Carissa’s Bakery is absolutely one of the best additions to the east end of Long Island in years. Carissa’s puts out some of the most incredible breads and pastries. The salty soured pickled rye is genius. Crunchy outside, soft inside with this intensity of salt and sour that gets better as the days go by.

She just opened her second location and thankfully it is close to our home out here. There is a serene soothing vibe to the bakery. Feels a bit like Copenhagen.

There will be breakfast, lunch and dinner soon enough. Will hopefully become a fixture for those who live here year round or visit every chance they can.

Outside sitting feels a bit like the streets of a European city.

A must stop for anyone making their way out east this summer….and fall, spring and winter!

Urban migration

In the decades ahead more people will be living in urban areas than anywhere else. This is a global phenomena. There has been a shift to city life for multiple reasons besides the obvious which is access to medical, food, arts, education and work but also the amplified desire for real human connections. Even if you live alone in a city and spend all the time on your phone you still have interactions with people everyday.

Major cities such as NYC and SF have become so incredibly expensive that we have begun to see urban migration to other urban cities such as Austin, Charleston, Nashville, Atlanta and Denver to name a few. These secondary cities are seeing major growth in developments, businesses and housing.

What happens when secondary cities become too expensive to live in? Will developers or city Government learn anything from the primary cities who have found themselves short of affordable housing? Where do the police, teachers, retail workers, Government employees live when it becomes too expensive to live where they work?

The urban shifts are happening but what we are truly missing to create larger urban areas where affordable housing is available is mass transportation changes. Each car purchased should have a transportation tax. That capital would be put directly into the rebuilding of above ground rail, high speed trains and cleaning up the subways for every city. Each developer should have to pay the same tax on every apartment sold or even a small amount of each months rent. Each bank that loans the developers money should have to pay into that tax too. Added up that could be a huge number. We need to start thinking differently about how to rebuild our cities both primary and secondary and how to fund it

The biggest problem is mismanaged funds. Maybe fixed costs contracts with a thorough bidding process to build transportation? How does the graft, overages and incompetence cease in the building of our Government infrastructures? That’s a whole problem.

I went to Detroit awhile ago and was fascinated with the redevelopment of that city. They appear to be thinking about how to keep a balance of housing and multiple neighborhoods inside the cities where everyone can live. I plan on returning to Detroit this fall and am so curious to see if they were able to keep that promise.

You should be able to afford to live in an urban area, step in clean efficient public transportation that is 30 minutes from your home or even an hour with ease.

We’re Doing It Our Way, Kellee James, Podcast #109

Kellee James is the Founder and CEO of Mercaris — a market data service, and trading platform for organic, non-GMO and other certified agricultural commodities. What that translates to is a whole lot of innovation and ingenuity to create bigger business out of small and sustainable farming and agriculture.

You can listen to this on Itunes here.

Remember we are in summer mode. Podcasts every other Monday.

Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter

It is that time of the year when cooking and baking is a constant. The thrill of creating the menu for each weekend is a fun family activity. Some constants but always new things.

Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter (from the NYTimes) made its way on to the menu this past weekend. A side for the grilled pork butt steaks that were rubbed with a fennel pollen, sumac, kosher salt and cinnamon and a salad of greens, peas and snap peas with a miso dressing.

We used two white and two orange sweet potatoes. Steam them in a large basket or colander for 35 minutes (or until soft) in a deep pot with a few inches of water in the bottom with a covered top.

In a small bowl mix together 6 tbsp. unsalted butter (room temperature), 1/4 cup tahini, 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil. Keep mixing until you get a paste.

Toast 2 tbsps. of sesame seeds in a small saute pan on the stove.

Cut the potatoes in half, slather the tahini butter on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with wedges of lime. Delish.

Tahini Cookies

I played around with this recipe and plan on doing them again. The key to the hardest edges and softer center is cake cookies at a higher heat. I went with 400 degrees. Could even go up another few degrees.

Here is the recipe:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground ginger

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). In an electric mixer whip the butter, sugar, honey, ground ginger and freshly ground ginger until light and fluffy. I am going to add more ginger next time. It was a bit too subtle for my taste. Beat in the tahini and the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches.

In a small bowl put the toasted sesame seeds. Use a ice cream scooper for consistency and scoop out the balls of dough and dip the top of them in the sesames. Put on a parchment covered cookie sheet and then press them down. I also tossed some sea salt over the top. Next time I am going to add sea salt to the sesame seeds to make sure there is this kick of salt in the cookie.

Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are browned. Really good but I think better on the next time around. I am attempting to master cookies this summer.

Grocery Stores

In the past decade NYC began to look a bit like a large scale shopping mall. It is probably a combination of things starting with the desire for world domination from large brands such as Whole Foods, Home Depot and other large brick and mortar operations that we generally see as anchor tenants in strip malls. They had plenty of cash and if they didn’t do so well in NYC it didn’t matter because it was about building the brand.

What happened along the way is that the cost to keep these huge facilities full of people and merchandise is expensive. Second, that big grocery store mentality is not exactly how people shop in NYC. They shop for what they need and many buy prepared food not the makings for a meal.

Whole Foods recently rolled out (essentially) a bodega where you can grab and go with your basic needs. There are staples but there is plenty of pre-made food. It makes sense. Also makes you wonder about where is grocery going as Amazon owns Whole Foods and the largest e-commerce shipping model.

There have been plenty of data companies build on the back end of grocery over the past decade so companies can actually understand who their customer is in each store, what is flying off the shelves and what is sitting, what should be carried in depth and what should never be carried again and even ways to talk to your customer when they aren’t in the store.

