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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A Gourmet Celebration: Ruth Reichl and the Legacy

I came back from my trip to NorCal on Tuesday. I drove in a storm and followed a police car that went 5 mph through a giant puddle. The reason for my return in this storm was the talk at Skirball with Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, and Laurie Ochoa. I had a food filled weekend with the Tasty Awards and the Fancy Food Fest that the storm kept me away from in SF, but it was LA that had the real food event I was looking forward to. I greatly admire all three of these people. I made it off the 405, an hour before the event. I changed my shirt in the car and met up with our friend, Kane, before Josie arrived straight from work. When the event started was when I knew that Evan Kleiman would be the moderator for the evening. I was thrilled. I met Evan when Josie and I volunteered to work the cookbook table at Taste of the Nation LA, she said one of the wisest comments I’ve ever heard. Josie and I gave her our business cards and she said, “Why does a blog need a President and a Chief Creative Officer?” Josie responded, “Well, it’s kind of a launchpad to something bigger” Evan didn’t skip a beat and said, “Honey, life is a launchpad to something bigger.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Evan put everyone at ease and the conversation flowed beautifully. Ruth, Jonathan, and Laurie came into Gourmet Magazine as renegades. They brought the idea of conscious food to the forefront, branched food out of the high-end restaurant/hotel world, and kept the literary excellence and journalistic integrity that Gourmet Magazine has always been famous for possessing. The night was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The magazine that had contributions from such writers as Maya Angelou,  David Foster Wallace, and F. Scott Fitzgerald closed with no dignity. Ruth had the December issue all ready to go with January, February, and most of March completed. These issues never saw the light of day and the magazine was closed with zero warning. However, this night was a celebration but the loss in all of our food lives could not be ignored. The video below was one of my favorite moments of the evening and the whole night can be seen and heard on Zocalo.

For me, the most uplifting part of the night was when an audience member asked what the legacy of Gourmet Magazine will be. Laurie Ochoa responded by saying that they never talked down to their readers. I loved that. In a world of oversimplifying and 30-minutes meals, it is nice that integrity is still held. Jonathan Gold made a joke about “Paula Deen’s Gourmet,” which gave everyone a chuckle and a genuine worry. I loved that neither Jonathan Gold nor Gourmet magazine ever gave restaurants a star rating. It is so much more than that; it’s a story. Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold loved being able to write 3,000 words on a single restaurant review in the magazine. He even told this great story about how at Gourmet you had to visit more than 8 times to write a review and at one of the later visits at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in NYC he had an worm in his salad. He played with it. The staff went crazy and someone tipped off the NY Post but he shrugged it off saying, “Look, I am from California, I understand. It means it’s organic.” This story was the perfect example of an Uncouth Gourmand and got me thinking a lot about Josie and myself. As most of you know, Josie and I bonded during a trip to Europe where the idea of the UGs was born. We spent more money than we spent on all of our hostels for 3 weeks on a $500 lunch at Le Louis XV in Monaco, also an Alain Ducasse restaurant. It was at this time when we put together the words uncouth and gourmand. We realized that sometimes a Doner kabob at 5am is just as good as a 5 star meal and that the dining experience must be a fun one.  The first time we met Jonathan Gold and said that we were the Uncouth Gourmands, he said that is who he has been his entire career. It is true, he is an idol of ours.

As much as we love him, it was Ruth that was the star of the evening. What a career and what a genuinely thoughtful woman. She sat on the floor and spoke with everyone afterward. We were waiting in line next to Teenage Glutster and Gastronomy Blog (photographed with us) and it was nice to see how excited they were to meet her. I know some people believe it is the fast paced blogging world and tweets that are putting an end to the print business but that doesn’t make the two things enemies. Bloggers are also thoughtful and have ethics, integrity, and “intellectual rigor” that the WSJ tributes to Gourmet Magazine. At the same point, Ruth talked about how much she was looking forward to the future technology for Gourmet magazine and enjoys reading blogs. In fact, when I met her I told her that I live in Pasadena, which was home to what she claimed was the best egg salad (the place was Euro Pane and I totally agree). I knew this information from her Twitter and I also read on her Twitter about the end of Gourmet magazine from the source. What I am trying to say is that clearly the medium has changed but the legacy that Gourmet pioneered lives on and I am thrilled it is so prevalent in my fellow LA bloggers.

I knew I wanted to write this post today, but there was one problem. I was hungover and starving. I remembered that Ruth said that the recipe collection is still on the Gourmet site and I felt compelled to make something. I woke up this morning dreaming of perfectly roasted chicken and found a recipe on their sadly no longer updated site. Even better it was in the easy to make category. I made the Chicken and Parsnip “Fries” with Spicy Vinegar recipe from the Gourmet site and I photographed it with my new camera. Look at that, I am upgrading my photo equipment. I am really not trying to use a Melvin Udall line but Gourmet Magazine and Ruth Reichl make me want to be a better Uncouth Gourmand, writer, cook, food photographer, and person.

