Spicy Mushroom Soup

We all decided that going with the plant-based diet theme would be a good way to kick in 2020. I knew from reading this recipe it was not quite right. I pulled in our resident expert on spices and had him doctor this up. Here is the recipe.

  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  •  Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds mixed mushrooms, such as maitake, oyster, cremini or shiitake, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 to 2 fresh red or green chiles, such as Fresno, thinly sliced (or 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, plus more to taste
  •  1/2 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 8 to 10 ounces noodles, such as soba noodles
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup mint, cilantro, and chives mixed together
  • tofu

Heat up a large deep pot fill the bottom with oil. Add shallots, salt and pepper until soft. Add mushrooms and chiles (all based on your fire meter). Cook the mushrooms for about 15 minutes on low heat.

Add soy, rice wine vinegar, mirin, 4 cups water, and 4 cups vegetable broth, bring to a boil and then down to simmer. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes. Add more soy or vinegar for your own tastes. Again, we played around with this one. He also pan-fried tofu for people to add to their soups. Really good call.

In another pot cook the noodles until done. Add the noodles to the broth and let them steep for a few minutes. Divide into bowls. Put a handful of the fresh herbs on top and the tofu. Serve. You can always serve chili sauce or sesame oil on top for people to create their own flavors.

Equality in 2020?

There is a scene in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women when the publishers’ young daughters find the manuscript Little Women and confront him about the rest of the book because they can hardly wait to read it. Oh, and he better publish it. He has this aha moment and realizes there is an opportunity there that he didn’t even realize.  After all, at the end of the 1800s few men were thinking about women as economic powerhouses. His children’s excitement pushed him to realize that women read and nobody was writing for them. Boom!

As I am watching the Golden Globes I listening to the “on the red carpet” conversations and the groundswell of women making content for women.  They are controlling the purse strings of Hollywood and they are running the show. What a joy!

This is changing in the tech world too.  It takes time but more women are starting to make real returns and build substantial companies.  It takes time.  Remember many were only funded less than a decade ago.

We are definitely at a turning point even if some in America aren’t excited about seeing women’s lives and careers equal to everything men do.  Or even seeing brown and black people rise to the top.  Change always wins and we are watching it before our very eyes. We are at an inflection point.  Politics has not caught up but it will.  

Sooner than later, equality will just be expected, period.

How far have we come?

How far have we come, are we there yet when it comes to equality is a question I am frequently asked. I always answer the same response. The fact that we are talking about it means things have changed. Ends up the data is starting to shift too as women are starting to outnumber men on US payrolls.

We watched Remember the Titans the other night. The film hit the theaters in December 2005 and was based on a true story from 1971 of a football team that brings on a black football coach changing the team and certainly changing the high school. I am quite sure that many of the comments in this movie and how women were shown could not and would not be made today. We all commented on how old it seemed.

I am a crossword fanatic. I do the NYTimes daily, either in pen or on my phone but I do prefer the physical contact of pen to paper. When I am bored, instead of scrolling through Instagram, I do a puzzle from the archives.

It has been a lesson in how far we have come and how we will always be evolving. I started doing puzzles from 2017 then 2015 then I got back to 2003 and then I went all the way back to November 1993. That is as far back as they go. There are so many clues in these puzzles with answers that are just not ok today. For instance, the question of Madison Avenue Exec answers today would be adperson but then the same question’s answer in the early 2000s is adman.

There are others but it has been an exercise in change. The crossword doesn’t change but the questions and answers change with the times. We have come a lot farther than we think.

Hitting up the LA restaurants

Emily and her boyfriend Saarim spent the last week plus with us. It is pretty amazing how we can all be in a house with an office while going through a long punch list for our new place, and all be doing work and none of our work overlaps. That is one of the greatest gifts from technology.

This is a crew that loves going to the good spots. I am going to recap each without giving a page to each spot. It was quite a week. Our first night was at Onda. Nice return. The menu, execution, flavors, tastes are really good.

The next outing was to Nightshade. Top Chef winner, Mei Lin’s spot. I did not even realize he was a top chef before we went. Not sure that is something I’d hang my hat on for career purposes. California seasonal food paired with Asian influences. Shrimp toast was my favorite dish. I lived on crunchy colored shrimp toast when I went to school in London, my junior year of college. This was more like a soft spongy yet crispy shrimp crepe delicately sitting in a rich spicy curry.

Some of the dishes are fun but many heavy-handed like the Szechuan hot quail over milk bread and some pickles on the side. Architecturally the room feels very much like a California fern-bar.

Dear John’s, on the other hand, is just awesome. The story here is that this restaurant will be here and gone when the building they reside in is destroyed and they knew that going in. It is genius on their part. They created a super cool old school LA steak house vibe. Picture filled walls, tight tables and booths and of course a long bar that screams have a martini.

