy bloggers or gourmet snobs - we know what we're talking about and have connections to the real food world that the average self-confessed foodie probably doesn't. For instance, in the coming months look for interviews with Top Chef's Gail Simmons, Laura Calder and Noma's Rene Redzepi.
Was Lucky Peach an inspiration or something you're at all modeling this site after?
We love Lucky Peach but we're not modeling the site after anything and have no interest in making it a print publication. The site is an expression of the way we talk, eat and think about the food world, it is totally unique to myself, Kristina Groeger and my husband Kerry Knight. If we had people like Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain as buddies, then sure we'd get them to contribute, but alas we don't so we just get our friends, Special Agent Food Nerd, the Diner Waitress and the Party Animal to write for us when they can.
Professionally, how do you balance your commitments to this site with your food coverage for other publications?
This site is where all the stories I want to write but didn't have an outlet for before now, these are stories that aren't necessarily suitable for the Globe & Mail or Bon Appetit. Having our own site gives us a venue to write a restaurant review, test a recipe or critique a cookbook and publish it immediately, rather than pitching it to an editor and waiting for approval, the immediacy of that keeps our work fresh and vibrant.
For blogTO readers discovering Swallow for the first time, what's one article they should read right now?
That is a really tough question. I guess if you can only read one thing it should be one of the Cookbook Crapshoot reviews, they're hilarious. But, to get a true sense of our style I would suggest reading a few articles:
- The Diner Waitress on Groupon-wielding customers.
- Have Hooch Will Travel gives insight into our devotion to booze.
- Kristina Groeger's restaurant reviews of the County General and Hopgood's Foodliner - we only publish positive reviews, if we have a bad experience we don't write about it. As veterans of kitchens we don't think its fair to jeopardize someone's livelihood based on an experience that might have come from a restaurant simply having a bad day.
- Also, Kristina has been hard at working infusing brown butter into bourbon. That's a recipe every good hipster should have in their repertoire.
- And watch my video with Lynn Crawford, she's a riot.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite Toronto restaurant? The Gabardine
Most overrated Toronto restaurant? That bland, lifeless peameal sandwich from the Carousel Bakery in St. Lawrence Market
Most underrated Toronto restaurant? The Bellevue in Kensington Market
Most unheralded Toronto chef? Chef Matt DeMille, Enoteca Sociale
Favourite place for brunch in Toronto? Brockton General
Favourite place for drinks/cocktails? the Sky Yard at the Drake Hotel or Mezzrow's back patio
Best value wine current available at the LCBO? vinho verde from Portugal, never more than $10 and slightly effervescent, it's a poor man's cava
Favourite food publication/web site that's not yours? FoodNetworkHumor.com and blogTO of course