Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Years Menu?

We're throwing on hell of a party on New Years.

Our group of 10 friends is descending on a beachside condo in Melbourne for a culinary throwdown.

The menu isn't finalized yet, but we're getting close.

In support of the festivities, we just made a run to Gary's Seafood in Orlando. They're a wholesaler of seafood and other gourmet items. They sell strictly to restuarants, unless you know someone...we know someone.

So what did we get?

Berkshire Heritage pork tenderloins. I'm thinking of making this into a Porc Mignon with garlic confit pan sauce and parsnip puree.

We also bought quail and buffalo short ribs. Not exactly how these will end up yet, but probably will pan roast the quail and braise the short ribs.

Oh. Did I mention the cheese and charcuterie? Shropshire Blue, Humboldt Fog aged goat, Seal Bay triple cream cheese, artisanal duck prosciutto and salami.

This post is making me hungry.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who spoke to me in 2008?

Seth Godin gave some poignant advice on the number one secret to a great blog.

Most blogs that earned my subscription did so because they they resonate with me. The message and content speaks to me.

Those that don't, usually get deleted. No sense cluttering up the reader with noise from tribes in which I don't belong.

So who spoke to me in 2008? I won't name them all, but I present the stars here.

BTW, if you have any suggestions for me, please share.

Seth's Blog - Seriously, I really dig what this guy has to say and am in awe with the manner in which he goes about it. Can Seth Godin be any better of a story teller? This blog speaks to me. It is one of the most pragmatic philosophies of marketing that I've read.

Chris Brogan - This guy gets it and is not afraid to share it. And from what I can tell, he's a real class act. How do I know? About a month ago, I was at a Tweet-up in Orlando, which I specifically attended because I knew some heavy hitters would also be there. Chris actually walked by me, but I didn't introduce myself, because I didn't want to be a nuisance. Then, I see this post on his blog the very next day. Like I said, class act (and possibly clairvoyant).

Michael Ruhlman - Great blog. It's subject is culinary, but it isn't recipe or technique focused per se. Instead, it's part informational, parts tips, but mostly the enertaining musings of this culinary hero. One of my favorite culinary blogs.

Foodie at fifteen - He's actually sixteen now, but props to Nick for this very honest and passionate blog. It's a fun read and he knows his stuff. He's also caught the attention of more than a few brilliant culinary minds. This kid is going far.

Bob Del Grosso - His blog is called A Hunger Artist. Who can't love a food blog named after a Kafka story about a guy who starves himself? Bob, who is or was an instructor at CIA, lives on a farm, butchers his own meat and makes his own salumi. Could life get any better than that?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Growing your online community

Online communities can be an inexpensive yet powerful tool for businesses.

However, you can't just build a community and set it on auto-pilot. Communities need nurturing.

If you plan on building your own community, here are the nurturing roles that you should be planning for.

Technical - Online communities are comprised of people, however, they are powered by software. You need someone who has the know-how to build and maintain your community infrastructure.

Moderation - Someone needs to have a watchful eye on your community. It is inevitable that either a spammer or nuisance user will join your community. These folks will muddy the relevance of your content and help to drive your legitimate users away. Moderation is key to minimizing this. Additionally, a good moderator can provide a holding hand to your users.

Discussion - Communities, at their core, are about discussions. As a community creator, it is important that you monitor and facilitate relevant discussions. The more people are talking, the more your community grows.

Strategic - Communities evolve. In some instances, your community members are the drivers of that evolution. However, you must be prepared to take that role. Introducing new features are one form of community evolution. More importantly though, is recognizing problems in a community, and course correcting by revising your strategy.

Your community won't be perfect from day one. But if you talk to your members and listen to their valuable feedback, over time, it just might be.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tasty turkey stock

It's turning out to be another soup weekend!

While rummaging through the freezer yesterday, I spotted some turkey necks and backs that I had intended to use for Thanksgiving, but never did.

These things are perfect for stock. So before heading over to Sara and Eric's for illegal cassoulet (http://twitpic.com/utmc), I started on making homemade stock.

I first browned the 2 inch pieces of necks and backs in canola oil in the stock pot over medium high heat. During the browning process, I used a trick that renders an unbelievably deep flavor.

Here it is.

