Archive for June, 2013
There is nothing more frustrating..
Who’s on First, What’s on Second..you know that frustrating feeling – all you want to do is attend an event that you found on some webpage/flyer/friend mentioned and you..can’t find the details! OK, so you’re not desperate to find out about that cooking class, wine dinner or some other event, but you just wanna know – is it going to happen on a given date (maybe the chef looks good or it’s the perfect “date night” or you’ve always wanted to learn how to mix Rum cocktails..), what’s the price (does it include tax and tip?) and can they accomodate your situation (are there “gluten-free” options, is it vegetarian-friendly..and BTW, what does that mean?).
As a person making a living following food and drink events, it is VERY frustrating for me to find an event and not be able to get clear details – Ugghhhh!! So rather than point the fnger at any Event Organizer, I’m going to tell all Events people how to make your customer – FRUSTRATED TO THE POINT OF BOILING OVER..hopefully you all have a sense of humor..
1) Sell Tickets to your event the Old School way – over the phone..
Diners make reservations for restaurants mostly online, so why would anyone want to call a human being and order tickets to your upcoming wine dinner? That phone call is going to be answered 90% of the time by voice mail, but when I do get a live person, the conversation is PAINFUL! The first most obvious question I ask is “are you holding this event, it’s not on your website?” (most likely I found it listed somewhere else on the internet)..then I get the pause..then I ask to confirm the date, menu, and price..again, I get the infinitely long pause. The worst reaction to my questions is the most likely to happen – the person on the phone puts me on hold and tries to FIND THE INFORMATION!
2) Don’t List the Event on Your Webpage
Or list the event on your Facebook Fan Page – yes, this is bad as well – why? Because a restaurant’s webpage is it’s pride and center of control, as it should be for any business. It’s not wrong to list an event on your Facebook Page, but at least include it as well on your website – even better, have your Fanpage link back to your website. Your website is your reputation..repeat, over and over, again and again..
3) Leave Outdated Events on Your Website
Hey, Father’s Day is over – it’s one day/evening – so make sure you delete it from your page by the next day! I’ve seen events so old that I’m not even sure what year events posted are – nothing freaks a potential attendee out more than the thought that the event is a different year! And of course, then you call, and get the wonderful (sarcasm!) person on the other line..
List “Upcoming Events” and make sure they’re mostly (or only!) events that have occured in the past- I mean, you never know, somebody might like to see the skeleton of your events!
4) Make Sure to Forget at Least One Important Component of the Event
You won’t believe this – I guesstimate that 25% of all events posted on a restaurant website have at least one glaring error – the worst is wrong date, but I’ve seen where a multi-restaurant chain doesn’t list the location of the event, I’ve seen price missing (is tax and tip included, or is that added on later?), how to RSVP (or worse – the restaurant leaves an email or phone number to make the RSVP – would a consumer RSVP to book a reservation at your restaurant that way??), no time listed (just show up anytime!!) and often misleading information or missing information like a menu for a wine dinner.
5) When Answering Any Questions Relating to an Event, Be Evasive
Oh, you don’t believe a top-tier restaurant or hotel staff person could be condescending and lack important details on an upcoming event? Wrong! I’ve emailed and called the top restaurants to get details on their wine dinners – often, they snootily tell me that these wine dinners are only emailed to their “exclusive” email list..so should I not attend the event? And what if I am on that exclusive email list – how do I purchase a ticket..do I have to speak to this snooty person..and hope they answer my questions?
I hope you had fun reading this Post – it’s not meant to be mean or angry (a bit sarcastic — maybe!), but more to bring light to an easily solveable issue. Restaurants seem to act like their website isn’t important: menus that are downloaded as pdf’s, address and contact information missing, and usually extraneous scripts or images that clutter up the screen and actually frustrate the restaurant or event goer. Remember this – people who have money and dine out quite a bit, normally lack time – so use your restaurant website to maximize their time and get them to your place of business..it’s easier to upsell that dessert to someone who’s sitting in your restaurant’s seat – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
This is a light news coverage of a recent event I attended called Can Jam Festival which was held on Saturday, June 22nd 2013 at Kastles Stadium in Washington, D.C. This event was organized and promoted by Ontaponline – I’m very familiar with this organization which promotes lifestyle for 20s and 30s somethings in the DC Area – we were both founded in 1997 on the same block on Dent Place, NW in Washington, D.C.!
