Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

Tips for a great business dinner

Posted by shannonclark on April 23, 2007

In the past week I organized 3 different business dinners, all on the spur of the moment, and all very successful.  Here are a few tips for how you too can organize great business dinners.

One – Choose the right restaurant. Simple, but key. Business dinners are not all about the food – first and foremost they should be a chance for people to talk and socialize – restaurants which are too loud, too “hip”, too formal or fancy, or too informal for that matter will detract from your event.

Two – Have a backup. Last Friday I suggested a restaurant which had just opened that week, though the menu was (I think at least) great, when we arrived with a group of 5 we would have had to wait for about 30 people to get their main courses before we could have been seated. Instead we went to a fantastic Indian restaurant across the street.

Three – Keep everything simple for the attendees. All three of the dinners I organized this past week I ordered the food for everyone, and we then shared it family style. While a tad informal, any family style meal is a great way to get people to talk to each other and interact over the course of the dinner. It also means that you can order a balanced selection of dishes which highlight the restaurant’s skills.

Four – ordering family style also keeps payments simple. One of the meals I organized was paid for by one of the attendees, in the other cases we split the bills – but by having kept everything simple this was a quick and very easy process in every case.

Some further suggestions and advice about how to select a restaurant, as well as how to order for groups.

For business dinners I look for restaurants with spacious layouts where we will be able to be seated as a large group, yet have a private and comfortable conversation. Private rooms are great whenever possible. I also prefer restaurants which can seat us at a round table whenever possible – long rectangular tables tend to break conversations up into smaller clusters.

From a food perspective I seek out cuisines and dishes which will be easily shared. I almost always select locally owned restaurants, whenever possible places that use local and fresh ingredients. A locally owned place will usually also remember you after a few events and that always makes everything smoother.

Always call ahead, especially when you have a party of 5 or more people. When I call ahead I usually ask if they can do a group menu – and get their advice about dishes. Whenever possible I stop by the restaurant myself in advance and go over the menu – though I have also always had good results by asking for help and trusting in the abilities of the restaurant (note this is true when I have either already eaten at the place and/or have good reason to trust them – if when I call and ask for help with a group menu I get a sense that this is a challenge for them, I will change restaurants.)

Chances are very high that in any medium sized business group you will have individuals with various food preferences (and/or allergies). As a starting point I always order vegetarian appetizers and at least one vegetarian entree, usually at least two for larger groups serving family style. People with food allergies generally tell you about them – treat nut allergies in particular very seriously (and see above, any restaurant that is unwilling/unable to accommodate  someone with a nut allergy should not get your business).

My typical pattern for business dinners is to order appetizers and entrees, only occasionally salads or desserts. For one thing this usually keeps the costs down. But more specifically it is harder to share salads and desserts – and often by the time you have been eating many courses shared in a group, you have little room left for dessert.

For the entrees I also try to order a variety of dishes with varying ingredients. Having all chicken or beef dishes is, I find, fairly boring. I’ll usually try to get three to four different types of meats plus vegetables for most larger dinners.

The dinners this past week were all in San Francisco. A dinner for 5 at a Chinese restaurant – Canton Seafood at Folsom & Hawthorne, a dinner for 5 at Aslam’s Rosoi an Indian restaurant on Valencia between 21st and 22nd, and a dinner for 11 at Cafe Zoetrope at 916 Kearny. All three dinners were less than $30 per person inclusive of drinks, taxes and tip.

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Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, restaurants, San Francisco, working | Leave a Comment »

Observing the city around you

Posted by shannonclark on April 12, 2007

I do not own a car, though I have in the past, I sold my last car in 2004 and have not replaced it. Since moving to San Francisco I have tried to walk at least a few miles every day, often 4-5 miles.

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran an experiment on commuters in Washington DC. For all the details, take a look at the article Pearls before Breakfast. After you have read the article, click thru and read some of the over 51 pages of comments (over 500). Go ahead and read it then come back here.

Have you read the article?

If not, quick (too quick really) summary, the Post got Joshua Bell, one of the leading violinists in the world to perform in the morning at rush hour at a Metro stop in Washington DC using his over $3M Stradavarius violin and playing some of the hardest pieces in the Classical Canon. And out of over 1000 people who walked by, less than 10 stopped to listen and very few gave any money.

