Mario and Fred

We met Mario Batali years ago through the kids.  Josh and his son were friends.  I have always been a fan of his.  He loves life like no other, he is incredibly smart and he is a lot of fun to hang with.

When Mario asked Fred to be on his show Fred asked me what I thought.  I told him to go for it.  It will be fun.  Here is the show.  I throughly enjoyed it.  I plan on watching the rest of the series.  Good stuff.

“crack”

brownbutter dessertsWhen I served this dessert the other night someone said this is “crack”.  Could not be more simple to make and based on the ingredients you really can not go wrong.

Whipped cream

Mixture of berries

Sugar

Butter

Vanilla

Put a dollop of whipped cream in everyone’s bowl.  Then put a few heaping spoonfuls of berries over the whipped cream.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan until it browns.  There is a short period before the butter becomes that beautiful caramel color and burns so pay attention.  Once the butter becomes caramelized turn off the heat and add some vanilla.  All these amounts are purely by gut.  Then mix the vanilla in the butter and pour just a small amount over the berries in each of the bowls.  Sprinkle a little white sugar over the top of this mixture and serve.  Must be eaten warm.

Simple and insanely delicious.

 

 

Teaching confidence

imgres-1DNA is a funny thing.  I see things in our kids that sometimes just freak me out.  It can be in their mannerisms or how they react to something or just a look in their face and I think wow that reminds me of me or Fred.  The other thing is that as our children have become young adults I see that their are essentially the same people from the day they came out of the womb.

Someone asked me what have I done to give our daughters confidence.  I have to say a flurry of things went through my head but the one thing that was constant is treating them (even from the time they were really young) with respect.  What I mean by that is that we taught them how to do many things with an understanding that they would and could figure it out.

I will share a few stories that went through my head.  When Jessica was in elementary school, I believe 2nd grade, she had a project where they had to build a castle.  She figured out what she needed, we got the supplies and she built it.  We didn’t built it, she built it.  I remember we went to the school to see all the castles one night and it was so obvious that no kid really built their own castle.  Jessica knew it too.  We praised her because she learned a lot that night but most important she built it, nobody else.  That was a confidence builder.

I’d take the kids to McDonalds (shocking but true) when they were young and we lived in the burbs.  It was the entertainment for the evening or afternoon because of the ball pit.  I let them order their own food.  If they wanted something else, I’d give them the money and tell them to go up and order it themselves and get it.  I trusted to them to do it and believe they could.

I remember when our kids moved to NYC at 8, 6 and 3.  We got on the subway to go to school and there was definitely a look of fear when we got down there.  They stayed very close to me.  I acted as if it was no big deal.  Within less than two weeks, we’d get on, they’d find their seat and acted like they owned the place.

At an early age, probably two, we taught them each out to shake hands and look someone in the eye.  Shake hands like you mean it.  Don’t be afraid to challenge an adult if you don’t agree with what they have to say but be respectful.  Express yourself.

Emily was definitely much more wary of new stuff.  Dropping her off at a new school in a new city after moving back from the burbs was a big change for them.  To me, it was just normal.  It is how I operate.  I move from one thing to another with out giving it much thought.  I remember leaving her in class and she looked at me with big glossy eyes begging me to stay.  I looked at her and said, suck it up, you will be fine and you don’t want me to stay when no other parent is.  I will return.  She made a friend in a few minutes and she was fine.  That was certainly a confidence booster.

When Jessica was 12 she had a piano recital on 57th Street.  I don’t remember why but we had to meet there but we were all coming from different locations.  I told her how to take the subway and she did it for herself the first time.  Fred freaked but I knew that she would figure it out.  She did.

Always encouraging with a very loose boundaries yet there were boundaries. Cleaning up the basement after their friends came over every night and then they eventually figured out that their friends had to clean up with them before they went home.  Eating what was made for dinner, end of story.  Never doubting their abilities to find themselves and succeed.  Doing their homework by themselves unless help was needed but I never asked to see their homework, I just expected they would get it done.  They did.  Respecting that they have their own lives and they have to meet their own challenges.

