Getting Our Connect on: ProjectConnect

Did you win our contest for the Project Connect event on Tuesday at the Coloft in Santa Monica? Because if you didn’t, you really missed out on a great evening. It was a ton of networking and meeting new people. This was an unusual event because it highlighted a few things that you don’t normally see at a networking event. Rather than focusing on who you had to meet the focus was on who you can introduce other people to. The event was organized by Stephanie, owner of Social Bling, and the main themes of the night were: listening, complimenting, and gratitude.

It was hosted at the coloft building in Santa Monica. The coloft is a space that allows entrepreneurs to come together and rent out workspace for the month – kind of like a much better Starbucks. I am rereading The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and the energy from that book is surely true at the Coloft, which enables a free flowing work environment and collaboration between entrepreneurs. The main thesis of the book being that any given crowd is collectively smarter than any individual expert.

We all mingled for a little bit in the beginning and drank some Mary Jane relaxing soda, which contains kava – a plant which has marijuana-like effects on the mind and body. We should’ve known better because the label clearly says “Do not consume more than two a day.” We failed to read the label and were giggling all night. Although Carina and I are often referred to as “Giggle Corner” even without this magical soda.

The evening was full of laughs and getting to know other entrepreneurs that do the same thing we UGs do. Being an entrepreneur is probably the scariest but most exhilarating thing one could ever do. It’s truly an incredible roller-coaster. It’s nice to be surrounded with people that have the same sentiment about our passion. Particularly because so many people really don’t understand entrepreneurship. My mother, for example, really doesn’t get it. The same was true of the mother of the Coloft’s owner, Cameron. Cameron said that when he told his Persian mother that he was going to be an entrepreneur, she said, “Oh, what kind of doctor is that?” We chuckled because we know how hard it is to have a good support system as an entrepreneur. We were all looking at each other that night with the same hope and willingness to help each other in some way or another. We’re a good, but quirky, race of people. Among some new friends in attendance were: Lizzy Shaw, Blair Goldberg, Alaia Williams, and Jenda.

Some of the other sponsors were: Social Couture (who’s the woman who brings you parties in a box), the Writer’s Boot Camp, and Bodega Wine Bar. There was a challenge at one point in the night to see what we could make happen using social media. Thankfully, a woman from Kind Plus bars was there and ran out to share some bars with us. It’s a gluten-free bar and a company that takes social responsibility very seriously. In fact, Kind was named one of BusinessWeek’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurial Companies. Their new campaign is their ‘Not so random acts’ of kindness cards. Via the web you can track these acts with a uniquely branded card. Visit here for more details.

We are ladies with food always on the mind, we can’t blame the Mary Jane soda for our munchies, but we felt the need to bring a snack for everyone in attendance. Where did we turn? Our favorite truck  The Border Grill truck came to the rescue.

Since this was a social networking event, we pulled our social network together (i.e., Twitter) and asked for some help to feed these tired kava-drunken souls. Border Grill came through for us like a good friend and, since they were across the street, brought everyone little dulce de leche churro bites and whipped cream. They were life-giving to our pseudo stoned brains. Special thanks to the Border Grill truck, Nick, and Christina, the kindest Border Grill employees in the whole wide world. Who says you can’t transcend the boundaries of Twitter and real life? It’s been our experience that Twitter friends are often more reliable than real life friends. What made this instance special was that this time it was a company pulling through and not an individual person. Border Grill, like so few other businesses, do social networking right and realize that human connection is just as important!

The night ended with song and all was well-documented by an E! camera crew. The video should be out soon and will include an interview by all the sponsors and, of course, yours truly, the UGs. It will be hypertexted and will be streaming soon to a UG channel near you. Many thanks again to everyone who came and the two lucky ladies who won our contest, Veronica in LADoubleDEntendre, and Amanda – You ladies have become very near and dear to our hearts. Thank you for your support on this here blog and your unfailing friendship to the UGs, who may very well be crazy and passionate enough to turn the world upside down with their antics and love for all things food, fun, and friends. Remember folks: listen, compliment help each other out, and be grateful in real life and on the interwebs…If you don’t we WILL come after you!

