Incoming… Holiday Post

Wow, I can’t recall the last time I felt motivation to get some new content up on this blog.  However, today while sitting around, enjoying winter brews and football, smelling the ribs I have cooking in the oven, I felt a tug at my creative heartstrings.

I got an extra pumpkin this year when we gathered up our annual haul for the “pumpkin hunt.”  It was a Cinderella, which apparently is one of the better cooking gourds.

I am pretty excited to get this thing gutted up and roasted.  I am dying to have a really good, homemade pumpkin pie, amongst other things I’m sure I’ll be making from the puree of pumpkin.  I also took the time to harvest some of the seeds, I’m thinking this pumpkin has some good ass genes and I want a repeat performance next year!

Anyhow, I’ve been absent due to life (school, work, kid, etc… etc… etc…)  School is done for the semester in a week or so and I’ll be graduating this upcoming Spring, so hopefully the time between posts won’t be counted in months, rather in days.

Happy Holidays everyone

NorcalWingman

Have you had wine in China?

Dateline: Nanjing, China

In a “5 Star” Hotel, in the capital city of Jiangsu Province, the Sheraton Nanjing Kingsley Hotel & Towers, one might expect to be able to find a drinkable wine, however, you would be mistaken.

Sheraton Nanjing Kingsley Hotel & Towers
Sheraton Nanjing Kingsley Hotel & Towers

I had the fortune of having my first visit to the country of China a few weeks back.  I have heard much about China becoming one of the largest markets for fine wine, and thus, was unconcerned that I would be able to find something to drink for the #Cabernet day being put on by Rick Bakas on September 2nd.  I had even seen a review of one of the other Sheraton hotels on the “SPG” channel where the host had a chat with the hotel sommelier and they discuss how outstanding the wine selection is and enjoy a glass over some conversation and gourmet snacks.  So when the evening of September 2nd rolled around, I happily boarded the elevator, bound for the forty-first floor (where the cigar and wine bar are located) and marched in.  I found myself a spot at the bar (which was completely empty BTW) and asked for the wine list.

Now, a side note.  The girl working the bar this particular evening had waited on me on previous evenings at the hotel’s Irish Pub, and she was always exceptionally helpful and courteous.  There was clearly a language barrier but she was always willing to try her hardest to serve the customer properly.  Her English name is Cassy.  Now back to the story.

I looked over their wine list; which for being touted as an extensive list was seriously lacking, but anyhow… I chose a Chilean Cabernet, which I know to be one of the best value Cabernets in the marketplace.  After all, I didn’t really want to blow my expense reports out of the water by picking a super expensive wine.  No luck!  The bartendress said it was out of stock…  Okay, back to the list for a second choice.  Since that Cab wasn’t available, I thought I’d keep it in the Bordeaux varietal club.  There was an Argentinian Malbec on the list and I’d had some good Malbec on my flight over from the states, so I thought I’d settle for this.  I happily ordered up a bottle of that, again, I was dashed.  This too was out of stock.  Slightly more dejected this time I buried my nose back into the wine list.  By this time I had eliminated most of the less expensive options and was down to some seriously expensive French Cabs and a few Californian Cabs.  Now, I don’t know about you but I thought that it would be ridiculous for a guy, from Sonoma County, to travel Six Thousand miles (A 12 Hour Flight) and order a Cabernet from less than 20 miles from his home.  But, it was either that, or order some seriously expensive (even for Chinese standards) French stuff, so, I did it.  I found a Sonoma County Cab that was on the list and ordered away.  The Barkeep checked her list and confirmed, it was available…  or so she thought.  She pulled down bottle after bottle from her wine rack, she showed me the ones she couldn’t read and asked if that was okay, none were what I had asked for.  She finally came back with one, a Napa Cabernet.  2001 Beringer, Knight’s Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Now, here’s the funny part.  The wine list showed only a 2005, but I figured if she was willing to give me the 2001 for the same price, it was either that or forget #Cabernet Day, so I bit.