I guess the best people to ask would be our girls ( and Josh ) what we did, if anything, to instill confidence in themselves.  I know one thing, that both our girls stand up for what themselves, what they believe to be right and they don’t take shit from anyone.  Maybe it is in their DNA, who knows.  Maybe it is in the way we raised them.  More than likely it is a mix of both; nature vs nurture.  I know that we are seriously proud of the people that they have become but then again we have always been proud of all three of them.

Rucola

For many reasons, mostly because I know the people behind Rucola, I have been meaning to get there for a long time.  I have said this before but every time we go to Brooklyn ( and it is often) I am always blown away by the change.  Boerum Hill, where Rucola is located, was a little sketchy 15 years ago.  The rows and rows of brownstones were always beautiful but now the streets are booming with a new found life of people with kids, people walking their dogs, neighbors chatting on the streets, etc.  It was so nice just to stand on the corner where Rucola is located and take in the neighborhood.

breadThe restaurant is a local gem.  If we lived there we would probably come often.  I met one of the investors for dinner there and I just let him order.  First comes the plates of soft tasty bruschetta squares to
dip in olive oil.

pickledfennelsWe split a bunch of appetizers which ended up being our dinner.  So we had no main courses but I am definitely returning so no worries.   There is an assortment of vegetable antipasti to choose from.  We had pickled fennel.  I love fennel and I love pickled vegetables so I thought it was fantastic.

cheese:onionsA slice of Toma Della Rocca, a rich creamy blend of goat and sheeps milk cheese from Northern Italy with an onion chutney on the side.

saladBibb lettuce salad mixed with toasted almonds, smoked feta and a preserved lemon-wildflower honey vinaigrette.

crudoThe other plate was a crudo of thinly sliced Branzino, pickled green tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, chopped basil and a Ligurian olive oil.  Loved this.

cookiesInstead of main courses we did dessert.  Smart move actually or I think we might have rolled out of there.  Chocolate chip Amaretto cookies.  These were moist yet crispy and really unique.  Would love the recipe for these.

choaoltesputtingChocolate pudding topped with whipped cream, olive oil and a dash of sea salt.  Honestly you can’t go wrong.

pitachiopuddingButtermilk panna cotta with roasted rhubarb and toasted pistachio.

All and all a wonderful meal, a great setting and another reason (as there are too many to count) to return to this corner of Brooklyn.

 

 

Greed and real estate

images-3There has been a lot of conversation in the twittersphere about a variety of restaurants closing down in NYC due to the rent going up. It has become too costly for those restaurants to pony up for a new lease with a higher rent.

A variety of things went through my head when I saw Bobby Flay’s tweet;  A note to NY landlords. Good restaurants are closing all over the city because the rents are impossible to pay. Stop turning NYC into a mall and then a few days later with Union Square Cafe??? Who’s next?

I have seen more than a few restaurant investment opportunities over the years and IMHO they all come down to three components.  How much is being raised, how many seats and how much is the rent.  Of course, good management and good food would be important too but those are things that don’t always turn out even if you believe that part wrapped up.  Being a good chef is different than being a good chef that can teach a crew in the kitchen to execute on your recipes day in and day out whether the chef is there or not.

In the 80′s Columbus Avenue was booming.  People actually went there as a destination location for restaurants even if they lived downtown.  What happened was the real estate landlords got greedy.  They saw what was happening and raised the rents to a point where every Mom and Pop store or local restaurant closed.  What came in was an influx of nation wide chains because they can afford to pay the rent even if they are losing money in that location.  It is a branding opportunity as much as it is a brick and mortar location.  It was sad to see because at one point the big national brands pulled out when the economy had a downturn and the store fronts remained empty.  Perhaps if the landlords had figured out how to keep the locals there then the storefront would have remained open.  Who knows.

One restaurantier who will go unnamed wasn’t buying if that the imminent closing of Union Square Cafe and WD-50 had anything to do with rent but that they were just not doing the same type of revenue that they were doing years ago.  They had lost their customer base and it is a good way to close shop by blaming it on the rent.  That is up for debate.

