Sticky Miso Chicken Wings and Sweet Potato Chips

I finally figured out how to make the sweet potato chips right.  It is done without taking the short cut. Duh. You literally have to lay out the thin slices on the baking tray (on top of parchment paper) without any overlapping.  To make a lot of them you need several trays.  I sliced a bunch of sweet potatoes super thin and tossed with olive oil and kosher salt.  Then I roasted them at 250 for a few hours until they got crispy.  Served with a little hot sauce and they were a hit.  Good for the next day too.  

I did the same thing with the chicken.  Layed the chicken pieces out on baking trays with zero overlapping. I baked the chicken at 400 degrees until they got really crispy (about 45 minutes).  Then I brushed the sauce on and put the chicken back in the oven and let it sink in and crisp up (10 minutes).  Did it again just for good measure.  Served the chicken up on a tray with chopped cilantro and limes over the top.  Winner.

Miso sauce:

1 cup white miso paste

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger

1 tbsp. fish sauce

3/4 cup brown sugar

Warm this up in a saucepan and whisk until smooth.  It gets thick.  Then you can let it go to room temperature and brush over the chicken.

I used this for about 8 whole chicken legs and 12 small wings.




Out in California

ImagesFred and I have been hanging on the west coast this week, Southern California.  It has been great.  We took a few days and drove to Laguna to chill there.  It is so beautiful here.  Insanely pristine and everything certainly moves at a slower pace than what we are used to.  

The importance of getting out of NYC is essential for several reasons.  I believe as an investor that you have to get out of your own space and get a different perspective of life out of your own bubble.  It is easy to not to see a big picture when you are living in your own world with your head down every day.  It helps investors and it also helps entrepreneurs to get out of their space.  

Years ago when I headed up a company in the shmata world we got a glimpse of the new line for the next season.  We were in moderate womens clothing so nothing glamorous.  The line did not represent the rest of the country we were selling to.  My advice to the designer was get on a plane and go to O'Hare.  She did not even need to leave the airport.  She could then fly to Minneapolis and then perhaps Arizona.  Those were our customers.  We all laughed but the point was made.  You have to get our of your own environment to really understand the big picture of your customers unless of course you have a small company only selling to the local person.

I am totally enjoying getting out of my zone.  It feels great. 

Piora NYC

People kept asking me if I had been to Piora yet.  A gem of a restaurant that opened under the radar on Hudson Street in the West Village.  My friend had already been once and I met up with her for drinks and then some the other night.  I was thrilled to go.  What a fantastic addition to the neighborhood and even better Piora is walking distance from my home.  

We always started with a vodka.  You can't see the ice cubes in the glass that clearly through the photo but it is literally a large handcut ice cube.  Pretty special.

Potato soup
They brought us out a started of two small cups of warm potato soup.  Seriously rich and tasty.  That little cup was just the perfect amount.

We split everything.  This is the market salad.  The plates are dressed with the serving to one side.  This was a salad of mixed greens, thinly sliced vegetables and a thousand island powder dressing.  Delicious.

The oysters just sat in the shells over a frozen verjus and a pepper kick.  Delicious.

The crudo was amazing.  Thinly sliced pieces of amber jack mixed with avacado and a lime yogurt dressing.  Good to sop up with bread.  

I am a huge fan of octopus and this was one of the most unique ways to serve it.  BBQ style with fermented pepper, basil and pine nuts.  The color alone is wild.  A must.

This is a portion of roasted sunchokes.  They are super crispy with a saba sauce.  They are addictive.  If if wasn't for the fact that a fork is the appropriate utensil here I'd be popping these in my mouth with my hand.

We had two desserts.  A cheesecake with citrus flavors.

The s'mores was intense.  The marshmallows were burnt in a way that you thought the marshmallow just came from the campfire.  Soft chocolate creme with crushed toasted graham crackers.  

I loved the food and the atmosphere.  Looking forward to going back.  Good news they are also open for lunch!

