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From Fathom to ADG; Excitement, trepidation and emotions in between

Aug. 10th, 2011 | 05:19 pm

I am excited to announce a big professional step, as I formally join the team at ADG Creative in Columbia, MD next week. Aside from the awesome commute (driving opposite of traffic and avoiding continued support of the oppressive WMATA regime), I am stepping into a digital strategy role, alongside a pretty darn swell design and development team that has been doing their thing for better than 20 years. Their work, trajectory and goals are all inspiring, and I am humbled to be hand-picked as a piece of that story. All of this leads to the big, obvious question…

"Why are you leaving Fathom!? That place is awesome!" I can't agree more. Let's take a stroll in the way back machine. I started at Fathom as a designer fresh out of school in 2006. I had lots of big ideas, a diversity of interests spanning both print and digital—creative and tech. At the time, I was a big part in re-jumpstarting our interactive team on the technical side, as well as maturing our process and creating our UX tools that exist today. That came via a big thanks to Fathom for giving me unparalleled freedom to explore new ideas, technologies and strategies—then being amenable to and even embracing change I collaborated in. I've made friends that will last a lifetime, had the crazy office parties that will go down in folklore history, attended/organized eccentric gatherings for both work and community outreach, and fostered an impressive tech community via our gallery space. My role has transcended designer and developer, evolving into end-to-end assistance and guidance—from estimate and pitch, through user experience strategy and production, into launch and setting maintenance goals. With a focus in strategy, I've kept my paper cups listening in on a variety of other roles, supporting my team to the fullest of my ability and energy. I've identified with Fathom = myself and myself = Fathom. For that, I am grateful, and being one of Fathom's biggest fans won't fade.

Through all of this, my big 5-year anniversary hit me. Despite my emotional attachments to the place, and a retrospect of personal and professional growth that would be unmatched by the average "job", I took the opportunity to step outside of my situation and objectively look at my career path. Five years is twice the industry average for retention. It is also dangerous to stay in the same place for that long so soon out of school (not *knowing* how green the grass is over the fence). I'd been content with bouncing ideas off of the same team for too long, albeit with great success, without considering what I am missing in terms of how other agencies think about or approach the same problems. That experience is critical to a strategist and integral to my growth within the user experience vertical.

That is where ADG comes in. The culture isn't entirely different, which is comforting, but their process is different. Their clients are different. The team is different. The fruit that I picked and enjoyed at Fathom will be very different from that of ADG, but both will gel together to allow me to compare and contrast experiences in each new recommendation I make.

And what does this all mean for Fathom, the meetup groups, ongoing projects, and more? Well, both a lot and not much. I mean, without being big-headed, there will be shoes to fill. However, I've spent the last couple of years helping cultivate everything I do around me—both for my own professional growth (it's better to collaborate) and for Fathom's infrastructure. The team here is still awesome. We share and mentor. I've spent the last month making sure project transitions are as smooth as possible and have left my IM/email door open in case there are the inevitable "what did he/she say in that conference call about xyz" questions. Your project is in good hands.

I'll continue my liaison role with the meetup groups. Frankly, Fathom loves having you here. They'd keep you even if I decided not to attend anymore. We'll still have the chairs up and the ice buckets out. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for you, however, I'll still be attending all of the meetups. I am as addicted to tech as Fathom is and just because I now have to commute to the meetup like you do, doesn't mean I don't have a lot to gain from hanging out with you guys and continuing to act as tour guide to the history of the cool building.

And what's my new role exactly? Digital whatsy-hoozie? My title is "digital strategist", but ultimately I'll be continuing to do a lot of what I do now. My focus will be in listening to clients, researching their product climate, audiences, etc. to give them great recommendations, then in shuttling those solutions on the inside. I'll help brainstorm and assemble a variety of project specification documents, help fine-tune processes, and collaborate on nifty internet things with which to save the world.

Farewell Fathom! It's been an amazing journey. Now, on to the next chapter—ADG here I come! :D

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Live Twee or Die Hard

Jun. 30th, 2010 | 07:10 am

If you haven't been following the story of Twee, you may have at least noticed some of the graffiti artwork in the neighborhood.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the peculiar pink heart brass knuckles showed up on the block. Other, similarly cute/violent images have appeared as well.

Fortunately, just as I became interested in the art, a blog I follow featured it.

