Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Spam WILL get you noticed on Twitter...for all the wrong reasons!

More and more brands and small companies are trying to make their mark in social media. And rightly so. The social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ have been a definite boon to small and midsize companies trying to make their mark in the online media and social media arena. Good planning, quality content and a following of the 'so called rules,' will help when trying to get yourself noticed. But, many have jumped into the deep end with little or no knowledge of twitter etiquette, and the dos and don'ts of how to do it the right way. Influencers in certain topics, such as myself for instance, in the areas of food and culinary, are usually glad to help and, IF you do it right.

But one of the worst ways to get noticed on twitter is to Spam. Especially by those that have huge followings and are considered the 'twitter elite' in their specific topic. Oh, this will get you attention for sure, but it will all be all negative and actually defeat your purpose and damage your rep. Most will ignore your spam, quietly blocking and reporting you. Some, like myself will call you out on it. In public. To our thousands of readers and followers. That can in some cases be the kiss of death. So, here are some simple techniques to avoid being put in what I call, Spam Jail.

If you are seeking notoriety, attention, or want to call certain individuals, or personalities to your brand, instead of using spam if you have a great news article or story, first and foremost, follow the twitter profile of the person or company you are are trying to connect with. Re-tweet their postings. Reply to certain posts or tweet and start a dialog. Most of us keep a close eye on our mentions, re-tweets and activity. We do this for a variety of reasons, but for the most part, it is to see if the content we are posting and tweeting is being well received and to keep a pulse on what is important to our twitter following. It also allows us to engage and respond to our readers and followers when they reply or re-tweet out content.That will get you noticed.

Second, if you want to get your tweets noticed, simply ask for a follow from that individual so you can talk with them via DM. It's simple to ask a well know twitter profile if they think they're followers may be interested in a news article or post or item that you want to get out there to a wider public. This works very well with me for instance. Why? First it shows etiquette and respect. If done this way, it will more than likely result in a follow, at least to entertain your request in private. If your content is good, timely and interesting, folks like me will probably re-tweet it for you and now that you have our attention, if the trend continues, we may include it in our regular tweet rotation and you will have more that achieved your goal.

Remember, be patient above all else. A positive and well followed Twitter rep is not something you can gain overnight. You must develop relationships, show consistency, and above all, show some class. Spam will absolutely get you noticed immediately!! It will also get you called out, complained about, blocked and reported. Your goal is to develop a great reputation and twitter following and if you are new to twitter, or have even gotten impatient trying to get noticed, with Spam, you can actually shoot yourself in the profile, before you even start your campaign. I hope this helps.

Bon Appetit, 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Staying on the cutting edge in your Kitchen: Knife Skills...

Welcome to the second installment in a series of posts geared toward the 'at home cook.' It is my belief that anyone can cook gourmet at home and this series is designed to give you, the at home cook, foodie, culinary enthusiast, the techniques and methods used by every professional chef, in order to allow you to create wonderful restaurant style gourmet meals at home. Our first, Mise en Place, was all about proper kitchen set up when attempting a recipe or preparing a meal for your family.

With today's installment, Knife Skills, we will examine the techniques and proper methods of using a chef's knife. The chef’s knife is the ideal knife for chopping vegetables, herbs, fruits, cutting boneless meats, slicing, dicing and general cutting tasks. A chef's knife generally has a blade eight inches (20 cm) in length and 1 ½ inches (4 cm) in width, although individual models range from 6 to 14 inches (15 cm to 36 cm) in length. Blade shapes are either French or German; the French style has an edge that is straighter with the end curving up to the tip; German-style knives are more deeply and continuously curved along the whole cutting edge. 

Sharpening Your Knives
It's important to keep knives sharp to stay safe when cooking,as dull knives are a safety hazard and can be very dangerous.The more blunt a knife's edge is, the more pressure it takes to cut something, the more likely you are to slip and cut your finger instead. Sharpened knives reduce the time it takes to prepare your meals as well. To sharpen a knife, use a sharpening stone, also known as a whetstone, or a sharpening stick. If you don't feel comfortable sharpening your knives yourself, most knife manufacturing companies allow you send your knives in for professional sharpening. You could also try your favorite cooking supply store, as most offer sharpening services.

How To Properly Hold & Use Your Knife

For more precise control, adopt a grip on the blade itself, with the thumb and the index finger grasping the blade just to the front of the finger guard and the middle finger placed just opposite, on the handle side of the finger guard below the bolster.

When slicing or chopping, keep your fingertips curled inward. Use your fingernails in what is called a "claw grip," to help grip the food. The knife blade should rest against the foremost knuckle, helping keep the blade perpendicular to the board.

Types Of Knife Cuts 

Large dice: ¾ inch × ¾ inch × ¾ inch.
Medium dice: ½ inch × ½ inch × ½ inch.
Small dice: ¼ inch × ¼ inch × ¼ inch
Batonnet:  ½ inch × ½ inch × 2½-3 inches.
Aluumette: (al-yoo-MET) ¼ inch × ¼ inch × 2½ inches.
Julienne: (joo-lee-ENN) 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 2½ inches.
Brunoise: (BROON-wahz) 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch.
Fine Julienne: 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch × 2 inches.
Fine Brunoise1/16 inch × 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch.
Paysanne: ½ inch x ½ inch x 1/8 inch
Tourne (turned) 7 Sides: ¾ inch (width) x 2 inches (length)

For those who would like to take this post a step further, below is a list of available classes in New York, Chicago and LA, allowing you to get hands on experiences and instruction:

For my New York City readers:, Chef Norman Weinstein offers an excellent knife skills class at the Institute for Culinary Education on 23rd St. in NYC.

