Baby’s got back… and ribs

I’m still stressed. This means I’m still cooking. Except this time I’m testing out a recipe for a bbq we are hosting this weekend (Ironically I’m not stressed about this at all, although I should be since we have ordered, cleaned, bought nothing for it). Anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a life long vegetarian it’s that bbqs mean meat. Usually even the veggie burger is cooked in a nice layer of beef fat left over on the grill. So this time – instead of a vegan veggie friendly recipe… I’m working on ribs. Baby back ribs.

Nothing reduces stress like smelling pork for 4 hours… I read that on a pillow.

I followed about 4 different recipes that I mashed up.

Basically you take a rack of baby back ribs… make sure your babies have some fat to them. This isn’t a time for lean mean pork ribs.

A dry rub needs to go on overnight (or two). You can mix any of the following: salt, onion powder, garlic powder, a packaged mix – like I did. BUT the key is this… add a cup of brown sugar to whatever mix you end up with. I also added a dash of cayenne to shake shit up.

Once marinated – bring to room temperature. Fully. I’m talking 2 hours outside on the counter hanging out. Do it.

Preheat your oven to 250 and add a cup of chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of any vinegar you have to the pan. I used white wine vinegar. These two things help the cooking/tenderizing process – according to Alton Brown circa 1997. Here’s the rub I used if you’re curious.

Cover tightly and leave it alone in your heated oven for 2.27 hours (I only tested this with one rack of ribs so 3 hours was too long and 2 seemed too short. 2.27 seemed right).

This is what it will look like. Mine came apart when I tried to lift it. A good sign.

Don’t get rid of the juices on the bottom. Strain and add to your favorite bbq sauce. My family loves this one. I haven’t found anything veggie to put bbq sauce on so I have no idea if it’s really good or if my family just has simple tastes – both could also be true.

Smother on the sauce and grill on high. Shouldn’t take long.

Baste, grill, repeat.

Cut them up like porky, sticky lollipops and you’re done!

Stress gone. Meat delivered.

Sh&t that drives me crazy – Event Planning Edition

Guest post! RD is back and I’m here for it….

– Overly scented florals (in general) but especially at food and wine events.  If I see hyacinths at Le Bernardin, I will smack you with them.

– A panel event that has no stage.  Why?  Are we in your living room?  Will Uncle Ed be treating us to his Richard Nixon impersonation?  Just because people are in the back of the room, doesn’t mean they don’t want to see.

– A podium with no podium sign, or a podium that is branded with the hotel logo.  Unless your speaker is actually from The Ritz-Carlton, you need to cover that mess up.

– Rude staff.  I’m giving you money.  Act like you work here.  Better yet, act like you work for me!  Because at least for the next few hours, you do.

– Columns.  No one wants to “work around” you.  We’re not in Greece.  This isn’t The Parthenon.  Time to find a new venue.

– Uninformed folks who refer to an event as “a party.”  If it was a party, I’d be having fun… Not running around like a crazy person trying to make sure nothing goes wrong.

– Wired microphones.  Bob Barker called.   He told me to tell you that this is the 21st century.  

And finally….It costs what it costs.  I don’t work on commission.  

Liar Liar, Pants on Fyre

Did you watch the documentaries on The Fyre Festival? Hulu and Netflix both have a version of this story. I watched both. If there were 6 versions I would have seen them all. I can’t get enough. I watched the first one twice. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me try to explain…

A young, upstart entrepreneur from NYC decides to partner with Ja Rule to host a music festival on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas (once owned by Pablo Escobar) in 6 months.

Why does he think he can do it? Because he’s been hosting “parties” for a few months in penthouses all over the city. Ja Rule performs at one of those fun parties and decides, “yeah, ok, I’ll partner with you on a multi-million dollar event”.

What happens next is a mash-up of ego, lack of experience, lack of leadership and lack of morality. It’s a hot mess.

Billy McFarland, the young entrepreneur that I mentioned earlier is either a smart dude who let things go out of hand, or a sociopath who let his ego lead every decision he made. Maybe a bit of both.

