Looking Backwards, Forwards and To The Side (Plus Al Dente’s Top 10 Posts of ’15)

First things first. My first beer review at NewYorkUpstate.com will publish on January 7, with new beer reviews every other week thereafter. My first restaurant review at Syracuse.com runs on January 14, with new reviews every other week from that point. I’ll post those links to Facebook, Twitter and this site.

New Years came and went, thanks to some friends and an assortment of single-malt scotch, and I’m looking to 2016 with a bit of optimism for once. Yes, Al Dente is taking a nap, and, no, I have not visited Golden Corral to fulfill my promise of the Chain Challenge. Technical details and an overall lack of time have prevented that from occurring.

I received an email from a friend of mine recently telling me that he was going through the same thing with his site. He said that he felt the site was stagnant and that it was becoming more of a chore than something he enjoyed. He’s in the same space I was about three months ago: shut it down or double down.

Blogging is no great science. You write, you click the button, and do one of two things: 1) Sit there and hope readers fall out of the sky to your blog or 2) Market the shit out of your work to gain maximum exposure. Since opening the doors here, I have had two posts succeed through number one. One of them, the 82 Things… from a few years back, still puts up traffic around here. I spent a lot of time on number two with little long-term return on my investment. The issue for me is/was sustainability. I had a lot of people that would respond to an ad or click through a link on Reddit, but these were one trick ponies and not people who were going to come back the next day or the day after that. Look, this is a food blog, not The Fix at The Washington Post or Politico’s On Media blog. You are only as good as your last recipe and it’s fairly difficult to build a dedicated readership base, thanks to Facebook’s pick-and-choose system of disseminating links and such.

It’s never been about the money, though I had hoped to at least earn enough through ad revenue to cover my annual hosting costs. Would I like to do this full time? Absolutely. Look at Pinch of Yum. This husband-and-wife team turned her blog into a full-time business with multiple sidelines and they share their revenue reports with readers each month. It’s quite a thing, but few and far between. When you look at their bottom line, they make quite a bit of money from the blog, but what’s unseen is the sheer number of hours to build that brand up. Their own calculations show that their work is paying them a rather low hourly rate. As I look at Al Dente, again it’s never been about the money. I’ve prided myself on producing a quality product, but the fluctuations in readership and the game of what gets a lot of views and what does not is an issue.

You have read here that I felt like I was cooking for the sake of writing. When you begin to resent something, particularly something that you once enjoyed, it’s time to walk away for a little while and breath a little bit.

I think of something else that friend said to me. He missed my posts because, “Virtually any other cooking blog I click a link from is shit. It’s 17 photos of crock pot sloppy joes, interspersed with paragraphs of “OMG guys my family thinks this is SOOOOO GOOD” and then finally the recipe.”

Al Dente will be back once I get a handle on how I can balance the other stuff going on. Until then, thanks for coming by, and here are the top posts of 2015 here at Al Dente:

  1. Recipe: Drunken Pork Stew
  2. Recipe: Homemade Chorizo
  3. Recipe: Basic Orzotto
  4. 82 Things That Make Syracuse a Great Food Town
  5. Beer-Braised Beef Brisket
  6. Iconic Syracuse: The Stores
  7. Caldo Verde
  8. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
  9. Stone Brewing Company Smoked Porter Brined Crispy Pork Belly
  10. Pork Belly and Smoked Sausage Cassoulet
  11. The York, Syracuse, N.Y.
  12. Iconic Syracuse: The Restaurants
  13. Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Eggs
  14. Iconic Syracuse: The Desserts
  15. J. Kenji Lopez Alt’s Carnitas

Also, you can visit the Iconic Syracuse series and my map of CNY’s Essential Restaurants, which is no less accurate today than when it was last updated.

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