What I don’t know is if the landlords of these buildings have used their buildings as collateral to pull out cash so they actually need to raise their rents or if they just see an opportunity to make more cash.  I believe there has to be a balance.  What makes NYC so unique is that it defines capitalism.  Supply and demand work here.  It is also an incredibly creative place and it would be really sad to see chains take over each block.  I can live in other areas of the country to go shop in a mall.  I really do not want to do it in NYC.

Call me naive or crazy but if I was the landlord I would try and find a happy medium.  It is good for the neighborhood and in turn good for NYC.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

mare_strawberry_and_rhubarb_crumble_vThis was not my crumble because I forgot to take a photo.  Yet I am writing about it because I learned many lessons.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and opted for one that had oats in the topping.  I decided that I should double the whole thing because I went with a bigger pan.  That was ok and it wasn’t ok.

Here is what I did.

1 1/2 cups flour (1 cup would have been fine)

1 1/3 cups white sugar plus another cup (1 cup here too is better)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter chopped into pieces (cold)

1 cup of old fashioned oats (3/4 is better too)

4 pints of strawberries cut in half

8 pieces of rhubarb sliced into small pieces

1 tbsp. vanilla

I used a 15 x 10″ pyrex (either sprayed with an olive oil spray or buttered)

Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix together the flour and butter until it is like you are making a crust for a pie.  I did not do that and tossed in the oats, sugar, flour and butter all at once and mixed it together.  After you mix together the flour and butter then add the sugar and oats and a big pinch of kosher salt.  Set aside.

In a cup of sugar (and 3/4 a cup is ample) add in the strawberries, rhubarb and a tbsp of vanilla.   Mix thoroughly.

Put the fruit in the pyrex and now cover with the crumble.  Here is where I got into trouble.  I decided that I did not need to use the whole crumble.  Wrong.  I should have spread it across the entire thing or at least 3/4 of it.  Then I put it in the oven to take for 45 minutes.  I realized that I should have used more crumble quickly but had already cleaned up.  I just decided whatever, it will be fine.

I took the crumble out when it was ready and decided I’d fix it.  I made more of the crumble mixture off the top of my head and then covered the crumble again with the mixture.  Then I put it back in the oven figuring why not.  It kind of worked but kind of didn’t.  It was delicious but not as crisp as I would have liked.  One thing that happened which was an added bonus is the sides got really caramelized so it was like eating those fruit roll ups as a kid.  Strawberry rhubarb roll up.

Lessons learned.  Most important, when you double a recipe you don’t necessarily have to use it all but you should use most of it.  And when you put sugar, flour, butter, fruit and oats into the oven together it generally just works out.

 

 

Happy Birthday America

imgres-2

My father traveled all over the globe when we were little and would come back saying we are so lucky that we live in America.

Reading the headlines around the globe in the last few months is so utterly upsetting.  The young girls in Nigeria are still missing.  The escalation of anger in Israel and Palestine just gets worse.  Syria is in a civil war.  South Korea has had one tragedy after another.  The Ukraine is in turmoil.  At least when the Malaysan plane went down a few months ago there was international unity to find the plane.

There needs to be a superhero Government.  Conceptually the United Nations was supposed to be that.  An entity that cared about the people, that saved the children, that saved the day, that saved Governments from themselves. Politics seeps into everything and there is no doubt that the United Nations is one political animal.

Don’t get me wrong, our country has plenty of its own issues.  Immigration, a overly conservative Supreme Court that appears to be disconnected from the majority of the people in our country, the education system, etc.  I could go on and on.

There are issues everywhere.  I am lucky to be born in the US.  We are free, I get to vote, I can travel freely, I still believe that although nothing is perfect that being a US citizen is a privilege.

Happy Birthday America…and I am hoping for that super power Government that supports the good will of the people around the globe.

Why do women say they are sorry?

When I saw this piece by Pantene I immediately thought about the Womens Entrepreneur Festival a few years ago.  I started out the morning asking women to stop saying I am sorry.  Sorry for what?  Sorry that I am interrupting you, sorry that I bumped into you, sorry that I don’t agree, etc.,  It is something for whatever reason that women do and they need to stop it.

