Tag Archives: Lithuania

5 Posts that Delivered the Gusto

This is post #100 on Grabbing the Gusto. Instead of one of my usual cooking posts, I’m taking this opportunity to review the five posts with the most views to see what I can learn.

#5 – Behind the Brews: Live Blogging with the NC Brewers Guild

When you have a post that piggybacks onto an event and appeals to a passionate social-media savvy crowd, you may have a winner on your hands. I was asked by the organizers of an NC Brewers Guild event to live-blog their brewers panel. My post, the only summary of the talk, got a lot of Twitter buzz from attendees and participating brewers, particularly when it sported the #ncbeer hashtag, plus it received link love from Thomas Vincent’s blog.

The craft beer community is growing in North Carolina. Just this morning, Andrea Weigl of the Raleigh News & Observer reported on ten Triangle breweries and brewpubs, with more on the way. Another indicator of its popularity: “Red Oak Brewery” is the fifth most used Google search term to find my blog. Timely topics with enthusiastic niche followings are ingredients for high view numbers.

#4 – Fabulous Finds for March 24, 2010

This post was the surprise of the bunch. In a precursor to my current Sunday Table series, I wrote about some items that caught my interest that week, including a film about the closing of the oldest Lithuanian restaurant in Chicago, viryta (homemade Lithuanian spiced honey liquor), the Lithuanian Festival in the Baltimore suburbs and kugelis (Lithuanian potato, onion, bacon and egg dish). It was a bit of a wistful dip into my Lithuanian heritage.

But why so popular? The fourth most popular Google search term to find my site is “lithuanian festival baltimore 2010” so that’s probably part of the answer. I’m guessing there are other Lithuanian half-breeds (or quarter-breeds like me) who are looking for Lithuanian recipes and find their way here.

popular blog posts views food cooking recipes

flickr photo by Jon Seidman

#3 – Slow Cooker Jambalaya

I’m not too surprised that this is the third most popular post. Over the past few years slow cooker recipes have been getting a lot of buzz in cookbooks, magazines and blogs. The recipes are easy to make and flexible enough for those with hectic schedules. Plus they appeal to our nesting instinct — comfort foods that fill the house with their appetite-whetting aromas – and football watching habits. In addition to the popularity of slow cooker recipes, this post has the New Orleans connection too. Americans fell in love with Cajun and Creole cuisine decades ago, and the affair is still going strong.

#2 – Spicy Stuffed Jalapenos

My boyfriend will be happy to learn his dish is the second most popular post on Gusto. My theory is that chile heads are always looking for new ways to deliver the heat and I have the data to prove it. “Stuffed jalapenos” is #2 and “spicy sausage stuffed jalapenos” is #7 on my Google search term list. Take that burning desire and combine it with a really good recipe and you have a winner.

#1 – Fried Green Tomatoes

Way out in front of the pack is my Fried Green Tomatoes post. A few hours after I published this post, I checked my stats and discovered traffic like I had never experienced it before. It turned out that the post had been picked up by WordPress.com and featured in its Freshly Pressed section on their homepage. I later learned about the criteria used by the WordPress editors when selecting Freshly Pressed posts:

  • unique, valuable, interesting and timely content
  • stunning images
  • compelling headlines
  • appropriate tags
  • good error-free writing

You can write all your posts following those five criteria and get a dozen hits or a few thousand hits. What’s the difference? Luck. Hitting a collective nerve at the right time. Getting buzz from influencers. It’s hard to predict. Sometimes I write what I think is a killer post and it languishes, and the unlikely one gets all the love. I blog for pleasure so I don’t obsess too much over the numbers. But I still shake my head sometimes.  Fried green tomatoes? Really?

Fabulous Finds for March 26, 2010

Three of my favorite outdoors things — beer, barbecue and bluegrass — on one day in downtown Raleigh, the North Carolina Cuegrass Festival. According to the web site, “The Pit’s famous barbecue, cooked by The Pit’s legendary pitmaster Ed Mitchell, and North Carolina beers from LoneRider, Mother Earth, Carolina Brewing Company and Big Boss, will be served throughout the event.” Woo hoo, see you there!

You know The Thinker, don’t you? I thought I did too, but even a visit to the Rodin Museum in Paris didn’t tell me his true beginnings, or maybe it did but I was too tired to read the French. The North Carolina Museum of Art’s blog tells the story with a guest appearance by Robert Pinsky. I can’t wait to go. Their grand opening is on April 24.

