A day in Astoria and more

My Dad came into town for the day and an activity was definitely needed.  My sister and I discussed that perhaps a food walk would be fun.  I zeroed in on Astoria.  Although Astoria is full of new spots it is the old Greek places that really interested me.  And so we took a car out there and made our way around the neighborhood.

olive oilWe started at Titan Foods, a large gourmet Greek foods speciality shop.  The store is super organized and incredibly clean.  You know you are in a Greek store when you walk in and the first thing you see is loads of Greek olive oils lined up.  We grabbed a cart and put a few things in.

fetaThen we headed around the corner and were thrilled to see a feta counter.  I have never seen anything like this in NYC.  A variety of fetas some creamier, some dryer and some sharper.  We tasted a few and finally purchased a pound of the one we deemed the best.

meatsOur next stop was Euro Market that is filled with products from all across Europe.  What we really loved was the meat counter.  The guy behind the counter was a delight and of course spoke fluent Greek.  He let us taste a bunch of different sausages.

olivesAcross from that area was the olive bar filled with bowls for you to taste and get rid of the pit.

beerOne thing that they have at the Euro Market is beers from across the globe.  The meat guy came over and talked to us about the beers.  We picked up a handful of beers to bring home and taste.

meathouseWe went to one more market before settling in on the eating part of the day.  Muncan Food Corporation is a serious butcher definitely specializing in smoked meats.  The aromas of sausages and other smoked meats hit you the minute you walk in the door.  The guy who waited on us was great and wanted us to literally try as much as possible.  The best part was listening to the locals shop and chat.

kingIt was time for something to eat.  We went to the food truck, King of Falafel and Shawarma.   One falafel with the works was  all we needed to split between the three of us.  Absolutely delicious.

porkOur next stop was BZ Grill.  A hole in the wall Greek grill.  If you check out their website there appears that they are interested in franchising their idea.  The food is simple, fresh and really good.  We split a pork gyro with the works.  We also had the fries which were really delicious.  I should have ordered the Greek fries which are doused with feta and oregano.  My bad.  Gives me a reason to return.

sweetsWe discussed eating more savory food but instead we went to the bakery.  Artopolis Bakery is located in a small strip mall.  We picked up a bunch of sweets for later.

houseThe last part of our day was not food related.  I figured we would need something cultural to do because more food was just not necessary.  We went to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona.   The house was purchased in 1943 for $8500 and at the time Armstrong was making $500k a year.  They really drove this home that he could have lived anywhere but settled in Corona.  His fourth wife,  Lucille, bought the home and decorated it.  It was his last wife and they lived there for the rest of their lives.  She left the house, completely intact, including thousands of hours of recordings to his estate.

visit_over2The house is pretty awesome.  Great bones.  The decor is classic stuff from that time.  You aren’t allowed to take photos but I pulled this one off the web of the kitchen.  The whole tour takes about 40 minutes.  It was really great.  Armstrong was born in New Orleans but his wife Lucille was from NY who he met at the Cotton Club where she was a dancer.

I just love doing this kind of thing.  To see all the different neighborhoods around NYC gives you a totally different perspective on the great city that I live in.

The Elly Awards and Billy Jean King

bjkThe New York Women’s Forum is affiliated with a worldwide Women’s Forum that brings together women leaders across every professional spectrum you can think of from finance to the arts.  The New York group was founded in 1974 inviting over 450 women leaders across New York to be part of this organization.  My good friend Liz Neumark is very involved with this organization and invited me to join…and so I did.

One of the initiatives is to advance women’s leadership.  They do that three ways; through core programming that provides professional enrichments for the members, working to expand women presence and participation on corporate, civic and public boards and an educational fund that provides awards to high potential women whose careers have been derailed for multiple reasons.  The Elly Awards, in its fourth year, is an annual event to highlight the women who have been given financial awards and support to finish their education and get their desired careers back on track.

This year the Elly Awards showcased a few of the women who are in their late 40’s and maybe early 50’s who have returned to college, are getting straight A’s and are being offered job opportunities that are changing their lives and their families.  It just proves the importance of an education.  This initiative makes an impact every year on 15 women’s lives.  The women below are the women who have benefitted from the generosity of this organization.