Article 1, the call for outing of the artist:
http://www.welovedc.com/2010/06/18/new-street-artist-wants-to-punch-you-with-love/

Article 2, anonymous interview with 'Twee'
http://readysetdc.com/2010/06/words-w-tee-live-twee-or-die/

Article 3, very cheeky!
http://www.welovedc.com/2010/06/29/featured-photo-61/

I'm impressed.

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Glitch That Makes My iPhone Solitaire Better

May. 21st, 2010 | 10:28 pm

So, one of the free games I play on iPhone a lot is Byterun's Solitaire. It is a great standard solitaire and isn't laden with ads like a lot of free games. It prompts for you to give it a review every dozen games or so, but that is it.

Anyway, that isn't what this post is about.

I play the normal, difficult way where you roll a stack (as opposed to one at a time) and keep score. A perfect game is somewhere around 750 points, with the typical game ranging between 700 and 735, occasionally 745.

Now, on rare occasion, I was noticing random scores of 1400 points. The problem was, I'd see my astronomical score mid-game. I'd think back and try to figure out if I had done some splendid thing to get rewarded. I'd try to duplicate the effort and monitor the rising score, but was never able to figure out exactly how I was making the double score.

This morning, I happened upon it. Rather than some awesome play, it is actually a glitch. When you win a game and it gives you the fireworks and such, you tap again to re-deal. It doesn't reset your score until you play your first move. If you re-deal, then close the game before playing a first move, when you return and hit "resume game", it thinks your previous score is your current game's score and you can resume play from your previous winning. Sweet!

What this means is, you can tally up a winning streak. It makes the game a lot more interesting, to not only see if you can win each hand, but to keep track of how many you can win in a row. For example, today, after discovering it on my commute this morning, I managed to win around a dozen games in a row through the course of the day...reaching a magnificent 8500 points (when I'm used to seeing ~725 at a time).

The trick is to remember to close the game right after the re-deal. If you accidentally play, you lose the score. Also, this only works if you win. If you lose, the game never tells you there are no moves left, so you have to go to the menu and start a new game, effectively resetting everything.

I am not sure if this trick works with other deal preferences yet.

It would be better if the game capitalized on this and made it a feature, posting high scores on a website to compare your world rank.

My next goal will be to breech 10,000 points.

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Charade of Security

May. 20th, 2010 | 09:38 am

With all respect and sorrow for the family, the recent DC Metro blunder of not noticing a dead body on the train for half a day is just comical and a drop in the bucket. Aside from a severe drop in service quality and reliability, the Metro security measures are a joke. What if the person left behind had been a non-dead infant or child? What if they hadn't been noticed after 5 hours and instead spent the night there?

Tuesday evening, I got onto the Red Line at Dupont Circle, where someone had left a duffel bag on a seat. After the year of repeat messages for passengers to immediately report the "such simple words" situation to Metro authorities, a passenger on my car did what he was told. He used the in-car intercom to report the bag to the conductor. I commuted home, unslowed as we paused at one station after another with a "we'll be holding here momentarily" message, but without any Metro employee, police officer or otherwise ever boarding the car to assess the threat.

While the bag itself was surely benign, it is apparent the espousing of a focus on security and the taking of situations seriously (including this abandoned body found) is all a charade. It won't take long for passengers to realize their participation in the scam affects security neither one way or the other, with exception to their lack of participation being used as a scapegoat, should Metro ever be called to the table. "Oh, we'll be ready next time…" "We were acting under the official policies that were in affect at that time." I just hope I'm not around when the fan is not only hit, but when it falls off the ceiling.

That sad part is, DC has no reliable alternative transport, so it only maintains ridership by being the lesser of a pile of evils. Should a better method come along, the DC Metro system would collapse under the weight of its own big head.

More on the dead body:
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Body-found-on-train-ID_d-as-Rockville-man-94355124.html

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SEO Analysis of the Average Photography Website

May. 18th, 2010 | 09:14 pm

A friend is having SEO issues, where even when you search for his company name, the blog shows up but not the homepage. I was going to respond via the call for help on Facebook, but this quickly became too long for that. If you need to do similar things to your website, the URL referenced is http://www.kaiheeringaphotography.com

To Kai:

You've got several things wrong that are putting your search engine ranking into the dump.