Table Tent featuring some interesting wine reviews
Table Tent featuring some interesting wine reviews

Cassy opened my wine and poured me a glass.  As usual I gave it a whirl and a sniff… eh, cough.  Well, it smelled a bit off but, again, it was #Cabernet day so it was my duty to drink some damn Cab on this day or die trying.  I muscled through about 1/2 of the glass before I couldn’t drink any more.

Now I’ve heard from my friend, Dominic Foppoli of Foppoli Wines, that the Chinese wine palate is very “young” and “undiscerning,” that they usually mix their wine with cola or 7-up, even really expensive Bordeauxs.  That drinking expensive wine is just a status symbol and that they don’t actually enjoy wine for its intrinsic characteristics, yet…  So this wine was spoiled.  It was terrible at best, and disgusting at face value.  I imagine that it had sat on some customs dock, in the sun, cooking in its own bottle.  Disappointed, I gave up on having a good #Cabernet day.  But, somehow, a little part of me was glad for the experience.

Now, here’s where the rubber should meet the road.  An open comment to the management of the Sheraton Kingsley, Nanjing, China.  Your wine selection seems decent, however, your staff are untrained on wine and if wine is spoiled, you should not charge your customers for it!  You should not advertise on your “Starwood Preferred Network” that your Chinese based hotels offer an excellent wine experience.  They do not.  I’m disappointed with your wine list not being up to date with what you actually have in stock and perturbed that you boast about your wine offerings.

I know that at some point, trade with China will become simpler.  That fragile agricultural products will not have to rot on some customs dock, while someone waiting to be bribed sits on product bound for eager consumers, and that the palate of the new generation of Chinese young urban professionals will grow to appreciate wine for its multifaceted character.  Until then I will stick to Chinese Budweiser…  Sad, I know.

The King of Beer
The King of Beer

Norcalwingman gets interviewed!

Hey who thought that anyone would actually be interested in what I have to say?  Anyhow, Wayne Kelterer of  A Long Pour (Fifty-two weeks with California Wine), a very cool blog about California Wineries and winemakers, asked some fun questions.  Go over and check it out, you might just find some dirt on me!

A Long Pour {Fifty-Two Weeks With California Wine}
Wayne, thanks for the interview, it was fun!

Follow Wayne on Twitter @wkelterer

*photo/logo credit Wayne Kelterer (http://alongpour.com)

My Big Fat, Not Bad for a Greek Thursday Night Dinner – Summer School Edition #3

In my continuing new endeavor of joining that elite group, the Wine Century Club, I have been buying up and begging for varietals that I’ve never had before.  After checking out Joe Herrig’s (Suburbanwino) post about fighting sea monsters with which he paired up an Assyrtiko, it got me thinking that I should do my own Greek themed dinner.  I don’t have the latitude to cook up any old thing since the wife just doesn’t do fish, so there was a snowball’s chance in hell that I could get away with a seafood dish.  Anyhow, after a little research I found a nice chicken dish and paired up with a  pasta with a little puffed cheese and egg appetizer.

Here’s this week’s Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner, Greek Style.  All this week’s recipes were sourced from Visit-Santorini’s website: http://www.visit-santorini.com/site/recipies.htm

Greek Chicken with Cheese

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Feta cheese — crumbled
6 Chicken drumsticks
2 tbsp Olive oil — divided (or more)
1 medium Onion — thinly sliced
2 lg Garlic cloves — minced
17 oz Plum tomatoes — undrained
1/2 tspn Oregano
Pepper

Place feta in water and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet and brown chicken pieces. Transfer chicken to a platter. Add the teaspoon of oil to the pan along with the sliced onions.

grilled onion
Grill up some onion

Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or until onions start to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and liquid, oregano and pepper. Place chicken pieces on the sauce.

PlaceChickenInPan
Put the Chicken Back in the pan

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 40 minutes. Remove feta from water and arrange on top of chicken.