The documentary tells a month-by-month, day-by-day story of everything leading up to the non-festival. Here’s what they did first. They created a slick, well-produced teaser. They filled it with top models. They went to the island where they wanted to have the festival, stayed on private yachts (not on the island) and partied for a few days while they filmed the promo. Turquoise seas, beautiful women, expensive boats, it had it all. The promo was incredibly well produced. I think you can still watch it somewhere on YouTube. The company they hired to do the teaser gave them an incredible digital and social presence. Their website was super slick and their marketing was off the hook. Really high-end and modern.

They spent the next few months designing an experience. Luxury tents. Luxury villas. Beautiful packages that made you feel like you were going to a music festival in some private piece of heaven. And it had a price tag to match. Each package was thousands of dollars. And they all still sold out, in record time.  Through their social campaign (which was genius), they sold every package they had. All the tents. All the villas. Sold.

Just one problem. There were no luxury villas or tents. All the images were created. Nothing was real.

Turns out the island they originally wanted couldn’t be used. The owner of the island had only one deal-breaker in the contract – don’t mention Escobar – so what did they do? They mentioned it in the first teaser. Game over.

Luckily Great Exuma was near-by. This island, under other circumstances, was a much better place to host a festival. It had infrastructure, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Sadly, by the time they decided to go there – everything was sold out. The only thing they were able to get was some undeveloped real estate on one side of the island by the water. They grabbed it.

The details of what went down are so crazy. Instead of luxury tents – they put up hurricane tents left over from the last season.  There weren’t enough homes on the island to get for private villas, so those who signed-up and paid for one got a tent too. And they didn’t even have enough crappy tents. 380 for 900+ people attending.

Not enough food. Not enough bathrooms. No plan B for rain. The attendees were f**ked. The musicians who agreed to perform weren’t any better. There was barely a stage – let alone multiple stages for a festival. Most of the acts started dropping out. Still, the producers let the event go on.

In the end, it was a nightmare. You can google how much of a nightmare it was.

I can’t tell you how validating it was to see those documentaries. I watched the first one with my husband. The entire time he kept turning to me and going, “ohh babe, can you believe it?”. Even he knew. He knew because he’s been married to an event planner for 20 plus years.

I couldn’t believe it. But I could believe it. It was totally believable. Let’s be honest. People think they can do it. On the surface it’s a job that literally everyone thinks they can do. Oh you planned your sister’s shower? Sure! You can be a planner! You organized the office pot-luck lunch? Sure, you can plan a 1,000 person event. Go for it.

I would re-title those documentaries as, “So You Think You’re An Event Planner?” or “You Are Not A F**king Event Planner”.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. I know. You’re a teacher (love teachers), or a nurse (love nurses), or whatever. You are impacting the world. You’re maybe literally saving lives. But here’s what I know for sure. I know that in this world of big picture thinking, one thing is lost. Execution. No one likes to say they execute. Everyone wants to be a “strategist”. Big thinking. Not big doing.

Ok, sure, you had a really great idea. A world-changing idea. Awesome. Good for you. Can you actually execute it? Can you plan the steps it’ll take to get it done and make it happen? Can you think 10 steps ahead to all the problems that might pop up and solve them before they happen? Can you manage the emotional toll it’ll take on people to get them to do what you want them to do for your idea to come to life?  And can you do it without complaining and whining? Better yet, can you work for never-ending hours and days while pretending to be happy and smiling the whole time? Can you be a 20 year professional that’s managing million dollar budgets while still being asked to get someone a tampon in the middle of an event – and do it without question? If the answer is no. Please, for god’s sake, go back to your day job. If the answer is yes, welcome. You are welcome here. In the group of people who immediately start figuring out how to get something done.

When I saw those documentaries I was so moved. In the last few years, a value has been placed on people who can weave a good story in 280 characters. People who can produce slick, marketing ads and pieces that last about a minute or two. They are digital geniuses. They can make an idea viral. Get a million impressions. Which is great. But guess what they can’t do? They can’t execute. They can’t figure out the one million things that need to go down before something happens.

Billy McFarland had no planners working for him. He had digital teams and marketing teams. He had supermodels and rappers. He even had someone called a “producer”. But no planners. To give credit where it’s due – he did have some people with festival experience that he ignored. But those people basically went along with a plan they knew would fail.

One of the things that is the most troublesome about the documentary isn’t the attendees, ok fine, they didn’t get a music festival. Uptown problems. They had to go back to Miami with their miniature dogs and flower halos. Boo hoo. To me, the saddest part was that the island residents were dragged into making this nightmare happen. Hundreds of workers signed up to help Billy and his crew. No one got paid.