  1. Validate your HTML. The better the condition of your code, the more easy it is for search engines to read it. Not only will this make search engines happy, but you'll help ensure your site is more consistently seen across browsers. http://validator.w3.org Namely, you are missing a quote at the end of your metadata tag, so the values in there are getting lost. Also, you need to add all of the doctype and character encoding specifications. Copy the top few lines of my little website's source code: http://anthonydpaul.com

  2. Make your HTML ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. Add alternate (alt tags) to all images. Describe what they are briefly...but without being spammy. For instance, putting "Kai Heeringa Photography" as the alt tag for every image is hurting your SEO rather than helping. The "blog" button should be tagged with "follow us on our blog". Your logo's alt tag should be "Kai Heeringa Photography logo".

  3. Use link titles in the same way you use alt tags. If the "blog" link were a text link and not an image, the link title would read "follow us on our blog".

  4. Use page titles and metadata correctly. Your website title and meta data are flagging your favorite terms as spam. Metadata used to be the way search engines knew what your site was about...so people put every term in they could think of. Now, they are only top-level keywords and the rest of your SEO is semantic. Search engines scan your site and build up a profile of information on it, based upon what content updates most, what your page titles are, what words you mention a lot in context, what websites link to yours, how many people Tweet about you, how many people blog about you, and more. Everything is contextual. Your site is defined by its network, behavior and virality.

    Putting 30 variations of "wedding photography" into your page title and metadata flags those terms as spam and actually REMOVES them from your site's profile. The reason is, there are plenty of sites that put "sex, brittney spears, michael jackson, viagra, bmw, etc." into their metadata, thinking it will get them more hits. In actuality, the search engine recognizes those terms are being abused on the site and scans the rest of the content to more accurately tag the site (ignoring the words it now sees as "yeah, yeah, yeah...we got it already").

    Your title should actually be "Kai Heeringa Photography". If you want to get fancy, add "- Home" to that, and appropriate page titles to other pages.

    Your metadata should have a maximum of ten terms, each short and DIFFERENT but related. For example, "wedding photography, engagement, baby shower, destinations, travel, michigan".

  5. Make your content ABLE to be read by search engines to begin with. As a follow-up to above, your portfolio is in Flash. That does nothing but hurt you because that content is all invisible from search engines. Think about doing a regularly updated HTML alternate version, if only for SEO. Link to it in your footer. Be real with the content, alt tags and links.

  6. Use SEF URLs. Make your portfolio easier to see by search engines. Aside from content, your URL is "/pfsitez/index2.php" instead of "/portfolio/" or "/portfolio/index.php". Google doesn't know what "pfsitez" is, so it is looking at your two most important pages being called "blog" and "pfsitez". No wonder the blog is getting more air time.

  7. Update often. I covered this in a couple ways, but your content needs to be fresh. Aside from being easily readable by search engines, your SEO is based on how often you update and how often people link back to your updates. Google promotes content more people clicked on, because the mentality is, "if everyone else who searched for this term clicked on this link, you probably will too". The blog is getting attention because specific posts and/or images are getting linked to across the internet. That means everyone who visits your site is coming via your blog rather than your homepage. Nobody is coming through the portfolio because people can't link to specific pictures or pages (note they all have exactly the same bad URL).

    Updating frequently with pages/data that can be detected as fresh with unique URLs makes the search engine have to spider your content more often and keeps it at the front of the line. If Google looks as your page one week, then sees it is exactly the same a week later, next time it will return two weeks later. If it is still the same, it will try to get away with a month later. Inversely, if your site is updated, it will come back in 3 days instead of the week it just waited. There are billions of pages to look at across the internet, so a search engine has to prioritize. It does so by reducing the number of redundant scans it performs...with a little intelligence noted above.

  8. Get promiscuous. Give your cross-linking a nudge. Link to your Facebook account, Twitter account, LinkedIn, etc. in your footer. When people go to those URLs via your website's URL, that is a good checkmark in your ranking. Then, when people get to that link, it also increases the number of people who click from your Twitter feed back to your website, giving you a referral.

    After college, I decided to optimize myself. I changed every social profile I have to consistently use "anthonydpaul" as the username and "Anthony D Paul" as my display name. Whenever my name is printed or mentioned anywhere, I insist on the "D" being added. It is to the point where if you Google either of those terms without quotes, I dominate pages and pages of results. I did this because there are at least thousands of "Anthony Paul" folks in the world and when I searched for that in quotes, I was 15 pages deep. Now, give "Anthony Paul" a try without quotes and I am at least among the first page, if not at the top, even though there are plenty of famous folks with my same name.



That is a start.

