July 27, 2009
Wendy Aarons Love & Disappointment with Diet Coke
Wendy Aarons love and disappointment with Diet Coke at BlogHer09 in Chicago.
July 19, 2009
Sam Opens Falafel Stand in Brick Lane
I ran into Sam El Abd in one of my favorite parts of London, Brick Lane.
We're close in age and his background is IT, but like so many I know, got laid off because of the credit crunch.
He talked to him about his dream of opening a falafel Stand in Brick Lane, the first stall in the area's well known curry mile. (think: best curries in London. They're hot, but they're amazing). Listen to his dream. He officially opened it last week.
July 17, 2009
Winery to Pay for a Sipper Who Tweets
An AP piece features the Murphy-Goode winery who is looking for a sipper who tweets.
Hoping to make a splash in the world of social media, they're looking to pay an Internet-savvy wine-lover $10,000 a month for six months in return for tweeting and blogging about the joys of wine country.
Hundreds applied for the gig, which includes the use of a house in Healdsburg with a wrap-around porch perfect for sitting and sipping. No question, it's the best six month gig you can get this year.
June 21, 2009
Golden Glass Slow Food Event at SF's Fort Mason
I attended this year's Golden Glass event at San Francisco's Fort Mason. The event celebrates the efforts of over 100 international wine producers who strive to protect, nurture, and revive the indigenous and classic varieties of their regions. In other words, think slow food thinking: organic, local, fresh and authentic.
The MyFarm folks were there whose goal is to increase local food production, so they can create a secure and sustainable food system.
The wineries were clustered in designated, regional areas throughout the pavilion, starting with the deeper, fuller bodied reds at the entrance, then moving into the Pinot Noirs, lighter sauvignon blancs and champagnes as you made your way to the back. Here sat bread sticks, prosciutto (ham, pork and turkey (with pistachio, pepper and fennel) and cheese, which sadly I couldn't touch.
All under one roof, there were so many authentic small family stories, you could easily sit at each table for hours listening to their starts, stops, wins and losses, each one of them proud of their own blends.
For example, one of my favorites was the Prunetto Mompertone 2006, which apparently won a silver award at the event. Emanuele Baldi, their marketing head told me that it was the only wine they had that was a mixed blend.
I can't say that I don't have a practiced palate of international food and wine, having lived in over ten countries and traveled to nearly 70. Then again, how practiced can it be when the only solos I'm comfy with once cork leaves the bottle are California Chardonnays and Cabernets.
That said, I'm open to them all, even the Syrahs they announce with a starter like: "people either love this one or hate it," or "this isn't your typical Syrah so it's an acquired taste." What are they saying? I don't have that acquired taste therefore think again unless I've popped at least a dozen corks with their sommeliers.
I'm still relatively new to learning the nuances of Italian reds. Every time I've gone to Italy, my friends pour Chiantis down my throat from decanters without labels.
It wasn't until my Italian restaurant and wine store owner friend from NY's West Village introduced me to Perbacco's Mauro Cirilli that I learned about Barolos and Barbarescos. Mauro is a pro; more than a pro - he makes learning about wine not just fun but irresistable.
A sample of their salame below: Nostrao, Piccante and Sanguinato Dolce. Which one I asked Mauro? Which one he asks back as if to say what kind of question has the word one in it? When he wasn't looking, I went for the Nostrano because frankly by that stage of the day, my poor stomach couldn't have handled a taste of all three.
That brings me to food. Slow food. Each booth is a gastronomic and educational experience. One of my favorites was from entertaining chef Suzette Gresham of Acquerello in San Francisco. She made sure I got the delicacy right, particularly when I came back for thirds. Below is a glimpse of her oil leached swordfish with candied silicon olives and almond and parsley pesto.
A few more fun tastes below:
Fromage at its Best
Causa Casera Potato Causa with Artichokes, Asparagus, Avocado and Tomato Confit with Basil Cilantro Oil - La Mar Restaurant
Bruleed Mission Figs Burrata and Sliced Prosciutto
Decadent Chocolate Baby before during and after each taste (okay, maybe in my twenties)
There was a delicious looking Strawberry Gazpacho I never managed to try but people were raving about.