Just a few days ago, I remember hearing a bit of a musical battle between two musicians at the Bart/Muni Powell station in downtown San Francisco. At one space, a man played a saxophone (very well in fact), at the other space, another man played a trumpet (fairly badly). I was in a rush (had to head into the nearby mall to find a bathroom) but I remember noting that they were overlapping in their music – and that the sax player was by far the better musician.

I try as I walk through the city to observe the world around, to notice the buildings, the businesses, the people. Lately I have been trying to take at least a few photos every day.

At the recent Mobile MeshWalk I organized over 900 photos were taken by the participants.

One of the specific goals of the MeshWalk format is to have people see the world with each other. That is, as you walk together through the city actively seek to observe the world around you – and then share those observations with each other. Help others see what you see, add what you know about the city, what you observe to their knowledge and experiences.

In the light of the Washington Post experiment of a few days ago, I think it would be a good thing for all of us if we were a bit more aware of the world around us, if we stopped and looked deeply at the details, at the people, listened to the music.

Tonight, after the fundraiser for Irene McGee I walked down Polk St. looking for a late night snack. Besides many other people out late, I observed a really fascinating building at the corner of Polk and California (well one building in from the corner). Downstairs it is now a Walgreens, garish and lit by fluorescent lights. But clearly from the upstairs architecture, at one time this building was a theater or hall, indeed faintly still there is a name and the words Hall in large letters at the top of the building. However, besides a disused doorway plastered with ads for the Walgreens and hidden behind iron fencing, there is no obvious way upstairs. But I wonder what a space lies hidden above the routine Walgreens, and what was there before it was removed to put in drop ceilings, glass windows and a tile floor?

A few blocks later looking carefully at the businesses on adjoining blocks led me to notice a restaurant that advertised that it was open until 4 am. That restaurant, the Grubstake Restaurant, is housed in a dining car from the early part of the century which has been used as a diner since 1925. I ate a really good burger and a homemade flan. Not bad for just before 1am.

Observe the world around you.

Stop, listen to the music.

Take photos, capture details.

Take notes, make connections, catch someone’s eye. Say hello. Hold open a door. Nod. Smile.

Engage.

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Food, Feast, Zen Noir, writing and reading

Posted by shannonclark on September 25, 2006

Or a summary of my weekend and thoughts

For the past couple of weeks I have been in a bit of a semi-daze, trying to get something organized for OneWebDay and generally trying to finish settling into my new life in San Francisco as a single (straight) bachelor. I’ve been wandering the city, eating well if at odd hours and generally alone, and I’ve caught a few movies (and read more than a few books, some even good ones).

On Friday I saw the SF Premiere of the long awaited movie Feast which was fun, gory, a bit chaotic and relatively low budget, but enjoyable none-the-less. Not quite as “comedy/horror/gore” as I had hoped, a bit too “straight” but fun with an edge and clear sense of humor – so I’m glad to have seen it, and a midnight showing seems somehow appropriate (I saw it at the Clay Theater in Pacific Heights, an old theater now owned by Landmark).

Tonight I saw the movie Zen Noir which was, as the title might give it away a zen take on a film noir detective story. Not an entirely perfect take on either subject, but definitely interesting, though I was unhappy with the amount of flashbacks that were employed (I tend to think these are a sign of a somewhat lazy/cheap director, rather than new scenes to move the story forward they rehash old images and scenes – which for me usually disturbs the overall impression and sensation of the movie with the reminder that it is, afterall, a film). On the otherhand, I’ll probably never quite look at an orange (or eat one) in quite the same way again.

I am an aethist and an existentialist, however I have a lot of sympathy and resonance with Zen Practice. Besides being a fan of the great book, “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I am a huge fan of the deeply Zen influenced works of Natalie Goldberg. Her book, “Writing Down the Bones” is my vote for the best book on the practice of writing that I know – and one that I periodically return to for inspiration. So I enjoyed this slice of life (and death) from a zen perspective.

When I moved to San Francisco one of my first goals (among many others) was to find a replacement for some of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, the places I would turn to week after week when I was hungry, eating alone (or less often with friends) and needed specific, favorite types of meals. One of which is good Korean food. In Chicago, my favorite by far is “24hr Korean Restaurant”, which is, as the name suggests, open 24hrs and a place that since the early 90’s when I was in college at the University of Chicago been a place I would eat at nearly once a week. They were closed for a bit over a year when their kitchen burned and I waited for them to reopen.

