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2011 highlights: Israel, Rome, and Wall Street Journal and Fox News articles about home

Traveling with daddy on his work trips, like to Montana's Ranch at Rock Creek, can be rough on a girl.

Traveling with daddy on his work trips, like to Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek, can be rough on a girl.

And I’m spent.

2011 work highlights included having a full-page spread in The Wall Street Journal, trips to Israel and Rome, and Louisville.com becoming the city’s most-read independent website and winning a couple of big honors in the process.

Luckily my wife and daughter were able to join me on many of my trips. The latter turns two next week and already has visited 18 states and Washington, DC. We got her a passport this year, but it might be a few months at least before she’s able to get her first stamp—her little sister is slated to arrive in February.

Here are some of my writing and travel highlights for 2011:

Drinking Jocktails at Breeders’ Cup for BlackBook

Covering Jocktails for BlackBookEarlier this month BlackBook dispatched me to cover both the Jocktails party, part of the run-up to the 2011 Breeders’ Cup, and preview Downs After Dark, the sole night race of Churchill Downs 2011 fall meet:

“Two Breeders Cup-Inspired Jocktails to Down During Friday Night’s Downs After Dark Horse Race

I didn’t follow the new wagering strategy I laid out in the article. As I failed to cash a single ticket though, perhaps I should have. Or perhaps I should stop wagering (down $467.17 for the year) and just roll up $20 bills and smoke them.

Wall Street Journal publishes article on Louisville I wrote in its Off Duty travel section

Wall Street Journal, May 7-8, 2011— Louisville, Ky.: Day at the Races by Zach Everson

The Wall Street Journal, May 7-8, 2011—”Louisville, Ky.: Day at the Races”

On May 7, The Wall Street Journal published an article I wrote about Louisville as a travel destination—”Louisville, Ky.: Day at the Races”:

Running on the day of the Kentucky Derby, the full-page feature in the Journal’s Off Duty section included

  • a 500-word essay sharing insider insight on Louisville
  • the top local picks from notable Louisvillians: musician Jim James (lead singer of My Morning Jacket), novelist Sue Grafton, chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia, and hotelier Laura Lee Brown (owner and curator of 21c Museum Hotel)
  • a sidebar on five of my favorite local venues

I also assisted the editor and photographer with selecting subjects for the nine pieces of art that accompanied the article.

In mid-April I received an email from an editor at the paper asking if I was interested in writing an insider’s guide to Louisville to run in Off Duty on Derby day. He’d been editor-in-chief of BlackBook and apparently figured that publication’s Louisville City Guide editor would be a good writer to consider for this assignment. That’d be me.

When I speak about writing, I stress the importance of promoting your work on your own website and via social media. This assignment is a perfect example of why that’s important.

In addition to the Louisvillians who graciously contributed to the piece, thanks to Louisville Magazine‘s publisher Dan Crutcher (also the owner/my boss at Louisville.com) and staff writer Josh Moss who gave me ideas and helped me track down contact info.

BlackBook City Guide (including my Louisville listings) now on Android

BlackBook's Android appToday BlackBook launched its City Guide app for Android phones: Download it for free at the Android Market.

In case you forgot, as BlackBook’s Louisville City Editor, I reviewed 100 Louisville bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops for the project, also deciding which ones got top billing as features.

From the app’s description:

The must-have city guide to new, notable, and noteworthy restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, retailers, spas, salons and more in over 60 cities worldwide. All listings curated by BlackBook’s in-the-know local insiders and VIPS. Search for nearby hotspots, browse by venue type and features and share the on Twitter and Facebook!

You also can find the reviews online at BlackBook’s website or as a free iPhone app.

Photo: Courtesy Android Market

BlackBook Guides adds Louisville to iPhone app and website, puts me in your pocket

Ever been walking around Old Louisville hungry and wondered, where would Zach Everson go for a bison burger? Maybe it’s 3 a.m. and you’re thinking, what’s Zach Everson’s favorite Highlands’ dive bar for a nightcap of gin and Diet Sunkist (a cocktail called Sunset Over the British Empire)? Or maybe you’re curious what downtown hotel Zach Everson checks into for a little afternoon delight.

Thanks to BlackBook, problem solved: “the insider’s guide to where style and substance intersect in popular culture today” added Louisville to its City Guides. As the City Editor, I reviewed 100 Louisville bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops for the project, also deciding which ones got top billing as features.

Download the free app at the iTunes store.

You also can find the reviews online at BlackBook’s website (remember the web?). [Update June 11, 2011: It’s now on Android too.]

From BlackBook (slightly paraphrased):

BlackBook’s City Guide feature hundreds of succinct reviews identifying the hippest restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, and hotels for nightlife connoisseurs. Written by and for discerning savants in each city, these guides from the minds behind BlackBook offer fresh and pithy listings for the most intriguing and fashion-forward hot spots. The guides contain the latest venue details and break the city down by theme, style, and interest.