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Oh My Fudge God: John Kelly Chocolates

Truffle Fudge?!?! That is the best word combination since Uncouth Gourmands. It is the mixing of high brow and low brow and the combination is something magical. I am a strong believer that contradictions are the best complements. Take sweet and salty for example, these two things are very different but married together they are a match made in heaven. A few weeks ago we were approached by Lizzy Shaw of Lizzy Shaw PR saying that there was a chocolate place that we had to try. I had just written about my favorite cookie, the caramel sea salt french macaroon from Europane, and she said she knew of  a salted dark chocolate that had to be on the UG radar. Her enthusiasm in this chocolate was infectious and we set up a time to try these complex chocolates. The day was set for Earth Day and we knew how to get to the chocolate factory and store because she said it was near Cheebo.

I have eaten Cheebo numerous times but had sadly never been in the establishment. The orange sign and exterior was never missed as it was my favorite color and I got delivery many nights when I worked down the street. I wasn’t sure why we were having coffee first, but I wasn’t complaining. Lizzy explained that this was a great date place because the lighting inside was perfect. Josie and I took careful notes and leisurely walked to the very next building, John Kelly Chocolates. As soon as we arrived, I knew exactly why we didn’t start here.

Of course, upon entering we ran straight towards the display case and went to the samples of chocolate above. All of our senses were turned off and we simply put the fudge in our mouth and enjoyed. I started on the right side of the tray and went to the treat that I was most looking forward to, the Dark Chocolate with Grey Sea Salt. This was not the best place to start as this was the apex. It was perfect. How could it get better from that bite? This was chocolate in it’s richest and creamiest form and topped with salt that enhanced the sweetness. I still tried many other chocolates but I knew at first bite that this was my true love. Unlike my love life, this love did not waver with the more that I tasted.

After sampling a lot of chocolate, Josie and I were both not looking up or talking and were only concentrating on the chocolate in our mouths. We were in another world and when we finally snapped out of it I got out of my tunnel vision and looked beyond the sample tray. I then spotted a  toothpick tray and said, “Oh, is this how couth people eat samples?” We laughed and then we were back to reality and ready for a tour and to start listening.

We walked to the right into the mini Willy Wonka-esque chocolate factory with the owners John & Kelly. That’s right, it is two people that have combined their names. They made us laugh by explaining that they can always tell telemarketers when the ask for John Kelly on the phone. The fudge pictured above with the grey salt was my favorite and watching it being made was so cool. We saw the fudge before it was chocolate dipped, watched it get dipped and hand monogrammed with a letter P to represent that peanuts were inside. It was a whip of the chocolatier’s finger that made the “P”, Josie and I made our oohs and ahhs and we were absolutely two girls in a chocolate factory.

It was a hands on process that we were so excited to witness. The dipping stations were our favorite and as we moved on to the wrapping and packaging it was just as interesting. The dipped and cooled truffle fudge was transported and wrapped in gold foil. These wrapped pieces could then either be put in small displays for retail shops (including Neimans) or sold in their own shop only a room away.

As we circled back around to the front of the store I noticed the statues that to me were more important than Oscars. It was the coveted Gold Sofi from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT), in the highly competitive category of “Outstanding Chocolate” for my favorite truffle fudge. Once again, unlike dating, I was able to pick a winner.

This trip to the chocolate factory was so much fun and oh so delicious. As I am sure you know, normally truffles are a gourmand dish with ganache centers. These truffle bars have the uncouth fudge center. This isn’t the waxy fudge you’ve eaten at the fair, this is homey and creamy goodness.

John and Kelly say, “Our mission is for everyone to have the same experience we had when we first tasted it – a creamy and silky revelation, with intense and luxurious chocolate flavor. If you love chocolate, we think you’ll be amazed at just how good fudge can be. Try it and you’ll see what we mean.”

We have tried it and we totally agree. This is THE Uncouth Gourmand chocolate of choice: sweet & salty, truffle & fudge, kosher & so good they should be illegal and something that we love! Thanks so much Lizzy for introducing us to this piece of deliciousness and to John & Kelly for the special tour. Although everyone is totally welcome to come to the shop, see how chocolate is made, sample, buy, and enjoy! This purple ribbon is a special for mother’s day and we can assure you that mama will be happy with this chocolate! If you are a fan of them on FB you will receive a code for 10% off to use in the store or online.

This truffle fudge will surely make you say OMFG: Oh My Fudge God!

