Meet Your Food Blogger: Valentino Herrera of Trippy Food
SI: What about any unusual foods that you did think were particularly tasty?
VH: There's a village in Colombia just north of Bogotá called Ubaté. A section of town is filled with open-air stalls. One, La Chata, makes a dish called pescuezo de gallina rellena -- stuffed chicken neck. They cut the chicken neck off at the base, take the beak off, and leave the cockscomb and skull. But they take out the bones and the meat. Then they stuff that with chicken blood, rice, tiny chopped potatoes and peas. They sew the end, and roast it. Essentially, the chicken neck is used as sausage casing. The taste is incredible. But you look at this thing, and it's a chicken neck on a plate! It scares people to look at.
SI: Perhaps the pig penis was also like that?
VH: When people hear "pig penis," they say: "Not going to happen." But actually it did have a really good taste. If something doesn't taste good, I don't pretend it does just for effect. If it does, I'll say it's delicious.
SI: You also write about less exotic dishes, like doughnuts. Or your first taste of the classic pastrami sandwich from Langer's.
VH: A lot of bloggers like to be the first one to discover something. But sometimes, even if hundreds of people have already written about it, I'm still going to get a completely different perspective.
SI: It's certainly an interesting time for the L.A. food writing scene. There are so many people putting out their ideas and opinions, with varying levels of experience and expertise.
VH: I've tried to find the most unusual things to eat while traveling, and I've been doing that since the early '80s. But still, I don't say that makes me an expert. As I say in some of the cooking videos, "I just want to remind you that I have no idea what I'm doing." I make stuff up as I go.
SI: How do you choose which topics to write about?
VH: I do things I'm personally curious about. I don't write about things that are hyped up, like LudoBites. Everybody is writing about it, trying to get a reservation. Because of the hype, I might be disappointed. Even if it's excellent. And I try not to write too much about stuff that's not accessible to everybody. If I write about LudoBites, and someone thinks it looks amazing but doesn't have the money, or can't get a reservation, I feel like it's a disservice.
Trippy Food Langer's
SI: You've said you envision an international audience for the blog. That seems appropriate, because each article is in-depth and thoughtful, not just a list of places to visit, or a collection of photos.
VH: I call that "caption blogging." Bloggers take a bunch of pictures, and have one or two sentences. It drives me nuts! Nice food, but what does it taste like? I want to know what it smelled like, the texture in your mouth, how it was made. Something is lost with caption blogging.
SI: What are your favorite food blogs?
VH: I like Eat Me Daily, Nose to Tail at Home. And locally, Let Me Eat Cake, from Nastassia Johnson, who used to run the Manila Machine food truck. She blogs about desserts. I don't know if it's her pictures, or the way she writes, but you smell cookies coming out of the monitor. Deep End Dining, of course, because Eddie and I are similar in a lot of the things we like to eat.
The Minty does a lot of food crawls. Indian food, bahn mí, pupusas. I like them because they're accessible. She gets a lot of people together, and people either chip in, or someone buys this and that, and shares it. There's a loose, friendly environment.
SI: There seem to be so many ways in L.A. now for people to get together around food and share their experiences, whether online or in person like that.
VH: There's an irony about that. The PR dinners can be pretty miserable. You have a bunch of bloggers together, and most spend the whole time typing into their BlackBerry or iPhone. Some of them have the attitude that, "This is business. I just want to come here, eat this, write about it, and leave." But to me, if you're sitting at a table with eight or nine other people, it's a social thing. You should go, "Do you taste the 'something' in this?" Or "What does this remind you of?" But some bloggers say, "Can we just not talk?" Maybe they think you're going to steal material, or they don't want you to know what they think until they write it. I honestly don't know. Other people do talk -- but only within their own group of friends.
SI: That's interesting, especially since food bloggers are becoming so popular and influential in how people learn about food in L.A.
VH: It's interesting to look at someone like Jo Stougaard [of My Last Bite]. Now, Jo doesn't blog very often. I don't even know if I could tell you what her blogging style is. But she has something close to, if not over, 100,000 followers on Twitter. She has chefs seeking her out because they know all she has to do is mention them in a tweet, and the restaurant will be booked for the next several weeks. So she absolutely has influence in Los Angeles as far as the food scene goes, but it's an unusual type. She doesn't have to write anything in-depth -- all she has to do is tweet "love this place," and all of a sudden it's packed.
Trippy Food Lindy and Grundy's
Past "Meet Your Food Blogger" interviews:
Valentina Silva of Eastside Food Bites (Feb. 20, 2012)
Amy T. Shuster of Backyard Bite (Jan. 18, 2012)
Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet (Jan. 9, 2012)
Billy Vasquez of The 99 Cent Chef (Dec. 30, 2011)
Javier Cabral of Teenage Glutster (Feb. 1, 2010)
Pat Saperstein of EatingLA (Dec.10, 2009)
Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites (Nov. 16, 2009)
Tony Chen of Sinosoul (Oct. 29, 2009)
Chris Bostick of The Varnish (Oct. 16, 2009)
Rickmond Wong of Rameniac (Oct. 8, 2009)
Jeni Afuso of Oishii Eats (Sep. 29, 2009)
Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA (Sep. 16, 2009)
Amanda Simpson of FoodPornDaily (Sep. 10, 2009)
Cathy Dahn of Gastronomy (Sep. 2, 2009)
Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining (Aug. 18, 2009)