What’s Bubbling and Brewin’ Around Verdugo Road

Our social lives were once again made possible by our bff, Twitter. Speaking of which, do you think in 2010 twitter talk will become the new baby talk? Twello twits, what’s tweetin’? Anyway, the owner of Rosso Wine Shop found our post on Montrose and wrote this:

@uncouthgourmand If the UG Headquarters is in Montrose how come you have not visited us in Sparr Heights @rossowineshop?!

It was a good question and actually I was talking about visiting some local wine shops for an upcoming budget wine post. Rosso is blocks away from our office and Josie and I arrived just in time to try some champagne. The special occasion of the night was their open house which featured neighborhood businesses. Bashan restaurant is neighbors with Rosso and they offered some complimentary small bites for the occasion including tuna tartare, cauliflower soup, and a braised pork sandwich. All were delicious and that will definitely be a restaurant to check out when the UG are back in the money.

The star of the night was the wine shop that was everything you imagine a neighborhood wine shop should be. If you read our Montrose post you know that this area has earned a place in our heart and it was reaffirmed at the wine shop when I ran in to the couple that I sat next to at Fork only days before. I am now a member of the community. Rosso owner, Jeff, was charming as he poured us some bubbly and it is clear that he is living his dream of bringing reasonably priced wine to this foothill neighborhood. It says on their site that they are a “neighborhood wine shop for the disenchanted Trader Joe wine-buyer, social nomad and local wine enthusiast.” I think that is exactly what LA needs more of and it was a fantastic neighborhood find. I hope they didn’t mind meeting us because I am pretty sure we will return often to grill them on all of our wine questions.

As I previously stated this night was made possible entirely by Twitter. I read early on in the day that Verdugo Bar was going to be serving the first pours of Eagle Rock Brewery brew. This was huge news because for the last year I have been following the progress of Eagle Rock Brewery on their blog and Twitter and find myself fully invested in this story and their success. Josie and I arrived at around 7:30 and despite being at Verdugo Bar before this was my first time driving there and arriving sober. I saw Josie’s car already parked and so I parked next to it, knowing that she beat me and was already inside. I saw a group of people of standing by a lit building with christmas lights and started walking towards the crowd. I heard yelling in Spanish and beer bottles being thrown. Clearly I was not at the right place, and these lights were from a house. I called Josie who walked outside from across the street and laughed at how I missed the enormous cocktail sign. She already ordered us are Eagle Rock brew, which was a black mild ale called Solidarity. I felt honored to be served the first batch and since we were one of the first 20 people to try it we got this awesome commemorative glass with the logo.

Leave it up to Josie to sit next to someone important and she was seated right next to Chris Spradley, the LA Craft Beer Examiner. Josie showed off her beer knowledge with IPA definitions that he already knew and I showcased my beer girly-ness in saying that my favorite beer was the lavender one from The Bruery and La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue. It was great fun to talk beer. I was telling the Beer Examiner that my main problem with beer is that I drink it too slowly and then it gets warm and I no longer want it and he said that most beers, like Solidarity, should be served a little more at room temperature. Who would have known? This was the first batch of Solidarity and while I am not the biggest fan of dark beers, Josie is, I still drank the whole thing. Chris introduced us to the Eagle Rock Brewers who were busy tasting and making sure that their baby was perfect. As I have known from the blog this is a family operation headed by father and son. The son, Jeremy Raub, was sure that he already met us at the LA Craft Beer Fest but honestly we remember very little of that day. The father, Steve Raub, was quick to point out that he was Vice President and that it was his son that was President. It was such a sweet family dynamic and it was so nice to hear their story. Steve started brewing at home as soon as Jimmy Carter lifted the ban and once Jeremy was married and moved in to his house he asked his dad to make a celebratory brew and the rest is history. That is the greatest birth of an enterprise since our baby, Uncouth Gourmands, was born on the trains of Europe. Relax, I kid. Anyway, as far as first batches go, this brew was pretty tasty and this is coming from a girl that likes her beer as she likes her men: light and fruity. There was a strong roasted coffee and chocolate aroma and definitely was something I’d drink again. In the next few weeks they will be launching 2 more brews. The next one will be a crisp Belgian-style beer and the final in the trio will be hoppy, floral, extra pale ale. With all of their beer bases covered we are excited to sample the trio and may even get a tour of the brewery soon.

When it comes to wine shops, brews, and bars on Verdugo Road we are in completely solidarity and wish them all the best of luck. We will be back and we are hoping that you all have plenty more to serve us!