Dining on the Edge: Dinner with Chef Keven

There’s carnal pleasure and then there’s food pleasure. I’ve never endangered my life for carnal pleasure, but for food pleasure…I do it on a daily basis.

Growing up I was deathly allergic to many things, and over the last few weeks I had gotten mild symptoms of a severe allergy. When I decided to visit my doctor he did a few tests and referred me to an allergist. Later that week, I met with the allergist; he took one look at me said, “Have you been eating shellfish?!” I admitted that my frequent visits to the SGV for Asian food had exposed me to many fish-based sauces. He told me to cut it out for my own good, but I relented. After all, I wasn’t in the hospital. It was just shellfish and I could endure the few moments of discomfort for a few moments of food pleasure. When I got my allergy test back, it said I was severely allergic to a long list of things. The most severe being: most types of seafood, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and many others. FML. However, I will continue to eat what I want in the sake of food and I will die a king. Not very smart, but a girl has got to have her priorities in order. Such was the case at the swanky Hollywood Hills supper club that Veronica and I attended last week.

Veronica’s a  hip lady (far cooler than I) and she had a plus one to a private 5-course meal in a private home overlooking all of LA. She asked me and I jumped at the opportunity after she told me that the chef cooking was going to be the very talented Chef Keven Alan Lee of East in Hollywood.

As a woman who still, to this day, works in a busy kitchen, I admire Chef Keven’s attention to detail. His staff is disciplined and well-trained at what they set out to do. I saw the look on their faces as we ate what they had prepared for us, and they took pleasure in our pleasure. Kudos.

Below was the night’s menu:

Thai Eggplant Larb
Fried Tofu, Pickled Shallots, and Thai Peanut Sauce

Shitake Crab Poppers
Lump Crab, Garden Fresh Vegetables,
Seared & Roasted Shitake Mushrooms, Shitake Aioli

SUPER JUMBO Turkey Tofu Meatballs
Fire Roasted Tomato & White Bean Ragu

Dragon Style “Big Eye” Tuna
Thai Green Curry Rice
Dragon Torched Live

Cheven’s Signature Bread Pudding
Chololate Toffee and milk Chocolate Ganache

My favorites of the night were the Turkey meatballs, the tofu, and the bread pudding. The meatballs were obscenely fresh and soft but not as to fall apart. The tofu was fried into little adorable packets and garnished with some edible flowers.

And then there were the shitake crab poppers. I knew I’d be the one paying for it later, but its just one one of those things you have to do for yourself. So, I selfishly took a bite. It was perfection. Later that night, the taxation for my small bite was a mild swelling. That crab was worth every bit of pain. However, I think I’ll take it easy for sometime… Maybe.

Chef Keven has been asking me to shadow him and do “A Day in the Life” kind of a piece for the blog. He tells me that his day starts off at the farmer’s market, goes from town to town to find the best ingredients, and that he, a Jew, even speaks fluent Spanish. As a Latin gal, I can vouche for Kitchenese as it is actually very good. I may do the article, but I think that the cooking in the kitchen part should be left to the true professionals. After all, the rule of any good cook is to try all of the food you prepared and for me that is a deadly option.

The cocktails were also great, although maybe just as poisonous. If they’d been any stiffer, I would’ve probably woken up next to someone I didn’t know. Thank God I stopped when I did. The drinks were all mixed by Minx in Glendale. Chef Keven has recently started working with them to perfect the new Minx food menu. I will definitely have to check it out soon. Who’s in? I may even try and kill myself again for the sake of delicious food.

ProjectConnect: UG Girls are Giving Away 4 Tickets

Alright, this photo isn’t exactly the best representation of ProjectConnect, but hey it works. Plus we have a really fantastic event and opportunity to tell you about so we might as well use flirtation tactics. What is a flirtation tactic using social media to really connect? Funny you should ask, we have an event that you must attend to learn all about this and more. We have partnered with Social Bling on this experminental event that will take place tomorrow. Here is the official FB event page with all the naughty little details that I will also include here in case you aren’t ready to click yet.

Date:
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Time:
7:00pm – 10:00pm
Location:
Coloft
Street:
920 Santa Monica Blvd (free street parking)
City/Town:
Santa Monica, CA

7:00 – 7:30 – Check-in, general networking
7:30 –7:50 – Social Experiment kickoff and presentation from Sponsors.
8:00 – 8:45 – Social Challenge
9:00 – 10:00 – Results and Honorably Mentions.