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Mac n' Cheese Progress Report

Mar. 27th, 2010 | 03:03 pm

For those of you who don't know, mac n' cheese is pretty much my favorite food. That and reubens are what I guage the quality of a restaurant by (if they have either of them). As such, I've been working on my own mac recipe for a couple years, making slight modifications and tests each time, recording progress and edits to commit. Last time I made a big batch, it was the best I'd ever made. Below is the current state of the recipe (note: there are older versions I've posted out there; update your bookmarks, if you have any of them).



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Anthony's work-in-progress superior baked mac n' cheese recipe
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* 1/2 stick butter
* 1 tbsp minced garlic
* 1 tbsp all purpose flour
* ~1 1/2 pint heavy cream
* ~30-40 oz shredded cheese (see notes)
* 1 box cavatappi pasta (see notes)
* 2 eggs
* 1 tbsp coarse brown/spicy mustard
* salt
* black pepper
* optional garnish (see notes)

Put a large pot of water to boil. Don't forget to salt the water. Boil your noodles until they are done, but not overdone (remember they will also be baking). Pour the noodles into a strainer and use your sink sprayer to quickly rinse them in cold water to halt the cooking process (or pour off the hot water, fill with cold water, then pour off the cold water). They don't have to be ice cold, just not hot. Return the pasta to the empty pot and set aside.

In a sauce pan on medium, melt the butter and add the garlic. When the garlic has caramelized, stir in the flour until it creates a thick roux. Now add half a pint of cream and stir until it thickens. Add a handful at a time of your sauce cheeses until you have a sauce that is as thick as possible while still running off of the spoon as liquid. It should not be stringy. As it becomes too thick, add small amounts of extra cream until it returns. You'll have used about half of your total cheese in this process, and close to a full pint of cream. During this process, you should have been stirring your cheese constantly to evenly melt and bind, as well as prevent any from burning to the bottom. Turn off heat and set aside.

NOTE, SAUCE: If your cheese is too thick and you have run out of heavy cream, you can use regular milk by now...just add sparingly and continue stirring constantly to maintain the binding.

Beat two eggs into remaining half a pint of cream (or 1/3 cup of milk). Season with salt and pepper as you would an omelette. Stir in the mustard. Pour the cold liquid over the pasta and toss.

The hot cheese sauce will have cooled slightly, being removed from the heat, but should still be easily pourable. Give it a stir to get rid of any skin on the surface. Temper the cheese sauce into the pasta and fold to evenly coat all of the noodle and cold sauce mixture.

Combined, the sauced pasta should now be about room temperature, or slightly warmer. Fold in the remaining shredded cheese other than what is reserved for the topping. It should not be melting in this process, though it will soften so take care to not over-stir.

Pour the pasta into your baking dish(es). A large glass casserole dish is the total quantity, so you may use that, or individual-sized ramekins (great for classy dinner parties). Gently pack it down without damaging the noodles.

Top with your remaining cheese. As added bonus, this will keep moisture in as it bakes.

If you are making this ahead of time, now is the point in which you can tightly cover it in aluminum foil and put it in the fridge for up to a week or so before baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, or until bubbling at the edges and browned on the peaks. If you refrigerated it, you can keep the aluminum foil on for half of the bake time. Your total time may also be closer to an hour before the top is adequately browned and bubbly.

The final dish should be a combination of: spongy casserole with a liquid cheese sauce; duotone strings of cheese marbled throughout; and a bit of crunch in the cheese crust, toasted noodles and/or optional garnish (see notes below for garnish).

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NOTES, CHEESE: The cheese is something I am still experimenting with for the ideal combination/ratio. I usually choose one among monterey jack and colby jack, then two among extra sharp cheddar, extra sharp white cheddar and extra sharp New York cheddar.

When choosing your cheeses, remember they will be used three ways: melted into sauce, coarsely marbled in for presentation, and as a topping to retain moisture. The most finicky is the sauce because it needs to bind well with the cream, then remain creamy as the baked macaroni cools (including as leftovers). For example, cheeses to avoid using in the sauce would be mozzarella or hard cheeses like gruyere or parmesan. Mozzarella doesn't bind with the cream correctly, leaving an undesirable soupy/chunky texture in the sauce. Harder cheeses will firm up too much as they cool, again not getting the optimal sauce consistency. Using these cheeses for flavoring, however, would be perfectly fine in the marbling or the topping.

As for flavor, the sharper the cheddar is, the better. Presentationally, it looks nicest to mix white and orange cheeses in the marbling, but to primarily use orange in the sauce.

