Express Yourself

There’s been a lot of talk about breastfeeding in recent days, thanks to Michelle Obama’s public endorsement of it as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity, and the stunningly moronic Tea Party commentary that has since followed it.  I think it’s common sense that we can now use money from our flex-spending accounts toward breast pumps, just as we’ve been able to use it on contact lenses.  And seriously, is publicly touting the virtues of breast milk anything worth getting upset about?  Regardless of whether or not a woman decides to breastfeed, it’s not like a controversial thing to recommend something that most mothers have been doing since the dawn of time, right?  I guess these hypocritical “I breastfed all my babies but don’t think other women should be able to use their FSA money to help fund $300 breast pumps” women (e.g. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann) haven’t received the memo that breast milk is all the rage.  Let’s just say it ain’t just for babies anymore!

The Icecreamists in London’s Covent Garden was recently featured on BBC for being the first to offer an ice cream flavor called Baby Gaga made out of freshly expressed and pasteurized human breast milk.  At £14 a scoop, I’m not desperate to try it anytime soon; though as a friend pointed out, how much longer before we witness the same at our local farmer’s markets with locavore labels like “Danny’s Mom”?  Of course they’ll have to get around the New York Health Department, which last year banned Chef Daniel Angerer of Klee from making and serving cheese made out of the excess milk produced by his wife’s mammaries.  Waste not, want not?

Flavor Thesaurus

This book by Niki Segnit is already out in the UK and is available for pre-order on Amazon here in the US.  This Guardian review makes it sound pretty awesome.  They should have kept the British cover — the American one looks so blah.  Why do they always do that to book covers here?  And Flavour with a u looks better too…but I digress…

Simple Vessels

Came across very nice tea packaging design for Jamie Oliver while browsing the Williams Sonoma website for hot chocolate mixes.  I randomly bought a hot chocolate pot today for $15 at Housing Works Thrift Store thinking it was a weird tea pot.  The wooden stick is to mix the chocolate around.  Sweet.  I don’t even drink hot chocolate very much, but now that I have this awesome contraption, I have an incentive to drink more of it.  As for the Jamie Oliver tea…at $29 a container, I think I’ll stick to my PG Tips.  It would make a nice gift for someone, no?

Jamie Oliver's Very Special Mango Passion Fruit Tea
BIA Cordon Bleu Hot Chocolate Pot

Illegal Wedding Fair in NYC

I haven’t had a spare moment to blog for the last couple of months since planning for the Illegal Wedding Fair went into high gear!  This is my better-late-than-never post about the upcoming event that we’ve been feverishly working on, with an additional note to say I probably won’t be posting anything until after June 6 when all of this is over and I have time to do normal things again like pick up the dry cleaning and wash the dishes.

So here’s everything you need to know about the IWF.  It’s NYC’s premier same-sex wedding fair event taking place on Sunday, June 6 at the stunning townhouse venue, 632 on Hudson.  It’s a 4 hour event from noon-4pm with over 25 local vendors showcasing their work, all of whom unanimously support marriage equality.  There will be gorgeous wedding cakes by Cake Alchemy and Nine Cakes, a fabulous dinner-party vignette by floral designers Poppies & Posies in collaboration with the incredibly talented calligrapher Bryn Chernoff of Paperfinger, utilizing furniture and tableware provided by Broadway Party Rentals.  You’ll be able to nibble on delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by eco-chic caterers Stuart & Welch, as well as Brooklyn’s own DISH Food & Events.  There will be an explosion of gorgeous flowers everywhere, designed by our participating gay-friendly florists, including Saipua, Worship Luxury, and the elusive/exclusive private florist Shaun Carson.  Luxury event designer Zak Kunish of ZAK Events will be showcasing his talents, as well as Marie Danielle Vil-Young, event coordinator of À Votre Service Events.

