The group collective on Twitter, the increasingly popular micro-blogging and social networking platform, has developed a recent tradition called Follow Friday. Follow Friday is part circle jerk, part honest and helpful advice from your Twitter friends on who to follow if you're new or simply looking to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances. Every Friday, those who participate in the weekly routine send out a Tweet or two with suggestions of influential, interesting or entertaining people to follow.
Sound good? Well, instead of combing through endless streams of Tweets looking for relevant followers to add to your stream, check out the list below for a brief compendium of useful food-related people or businesses to follow on Twitter. Once you've added them as a follower, you can interact with your favorite restaurant, writer or chef in an entirely new way. Think of it as a fantasti-sized Follow Friday for foodies.
For purposes of simplicity, the list is divided into six categories. The list is in no way comprehensive, but has a good cross-section of interesting foodies. Feel free to pick and choose your new "friends" at random from the list, and remember that just because you follow them doesn't mean they'll follow you back. Deal with it.
Local Food Personalities
Robb Walsh: The Houston Press' resident food critic and author of such books as Sex, Death and Oysters and Are You Really Going to Eat That? Updates are short and sweet and never boring.
Bryan Caswell: Also known as @Wholefish, the popular chef at REEF and Little Big's is new to Twitter but catching on quickly. His updates range from musings on life and cooking to answering questions posed by his followers.
Ronnie Killen: The head chef at the eponymous Killen's Steakhouse is also new to Twitter, but seems to be taking to it like a steak to a grill. His updates -- of which there aren't many yet -- are an insightful behind-the-scenes look at running a restaurant.
Alison Cook: The Houston Chronicle's resident food critic, Alison was also one of the early adopters of Twitter and uses it to stay in touch with her audience and "live-Tweet" meals from restaurants.
Bobby Heugel: Former whiz-kid bartender at Beaver's who's now opening his own specialty bar, Anvil. Although his updates are few and far between, there's hope that he'll catch on and start using Twitter to connect with the thirsty masses waiting on Anvil to open up.
Addie Broyles: Food writer for our neighboring Austin American-Statesman and one-time What Not to Wear participant. Addie's updates include insightful gardening tidbits and links to interesting food news and stories.
National Food Personalities
Ruth Reichl: Former restaurant critic for the New York Times and current editor-in-chief of Gourmet, Reichl also wrote some of the best food memoirs ever to be published: Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.
Michael Ruhlman: Food writer who's best known for his collaborations with Thomas Keller and his guest appearances on The Next Iron Chef and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Among other tomes, he wrote the immensely popular The Making of a Chef and The French Laundry Cookbook.
Monica Eng: Food writer and blogger at the Chicago Tribune.
David Lebovitz: Famous pastry chef and author of such delicious books as Room for Dessert and The Great Book of Chocolate.
Local Restaurants and Businesses
Saint Arnold: Houston's favorite microbrewery is an avid and popular user of Twitter, which has been used to announce special Twitter-only meetups and specials. You don't want to miss the Saint Arnold's Twitter meetups; there's always a surprise at each one.
The Coffee Groundz: The original local business to find enormous success with Twitter, The Coffee Groundz has become the de facto headquarters for Houston area Twitterers. They hold regular "Tweetups" and even take orders (dine in or to-go) over the service.
Trentino Gelato: Artisanal products and emerging technologies don't always go together, but Trentino makes it work, announcing special events (like this Saturday's 2:00 p.m. gelato tasting at the aforementioned Coffee Groundz) and their whereabouts at weekend farmers markets.
Saute: This new restaurant in town has become a quick success thanks in large part to their savvy Twittering, keeping customers informed of new menu items and specials. It doesn't hurt that they're extremely interactive with their audience and more than happy to accept feedback about their food and customer service.
The Tasting Room: All of the Tasting Rooms around Houston share this account, which is used to inform customers of special Twitter-only pricing and happy hours. $1.00 wine tastings and 10% off specials? Who wouldn't want to follow them?
Taft Street Coffee: This serene Montrose coffee shop, which shares its space with Ecclesia Church, uses their Twitter account to announce what tunes they're spinning and what coffee's currently brewing.
13 Celsius: The popular Midtown wine bar doesn't update often, but it's good to have a connection with one of your favorite joints and hear news (new panini maker!) before you even get there.
Te House of Tea: Owned by the same folks as Saute, this fair-trade tea house on Fairview does an equally wonderful job of interacting with their customers as their sister restaurant. Want to discuss tea with some passionate people? Here's the place to do it.
Shiner Beer: Eternal Texas favorite Shiner Beer has a Twitter account that's chock-a-block with interesting links and answers to patron's questions.
National Restaurants and Businesses
Starbucks: Even with a whopping 48,000 followers, Starbucks does an admirable job of responding to customer inquiries and complaints and feeding news about the company to their public before the press releases even hit.
Luby's: Although this is national chain of restaurants, don't forget that they're headquartered right here in Houston! Their Twitter account is run out of Houston, too, and often advertises specials before they're shown anywhere else.
Whole Foods: The Austin-based grocery store is -- as expected -- highly interactive with and responsive to its many Twitter followers. The buzz on their Twitter account recently has been about their long-term ban on taking photographs inside their stores, which some customers have only recently found out about.
Jason's Deli: In addition to responding to customers, Jason's Deli actively reaches out to them with questions and surveys about ideas for future menu items and feedback on current ones. They also have wickedly fun food trivia nearly every day.
Popeye's Chicken: Yes, even Popeye's is on Twitter. The person who runs their Twitter account seems just as amazed by this fact and eagerly and excitedly responds to nearly every Tweet from their many followers.
Local Food Bloggers/Publications
Texas Monthly: The food section for Texas Monthly has bizarre yet addictive updates from around the state on where they're eating and their curt impressions of the place -- restaurant reviews in 140 characters. They're notoriously non-responsive, however.
Houston Chowhounds: Want to keep abreast of all the taco truck crawls, soup dumpling-making classes, cocktail parties and pie bakeoffs that the Houston Chowhounds are hosting across Houston? Follow them on Twitter.
H-Town Chow Down: Another local food blogger who specializes in breaking food news and succinct, informative reviews. Twitter updates are equally informative, at times verging on a restaurant news stream.
National Food Bloggers/Publications
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Has one of your favorite food bloggers, writers or personalities been left out? Is there a restaurant or brewery or vineyard or chef that should be included in the list? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section below.