Group shot in the middle of the full bodied reds and the Pinots
To the left Laura Gallino, Sales Manager with Filippo Gallino wines
Below shot from Slow Food SF photo pool
Poggio Trattoria's chef Peter McNee
It's so much more fun and interactive covering food and wine than technology. And frankly, is there not far more interesting choices? I've seen reporter pal's offices and homes piled with hardware and software boxes, but its a far cry from the wine and food writer's cube at USA Today during a visit in the last year. How do you get through it all I was thinking as I passed the mile high stack of samples.
And there's so much to learn, particularly when you take a deeper dive into the diversity of each wine from regions around the world. I learned about Scacciadiavoli for the first time. Unusual taste I thought. What is it?
It is one of the most ancient wine production estates of the Montefalco zone. The name Scacciadiavoli (Devil banisher) derives from the exorcism carried out in the XVII century, as described by Johannes du Rupescissa in a treatise on quintessence.
If you haven't been to a slow food event before, I'd recommend it. If you don't know much about slow food in general, then dive in and learn more.
April 21, 2009
Kitchen 4B: Get Your Appetite Ready
The New York Times Magazine cooking videos, formerly known as ‘Tiny Kitchen,’ are back under a new name: New Kitchen 4B.
They will be posting two webisodes a month. Jill Santopietro's latest webisode featured a caramelized onion, fig, bacon and Gorgonzola pizza. Stay tuned. Kitchen 4B also now airs on the New York Times channel on JetBlue.
April 02, 2009
Vaynerchuk Invokes Inspiration & Passion
I've heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak in tech circles before but its an entirely different game when he's on front of a group of business entrepreneurs and CEOs who are in traditional industries, largely operating in an offline world.
His passion was equally high with this non-tech crowd late last night, but his motivation was ten fold. It's the same reason my motivation to inspire was ten fold at the same event.
You hear a great business idea and when you learn that they're not utilizing social media tools to accelerate their growth, you go crazy -- internally that is. Interestingly enough, Gary hates the phrase social media - "it's not social media, its media," he yells into the audience while his hands are flying around in front of him.
So refreshing Mr. Russian emigrant from New Jersey. Thank you. Can you please move to Silicon Valley for a few months?
Gary's site Wine Library TV now has 80,000 visitors a day. He gets paid $15K to drink wine with people. He's working on books and talking to Fortune 500 companies regularly. He tells the audience that network TV is going down.....in the wake of newspapers of course. The fate of traditional media is no longer an "insider" conversation. Online and offline.
"You wanna a great business strategy?" Gary shouts into the audience. "It's care. Ignore everything you've learned. When you leverage social media tools, you're expanding your reach."
He continues educating this largely offline crowd. "If you're selling content, you're in trouble. It's all free. Music is free. News is free. Programs are free." He asks everyone to imagine a day when we can watch everything we view on the web today through our big widescreen TVs. "Figure out what your free model is," says Gary.
His personality on stage is what you see on his show and when you meet him one-on-one - East Coast tough but tons of 'heart and care' underneath. That said, he's all about business. He wants to make money and is. It's not just about wine although what drove him crazy about wine were the limitations of wine varietals in the states. Hear hear Gary.
Gary moves into inspiration mode: "Nobody wants to work hard. People want the 'secret.' The only way you'll be happy is to put content around a subject matter that you love and are really passionate about. Put your sweat and hours into something you love. We only drink six wines in America and I hate that. I want to change it."
He weaves humor into nearly every takeaway.
"You've all heard that content is king right?" he asks. "Well, marketing is Queen and she runs the household." Glad someone said it since some in the all transparent world think all middle men are going away and that includes marketers. No, they're not going away, they're just going to have to adapt - big time. Their skillset is invaluable as long as authenticity and transparency has always been at their core.
A central theme to many aspects to this business strategy conference are alliances baby. Find affiliates, find partners, don't do it alone. He echoes this. Artists and creators like to do it on their own since they hate rules, fight against structure and want to do it their way without having to collaborate.
"If you didn't have a lemonade stand at five or wrip flowers out of your neighbor's garden and then sell them back, go find a business partner," says Gary. The audience laughs. The artists know who they are in the audience as do the serial entrepreneurs who are on their tenth successful business.
Says Gary, "we get to play only one time in this life. I don't understand the American culture where the majority work in a job they don't absolutely love."
We discuss how traditional businesses who don't have vision like to "hold onto things." Like anything, if you hold onto things, you're going to lose the game. Technology waits for no one. Culture shifts happen all the time, the key is to be ahead of the curve when they do.
