Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rufous, the red-lored Amazon

In September 1989 Myron got a new parrot. It was a red-lored Amazon that he named Rufous. Myron got Rufous when he was so young Myron had to hand feed him three times a day. Over the next twenty years Rufous learned to speak, saying "what are you doing", "bye", "hello birdie". In the last year or so he started mimicking my laugh.

Tonight as we were getting our dinner party underway we went into the kitchen and Rufous was in the bottom of his cage with his wings spread and his beak open. Myron picked him up and Rufous bit him, which Myron took as a good sign. Myron gave Rufous some water with a spoon, which he drank, and Myron returned him to his cage. Within a few minutes he was sprawled with his wings spread, panting.

Myron called the emergency vet, which did not have an avian vet on staff but said they would do what the could. By the time he got there Rufous was barely breathing. Rufous died shortly afterwards. The cause of death is unknown.

I can't imagine what Myron is going through right now. Having a pet for 20 years and losing it so suddenly is an unthinkable horror.

R.I.P Rufous, 1989 - 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dining in the Vail area

In Colorado we stayed in Avon, which is about 8 miles from Vail proper. This is a playground for the super rich and the dining scene follows suit. That's not to say that the old Colorado cowboy culture has been completely subverted, though. During our stay we enjoyed everything from rustic cowboy fare at The Gashouse to the ultimate in fine dining at Kelly Liken's eponymous restaurant. In between we had soft-shelled crab po boy's, tenderloin sandwiches, amazingly good Chinese, and a spectacular dinner at a slopeside mountain cabin. Our least expensive meal was breakfast at Daylight Donuts in Breckenridge ($17) and the most expensive was at Kelly Liken in Vail ($440).

The Good

Our first night in town we looked through the dining guides and came up with a few ideas, then asked the front desk staff which one they liked. They all raved about Fiesta Jalisco's, which you may have guessed is a Mexican restaurant. It was a short (but very cold) walk to the restaurant, where we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. The restaurant was packed and insanely crowded, and we heard several locals who were leaving say they had never seen it that busy.

The (American) traditional chips and salsa was served with a coleslaw made from shredded cabbage dressed in lime juice. It was incredibly good, and our waiter said it was a traditional accompaniment with fish tacos in Puerto Vallarta, a coastal town in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

The food was very good but the standout was the Original Margaritas. They consisted simply of tequila, cointreau, and lime juice. That's it. They were also shaken with ice and served in a martini glass, not on the rocks or frozen. It was a delicious concoction and one I'll be sure to work hard to perfect. Do I have any taste testers who will volunteer?

The Better

Colorado is known for wild game. They hunt everything that walks, flies, swims or crawls, and you can find it on a menu somewhere. Many restaurants specialize in wild game, so we sought one out. We were very happy to find The Gashouse in Edwards, about 15 minutes away from Avon. The decor features mounted animal heads of everything from deer and antelope to cape buffalo.

The must-have dishes were the buffalo carpaccio, which was lightly smoked but still served raw, and the truffle and parmesan cheese fries. Both were superb.

The Even Better

One night Myron booked us at Zach's Cabin, which is located behind the Ritz Carlton in Bachelor's Gulch, a part of the Beaver Creek ski resort. We arrived a few minutes early and had wonderful pre-dinner drinks at Spago's bar. At the designated time we went out to a sled that was drawn by a snow cat (for those unfamiliar think bulldozer, but lower to the ground and wider), which took us up the mountain to a cabin in the woods.

The restaurant is a classic log cabin, complete with a double-sided fireplace. We were seated in a cozy corner table and the magic unfolded. The decor and ambience were wonderful and the service spectacular. The elk tenderloin was butter tender, and baklava cheesecake was to die for. It was a dollop of delicious cheesecake filling in a fillo dough shell, drizzled with honey. Sublime.

The only disappointment was that the wine list was shockingly overpriced. Bottles I have bought for $20 were over $100. The least expensive wines were still over $30 and I wouldn't even buy them at $6, which is what they are in Charleston.

The Best

Kelly Liken has been called rising star among female chefs and she has been featured in magazines ranging from Bon Appetit to Sky Magazine. I'm not sure where I first learned of her, but I was reminded of her presence in Vail by the in-flight magazine. We had done dinner at Zach's Cabin, which was fairly pricey, so we weren't sure we wanted to do something even higher end. Finally I decided that since we were there I was going to splurge and worry about paying for it later. That's the American way, right?