So maybe calling Billy an entrepreneur is wrong. He’s a cheat. A fraud. A con man. And I know that’s what this story is really about. But what I got from it was so different. His story validated and brought to life everything I know to be true. You can be a big idea guy or gal. You can be good at tweets and posts and ‘grams. You can get a thousand likes, and a million impressions, but can you bring that vision to life in the real world? A world full of bad weather, cancelled flights, broken technology, and unhappy people? Can you handle it? Maybe. But let’s be honest, probably not.

 

 

 

My favorite night out…

Is in. Bed. Ya dig?

Aperol spritz+tv+bed= unbeatable evening of fun.

Where are you? At a club? A bar? Vegas? Good for you! Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good night out. I love being with friends and family. I’m all about it.

But a good night in is a beautiful thing. And when you’re in for the evening you have choices. What will you do? Where will you sit? The living room is a nice, solid choice. It’s got the biggest tv, it’s near snacks… it’s a no brainer. Maybe you watch in your den or basement, we have neither so that’s out. We do have a family room, but it’s near the laundry room and sitting in there sometimes reminds me of, you know, laundry. And other things I’m avoiding.

My go-to place is always the same – it’s my bed. And it’s not even a King. I still love it. I could rule the world from here.

So I’ll raise my glass, send you good wishes. Here’s to you, out in the world, in real clothes. I applaud you. Have one for me. I’ll have one for you too. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Phyllo, fancy parties…and medical marijuana?

Thursday night my husband and I decided to go out on the town! Have dinner, see a late show, like other people do. But a few too many of these went down.

And then, long story short,  I went down too. For 34 hours post night out I was out for the count. Coffee didn’t help. Two disco naps didn’t help. I even tried the hair-of-dog…. it didn’t help.

But last night was our book club – and I was not going to miss it. We had a real, live author coming in. We’re hot like that. The book was the wonderful Smiles and Ductape written by my dear friend April’s sister-in-law, Jesse Torrey (did you follow that?). 

The book is about the family’s journey after their son Jack develops ALD. It’s sad, happy and full of love. We were having a good discussion by the time Jesse started talking about the latest part of Jack’s story. It involves using medical marijuana. And then our little book club lit up…not literally, just conversationally. We had questions, lots and lots of questions. We became Charlie Rose level interviewers. I’ve never seen us come alive like that.  It was hysterical. 

And speaking of getting the munchies (just kidding)…

Usually when I go to someone’s home I like to bring a little bite to eat or some wine or both. My mama brought me up right. But did I mention I was exhausted? And old? Luckily for me my girl is home from college and had plans to meet friends for a “fancy dinner”. She had googled an appetizer she wanted to make and like any good mother I offered to buy her all of the ingredients… and then made her to make some for me to take too. I knew having kids would pay off eventually.

Now I love entertaining. I have for a long time. But in all those years I’ve never used Phyllo. Or is it just phyllo with a lower case p? In any case I’ve never used it/bought it/thought about it.

It was a revelation. Easy. Light. Tasty. How come more people don’t talk about Phyllo/phyllo?? 

Here’s what she made and I stole..

You need: Phyllo/phyllo cups, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, 4 oz of goat cheese, 1 block of cream cheese, thyme, honey, red seedless grapes and black pepper. 


Fillo!! Wtf?? Which is it?



Combine the room temp cheese and heavy cream and whip


Bake Phyllo/phyllo/fillo shells to crisp up (this is optional because they are already fully cooked but remember she was going for “fancy”)


Fill each with the cheese mix – drizzle with honey, sprinkle in the thyme and black pepper, and finish with half a grape. Or one whole grape if you’re a Rockefeller.


Use fancy Ziploc bag as pastry bag….


And here’s my girl and her crew at their dinner. And then me with half the bookclub with the author (lower right) below. 

I’m sure that’s juice punch in that bowl… ahem.

So you wanna be a corporate planner?

I’ve done corporate events for my entire career. I love what I do. I love my job. Really I do. Even now, in our busy season, when we seem to work 24/7. It makes me happy. I started doing event planning almost right out of school and haven’t looked back since. It’s stressful. It’s creative. It’s fulfilling. In every sense of the word. I adore working with a team, and being with them in the trenches. I like working with the business to figure out how the event can help spread a message or build goodwill. There’s tons of fun to be had too. I’m not going to lie. We laugh a lot. And sometimes we cry. Unlike baseball, there is crying in corporate event planning.