While browning, your turkey will begin to form what is termed as "fond". Fond is basically that caramelized layer of stuff that sticks to the bottom of the browning pan. It is pure flavor-packed goodness. The fond is your friend. After a while, you'll get a really good layer of fond. Add a few tablespoons of water to the turkey and scrape the fond from the pan. Continue to cook. The water will eventually evaporate and a new layer of fond will form. Then again, after a good layer of fond forms, add more water. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times, making sure you're carefully monitoring your heat. DO NOT burn the fond.

Once your turkey is browned, add enough water to cover, and slowly bring to a simmer. You do not want the stock to bubble. Place the stock pot into a 180 degree oven ( a trick I learned from Michael Ruhlman ) for no less than 3 hours. I left mine in for 9. It's up to you. An hour before your stock is done, throw some aromatics in your pot. I added chopped carrots, a chopped onion, 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf and a spring of sage.

When your stock is done, strain through a colander, then through a cheesecloth. Cool, then refrigerate.

You now have a tasty turkey stock.

What soup will the stock end up making?

A chicken and spaetzle with leeks and roasted garlic soup..I'll post the recipe later.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The power of influence. The power of persistence.

Shel Israel recently blogged about the power of Twitter and why companies should be listening.

The post covered how one tweet by David Alston (Radian6) highlighting bad service from UHaul exploded into a movement.

This post really resonated with me as I recently had a similar experience with My Land Rover Battle. Although my experience and David's had similarities, there were also some distinct differences.

David's review of UHaul had alot of legs and spread throughout the twittersphere fairly quickly. It spread much further than mine. Why? Well, bluntly put, David Alston has more influence than me. He's extremely well known in the social media community. I am not. He has far more Twitter followers and subsequently more reach than I do. His one tweet rallied a movement and most likely cost UHaul future business. That is the power of influence.

My campaign had a favorable outcome for me. David's tweet didn't really make a difference to him personally. Why? For one, David posted one tweet and left it at that. My Land Rover Battle was a campaign which, included a call to action for people to phone Land Rover on my behalf. I estimate that about 10-15 calls were made. This, in my opinion, is was what made the difference. That is the power of persistence.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twitter support, can I get some $&%*#@& help?

Question: If I use a free service, which offers support to it's users, what can I reasonably expect in terms of customer care? Am I entitled to the same levels of care as a customer of a "pay" service?

Case in point, Twitter. A well-known free service, which offers a support queue. A queue in which I've had two tickets for some time now. The first is dated 11/14/08. The second (which really is the same issue, just resubmitted) is dated 12/04/08. Neither ticket has been responded to by their support department. This lack of response is extremely irritating.

To me, the act of offering support to your customers, even if you are a free service, obligates you to providing a reasonable level of support. If you aren't able to do this, either staff up in that department or explicitly state that you do not offer support. Ostensibly offering it serves nothing but to make your users angry and generate negative online buzz.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How I blog

I don't blog 3 times a day like the A listers or even once a day. My blogging is sporadic, happening about once a week.

But when I do blog, I do it on my shiny Macbook Pro with a 2.33 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside!

How many of the A-listers blog in such style? Do me a favor, show Ted your Intel!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ah...turkey soup

I love making soup. It's one of those things where you have to most license and leeway. There are no rules.

If you want a thick soup...make it thick. You want it spicy...make it spicy.

To finish off my thanksgiving turkey, I decided to make a creamy turkey soup. How does one make a soup creamy you ask?

Simple. Flour!

So here is the basic run down of how I made my soup. The measurements are not exact, but it is a great model for how to make a creamy anything soup.

First, I sauteed a cup of diced carrots, a cup of diced onion, and a cup of chopped leeks until soft. This was done in a copious amount of butter (1 stick) and a little bacon fat (YUM) over medium heat.

Next, add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour. Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Undercooking a roux will leave a floury taste to your soup.

Now, add your stock. Oh did I mention you need to make a stock? Here is a link to help you out with that - Turkey Stock.

Turn up the heat, start adding your stock and stir. Your soup will begin to thicken. Add enough stock to get the consistency that works for you.

Add chopped turkey. I like my soup meaty so I add ALOT. You should add as much as you want. Again, there are no rules when making soup!

Now add about 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme or any other spice/herb that will make your soup delicious.

Salt and pepper to taste.

I also add about a 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream to really cream it up. You can do the same...maybe a bit of sour cream for some tang? Psst, there are no rules.

Have you made a soup before? Tell me all about it!