Planning ahead

images-3Nobody would ever accuse me of not planning ahead.   It has been a theme of my life.  The good news is that Fred is on board with that way of thinking too.  The rewards of thinking ahead has played out in many aspects of our lives.

I had drinks with a friend the other night who was in from out of town. She is a few years behind us in regards to being an empty nester.  It was truly a treat to hear from her that she has been reading my blog for a long time and she followed what worked for me.  She saw the writing on the wall as her kids got into high school and started down a path of going back to work full time.  I did the same thing.  I started to see less hours in the day to day lives of my kids starting to dwindle and knew it was time to figure out my next career.  Her oldest will go to college next year, one is still at home and she is back working full time (on her own terms) and it is obvious from the look on her face how happy she is.  I love it.

We only have one left in college but I can see how many of the things we put in place when the kids are young are paying off in spades.  We had dinner at home 5 times a week when the kids were young.  It waned as the kids got older but it was at least 3 times if not 4 times a week in those years.  Those dinners are now precious and we all get together on Sunday nights because it is what we do.  It is a way to catch up and everyone loves it.

Our summers and winters have always been spent at the beach and skiing.  Those rituals (except for the long extended vacations) have remained.  It is just like sitting down for Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving.  They become rituals that are part of our family.  I am honored that the kids like them as much as I do.

I am still in planning ahead mode.  Thinking about where I want to be in the next 5 years, where our kids will be in the next 5 years and remembering when I was starting out in my adult life with Fred.  We were the same age as our kids.  I don’t want to say how did that happen so fast because there are a lot of years there but it is a strange thing to be at this age.  It is just weird.

 

Te Company

tea wallLocated on West 10th Street upstairs off the street is the Te Company.  A little gem of serenity. Emily and I have been hankering to get there for awhile and we finally had our tea and more.

teaThe Te Company is dedicated to serving the best oolong teas in the world.  The list is highly curated.  They had just come back from sourcing teas when we went.  We chose a light fruity yet nutty tea.  They give you the container to smell the aroma of the tea before serving it.  The small pot is where the leaves are steeped, then you transfer that to the larger container to pour into your small cup.  It is quite civilized.

tortaThere are few seats and when the word gets out I fear the delight of enjoying the slow cadence of the place will change.  Their food is delicious.  The menu is tiny.  We had the potato cheese torta doused with edible flowers and small pieces of sliced olives and a plate of Spanish chorizo. The bread is a must.  A yeasty brown sourdough that is soft and insanely flavorful.

saladA spinach salad tossed with thin slices of apple, sweet roasted walnuts and covered with shaved ricotta salata.  A combination of savory and sweet.

cakeThis chocolate cake is over the top.  A flourless chocolate cake that just barely oozes when you put your fork through it.  There is a hint of coconut to the flavor and the creamy light frosting that melts over the top and is just scorched with a flame before serving is a true treat.

A perfect way to laze a few hours away any afternoon.

The importance of hip-hop

images-2“Hip-hop has done so much for racial relations, and I don’t think it’s given the proper credit. It has changed America immensely. I’m going to make a very bold statement: Hip-hop has done more than any leader, politician, or anyone to improve race relations.”   Jay Z

I read this quote on Jason Hirschorns Media Redef daily emails that I get.  I love this quote because I too believe that Hip-hop has been a public mentor to kids across America.  The top musicians in the Hip-hop music scene are smart business people.  They have taken their god gifted talents and leveraged them by providing all of us with music to listen to but most of them have done so much more.

Jay Z is the ultimate example.  He started hocking CD’s of his music out of the back of his car as a teen.  He went on to build a record label with friends and then moved on a one point to do it again by himself.  He eventually invested in a sports team, became an agent for athletes, opened up night clubs and much much more.  He is growing an empire.