Cameron Houser, Given Goods, Woman Entrepreneur

F_chouser_headshot-290x290I can't remember if I was introduced to Cameron from my friend Brad Feld or Cameron reached out to me and Brad gave her the thumbs up.  Regardless I like what Cameron has built and continues to build, Given Goods. Given Goods is a marketplace to buy products that give back a percentage to non-profit organizations around the globe. Giving back is one of the best American mantras.  I see it in the education system when something happens the students are the first ones to create a bake sale or something to raise money for a cause.  I see it at Catch-a-Fire a skills based marketplace that marries volunteers with non-profit organizations that have specific needs (jobs) posted.  It is especially important to the 20+ generation and will continue to be an important part of their lives.  Good for everyone.  

Carmen grew up outside of Boston in Essex, MA.  Her father is a commercial real estate lawyer and her mom is an artist, an art teacher and a jack of all trades.   Cameron grew up playing lacrosse and that sport made an impact throughout her life.  She worked every summer.  Entrepreneurial from the beginning she started a boat washing business on the Essex river.  The boats would pull in from that super muddy river and she would wash them down for a cost.  She also started a lobster pot business with her girlfriend.  They put out 100 pots into the water near Glouster.  They'd go and check the pots a few times a week and go get their lobsters and sell them.  Pretty bold taking a bit of that marketshare from that local lobstermen.  She finished up high school at Deerfield where her Mom taught.  Strange at first having her Mom there but she wanted to be on a ski team and that was the place to go.  

Cameron graduated high school and went off to Dartmouth to not only go to school but play Division One Lacrosse.  She ended up getting hurt her first year and that changed everything.  She began to do different things her sophomore year because of her injury. She got involved with volunteering.  Sports is so consuming so this was a new angle.  She was never able to return to the level of play that she was at so she returned to lacrosse through coaching.  She also began a club team which was much more social.  Cameron studied Geography and Government theory at Dartmouth.

After graduation she moved to Boston.  Her junior summer she had worked for Parthenon and was hired there for the following year.  She was an associate for a year and then realized this was not for her.  She was just not ready to be told what her next decade was going to look like.  She felt suffocated.  

Carmeron picked up her life, got into a car and drove to Colorado.  She figured she would get a job in the corporate world of the ski industry and merge two things that she loved; business and skiing.  She landed at Steamboat Springs as the National Sales Manager.  It was an incredible job.  She learned a lot about how the ski industry worked.  She also learned it was not a place to be innovative.  After two seasons she moved to Boulder to work as a consultant.  The firm she worked at specialized in strategy work leading to product and innovation development.  Very quantitative.  The other half of that firm was an ad agency where she was able to crunch data, talk to the consumer and then take a product to market.  She stayed for 18 months.

Cameron liked the brands she was working with and the impact that many of them were making around the globe.  She conducted a focus group with women and the products that they buy.  She was having a hard time getting emotionally excited about salty snacks.  What she did realize was that she gravitated towards brands that were making an impact in the world.  She wondered why nobody had built a company that could aggregate these brands under one roof to make a big impact for the greater good.  

Cameron began to do research but could not find what she was looking for.  Given Goods was born.  She had zero ecommerce or retail experience but she had always figured it out.  She began the business with her boyfriend (now x-boyfriend and much better for both of them).  She is more of a visionary and he is the nuts and bolts operator.  

They began by bootstrapping the organization begging vendors to jump on board and drop ship the products for them.  They did not buy any products until they partnered with Quirky last season.  They are working on acquiring discerning customers who want to buy interesting products.  They have stumbled on many who have the same values as they do.  The site is heavily curated (aka a lot of great stuff!).  They have decided to move to SF to raise money and move the business onward and upward.  

Cameron is impressive.  She cares passionately about what she built.  There is no doubt we will see much more of this in our future.  Giving back while making purchases works for all of us.  


He has his issues as all Presidents do.  I still like what he is about and what he believes in.  He has two kids that is obviously very close to and he is thinking about their future.  You see it in his policiies. Unfortunately very few in the government think about the future because they are focused on keeping their job year after year.  To me, it is one of most distrubing parts of government and I am not entirely clear how we change that.  

Bottom line this is my favorite pic of the week.  He is our President but he seems to me like a geniune guy who rose to the top of his game.   He is awesome and his wife is beyond bold.  Right up my alley.  

