How to Podcast

30 Nov

While most of us have definitely heard about podcasting and understand the basic idea behind one, I would guess that very few of us have ever created or even thought about starting our own. Sure, we have strong opinions and original ideas about our various hobbies or favorite shows, but wouldn´t the process behind creating one be both time consuming and confusing? The answer is surprisingly, no! Creating and editing one´s own podcast takes both little effort and limited technical skill (and can even be done for free). For example, from the moment one sits down to talk about the previous night´s episode of Entourage with a friend, the audio file is only minutes away from being able to be uploaded to potentially millions of listeners and subscribers! Here is a helpful video that guides through the relatively easy steps involved in creating and uploading a podcast to a worldwide audience on iTunes:

Pretty easy, right? In-class discussion on Monday focused on a variety of programs available online to all for free that guide users through the entire process of creating, editing, and uploading. Examples included Sound Cloud, Blip.TV, and Podomatic, which also showcase podcasts covering a wide range of topics.  

 

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Ways to Identify Bad Sushi Restaurants

27 Nov

By virtue of the mass amounts of information circulating in today’s world of ever-growing technology and social media, it is almost impossible to be taken completely by surprise by a restaurant’s quality. Namely, people don’t go to 5-star restaurants expecting to eat fast food, and people don’t eat $1 pizza expecting a slice of Italy. So it goes without saying that people tend to roughly know the quality of the fish they are about to eat when they dine at a sushi restaurant. Just in case, however, I have decided to include a couple of pointers aimed at identifying sushi places that could potentially be worse than you think when you walk in. I have chosen not to include such obvious signs as buying sushi in odd places such as pharmacies, the cleanliness of the restaurant, etc.

1. A roll piece is bigger than the ‘ok’ sign – Make the ‘ok’ sign by connecting your thumb and index finger. Roll pieces in the best of Japanese restaurants will be around half that size. Anything as big or bigger than the sign and you’re dealing with poor quality sushi and a lot of rice.

2. The ginger is very rose/dark in color – Not always an accurate measure of the sushi’s quality, but a good rough estimate. Better sushi restaurants tend to serve fresh ginger, which is white in color rather than straight from the package ginger, which is rose or darker in color.

3. Buffet/all-you-can-eat sushi – Need I say more? There’s a reason you are getting a ‘bargain’ for $12.95.

4. Several rolls feature interesting names/ingredients – Sure, I enjoy a guilty pleasure now and then and order some exotic roll containing cream cheese, asparagus, mango, and/or filet mignon, but you’re not going to find any top quality sushi restaurants serving ‘Spicy Mexican’ or ‘Crazy Dragon’ rolls. Not sure if an ingredient is unorthodox? It probably is.

5. The sushi bar chef is not Japanese – Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m sure there are many places not owned by people of Japanese origin, but at the end of the day sushi is a truly exquisite Japanese treat, and just like any ethnic cuisine, the best sushi will be found in Japanese-run restaurants.

6. Artificial crab is used – You cannot expect much quality from any place that stuffs crab stick into rolls or serves pieces of artificial crab as nigiri pieces.

7. Pieces of nigiri or sashimi are paper thin/too much rice is used – It is hard to explain the exact colors that certain cuts of fish should be, even though this is the best way of telling the quality. An easier way of surmising its quality before consumption is noticing how thick it is cut – poor quality places will often include a large amount of rice with the thin cut of fish. All-you-can-eat sushi joints often use this trick with vinegar-ized rice to fill you up quicker.

Podcasting: The Audible Revolution

23 Nov

Podcasts have been an effective and easy way to share audible content ever since their inception in the mid-2000s. The basic advantage of podcasts are simple: they are PORTABLE! Users can listen to what they want, when they want it, and where they want to. Having to plan part of a day around being at a certain place at a specific time to catch a half-hour show when it airs is a thing of the past. Want to listen to the New York Times audio version show from that same morning on your evening flight from Barcelona to Paris? You got it. Podcasting has been so popular and widespread because of how easy it is for all. Almost everyone I know has an iPod and enjoys keeping up with the news, or has a favorite television show, or possesses some sort of interest in a radio program. The combination of the two has become simple: podcasts. Podcasts represent the shift from a push medium to a pull medium: the audience has never had so much control over media content.

In my personal experience, it is equally as simple to create a podcast. Back in 2007, my friend and I recorded ourselves talking on a weekly basis about our favorite baseball team, the New York Mets. Granted, I have forgotten the details of how it was uploaded, but within minutes, we had our content available for all to enjoy (or most likely, ignore) on iTunes. Yes, the same iTunes visited daily by millions of users worldwide. It was astoundingly simple for us to record ourselves in a New York City kitchen and potentially be heard only minutes later by some lone Mets fan riding the bus on the way to work in Taiwan.

Icho

21 Nov

Place: Icho

Address: Carrer Déu I Mata, 65 – 92

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: As is often the case, I spent way too much time consulting reviews of sushi restaurants on TripAdvisor in hopes of finding my new favorite spot. My research, coupled with finding some extra euros lying around my apartment, led me to Icho, touted as a fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine in an upscale setting. Additionally, the reliable website ComerJapones had a lengthy positive write-up about the restaurant, albeit in Spanish. I headed to the restaurant with high expectations and a rather empty stomach, which turned out to be a bad idea.

Setting: Icho is located in a part of the city I had rarely visited, with relatively quiet streets and much open space. These characteristics surprisingly turned out to describe the restaurant itself. Icho takes up a huge space on its street – it is sprawled across several apartment-sized buildings. Once inside, I noticed that the space is used oddly: there is a well-lit main dining room with much room between tables, as well as various nooks of the restaurant which stretch deeper, but do not appear to be in use. Couple all that with a sushi bar and kitchen partially visible to diners, and the result is a rather weird combination of sorts.

Food/Price: Upon receiving a menu, I experienced a bit of sticker shock. The prices were astonishingly high for appetizers and main courses alike, which I had somewhat expected. The pricing of set plates of sushi, however, was much more of a surprise. In my experience, even when a la carte sushi selections are pricey, the set plates are meant to provide a small relief to the diner, offering a moderately priced and modestly portioned assortment of pieces. This was not the case at Icho as my choice of five pieces of nigiri cost 25 euros. Five euros per piece of a la carte sushi is fairly standard at very high-end establishments, but even those restaurants will have some sort of set plate, usually around 25 euros but offering more than your run-of-the-mill five piece assortment. The tuna, whitefish, shrimp, and salmon roe pieces, while above average quality, were nothing close to good value and left me feeling just as hungry as before I

began my meal. Thinking I had found a relative bargain on the menu, I ordered a roll for around 7 euros, only to find that at Icho, this item consists of three pieces. Wow. Granted, there were a couple of set menu options that offered what seemed like a relatively diverse variety of food for around 60 euros, but none of these options contained sushi and from the looks of the food on the table next to me, featured similarly comically small portions. An order of tuna tartare (around 16 euros) was tasty and well-seasoned, but at that point, the meal experience had taken a turn for the worst on me.

Bottom Line: Icho does well at combining aspects of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine, a trend that I have noticed growing in diverse metropolitan areas. The space is, if nothing else, is interesting, and the menu offers diners of all preferences sure to find something intricate and enjoyable. The relation of this food to its price, however, is another story. There are better options for quality sushi in the city, and just about all of them will not burn as deep a hole in your wallet. Until the restaurant can reform their menu, my advice would be to stay away.

Ratings:

Food: 7.25 (taking into account the price tag).

Setting: 8

Cost: 55 euros

Marketing and Advertising 2.0

16 Nov

In class on Monday, discussion focused on corporate blogs and how best to market and advertise a business through the tools of Web 2.0. One of the most effective and growing ways to communicate with customers and successfully advertise a business is by corporate blogging, in which one or more authors write as an official or semi-official worker or partner of the enterprise. Blogs can be beneficial to consumers by offering discounts, deals, and updates about existing or upcoming products. For a corporation, a well-written blog can work to promote customer relations or to generate mass publicity about certain products or the company as a whole.

I noticed an especially successful form of marketing through Web 2.0 while spending this past weekend visiting friends in Edinburgh. In order to find a dinner place, I used my trusty favorite website, TripAdvisor. The #1 rated place on the site for the city of Edinburgh was the Indian restaurant Kismot, which had over 330 reviews, an uncharacteristically high number for a relatively small city. After EACH one of these user reviews was a personal reply back from a member of the family-owned Kismot employees, who often cited specific examples from each diner´s experience to complement his reply. For example, the self-proclaimed ¨not so skinny brother ;-)¨ writes back long paragraphs thanking people for such things as  “allowing him to recommend a dish (Methi)” and for “asking my dad to take out the onions from the curry for you guys”. Mentions of superb customer service and personalized care accounts for a large portion of the TripAdvisor reviews left by diners of the restaurant. The owners of Kismot are well aware of their popularity on TripAdvisor, as one of the brothers was sure to ask me where I heard about the restaurant and encouraging me to share my opinions online.