Year ago, in the mid 90′s I was at a conference that Fred was invited to.  I knew all the people and they said I could participate too.  It was a small event, maybe 60 people.  At one point about 30 people sat around a conference table discussing a topic.  I tried to get my point across but just couldn’t seem to jump in the conversation.  Needless to say it was the tech industry in the mid-90′s and it was mostly all men.  The guy I was sitting next to was someone I really liked and did business with.  He saw how frustrated I was and whispered to me, stop starting with “I think”.  Women do that.  Just state your opinion and you will jump in much easier.  Really?  I tried it his way and the next thing I know, I took over the floor.

I learned a huge lesson.  That goes with never saying I am sorry.  Watch the video.  It is spot on and shows the difference it makes by leading with no apologies.

 

Why I invest in women

imgresI did a recap on my investments before writing this post.  Roughly 60% of the investments I have made over the past 8 years have been in women entrepreneurs who are either solo or the co-founder.  I am pretty sure that I am doing significantly better than most when it comes to supporting women.  I really make a conscious effort to support women entrepreneurs even if I do not invest in them. The lawsuit that hit the air waves yesterday about Tinder really made me take pause.  For any of you who were not on their regular information channels yesterday, Whitney Wolfe the co-founder of Tinder (and it appears from many points of proof in the legal documents – everything is public knowledge – that she was the reason behind the name, the launch and a lot more) was mentally and sexually harassed for years.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see more women reading that and thinking to themselves, wow that sounds like what is happening to me. The most amazing thing about the technology industry, which is essentially the “it” industry these days is that young dynamic smart people can build a business, turn an industry upside down and get the funding they need to do it just by giving up a piece of their ownership for the upside of building something big.  The downside is that many, of course not all or who would I invest in, of the people building these businesses are young, arrogant and have zero experience in managing people.  Sometimes I even wonder how their mother would feel if they witnessed some of their behavior. I admit that I have talked to some of the “bros” that every article wrote about yesterday.  One group in particular that when I got off the phone with them I was flabbergasted.  BTW, they exist in many industries but I am focused on tech because that is where I spend my time.  The frat mentality is we are so superior to everyone around us that you best get on our band wagon now or you will be sorry is essentially the message they put out.  That swagger becomes a cancer within the company which is why there are more than a handful of companies in the tech industry that do not have one woman on the team.  Unfortunately there are many investors out there who actually connect with that attitude. So why do I invest in women?  The list is long but the most important reason is that I believe that the more women that rise to the top as successful entrepreneurs proving their businesses to be worthy investments the more women will be invested in.  Of course the thought is with more women being successful the less we will see young men behave in the manner that appears to have happened at Tinder (older men too).  Let’s all hope that a few years from now that investors are seeking out women to invest in and that this type of behavior is vilified.  That as investors we will dismiss young men who behave in this manner, quickly and appropriately vs ignoring the frat boy mentality and turning a cheek for the next supposed big idea.

Co-founders?

images-1I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on the start-up community on how many co-founders survive the first stage of growth.

Co-founders are usually not equal.  In general there is one person who takes more equity and leads the team yet many investors and incubator programs want to see co-founders.  I get it.  When you are solo there is an echo chamber in your own head and people want to see a team.  You really do not want to lean on someone who is part of the company to discuss how to deal with investors or managing the group.  The team is great for a brain storming strategy around the vision but it stops there.

Why many companies co-founders part ways is simply because as companies evolve the expectations of that co-founder are not met due to their expertise not being needed anymore or what they were supposed to manage  is not essential at this time. Why pay that salary give them that stock if you are going to need to hire someone who fits the needs of the company when cash and stock is tight.

The most important thing is divorcing amicably.  It is not easy but in the long run makes for a better working environment and I do believe never burn your bridges.  I have seen many boards fearful of getting rid of a founder or getting rid of a co-founder because the team will leave or it will kill the company.  What usually happens instead is the team lets out a sigh of relief because they are just as frustrated if not more than the investors or the co-founders.  I firmly believe that if you are honest and transparent that people know that it is not working out.  They might not want to but at their gut they know it.

As our lives become more blended between our personal and business lives the parting of ways becomes even more difficult.  When you spend 24/7 with someone in a start-up you end up as friends.  It is hard not to.

There is something to be said for that quote in the Godfather, “It’s not personal sonny, it’s just business.”