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Newspaper nosh

(article, Liz Crain)

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Two of America’s most notable newspaper food sections, from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, get a proper licking in this clever culinary blog. 

p(blue). Blog: The Wednesday Chef
Average posts per month: 12 
Blogger: Luisa Weiss
Age: 29
Blog place of origin: New York City

With a fondness for Los Angeles and a career in New York, Luisa Weiss found herself regularly reading as well as clipping from the Los Angeles Times and New York Times Wednesday food sections. So in the summer of 2005, Weiss decided to publicly pit these seminal papers against each other in her blog The Wednesday Chef: A Food Section Face-Off.

[%image Luisa size=small float=left caption="Luisa Weiss is The Wednesday Chef." credit="Photo courtesy Luisa Weiss"]

Weiss’s recipe choices are usually dictated by the necessary frugality of a 29-year-old city gal. If she doesn’t already have a majority of the ingredients on hand, and if she doesn’t think the recipe is worth its sea salt, she’ll usually opt out. 

But whatever recipe Weiss takes on, she chronicles the outcome with an honest, no-holds-barred writing style. And in less than two years she's gathered quite a loyal and vociferous readership. 

Since you've been moonlighting as The Wednesday Chef, what changes have you noticed in both papers' food sections? 
The L.A. Times is making a bigger effort in their online edition to get readers engaged in their offerings, more than just on Wednesdays. They've got archived recipes popping up every week that are really worth a second look. 

At the New York Times, the food writers do additional writing online at the paper's blog. I haven't decided for myself yet how well it supplements the actual newspaper section, but I think it's nice that the writers are opening themselves up that way.


h1. Liz's faves


Lamb-stuffed cabbage rolls and memories of Berlin school lunches (Weiss grew up there).

Oxtail stew (see photo, above right) and an omnivorous dilemma solved.

Sweet potato bundt cake (see photo, below right) and Weiss’s love for simple cooking.

Stuck-pot rice and why she’s dumping Mark Bittman.

If you had to choose, what's your best newspaper recipe find? 
It's hard to choose — I have found several real stars over the past few years. One was a radicchio-burrata bruschetta (from Russ Parsons); another was a dish of  smashed potatoes and romesco sauce (from Suzanne Goin), and a third was a lemon-and-crème-fraîche chicken dish (from Amanda Hesser) that was really, truly stellar.

What do you feel are the shortcomings and strengths of the newspapers' recipes? 
The two newspapers are just different in their offerings. I get the impression that the L.A. Times features more locally sourced recipes from chefs that the writers are friends with, while the New York Times has a different approach altogether. 

Either way, most of the recipes I choose to make are pretty good — it's rare that something really doesn't work. And I'd have to say that, lately, we've been eating quite well at my house. 

Where do you keep all of your clipped recipes? How are they organized?
I keep most of my clippings in binders. I've got one binder for desserts and baked goods, and another for savory recipes. I've also got a notebook that is filled with New York Times clippings, which I started saving a few years before I started with the L.A. Times.

In addition, I have a folder on my computer that holds an additional 60 recipes from the past year or two, directly copied from the websites. Then, much to my chagrin, there's this unseemly pile of print-outs and clippings that I haven't gotten around to organizing — it just sits on my desk and mocks me and my organizational skills to no end. 

How much time a week do you devote to your blog? How do you divvy up that time?
It's tough to quantify. I spend more time searching for ingredients, because I can't always find everything at my local grocery store. I have to spend time cooking, though I'd be doing that anyway, since I've always been a big cook. And then, of course, I have to get down and actually write. 

But I think I manage my time pretty well. With a full-time job, social engagements, and of course my boyfriend, Ben, I have to. 

[%image bundt size=medium float=right caption="A scrumptious-looking bundt cake from The Wednesday Chef." credit="Photo courtesy Luisa Weiss"] 

How have your eating habits changed since starting The Wednesday Chef?
I have a far more varied diet now. Before I started the blog, I ate pasta with variations on a tomato sauce (with tuna fish! with olives! with both! with ground meat! with mushrooms! with both!) and a lot of vegetables. Now, I rarely eat the same meal twice, unless it's just one of those days when I need to cook something easy and from memory. 

Who's your current favorite newspaper recipe writer?
As my readers know, my favorite recipe writer has got to be Russ Parsons at the L.A. Times. Not only does he have the best recipes and story ideas of anyone else writing out there these days, but he's also just a great guy.

p(bio). Liz Crain lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

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