Cesar salad table side is absolutely the call….and of course the shrimp cocktail.

We went off on our own one night and dined at Yours Truly. A flavor mixture from across the globe so each item has a twist. A heavy vegetable menu which is a nice bonus to see. It is in the hood so I will definitely go back. I just wish they had more than wine and beer.

Popcorn tempura cauliflower is additive. Don’t forget the Parkers Rolls.

Trois Mec is a spot I have wanted to go for a while. Petit Trois, the french bistro is next door and takes no resys. Trois Mec is more intimate and resys are a must. It gives the chef who is also the owner an opportunity to do both. These strip mall spots feel extremely modern Parisian once you walk in the door. Felt good the second we walked in the door.

Only four courses. Thinly sliced pieces of avocado wrapped around warm rice sitting in a rich yet light salt cream with just a dash of a lime vinaigrette. Wow. Flavors are insane but the textures just take this dish to another level. Brioche is key for dipping.

Quite a week in the growing restaurant scene of LA. Now that you don’t have to drive, it is a completely different experience. Sure it takes time to get there but it is not as stressful and you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. It changes the game here.

Where did the banks go?

I read Shoe Dog, Phil Knights‘ memoir on how and why he built Nike quite a while ago but always recommend it. Those were the days when the only way to raise capital to grow your business was the local bank.

Remember when banks supported the local business community with bank loans. You would come in, take a seat, shake the banker’s hand, chit-chat, fill in the blanks of the loan and off you would go. Now it appears that the only thing the local bank does it set up accounts, give credit cards, get cash and deposit cash and on occasion has a notary on hand. When did all of that change?

Banks got into better businesses with large loans. Higher risk, higher reward. Mom and Pop just were not great bets anymore. So where do people go who have solid businesses that support their family and the 10 people or more that work in the office? What happens when the owner clearly needs a loan to get to the next level because the opportunity is there?

I get a few decks like that a week. I try to give some advice on where to possibly find some capital such as your own customers, people under your tent. Our economy was built on small family businesses. How and who will continue to support their needs for capital to grow?

Our Government does give small business loans but for that, they take your house as collateral. How can that possibly make any sense for anyone? So, is this an opportunity for more community banks to return?

Unemployment

We spent our vacation in Park City. The biggest issue there is not enough staff. They literally can’t hire enough people. That is a small microcosm of what is happening at a bigger scale.

There are multiple pieces to this puzzle Large company greed and not paying attention to the next generation of shareholders. Immigration policies have made it impossible and fearful to hire people who come back and forth each season for seasonal jobs. We need more people for the jobs available and without people to hire that stops growth. At one point we will start replacing jobs with automation and in turn, growth still slows down because there will be many people without jobs and income which is not good either. The third issue is housing. I will toss in lawsuits at one point but here is what is going on.

Over the last few years, Vail Properties has acquired multiple ski resorts. It is never easy rolling a bunch of independent operations into one. You have to get everyone working on the same backend software to start and cultures are quite different at every location. Vail Properties seems to be a bit tone-deaf so instead of working with each spot to continue a community spirit they have just plowed through without holding up to certain promises made. What happens when companies don’t live up to their promises is costly lawsuits. A waste of time and capital when if they had done the right thing they would not be having to fend off a legal suit. Wouldn’t it be smarter to spend that money towards doing the right thing or hire wages? I would love to see the data when the dust settles but quite sure nobody would ever analyze that.

Second, they are barely paying minimum wage. How can anyone in an upscale area that is far from other locations actually survive on those wages? This is basic economics.

Third, housing. People can not afford to live on low wages and certainly can’t afford housing. There have been several businesses in other areas of the country that have been hurt by this as well. You can not expect people to travel two hours a day back and forth for less than minimum wage particularly when there is plenty of capital to make those changes. Do the right thing.

This short term behavior might make their current shareholders happy in the short term but the next generation of shareholders, Generation Z, and Millenials believe in doing the right thing such as fair pay and less profit for companies and that means less income for the people at the top.

The backlash to the immigration policies put forth by this administration will force companies to rethink their programming workforce overseas but when it comes to people at ski resorts, restaurants, and stores in physical locations we are going to see it get worse.

CEO’s from Vail and any large retail company needs to start thinking differently. Toss in restaurants, how do help them survive when paying minimum wages is important but perhaps rethinking the tax structure so they can make a profit? We need to see leadership that understands expectations from the next generation including an economy that is based on the ability for everyone to work at fair wages, with a roof over their heads and with people who are able to come here and get employment that creates growth for our economy. Zero employment is not a bonus.

This might have taken place at a ski resort, which might seem like high-class problems, but there are jobs there that people could have if Vail was thinking differently. Small microcosms generally are a picture of what is happening at a much larger scale.