This is where his passion moves into inspiration for everyone in the room and this crowd not only needed it but was craving it. Some wanted 'the secret,' while others were clearly willing to make the commitment to make it happen.
"If you don't love what you do more than anything, then change your game. It's never about talking, its about listening.....and there are obnoxious lights out opportunities for all of us right now."
The guy is about to miss his redeye but the crowd roars. They want Gary and more like him in front of the room all night and in their businesses every day to inspire them, to push them into using social media to innovate, create and of course, triple their sales.
March 23, 2009
SF Chocolate Salon
Man, am I sorry that I missed this event in San Francisco this past weekend.
March 20, 2009
Iranians Know How to Throw a Party
A friend of mine came into town recently for an engagement party - his niece who is half Pakistani and half Iranian is marrying his nephew who is Indian. What an amazing blend of traditions for a party. It starts with drinks upon arrival but before you know it, someone's aunt is pulling you onto the dance floor.
You notice this incredible fruit platter on the table in the distance - no, its not quite a fruit platter, its a fruit mountain as you look more closely and realize its about 3.5 feet tall. You're not on the dance floor for long when you see plates of appetizer food and salads fill the kitchen table, including giant shrimp that is begging to be eaten. You then remember that you barely just arrived when you're given an unusually flavored punch.
There are heat lamps outside and those fabulous looking water pipes on the tables. They've had similar ones at nearly every Egyptian, Iranian, Turkish and Kenyan coffee bar I've gone to over the years. Since the 16th century, men in Persian culture have assembled in coffee houses, play chess and backgammon and discuss politics and business. It is there that they smoke these fabulous pipes (Kalian).
The age range is as expected - two weeks to 97. I move off the dance floor knowing I'll be spending a lot of time there later on. I marvel at the what I now see as three massive fruit mountains in the kitchen and while some party hosts may put a vase or two of flowers on a table, there seems to be fresh flowers on every side table, fireplace mantel and counter. And in all the bathrooms. Roses and wild flowers weave in and out of every visual image as I make my way from room to room.
There is a piano in the living room where at some point during the night, a thirty something year old nephew, uncle or cousin starts playing a few traditional songs while far too many aunts, great aunts and grandmothers for me to keep up with, start tapping their feet. When I smile at this, they give me that look that says, "we'll be dancing with you later after the first round."
Little did I know that it was the first round of food since the kitchen table and fruit platters were sufficient to feed the 80 or so family members and friends who had arrived by then. Round one complete. Round two of dancing begins.
Like every family affair regardless of culture, women's bags and shoes are scattered under chairs which were specifically brought out for the party - they lined the fireplace on one side with a couch and two soft chairs facing them. There was another string of them in the TV room and 8-10 large round tables outside atop a massive Persian rug Dad must have put out on top of the grass as a godsend for all the women who wore heals. And they all did, mostly pumps in vibrant colors.
These women were not afraid of color or glitter although the latter was tastefully and simply added, just enough to call attention to their outfits and remind us all that this was an engagement celebration. No American jeans and sneakers at this event and the little ones were in flowered dresses and shiny shoes, just like my grandmother used to subject me to in the seventies.
I learn quickly that a third have been here for about a generation, another third arrived within the last ten or so years and another third arrived in the last three or four. The accent divide reflected the arrival in America split, the strongest ones of course being the newcomers. Regardless of whether they worked in a plant or just graduated from Harvard, they all seemed to look after each other regardless what path they took.
Even though it isn't the big event (its the engagement party not the wedding remember), family flew in from Canada, New York, southern California and the midwest. It's not unlike the early days of my childhood when there still seemed to be a connection to a heritage far away through a great grandmother or father. Are we all losing this connection too soon?
I was surprised at how committed they were to keeping family events alive, ensuring tradition moved from the oldest relatives there to the two year olds flying around me with my pant leg as their only stable rope to keep them from falling down.The mother of the bride to be took four days off work to cook. All of it I'm thinking? I grew up with incredible cooks in our extended family but couldn't imagine any of them taking this much time off work in 2009. They'd likely cook a few dishes, ask family members to bring some and cater the rest.
And so, the second course arrived which was no less than 30 platters and casseroles of yummy looking meat, chicken, veggie and potato dishes all surrounded in various shades of gravies and sauces. Saffron rice with raisins sat in the middle next to yet another large vase of flowers. Each dish looked and smelled so good that you had to try them all. Each dish tasted so good you found yourself back for more. Did I mention that at least six tables if not more had large bowls of Iranian pistachios, cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts just in case there was nothing you could find on any of the three other tables or kitchen counter?