Don’t Forget: Eat My Blog

Friday was one of the oddest days in terms of juxtaposition. We spent the morning hours in a great Jump Start brainstorming session with a group of very talented angel investors that are geared to help emerging entrepreneurs called, Maverick Angels. We sat in a boardroom with a group of 11 very talented and seasoned business people and strategized for 3 hours. It was exhilarating, thought-provoking and we are humbled by all of the people willing to help. After spending a very long time in traffic we knew that it was time to switch gears and put on our baking hats in preparation for the Eat My Blog bake sale on Saturday. Our intern, Wendy, helped us immensely by doing some of the grocery shopping and then it was up to Josie and I get to get to work. We were both exhausted and brain-dead and in no baking mood. Plus, we had foolishly come up with the concept to make:

A Bacon-Chocolate Covered Fleur de Sel Blitzen (reindeer) Pretzel

At the time it seemed like a great Uncouth Gourmand creation and seemed simple enough to be a kindergarten cooking project. That was not the case. It was many steps and took us hours of melting, setting, decorating, and wrapping but we managed to finish and have them all perfectly packaged for your sweet & salty pleasure. What did you do on your Friday night? Oh really, well we stayed at home and baked for you.

Not to be a nagging Jewish mother but please come to the Eat My Blog bake sale today! It is for a great cause and we worked really hard to make something adorable for you. Josie and I will be working the morning shift from 10-12 so come say hello and buy a blitzen. Also, we are very excited that our favorite food blogger, Pat of EatingLA, will be making her famous bacon apple pie!

Here are all of the details and we can’t wait to see you there:

When: Saturday, December 5th from 10 AM to 4 PM

Where: Zeke’s Smokehouse in West Hollywood

What: 1st annual “Eat My Blog” bake sale. There will be more than 800 baked goods and all reasonably priced between $1-$3!

Why: All proceeds from this delicious event will be donated to the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank.


UGs 1st Annual Holiday Party

Right now is not only the start of the holiday season but the partner (business not life) and I are almost at our one year anniversary of having our blog up. We have met the most incredible people in this journey and are continuing to meet interesting people every day. Our investor, mentor, and dear friend Chuck offered to host a party for us at the Jonathan Club Downtown. We invited our favorites in PR, the LA restaurant and entertainment scene, and our friends old and new. Attendees included:

  1. Nathan Pickover-marketing consultant extraordinaire
  2. Claire Best, our best agent, of Marsh Best & Associates
  3. Kat Kirsch, Formula PR
  4. Shawna Dawson, the Sauciest Minx, of Sauce LA
  5. Khrysta Ramos, Provecho
  6. Megan Conners, Special Events Director at Drago Centro
  7. Ron Hoffman, BWR PR
  8. Christina Wong, Murphy O’Brien PR
  9. Ben, Schlep LA
  10. Wendy, the UG’s Genius Intern

You may be asking yourself: what are uncouth girls doing in a place like the Jonathan Club on their tree lighting night? That is an excellent question. Believe it or not, we do ever so often embrace our couth side with proper attire, eggnog, carolers from Citrus College, and a buffet that would blow any foodie away. Plus we wanted our friends and colleagues to enjoy a very special evening, after this year, we all deserve it!

The first plate served was an avocado wrapped lobster cannelloni with a dehydrated mushroom on top that was superb. The next courses were at the buffet where you can believe the UGs had a field day. In the appetizer section they had duck, shrimp and crab, sushi, poached salmon and lobster bisque. For the entrée portion of the buffet we helped ourselves to beef tenderloin, ravioli and tortellini, and my personal favorite the Jonathan Club’s sand dabs. I am quite certain that I am not alone in saying, I ate far too much that night. Despite being in such a couth environment, which looked like it came out of a Dicken’s novel, we weren’t without our uncouth moments. Josie, who had an enormous bowl of lemons in front of her opted to throw a wedge rather than pass it. One thing I, Carina, learned is that lemons are slippery and that you can take the UG out of the trough but you can’t take the trough out of the UG. We are animals. In fact, our favorite part of this year has been listening to other people share their UG stories with us. Dawson shared with me that during the cocktail section of the evening she had some shrimp cocktail sauce go down her blouse and had to quickly clean it without being noticed. As a fellow busty Jewtina with a propensity for spillage, we bonded over stories of removing our bras after seeing a movie only to find popcorn kernels hidden in the underwire. Claire, our agent who is a proper Brit that laughed while watching me cut my beef in such an American style, later disclosed that she had an uncouth moment that night of spilling her lobster bisque all over her appetizer plate. She even gave Josie one of the biggest laughs of the night when she referred to our English dessert of spotted dick as our VD dessert! Uncouth!

As with most dinners for the UGs, our favorite part of the evening was the company! We loved meeting Christina, Megan, and Ron for the first time and it was great to catch up with all of our amazing friends that we met this year. As we head in to the new year, we just want to give you all a big thank you for your support, help, and humor as we attempt to build an empire and give a voice and title to the uncouthies of the world. A huge thank you to the Jonathan Club and Chuck for always showing us what true class is…and that holiday Stollen Bread stole our hearts, for sure!