Downtown Project, Las Vegas

I have been talking and working with some of the people in the Vegas Tech Fund which I believe is an arm of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas.  So when Fred and I were out there for a wedding we wanted to see the whole project in person.  It is pretty amazing what is happening out there.

We spent the morning meeting with a few start-ups including seeing the co-working spaces.  One of them is working on transportation issues for downtown.  Thinking intellingently about how the community will move around in a smarter way than just cars before the area expands.  More people are moving there and it was apparent that many of the young families are coming in to downtown as an activity.

My favorite area that they built is called Container Park.  Container Park sits in the middle of the massive land project that will continue to grow in downtown Las Vegas.  Think of other urban cities that have built water fronts like South Street Seaport.  There are a few places to eat, a stage for live music and for a young kid a killer jungle gym area and slide.  It is totally community oriented and has a great vibe.  
Great vibes with good food, music and community is something that draws young people who are in the tech community to a city.  We are seeing that in a few cities such as Austin and we can now add Las Vegas to that list.

We did a tour of Zappos which is located a few blocks from Container Park in the building which was once used for Government officials, aka city hall, a few years ago.  There are 1600 people working there which mainly consists of their sales and marketing arm.  The shipping facilities are located in Kentucky.  The vibe is open, friendly and very much in line with how many tech businesses operate.  No walls, no offices but cubicles, food and drinks for the taking, places to blow off steam and an overall sense of we are all doing this together.

The downtown tour gives you an idea of what the future will be in downtown Las Vegas a few years from now.  We met with Tony and some of his leaders in this project at the end of our day.  They are essentially taking the concept of a start-up and applying it to a city.  Investing in companies that will change the local landscape, creating an environment that works for community, thinking about traffic patterns, bringing in grocery stores and restaurants too.

All and all impressive.  I give Tony huge kudos for seeing the future and deciding to dive in and do it. There are several financially successful entrepreneurs getting behind science, education and other arenas that are going to benefit from private funding and smarts.  Funding this is a real out of the box idea.  I hope that they document their success including health and wellness projects that they want to take on that can eventually help other cities in need of change such as Detroit and Baltimore.  

Definitely a place to watch.  

Architizer A+ Awards

If you have not seen the Architzer A+ Awards  get on and see all the categories and the five projects/companies that are up for each award.  They are now open to the public and you can vote.  

Architzer is a site that not only connects architects to the products that they need it is also a great place to spend time discovering.  Cool Hunting is a media partner for the awards (a site I check out daily). In total transparency I am an investor in Architizer. 

Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas

There is nothing like going to a wedding when you know so many of the people at the party.  A group of us who see each other in NYC got together before the first wedding get together on Friday evening for dinner.  We went to Lotus of Siam that is known for delicious Thai food.  This restaurant lasted for a few months in NYC.  Not sure why it came and went but the one in Las Vegas is certainly here to stay.  A huge restaurant located in a random strip mall about 10 minutes from the main gambling strip.  You must make reservations and you must be on time.  The place is huge and every table is taken.  The menu is tremendous but honestly the food is amazing.  Go with a big group to taste it all.  Owned by a local Thai family.  Quite the event.

We started with two different types of chicken wings and a spicy fried noodle salad.  I was a bit concerned about the garlic factor but even the food on the menu that specifically noted garlic as an ingredient did not scream garlic.  The next day I had zero after affects.  Pretty amazing.  These were the dried pepper garlic wings.

These were the chili sauce wings.  I was partial to the saucy ones but both really good. Crispy and flavorful.

Nam Kao Tod salad. Crispy noodles mixed with chilis, ginger, peanuts, cilantro and lime/sour sausage.  A good starter with lots of heat.  Watch out for some of the heat levels.  

Then the food started coming.  Spicy homemade sausages.  

Green curry with pieces of chicken.

Mixture of vegetables in a ginger sauce.

Chili basil
Braised short ribs with vegetables in a spicy sauce

Crispy garlic prawns that can be eaten whole with the shell.  Amazing

Soft shell crabs...I think.

My least favorite were the scallops.

Crispy duck in a spicy curry sauce over noodles.  This was insane.  Fave dish.

It was overwhelming.  One dish was better than the next.  I might have confused one of them. Lots of fun and if you are in Vegas...absolutely go.  We loved it 

Whitney Biennial

It is always worth going to the Whitney Biennial but this one is particularly important because it is the last time that the Biennial will take place in the current location.  Two years from now the Whitney will be downtown at the base where the Highline begins off Gansevoort Street.  It is a bold move and a great move.  

What is so amazing about the Whitney is how true they have been to their mission.  The museum has been an advocate and collector of living American artists from the very start.  The first Whitney museum was located in Greenwich village so coming back downtown is in many ways a return to its roots.  Taking a tour of their archives hidden in the bowels of the museum when they pack up is going to be a curators dream come true.  

Sheila hicks
This particular exhibit is curated by three separate people.  We started on the fourth floor.  It was curated by Michelle Grabner.  I found most of the work up there politically and racially motivated.  It was actually my favorite floor.  This piece was by Sheila Hicks.  I just loved the beauty of all those yarns drapped from the ceiling.

Ken lum
This piece is from Ken Lum.  Fictitious Vietnamese owned stores that represent the signage in shopping malls near the artists home in South Philadelphia.  Each of the names are associated with the Vietnam War.

Dawoud bey
This piece and the one below were my favorites in the entire show.  Dawoud Bey.  He began to visit Birmingham Alabama regularly and the history of a day in 1963 where six young African Americans were killed in civil rights acts of violence.  These diptychs represent portraits of young people who were the same age as the person killed that day and pictures of adults at the ages they would have been in 2012.

Dawoud bey more
Here is the other one.

Shio kusowao
Mixture of ceramics from the artist Shio Kusaka.  Born in Japan but living in Los Angeles.

Channa horowitz
The third floor was curated by Stuart Comer.  It is defining contemporary America today based on gender identifies, technology shifts and migration.  The curator let each artist almost curate their own space/room.  Lots of out there stuff.  This was my favorite piece.  I knew it had to do with technology.  Channa Horowitz who was actually off the grid was an artist as she lived in relative isolation.  She had been doing these pieces around grid formation since the 1960's and was finally discovered.

Lisa anne aureobach
The name alone of this made me smile.  We Are All Pussy Riot, We Are All Pussy Galore by Lisa Anne Auerbach.

The second floor was curated by Anthony Elms.  My favorites were from an artist Carol Jackson who took a variety of mediums to create these unique sculptures.  

Glad I went.  Lots of work from Los Angeles artist which is worth noting. The Bey pieces are still rambling around my brain. 

The world of Retail

ImagesI am introduced to people all the time and on occassion you meet someone and the conversation just flows. I met with Ari Bloom who is the man behind A2B Consulting.  He does some investing, he does consulting mostly in the retail space and is an all around good guy.  I am so glad we met.  

Our conversation circled around retail.  He started his career in the Gap training program that Mickey Drexler started.  Mickey was at Macys when I went through the training program.  He knew how powerful the program was and my guess is he brought some of the best parts with him to the Gap.  

Ari and I discussed at length how that retail experience transformed our thoughts around business.  At Macy's you started out in a three month classroom experience that essentially taught you the ins and outs of the store.  My memory might be wrong and that part of the experience lasted a little longer or shorter but it was essential.  We learned about how the store was run.  Top executives came and spoke to us about themselves and what they did.  We would even spent some time in a buying office, only for a week, just to get our feet wet.  There was definitely a method to the program.  Once you left that first experience you were placed in the stores.  They got to know you too so we were all placed accordingly.  Definitely a method to the madness.

I was placed in the cosmetics department in Kings Plaza Brooklyn.  I was responsible for the profitability of the department and managing the 100 women who worked there.  I was 21.  Not sure how I knew this but perhaps it was the training but I just dug in.  I was also a retail/finance major so something stuck.  I went through every single buying/inventory book of every cosmetic brand.  I had each rep come in and make them give us a return for old inventories that were not turning to open up the open-to-buy and replace it with fresh merchandise that would sell.  I cleaned the place up and essentially made it shine.  At that time it was the second largest volume cosmetic department next to Herald Square.  I worked like a dog and I loved it.  I loved managing the women too.  It felt like a community.