Add Feta to the Chicken
Add Feta to the Chicken

Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

So the pasta dish is pretty basic, just spaghetti with some butter and shredded Romano.  The recipe calls for a Greek cheese named Kefalotyri, however I couldn’t track any down but I checked in at the local Oliver’s Market which has an on staff Cheese Master, I’m not sure what her title is but she knows cheese like a Sommelier knows Wine, she did some research and found out that it is similar in taste and nature to Romano, but is less salty, nonetheless, I used some Romano.

Ingredients:

1 lb Spaghetti or other pasta
1/2 lb Butter
1/2 c Kefalotyri or Parmesan-(Grated)

Fill a large deep pot 3/4 full with water. Add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add pasta slowly, without breaking the boil. Cook 10 minutes. Place a colander in sink and turn pasta into it. Rinse under hot running water, allowing the water to drain through the spaghetti.  Heat the butter in a small saucepan to a honey brown.  Watch it carefully for these minutes; it burns quickly and suddenly. Return spaghetti to large pot and dribble hot butter over it. Sprinkle with half the cheese and toss gently to mix.  Transfer to a large ovenproof platter, sprinkle top with more cheese and bake for 10 minutes at 350 F. Serve hot.

Here’s where I tried something that is way out of the norm.  This didn’t really turn out all that great, but it sounded good so it was worth a try.  I’m not sure what is missing or what but I think perhaps some more flour might actually help it a bit.  Regardless, here’s the recipe I used.

Ingredients:

5 Eggs
1/2 cup Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cups Kefalotyri cheese — cubed
1 teaspoon Parsley — minced
Butter for frying

butter
Butter makes it better

Beat eggs well; add flour sifted with baking powder and salt. Add parsley and cubed cheese. Mix together well. Brown in butter in frying pan, and drop in the batter, a spoonful at a time, to fry. Keep the heat regulated so puffs do not burn. When they are lightly brown,  turn carefully, with slotted spoon, without peiercing, and drain on absorbent paper. Serve hot.

I received a sample of wines from Santorini, and paired this dinner with ΓABAΛA from Santorini  (I have no idea how to say what the name of the wine is, it’s Greek to me, I think it’s pronounced Gah-vah-las).  Regardless of how to pronounce the name all you need to know is that it is a great match and really tasty.  Look for a review soon!

The verdict on dinner was a mixed review, the wife wasn’t terribly keen, I thought it turned out really nice.  The tomato and feta cheese add tartness and the wine is really complimentary with these flavors.  So give it a try.  Opa!  (no plates were injured in the making of this Thursday Night’s Dinner)

Not Basd 15
Not Bad for a Greek Thursday Night Dinner

Cheers
Brian

Not Bad for a Thursday Night #13 – Saturday Summer School Edition #1

Wow.  What a week.  One full week off from school and back into the action, 3 days a week.  So basically I had  a short chance to catch my breath after this spring semester then dove right back in…  Someone told me they think I’m motivated, I would beg to differ, I think I may just be insane.

Regardless of all of this, I need to cook some good food and relax at the same time so for tonight’s Thursday Night Dinner (Saturday) I have for you Rotisserie Chicken and Pasta Salad paired with Verdejo.

Today was the first really Hot day of the season, thankfully we’re finally in some “typical” weather and we hit the 90’s today, so the obvious choice for dinner was a grilled or BBQ’d dish…  Anything that could be prepared outside as to not cook the house by firing up the oven and burners in the house.

I was thinking that an herb seasoned rotisserie chicken would really hit the spot and wanted to pair it up with something “summery” and light, so I decided on a pasta salad to go along with the chicken.