2010 travel highlights: Beijing, the Big Island of Hawaii, and a new travel buddy

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter's first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

A trip to San Diego in June marked my daughter’s first dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Just over a week into 2010, I became a dad. During the year I realized though that any concerns I had about parenthood—and my new editor-in-chief gig at Louisville.com, which I also started in January—impacting my travel were unfounded.

Here are my travel highlights for 2010 (and while my daughter didn’t go on all of these trips with me, she did make it to 14 states and Washington, DC in her first year):

  • In February I visited the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach and wrote about its teen club for Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute, and one of my rare visits to a spa for UpTake.
  • A road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago in March marked my daughter’s first trip out of Kentucky; I talked about the experience on a podcast for UpTake and mentioned our Chicago hotel room’s wonderful view in enRoute.
  • As much as I enjoy traveling, it’s nice when a big event comes to me. In May it was the Kentucky Derby, which I wrote about for BlackBook and oversaw Louisville.com’s best week of traffic ever (November’s Breeders’ Cup did well too).
  • While family was the focus of my June visits to San Diego (brother’s wedding) and Kamiah, ID (to see my grandmother), I wrote about San Diego restaurant Jsix’s chef’s kitchen experience for BlackBook.
  • In June I made it back to New York City for TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, and finally got to meet in person a lot of folks I’d only known on the tubes. They were terribly disappointing exceeded high expectations.
  • Coming from a small family (no aunts or uncles), my wife’s family’s annual reunion just outside of Morgantown, WV is a can’t miss—I’m serious.
  • In Columbus, Ohio for my brother-in-law’s wedding, I stayed in a hotel where James Thurber use to live.
  • In August I flew to the The Big Island of Hawaii on assignment for enRoute to take a fine art photography class with Photo Safari Hawaii.
  • Later that month Las Vegas was the destination for another enRoute assignment, this time to take a poker lesson from two-time World Series of Poker champ Mark Seif.
  • I wrote about looking out over Gerald Ford’s grave site from my hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich. for UpTake and visiting the art fair with the world’s largest prize (if not the best art) for Gridskipper.
  • On Columbus Day weekend we trekked to Watoga State Park in West Virginia for another of my wife’s family reunions (it’s a big clan).
  • At Thanksgiving I returned to my hometown of Reading, Mass. for the first time in 17 months, the longest I’d ever gone without a visit; I reviewed the accommodations at my parents’ house for UpTake (executive summary: meh).
  • For the second year in a row, I visited China with the Ritz-Carlton (this time it was Beijing); I won’t complain if trips to China with that hotelier become an annual tradition. Culinary highlights already have been posted on Gridskipper.
  • It was fantastic to get back to Washington, DC and see our friends. I wrote our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC about for UpTake.
  • For the third time in four years, both my wife’s family and mine gathered in the neutral playing location of Deep Creek Lake Maryland for Christmas.

Experiencing Jsix’s chef Christian Graves’s kitchen for BlackBook

My article for BlackBook: "Jsix's Christian Graves Gives Us His Chef's Kitchen Experience."Monday BlackBook published a feature article I wrote:

Jsix’s Christian Graves Gives Us His ‘Chef’s Kitchen Experience’

I had plans to head to San Diego this June for my brother’s wedding rather than work. Either it was coincidence or I mentioned my plans online though, as I received an e-mail from Hotel Solamar and Jsix’s publicist inviting me to stay there and participate in Christian Graves’s “Chef’s Kitchen Experience.” (“Inviting me” is a euphemism for “it was free.”) When I mentioned I was traveling with my wife and 6-month-old daughter, thankfully the publicist didn’t wince; if she had I would’ve felt awful about having them sleep on a bench in Balboa Park while I enjoyed the restaurant and hotel.

I knew Christian was an excellent chef and that he and this trip to a local farm that supplies his kitchen would make worthy subjects for an article for BlackBook. And I realize I’m committing a journalism faux pas here, but I want to like the subjects of my articles (then again, I mostly cover travel, not terrorism). When possible I want to encourage readers to give their business to talented people who are nice. Hopefully Christian’s warm personality came through in my piece.

My favorite example didn’t make it into the final version though. When I asked him why he became a chef, he answered that he found something special about being able to cook for two people who were leaving their infant daughter behind for the first time and watching them enjoy themselves and stare into each other’s eyes.

You can watch Christian plot out our meal here:

My Kentucky Derby coverage roundup

Watching Kentucky Derby 136 from the roof of Churchill Downs, mint julep in hand.