And now you want me to dance I thought? I could barely move as I shuffled my way back to the kitchen for some diet coke. Another little one came flying around the corner and stopped in front of my bright orange and brown gouchoes which were heavy with sequins, beads and more. I thought to myself - if she grabs the material in the wrong place, they're all coming off and I'm going down.
She just gave me a big smile and her hand and you guessed it, wanted to pull me onto the dance floor. Had she not come along, Aunt X, Aunt Y, Aunt Z or Cousin J would have gotten to me a moment later. When I'm at a predominantly white/european party, I'm often the one on the sidelines trying to drag people on the dance floor. Please, I beg. C'mon, I say. I wave my arms like a lunatic.
People smile but rarely do they come until the alcohol starts pouring and even then, its hard work. Not at this party. Every woman in the place except for the very elderly who sat on the couch and neighboring chairs, dragged people onto the floor. And guess what? They came. The men came. The elderly women with very little coaching eventually came.
Nearly all of the music was Iranian. God knows whether it was modern or from forty years ago since nearly everyone knew the words except for the five or so European guests who had long figured out we were lucky to be invited. And so we danced. And so they sang. And so the children ran. And so the piano played. And so the massive cake, twice the size of the fruit mountains arrived.
There were fresh flowers on each layer and several women including myself walked up to the table to insert more into the nooks and crannies so that the lavender glazed frosting would ooze with the fuschia flowers and the fuschia flowers would ooze with the lavender. And then a pause. I stood back and admired. You can't cut that I thought.
Don't you just want to stare at this thing for a few days? We'll all understand, I mean, its not as if I'm hungry. Surely no one else can be? We'll understand - don't cut this masterpiece just yet. But cut they did, and then the ice cream came, followed by custard and chocolate. More nuts and tea....lots of it. No coffee interestingly enough. One urn had tea, the other hot water to reduce the caffeine for the older folks.
Man, do Iranians know how to throw a party. And they live here. Imagine the parties at home without the Wal-Mart and Costco influence. If you get an invite from an Iranian friend or colleague, you must go. And after you do, write to me and tell me how it went.
December 10, 2008
The number of Starbucks in South Africa. Another reason to love the place.
April 30, 2008
Nimrod's Coffee of Love
Rosh Pina in Tel Aviv's Port. The below is a story of Nimrod's Coffee house which was opened in 2007 with the purpose of immortalizing the heritage "The Good Life" that Nimrod left his sister in his death. Below is the background of the creation of Nimrod's Coffee of Love.
Nimrod's sister writes. I admit. I didn't believe in love. Actually I was one of those who didn't believe love existed until Nimrod married Iris. And then everything changed. I needed that my only brother would get married in order to believe that true love existed. "What's the secret of happiness?" I asked him. "The Good Life," he answered in his simple way.
We left Rosh Pina. Nimrod became a high-tech manager at Microsoft and I moved to America. In my visits, I discovered Nimrod was having a dilemma which was more preferable; to go with his beloved Iris and little Omer and Vick, to our childhood village, Rosh Pina, or take them to the harbor in Tel Aviv.
What is love? Nimrod taught me. In love, there are no boundaries, no barriers. It's an endless flow.
I had a tour contract in Mexico and Nimrod was in the middle of preparations to the annual Microsoft convention in Israel when the Second Lebanon War started. My parents and I begged: "leave everything and come over to Mexico."
Nimrod was drafted, as a reserved soldier with a special emergency call. Before he left home for Lebanon, he wrote his beloved Iris a poem:
At about midnight they called me.
It was the telephone announcing machine.
Her voice said: Soldier - Gathering Spots!
You yelled you weren't ready
Even though you were --
In your sleep --
To pay the price.
I said, pretty thing. It's routine.
Every soldier-citizen has to go.
I kissed her, I calmed her as if for real.
I hoped to be back before Fall.
When the tank entered the land of Lebanon
I put on my armour,
Praying you wouldn't call me on the phone.
A simple high-tech man from Ramat Gan
Taking his children to school.
Fighting terrorists at night.
Tell me, will all this help
Tomorrow or the day after
When I come back
And all this business will be over --
In the end you fight to live.
In the end you fight like animals.
For the silence within.
On August 19 of the Hebrew month of Av, the Hebrew Valentines Day, the announcing officers knocked on Iris's door.