Mayra Aviles Fordham University
Kathleen Daniel City College of New York
Lisandra De Fraga LaGuardia Community College
Mariesa Gillespie Long Island University – Brooklyn
Christine Gilliam College of New Rochelle
Kiyoko Hairston Lehman College
Jannette Hawkins City College of New York
Simonne Isaac John Jay College
Syeda Kabir Lehman College
Cristina Mihailescu LaGuardia Community College
Oraia Reid Columbia University
Rita Rivera City College Center for Worker Education
Carolina Rodriguez Hunter College
Emilie Unterweger Borough of Manhattan Community College
Tenille Warren Fashion Institute of Technology

This year one of the honorees was Billy Jean King.  She is just awesome.  No other words needed.  Her achievements are incredible.  She is a delight to listen to, she is humble and full of energy and when she spoke everyone in the room listened.

Here are a few nuggets from listening to her speak.  I might have to use them for future talks.

Failure is feedback.  Everyone is an influencer.  Sheroes vs heroes.  Power is different than leadership.  With power comes responsibility.  Sports helps women navigate the old boys network.

I think my favorite is failure is feedback.  If you hit the ball 8 inches from where it is supposed to land it isn’t failure it is feedback.  The question you should ask yourself is how do I do it different next time to get it right.

All and all quite an incredible awe-inspiring event.  This is was my second year attending and I certainly am looking forward to the years ahead.

Is it gift giving time yet?

White Gift Box with Red Satin Ribbon BowThere used to be an understood rule that you do not begin to promote Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.  Retail stores would start the ads on black Friday.  They windows would be displayed in full holiday regalia on the Friday morning after turkey day.  That started to slide in the last decade.  Now it is moving almost back to Halloween.  Personally I find it overwhelming.  I liked the old way where it was full on holiday insanity between Thanksgiving and Xmas.  Everyone knew it was the season.  Now the season seems to have bled past that 6/7 week push.

 It makes total sense as the fourth quarter for retailers is where the rubber hits the road.  I like to see businesses that certainly peek in the fourth quarter but are building brands where people want to purchase their products year round.
So in shameless mode for the companies that I am invested in who are the perfect holiday shop with great gifts I am going to promote.  Why not get into the game?
Mouth.  The best Indie Food products under one roof.  Liquor too.  Great for yourself, gifts for friends and corporate gifts
Food52  For the chef in your life.  Incredibly well curated products for your kitchen or your friends.
Parachute Home  Everything for your bedroom.  The cashmere throws are beautiful and at a great price.
The Highline  The most amazing park in NYC has redone their website and their shop is beautiful.  Lots of unique gifts for the holidays.
20X200  Give good art.
Ricks Picks  Always a bonus for the pickle lover in your life.
Start shopping early.  Makes your life a lot easier.

True Gault…shoes for your foot

True Gault - Event Nov 21-23 2014 (2)Calling all women who love heels more than heels love them.  On November 21-23 True Gault is putting on an event on E 60th Street to get measured for you shoe.  True Gault is able to measure your foot on an IPad using 3D technology.   Truly your foot.  The beautiful thing about that is when you do get your shoe (picked by you and made for you) it is like putting on the perfect slipper.  Women go crazy for them because you can walk around in a 2″ or 4″ heel with out a care in the world.  As the company grows and more shoes, boots, sandals become available it is a no brainer to order because they have your foot on file.

Essentially, the future of footwear.  And yes, I am an investor.

A late night

saladThe problem with many of the bands we are liking at the moment is that they come on stage at 11pm.  I like the concept of early to bed, early to rise but once in awhile all rule are meant to be broken.

We started out at Uncle Boon’s for dinner.  The bar seat gods were with us because we walked in at 830 and there were two empty seats sitting at the bar.  We have been back a few times.  The food here is excellent and some dishes are seriously spicy.  This is Yum Kai Hua Pli, spicy rotisserie chicken, banana blossom salad with cashews, crispy shallots and a roasted chili dressing.  Heat is guaranteed to come out of your ears.  I highly recommend the short ribs too.

bandNext stop was the Bowery Ballroom which is still one of my all time favorite places to see music.  We had tickets for something there Friday night too but exhaustion set in and so we went with the early to bed mantra that night.  There are many things you learn going to concerts over the years and certainly going back to the same venue.  That is how to sneak up the back and push yourself thru the crowd to get to the end of the balcony so that you have a clear vision of the stage.  Being 5’2″ it is not only great, it is a necessity.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is who we went to see.  Have been listening to them since their first CD came out.  Although we don’t use CD’s but stream our music not exactly sure what else to call it.  It’s a Corporate World and Horsepower came out in 2010/11 and the Speed of Things came out in 2013.  I recommend them all.