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NOTES, PASTA: Cavatappi is my personal favorite because it holds its form well, keeping the casserole airy (not settling like a solid brick of cheese). As a bonus, it looks fancier than macaroni as well. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find. Macaroni can be used if this is the case. Rotini looks as though it would work as well, but I've never tried.

Pastas to avoid would be penne, shells or anything odd like egg noodles. Penne are too chewy, which doesn't bode well with the nature of the dish. Noodles not structured well enough, like shells, will not hold up to the weight of the sauce and will simply turn into a solid mass as they chill.

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NOTES, GARNISH: It is good to have a crunchy counter-texture. Dropping cubes of bread over it before topping with the final cheese works. Otherwise, I am also experimenting with crumbled Goldfish or Cheez-It crackers sprinkled in the last few minutes of baking.

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TIP: This is a great base recipe. Make it a meal by adding steamed broccoli and grilled chicken (e.g.) before baking.

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TIP: If you don't want a baked mac n' cheese, simply add the salt, pepper and mustard to the cheese sauce, then omit the cold sauce and cold pasta bath.

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Offending in More Ways Than One

Jan. 20th, 2010 | 11:05 pm

A metro poster today gave me offense, primarily because my mind wandered into much more detail than the poster intended, but none-the-less because the poster was misdirected.

The poster was for a charity to support the families of Christians killed in Africa. Now, there are several things about this that bothered me:

1. The isolation of genocide/persecution of Christians is what bothered me first. Persecution of any divergent belief system has been the basis of war and violent crime since the beginning of the formation of human tribes. Today, whether for religion, sexual orientation, race, political affiliation, social class or nationality, people are being killed all over the world every day...often with a blind eye by the public.

Specifically supporting the families of Christians only tells the assailants that we are here to support those joining the fold of the (globally perceived) already over-privileged...because it isn't as much of a travesty if some other hokey religion is ousted.

2. The second thing that confronted me is almost a "they deserved it" mantra, which is of course divergent from the above. Without condoning any kind of genocide, the outcome is pretty much predictable. The religious Westernization of the globe verges on a bend for domination. Chief among the quest is Christianity, which has been striving to "domesticate" the continents since early naval technology and exploration erupted.

On one hand, a person is being killed for being Christian. On another, much larger scale, Christianity is killing a culture (and not one, but thousands) that has existed for millennia. One can argue killing a culture is very much killing the individuals within it. Languages shrivel through Bible study, marriage and relationship customs change, clothing changes, folklore and customs are lost...and ultimately the political and societal systems change to react to new, Western demands.

This death of a culture happens at the hand of the invader, be it Christians specifically, or political foot-soldiers from governments backed by religion-infused conservatism.

My point is merely to say, I don't walk onto the playground with a kick-me sign on my chest. The religious attack on cultures (it is very much an attack, even if thought to be helpful) is bound to be perceived as threatening. If the mass seeks truth, they will look for you. Poaching is not necessary.

3. Lastly, comes an old discussion. Christians are as much the perpetrator as they claim they are the victim. Whether using religion as a free-pass for lynching minorities, beating/killing gays, crying witchcraft among their own flock, or targeting other Christian groups, Christians complaining they are being targeted is casting stones in a glass house.

Don't get me wrong, none of this is to say Christianity or any religion is inherently bad. At its root, religion is a collection of beliefs based on the historical encounters of a group of people. Religion teaches us, primarily, how to be civil amongst ourselves and our neighbors. However, the self-righteousness that comes when religion is turned against another group as a weapon is a common thread across all people/cultures/religions. Singling out Christians on either side of the equation is wrong.

-----
In closing, this was more of a personal reflection, though due to the nature of the discussion it is likely to garner at least a bit of discussion. I welcome that. One argument I'll avoid right now is the expected, "not all Christians are like that." Yeah, not all Germans were Nazis, not all "Japs" were hell-bent kamikazes and not all Muslims are terrorists...but that doesn't/didn't seem to stop us from using the terms interchangeably.

The funny thing is, had the charity been for non-specific, religion-based genocide in Africa, my feelings toward the campaign would have not even stirred this reaction.

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Photo Browsing Woes

Jan. 6th, 2010 | 07:37 pm

By the course of working in the design industry, I fell into Mac usage when I started at a firm after school. There are many things I enjoy about Mac, but there are still several things that were more efficient on a standard PC. The one that is bothering me at the moment is how inefficient Preview is for viewing and deleting batches of photos.

The Windows picture viewer lets you open a random image, then hit next or previous and it automatically reads whatever is in the folder. Preview requires you to explicitly open a handful of images up-front. Otherwise, each consecutive opening gives new Preview windows. That is annoying, but tolerable by going the extra step of remembering to select multiple files to begin with.

