4 new spots in NYC

We had dinner at 4 spots over the last couple of weeks that are worth noting or not.

Our first place was Amane, a new sushi spot in mid-town.  Lots of hype around this tiny spot that only seats 8  is in the basement of a larger sushi restaurant, Mifune.  The Michelin chef comes from a coveted restaurant in Japan.  I wanted to love it but we didn’t.  There is something amazing about being handed a piece of sushi just made from the chef that you immediately put in your mouth and then that incredible explosion of taste.  If you are with someone, you look at each other and just nod knowing how unbelievable it is.  We did not have that experience and for the huge price, that is just not ok.

I had lunch at Shuka, from the same owners of Hundred Acres.  They took Hundred Acres, changed up the menu and the concept into a Mediterranean restaurant.  I had lunch there a few days after opening.  I am hoping that food gets better over time but I was less than impressed.  The meats good especially the kabobs but the watermelon was the best thing we had.  The watermelon was sprinkled with pieces of halva from Seed + Mill.

Next spot was Uchu.  We sat at the sushi bar although there is another bar room as well.  The restaurant is beautiful.  The attention to detail is everywhere.  Gorgeous wood ceilings and the bar is dark and chic.  There is a small door with  Japanese lettering on it from the street.  You knock to get in.  Once you walk in the door, you are transported to another place.  Really special.  The food, well that is another thing.  Again, wanted to have that OMG on many more pieces and we didn’t.  For the price, not ok.

I would have been happy with the 4 pieces that were amazing and nothing else.  This is one of them.

The last spot was Cote, a Korean steakhouse from the owner of Piora in the West Village.  Big fan of Piora.  Cote is the next generation of Benihana and much higher end.  Extremely clever and the meat is delicious.  Not sure this is my thing as garlic is in all sides and I felt it for the next twenty-four hours.  Cote recently got major kudos from Ryan Sutton at Eater so what do I know except there is no doubt that I should not be doing reviews for them.

 

Day 2 Staycation

I admit I was feeling a bit nomadic being in my own town and staying at a hotel.  It was also insanely hot in the city.  Sundays are a day to relax and regroup but it wasn’t working in my favor.  I camped out at my daughters places before hitting up the book fair at MOMA/PS1.  I had gone to the fair in LA and I found this one much better.

Needing an attitude adjustment, the first stop was to get a drink.  Lemonade with a shot of vodka was the call.  I needed an attitude adjustment.

There were booths throughout the building and outside too.  The heat inside was not exactly ideal but everyone just went with it.  Lots of posters.

And more posters

Books

Posters from past events

Towels

Old books

Statements

Art rocks

More posters.  Lots of political statements

Love this photo.  Looking out of the window up on the 2nd floor and seeing the train move through the landscape.

T-shirts

More T-shirts

Loved this poster

This is good too.

Stop into the Ian Cheng exhibit again.  It is so good.

James Turrell room.   Always a bonus

Some of the crowd

More t-shirts…these are good!

Then we walked from Queens to Brooklyn over the bridge.  Loved seeing a group of kayaks make their way around the water as the set was setting.

We got to Brooklyn.

Went into Greenpoint where we had dinner at Achilles Heel.  They have this amazing chicken dinner going on Sunday nights.  Great bar, great music at this spot.

Delicious charred sweet potatoes with a spicy chili sauce

The chicken is unbelievable.

Rice with fat drippings.  Can’t go wrong.

We made our way back to NYC with the hope that our elevator was working again.

 

mini-Staycation

Our elevator had to be down for the weekend for repairs.  Walking up and down 7 flights of stairs a few times a day with a dog just did not seem like the best way to enjoy the weekend regardless of the amount of exercise we would get.  We opted for a staycation and got a hotel in Brooklyn.

We stayed at the Hotel One located in Brooklyn.  Other options we thought about were the Wythe and the William Vale. Couldn’t score a room so Hotel One it was.  Not sure I’d recommend the place.  It is a caricature of Brooklyn that is so over the top that the place looks old already.  They are so into sustainability that instead of hanging the newspaper on your door in the morning, they knock on the door to deliver it at 7am.  Haven’t they heard of sustainable bags?  Couldn’t they just leave it on the floor?

What is really nice is that the hotel is on the water.  We grabbed a ferry first thing in the morning and made our way down to Redhook for breakfast at Fort Defiance.  I love Red Hook.  There is something so gritty and neighborhoody about the place.

Reminds me a lot of Venice, CA.  The amount of development happening there is interesting to see as well.  I hope that they have thought long and hard about the water that washes up on the shore during hurricanes.

We decided to walk from Red Hook to the Brooklyn Museum.  It is a long walk but a great way to see what is happening and seeing how the neighborhoods change from one place to another.  Love walking over the Gowanus.

The show I wanted to see is the Robert Longo.  Highly recommend.  He is such an incredible artist.  I could sit in these rooms all day and stare at each piece.  Even the people in the museum shop said that it was their favorite show since they have worked there.  Before going in we saw this piece by Malvina Hoffman made in 1928, a portrait of a Carribean woman.

All of Longo’s pieces are charcoal.  Here is the one of Obama.

This one is of Albert Einstein’s desk the day he died.

I saw this one in London a few years ago at the Frieze.  So beautiful.

We walked into Park Slope and had lunch at Purbird.  My favorite lunch…chopped salad and grilled chicken.  After that is was time to rest.

After a little rest, we headed to Photoville.  Photoville is a modular photo show built out in shipping containers.  Each container has a different installation.  Most come from schools or organizations highlighting a theme with the photographers they are connected to.  We saw this particular photo 3 different times.  It is a woman and her child in Saudi Arabia who is divorced (a rare occurrence there) who got legal custody of her children.

Refinery 29 had a container that highlighted women and their bodies across the globe.  This is a woman in Israel who talks about how she finally got to the place where she had a healthy relationship with her body.

We walked on the waterfront through Dumbo.  The growth of new buildings and also how the water is now connected to the shore is nice to see.  There is a beach.  Years ago nobody would ever think of even dipping their toe in this water nonetheless going on jet skis.

Weddings were certainly a theme today and I believe many people trek down there with their party and photographers every weekend.

We went over to Williamsburg and had drinks and oysters at Maison Premiere for dinner.  It is so hot this weekend which is honestly the biggest bummer.  It feels like August.

Got back on the ferry to go back to Dumbo.  Started the morning and ended the day on the best form of transportation in this area.  I hope the city continues to add to the waterfront especially transportation.  No traffic!

 

 

 

Christine Vachon, It’s So Much About Risk, Podcast #35

This week’s episode features acclaimed American film producer and Co-Founder of Killer Films, Christine Vachon. Christine and I discussed her trajectory from New York’s experimental film scene to the Oscars, and the big risks she took along the way. Definitely an inspiring story for any entrepreneur looking to take on a fresh perspective on how to conquer their corner of the market.

The Long Road of Development

I have an ongoing email exchange with a few development officers around the city.  Most of them are young and are trying to develop their Rolodex and bring in funds for the organization that they work with.  I appreciate the job that they have, as I have raised money before too.  It is not easy and development takes time.  In this line of work, patience is a major virtue.

We are philanthropic and have been thoughtful about where we hope to make an impact.  We care about education and NYC.  Doesn’t mean we have not given to things outside those two areas but those have been the two big ones.

I have told Development Officers not to waste their time with us and as disappointed as they might be, I do believe I had done them a solid by being honest.  I know what it is like to sit in those Development meetings believing that someone is the perfect candidate to start courting.  There is nothing worse than courting someone for years, finally making an ask, and the amount they want to give is 90% less than what you thought they would do.

I still believe the importance for non-profit organizations is to figure out how to become sustainable (although some never will be able to) because there will be more private/public partnerships to rebuild the infrastructure of our cities and more.  I’d like to see more Development Officers be creative about longevity and the road to sustainability vs. just raising annual capital to stay in business.

Entrepreneurialism comes in many colors

Being an entrepreneur comes in many different colors.  A book writer, an artist, a playwright, a CPG founder, a software developer, a dog walker,  a fashion designer, a cybersecurity expert and so on.  These days you can create your own path. People have less loyalty to their companies although they might be completely committed, they are most loyal to themselves.

Past generations, even one could say my generation, have been committed to staying at a company sometimes for most of their career but that behavior no longer exists.  This particularly holds true for the Millennial Generation and it is certainly going to hold even more true for Generation Z.  People follow the path that makes sense for them, as in nothing is standard anymore.

I think of this generation as a generation of apprentices.  They go work to learn, to expand their mind and then take what they learned on the road with them to that next place.  Those experiences are bonuses for whatever they do next, be it the book they write, the job they take, the art they create and the people around them particularly the companies they go work for, benefit from their fresh outlook.  They have fresh outlooks because they are always looking to expand their own personal careers.

In many ways, this generation has all become entrepreneurs of their own lives.

All women have a sexual harassment story

I had the extreme pleasure of having dinner this past week with over a dozen women in the start-up sector.  90% of the women are the dinner are the female investors who any founder would want to get in front of with hopes that they fund their companies.  Over the years, I am happy to say that many of these women have become my friends.