I’ve always loved Jamie Oliver‘s cooking shows (Naked Chef) and recipes. In his recent TED talk he sounded the alarm about the food we’re providing at home and in school to children. He says that this generation of American children will die ten years earlier than their parents because of diet-related disease (already the biggest killer in the US). He is starting a ‘food revolution’ here, beginning with his anti-obesity project  in Huntington WV with accompanying TV show that debuts tonight. The sad thing is that  it’s a lot easier for busy people who don’t really know how to cook to buy processed junk than to make something from scratch. Maybe it’s time to put home-ec back onto school schedules.

I’ve been coming across a lot of info about canned sardines lately. There’s even a sardine society. I love love love all fishy oily fish. I have fond memories of my first taste of grilled fresh sardines in Portugal, where the aroma takes over the streets. Canned sardines are a good source of Omega-3, plus you can keep them handy in the pantry. I like them on crackers with cream cheese (with a dash of hot sauce or sriracha), and I’ve added them to pasta, but neither of those are ‘wow’ experiences. When Alton Brown lost 50 pounds, sardicado sandwiches (sardines and avocado) were one of his regular good eats. There’s definitely some wow potential there. And more wow in this Spanish potato recipe, Viudo (Widowed Potatoes). Better go check my sardine inventory.

I’ve been learning more about my Lithuanian heritage lately, including the fact that one of my heroes, Michael Jackson was partly Lithuanian. No, I’m not talking about that Michael Jackson, definitely not a hero, sorry. I’m talking about Michael Jackson the English beer writer, the one you haven’t heard of. I have Tom Cizauskas to thank for this bit of info about his Lithuanian heritage — Tom is one of my go-to sources about all things Lithuanian and craft beer. In a post (to be published tomorrow – I got a sneak peek in my Reader) he pays homage to Michael Jackson — tomorrow would have been his 68th birthday. I’ve written about Michael Jackson before on my other blog. He’s my hero because he was the one who really kindled my passion for craft beer. His books were my guides for travels and tastings. Sveiks!

Fabulous Finds for March 24, 2010

My maternal grandmother was Lithuanian and she was definitely the family matriarch. We spent many weekends and most holidays with her, grandpa (the Irish one) and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. Grandma was always trying to fatten us up and lived in a neighborhood full of bakeries (Lithuanian, Portuguese and Italian) in east Cambridge (MA). I miss going to the Lithuanian festival in Baltimore (and later in Catonsville MD) with my brother, seeing faces that looked like our family, and the food, viryta (honey kick-ass liqueur) and good Lithuanian beer. This video, by Michael Gebert about the closing of the oldest Lithuanian restaurant, celebrates the end of an era in Chicago and got me thinking about my one-quarter (the strongest quarter) Lithuanian heritage.

I’ve just discovered (thanks to this old Baltimore City Paper article) that viryta (aka Lithuanian Nectar of the Gods) is not Lithuanian at all but Lithuanian-American. My friends in Arlington VA know all about viryta since I would always buy a bottle or two at the Lithuanian festival from the Baltimore Lithuanian Athletic Club. As one of my friends said, “it’s quite warming.”

In my hunt for a viryta recipe, I got distracted by kugelis recipes. Kugelis is a Lithuanian dish made from potatoes, bacon, onions and eggs, yes, it’s a bit heavy. I found an old blog post by Bob Skilnik titled “Kugelis – Break Out a Baltic Porter and Eat Like a Lithuanian.” I had to click. It’s been a long time since I’ve made kugelis and I think I’ll start with his mother-in-law’s recipe.

Speaking of potatoes, snack food alert: Lay’s Tangy Carolina BBQ potato chips, as if I needed any help with my bbq/fat/salt jonesing. I’m imagining what type of dip would go best with them. Something with horseradish.

On my recent trip to Chicago, I was given a 22 oz bottle of Flossmoor Station Pullman Brown Ale by a friend who knows of my love for good beer. I had heard about Flossmoor Station but had never had their beer. This one was delicious — a very dark substantial brew, lip-smacking and roasty with hints of molasses (it’s one of the ingredients) and coffee, and a silky feel from oats. It reminded me more of a porter than a brown ale. It’s worth seeking out if you’re in the area. Now, I’m thinking about Baltic porters. Might be time to go hunting for one!