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February 2006

OM Restaurant & Lounge

Om_logo_1Last night I visited a new Cambridge hot spot, OM Restaurant & Lounge.

I have to admit I was impressed at the start, when I pulled back the heavy, intricately carved wooden door and entered into the sultry, street-level lounge, the Zen Den. It was very dark inside, with one wall covered with a soothing waterfall, the bar backlit with soft blue lights, and a low seating area looking out into the Harvard Square area. But two things in particular really won me over: (1) a track from Kevin Yost's One Starry Night was playing in the background, and (2) their extensive cocktail menu includes a French Martini called Hotel Costes, in homage to DJ Stephan Pompougnac and his beloved home turf in Paris (my favorite!).

The cocktail menu really was quite impressive. OM subscribes to an aromatherapy theme: if the alcohol doesn't loosen you up and clear your mind, the scented herbs they add to the drinks will (lavendar, ginger, and basil among others). I had the delicious "Fred & Ginger," which was infused with - you guessed it - fresh ginger and a candied piece perched on the rim.

Upstairs, OM has a full dining room, decorated with authentic Buddhist sculptures and hand-made paintings by the owner's father that reflect their Tibetan heritage. Brightly lit (too brightly lit, in my opinion), it was in stark constrast to the lounge downstairs. The tables are spaced well apart, which is usually a welcome feature among urban spots that typically cram in as many tables as possible, but here it just made the dining room feel sparse. Upstairs lacked all of the warmth that downstairs oozed.Deconstructed_caesar

The "fusion" menu was good, but marred by its presentation...evidence of a chef that is simply trying too hard. My "Deconstructed Caesar" was just that - all the fixings for a Caesar salad, lined up neatly on my plate in separate piles (An egg still in it's shell, a stack of sliced potatoes, a few spears of asparagus, and one heart of romaine) - requiring me to mix the ingredients myself. My main course of Chicken Confit was more straightforward, accompanied by a side of fingerling frites; both were tasty but not particularly memorable. Dessert consisted of an olive oil cake with a ginger float (more ginger!). One truly unique - and simple - accompaniment was the dish of truffled parmesan popcorn that was supplied instead of the typical bread basket.

Overall, I really enjoyed the lounge and would go back there in a heartbeat; the Boston area can always use another swank night spot. Save the dining for a better spot, though, like Sandrine's Bistro around the corner.


La Shish & Shatila

Tonight, some of my coworkers were kind enough to join me for my last meal as a 33 year old (tomorrow is my birthday!). We dined at La Shish, an excellent Middle-Eastern restaurant in Dearborn, MI (with multiple other locations). Two of my colleagues go there frequently and are well known to the manager & staff, so we are typically treated like "royalty." The feast included hummous and bread, Maqaniq sausage links, salad, lamb kebab and rice...all of it was superb. Sweets

Afterwards, we visited Shatila, a Middle-Eastern bakery, also in Dearborn, where I loaded up on baklava (3 kinds!) to take home. Shatila does a booming online/shipping business, and it's well-deserved. Their baklava is quite possibly the best I've had - including my stint in Greece a year ago!


Radical Careering

Radical_careeringAwhile back, I tuned into American Copywriter's podcast #24, on which author and marketer Sally Hogshead appeared to discuss her book, Radical Careering. Sally penned this work after suffering a bout of advertising burnout: despite years of hard work, she didn't feel like she was getting back from her career as much as she'd been putting into it. In it, she emphasizes the need to love the process of what you're doing every day at work, rather than just the end product, and the importance of celebrating little victories along the way.

I was compelled to pick up a copy of the book myself after listening to the podcast and hearing a lot about the notion of the "Creative Class" - a growing group of workers that desire jobs which provide not just a paycheck, but an identity and personal fulfillment. For example, an article in the Jan 26 issue of Red Magazine cites a phrase coined by Kate Fox, a social anthropologist at the Social Issues Research Centre: Yeppies. It stands for "Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers" - those whose main goal is personal fulfillment, and who take an experimental, life-shopping approach, dabbling in a range of jobs and higher education courses looking for more than a personal pension plan and cool company car - they want a job that provides an identity.

Sally's approach is, indeed, radical. She acknowledges early on that it isn't for everyone: "Slackers won't like it. Drones won't get it. Bureaucrats will burn it." Even the copy, fonts and layout are radical. But it's a quick, enjoyable read. I'll share some of the highlights here; they'll resonate not only with those in the advertising profession - which is so often fraught with late nights, tough deadlines, and high emotions - but with others looking for a bit of inspiration in their work lives.

