Tweeting While Eating: A James Beard Adventure

<i>Seattle</i> mag's lead Tweeter returns from a fancy dinner with the scoop on tweeting and eating
| Posted

On Monday I was lucky enough to attend the James Beard Northwest nominees dinner and tweetup. Yes, tweetup. What’s that you ask? In the Twitter lexicon it's the geeky phrase de jour used to describe a real life meet up of Twitter friends. As gatekeeper and main tweeter for (@seattlemag), I’ve followed postings--from food musings (@allisonscheff) to what Lorna Yee is cookin’ for dinner (@lornayee)--from a whole gaggle of local food bloggers and writers. The idea of watching these guys eat, tweet and mingle in person was too much for me to resist .

Armed with iPhones, laptops, Blackberries and other handheld devices, I joined a hungry group of local media who swooped into Crush Monday night (James Beard announced their 2009 nominees live via Twitter earlier this spring). Of course, no James Beard tweetup would be complete without a round of several appetizers and champagne. Swarming around the tweet-ready fooderatti were servers and chefs offering teeny sandwiches with hunks of tender beef cut with spicy horseradish and champagne, bright bites of acidic and salty geoduck crudo and more. Appetizers were followed by a course prepped by each of the Northwest’s 2009 James Beard nominated chefs (Jason Wilson of Crush, Maria Hines of Tilth, Cathy Whims of Portland’s Nostrana, Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez of Harvest Vine and Ethan Stowell of Olives & Anchovies, Union and How to Cook a Wolf) and wine pairings to boot.

As you can imagine, the food, lively banter and wine were HUGE distractions from the task at hand: micro-blogging. More than once, I found myself juggling my phone, a sandwich and drink, all while attempting to mingle with nearby attendees. When we took our seats, the dilemma of tweet v. eat or tweet v. mingle became more pronounced when we were in the rule-drenched world of the dinner table. It only took a few minutes for our real world etiquette to kick in, making live tweets harder and harder to punch out. But the true Twitter roadblock crept into the dining room as the wine began to flow (and the number of tweets became fewer and further in between).

I’m proud to say that I was able to punch out a tweet for each course, along with a few silly observations here and there. But, overall, I’m not sure if the tweeting was a necessary part of the evening of celebration. What was valuable was putting a face to the avatars I’d been following the past few months on Twitter.

As the tweeting dwindled, I think we all came to realize that while pictures of interesting food and witty 140 character posts are amusing there really is no replacement for food, wine and good ol’ face-to-face human interaction.

Ethan Stowell's geoduck crudo.

Proof that it is really hard to eat, mingle and tweet: a pic of me eating (crudo
spoon in right hand)  tweeting (iPhone in the other) and trying to chat
with non-tweeting Seattle mag writer Ernie Pino. Meanwhile, Ernie--focused
on one thing at a time--smiles for the photog.

Foodies who dared to mingle  WITHOUT live tweeting!

First course and Leslie Kelly, former Seattle P-I food writer has her Flip
camera ready to film Stowell as he tells us about the dish.

My favorite snapshot from the evening. Maria Hines takes a sip of Tecate
while cheffin' it in the back. How cool is that?

Thank you to Clare Barboza for the pics. More to come next week.