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Feasting Famously with Ashley Codianni & Julie Eckert
The DC-duo running the hottest viral news site NowThis News talks Obama’s food drawer, dream dinning with Joe Biden, and Grumpy Cat’s diet

Everyone with a webcam and cat-chat thinks they are the internet’s newest hot sh!t. Generally this happens with much little street cred, or a CV to back them up. Occasionally, a random interview can turn viral (see Antoine Dodson), or some marketing geniuses put together a satirical commercial that goes viral on sheer brilliance (see Somersby Cider spoof on Apple).

However for some people, it’s their job to make things go viral – and not just cat-bearding and babies dancing – I’m talking interviews with Grover Norquist talking about Grumpy Cat, and Congressman Trey Radel (R-Fla.) droppin’ dope knowledge about rap. Now making those viral takes skill and talent.

Lucky for the interwebs, Ashley Codianni and Julie Eckert are doing just that, and killing it, over at NowThis News.

According to the duo, NowThis News is, “A mobile social video application for a generation of people who are getting their news on their mobile devices and through their social platforms.” Adding, “The existence of our content is for it to be viral.” I like viral videos, but doesn’t like, oh I don’t know, everyone else do the same thing? They assure me not, and by going to the site, you can tell this company is onto something. However they maintain great relationships through collaboration. “Well it was started by the founders of Huffington Post,” Julie says, “it’s their new brain child for how to actually do the news. And we’re in partnership with BuzzFeed and have a campaign co-branded with The Atlantic as well.” I would have just answered, “shut up we’re basically killing it,” but then again I’m kind of an ass.

Julie Eckert

Don’t think for one second they’re just some journos with cameras who have a Mac Book Pro, they have the street cred to back it up. Julie was a deputy press secretary for a senior Senator for years, and before that ran new media for a lobbying firm. Plus, she runs her own charity called Operation Incubation. Ashley was a producer for Morning Joe working with Willie Geist for years, prior to that she worked on the 2008 election cycle for NBC – all in all logging over 5 years with the network.

I asked these two power-journos what they think the connection between food and politics is? “I think that as far as lawmakers are concerned, I think a lot of backroom deals, if they happen anymore, happen over food and drinks,” Ashley says. “This town is very much ‘let’s meet for drinks, lets meet for lunch’ – it’s very much how deals get made.” I agree, I hope that doesn’t change. The “Starving Lobbyist” has a terrible ring to it!

Julie says “I definitely have found in my recent dining experience how much more aware restaurants are with locally grown products. What I mean by that is with the connection to politics. We were talking about the Farm Bill, and I think people forget how much the farm subsidies actually affect people every single day. The decision here can dictate if you have fresh produce or not,” Julie adds. Taking my lobbying hat off and refusing to comment politically, she does have a point that many regulations, from FDA issues to Agricultural funding do indeed affect farmers, restaurants, and therefore, food.

Okay, real politics aside, I want to know what they think is in President Obama’s secret food drawer? I mean, he has to have one right? Right?

“Well, we know [Congresswoman] Michelle Bachman’s is celery,” Ashley adds, not sure I want to know how or why she knows that. “Oh, I do know that Barack Obama loves to order Five Guys burgers, I do know that,” Ashley proudly says.

Taking a bit of a different approach, and very true to her personality, “If I was Barack Obama,” Julie says, “I’d have a six-pack [of beer] in my food drawer. Because, like, you’re the President – tough job.” We all have a solid laugh because she is exactly right, but being the “prez” and all, I’d have taps installed for sure. “Well if I were Barack Obama,” Ashley says as if a one-upmanship was about to occur, “I’d have Altoids because I’d try to hide the fact that I probably could be smoking again.” Beer, Altoids, cigarettes; how about all three?

Ashley Codianni

Ashley says she would love to have dinner with Vice President Joe Biden. She said they’d go to the new 14th Street hot-spot Le Diplomate, split trout and grilled hanger steak, and sit outside. “Not that I want to go out on a date with Joe Biden,” she quips back as Julie and I laugh at how date-like it sounds, “but he seems like a fun guy to talk to,” she retorts.

I ask them what places in DC have never disappointed them. For Ashley, it’s Cork and Le Diplomate (sensing a theme here), and for Julie, it varies by certain dishes at certain places. “I love the fried chicken and those cheese puff things at Central, and the lobster roll at Hank’s,” she says.

If they’re not dating Joe Biden, Julie says she tries to cook, but for lunches and things she keeps it simple. “My go to lunch is a baked potato, it’s easy, but I like to put some vegetables on it, and obviously cheese.” Obvi Jules, obvi. But they both love seafood. Julie says she just made a seafood pasta with lobster, scallops, and shrimp, and that she’d love to “learn how to shuck an oyster.” Ashley takes her seafood to the grill, noting, “My favorite thing to eat is lobster with friends. I love to grill and we’ll grill lobster and fresh clams; so good!”

Grumpy cat hates food

Obviously being in the viral video world, I want to know what they think is Grumpy Cat’s favorite food. “Grumpy cat hates food,” Ashley remarks. I suggest its nicotine patches and cocaine – both agree. Ashley adds, “Grumpy Cat took on a phenomenon that is unprecedented on the internet,” as if stating a fact that no one dare challenge. We all agree Marcel the Shell is pretty adorable too.

Memes aside, let’s test their quick wit with the Feasting Famously Fast Five.

Viral videos – Antoine Dodson (Ashley)
Small children – uuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh (Julie)
DC bike shares – helmets (Julie)
Anderson Cooper – silver fox (Ashley)
Leggings – gross (Julie) not for men (Ashley)

I wonder if this will go viral?!?! Nah, I’d have to be a cat in a chat room with bread on my head singing about a break-in with a Congressional flash mob in the background.