A Day in the Life: Maggie Hoffman, Drinks Editor
7:45 a.m. Email inbox count: lucky 79. Some are press releases about new 'watering holes' (who ever says this phrase out loud?) and condiment-flavored spirits, some are newsletters (I subscribe to things like Shanken News Daily to make sure I don't miss any news about said condiment-related spirits), and some are people trying to get us to write about swanky new hotels in Vegas and something called a 'Christmas hamper.'
The only emails I really need to answer are from my writers telling me their articles are ready or asking me about upcoming scheduling. I flag those for response as soon as I'm caffeinated.
When I tell people that I run the drinks section of a food website, their first question is always the same: "So, does that mean you just sit around drinking bourbon all day? Or do you mostly go out to bars every day? Are you like...always hungover?"
The answer is: not really. I'm mostly a professional box-opener and wine weight-lifter, with a side gig copyediting, and a pretty booked email-deleting schedule. Sorry to disappoint.
8:00 a.m. Because I'm on the West Coast, some posts go up on the site while I'm still sleeping, and most days, they don't end up all bold or tiny. Post-shower but pre-coffee, I check that the morning's Drinks posts look ok and get the new content up on Twitter and Facebook. Today I have a post sharing the favorite porters and stouts of Cicerones (i.e., beer sommeliers) around the country. It's fun to see the SE community chime in with their favorites: Anchor Porter, Boulevard Dark Truth Stout, Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout, and Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout. (I love that one too.)
8:15 a.m. My morning work is interrupted by my husband with good news: coffee's ready. And bad news: our kitchen is crawling with tiny black ants. The little zombies had disappeared for a week and I was ready for them to disappear forever. It seems that San Francisco has a seasonal ant problem, and our place is particularly afflicted whenever it gets really cold (in San Francisco, 'really cold' means you have to wear a hoodie and a fleece.)
9:00 a.m. Matt, who works as a research scientist at Adobe (a quick bike ride away in SOMA), is headed out of town for a conference today. Often we both work at home in the morning, which keeps me from going too stir-crazy in the silence. It was a pretty big adjustment to go from the chaos of the Serious Eats NY headquarters, where I worked starting in the fall of 2010 through spring 2012, to the calm life of the San Francisco home office. There's no Ed arriving with every single pastry from Balthazar ('EAT THEM ALL, MINIONS!'), there's no din of other peoples' phone calls, and there's no group Pandora station being cranked up as the afternoon wears on. On the upside, more drinking alone!
I keep a little sticky on my monitor with the day's schedule and publishing times (Serious Eats runs on military time, which will be convenient when we begin to conquer neighboring countries.) Regular text means the post is already edited and scheduled, while bold text means STOP DRINKING AND EDIT ME.
10 a.m. While I finish up a roundup of spiked cocoa and hot cider for the afternoon, I pause now and then to pin the latest posts from Serious Eats onto Pinterest. Right now, I'm mostly focused on our gift guide collection, plus holiday recipes and a new 'light and healthy' board I built this week, which is likely to get a lot of traction come New Year's resolution time. I got stuck with the Pinterest job because I actually think Pinterest is pretty awesome—though most people seem to use it for fantasizing about the high ceilings with reclaimed barnwood beams that no amount of purchased throw pillows will help them acquire. Also, polka-dot nail polish. And Cookie Monster cakes.
10:25 a.m. Just when I'm wrapping up the hot drinks piece, the doorbell rings. It's GSO, the overnight wine delivery service, bringing by some bottles for a holiday wine pairing piece I'm working on. The house is really cold today, so I'm not worried about the stack of boxes I haven't dealt with yet (most of which hold soda and beer samples for other stories I'm working on) but I vow to get them open and put away before my dinner guests arrive. I slice open the new box and stash the wine—a white blend from Arbe Garbe—in my office wine fridge and hope it'll work well with the Dungeness crab I'm writing about (and serving for dinner).
MYTH: The Drinks Editor must have a fridge...just full of booze.
FACT: The Drinks Editor has two fridges just full of booze. Once upon a time, I had what they call a 'crisper drawer' but it's been officially a 'beer drawer' since about a month after we moved in. I'm looking into offsite storage for the wines I'm beginning to buy for drinking in a few years. Because apparently my husband thinks we need closet space for "clothes."