E&V Weddings, the featured photographers of the Illegal Wedding Fair will be taking over an entire room in the upper triplex that I like to call “the Chuck Bass Opium Den,” offering retro-vintage portraiture and all sorts of photographic goodness.  Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Kelly Guenther will also be on hand to showcase what she calls her “wedding photojournalism,” as will luxury events photographer Robert DiScalfani‘s crew.  You’ll find some gorgeous wedding gowns by Lovely bridal shop in a room that looks like Marie Antoinette’s boudoir, sample beautiful favors by Amy’s Cookies and Bespoke Chocolates, and even get to talk to speech consultants at The Oratory Laboratory about how not to embarrass yourself when giving that semi-drunk and tearful speech at your next wedding.  Face Time Beauty Concierge will be doing touch-ups and offering advice on how to look your best, and wellness guru Tory Marsh will be giving advice on health and nutrition.  You can find same-sex wedding bands designed by Rony Tennenbaum, who recently opened a boutique in Nolita, and check out the beautiful stationery of both Lion in the Sun Park Slope and Atelier Isabey.  Am I leaving anything out?  All this while enjoying cocktails expertly mixed by Payman Bahmani of Life’s a Cocktail and Mayur Subbarao of Evoe to the sounds of some great performers provided by Elan Artists!  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, right?

If you start to feel overwhelmed you can take a breather in the gorgeous lounge space on the ground-floor created by the furniture and props rental outfit, Taylor Creative.  From there you can look across to the Speaker’s Corner and catch some amazing talks by David Toussaint, author of Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony, Annie Lee, principal planner and founder of Daughter of Design, and Dr. Anne Klaeysen & Law’nence Miller, officiants from the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Meet Kirsten & Maria Palladino, the Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Equally Wed, the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine and our national media sponsor for this event.  They’re coming all the way from Hotlanta so come say hi!  We’re also crossing our fingers that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn might be able to drop in to give an address so this is serious stuff!  We’ve got a ton of great products to raffle off for charity from our amazing sponsors, including a few of those famous Marriage is So Gay T-shirts.  Everyone will go home with a sweet swag bag and enjoy products from sponsors illy issimo and popchips among many others.  Our hearts are full with love and gratitude for all the awesome people participating in realizing this one-of-a-kind event.  Come on out and share the love on June 6!  Say NO to marriage discrimination in our state (and everywhere else, for that matter), and let’s hope that next year this will be the LEGAL Wedding Fair!

Tickets are $35 per person / $60 per couple – available here via Brown Paper Tickets, the first and only fair trade ticketing company.  See you at the party!

Pigging Out!

The pig-related phrases are endless — go “hog wild” this Sunday at Pier 60 in NYC as Cochon 555 returns for a second season of porcine madness. 5 chefs will be “going whole hog” as they transform every last bit of 5 heritage pigs from local farms into delicious little porcine masterpieces paired with 5 select wines.  The nation-wide tour is meant to raise awareness around sustainable local agriculture and promote diverse heritage and heirloom pig breeds.  For pork-lovers, it’s a unique opportunity to learn more about pig breeds and the butchering process while pigging out on basically every part of this heavenly creature.  May sound cruel, but it’s meant to increase appreciation for everything the pig offers and make you think twice about where the meat you put in your mouth is coming from.  It’s all about feeling more connected to your food!  Oink.

Truck On!

Niiice.  Finally, an iPhone app that helps me zero in on a nearby food truck!  The free app called StreetEats lets me know which vendors are out and about based on my location.  Makes life easier since going onto Twitter to follow each one individually and deciphering their coordinates is kind of a pain when you’re standing on a freezing NYC sidewalk, craving food off a truck.  I see already that our friends over at the Bistro Truck, Treats Truck, Van Leeuwen, Wafels & Dinges, and Cravings are all participating–so heck yeah, sign me up!

Improving Coffee IQ

Coffee Cupping at Intelligentsia's NYC Training Lab

I went to a coffee cupping session the other day at Intelligentsia Coffee‘s NYC Training Lab.  Cupping is similar to wine tasting and is mainly used professionally in the industry as a way to evaluate coffee quality.  I’ve seen it done before by a roasting expert on an innovation tour I led last year in Tokyo on the topic of connoisseurship, but this was my first time trying it out myself.  Our Intelligentsia coffee educator showed our little group how to evaluate three types of ground coffees in multiple stages, from dry to wet, stirred (called “the break” from when you puncture the upper crust of grounds that forms), and to finally tasting  after most of  the floating grounds have been scooped out.