T Boyle’s Tavern: Your New Neighborhood Pub

Before the long holiday weekend a friend on Twitter recommended we try out a new Pasadena bar. The UGs are suckers for a cold pint and seeing anything new in the neighborhood, so we happily obliged. This pub had an added bonus with a somewhat hidden location, who doesn’t like that?  T Boyle’s Tavern is in Pasadena and hidden in the alley behind the Ice House Comedy Club or slightly more accessible through Catalina Ave. We like the more hidden route and walked in off Mentor. The bar itself had hardly a free stool but you immediately notice that this is a very large space. The brick interior and stage reminded me of Old Towne Pub, one of our favorites also conviently hidden down an alley way. The main difference is that this place was much larger and equipped with 2 stories, 2 pool tables, 2 shuffle boards, Golden Tee, a Juke Box, many TVs, a moose head, and serves some grub.

Every table gets a thing of peanuts and, as you all know, if you put food in front of the UGs they will be happy and eat it. We made a mess out of the table in a matter of seconds. Josie also ended up getting 2 $1 hot dogs and was impressed saying that they aren’t even that cheap on the street. Were they great? Well hell, they were just a buck. Continue reading

Not on Top: Learning to Lose

Chuck always says to us, “Ladies, you have to lose in order to really appreciate the good.” This was one of those losing times for the UG girls. Here’s a recap of lunch at The Jonathan Club Beach and our entry for this year’s Tabletop Shootout.

It is without fail that every time we visit the JC Beach, Chef Benjamin always prepares a memorable meal for the UG girls. To throw a little surprise twist to the story, I met Chuck there on time. Anyone that knows me knows that on time for Josie usually means 15 minutes late, but this time I was early. Chuck summoned me in to the facilities and I got a private tour of the kitchen, which Chef Ben uses to experiment on us with new flavor combinations that never fail.

 

As always the meal started off with the JC’s famous zucchini muffins, bread, madeleines and, of course, fresh butter. From there we moved on to the first course which consisted of baby beets on top of heirloom tomatoes and two neat formation packets of coagulated yogurt and cranberry goat cheese served with a beet vinaigrette. The first course was light and airy. If any heaviness, whatsoever, could be identified it came from inherent qualities of the goat cheese and yogurt which delicately teetered on masterful. For the second course heaviness exploded, but only in that good way that can only be fully appreciated when you only have a few bites to savour and the fullness doesn’t leave you over satiated but rather, longing for more. We had a small piece of  veal osso bucco over polenta which was paired with a single wagyu beef ravioli over braised carrots. Beyond that, I, Josie did not get to try any of the desserts because this is where the plot was foiled. Apparently, our competition at our next stop, The Girari Tabletop Shootout, was not what we expected and our partner there said we would need more time than we anticipated. We were nervous! I left lunch early to assure our victory (maybe not so much victory). I heard that the girls at lunch: Dawson aka Miss SauceLA and Carina helped themselves to chai creme brulee and an assorted berry Bavarian cream florentine. The Jonathan Club Beach and Chef Benjamin delivered just like they have on our previous visits.

The Verdict:

Food: Thumbs-up

Service: Thumbs-up

Character: Thumbs-up

Ambiance: Thumbs-up

Uncertain of how to pull all of it together, I arrived panicked only to find out our team mate had already left because she was too embarrassed and didn’t want us to embarrass ourselves. We thought defeat without trying was more embarrassing, so we forged on. We decided to go ad hoc decorating and put together what you above. Constructed with less than $40, we used paper, paint, Taco Bell sporks, and recycled paper cups to build our display.  We aptly positioned it as an Andy Warhol inspiration and which we topped with what else, Campbell’s Soup and the new coke bottles. Much like Warol changed the way people saw art, we wanted to change the way people perceived the dining table experience. We wanted the people sitting at the table to be challenged and stimulated. We also find it necessary to mix high brow and low brow food and bring it to the masses.

The evening was great. We got to munch on snacks, drink fancy lattes, and mingle with some very talented party planners. Were the other designs better? The other designs were more traditional and showy and it was definitely apparent that we were by far the most “avant garde” competitor, but we were proud of our design because it fully encapsulated us as a young, modern, and uncouth brand. To some people the other pieces might’ve been better, but we were by no means, embarrased with anything we produced. If anything, we would’ve been embarrassed to produce something that didn’t fully represent us. This was us!

So I suppose it was one of those losing nights for these girls. We left the Luxe Hotel with a mix of emotions. We were happy, sad, disappointed, and proud all at once. Our lawyer once told us that we were the most persistent and relentless girls he’d ever met. With that said, the UG journey continues. That is, one meal at a time.