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March 2008

Tastybytes

Thanks to the folks at Compete and Chitika who co-hosted another great Tastybytes event yesterday, with a private luncheon for Agency professionals at Radius.

Tastybytes



This was the third such gathering of local-area marketing and technology professionals, in a bid to rival the regular Lunch 2.0 luncheons on the West Coast. While the Valley is known for its innovation, movers and shakers, Compete (a fantastic analytics shop with a great blog, recently acquired by TNS) and Chitika (a blog advertising network with some sharp display technology) are doing their part to raise awareness of the rich and varied technology community in our own backyard.

Tastybytes, together with other local happenings from MITX, Webbinno, and others, are increasingly drawing more frequent (and larger) crowds for networking and educational opportunities typically associated with New York or San Fran. Chitika founder Venkat Kolluri had a great conversation about this with Efrain Viscarolasaga in a recent issue of Mass High Tech.

Check out photos from the event on Chitika's blog.


FlipKey Launch

Congratulations to my friends at FlipKey, who publicly launched their online vacation rental service today. Flipkey_2

Designed to support the under-served vacation rental marketplace, FlipKey lists over 50,000 vacation homes in all 50 states (international coming soon) that are available for rent. There are 6.5 million vacation homes in the U.S. and less than 10% are rented to travelers looking for a great place to stay.

This means over 5 million secondary home-owners are foregoing the economic benefits of renting their homes when they are not occupying them, and travelers are missing out on more personal, economical, and unique lodging options when planning their trips. In the past, this has been a risky proposition, as it has been difficult for travelers to (1) find these accommodations and (2) feel comfortable that they are renting from a trusted source. To overcome these challenges and effectively promote vacation rentals as a mainstream lodging option, FlipKey has introduced a Reputation Management platform for locating and evaluating locations, including:

  • Manager/owner verification as legitimate business operators
  • Advanced guest review cultivation tools and management system
  • Free publishing tools to syndicate FlipKey guest reviews to other sites

The site is designed for a smooth user experience, with intuitive navigation and Web 2.0-goodness like Google maps integration and AJAXy sliders to narrow your search results.  Detailed property descriptions include photos, features, rental availability, and direct links to the property manager, plus user reviews and a 5-star rating system. There's also a MyFlipKey feature that allows you to store properties of interest, manage your travel plans, and submit user reviews.

Read more about FlipKey in MassHighTech, and keep them in mind as you're planning future trips - both business and personal. They're predicting more snow flurries up here in Boston this week, so this spot on Mission Beach (San Diego) is looking pretty good...

  Lafin_3   Lafin2


The Achilles Project/Persephone

Last week I visited Boston's latest hot spot, The Achilles Project, and its adjoining restaurant, Persephone. Sadly, they did not quite live up to the hype.

Billed as the first of its kind for Boston and "destined to become a shopping and dining destination" in the Fort Point area, it's a combination retail (Achilles Project) and dining (Persephone) experience in one cavernous room.

Upon entering the establishment from Summer Street, one's faced with an upscale boutique reminiscent of New York City. Moveable display cases (which are slid back against the walls late night to open up the lounge area) contain "limited run" clothing and accessories from high-end brands like Jovovich-Hawk and Acne (unfortunate name, I know). Overly-eager shop keeps are quick to offer their services, plus commentary on the inventory (which includes options for both women and men, but only one of each item on the racks; more sizes are available from out back). Above the racks hang a couple of flat panel monitors where guests can play Guitar Hero or Wii (the shop keeps themselves were playing while I was there).

Achilles

Just beyond the retail area is the bar/lounge, with its unbelievably bright, fluorescent lights. I like my restaurants & bars dimly lit, so this was a big turnoff for me. One might even say the ultra-bright lights were the Achilles' heel of the whole place. But it has a full bar, serving beer, liquor and wine, plus the obligatory specialty cocktail menu. We opted for wine while waiting for our table, and wondered why they chose to run black & white old movies on the flat panels above the bar (vs. something more modern, given the nature of the space).

Persephone_bar

The bar opened onto Persephone, the restaurant presumably named after the Greek Goddess of the harvest, and helmed by head chef Michael Leviton of Newton's Lumiere. It's described as local, organic, and American, but the meal preparations, menu items (shellfish bouillabaisse, veal shoulder, beef marrow) and minimalist dining room are reminiscent of a French bistro. Similar to the mobile display cases out front, the dining tables are on tracks and can slide together or apart to accommodate groups of various sizes.

Persephone_dining

The meal was good, but not over-the-top memorable. We started with warm, fresh bread (yum) and the Jamon Iberico - a platter of serrano ham, manchego cheese, marcona almonds and olives, a plate I would normally drool over. Sadly, the ham didn't have much flavor, and the entire dish was a bit too oily. Our  entrees (skirt steak, grilled chicken with pine nuts and capers) were very good, as was the creme brulee we shared for dessert, but not much different from those available at a number of other spots around town (with the exception that Persephone reportedly uses all local ingredients, which is nice).

Overall, I really like the concept - I just think they need to make some tweaks to become the feverishly stylish hot spot it wants to be.