The Pope Says…

At the end of the year, there are so many lists and conversations about resolutions, change, and of course, we are moving into a new decade.

This popped into my feed on 12/30.

Pope Francis urged us to talk to each other during meals instead of using our phones, per Reuters.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph “prayed, worked and communicated with each other,” the pope said in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly Angelus address.

“I ask myself if you, in your family, know how to communicate. Or are you like those kids at meal tables where everyone is chatting on their mobile phone … where there is silence like at a Mass but they don’t communicate?”

We watched The Two Popes at the end of the year too. A worthy movie about Pope Benedict XVI and the shifting of the tides with the next Pope, Pope Francis. This is the moment when the Catholic Church began to move from holding on to the conservative past with attempting to move into the future. After all, they have one huge impact on the globe regardless of what one thinks about religion.

I love that Pope Francis is telling families to put down their cell phones when they eat. There is something insane to me when you sit down with people to eat and they are more interested in what is happening in the outside world, or themselves, that they can not be present at a meal. Even if nobody says anything, eventually conversation will take place.

There are just some things that should never change. Sitting down for a meal, focusing on the meal, and the people around you. We can’t disincentives ourselves from being human beings.

Mushrooms and Polenta

We watched The Game Changers documentary that explores the impact on top athletes and doctors when eating a plant-based diet. Definitely intriguing and certainly makes you think more about what you are putting in your mouth.

Attempting to stick with the less meat and more vegetables which are good for the health of the planet more than anything else so I made mushrooms and polenta for dinner. Granted there is some cheese in the polenta but otherwise, it sticks to the plant-based theme.

Polenta is not the same at 9000 vertical where I was cooking although everything needs a bit of shifting with less oxygen. This is such a good dish and I plan on making it again at sea level.

Polenta:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cup polenta, cornmeal or grits
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan (or more for your own personal taste)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Bring 4 1/2 cups water and milk to simmer in a medium-sized pot. Add 1 tsp. kosher salt. Slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking at the same time. Turn the heat down to low and let this sit for about 45 minutes. Every five to ten minutes or so check the pot and give it a good whisk. If it is too thick, add a little more water. When the polenta is done, add butter and cheese. Cover and let sit for about an hour.

Mushrooms:

  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. cream
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

In a small bowl cover the dried porcini mushrooms with 1/2 cup boiling water. Let this steep for about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, chop up and keep the liquid separate.

In a large saute pan melt two tbsp. butter. Saute the shallots. Add the fresh mushrooms, chopped porcinis and thyme to the pan. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of the mushrooom stock set aside from the porcinis to the pan. Let the stock reduce by half. Whisk in the remaining butter, soy sauce, cream and olive oil. This should thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon polenta in a bowl, mushroom sauce on top and enjoy!

Serves 4-6.

Board Members?

I have sat on countless boards. Each has such a different dynamic. Some of them are extremely productive while others are just checking the box.

Running a company is so multi-layered and managing your board is just one piece. You want people on your board where each is just a sum of the whole part. Wise smart people who have had the experience of a component that is essential to growth and success. People who will make running the company easier for their advice, counsel and roll-up-the-sleeves attitude. A solid board can make all the difference in the world.

As I move into 2020, I am hoping to use the knowledge, experience, and catalyst in me to join boards that are past the start-up stage. Taking companies from the kick-off line to the tenth or even twentieth-yard line is something I have learned so much about from countless angles. I have been involved in fiscal responsibility, the investors around the table (if there are any), hiring the next team, the investors the companies want to engage with on next rounds and how they look at companies, who get involved and who doesn’t, how people look at the value of their investments, how those bumps along the way are pretty consistent for everyone….essentially I have been in many movies and I know how they can end.

I am ready for a new challenge. I want to use the knowledge I have gained and put it towards companies that are more mature yet still entrepreneurial. They could be trying to grow from the 40-yard line to the 60 or it could be the 60-80. I want to be involved in things that interest me and sitting around a table with people I can learn from as much as they can learn from me.

I have started to “date”. I have found a few that really interest me and we will see if it happens. I have talked to some that concern me so that is not what I want to step in to. I don’t have the classic education that some are looking for such as an MBA. I tend to be controversial and ask a lot of questions. I did not take the straight path. So if you know of any company that is looking for a female board member because we know they all so need us, then send me a note.

Transparency in Health, Jeanne Pinder, Podcast #123

Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts, which brings transparency to the healthcare marketplace by aggregating costs for users to see clear transparency in pricing. ClearHealthCosts partners with media and other groups to reveal prices for healthcare giving inspiration to healthcare-related journalism. Jeanne and I sat down to discuss the inspiration behind her company, and what she sees for the future of healthcare.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here.

And Spotify here.