So I have been looking for a replacement here in the bay area, and I have tried quite a few spots. Some good ones in the East Bay (in Oakland), some great places in the Richmond (but not all that easy for me to get to on a regular basis from Noe Valley via bus), so for the moment my current favorites are all in Japantown, where there are quite a few great Korean restaurants. While I like Korea House, a bit better than most of the others, my current favorite is a small, newer place, DooBu (which is at 1723 Buchanan St, San Francisco CA 94115, 415.292.6002 but doesn’t seem to have a website yet).

The food is uniformly excellent and while the menu has only a handful of options they are all executed with a care and quality level that is much higher than every other Korean Restaurant I have been to so far in the area – and they include a bunch of dishes with each meal that I don’t usually see – specifically a deep fried and extremely tasty whole small fish, and a very rich soup with prawns and small clams, a small dish of japchae (noodles), on top of a small but very tasty selection of panchan and rice.  Highly recommended – though they are not a place for “cook at your table” – they are a fantastic addition to the city’s dining options.

And while I have been wandering the city this week, I have had some amazing coffee, both a great cup prepared by Phil himself from Philz when I wandered in, planning on buying their very excellent mint tea, but Phil convinced me that I should get his coffee instead – and he’s right, it is possibly the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

But that’s coffee (albeit amazingly good coffee), even Phil approved of my other top choices in San Francisco, Blue Bottle and Ritual Coffee. I haven’t been to Blue Bottle lately, but I have been greatly enjoying double lattes from Ritual Coffee Roasters which is possibly even better (though it is a worthy and tight competition) than Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago (who have baristas who have won national competitions multiple times).

Tomorrow my parents visit San Francisco, my furniture from Artisan Burlwood finally arrives, I pay more than a few bills and old debts, and I’ll be getting a delivery of various semi-random kitchen items from my grandmother (delivered by my parents who are driving up the coast from Santa Barbara where they were visiting my grandmother). So it should be a busy start to the week. After they arrive and drop off the dishes etc and see my place for the first time, we’re going to do some shopping and touring of San Francisco then will have a late dinner at one of the many restaurants I have been meaning to try for a long time, The Richmond which is the type of restaurant we all love, local produce prepared with great care by a chef with a passion in a friendly, neighborhood setting. I’ll report more after we eat.

On Tuesday we’ll be going to another spot I’ve noticed, Bushi Tei, a french-japanese fusion restaurant in JapanTown with walls and interiors from a 150 year old restaurant from Japan, but rearranged in a very modern style. We may get the chef’s omikasa tasting with wine pairings, or we may try to rather spectacular ala carte menu, it will be a tough but pleasant decision.

During the day we’ll do more touring and shopping and will be visiting my grandfather and his wife in Marin for lunch. All in all it should be a pleasant couple of days visiting with my parents and it will be very nice to have family around – and to have their help in organizing and decorating my new apartment. There are any number of tasks where a second pair of hands (not to mention a rental car) will make the tasks much, much easier. Little things like buying curtains, possibly some rugs, dressers, mirrors, etc.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, not owning a TV means that I have more time. I’ll give more detailed reviews in the future, but unfortunately (well not too) I have been buying more books than I have been reading – on Saturday I went to Borderlands Books for the 11th anniversary party for Tachyon Publications where my friend Tim Pratt won the Joshua Norton Award (and signed his book, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl,  out in trade paperback for me). So that goes towards the top of my “to be read” pile.

My current reading (fiction) is another book I picked up this weekend, Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson (yes, a new book by Robert Heinlein, Spider Robinson was asked to finish an unfinished novel outline, the results are so far at least very, very good) I’ve also recently finished books by Terry Prachett and Michael Stackpole.

In a few weeks I will be traveling to the East Coast, to the Washington DC area and then, I hope to also get to NYC. If possibly I should have a free day for visits in the DC area, then a couple of days in NYC. I may try to arrange for a MeshWalk NYC while I’m there. My goal is to have a book proposal written before I leave for DC, so that will be my primary task for the next few weeks! Wish me luck (and intros to agents or publishers are always welcome!)

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