Watching Kentucky Derby 136 from the roof of Churchill Downs, mint julep in hand, one of the rare moments when I wasn’t tethered to my MacBook Pro.

And I’m spent.

The seven days leading up to the Kentucky Derby is the most exciting week of the year in Louisville. But it was also the most exhausting.

As editor-in-chief, I oversaw Louisville.com‘s coverage of the city’s signature event. We had five writers (including me) at Churchill Downs for the Derby and also dispatched writers to 10 of the city’s biggest Derby parties (I reported from the Playboy Celebrity Lounge–funny how that gig fell to the person making the assignments). Our treatment of the parties included a preview of each one the day before, live updates to our Twitter feed and Facebook fan page with photos from the event (yes, using ping.fm) and a review the following day.

At Churchill Downs, two of Louisville.com’s writers focused on the races, one covered the infield and other lifestyle stories and one contributed live sketches. Our cartoonist was walking around Churchill Downs, drawing in her notepad and snapping pictures of her finished work on her cell phone, which she then e-mailed to me to post for her on the website. Unfortunately a technical problem caused many of the sketches not to arrive in my e-mail inbox until 11 p.m. Regardless, it was a different way of reporting on an event that draws so much media attention and was well received.

As for my writing, 2010 is the 40th anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” in which the Louisville native birthed gonzo journalism at the track in his hometown. My plan was to take passages from his article and see how they stand up 40 years later, posting live throughout Derby day. Alas, Louisville.com had two technical glitches (the influx of traffic led the site to briefly crash twice and the RSS feed from the site to our Facebook fan page done broke). Those issues, along with my responsibility for posting the cartoons, promoting the other articles online, answering questions from the writers and following up with PR reps on party credentials kept me mostly tethered to my computer in the media center. I did manage to post a bunch of articles though, mostly of photos, and take notes for the Thompson piece, which I’ll either run as a feature on Louisville.com or a series of smaller posts (granted it was pre-Internet, but Thompson’s Derby article wasn’t published until a month after the race either).

The results? Traffic for Louisville.com blew up. The site had its seven best days ever in terms of visits, getting triple it’s non-Derby week best on race day itself. We also increased our fans on Facebook by more than 10 percent that week, which should lead to sustained growth in that all-important local audience. While we attracted more non-local traffic than usual because of Derby, Louisvillians flocked to the site–the average visitor from the city spent 4:44 on the site, reading 3.93 pages a visit. Between the festivities at Churchill, the parties and other Derby-related events, Louisville.com posted more than 150 articles about the Kentucky Derby in the past three weeks, as well as several hundred Tweets and updates to our Facebook fan page.

And as if that wasn’t enough work Derby week, I wrote a couple of posts for both BlackBook magazine’s website and Gridskipper. For BlackBook, I interviewed two Derby insiders. And for Gridskipper, I wrote about where to score two essentials: good food and easy sex.

Check below the jump for the complete list of articles I’ve written on the 2010 Kentucky Derby (so far).

Continue Reading →

Talking Kentucky Derby for BlackBook

Last week BlackBook published two interviews I conducted for its Industry Insiders section: Joey Wagner, Derby Promoter and Jill Byrne, Best Bet.Last week BlackBook published two interviews related to the Kentucky Derby that I conducted for its Industry Insiders section:

I covered two events at Wagner’s Prime Lounge for Louisville.com during Derby week too:

And while the four horses Byrne, director of on-air racing communications at Churchill Downs, liked did no better than third, I found my own way to lose money on the Derby (I did, however, win an exacta on the previous race, turning an $18 bet into $111).

I talk bourbon with Woodford Reserve’s master distiller, Chris Morris, for BlackBook

BlackBook Magazine's website published my interview with Woodford Reserve bourbon's master distiller, Chris MorrisBlackBook just published my interview with Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve’s master distiller:

Industry Insiders: Chris Morris, Master Distiller

Chris’s enthusiasm about bourbon is contagious (of course, it helps that we were talking about a type of whiskey and not, say, a type of cleaning solution). We spoke for about 40 minutes; some parts of our conversation that pertained to Louisville will appear soon on Louisville.com too.

I’ve been on a bourbon kick since I moved to Kentucky 14 months ago (interesting how that worked out). Louisville has a great bar scene and it seems as if every one of them offers a specialty bourbon drink. My preference, however, is pretty easy to make: bourbon on the rocks. And Woodford Reserve, which I first tasted on a distillery tour on the Bourbon Trail last year, has become my favorite bourbon. (Check out photos from my trip on the Bourbon Trail on Flickr.)

One thing I love about Louisville is how dedicated it is to its local variety of whiskey. During Christmas time, my dad when to the liquor store down the street to replenish my dwindling stock of booze. While checking out, the clerk gave him a hard time for buying Scotch and Irish whiskey but not bourbon.