For my Chicago readers: The Chopping Block, located on Lincoln Ave offers regular classes for $40 per person.

For my LA readers: Chef Eric Jaques Crowely, of The Culinary Classroom offers regular classes on a variety of subjects, all of which includes knife skills instruction.

I hope this post has been educational and informative and helps you get more proficient in the kitchen. The number one (1) answer I have received when interviewing chefs about their most important or favorite kitchen tool is unequivocally; their knives. If you are serious about cooking and becoming more adept in the kitchen, learning how to use your knives with proper techniques and practice can make the cooking experience much more enjoyable. The time spent getting to know your knives will allow you to not only be more safe, but I'll bet you, your friends and your family will appreciate and enjoy your new culinary acumen and the delicious gourmet dishes coming out of your kitchen.

As always, Bon Appetit!


 Photo sources:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Chinese New Year, New York City style.

This past Sunday, I welcomed in the 'Year of the Dragon' in New York City's Chinatown. I have to thank Elaine, The Gourmet 'Girl,' for my current obsession with all things Chinese. Through our friendship, she has opened my eyes and palate to a wonderfully rich culture of fabulous art, music, colorful and elegant clothing and people. And, of course, let's not forget the food.. Ah... the food.

We always start our Chinatown sojourn early in the morning, making our way through the shops, fresh produce stands, fish markets & butcher shops with their Peking Ducks hanging in the windows.After strolling Mulberry and Mott Streets, we end up at one of the area's best spots for Dim Sum, Sunshine 27 Restaurant, on the Bowery.

Now, the first sign that this is the place to be, is the fact that it's filled with locals and those Chinese tourist who know where to find the best their culture has to offer. That said, if there were possibly 10 of us Caucasians in a dining room of over 200, it was a lot. So, rule of thumb: when experiencing the cuisine of another culture, go to where the locals go.

Sunshine 27 is a large, bustling restaurant serving Dim Sum, Hong Kong style, with carts. Parties are often seated together at communal tables and the camaraderie is amazing. If you are not a Dim Sum aficionado, sitting with those who are familiar with the cuisine is a great way to learn. As the carts come around, you are offered choices of Shumai, Shrimp Dumplings, and yes, for the more adventurous, Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce.
Now, here is the best part; we sat for over an hour, were stuffed from the food and pot of fresh tea served to every patron and when the bill came, it was a mere $15.00 for two. Dim Sum can be a great family value in this economy, while at the same time, exposing your kids to an historic cuisine, culture and people.
After our Dim Sum feast, we head over to the Golden Steamer Bakery, on Mott St., to pick up Pork Buns and other traditional Chinese sweets. Then, as the crowds start to swell in anticipation, we find a spot amongst the throngs of tourists and residents alike, to view the Chinese New Year's parade.

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, such as China, Indonesia, Tibet, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and also in Chinatowns around the world. It marks the end of the winter season. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival on the 15th day. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the "Lunar New Year." We have just come out of the Year of the Rabbit (2011), with this, (2012) being the Year of the Dragon. Next year (2013) will be the Year of the Snake.

Dim Sum
The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha (drink tea) from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises.

Literally meaning "to touch your heart," dim sum consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other goodies, much like hors d'ouvres served in traditional French restaurants.
Eating dim sum at a restaurant is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea" (yum cha), as tea is typically served with dim sum.
There are common tea-drinking and eating practices or etiquette that Chinese people commonly recognize and use. These are practiced not only during dim sum meals but during other types of Chinese meals as well. It is customary to pour tea for others during dim sum before filling one's own cup. A custom unique to the Cantonese is to thank the person pouring the tea by tapping the bent index finger if you are single, or by tapping both the index and middle finger if you are married, which symbolizes 'bowing' to them. 

Some popular types of Dim Sum

Shrimp Dumpling or Hargao
Delicate steamed dumplings with whole or chopped-up shrimp filling and thin wheat starch skin.

Jiǎozi or Potsticker
Northern Chinese style of dumpling (steamed and then pan-fried jiaozi), usually with meat and cabbage filling.

Shumai or Pork Dumpling
Small steamed dumplings with either pork, prawns or both inside a thin wheat flour wrapper. Usually topped off with crab roe and mushroom.

Bāozi or Bao
Baked or steamed, these fluffy buns made from wheat flour are filled with food items ranging from meat to vegetables to sweet bean pastes

Cheung Fan or Rice noodle roll
Wide rice noodles that are steamed and then rolled. They are often filled with different types of meats or vegetables inside but can be served without any filling

Pheonix claws or chicken feet
These are chicken feet, deep fried, boiled, marinated in a black bean sauce and then steamed.

Lo Mai Gai
Glutinous rice is wrapped in a lotus leaf into a triangular or rectangular shape. It contains egg yolk, dried scallop, mushroom, water chestnut and meat (usually pork and chicken).

There are a few more varieties of Dim Sum, but I thought I'd start you off today with the most popular and most common. I hope you have learned a bit today and I have piqued your interest in exploring Chinese culture and of course, Dim Sum. If you have never experienced the magic that is your local Chinatown, plan a trip and spend a leisurely Sunday strolling through ancient culture, art and cuisine. You'll be glad you did.

As always,

Bon Appetit!