Macys takes its HR seriously.  In store line a sales manager would get reviewed from their boss who ran one-third of the store with the guidance of the personnel director.  They took me in one day to tell me that I was too aggressive to be in retail.  The truth is I wasn't very good at politics and the woman I reported to was a goody two shoes who expected me to be wowed by her.  Good news is the woman who ran the store thought I was amazing so I happened to share that bit of wisdom from the personnel manager and my boss. I was quickly promoted.  

In order to move forward with that promotion you have to interview for the next job.  The next job up the ladder is assistant buyer.  I was sent out on my first interview and was asked by the buyer "are you organized"?  I laughed and said very.  I got the job.  It was a totally different way to look at the business. It wasn't so much about the day to day but the numbers, the inventory and the product.  My buyer got promoted and I found myself doing that job solo for awhile.  I was working for a tough guy who made most of the women who work for him cry.  Retail can be a very unattractive place.  I remember going into his office with the next seasons buy and numbers on a spread sheet.  Then the spread sheets were done with pencil and erasers.  No computers.  He took one look at it and tossed it back in my face telling me this is wrong.  I went back and tried again.  I returned and the same thing happened.  This time I refused to leave his office.  I told him that I am not going to go back and forth all day long so either teach me how to do it or have someone else do it.  After that he adored me.  I got promoted.

The next job was being an assistant store manager.  I loved this job.  This is the job that would be great for an entrepreneur to learn from.  I was responsible for 1/3 of the store.  All of ready to wear and cosmetics.  Someone gave me the best advice which was do not spend all your time in cosmetics where you are comfortable on the floor because you know it.  Spend your time in the ready to wear area where you only know it from the buying office.  And so I did.  I applied the same type of knowledge from cosmetics in regards to turning the merchandise to ready to wear.  I loved helping the people I managed learn and move forward in their careers.  Merchandise would come in daily and we would move the old stuff out and the new stuff in.  Each day we would change the floor plan based on what was working and what was not.  You could see the difference every single day when you would get your numbers the next morning.  You were either up or down.  You either sold the new stuff or you didn't.  You had no time to sit on anything.  You had to always think about selling and that meant always moving.  I was promoted out of this job really quickly.  

Then I interviewed to become a buyer.  I found this job extremely boring because at the time Mickey Dressler has moved to the Gap and the powers that be at Macys decided they could compete against the Gap.  The market share had shifted.  Macys wanted to start doing private label and buy mass quantities of the same item.  It didn't work so well for a department store customer.  It gave the customer less assortment.  It gave the buyer less opportunities to be creative.  The company was changing and it was not pretty.  

After one year of buying I was ready for the next challenge.  After all I had just gone through four jobs in a little less than four years because that is how the company was set up.  Where was job number five?  I was told by my boss and his boss that women just do not move as quickly as men so the buying job would be at least four years.  Seriously?  I was stuck.  Talking to HR was going to get me nowhere.  And so I left.  I was one of many who began to exit as the powers that be decided to become a private company and take on huge amounts of debt.  Where was my stock like you get in start-ups?  There isn't any for you.  I saw the writing on the wall.  

Ari and I talked about that experience of being in retail.  The energy, the constant change, the ability to know how you are doing each day in dollars and cents.  In many ways that is how great entrepreneurs operate.  They know to listen to their customer and make changes quickly.  Not to linger on something that they believe will just work out because of sheer will.  Going to work for a large company was probably one of the best experiences I could have done to build a solid foundation that helped me grow to where I am now.  It is not the rule of thumb these days as many just jump into the start-up world early on but there is something to say for working in an organization to see how they operate or how they don't operate.  

Looking forward to more conversations with Ari in the future.  

Joanne Wilson Joanne Wilson loves food, books, and music. She lives in New York City. Her husband Fred and children Jessica, Emily, and Josh are bloggers too. More »

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