The blame game

The insanity that we have witnessed from the day that Trump won the election is like nothing we have ever seen before.  It almost feels as we are watching a dictator take over with a cabinet of rich white men who have made all their decisions based on how to line their pockets.  Keep in mind that these cabinet members are not cutting ties with their businesses.  What exactly is that going to look like?  We will have a President who just espouses anything that comes off the top of his head without any reality to back it up and zero care of what the outcome of that is.

The last 8 years has been zero drama.  We certainly have to look back at those 8 years to understand why we are where we are today.  The Republicans fought Obama at every turn in the past 8 years.  I am not so sure they would have been such obstructionists if Obama was a white man.   Because of this the Republicans have been reckless and we can point directly to Obamacare which they are hell bent on repealing regardless of the millions of people who have benefited from it.  Why don’t they say it was not a perfect law and we are going to try and improve it with passing certain laws instead of just scrapping it all together?  It makes me wonder how much they really don’t care about the people that they represent but their own egos.  Trump also told every single diplomat across the world to leave on inauguration day leaving nobody in any of those countries.  History has shown it can take up to 2 years to fill everyone of those jobs.  Why so much hate against the Obama administration?

One thing that is worth noting (and I read about this behavior as well in Hillbilly Elegy) is the blame game. Democrats have run with the words that we can do things together.  You rarely hear blame being cast from the Democrats.  Perhaps it isn’t part of the parties history.  Trump’s entire campaign and his continual campaign that he seems to be running as the next leader is about blame.  It is easy to point blame particularly for the majority of people who have felt that they are not better off over the last 8 years.  Blame doesn’t let us be realistic about where we are as a nation.  Blame was Hitler’s mantra.  It works.

Blame never wins.  It doesn’t allow us to look into ourselves to think about how we got here.  This next administration appears to want to play the blame game to push us back into a world we no longer live in, aka Roe V Wade, gay marriage, legalization of cannabis, equality for all.  I fear white conservative people because if you look back in history they always end up on the wrong side as we always end up moving forward.  If the last few weeks gives us an idea of what a Trump presidency is going to look like we are in for a very scary roller-coaster ride.

The Rex

I took a drive out to the Rex with my friend who is involved with the brainchild behind this, her brother.  I was excited to see what they were doing.  I am a big believer in the fast casual restaurant from the local level to the chain.  There are more up and coming new players in this space and although real estate and marketshare is owned by the old school players such as McDonalds and Taco Bell, I do believe that they will either buy up these new places or just lose marketshare.  People are looking for a change particularly the higher end customer.  After all, who doesn’t love a good burger, fries and a shake?

The Rex is located in Mineola which is smack-dab in the middle of a residential and commercial area.  Everyone drives so 5-10 minutes from each of those areas is a smart location.  It is also located in a strip mall that happens to have other restaurants that drive traffic so another smart move.

The attention to detail is obvious.  Comfortable booths.  Clean crisp look.  Ordering counter that then delivers to your table.  Three TV’s above the bar that show different things depending on the time of the day.  Beer, wine and cocktails.  Simple easy menu.  I tried everything.

The lobster roll is simple, chunky and fresh.  Just a light bit of mayonnaise to hold the lobster together served inside a soft potato bun that is just a tad crispy on the outside.

The fried chicken sandwich comes regular or spicy.  I opted for the spicy.  Large white boneless chicken breast that is deep fried, super crispy and served with lettuce, pickles and their own house made sauce.

The burger is similar to the In and Out burger but much cleaner.  Two patty Niman-Ranch beef served medium-rare on a toasted potato bun with lettuce, tomatoes and the house made sauce.  An excellent burger.  I tried everything but this I kept going back to.

The french fries are crispy and you can’t stop eating them.  They have a handful of dipping sauces which are all interesting but at the end of the day I am all about good old Heinz ketchup which they have.

The shakes are killer.  Insanely thick topped with fresh whipped cream using Haagan-Daaz ice cream.  This is not a lo-cal addition but oh so good.

I admit I didn’t even try the salads because it is all about these 3 sandwiches.  They will continue to grow the business here and then if you are lucky they will take it on the road but don’t look for this if you live in the city.  This is a new kind of local restaurant to serve the under-served suburban areas outside of major Metropolitan cities that are reading about the new places that are opening but have yet to show up at their local strip mall.  Smart business…and delish.

Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Unchartered World of Cannabis

Brave New Weed, written by Joe Dolce, is a thorough well researched book into the history of cannabis from the past to the present.  Dolce writes about the shifts taking place in the US and across the globe….and he is a journalist.

What is the most fascinating is how research around this feisty plant has been pushed back time and time again because of leaders in large industries such as alcohol and pharma.  How did alcohol become the legal drug of choice?

Reality is that this next generation of cannabis is not about stoners but about many benefits from taking the edge off to helping cancer victims to PTSD.  The positive research is just the tipping point as the legalization of marijuana across the country is coming.  There is no doubt that in 10 years all the anti-cannabis rhetoric will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

This plant does more good than any of us realize and the data is there.  Data is the most powerful truth I know of.  I honestly have no interest in listening to people who do not believe in the benefits of cannabis unless they have used the product or quite frankly read the book.