I’ve done a few rotisserie chickens now and they really are an amazing dish.  Super simple to prep and cook (which is a plus when you’re looking to relax a bit).

kitchenprep
Ingredients for Rotisserie

I did this one slightly different than previous attempts.  I took a whole large “Fryer” chicken, removed the giblets and other goodies that chicken processors think you might actually want and washed out the inside and out, dried with a paper towel, inside and out.  I made a quick visit to my garden and clipped off about a large handful of fresh rosemary, wash this off and stuff into the cavity of the chicken.

stuffed bird
Stuff Bird with Rosemary

Prepare the chicken by cracking some sea salt, garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper and some oregano.  Place the chicken on the rotisserie skewer and tie up the legs.

stuffed and tied
Stuffed, Tied, and ready to Spin

Sprinkle seasoning all over the chicken and place on the grill.  Start the rotisserie spinning.  I place a baking pan below the chicken to catch the drippings to avoid flare ups, something I did differently this time was to add water to the pan and refill the pan as the water evaporated.  This added humidity into the cooking environment and probably did some steaming of the chicken, I had to refill the 13×9 pan about 5 times during the cooking.  Monitor the grill temperature and maintain it between 250 and 275 Fahrenheit.

just started
Just Getting Started

The pasta salad was another easy dish.  I picked up some klamata and green olives and grape tomatoes at the store earlier.  I started a large pot of water boiling, added some salt and oil (to keep pasta from sticking) and once boiling added some fun radiatori pasta.  Cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes, drain and rinse with cool water.  Place in a bowl and put into the refrigerator  to cool for at least 1 hour.  After cooled, chop up about 1/2 cup each klamata and green olives and 1 cup tomatoes, mix with pasta and 1/3 cup champagne dressing (or Italian) add some crumbled feta cheese.

So I had grand plans of cooking this entire meal outside on the grill but I failed to take into consideration that when the rotisserie is rolling, the lid for the “side burner” on the grill is inaccessible.  You know, the side burner, that thing you never ever use.  I was actually hoping to use mine (still haven’t even lit the burner…).

One of the best things about cooking meals on the rotisserie is that they take some time and don’t require a whole lot of interaction, which leaves some time to take care of the “Important Things.”

benefits of slow cooking
Benefits of Slow Cooking

This was an enjoyable afternoon, sipped a few cold ones and played in the water with the boy and the wife, well mostly with the boy but, I digress.

the boy and I
Chilling out on a hot day

So the chicken should cook on the spit for about 2 1/2 hours at between 250-275 F, I kept the drip pan full of water and refilled it as it evaporated.

on the spit
on the spit

Once an instant read thermometer reads about 170 remove the bird from the BBQ and let rest about 10 minutes.  Quarter by cutting the bird in half lenghtwise, then in half again.  This works out really well for me since I am a dark meat fiend and the wife really prefers white meat.

Not Bad
Not Bad

I had decided to pair it with a light white wine and was thinking Sauvignon Blanc at first but really have  been interested in trying something different.  I found a nice Verdejo at the local market and the shelf-talker said similar to Sauv Blanc, I decided to take a chance on it and picked it up.  A very nice light white wine that I’ll post a review to soon.  It went exceptionally well with the rosemary infused chicken, klamata olives and tomatoes in the pasta salad.  Here’s to summer finally arriving in Sonoma County, and another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner” Summer School Edition.

Not Bad 13
Not Bad 13 - Summer School Edition

Cheers

Brian

The new Thursday…and a quickie

Hello everyone.  I wanted to give you an update since my next four weeks will be exceptionally hectic.  Thursday Night Dinner is going to have to take the proverbial “Back Burner” position as I slog through a summer inter-session course at school.  I’m hoping that this move will allow me to continue to provide all eight of you who actually post comments something while I’m buried in condensed coursework!

developingMgmtSkills
Developing Managment Skills

I will also endeavor to review a wine or two (and a Soiree Wine Decanter) at least once a week but we’ll see how intense school gets.

By the way, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to Shana Ray and Dani Stranghellini for getting me involved with the Russian River Valley Single Night.  I had a great time and met some cool people.  Keep up the great work!

leadership
Leadership w/new RRV Glass 😉

Until then, Cheers!