So with all that said, it still isn’t what you think it is.

Here’s the best way to describe it:

Imagine you planned your brother’s wedding or party. You worked for months to help plan the look, the feel, the whole experience. You advised him on if the vows should be long or short – or if the newlyweds should do a first dance or have a cake cutting. You decided that because of budget, his party should probably be only appetizers, not a full meal. You worked with him to invite the right amount of people and were careful to not offend anyone.

Now imagine that after all that – the day of the wedding or party comes and the happy couple exchange vows or the invitees start coming in –  everyone is seemingly happy and content.

Now imagine guests start coming up to you randomly and telling you things like:

  • “Who picked this place? I was really hot in the back”
  • “The party…umm it was ok, but this morning the hotel I’m staying at took really long to bring my breakfast – kinda ruined the day for me”
  • “Why am I not sitting with the groom? He loves me. He told me I’d have really good seats”
  • “I wish we could have done it in June. August is so hard for me”
  • “I really wasn’t crazy about the vows. They were kinda cheesy”
  • “I know you can’t do this for everyone but my kid likes hot, curly fries for dinner. Everyday. Made with organic purple potatoes. Can you get that for us?”
  • “Did you actually pick the food on the buffet?”

And guess what. You do get the organic purple potatoes. And you apologize for the hotel not delivering room service fast enough and picking the wrong time and wrong space. You nod your head instead of saying the groom hates that person and specifically asked not to sit with them. And finally yes, you picked the food. You didn’t know it would suck that day. You should have known. Somehow.

You do all of this not because you’re forced to – but because your job is to make people happy. Not just the bride and groom or one family – your job is to make everyone happy. Which, by the way, never happens. So good luck with that.
Welcome to corporate events. Leave your sanity at the door.
 
 

TTYL

For almost every single weekend this summer, we’ve been on the go. It’s been so much fun. Visiting friends and family, celebrating milestones and plain old hanging out with them has been a blast. Loads of fun in the sun. In between all this, work has sucked up the rest of my time. Which is normal I guess. Work hard, play hard is a family motto. But when you spend a few months in a whirlwind, somethings get dropped. Spontaneous meet-ups. Sleeping in. Spending a day “putzing” around, as my father-in-law would call it, that stuff falls by the wayside. This past weekend, the official end to the summer, was no exception. We had planned on fitting in everthing we committed to. A housewarming, a surprise party, dinner with old friends, furniture shopping, etc. What we didn’t account any time for was the following:

  • taking my daughter out for test drives so she feels ready for her driving test. But between the obligations of a 16 year old and the stuff we always need to do – we never seem to find the time
  • my son had asked for weeks to go to a trampoline park, but it was 30 minutes away – in the oposite direction of everywhere we needed to be.
  • spending time with the kids when they were done for the day. You know that time? When they’ve had their fun with friends and they come home, tired, hungry – ready to zone out. It’s the time when they are most likely to tell you stuff. But I’m always the first one asleep because I run around like a looney all day.

It’s so hard. Because we want to do all of these things. We so wanted to be there for Corinne’s housewarming. She’s starting a new life and I’m so proud and excited for her. We wanted to be there for Marcello’s surprise 60th. I don’t know anyone who is more full of love and life than he is. Maybe his beautiful gal, Lorraine, the one who surprised him! We wanted to meet Rachael and her new beau for dinner in Philly. We met Rachael when we first moved to Yardley, she watched our kids for us for a couple of summers. She was/is the best! We really wanted to do all of these things. But instead, we said no. Even though we’ve said yes for weeks, we said no. We said no and hoped that these folks would understand and invite us again. We said no so we could do random, unplanned, unaccounted for things.

And here’s what we got out of it:

  • My son’s face when I told him that our plans had changed and I could spend the entire day driving him around.
  • My daughter’s excitement at being able to spend the afternoon driving (and then fighting about her driving)
  • Having two days where my husband and I were home base and the kids were able to bounce around from friend to friend and know we were home if/when they needed us – or that they could invite friends over to our house.

Seems small. Seems like no big deal. But it was exactly what our little family needed. We plan on making it up to everyone! But not next weekend. We’re busy.

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