The Hollywood Bowl celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and LA’s favorite summer destination has never looked better, thanks to fresh new branding for the Food & Wine program.
Five years after Carolyn Styne and Suzanne Goin took the helm of the Bowl’s extensive food, wine and concessions program in partnership with Sodexo, it was time for an update. We were brought on to reimagine the look of the food and beverage program. From wayfinding signage down to the fine details like napkin dispensers, we created a unified visual identity for the program that allowed each of the locations shine.
Appropriately for the 100th anniversary, we created a brand that is bright, joyous and celebratory. Simple illustrations have a vintage feel, evoking iconic WPA posters of the last century, but the close-up cropping and vibrant colors modernize the designs. A broad color palette works together, while allowing enough range to complement everything from pizza to ice cream.
We created a unique design for each concession stand, within the overall property branding. Large hero posters, menu board graphics, ordering kiosks, and equipment overlays all share a bold color palette and key graphics to bring them together.
Of course, at a venue as big as the Bowl, there’s always another project to do, so we’ve also been shooting video, taking photos and editing Reels, and we’ll be creating new signage throughout the season.
Happy Birthday Hollywood Bowl, hope you like the cake!
It wasn’t that long ago that food photography happened only in studios. Don’t get us wrong, we’re still in love with a studio day. There’s a certain magic to watching food stylists use their bag of tricks and exploring vast rooms of props before snapping that one perfect food photo. But the way we approach food photography is so much more complex than it was. Even Instagram is moving away from a perfectly filtered view of “reality” to show a more authentic world (see, the no-edit edit). Whether you attribute it to Tik Tok or iPhones, food photography has changed.
But even if you’re picking up a quick shot on an iPhone, you need a strategy. Every photo is part of the brand story, and we always shoot with the brand voice in mind. If a brand is fun, loud, youthful and vibrant, we showcase that by wearing bright colors, creating movement, and not being afraid to get messy. If a brand is more polished and culinary, we’ll make a point of getting in the kitchen and showing the process, not just the finished dish. The equipment we use, the way we style a dish, and the props, wardrobe and even nail color of our hand models, is all part of the overall marketing strategy for the brand.
When we started shooting for social media, we focused on just creating content. We focused on what would support our Instagram strategy. But we quickly found that the shots that were telling our brand story on social could also tell our story in marketing. And with a few adjustments, we learned to use a single shoot to capture social, marketing, and even menu photography. As long as we keep the goal for any given shot in mind, our team can jump from styling to modeling without missing a beat, saving our clients time and money. With the challenging staffing situation in restaurants right now, it’s more important than ever that we capture as much as possible from every plate, and every shoot.
The days of studio photography aren’t behind us — there are some clients and some products that need the fine touch of a professional — but give us a squeeze bottle, a camera, and a manicure and we’re ready to shoot.
While 2022 didn’t start off quite so different from the 21 months that preceded it, the Year of the Tiger is feeling a lot brighter here in Los Angeles. Filbert the Beaver predicted an early spring, the Rams are in the Superbowl, and Southwest announced the return of in-flight cocktails. The decline in omicron cases doesn’t hurt, either!
To be fair, 2022 started on a pretty high note. Our our branding and marketing client Wetzel’s Pretzels took a #WetzInALifetime trip to the Rose Parade. (It’s not a long trip—they can see the parade route from their corporate offices!) From our original concept drawing of the “Dough Rider” to real-life float adorned with flowers and seeds, it was amazing to see their team throwing the “W” and wearing the varsity jackets we designed — live on TV, and Instagram. Huge shout out to @ethanfromthirst for streaming the whole parade for us before heading to his food truck to sling pretzels and lemonade at the tailgate.
Speaking of in-flight cocktails (and marketing)
We’re pretty excited by the return to normalcy in air travel. The RFPs started flowing again last year, we’re expecting some big opportunities here in LA and throughout the US! The challenges faced by airport concessions over the past couple of years are mind-boggling, but some of the changes created by the crisis are bringing us closer to the airport of the future. Advance ordering and cocktail delivery are two of our favorite developments, not to mention replacing boxes of RFP binders with digital submissions.
A bright future
Our bout of optimism is helped by the bright futures of our restaurant marketing clients! Maybe it’s the vibrant Valentine’s vibes – Jason Smith’s gorgeous creations for Gigi’s cupcakes, the reimagined red velvet lattes at Mimi’s, and the perfectly pink, housemade strawberry cheesecake at Marie Callender’s. Plus, there are so many restaurant openings to market. There’s a sexy new Sol in Irvine that’s bringing serious Baja resort vibes. Followed quickly by a fun Solita in the heart of Anaheim’s stadium district for all the post-game action. And our lockdown-savior Cadoro is pivoting from home delivery to a new take-out bakery with all our favorite bread-based foods.
All things considered, the future is looking pretty bright! Wear your masks, support the restaurants you love, and we’ll see you at the Hollywood Bowl this summer! It’s their 100th anniversary and we’re just getting started on the new marketing, concession and wayfinding signage for this year.
As 2021 finally comes to an end, we’re thankful that we’ve been able to get together in the office again – brainstorming by zoom is not our favorite – and grateful for the hospitality industry clients that continue to trust us with their restaurant marketing, branding and social media during the ever-changing year behind us.