A large percentage of Kismot´s clientele also come curious about the Kismot Killer, described as the World´s Spiciest Curry. Each year, there is a challenge for people to finish generous helpings of the curry, with prizes going out to the very few who are able. The competition even sends people to the hospital, which is advertised all over the internet, almost even more often than actual reviews of the restaurant.

Kismot is a perfect example of a business that has flourished as a direct result of their usage of Web 2.0 tools to advertise. Even seemingly negative press such as sending people to the hospital has worked in their favor, as they have been able to generate both excitement and curiosity about their restaurant. Like voters in political elections, restaurant consumers want to experience a personal connection, and Kismot has clearly figured out how to combine these modern and ever-growing forms of communication to provide this experience.

Multimedia Project: Harrods Food Hall

14 Nov

This past weekend, I traveled to London with my girlfriend to visit some of our friends and some of my family members that live in the city. Our touring brought us to the world-famous Harrods Department Store (the computer does not even spell-check ‘Harrods’ anymore because of the popularity of the brand), an entire day long journey itself. Marissa described many of our adventures through the clothing sections of the six-floor megastore in her multimedia project post on her blog about style and fashion.

We soon realized, however, that there is a lot more to Harrods than simply designer clothes and shoes. The store’s recently opened Fine Watch Room houses the largest collection of watches in Europe, with 13 individual brand boutiques containing some 35 watch brands. Additionally, we stumbled across my personal favorite section of the department store, the Food Hall. Harrods is home to some of London’s finest gourmet foods, containing a vast number of fine eateries such as The Georgian Restaurant on the fourth floor and the world-renowned Ladurée Parisian luxury tea room and macaroons on the ground floor. Other dining options include wood-oven pizza at the Pizzeria on the second floor, described by my resident cousin only as “godly,” and the East Dulwich Deli, home to some of London’s most popular and nutritious salads and juices.

My main focus, however, will be on the various choices available on the first level food hall. Harrods Food Hall is currently in the running to be awarded a prestigious Luxist Award in the Best Gourmet Food/Food Hall category. Originally founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod as a single room selling groceries as well as perfumes and stationary items, Harrods has blossomed into a ‘luxury food court’ of sorts, selling a variety of gourmet goods as well as containing various ‘easy eatery’ options aimed at providing a quick yet high-quality lunch. I took a number of pictures and videos aimed at documenting both the quality and busyness of this unique section of Harrods.

A brief tour of the Food Hall facilities proved to be quite overwhelming. My first stop in the court was my admitted favorite of sushi, at the über popular Sushi Bar. I took the picture on the left showing the circular bar packed with people clustering around the stools to wait their turn to sample some of the ‘selection that rivals any to be found in Tokyo or beyond,’ according to the eatery’s website. While I did not sample any of the fish myself, I could tell from my sushi eating experience, well documented on this blog, that the selection of fish was both fresh and diverse. I was able to talk with one of the sushi chefs for a minute (Note: Several Harrods employees refused to be recorded on camera when asked, citing store policy). He mentioned that sushi in London, as in many Western cities around the world, is skyrocketing in popularity and as a result, the sushi bar is one of Harrods’ most frequented eateries.


My next stop in the Food Hall was Harrods’ newest restaurant, Xin (there is no official link on Harrods website, so I have included some TripAdvisor reviews), which is the department store’s take on dim sum. As the picture I took shows, this eatery was also full, with diners sitting on chairs in a horseshoe shape surrounding waiters running out of the kitchen with piping hot dumplings.

 

One of the most popular areas in the Food Hall appeared to be the Caviar House Seafood Bar. The seafood bar offers up several marine favorites, as well as more expensive options such as caviar and lobster, accompanied by champagne. Much like the sushi bar and dim sum restaurant, seating at the Caviar House seafood bar was informal and laid back, despite the surrounding hectic atmosphere. Shoppers and diners continuously streamed in and out by the hundreds. It is interesting to note that the location of the restaurants I have mentioned is intertwined with the gourmet food shops on the ground level.