The worse offense is that delete does nothing. You can remove a picture from Preview, but it really just closes it. The problem is, in this modern day of digital photography, I and others intentionally take duplicates of any given picture because it is easy to decide which was in better focus, lighting, composition, etc. If I have a folder of 500 photos to go through quickly with next, previous, delete, next again, oops go back again, delete...I can do it within minutes in Windows. In Preview, I have to note the file name, cut over to finder, delete the file, then go back to Preview to figure out where I left off (deleting a photo from Finder does not update the view in Preview, so you still have both existing and non-existing files stewed together, where with Windows the sequence is detected on-the-fly so going back does not display deleted images).

What I need is a better picture viewer. I tried iPhoto and delete actually used the hide functionality instead. Do any of you Mac users have a lightweight photo browser that at least flips quickly and uses the delete button as a delete button without three confirmation pop-ups asking if I am sure I want to delete?

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Low Fat, High Flavor Mini-Pizzas

Oct. 15th, 2009 | 03:22 pm

Maribel and Anjeanette, at the office have been dieting for Anjeanette's wedding. Maribel has bee wanting pizza for a couple days and it sounded good, so I hit up Whole Foods and grabbed some stuff to make high flavor but low fat personal-pizzas. They ended up being very tasty. Most of the ingredients were less than a full serving, so I am estimating maybe 4 or 5 grams of fat per pizza...mostly due to olive oil in the sauce/peppers and milk fat in the cheese...all good fats.
  • Bagged organic round pitas (fat free)
  • 365 roasted red pepper pasta sauce (very low fat)
  • Jar of fire roasted red peppers (very low fat)
  • Fresh basil leaves (fat free)
  • A couple mozzarella balls from the salad bar (use sparingly for taste, but low fat)
  • Bag of part skim shredded mozzarella (use sparingly for taste, but low fat)
  • Baked chicken chunks from the salad bar (use sparingly for taste, but low fat)

I sauced the pitas, sprinkled a little shredded mozzarella around, added 3 pepper strips to each, added 3 basil leaves to each, added 3 cubes of chicken to each (had to cut up the larger pieces), cut mozarella balls in half (in hindsight, could have cut into fourths) and dropped 3 pieces on pizza.

Broiled at 400 for 10 minutes or so, until melty and toasty.

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Does A Salad Bar Need Process?

Oct. 5th, 2009 | 02:23 pm

Today, I figured out what is wrong with the Whole Foods* salad bar. Each time I have visited it, I have walked away with a culinarily disappointing salad. The problem lies in focus. In an effort to appear diverse, they have added a couple ingredients from many different cuisines. A couple Italian items, a couple Indian items, some vegan/hippie stuff, some standard American salad fare, etc. The trouble is, once you decide which theme or concept to approach in your salad, you find the other key components are missing...and ultimately, your vision falls flat with slipshod replacements. For instance, if I wanted the most basic of Greek salads, there is no feta. I have to pick my olives out of the olive/artichoke mixture. A balsamic vinaigrette isn't seasoned right and if I wanted a protein my only choice is a plain Jane chicken, not marinated or grilled or otherwise customized.

The best solution to this problem would be a simple exercise. If you've been to BD's Mongolian BBQ, their setup is genius (though I have my own thoughts on their execution in the fire...that is another topic). Their strength is not only having the salad bar, but for the unimaginative they also have recommended recipes posterized next to the bar. If Whole Foods were to put together only a few of these recipes with vegetable, protein, dairy, crunch and dressing pairings, it would not only be a boon to the salad bar patron, but it would give a plan to the bar preparer as well.

As random as this discussion might seem, it is a great metaphor for our industry. Just like the designer/firm who pitches by skirting around a lack of expertise in any pre-defined area(s), instead wasting time pointing out snippets of all of the hundreds of wonderful things touched on, the salad bar will ultimately fail without focus. Sure, a great client can come in and push the limits of your core offerings, allowing you to mix and match until some new and previously unseen solution is found...but that experimentation comes as an evolutionary layer atop a previously refined foundational recipe/process.

The mark of a great tradesman then becomes expertise with the ability to opportunistically diversify, rather than a Jack-of-all-trades, expert at nothing. Then, if nothing else, your base offering is still a really great salad...rather than a hodgepodge of substandardization.

* The location next to the office in DC. Perhaps another is better.

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