Okay, just one quickie.  In the glass is some 1990 Les Pierres, Sonoma-Cutrer brought home as a treat from a grower’s relations dinner.

The Nose: If you have had Les Pierres you know that it has a really subtle oak character, but this one is big oak on the nose, with melon and floral aromas (honeysuckle?).
The Taste: Crisp green apples with a backup of fresh Bartlett pear, followed by toast
The Mouth Feel: Great tart acidity kicks off the show and gives way to a silk covered palate this sultry twenty year old has it going on.  Great legs and all.  She leaves you a reminder on the way out that she’s been there and she left without any bitter feelings!
The Color: Solid Chardonnay Yellow, through and through
The Nitty Gritty:
Sorry I don’t have much on this 80% from Les Pierres Vineyard and 20% The Cutrer Vinyard.
The Verdict: yum, you can’t have any it’s all mine and there wasn’t much to go around!  89 Pts,  B+

Alright, I really must be going.  I have two chapters to read and a self-assessment to start (stay tuned for that, I’m guessing quite an expose blog post to be generated from that).

Cheers,
Brian
norcalwingman

A Thursday Night Apology

All,

Just a quick note tonight and an apology of sorts.  I did not do dinner tonight, I took the day off to go play a round of golf!  I saw many of Livermore’s fabulous grapevines basking in the sun and enjoying a light breeze as I hacked my way around Poppy Ridge Golf Course.

Image from poppyridgegolf.com

I found a cool recipe, or recommendation for a balsamic glaze, so I will be adding that to spruce up next week’s dinner.

I’m almost done with my second semester in school, all of my prerequisite classes will be complete and I’ll really start getting into the MBA weeds  (kind of like I was today).

Anyhow, I’m really exited to be swapping blog posts with Tim Hilcove of http://weeklywinejournal.com next week, watch for it!  I should be reviewing two or three wines this week to, so that should be fun (at least for me).

Talk to you all soon!

Cheers,

Brian

Does the “Marketing Concept” work in International Markets?

Do you believe that adherence to the “marketing concept” is the right way to approach international markets? Why, or why not?

Here is what netMBA.com defines as the marketing concept “The marketing concept is the philosophy that firms should analyze the needs of their customers and then make decisions to satisfy those needs, better than the competition.”[1] For US companies venturing into international markets, following this rule is absolutely critical if they want any sort of success.  International markets are so diverse that reuse of existing market strategies may not be effective in delivering results that have been achieved in domestic strategies.

Asia is considered by many companies to be an opportunity market.  However, aggregating the most populous region of the globe into one segment is a grave error.  The diversity of each country, and even the cultural differences within regions and sub-regions of countries can demand a different marketing strategy to connect with that area’s consumer.  Although the name of the article suggests otherwise,[2] “In Asia Marketing 101 Doesn’t Work,” it talks about getting to know the consumers in differing areas “better than the locals.”  This is psychographic marketing if I’ve ever heard of it.  Just as stated in the AE Article “Three Dimensional” each country has nuances that are unique to itself.  For example, Samsung, understanding that due to the small living quarters in Japan, small, multi-function devices garner higher value to the Japanese consumer.

In addition to physical constraints of each of these countries, political and social differences permeate differently.  China has had a long history of Communism and therefore has a much more communal sense of each other rather than an individualistic approach that would be commonly used in a western marketing strategy.  The HBR article refers to this effect as “Tapping the communal mindset.”  To market effectively companies should start with a clean slate and build a strategy from the ground up.  This does not mean ignore principals of demographics and segmentation, it does however, mean that this is an entirely new game and the rules are very different.  In an article from the Association for Consumer Research I found a prime example of specific segmentation for a single city in China.  The abstract is a psychographic segmentation of Beijing Adults and Food Consumption[3].  Here is an excerpt:

“The people of the PRC have been through considerable and rapid social, political, and economic changes during the last 50 years, They have experienced changes from Confucianism to Communism and then Consumerism. These rapid and enforced changes (by the government) have had substantial impact upon the values system and lifestyles of the people in the PRC. Some of these changes have caused alterations to the basic structure of the PRC society.”