Two of my favorite quotes of Jay Z are “You learn more in failure than you do in success.”  Spot on.  I see it every day with entrepreneurs.  Yet my all time favorite is  “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”  He rose from the projects of Brooklyn and is now a global business leader  For kids coming from the same walk of life as him they can look up to Jay Z because you can’t be what you can’t see and what they see is a powerful business man who grew his empire starting with his own talents and love of music. That is empowering.  The long tail of this is huge.  His impact and reach is larger than we will ever know.

Melting Pot

images-1As the weather gets nicer in NYC I walk.  The other night I had finished the day and had the luxury of walking to the play we were seeing.  I walked Bleecker Street from beginning to end.  The neighborhoods change when you cross the large streets from Hudson to 7th Avenue to 6th Avenue to Broadway to Lafayette.

NYC is a melting pot.  Walking down the street looking at the people from kids to adults from small to large from white to black from local to tourists from dressed up to dressed down.  I can’t help but think about the anger being fueled around this country (and the globe) directly linked to prejudices.  The fear that people have of people who don’t look like themselves, who don’t believe in what they believe, who don’t raise their children the same way, who read different books to their kids, who just live different lives is alarming.

Years ago we were in Tel Aviv and I got into a cab and had a conversation that I still think about.  The taxi driver asks me where I am from.  I tell him NYC.  He asks if I live in the Bronx. He knows the Bronx from the movies.  I explain where I live in NYC and where the Bronx sits in the landscape of the city.  He then asks me if I have children.  I say I do.  He asks me if I am Jewish and I say yes.  He asks me where my children go to school.  I tell him that our kids go to a very diverse school where their peers are from all walks of live.  He is aghast.  He says how can you send your children to a school where they are not among their people?  I say to him that is what makes NYC so unique.  We are a city of over 8 million people that come from all walks of life and in general we all get along, respect each others beliefs, way of life and actually embrace it.  Embracing it makes us better people.  I said to him that Israel could learn from NYC’s way to life.  He laughs.  He says it’s never going to happen.  I told him that it was too bad because anger isn’t healthy and certainly doesn’t help anyone or any country move forward.

That conversation happened over 5 years ago and it really points to the issues that are happening in our own country.  Change will happen because history has proven to us that we move forward as a society not backward but right now the anger and fear out there around people that are different than them is disturbing.  The reality is that even people who look alike are different.

I love NYC for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons I love this town is how diverse it is.  That diversity is why we have incredible restaurants serving every cuisine possible, theater that is cutting edge, music venues for the artists breaking in to the ones that have already broken out, galleries that are from small to big, etc. etc.  It is the diversity in this town that makes NYC what it is. We can all learn from that.

Isaac Mizrahi, The Jewish Museum, Russ and Daughters

chandaliersI have been meaning to get up there to see this exhibit since I read about it.  I have always been a huge fan of the Jewish Museum.  All the shows are so well curated and bringing in Russ and Daughters as the restaurant was a genius move.  These pieces are in the lobby when you enter which is part of an exhibit from Beatriz Milhazes.

russWe began with lunch.  Have to say I kind of felt like I was in temple based on the clientele.

deliThere is a big counter here to buy food to go as well.

lunchWe went with some classics.  Salmon dip, crunchy bagel chips and a thinly sliced bagel toasted with cream cheese, salmon and salmon roe and a small serving of tunafish.

fabricAfterwards, after re-upping my membership in the old school method of swiping my credit card in a carbon receipt we went upstairs.  I am a huge fan of Mizrahi.  He did it his way.  He loves the clothes, the women and the theater.  This was the first thing we saw.  Massive swatches he put together over the years for different collections.

clothesAnd then the clothes.  Some of them I remember when they came out.

moreclotehsMore.

moreclothesMore.

anotherdrawingThis was a great room strewn with the sketches of the shows and lines.  Some even had the name of the model who he had chosen to wear the outfit.

duckieHe i a big theater guy and designed clothing for several productions.  This is one of them.

accessoreisAccessories that he created separately or with partners.

filmThe last room was a small theater with clips and interviews.

stopSmall, short and sweet just like the museum.  Couldn’t help but take a photo of this one in the gift shop.