Will grocery look completely different based on the neighborhood, the state, the city and location down to the item and right size in the future? Only time will tell.

What a week of cooking!

Tis the season to cook, bake and entertain! Here are a few highlights from the week.

This is an ode to my friend Carol. She makes a green bean and warm potato salad with pesto. I just added a few things. The peas and lima beans this time of the year are so good. This could not be easier. We shelled peas and lima beans, blanched them, and cooled. The lima beans then need to be taken out of their casings, so a 2-step process with them. We also blanched cut green beans. Roasted a bunch of tiny Yukon gold potatoes with olive oil and salt until browned, then let cool. Took basil, chopped it up and mashed in a mortar pestle vessel and then added olive oil and chunks of Parmesan to create a pesto dressing. Mixed all this together with a bunch of sea salt and served. So good!

Hart’s Lamb Burgers. We got carried away with the meal and did not take the necessary pics but this is such a delicious winner. We quadrupled this recipe although not necessary to do that with the aioli, a double would be fine or just make the recipes sauce. This divine burger are served alongside with a watermelon, feta, tomato salad and a lemony farro orzo salad. What a good meal!

Lunch one day was very French with a huge Nicoise salad and a cheese platter on the side. You can put whatever you want into a Nicoise salad. I had to put some peas in there but also anchovies (love them), fresh grilled tuna, sliced tomatoes, greens underneath, asparagus, green beans, black pitted olives and some quartered almost hard boiled eggs. A lemony mustard vinaigrette poured over the top and you are good to go.

Between the food, the cocktails and the sweets it was quite the July 4th week!

What will the Cannabis Industry look like in 10 years?

Spoiler alert…the cat is out the bag when it comes to cannabis. Some states have legalized it for recreational use, others for medical use, and the CBD craze is everywhere. 62% of Americans favor legalizing cannabis. On the other hand Cannabis is still listed as a Class 1 drug right next to Heroin. All of these factors weigh in on what this weed will look like in a decade.

There are a variety of large cannabis companies that are being traded on the Canadian stock exchange. Most of them backed into the stock exchange taking over shells and turning them into productive stocks. Many of these companies have built their own brands, their own brick and mortar operations, own several companies under one umbrella, are buying up smaller brands and are providing medical cannabis products.

So, what is the future? Eventually each state will either allow cannabis to be sold either in stores (like liquor stores) that have licenses to distribute recreational products. Each state might vary. They will grow at a rapid rate selling anything from flower to edibles. There are already many of these stores in states such as California and Colorado. Some of these stores are purely vertical brands such as Dosist and MadMen that sell only their own products and others that sell every product being made these days. It is like an overwhelming good liquor/wine store.

If the Federal Government reclassifies Cannabis as a Class 2 drug, then things will get really interesting. There are several Cannabis companies doing research and creating products that are thinking about the next generation of medical products. Drugs anywhere from treating epilepsy in children to anxiety to inflammatory. As a country we have not continued to do the research about the positive affects of CBD or THC like other countries such as Israel. The companies in the states who are working on this are collecting significant data with an eye towards taking market share of the big Pharma companies.

Pharma has created a fury that has made many consumers wary of taking their products. They are wondering if their doctors should really be prescribing those drugs. We can all search on Dr. Google and find out the ramifications of those drugs and are thinking about other options as health and wellness becomes a huge part of our every day conversations. After all, the biggest group of people purchasing cannabis products is not the millennials but the baby boomers.

No doubt that most of the new CBD consumer products companies are overvalued as much as the publicly traded companies in Canada that are trading 10x’s revenue. There will be a check in the market as there always is but for right now, the industry is a bit of a wild card. There are plenty of super smart people in it who are playing the long game. My guess is that those people are making a smart bet and the benefits for all of us are huge.

Most important is every person who has been incarcerated because of weed, should be released from jail, have their record wiped clean and given some type of aid or help to get a job…perhaps at a dispensary.

Where is Media going?

Content is a daily consumption for all of us. We have witnessed the shifting of media in multiple ways and I wonder what’s next.

When Curbed, Eater and Racked came on to the scene, I read it multiple times a day. Eventually I went on to invest in the company. What I saw was the next generation of how we were going to take in content on specific verticals that sparked our interest. There are lists but also interesting articles. They went on to be bought by Vox and have continued to grow.

Then E-commerce sites began to add content to their backend to engage their customer. All of a sudden everyone had to have content if they were going to sell a product.

What comes next? There are communities built around health that are allowing conversations to take place including content that is being put out from the company and their readers. The Mighty could be described as a media company but I believe it is the next generation of healthcare “conversations”.

We will start to see a slew of political content from new and old media channels. How will that engage communities who care about this stuff. How will communities be engaged around anything from raising kids to eating right. Will there be deeper verticals with journalists writing about each topic? Will there be more videos and less writing? Will more people just want to be engaged in areas they care about and perhaps just read one major outlet such as the WSJ, NY Times or Washington Post a day? Will those companies start to build stronger verticals or buy companies that have built them even though they are also selling products?

Seeing Blinkist raise $35m, an app where you can read the best nonfiction books in 15 minutes says something about how the next generations are taking in content. Although I do love a good juicy book and truly can’t imagine reading Freedom or the Goldfinch in fifteen minutes or less.

Happy 4th of July

Relax with friends and family, eat good food, see some fireworks and just enjoy the day.

There is plenty wrong with America these days but the reality is we live in an incredible place that allows us freedom and the ability to dream big. It is absolutely harder for some than others but America is still the land of opportunity. It is the foundation of our Constitution.

I am going to ignore the insane military roll-out happening this evening in DC and believe that this too will pass. At least I hope so.