The article continues into great detail on the Beijing consumer.  It is uses Beijing as an analogue for the rest of the country’s larger cities because it is the capital city.  Even this may be to generalized to hold up over time.

In conclusion, the “Marketing Concept” should be followed.  The basic principals it drives at are crucial to any successful foray into marketing to any consumer.  The catch is that every market is different and a savvy marketer should not underestimate the minute differences in geographic regions.  Asia is, or could certainly be the economic engine for the next century, but if you fail to understand the uniqueness of its various pieces you will most certainly fail.


[1] http://www.netmba.com/marketing/concept/

[2] http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/02/in_asia_marketing-101-doesnt-work.html

[3] http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/display.asp?id=11813

McGraw-Hill Companies, Annual Editions, Marketing 09/10

Can Marketers Behave Ethically and Prosper?

Simply stated, yes.  This being said, marketers must walk a narrow line so not to appear unethical or purely self-motivated.  Some ideas marketers can use to achieve successful, yet ethical marketing programs are to focus on providing excellent customer service and to deliver real value.

It may seem obvious for a company to deliver exceptional customer service, but in doing so, a company exemplifies its ethical behavior.  Recently Chase bank has touted its customer service line for its Sapphire Card.  The advertisement shows a man and a woman on a ski lift discussing using rewards points.  The man makes the point that Chase answers the phone instead of sending its customers into an automated phone tree.  The Article “Fidelity Factor[1]” makes note of this, paraphrasing “that rather than routing a customer through a frustrating automated system, this person-to-person interaction is fundamental to building trust.”  At the end of the day, one of the best ways for a company to appear/be ethical is to have a trusting relationship with their customer.

It may seem as though a company cannot be “altruistic” in its branding motivations, as stated in Fidelity Factor, but “the idea becomes plausible when you implement actions and policies demonstrating your dedication to pleasing them,” the customer.  An example of this is a corporate code of conduct.  Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company has an entire portion of their website dedicated to communicating their policies on responsible marketing, rules of conduct for salespeople, R&D, as well as lobbyists! (http://www.corporatecitizenship.novartis.com/business-conduct/business-practice/ethical-marketing.shtml)

Ethical marketing extends beyond the for-profit sector, and may even be more important to survival of non-profit organizations.  In “Nonprofits Can Take cues from Biz World” the discussion about delivering on the promises made abounds.  It is critical for non-profits to behave ethically, since they rely nearly exclusively on the donations of individuals, they must deliver on their promises.

In addition to delivering service to, and building trust with the customer, a company has an ethical responsibility to provide real value to its consumer.  As mentioned in “Attracting Loyalty,” “a value proposition is the complete package of offerings a seller proposes to a customer in exchange for the customer’s funds.”  The article describes this in the 4P’s, the right product at a fair price, in the right place, as promised.  It is okay for a company to make a profit, and providing a good value proposition for a customer, delivers ethically.

At the end of the day it really comes down to the questions posed in “Trust in the Marketplace.”  And that is “How proud would you be if your marketing practices were made public…shared with your friends…or family?”  I agree with the statement “From an economic point of view, ethical behavior should exist because it just makes good business sense to be ethical and operate in a manner that demonstrates trustworthiness.”  In addition I found another great quote from a blog by Alf Nucifora, and it states “Ultimately, there is only one course of action, the “family member” test. Ask yourself, can you, with a clear conscience, recommend that a close family member buy, use or consume the product?” http://nucifora.com/art_132.html In conclusion, it seems that by conducting business, and marketing in an ethical manner not only allows a company to survive and profit, it sets that company up for a long-term relationship with its customers, and in turn should lead to extended prosperity for the ethical company.


[1] AE Articles “Fidelity Factor” McGraw Hill Companies Annual Editions Marketing 09/10