Three food sites worth visiting

Posted: July 05, 2007

EVERYTHING RACHAEL RAY

www.rachaelrayblog.blogspot.com

Everything Rachael Ray is devoted to the Food Network chef, talk-show host and cookbook. It has news, upcoming shows, ratings, clips, appearances and recipes. There's an RR timeline and an RR forum. There's even an RR "store."

You would think that anyone who devoted so much time to Everything Rachael Ray would be in need of a life - if not a diet or professional help. But Madeline Miller, 29, is delightfully normal and engaging. She's tall, thin, with shoulder-length blond hair and a professional appearance. She's smart, funny and splotches like a strawberry when she gets excited.

When she's not Everything Rachael Ray, she's a lawyer, all raw beef and business. But in the kitchen, she's a klutz.

"Everything was Shake 'n Bake or came out of the freezer," said Miller, who grew up in Grass Valley, Calif. "Before I started cooking, I had never eaten broccoli."

Then she got engaged. Then life turned serious. One epochal evening, she and her fiance were watching the Food Network. Miller decided to make Rachael Ray's recipe for country captain chicken. For the first time in her life, she walked into a supermarket produce section. The recipe turned out well. Her fiance, eating, was speechless.

She bought an RR cookbook. Started putting favorite RR recipes on the refrigerator. She looked online for a Ray blog, found nothing, and decided to start her own last year.

Today, Everything Rachael Ray averages about 700 to 900 visits a day. Miller, who has never met Ray, said she puts in about 20 minutes on her postings and, no, it doesn't interfere with her legal career. If anything, it has enhanced her life.

"I just found some happiness in it," she said. "I have 12 cookbooks. I write, I take photographs, I have this niche I'm filling."

VANILLA GARLIC

www.vanillagarlic.blogspot.com

Black-bottom cupcakes, butternut-squash cupcakes, pumpkin with curry spice cupcakes, even chocolate with pink peppercorn cupcakes. Vanilla Garlic seems to be on an insatiable odyssey to find the perfect cupcake.

Garrett McCord is Vanilla Garlic. Just 23, he has an English degree from the University of California at Davis and is working on his master's at California State University in Sacramento.

The kid can whip up the words!

About cupcakes, about his sushi-hating boyfriend Rob, about dousing a bacon fire at 2 a.m. with Windex, about his gluttonous cat named Eat Beast, who once submerged his entire head in a vat of batter. McCord thought the foolish cat had drowned until Eat Beast came up for breath. And licked his whiskers.

Here's McCord on his zucchini cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting: "None of the flavors berate you, but instead talk to you softly, ask you how your mom is, and then give you a back rub."

McCord, from Mission Viejo, Calif., is as thin as a spatula, with blueberry eyes and choppy blond hair. It was while starving in a UC Davis dorm room that he crafted his first decent meal: pad Thai ramen. Since then, life has been all singed hot pads and mixing bowls.

During the day, McCord works at Families First, a social-service agency. Vanilla Garlic, which was started last May as a bit of a lark, is growing in popularity. It averages 400 to 600 visits a day. Not quite Chocolate and Zucchini numbers. But it's a start.

"It just weirds me out," said McCord, incredulous at his full house of readers. "I never thought it would go anywhere."

CAKEGRRL

www.cakegrrlscakery.blogspot.com

Kristy DeVaney, 28, is Cakegrrl. The Ohio native, who once operated a bakery out of her Dayton apartment, moved to Sacramento, Calif., in June 2004. To celebrate her birthday, her new entree in life, she had a piece of triple-fudge cake at Rick's Dessert Diner.

These days, DeVaney is art director for Senior magazine and lives in a studio in downtown Sacramento. She started her blog last year. It's a compendium of recipes (many her own), dining reviews, food fund-raising parties, and local foodie chitchat.

She seems to photograph, albeit badly, every crumb that goes into her mouth.

Cakegrrl, to hear her tell it, exists in a continual state of famishment. "I always have recipes in my head," she said, her brain this Cuisinart of thought. "I am always planning my next meal. That's how foodies are. I always have ideas. It's always, 'What am I going to have next?' "

This may be some literary license. In truth, Cakegrrl is about the size of a peeled bay shrimp. And she counts her daily caloric intake like Scrooge counted his coins. She's a workout fiend. Nonetheless, like a jazz musician, she can "taste" notes in her head, can riff melodious ingredients out of thin air.

So, who is Cakegrrl? DeVaney's wicked alter ego? A devil's food cake wannabe to this otherwise angel's food good girl from meat-and-potatoes Ohio?

"She's me," she said, laughing. "She wants to be a cook. She wants to be a food writer. She's fun. I wouldn't trade myself for anyone. I'm happy to be me."

- Bob Sylva, McClatchy Newspapers

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