SocialBling present ProjectConnect, An interactive social experiment using social media to inspire real life activities and connections.

Tools (suggested, not required): Web-enabled phones connected to your social networks, persuasion/flirtation skills and a readiness to meet new people and have great time.

Why? – Because having fun while expanding your cerebral and emotional intelligence sounds like a good way to spend a Tuesday night.

Cost: $25
For tickets – http://www.formstack.com/forms/socialbling-projectconnect
(preregistration required, no tickets sold at door)

We will, of course, be at the event and we have a special surprise planned in the Social Challenge section if you, attendees, can break our code. You won’t know about this surprise unless you come and if you want to come then you must buy a ticket. Although there is another way…you can win a ticket for you and your friend to the event. We are giving away two pairs of tickets by 5pm today, April 16th. All you have to do is:

Send us your most Uncouth Gourmand moment in a Tweet (@uncouthgourmand) or as a comment on here in 140 characters or less by 4:59pm today.

Josie’s example: @uncouthgourmand my most UG moment was when I put my hands in Carina’s drawn lobster butter with lemon slices thinking it was a water dish  (True Story: happened at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in London)

Carina’s example: @uncouthgourmand while discussing how much I like penetrating the straw in the boba cup, I dropped the entire drink with  boba down my shirt

Good luck and we hope to see you tomorrow! Even if you don’t win you can still be a winner (as opposed to a loser) by buying your ticket here by 3pm tomorrow.

UG Crew in Full Force at Sexy Singles’ Soiree 2.0

The UG Girls can be described as many things but one of our favorite classifications is single. There ain’t no man holding us down, well, if they are it isn’t in a bad way. Unfortunately, it has been a while since that has happened, or as Josie has said, “I am a born again virgin.” Anyway, we knew we had to attend the Sexy Singles Soiree hosted by our two favorite bloggers and Tweetettes: The Minty and Vixen.

Since Josie and I are not the only Single Ladies in the office (you just did the Beyonce finger move, didn’t you?) we brought in our PR and Accounting interns, Lea and Maria. We were also reunited with our first intern ever, Young Jin, who gave us all the Eating Dog post. The two hosts had specialty cocktails and, as a Jameson girl, I loved the Minty’s drink. Although the interns told me the Vixen’s gin based drink was good and strong as hell. Did I meet the man of dreams? No, not quite but one thing that made a lovely cameo was the first USDA certified organic Tequila called Casa Noble. Relax folks, we did our part for Earth Day! The interns loved this tequila and I can guarantee we will all be looking for it this Cinco de Mayo.

Did I care that I didn’t meet the man of my dreams? Nope, not one bit. We had great drinks, we were at our favorite downtown spot Drago Centro with their Happy Hour which goes all day and every day, and of course we were in fantastic company. Our friends in the blogosphere/Twitterazi made appearances including Hanhonymous, VeronicainLA, and Finer Things.

The night was fantastic and the event thankfully wasn’t a sausage fest, so I had fun with the girls. Speaking of which, what is the female equivalent of a sausage fest? If you can answer that question, you’d be a total Uncouth Gourmand. My favorite part of the event was a game that they had where everyone drew a playing card and then you had to make the best poker hand. This required the group to socialize and talk to one another. I, Carina, am one hell of a competitive girl and I had the King of Spades. I was being rude and rejecting in honor of the game (probably not that far off real life) and told people that I wouldn’t talk to them unless they were atleast a face card. May not have been the best tactic but I was the only girl amongst the four winners, I got a King and Ace Full House. I liked to call us the only winners, but truly we were all winners for getting ourselves out there and opening ourselves up…I am talking about our hearts…get your mind out of the gutter!

UG Commercial: iPhone + BlackBerry = Twitter Love

Here’s the story of a lovely Uncouthie
Who had an iPhone, which she used to Tweet.
All of her tweets came from an app known as Echofon,
The newest ones with a dash and a J.

Here’s the story, of a Gourmand named Carina
Who had a BlackBerry to tweet on her own,
All of her tweets came from UberTwitter,
Yet they were all signed with a dash and a C.

Till the one day when the Uncouth met this Gourmand,
And they knew it was much more than a hunch.
That these ladies would somehow form a Twitter account.
That’s the way we became UncouthGourmand.
UncouthGourmand, UncouthGourmand.

That’s the way we became UncouthGourmand
Follow Us, bitches!

Checkers Rush Hour Dinner = A New BFF

About a week ago, a newbie friend from the Barry Group in Venice invited us to Checkers to try their new Rush Hour menu. We love their Thursday happy hour, so how the hell could we say no. We met up with Edward on Wednesday and were in love. First we fell in love with Edward and then the food love followed. We met Edward at the bar and he took us into the dining room. We’re commoners and always sit at the bar – these girls can spend $4 on Thursday but anything at the classy Checkers dining room has always been out of the question. But things have changed at Checkers and now their $39 three course menu has made (hottie tottie) Chef Todd’s menu accessible to all. Let me not leave out the other hottie tottie running the beverage service, Tyler. That boy makes my teeth sweat. They really need their own magazine cover. Anyone? Anyone?

However, let’s not detract from Edward, as he was the most entertainment of the night. I thought Carina was going to fall into to a love-induced coma when Edward was speaking because he loved Rosie, Hillary Clinton, worked in politics, and lives in WeHo. She had finally met her Prince Charming. I loved him, too. He was so adorable. In fact, we loved him so much that we even secured the next few dates with him in the coming weeks. Why can’t I book this many dates in advance?

So what is the Checkers Rush Hour Dinner Menu? Here is how it was described to us:

Checkers’ Rush Hour prix fixe menu, priced at $39 per person, is served daily from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. Professionals leaving the office can now avoid the worst of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic while enjoying a fine dining experience at unbeatable prices.

Below is a look into some of the dishes we devoured from the Rush Hour menu:

For the first course, Carina ordered the Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna. I was coveting her food even though I could not try it. It looked amazing and she agreed that the flavors were right on. Edward opted for the Grilled Local Calamari and I opted for the Saffron Risotto without the rock shrimp, damn seafood allergy. I loved the risotto because it had large chunks of chorizo and it was heavy in cream (but in that good kind of way, that is). Tyler recommended I cut the heaviness of the risotto with some white wine, but I declined this Wednesday night and Carina and Edward had some instead. They thought the wine was lovely and that it went well with their food selections.

For dinner Carina order the Harissa-Rubbed Alaskan Halibut while Edward and I opted for the Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin. Carina’s halibut looked colorful and absolutely beautiful. She enjoyed it very much and was grateful that it wasn’t overcooked. She was also grateful that Edward laughed when she said, “I’ll have the halibut just for the hell-i-but.” It’s a good thing that Edward loved the puns because, let me just say, Carina throws them out all of the time. I had the lamb, which was beautifully cooked and the bean medley and broth that it lay above was heavenly. Even though the beans were a bit too al dente for my taste, the broth resembled a light and salty godliness. It reminded me of my grandma’s frijoles de la olla. Perfection.

And lastly for dessert Carina ordered the Gourmet Ice Cream and Sorbet, while Edward ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake and I opted for the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. I think you should know that if you order the ice cream, you can only choose sorbet or ice cream. Our uncouthie, Carina, is dairy sensitive and went with the sorbet. When they asked her if she wanted mango or raspberry, she replied, “Both.” She has that way of asking by giving the waitstaff approval and more then often she gets her wish. We were at the classy Checkers dining room and did in fact feel at home. Together with the awkward conversation, Carina ordering two desserts, and me dropping my napkin and fork on the floor… well, let’s just say I could hear the song in my head…. “Pretty woman, walking down the street. Pretty woman.”

Edward ordered coffee with his dessert and it came with the usual cream and sugar. I had to take a picture of the sugars because as Carina once said, “Josie equates detail to love” and well, I do. It shows me that you care. So when I see such attention to detail, I notice, commend, and appreciate it. P.S: I also liked the silverware and the glassware as Checkers. It’s always the first thing I notice at a restaurant and yet I am so rarely impressed. If you want high-end dining attention to detail and good quality food at a reasonable price head to Checkers for the Rush Hour menu. You may not have the same great company, leave it to Carina to meet her soul mate at a media dinner, but we can guarantee you a great meal! Also for some foodie trivia: Thomas Keller was the executive chef at Checkers Hotel in the early 90s and our favorite Pasadena chef, Claud Beltran of Noir Food & Wine was the assistant chef under Thomas. Don’t say we never teach you anything!