If you are interested in where the cannabis industry is going… read this book.  There is much more there than meets the joint.

 

 

 

Lalo

Emily had breakfast at Lalo at the end of 2016.  She stated that the babka she had was one of the best things she ate in 2016.  That is a bold statement coming from Emily.  Note to self..get a reservation there quickly.

We got there a few days later for dinner not breakfast.  The place is located deep in Chinatown at Baynard.  From the outside it just looks like one of the many run-down spots on Chinatown but open the door and peek in and everything changes.  Modern, clean, bright and airy.   The menu is not big and sharing is definitely the way to go.  Here is the thing…Lalo is an assault on your senses.

At the start I was enjoying the heavy handed flavors that are creative and fresh but by the end I couldn’t tell one thing from the other.  We began with the Vegan Chicharrones.  I love these.  Super crispy salt and vinegar crisps that are thick yet light and almost look like a huge pork rind but totally vegan.  The dip underneath is a spicy flavorful hot sauce.  A winner.

Tomatillo toast.  Twice baked bread (think crostini) with thinly sliced brined tomatillos on top.  Gets kind of mushy if you don’t dig in quickly.

Chili strawberries and rose peanuts.  Dried strawberries and peanuts that are rolled in sumac, aleppo, smoked salt, rose water and pink peppercorns.  Good bar food.

Black bean dip with chips.  The chips are amazing.  The beans are actually white beans mixed in squid ink and black garlic that is interesting but a tad salty.

Shisito peppers that were definitely undercooked and slathered with a pomegranate reduction and pomegranate seeds and bits of walnuts.  Not a winner.

Brown goddess cucumber salad.  A mole vinaigrette with mint and candied pepitas.  I liked this.  You need something to light to clean the heavy.

Green mole with roasted vegetables with a feta and hibiscus chutney.  I really liked this and kept coming back for more.  A great mixture of veggies and the sauce was just right.

Roasted eggplant with tahini and then topped with dried tuna sliced like carpaccio.  Too many things happening here.

Carnitas with house flour tortillas.  The carnitas were doused with white sauce and corn nuts. It was too much, too heavy and perhaps if you came and only ordered that you wouldn’t feel like your head was spinning.

Baby steak.  A tiny 3.5 oz aged strip steak with a chili-hazelnut oil on top.  Heavy handed and could have been perfect.

The pollo asado was simple and served with a green pineapple hot sauce.  Chicken was perfectly cooked and just the right seasoning.  I took this photo after everyone had dug in.

Squid stuffed with chorizo and hibiscus.  Too heavy and too much.

Boquerones tostadas.  I love boquerones.  This is definitely creative with whipped butter and a carrot top salsa.

Could we try more?  Dessert was essential.  Young female pastry chef that is getting a lot of praise and well deserved.  She took the babka and created bread pudding with a whipped creme fraiche over the top.

Plantain cream pie.  The crust of corn nut cookies was incredible.  Light crispy and crumbly at the same time.  The pie was dulce de leche, goat milk and a tumeric fluff.  Quite good.

There is an explosion of different cuisines in the city right now from Mexican to Chinese to Peruvian to Japanese.  It is really great to see.  Lalo reminds me a bit of Mission Chinese but for Mexican food.  A bit overwhelming.  They just opened so time will tell but next time I’d mix it up with some simple dishes – if you can find them – otherwise it is really an overwhelming assault on your senses.  BTW…the service is fantastic.

Road trip to Mitsuwa

I have been to Mitsuwa’s in California but the gem is really in Edgewater, NJ which makes for a great road trip.  It is much bigger than the places I have been to in LA.  Not sure who the people are behind Mitsuwa but it is genius.

They have 9 grocery stores around the country (you can shop on line too) that carries Japanese products.  They have events, they care about local farm produce and there are classes to take. No surprises that the customer base is mostly Asian and the store is probably geared towards how people eat and shop in Japan.  The stores have created community with having the food court in the same building as the grocery store and the grocery store carries products you can’t get anywhere else.  Retailers should look to Mitsuwa and see what they are doing right.  It is a fun way to shop and do lunch.  We headed out in the snow which ended up being key because the place was not as packed as it supposedly can get.

The food emporium takes over about half the store.  Keep in mind all restaurants are cash only.  There are a few different places to choose from and we went in for a few.  First thing is staking out a table.

Then we began at the Omusubi Gonbei where we tried a handful of things.  The miso soup with a few of the rice balls.  We got salmon, grilled eel and randomly one with spam on top.

The chicken is classic Japanese style with crispy tasty skin over the boneless soy marinated meat.  Really good.  A must get.

Ramen at Santouka is certainly the call on a cold snowy day.  I got the large bowl super melty pork with miso to split with the crew.  They staff is insanely efficient and really nice.  You get the bowl of soup filled with broth and noodles with a plate of the pork, mushrooms and to put in yourself.  The pork melts in your mouth, the broth is rich flavorful and feels like it is made for your soul.

I always get a kick out of the plastic models giving the customer a visual look of what they are ordering. Here the photos are above and believe are the plastic models.

This is purely a closet of plastic meals for the soba noodle restaurant next to Santouka.

We also got something from Tokyo Hanten where we got a mixture of sushi over warm rice.  Top quality.

Then the shopping begins.  Josh seriously stocked up for college.  Green tea galore.

Magnums of sake.

Jams.  This is lemon.

Steak perfectly sliced for shabu-shabu at home.

Fish for sushi.

Noodles.

A variety of misos.

Chips and sweets.  There are also pickles, beauty products and rice cookers.

Dessert was needed after all our hard work making purchases.  Matcha Love has soft serve ice cream.  We went with the triple and chose black sesame, green tea and roasted green tea.  Creamy and so good.

Got our cart and packed the car.

One last stop.  We decided since we were out in the area that we should stop in Kuppi coffee.  What a great coffee shop.  Modern, large, and they take their tea and coffee very seriously.  Impressive place.

We will return.

Sticky Baked Korean Chicken Wings

My friend Stephen made these and sent me the recipe.  They are super easy and really good.  I made a huge batch so I doubled the sauce.   The one below is for about 30 wings.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Take the wings and cut them in half.  Toss them in salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then line them up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes.

In the meantime make the sauce.

Put 1 cup ketchup, 1 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp. honey and 2 tbsp. gochujang sauce (this is the key) in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil while whisking.  Then turn it down to medium and let this sauce boil down for 15 minutes will it get thick (whisking on occasion).

When the wings are done pour the sauce over the wings.  Make sure they are fully covered.  Then turn the oven up to 450.  Back another 15 minutes until crisp.

Serve in a large bowl with a mixture of chopped cilantro, chopped scallions and sesame seeds over the top.

Voila.

Sticky Baked 
Chicken Wings

Chef Matt Jennings of Townsman in Boston means business when it comes to his food and his beloved Patriots football team. For the ultimate game-day snack, he tosses chicken wings that he bakes in the oven (instead of deep-frying) in a spicy glaze he makes with gochujang, the Korean red pepper paste.

  • ACTIVE:
  • TOTAL TIME:
  • SERVINGS: 8 TO 10

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

Brick and Mortar woes

I might have been a bit too early to this party but I have been expecting the demise of the large brick and mortar retailers for years and have written it about it countless times.

Macy’s closed another 100 stores this week.  The Limited closed all 240 stores and will only keep an online presence.  There will certainly be more as history has shown when one giant falls the rest seem to follow suit.

All fingers are pointing to the growth of ecommerce from the titans such as Amazon but I don’t necessarily agree.  There is no doubt that more people are making their purchases online but if you look at the data we have barely scratched the surface.  What we are seeing might be a combination of things.

We are seeing new companies come on to the scene and take over some of that brick and mortar which means grabbing some marketshare.  They have seen the next generation and have created environments and brands for them to buy.  More than anything the old guard has done nothing to innovate.  They have continued to operate like 1980 where in order to hang your brand in their store it will cost the company to do that.  When Ralph Lauren has garments hanging in Macys and they do not sell, it is up to Ralph Lauren to make up for that loss.  Brands got hip to that and created their own destinations on line or in their own brick and mortar but mostly on line to sell their products.  The majority of the websites for large department stores are terrible.  They have not created environments that make consumers want to come in and enjoy the show.  There are plenty of stores across the globe who have been innovative in brick and mortar facilities that make the consumer want to continue to come in and make a purchase.

If you look at enterprise companies such as Verizon or Facebook we will see more M&A’s over the next decade as those companies realize that they need to bring in agile companies who can help their organizations become forward thinking, keep their marketshare and innovate.  The department stores have not figured that out.  Nordstrum’s is the one store attempting to do that by making investments and purchases such as Trunk Club but once they are under their umbrella it appears as if they do not know what do to with them in order to create excitement, customer loyalty and how to use their platform to rethink old school ways.

There are plenty of companies who have continued to rethink themselves as all brands have to in order to survive year after year but the department stores look like they just killed themselves.

 

Present and Attention

One definition of attention is notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.  I have been thinking about being present for the past few days.  Then I had breakfast with someone who talked about attention.  It can be a combination of both.

Being present is something that I have been very aware of for years.  One of my biggest concerns when I had children is that I wanted to be present in their lives.  I knew that I could easily find myself falling into a vortex of a 24/7 work head and it was important to me to put the kids first and foremost once they came on to the scene.  Now with our phones attached to our hands it is really hard for many to be present particularly the younger generation.  I see it in meetings, I see it at restaurants, I see it everywhere.  It is amazing how easily we can get distracted with the moment when the moment where you are interacting with people is much more important than the screen you are looking at.

Attention is another thing.  It is not only about paying attention it is also getting the attention of the right people.  As founders navigate the world of funding or even finding the right people to bring on to the team it is about being able to articulate their vision clearly to get the attention of the right people.

Both of these are concepts and words to think about in 2017.  These words can also be connected to the importance of taking care of yourself from taking time off to think clearly, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, making time for friends and family.  I am definitely thinking a lot about present and attention as the new year has begun.