I felt totally smell-deaf at first as the only descriptive word that came to my mind when smelling the grinds was ‘coffee’.  But with increased focus and some imagination, I eventually managed to find some more nuanced descriptions to write down on my chart of aromas and flavors, like ‘almond cookies’ and ‘molten chocolate lava cake.’  (Perhaps I was just hungry?)  It was encouraging to realize at the end of the session that despite the group consisting mainly of first-time amateurs, in general people seemed to be writing down descriptions that were roughly in the same ballpark.  My favorite description given by a fellow attendee about a particularly complex coffee was, “like a winter wonderland in the spring!”  Sort of makes you think  about coffee in a whole new way, doesn’t it?  Like wine, cheese and chocolate, coffee is well on its way to becoming better known for its origins and artisinal qualities rather than as mere commodity.

It’s a shame that Intelligentsia doesn’t yet have a coffee shop in NYC.  Luckily you can still get their superior coffees in many cafes around town like Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca, a beautiful shop owned by Swedish twin brothers.  Not only is the coffee amazing, courtesy of Intelligentsia, they have delicious pastries and the shop’s Svenska design aesthetic is utterly charming.  Anyway, the cupping session costs only ten bucks and it’s open to the public so if you’re a lay coffee-freak like myself, I highly recommend it.  And from a marketing perspective, what a lovely way to get consumers to interact with your brand and foster brand loyalty!  I for one am totally sold; especially on their Rwandan Bufcafe.  Upgrade your life!  Go buy some good beans!

Yogurty Goodness

The resident economist shot over a random post yesterday from Slate about NPD Group’s announcement that the Food of the Decade is (drumroll please)…yogurt.  According to Harry Balzer of NPD, the percentage of Americans who consume yogurt regularly went up from 17% in 2000 to something like 28% by the end of the decade.  That’s a lot of yogurt.  And not surprisingly, marketing has had a lot to do with that, with companies having introduced over 1,200 new yogurt products to the market since 2005 according to market research firm, Mintel.

We’re all familiar with the game-changers:  Yoplait’s tubular Go-Gurt, which you can freeze and stick in a kid’s lunchbox, made yogurt more accessible to kiddies, and then of course there were those seriously seductive claims by Dannon’s Activia that bifidus regularis was gonna make you poop as regularly as Jamie Lee Curtis, the Redeemer for all the Constipated.  Despite all the snickering, Activia’s move to start a public dialogue on how frequently we move our bowels paid off big time, resulting in over $130 million in sales its first year followed by a 50% increase in the second year.  Furthermore, the yogurt trend is far from over.  Compared to the decades-long obsession with probiotics and the relentless campaigns against constipation that I’ve witnessed in Japan (to say nothing of Germany), the Activia Challenge represents just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how much more yogurt (and yogurt-based products) we could potentially sell in this country by leveraging the all-important issue of blockage.

It’s a discourse that’s still fairly new to American consumers and so I don’t blame them for being skittish about discussing their poo health the way, say, Gillian McKeith does on primetime television in the UK on her hit show You Are What You Eat. There’s Gillian at dinnertime, analyzing obese people’s poos on her special German loo and making them get colonics on national television!  If the popularity of products boasting high fiber and probiotics content is any indication, it’s really just a matter of time before Americans get up to speed and become just as poo-literate as many other parts of the world.

And seriously, why is Yakult, the Japanese probiotics brand known for their mini aluminum-sealed daily yogurt drinks, not widely available here?  It’s available pretty much everywhere else in the world, but for some reason it’s hard to locate in the US outside of Asian grocery stores.  Yakult’s line-up of probiotics products would do incredibly well in this market because it tastes delicious, comes in packs that make it easy to consume daily, and the research behind it goes decades further back than anything launched in 2005 could possibly claim.  I mean, check out this Yakult commercial with Ken Watanabe – it looks more like an ad for medication than one for drinkable yogurt.

To keep up the momentum in the next decade, major yogurt brands are gonna have to do more than just come up with nasty new flavors like Red Velvet Cake to add to their already over-crowded lineup.  They’ll have to keep on talking about regularity, for a start, and innovate by taking cues from niche premium brands like Siggi’s Icelandic skyr and Liberté’s Six Grains yogurt, which are way more on the right track with their distinctive offerings.  More on Siggi’s some other time…