The concept for this event was to promote breweries that serve beer in cans – the most obvious and early adapter of this sustainable beer storage container is Oskar Blues, but many other breweries have caught on including a local favorite Lost Rhino in Ashburn, VA. I’m including the blurb on what breweries and food trucks participated below (hey, sometimes the news IS just the content!), but do want to mention I had a “Boss Dog” at Top Dog – and there is NOTHING like a well dressed hot dog on a hot day when you are drinking WAY TOO MUCH Beer!
Breweries include: Anderson Valley, Avery, Beck’s, Blue Moon, Budweiser, Cisco, Corona, DC Brau, Flying Dog, Genesee Cream Ale, Goose Island, Jack’s Cider, Kona, Leinenkugel, Lost Rhino, Modelo Especial, New Belgium, Old Speckled Hen, Oskar Blues, PBR, Pilsner Urquell, Redd’s, Redhook, Sam Adams, Shiner, Shock Top, Sierra Nevada, Starr Hill, Stiegl, Third Shift, Yuengling
Overall, a really fun event – the crowd was just the right size, so lines weren’t too long..also the weather was pretty perfect – sunny and no clouds. One comment – lagers, pilsners and lighter beers tend to refresh and are better in the hot weather. So if you decide to pop one open, remember – keep it light (but not lite!) – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Some upcoming Festivals on TasteDC:
–Neighborfood H St. Foodie Tour – Saturday, June 29th, 2013 – H Street, NE in Washington, D.C. opens up a to a new food tour – 8 restaurants (click on link for details) each showcase different dishes that represent the culinary diversity and uniqueness of this area.
–Wine Stock Festival – Saturday, July 13th, 2013 – Little Washington Winery, Sperryville, VA – Festival about 90 minutes from DC celebrating great American wines, food and lots of great music – the view is beautiful too!
–Best of Washingtonian – Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 – National Building Museum, DC – Big Shindig which has all the the great chefs and restaurants and tons of great drinks and food – worth the $125 ticket price, or the VIP $175!
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 I attended a fun wine tasting for the Trade put on by Vibrant Rioja who were showcasing the wine region at a tasting put on at Ripple Restaurant in Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. Aaron Gordon was representing Vibrant Rioja and let’s just say – he’s a character! The wine trade always has attracted the artsy and the intellectual, and maybe the slightly off-center – I would say this guy fits the bill! The other speaker was a more traditional sommelier.. well almost David Denton who was also at one time a punk rock guitar player – but now he works as the sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capital Hill. But the presentation was very good – well, actually I couldn’t see the tv screen presentation (was it a slideshow?), but the layout of the wine tasting was really excellent and easy to follow – numbered glasses, white in front of red.
So what did I gain from this Rioja tasting?
-Tempranillo can be white – yes, I had probably my first white Tempranillo – and it was very good! I would say it was a medium-bodied white and I think it had some oak, but it was also unusual in that it was slightly oxidized even though it was a young wine – so it had those sherry-like features/burnt almond that made it seem much older.
-there are many indigenous varietals I had never heard of and I tried one that made me pretty excited – Maturana Tinta – a gamey/blackberry fruit red grape that had quite a bit of life and a touch of gaminess! After tasting so many steady Cabernets and even Tempranillo’s in my wine tasting career, it’s always nice to find a red varietal that has life and potential – this wine (albeit this was a better-made more expensive version by Dinastia Vivanco (2009) shows how there is more great wine to explore even from well-known regions like Rioja.