The only issue with the late night is that it does not mean that you still don’t get up at the crack of dawn.

Soho Holiday Collective

SohoCollective_OutlinesTis the season for the holiday pop-up.  My friend is behind this group.  She did a really successful pop-up this summer in Bridgehampton and some of the gang is back.  This time in Soho called the Soho Holiday Collective.  Featuring all high end emerging designers, including fine Jewlery, limited edition fine art photography and some men’s products this time. Particularly looking forward to checking out Caffe Unimatic, a limited edition beautiful percolator from the 1960’s found in her father’s storage room by Elisabeth Cardiello, who packages them in their original boxes (the vintage graphics are great), and a pound of her own brew wrapped in a burlap bag.
She’ll be brewing samples most days!

The shop is open starting 11/20 and runs thru 12/24 for all the late stragglers.


Dana Cowin, Mastering my Mistakes in the Kitchen

cowin-mastering_my_mistakes_in_the_kitchenDana Cowin has been the Editor of Food and Wine magazine for 20 years.  I started to get Food and Wine in my monthly mailbox about 27 years ago.  Needless to say I have always been a fan of the magazine and have watched it evolve thru several iterations

I was in London about 5 years ago eating dinner and I noticed that Dana was sitting a few tables from Fred and me with someone.  I wanted to be sure it was her so I got out my phone and did a quick image check.  Of course I knew it was her, I had seen her smiling face every month for the past 20 years.  I felt like a total stalker but I couldn’t help myself.  On the way out I stopped by the table and introduced myself and told her what a Food and Wine fan I was.  She said that she knew of me and my blog and couldn’t have been nicer.  I left the restaurant on air.  I was so excited.

Fast forward, through a friend, both Kate Krader and Dana ask to have dinner with me.  Are you kidding?  Of course!  5 years later Dana and I have become good friends (Kate too) and we have been out for dinner with Dana and even her charming husband too.  We get together a few times a year just solo.

I knew about this book before there was a book.  Just because you are an editor of a food magazine does not necessarily mean you know how to cook like a pro.  And there you have it, Dana does not but she does now as she got advice from the 65 great chefs around the world who were happy to give her a few tips and spend some time in the kitchen with her.

The book is great.  The recipes are too (I happen to know she tested every single one herself until it was perfect) and the commentary is refreshing.

Great cookbook to pick up and actually read.   Highly recommend.  BTW, she is fun to follow on Twitter too.

Hitting the Wall

hit-the-wallI have had so many different careers.  It is probably why I like start-ups because I am always looking to try something new and do something different.  It is also why I like real estate projects.  There is something that thrills me about the start and the growth.  In real estate, I do like closure.  In start-ups I like to opt out when the growth hits that point where the next level of growth is not as much about problem solving but a bit more like intelligent cruise control.  Not the best description but it is the time when it helps to bring in some experienced institutional investors.

This fall we took off for a blissful month.  We realized that we could take it down a notch and could still take the Wilson business on the road.  I am doing a fair amount of traveling this fall and perhaps that is why I am truly starting to hit the wall.  Maybe it is also the beginnings of seeing what life is starting to look like with our kids out of the nest.  Who knows.
Angel investing is something that many do without any involvement.  I do not think I am capable of that.  Yet in the world of angel investing you have to make a lot of bets each year for the model to work.  Maybe it makes sense to start thinking about only doing so many a year with the hopes that the ones from the year before get a little more mature.  I don’t know.  It isn’t like I am talking to all these businesses daily but I am aware of what is going on in all of them, some more than others, and of course I am always available, focused and am happy to help, talk and do whatever I can do for the entrepreneurs I have invested in. I also sit on several boards from start-up to non-profit.
The real estate is a whole other life.  One I rarely speak about but takes up a lot of space in my head.  Growing a portfolio takes time, management and obviously a lot of thought.
This past week I have been wondering am I hitting the wall?  I admit it is exciting to have built a new career and feel like I am making an impact on businesses and women.  That feels great. I have always been competitive and I always like to win but how much do I need to win?
Maybe I am describing something that many others feel but don’t talk about.  It is probably a feeling that most early stage entrepreneurs feel.  That feeling of there aren’t enough hours in the day, I won’t be able to get it all done, am I crazy to be doing all this, how do I take it down a notch, can I take it down a notch?  it feels great to be able to focus on thinking about businesses which I truly do love (start-up, real estate, and the rest) but I think that once this year ends, I am going to spend some time trying for a little more balance.
Practice what you preach, right?

Paris Photography Show

I promised Jen Bekman a year ago that I would go to the Paris Photography show.  She has been going every year for the past seven years.  Her love of the art, business, competition and winning is impressive.  20X200 is her business that evolved after she opened her gallery with a desire to support artists through editions of their work.

She has given younger artists an opportunity to make more income (one thing that is rarely spoken about in the art world) and she has given more mature well known artists such as William Wegman and the Starn Brothers the opportunity to hang in locations of art lovers who can not afford their original work.  Jen set out to make art affordable for everyone.  It has not been the easiest road but as I said, she doesn’t like to give up.
 The Paris Photography show was fantastic.  Besides that fact that there are over 160 booths of photography from modern to vintage the show takes place at the Grand Palais which makes this show even more spectacular.  Some of the new work being done by artists is incredible.  We spent four and a half hours there.  Not only are there galleries and galleries showing incredible work there are booths of art books.  Editions and re-prints from all over the globe.
rogerHere are some of the highlights.  Roger Balken, Galerie Karsten Greve Paris. Dark but insanely haunting but I could not take my eyes off of his work.
christineChristiane Feser, Feldbush Wiesner.  I bought one of these.  I love how there are so many steps to take these pieces.  They have an architectural feel through the cuttings of each photo to see both sides of the work.  I felt lucky to get one.  They were sold out after the show had only been open for 30 minutes to VIP passes.  Someone decided that they had purchased too much and relinquished one to me.
karenknorrThis photograph I took doesn’t capture these photos.  This is sold as a set.  Each black and white photograph has a hilarious saying underneath that captures the photo.   Karen Knorr
windowsThis was an installation of 8 large photographs all of open windows in beautiful rooms overlooking different alley ways of cities, Marie Bovo.
michaelreischMy friend sent me to see this artist, Michael Reisch at Scheublein Bak.  I bought this one.  So beautiful and sexy.
joakumA Swedish artist, Joakim Eneroth.  All photographs of nature with balls in every single one of his photos even ones in the winter.  Don’t love the way they are finished on this fabric but I do like the photos.
sharoncoreSharon Core, Yancey Richardson.  I have been watching this artist for years finally pulling the trigger here.  I really like this new body of work.  Organic and natural.
riverseiresThese were picked up by a museum.  All taken in Tokyo of buildings built over canals.  Naoya Hatakeyama from the Sage Gallery in Paris.
jewsFrederic Brenner took these photographs of Haisidam families in Israel at home, in airports,  I love this piece.
William Eggelston at Gaggosian.  This print had never been made before.  Only one to be bought, the other to a museum.  Classic.  You can see Eggleston’s shadow in the photo taking the shot.
timeoutJulie Blackmon, Robert Mann Gallery is from Missouri.  She sets up photos of children and takes shots.  Kind of like Crewdson but different.  This is called “Time Out”.
martinparA classic shot by Martin Parr.  Still thinking of this one.
photoI hemmed and hawed on this and then pulled the trigger.  These are by Matt Brandt, the second piece we own of his.  He took photos of old instamatic film and then made it look used and old.  It is super cool.  A one off.
yvesYves Marchand and Roman Meffe who took a series of photographs of old large stadiums and theaters.  This is the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn.  So cool.  I picked this up too.
booksAnd the books.  We were so exhausted by then but I did manage to pick up a few great books. A small edition of the works of David Benjamin Sherry, Daniel Gordon, Sharon Core and others.
It was quite the day.  Made our way over to Bones for dinner, my second time and not my last.  The meal was perfect from start to finish.  Had to go back the next day but thinking I might have to return next year.

Just Works

Just Works launched Just Woman and I was the kick-off person for the fireside chat with Amy Cortese.  I love that Just Works is doing this.  The concept is to create a place where the many amazing women in the start-up world, that means anything type of business, can get together and meet.  Most of the women in the start-up community actually do not know each other and it is so important to meet others in your space.  Just Works, that I am an investor in, helps entrepreneurs grow their business by helping their businesses with payroll, benefits and government compliance. HR services for your company and employees.

The talk is about an hour.  Just a fyi, I was feeling incredibly chatty and probably too honest that night.  That is what happens when you walk into a room of women.