There are a plethora of gourmet food options available on the ground floor Food Hall of Harrods. See a video I took below for a quick peek into the bustling Food Hall, beginning with the area containing the Dim Sum and Sushi Bar restaurants, and then entering into the room with a variety of gourmet food options.

As you can see in the video, Harrods Food Hall has already begun their annual Christmas decoration campaign in their food section, decorating the area with a number of wreaths and lights aimed at highlighting some of their ‘Christmas’ time foods. I continued my video taking at a different area in the gourmet foods room, taking shots of both the butchery and rotisserie, selling some of the ‘most popular and definitely the tastiest cuts of meat in London’ according to the man working behind the counter of the latter establishment. Also in this section of the store is the fish market, selling a vast selection of freshly caught sea creatures.

One of the unique and fascinating things about Harrods is that, as advertised, it is a store that has everything. Putting aside the largest selection of fine clothing, footwear, watches, and accessories that the store houses for both men and women, the Food Hall is special because of its incredible variety and quality. There are restaurants offering different cuisines and various levels of extravagance and formality, as well as countless options to buy for the home. I cannot think of a comparison in the United States that has the quality of sit-down eateries and take-away gourmet goods under one roof. The brand of Harrods transcends the store’s physical boundaries, as well, as I counted hundreds of the dark green plastic bags that the store has become synonymous with throughout the city during my stay. Even as I took a whisky tour in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday, the world’s largest collection of whisky contained three bottles of ‘Harrods’ Whisky’! 
While I was repeatedly rejected in my requests for brief interviews with employees of Harrods, I was able to talk with my American friend studying in London for the semester about his knowledge of the Harrods Food Hall. He offered some quick thoughts on the matter:

Nomo

9 Nov

Place: Nomo

Address: Gran de Gracia, 13

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: As I was scouring for my next sushi restaurant conquest in Barcelona, I came accross an article on the website Secrets of Barcelona touting the up-and-coming trendy Japanese restaurant Nomo. The article praised the restaurant´s stylish decor and mentioned that it has become especially popular with young people in the city. I had to investigate.

Setting: Nomo is located in a busy section of the city, right by Passeig de Gracia. The large all-glass door allows bypassers to view the (usually full) modern interior, with a sushi bar in front and around 15 colorful tables scattered throughout the large space. The menu was an indication that this place is truly hip: the menu is accompanied by a magnetic board, with small squares containing numbers that correspond to each food item. Diners place little magnets inside each the squares of the dishes they wish to order. Cool.

Food/Price: I have always surmised that people tend to order more food at restaurants where they do not order verbally with the waiter. My hypothesis was supported by a meal that saw me order edamame with white truffle oil (6 euros), sushi moriawase (23 euros), my personal favorite, and two special rolls to split with my friend. Special recognition to the restaurant for having my personal favorite, wasabi tobiko nigiri, of which I ordered one piece. The edamame was so delectable we almost ordered another, as the white truffle oil provided just the right hint of flavor to differentiate it from the mundane appetizer it has become known as. The wasabi tobiko made my eyes water from the intense spiciness – the eggs were proportioned well to the amount of rice and extremely fresh. The two rolls, spicy tuna and a salmon/papaya combination with salmon roe provided an abundance of flavor, not quite the most authentic of sushi rolls, but enjoyable nonetheless. The sushi moriawase plate, which totaled 15 pieces of sushi, contained several varieties of sushi, including eel and tuna gunkan, and impressively contained no doubles. It also included a nice variation of roll pieces, instead of one single roll. Always a good sign. We definitely overate, but the quality and variety of fish caused us to finish every bite.

Bottom Line: Nomo reminded me of ON Sushi in many respects. The decor is modern and the intricate roll combinations burst with taste. Nomo evens goes a step further, offering combinations such as brie and walnut nigiri, drizzled with honey (which we noticed after ordering, and essentially had for dessert). While not necessarily for the stick-to-the-book sushi enthusiast, Nomo offers a vast menu with several ingredients not normally associated with raw fish. A definite must-go for those craving a fun atmosphere and some creativity with their sushi.

Ratings:

Food: 8.25

Ambiance: 8.5

Cost: 40 euros