Look by Plant Love House

barOur resident expert in Thai food told us that this place was legit.  Our friends met us out at Look by Plant Love House to check it out.  They just got their liquor license which is a bonus but we brought our own and they charged us a $20 corking fee which is great.  Also, cash only and no reservations so keep that in mind.  We got there around 7pm on Saturday night and it took about 30 minutes before we got seated.  The word is out.

wingsThai spicy wings.  I am a sucker for a good chicken wing

larmooLarb Moo.  Spicy minced pork salad with red onions, cilantro and roasted rice powder.

watercrssCrispy watercress salad with chili lime sauce, shrimps, minced pork, crispy shallots, cilantro and peanuts  Certainly not kosher.  This salad is off the charts.  Deep fried crispy watercress mixed with a combo of textures and flavors.  I could have been happy not to share this one.

porkbellySuper crispy little bites of pork belly that was almost like eating bacon mixed with onions, string beans and green peppers.  Yum.

fishDeep fried red snapper covered with kaffir lime leaves, shallots, mint, cashew, chilies and lime juice.  It is a signature of the place but probably not top of my list.

curryGreen chicken curry served with eggplants, rice noodles and salted duck eggs.

padthaiWe ate Pad Thai every night when we were in Thailand years ago.  Fred and I did something similar when we were in Spain years ago and we had boquerones at lunch and dinner every day. Gives you a good over all perspective on the “best”.  This Pad Thai was excellent.  The noodles, the spices, the flavors, all of it.  A huge winner.

porkballsTiny grilled pork balls that tasted like shots of bbq pork.

porkbarbbqSlow cooked pork that had a sweet bbq taste to it.  We had all hit the wall by then but I should have brought it home.  Put this on a crispy bun with shredded carrots, cilantro and a Thai sauce would be fantastic.

tumblr_o661pmF5eo1qbpklto1_500I took dessert to go.  Sticky coconut rice with mangos. This photo is from Emily when she went.  One of my faves.  This one is a winner.  Great spot.  Excellent food.  It might appear to be a neighborhood spot in Prospect Heights but there is incredible food coming out of that kitchen.

Big companies…are they thinking about change?

imgresThe last decade has been all about the start-up.  Kids graduating from college want to go work in them and they want to start their own.  Some of these companies have become quite large and I can’t help but wonder at what point does their marketshare grow to a point where the companies of old die and the new ones take its place.  Perhaps I am ahead of myself here but what is clear is that big companies need to change their cultures.

There seems to be a desire of large companies to make those cultural changes which is a good thing.  The data points to that most employees are unhappy.  Catchafire has begun to work with large companies to create opportunities for employees to give back and feel like they are making a difference vs sitting behind a desk every day.  Being socially responsible is a big point for millennials and the kids graduating from college now.  How do these big companies fill the desire of their employees for creativity, social responsibility and above all else flexibility in their lives for themselves and their families.  There are companies helping big corporations think about this including HR arms giving employees access to coaches.  Start-ups have been able to do that because they are agile and large companies are not.  It is not easy turning around a big cruise ship but the time is now.

The next decade we will see a big shift in the start-up culture.  Perhaps less opportunities and small companies with a need for less employees.  Small companies will grow into big companies and will hopefully not change the culture they build the company on.  People need to bring a paycheck home.  Thinking about how to create happy cultures in large corporations should be the number one on the agenda in the year to come.

Pasquale Jones and Contra

Making the rounds this week on some new restaurants, both Pasquale Jones and Contra

Pasquale Jones is the sister to Charlie Bird.  Always been a fan of Charlie Bird.  Simple well thought out menu that you could almost eat nightly.  Pasquale Jones is a bit hipper but has the same thought out menu.  Big wood-fire place, large bar and well positioned on the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare with large windows.

ricottaHighlights was the warm whipped ricotta with black pepper and honey with light crispy chips. All the starters were good and shareable.

pizzaWe went with the classic pizza.

pastaPasta was delicious.  Fava beans, proscuitto and parm.  Very much of the season.