-a red wine over 10 years old isn’t necessarily brickish in color or aged in taste – I’m still amazed at the vibrancy and purple color of the Bodegas Ontanon Reserva 1995 (Tempranillo and Garnacha) – my understanding is that this wine had been kept in the winemaker’s cellar until recently which may explain alot – the color suggested a relatively young wine and the fruit was still noticeable on the palate, although there was quite a bit of that aged cedar box you get from slightly older wines. I think more than anything, Tempranillo can age amazingly well, but proper treatment and storage of your wines can make a HUGE difference when you go to open something over a decade old – consider improving or maintaining quality wine storage!
Overall, the event was very nicely laid out and had a festive feel. I also like the fact that they chose a wine bar – Ripple – vs. a traditional fancy schmancy fine dining restaurant – it gave this a more festive air. Rioja is almost an exclamation point for Spanish wine – you can simply walk in to pretty much and decent restaurant and ask for a “Rioja” and the server will know that you mean a Tempranillo from the region. Tasting Graziano, Garnacha, Maturana and many other varietals opens up this traditional wine region to new experiences. Also, the traditional blending of Cabernet and Merlot with everything is a choice here – some traditionalists in Spain are trying to bring more local character to their wines by avoiding the overly oak, rich, modern style. One last point – traditionally, Rioja uses American oak barrels vs French for aging of wines – this also gives them a slight “coconut” aromatic that sets them apart from other European wines. Cheers to Rioja!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Part presentation, part tasting and part cooking class, this event showcased 2 really great Scotches produced by The Glenlivet: their 18 year old and the Nadurra Cask Strength. The question is: Does Scotch pair well with food?
Our chef for the event was Wendi James – I had met her at a prior cooking class at the Hill Center a few months before teaching a pasta class – she’s a very good cooking teacher with really great presentation skills (in other words, she uses plain English!) so it was easy to understand her directions. The recipes were for:
- Smoked Chicken in Bacon Cream Sauce
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Vanilla Vinaigrette
- Butterscotch Bread Pudding
Little pointers along the way made it educational – for example, to make “lardons” (in essence crispy bacon pieces), Wendi said it’s best to start with a pan on low heat vs high heat. See, I always start with a hot pan – it’s just my way of getting food started quickly..but that’s actually a bad idea if you’re trying to render fat – so it makes more sense to put the bacon pieces in a low heat pan to let the fat melt and create “oil” and slowly crisp the exterior. Hmmm, good lesson!
Of course, my friend Emily is Kosher – and two immediate problems came to mind: 1)bacon! and 2)meat and dairy at the same meal..Emily was a real trooper (I swore to her – I had no idea what the dishes would be!) and she simply ate the chicken prepared without the bacon (I highly doubt the meal was even close to Kosher – Such is Life!)
So how did the Scotch and food pairing go? Well, of course, I had to raise my hand and ask Craig, Glenlivet’s Brand Ambassador how he suggested that Scotch and food be paired. His answer was also pretty insightful: the 18 Year Old Glenlivet is a rounder/mellower style of Scotch than the Nadurra which is full “Cask” strength and uses only Bourbon barrels (the 18 Year gets both Sherry and Bourbon barrel aging). Also one other quick point: Glenlivet uses minimal if any peat-smoked grains, so the smokyness of the Scotch is really not a factor. The 18 year went well with the bacon/cream sauce and the smoky chicken, but even better with the mashed Sweet Potatoes because they had orange zest in the ingredients – that really made it pair beautifully! Since the Nadurra is a more aggressive style, you need something to either cut the intensity or match it – so cheese being a fat often is paired with it, but also desserts – he mentioned chocolate is a great pairing, but I noticed the butterscotch sauce in the Bread Pudding sort of tamed the flames of the Scotch. When I looked at the recipes, I noticed: smoke, vanilla and butterscotch – these are noteworthy components of the Whisky aging process, so it just makes sense that using these in cooking will pair well..
Conclusion: Glenlivet, Culinaerie and everyone staffing the event did a bang up job of presenting Scotch as a wonderful addition to a meal – not just a drink to be enjoyed by itself. I suggest you look for these type of events in your city..and of course if you live in Washington, D.C., check out the TasteDC site for cooking classes and these type of events – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler