Are we there yet?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eating my way through town on Periscope



By T. Allan Smith

Well, yes, I admit it. I've got a tough job (but somebody has to do it.) <<Tongue firmly planted in cheek.>> We've embarked on a quest of sorts, one that is taking us to some of the most interesting places in town. The impetus for this undertaking is the development of a new live streaming platform in social media and a new emphasis on our location as a vacation destination.

In years past, we've pretty much stuck to talking about the upcoming book fair, its dealers and the treasures they're bringing, its theme, and so forth. Make no mistake, we'll continue to talk about all of those things. After all, that's what the book fair is all about. Meanwhile, though, we've always known that some booksellers come to Florida for our show with the notion in mind that the Sunshine State is a pretty good place to play, too. They turn the trip into a vacation. We know dealers who gladly exchange the frigid bluster of the Great Northeast for the mild sunny days of Florida in March.

Fairgoers, too, come to St. Petersburg looking for fun in the sun. We know collectors who plan their vacations around the dates of the book fair. They're not going to miss it. Like all our visitors, they have in mind to dip their toes in the Gulf of Mexico, visit some museums, take in a spring training game or two, and, of course, eat. Now that St. Petersburg (and really all of Tampa Bay) has become a Foodie Destination, we figure that will be part of the planning among some fairgoers.

That's where my tough job comes in. With St. Petersburg's newfound culinary status, we feel it's our obligation to give visitors some insight into what to expect. Every year both booksellers and fairgoers ask us about great places to eat in our town, and, of course, we try to give them answers within the scope of our limited knowledge. Next year, we'll be more knowledgeable because we'll have studied the subject thoroughly. (It's the least we can do, right?) "Yes, been there. It's wonderful. Gotta have the grouper."

Well, when I learned of this new live streaming platform, Periscope, I had to try it, and it seemed natural to use Periscope as a tool to help tell the stories. Periscope is easy to use. It's an app on your cell phone. We broadcast from our cell phones. You watch it on yours. Simple as that. The immediacy of it and the authenticity of it is what's intriguing. You can't fake live TV. All the flaws and faux pas are there. The benefit, though, is that it's real. When you meet the restaurant owners and workers, it's as if you were there yourself. In fact, when you watch it live, you can text in questions and we'll respond to them in real time. So it's even more like being there. My guess is that for the ones that appeal to you, you will be there. You'll want to go meet the owners in person.

The restaurant featured at the top of the column, for instance, is one of our favorite local places. If you're from out of town, you might not even have heard of it. Watch our Periscope about The Old North East Tavern, you're getting an inside tip from a local. There's another one about Chief's Creole Cafe, a new establishment we tried out the other day, that is embedded below.  I'm doing a series of them. Yes, I'm eating my way through Tampa Bay, and I know it'll be impossible to to get to every great place there is but some help is better than none at all, right? (And it's the least I can do for the cause.)

You can view all of the 'Scopes (there's a cool new geeky term) in this series at katch.me/FLBookFairPhoto. I haven't been consistent in the titles but what I've settled on is On the Town. Pretty much everything posted there now and in the future will give you a tiny view into activities (especially eating) around our town. For instance, there's a new arts district in town (Warehouse Arts District) and it has a new general manager (a former colleague from the Tampa Bay Times). I'm going to interview her and we'll tour the arts district. Earlier this year at the 2015 book fair, you may have met Maureen McDole, who heads a local literary organization. She has a new literary space and bookstore. I'll interview her. And there'll be more.

If all this interests you, follow me on Twitter or on Periscope: @FLBookFairPhoto. You'll get alerts on your phone when I go live. You can tune in a keep me company. It would be a shame to keep all of this tough job to myself. 

T. Allan Smith is the official photographer and social media guy for the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. He is a retired journalist and a recovered book dealer. 

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