dessertOne dessert a night.  Tonight was roasted rhubarb, pistachios, honey and gelato.

contraContra is a completely different experience.  The restaurant has been on all the top lists and being praised at every turn.  Bare bones restaurant and a simple prix fixe menu.   I kind of love the elegance of the food with the rocking music playlist lighting up the place.

start contraFirst comes out a little taste from the chef.  This was incredible.  Different textures, flavors, sweet, savory, tart, cold, hot, etc.  A cheese cracker with a spot of creme fraiche, nori and roe.  Wow.

asparagusThe menu is what it is that day.  The descriptions of what you are about to eat are vague.  For instance this was asparagus, crab, celery.  It was white asparagus with a crab salad over it sitting in a celery soup.  Really interesting.

breadMake sure to order one bread for two people.

chickenThe chicken, horseradish and feta had mushrooms too.  Roasted chicken breast with a whipped horseradish with shaved feta and roasted mushrooms.   We also had a scallop, nasturtium, leche de tigre in one dish and hake, fennel and matcha in another.

strawberryThe desserts were amazing.  Milk ice cream and strawberries.  The other one was banana, rye and raspberry.

Both fun evenings.  Totally different but both very NY.

Num Pang Cookbook

51SDR5MGaNL._SX442_BO1,204,203,200_I am an investor in Num Pang.  Learning about the fast food casual restaurant world has been a great experience.  Meeting the founders, Rather Chaupoly & Ben Daitz of Num Pang has been even better.  For whatever reason, perhaps it is the norm, but I find that in all the businesses that I am invested in that I find there is always one founder (if there are co-founders) who I end up speaking to more.  As for Num Pang it has been Ben.  A NY city born and raised street smart very savvy guy who I now call a friend.

Num Pang just put out their cookbook.  It is really good and I plan on spending a lot of time with the book this summer.  As a cookbook lover it is always worth reading the story of the authors which gives you some insight into why they do what they do.  I read it the other night and texted Ben how impressed I am with what he has built.  I am.

If you haven’t been to Num Pang, go.  There are about to be a total of 8 of them in and around NYC and coming to other cities soon.  Otherwise, buy the cookbook.

Growth takes time

images-1The last 8 years of the start-up world has been a rocket ship.

A slew of businesses have been started, many have survived and many have not.  Those are the ups and downs in very simple terms.  In the next year we will be looking back and trying to learn from many mistakes.  One of the biggest mistakes will probably be that of the businesses that failed, ones that were given the most amount of capital, who were trying to change industries without the understandings of how the vertical worked.  And no matter what technology was applied to a business trying to change a vertical that they would never be profitable.  That the business was not sustainable without a constant shot of capital.  Consumers might have loved the product but if there is no path to profitability on the horizon it just doesn’t make sense.  Perhaps the horizon was so far out there that it was going to take hundreds of millions to get there but once it did would the public market deem it worthy?  How about the last rounds of capital and those investors?  What happens to their investment will not be pretty.  Were they still just buying into a dream?  What exactly is the dream?

Based on the last few years the dream is about big valuations with the hopes of a big exit.  No doubt that I am happy to be part of that too but when I see a company sell for a lot less than the last valuation and someone says to me “well they all just should have got out earlier” that is unsettling.  It is true statement but then what is the long tail of that?  The next investors get stuck holding the bag of a company they paid too much for.

Growth takes time.  I hear investors who put money into a company with this insane push to achieve, achieve, grow, grow and grow over the next 18 months so the company can get a bigger valuation and more cash to continue down that path.  Maybe some of these companies were not capable of being billion dollar businesses but really great 50 million dollar businesses. Sometimes companies become unruly monsters with a slew of employees without direction when cash just keeps getting poured down a funnel.  I believe first and foremost that we want to build companies that have lasting value, that create jobs, that change economies that will hopefully will create new products, make our lives easier and if we are lucky become verbs in our vocabulary.

There are still so many opportunities out there to build new companies and they will continue to get funded.  Perhaps I am missing something but I fear the next 12 months will be a shit storm.