I knew everyone at the dinner but not everyone knew each other.  So we began the dinner telling our name, where we reside and a personal sexual harassment story.  I wish I could say that not everyone had one but the reality is every single one of us did and then some.

Some of us reflected on what had happened to them and what they would do differently if it happened the next time. That is the key to change.  We can no longer be afraid of speaking out and calling someone out when it happens.  Just like Emma Sulkowicz carried a mattress around Columbia University to directly amplify her voice towards someone who she had accused of sexual harassment, the women at the top of the investment world need to do the same thing.  The women at the top of every field need to do the same thing.  All of these women should be able to stand up and tell their story so that others can feel empowered to tell theirs too.

If women are no longer silent then men will curb their atrocious behavior because they understand that the chances of someone will be vocal is a given.  It is high time we stop pushing this behavior under the rug and publicly point out sexual harassment the moment it happens.  That is the hardest part.  Most flounder, walk out of the room and miss the moment and of course, they do because it is terrible and uncomfortable.  Here are some suggestions.  Muster up the courage to look at them directly and say “I am going to pretend you did not say that” or “Did you just say that to me?” or “You must be kidding me” and then a follow-up with “don’t you ever talk to me like that again or I am going to sue you for sexual harassment and have you fired” and you could throw a few fuck’s in there and definitely say it loudly so someone else hears what just went down.  It is awful and it shouldn’t happen but it does.  The more we push back and speak up, the chances that change will happen are almost guaranteed.

It’s all about the people

I was listening to an interview on NPR around how Rotten Tomatoes is changing the economics around movie going. Then I read a piece on it too.   It has definitely made an impact on how we choose what films to see.  When we look at seeing a film, be it on Netflix or at the movie theater, the first question we ask is, “what did it get on Rotten Tomatoes”?  If the score is below 80, even 85, we hem and haw.  Ridiculous but true.

The same goes for Foursquare.  I might be a restaurant being available for a reservation but it if gets below an 8 then I hem and haw about going there too.

You can read a review of a wine that Robert Parker thinks is incredible but who is to say he has my taste?  I can find out what my friends think on Delectable, people whose taste I trust.

There is something extremely democratic about this approach. If enough people comment and review something that I want to do and it doesn’t score well, then I can use that as a point of data before delving in.  Certainly, when the score is off the charts I don’t need to do as much research.

As for the movies, well there have been a lot of films that have been green-lit over the years that are terrible that cost a lot of money to make so perhaps this will push the industry to think deeper about what type of entertainment they are making.

Data please

How do we increase diversity and inclusion in all companies?  The answer is data.

The conversation has changed over the past decade and even most so over the past year around diversity and inclusion.  That is the good news.  The fact that CEO’s, founders and investors are talking about making deliberate choices inside companies focusing on diversity and inclusion decisions.  Change takes time but the conversations are hopeful.

I spoke to Marie Klawe, the President of Harvey Mudd, this week.  She is not only leading the charge in cultural transformation, she has proven you can change the ratios.  At Harvey Mudd, she increased the female computer science majors by 10% by changing the number of women on the computer science faculty over threefold.  No doubt having female role models in the computer science program spurred interested from younger women.

We talked about how she wants to change companies from ground-up focusing on the start-up space.  I believe the key is pure data.  What are the questions we should be asking on an annual basis through LP’s and VC’s for their companies to pull together information about the impact of diversity and inclusion?  I want to see KPI’s aggregated annually from thousands of companies answers that I believe will provide data that proves that when there is inclusivity and gender balance in a company we will see healthier cultures and balance sheets.

Here are some questions I would like answered.  Are more women getting funded this year than last year?  Are women getting worse valuation than their male counterparts?  How many men and women are working in your company?  How many women are on your investment team?  What is the correlation between women on the investment team vs no women on the investment team in regards to how many women get funded from that fund?  How many women are on the C-team?  How many minorities work in your company? Has your culture changed with balance?  Has your bottom line changed with balance?

The most important thing about these questions are the answers and seeing the data year after year.  Because if it is obvious that companies with diversity and inclusion are absolutely more profitable, then even the ones that tend to not really care about this but are only concerned with the bottom line, will make changes because if the data is affecting your bottom line, you tend to do something about it.

Donna Zaccaro, You Need to See It In Order To Be It, Podcast #34

Donna Zaccaro is the director of the upcoming documentary film, ‘To A More Perfect Union: U.S. v Windsor” — set to have its world premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival this October.  Donna is also the founder of Dazzling Media.  She joined me in conversation to talk about her films, her empowering influences, and a career full of decisive twists and turns that led her to a life that allows for her impactful, creative endeavors today.