One of the options was a custom tasting menu with custom wine pairings. We put ourselves in the hands of Chef Liken and the very capable sommelier, Jeremy, for a completely blind five course tasting menu. We started with the cobia crudo, continued with braised pork belly, honey marinated duck breast, Colorado rack of lamb, and finished with an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate truffle cake. It was a nearly orgasmic progression. All five courses were delicious, the wine pairings were perfect, and the service superb. The only complaint I could offer is it was a little loud and sometimes hard to hear, but even that is highly subjective and dependent on who is dining that particular night. This was one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life, rating up there with our dinner at La Pergola.

The most striking thing I came away with was being introduced to banyuls, which is essentially a French port made from grenache. It is lighter and brighter in fruit than port and pairs wickedly well with chocolate (we had it with the chocolate truffle cake). If you like port you owe it to yourself to seek this out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

advertising and marketing

There has been much talk in the Yellowverse about advertising, marketing and how the two interrelate -- or not. Most of the people I know still seem to correlate the two, and (ironically) equate the attempts at making a distinction just marketing spin. To be honest, I was one of them until I had an epiphany today. Before we get into that, let's start with some definitions:
Marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. The term developed from the original meaning which referred literally to going to market, as in shopping, or going to a market to sell goods or services.

Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
Okay... that still sounds about the same, right? First, advertising is a subset of marketing. Therefore all advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. Second, the distinction lies in the intent. Marketing is about disseminating information; advertising is about persuasion.

Still not clear? Suppose you're at a farmer's market and you want tomatoes. You see someone with tomatoes displayed, and you go buy them. He doesn't have to tell you to buy them or announce their availability, him simply presenting them is all the marketing you need. It would be advertising if he were yelling out loud "Get your fresh tomatoes here!" since he is trying to influence you to purchase his tomatoes. The announcement would be marketing, the persuasion (via the command "get") is advertising.

So, circling back to where I started, what led me to finally grasp the distinction between advertising and marketing was a blog post by Seth Godin titled "which comes first, the product or the marketing". In it he points out that most of the time you actually need the marketing first since that will drive product creation. Once I read that I recalled a Facebook status update by Matt White and a blog post by Ben Langhinrichs illustrating how this has started happening. IdeaJam is marketing because a community is exchanging information in an attempt to achieve something of value to them. Some entrepreneurial types are taking this and capitalizing on it by delivering products to meet the market demand.

Friday, February 13, 2009

my epic fall

Some of you have seen my Facebook posts about my epic fall today at Breckenridge. Here's the deal. We were going down Monte Cristo, our first run at Breckenridge. The terrain is rolling hills, some big and some small, and it's really varied. Myron was ahead of me and when it looked like things had flattened out I went into a tuck to catch up.

When you tuck while skiing you put a lot of weight on the front of your skis, not the back as one might think. You want weight on the front of your skis because that's what makes you go. Resting on your heels slows you down. So it was while in a tuck with my weight shifted forward that I hit an unexpected bump and went airborne. When I landed it was on the front of my skis, still in a tuck. Not the right position to be in since the force of the impact caused both my skis to pop off.

I was launched forward, leaving my skis behind, and landed on my face, primarily on the left side. My ski goggles scraped down my face and my chest slammed into the snow. The next few minutes/hours/decades were both a blur and frozen in time. I remember pulling my ski poles and gloves off, and ripping my goggles and hat off, all while rolling to my knees to try to catch my breath. My chest felt like an elephant was standing on it.

I know I was making some pretty horrible noises because I simply couldn't breathe, and I was scared shitless because my chest hurt so bad. My first thought was I had broken a rib and punctured a lung. I struggled for a long time to catch my breath, kneeling in the snow and wondering if I was going to die there.

Maybe two minutes after I fell someone came along and asked if I was okay. By then I had regained my breath and my composure and was gathering my scattered equipment. I skied on down and met up with Myron, who was about half a mile ahead of me. He said it was such an easy run that he didn't think to look for me since I usually ski better than him.

Here's what the damage looked like at lunch today.

We finished out the day and I skied amazingly well. We both love Breckenridge and the fault here is entirely mine. Not to say it doesn't hurt, but if I can take a fall like that and walk away with some bruises and aching ribs, I'll call it a good day.