  • Careering is defined as "taking action to become the most powerful, valuable, fulfilled version of yourself"
  • Careerists are hardest hit by failure; achievers become clinically depressed more than the average worker because they expect more of themselves and are less likely to ask for help
  • Being in a crap job isn't your fault; staying in a crap job is
  • Circumstances can't overwhelm you if you focus on what's within your control
  • You already have everything you need to become great; it isn't in any book - it's in yourself
  • Genius/progress can only happen if you move out of your comfort zone
  • When you're operating as your best self, work is only one of the many areas in which you'll be your best
  • Know what is most important to you - quality of work, quality of life, or quality of compensation - and make sure your job matches
  • Results + Reputation + Network = Your Market Value. In other words, your market value is based on what you bring to the party, what people think of you, and your support system. 75% of jobs come through friends, not head hunters/formal listings, so it's important to manage all three dimensions

The Radical Careering web site, like the book, is full of action, insight , and inspiration, plus links to Sally's Hog Blog and a monthly email newsletter, the Defibrillator. There are also links to all of the themed microsites Sally lists throughout her book. I highly recommend both the site and the book - it's one that should be read often to remind yourself of your potential.


Screamer Screenings

Huggies_big_screamAdAge reported on a brilliant experiential marketing campaign developed by Carlton Screen Advertising in partnership with Kimberly-Clark.

Dubbed "Screamer Screenings," the idea is for new moms and dads to mix and mingle at select UK movie theaters, without fear of criticism for having a screaming newborn in tow. It's a great opportunity for stay-at-home parents looking to get out and about with their kids, as well as the movie theaters that typically remain empty during weekdays.

Kimberly-Clark has secured exlusive marketing rights for its Huggies brand diapers; they show a commercial before each movie and post leaflets in the lobbies and Huggies stickers on the restroom changing tables.

Huggies gets the benefit of a captive audience, and positioning as a company who understands the needs of new parents. If they're smart, they'll employ more opportunities to continue the dialog (like kiosks where folks can opt-in for helpful parenting tips, join an online community, and download Huggies coupons), or coded coupons right on the spot.


LOST Theories - Part II

Now that I'm two season's into ABC's LOST, I need to go back and reread Tony Doerr's About Grace. If I remember the story correctly, there are striking similarities between it and plot elements in the TV show, including:

  • A mysterious female voice repeating a series of numbers over the radio [and heard by a man on an island]
  • A man who experiences premonitions
  • A man who dreams a baby is at risk [of drowning] and awakes to the terrible realization that his sleep walking has put the baby in very real danger

Coincidence?


Chic Retreats

Chateau_de_la_couronne_1From the February issue of Food & Wine magazine...

Lulu Townsend was frustrated with trying to find top-notch hotels. She did, after all, have high standards due to her experiences with her family's own exquisite country-house hotel in Italy, Palazzo Terranova.

So, 34-year-old Lulu took it upon herself to spare other travelers from the same fate, and launched Chic Retreats, a web site devoted to exceptional hotels around the world. She caters to travelers seeking "small, beautifully designed and impeccably run hotels, places that people often hear about only through word-of-mouth." Today, there are about 60 properties listed on the site, all hand picked by Lulu or one of her travel-savvy friends that act as scouts.

There's no charge to use the services at chicretreats.com, but they do offer a $26 membership card that entitles the bearer to discounts and perks, like room upgrades, complimentary meals, and massages. Hotels pay an annual fee for inclusion in the guide.

Don't let the amateurish web site fool you...these boutique hotels do indeed look like chic retreats.


Radcliffe Denim

Radcliffe_skinny_jeanThere's a new entrant in the premium denim market, and its not just another pair of indigo threads with fancy stitching on the back pocket. Instead, Radcliffe Denim has exquisite details like fortune cookie messages embroidered in the waistband (reminiscent of Trovata).

Launched in April 2005 by London designer Suzy Radcliffe (whose boyfriend, Michael, is the CEO of successful online lingerie shop, Figleaves), the brand has risen to popularity due to its innovative designs. With a mission statement to "remove all the things that usually irritate women about their jeans" - like incorrect length and fabric that loses its shape - Radcliffe has created a line of specially-designed stretch denim (for lift) that is cut slightly higher in the back ("so no knickers are on show"). 

But the coolest features are HEELS2FLATS and STIRRUPS4BOOTS. The former provides each pair with an adjustable length via solid silver cufflinks that can be inserted into concealed holes inside the leg seams. The latter provides removable satin "stirrups" which keep pant legs from bunching up in this season's popular tucked-in-boot style.

Radcliffe Denim may be purchased online, here.