Commentary

Just An Online Minute... It Takes An iVillage To Raise A Food Community

iVillage Food Launch Party
November 11, 2009

I blame iVillage for turning me into a clock-watching zombie at the end of the WebbyConnect event.  Why?  Because all I could think of was "culinary loft" and how it was probably already warm, with pots burbling, plates plating, and chafing dishes chafing -- heating up to launch iVillage Food, a womanly focused sustenance community, whose primary goal isn't only recipe sharing, but also arming those busy ladies with the "I know"s that used to be "I don't know"s when sons become vegans and moms become diabetics.  It takes an iVillage...

What do you think of when you hear "iVillage"?  I think Oprah.  And then I think geocities.  This may be because iVillage has been around since 1995 and has its tentacles out all over the Web.  It was acquired by NBCU in May 2006 and has plans to launch communities focused on Astrology (say what!?), Health, Beauty, and Family deep into 2010.  But let's talk about food, shall we, because that's what makes my heart go pitter-pat. 

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Before the cooking demo, we were treated to a very short and sweet demo of the iVillage.com/food site, which is a colorful splash of recipes, and what looks like pretty simple doors into member interaction, with "yuck" or "yum" rating buttons.  I think I would be devastated if I posted a recipe to "yuck" reviews! Maybe change that to "needs salt" or something less harsh... Angela Matusik, Chief Content Officer at iVillage, conducted the tour with a glowing smile, praising her creative team and the contributors.  Being a food whore myself, I'll be interested to see how they compete with Epicurious, which already has a huge user community. 

The differentiators come from their family ties at NBCU, with day-after reviews of Bravo's "Top Chef," recipes from "Top Chef" talent, cookbook authors, and video pieces from "Top Chef" and "Iron Chef."

I could already smell something meat-tastic as bruschetta and skewers of mozz-tomato-basil skittered around me.  Holding court behind the counter was Amazon Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia, who was on hand to roll us some cavatelli and handle logs of meat.  Her mom was part of the party and their mother-daughter banter was warm and self deprecating, but also full of pride and that Italian family sizzle that can't be faked.

As Donatella rolled ear-shaped pasta and regaled us with stories of how Southern Italians make dough sans eggs because they were too poor to buy eggs (her mom's confirmation present was an egg), guests like Kimberly Coleman of MomInTheCity.com ooo'd, ahhh'd, and possibly drooled. Both Jodi Kahn, Executive Vice President, iVillage and Lauren Zalaznick, President of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, took turns behind the cutting board, handling the dough with Donatella.

After the demo, the hungry crowd piled up in front of the kitchen gnomes, scrambling for plates of homemade meatballs and orecchiette and sauce (gravy?) sprinkled with freshly shaved parmesan slices, then to station #2 for eggplant parm and a crispy fresh salad.  I shared my table of Italian slaughter with Blake Gernstetter of mediabistro, who had finally unearthed her graduation present: a fabulous Nikon, which you will have to peel from her cold dead fingers.  I applaud her budding addiction.

Throughout the evening I also spied with my camera's eye Sarah Schwartz of Delish.com; Jonathan Kreissman of Bullfrog & Bahm; Rebecca Miskin of iVillage; Meghan Ahearn of WomansDay.com; Grace Piper of Fearless Cooking (now working on an exciting evite for a potluck-dinner-planning sort of internet project); Charlie Rogers of iVillage; Freelancer Elizabeth Jensen; Valerie Block of Crain's NY;  Douglas Quenqua (who used to write for MediaPost!) of a million publications; David LaMarca of Shape.com; Richard Gorman of Today;  Hilary Smith of NBC Universal; Lauren Meller of iVillage; and Anna Maria Virzi of ClickZ.   Some guests may or may not have been washing down their meatballs with the signature drink of the evening, the Lemon Basil Cocktail.

I leave you with this final thought -- Cheese jerky: yum or yuck?

Check out the photos on Flickr!

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