11 a.m. I haven't even started editing tomorrow's posts yet, but it's time for our editorial meeting, which we hold each week on Google Hangout. It's a mix of brainstorming new article ideas and reminiscing about the Dairy Queens we visited as children, and it's a good chance to see each others' faces, though the terribly slow internet and occasional freezing up of screens in the SENY office means that those of us who work offsite miss many of the jokes.
12:15 p.m. I take a look at the West Coast events listing that our intern Rémy Robert put together. There's some fun stuff on here: an urban fishing and foraging class, a tamale festival...which reminds me that I'm getting hungry. I heat up some leftovers and eat them at my desk while skimming through some email and writing to hound writers who haven't turned in their posts yet. I'll need to revamp tomorrow's schedule since some of them don't plan to turn their pieces in until later tonight.
My best friends The UPS and Fedex guy generally stop by with deliveries by 12:30 if they have boxes of booze for me, so I'm in the safe zone once that hour has passed. I run out to pick up some crab from Local Mission Market for my pairing project and some pricey-but-delicious pasta from Salumeria. Looking at the sandwiches they're serving, I wish I hadn't eaten lunch yet, but my wallet is thankful. Salumeria is packed, which is pretty standard these days, and reminds me of that San Francisco Twilight Zone episode where the guy calls in sick so he can go to all the great places in the city while everyone else is at work, and then discovers that the ice cream line at BiRite is still wrapped around the block.
1:30 p.m. Remember that Chumbawamba song?
He drinks a whiskey drink,
he drinks a vodka drink,
He drinks a lager drink,
he drinks a cider drink...
My day is like that. Except:
drinks edits a whiskey drink post,
drinks edits a vodka drink post,
drinks edits a lager drink post,
drinks edits a cider drink post...
It doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
3:30 p.m. I need to head out to pick up some wine tasting samples that an importer left for me at a restaurant in the neighborhood. When I return, I get the wine chilling and check back in online, setting up a photoshoot at a new bar in the Dogpatch for next week. I write to our photographer Wes Rowe to see if he's free; these days, he's busy cooking burgers at popups all over town, so I'm not certain he'll be up for it. Though he's not really one to turn down a free drink.
4 p.m. When I'm in the middle of a big wine or beer recommendation project, I try to start tasting by this point in the afternoon, but today's been so full of distractions that I need to keep working on tomorrow's posts first. I gather together images for a piece on party wines for our 'Ask a Sommelier' series and finish up a few other stories.
6:15 p.m. Time for a drink! Sorta. I pull out the bottles I need to taste before tonight's dinner. I sit at my desk, new awesome Gabriel-Glas wine glass and totally glamorous spit cup in hand, and write down my first impressions of each wine. The favorites will be tasted again with food later. I have some time, since one of my dinner guests called earlier to say he was about to go in for four hours of yoga (like you do) and won't be arriving until 8:30.
Some of these tastings are disappointing, but I've struck gold tonight. I have a lineup of interesting Italian whites to taste with crab, and two out of three are stunning. One of them, a cloudy unfiltered wine made by Benjamin Zidarich, from the native variety Vitovksa in Friuli (on the Slovenian border of Italy), is especially awesome after being poured into a decanter. It's slightly weird stuff, made with skin contact the way red wines are made, but it's so delicious that I know I have to recommend it.
There's a domestic showstopper too: the Arbe Garbe Russian River Valley White is an awesome voluptuous nutmeggy lemon-drop of a blend. I have no doubt it will be perfect with the crab. Not that long ago, all the cool sommeliers would say they 'only drink Old World wines,' but these days, that attitude would mean missing out. Domestic wine is really exciting right now, and it's fun to be in California where it's easy to end up at a backyard party with a bunch of winemakers who are making cool and delicious stuff.
7:20 p.m. I bring my notebook out to the dining room and start prepping for dinner. As the wines sit open, they seem to develop and change, so I stop my chopping every once in awhile to take another sip and take notes. I never trust wine review based on quick snap-judgment impressions (especially from huge hundred-wine tastings) and I like to see how a wine behaves with a little air, a little time, and the right food. It's not a bad gig.
10:45 p.m. After the dishes are done, I check back into email one more time. It's my mother, sending along the link to my spiked hot cocoa / hot toddy roundup. "Should we make one of these over Christmas?" she asks. She seems disappointed when I answer that I might want to take a few days' vacation from booze.