We look towards 2022 with hope and the knowledge that we’ll be continuing to rock and roll with changes that buffet the restaurant industry. But before we kick 2021 out the door, we want to share our good fortune with organizations that have helped our industry, our community and, frankly, the whole world. In lieu of holiday gifts, we’ve made donations to the following groups that are important to us.
Our six picks for 2021
No Us Without You These are some of the hardest working people I know and the backbone of the hospitality industry. The ones who aren’t seen, who we don’t think about, but continue to perform at a phenomenal pace. We see you! And appreciate everything you do.
Tree People Hiking is one of my favorite passions, and I’ve encountered numerous TreePeople employees spending their weekends planting trees on the local trails. Their hard work is helping to care for our ecosystem and what helps clean our air, reduce energy costs, provide food and shelter and more. The world needs more trees!
Surfrider Foundation The ocean has always been my strongest source of both inspiration and solace. As a surfer, protecting our coastlines is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen Surfrider’s impact up close over the years and I continue to support their foundation whenever possible.
All for Armenia The recent war between Armenia (& Artsakh) and Azerbaijan left thousands of Armenian refugees without basic needs. As a part of the Armenian diaspora, I’ve seen the incredible impact All For Armenia has on these families and Armenia as they begin to rebuild, again.
Inner-City Arts Growing up, the rare times we got to do art in class were the highlights of my experience. Charities like these give underserved LA kids that experience, which then unlocks their creative potential.
World Central Kitchen WCK doesn’t just feed communities when disaster strikes, although they’re usually the first on the ground to provide hot meals and start the long process of rebuilding the local restaurant industry. Beyond that, WCK is also attacking food insecurity, supporting independent women- and minority-owned restaurants, and training chefs.
After this year, six donations didn’t seem like enough, so we rounded up to ten:
Another Round, Another Rally – supporting the hospitality industry
Greenpeace – the planet can’t wait
Planned Parenthood – ‘nuff said
Water.org – safe water saves lives
And with that, a very happy, healthy, and safely masked new year!
It’s hard to remember the unbridled optimism with which we left the office on Friday, March 13 (in hindsight, the date should have tipped us off!). After a couple weeks of restaurant marketing that included some pretty fun hand-washing posts and less fun emails about sanitation, we were planning to work from home just for a week or two. We didn’t clear off our desks or erase the calendar from the wall, we just…. left. A little unnerved by the empty grocery store shelves, the sudden end to the NBA season, and the real moment when LA decided this pandemic was real – Tom Hanks’ diagnosis – we still went out for dinner and drinks, bumping elbows with friends instead of hugging, before sitting side-by-side at a bar for cocktails, passing hand sanitizer like a flask, blissfully unaware of whether those windows could open or what kind of filter was in their HVAC.
Fast forward exactly 13 months and even our most cautious restaurant clients are opening their dining rooms, hopefully for good this time, and vaccines for food service workers have mostly eliminated the overwhelming fear that keeping their business alive means putting their employees’ lives in jeopardy. We’re replacing the sounds of imissmybar.com with the sounds of an actual bar and bartender (but we’re still on board with take-out cocktails). Marketing plans are being written without the fear that they’ll go up in flames with the next announcement from the health department. And we’re optimistically imagining a restaurant world that’s more equitable, more resilient and more innovative.
Let’s bring back the special occasion restaurants, with their $22 cocktails and beautifully designed menus, but let’s make sure the busser doesn’t have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet. Let’s find a way to transition from overtipping (we’ve all been over tipping, right?) to menu prices that reflect not just the cost of “doing business” but the cost of paying the people who work there a wage that they can live on. And let’s make room for the entrepreneurs who’ve been upending restaurant marketing by selling tortillas on Instagram and hand-delivering loaves of bread. The industry has been trying to change for years, and we’re hopeful that the silver lining to the past year’s horrors can accelerate that transformation. The restaurant industry may be rooted in, let’s be honest, exploitation, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
On a more practical level, we’re excited to step back and look at the big picture again. Our light at the end of the tunnel includes seeing restaurants we branded finally open, designing brand new restaurant concepts, and restaurant marketing plans that don’t include the phrase “take-out or delivery” and do look more than 2 weeks into the future.
As soon as our own vaccinations are finished, you’ll find us back in the office, picking up pastries from Republique and checking out our new neighbors at the Firestone Tire Building. Until then, we’ll see you on Zoom.
We messed up. Hold on, let me walk that back even more. I fucked up. On March 17th, I put up a lighthearted go-drink-and party-for-St-Pattys-Day! post on Instagram. It didn’t even occur to me until a few days later that this was poorly posted in the wake of the Atlanta Massage Parlor shootings and murders on the 16th. I just didn’t think.
My immediate reaction was to delete the post. It lived online for a few days and didn’t get tons of traction anyway. Bam. Deleted. My bad. Crisis averted. That honestly would have been the same response I’d advise a client to do in this situation. But I realized, that shouldn’t be the end of it. Just because I burned the evidence doesn’t leave us clear. So 6DG stepped up in support and made a donation to Stop APPI Hate. Not as some penance or punishment, but as a way of doing something instead of nothing.
Now, before we even get into whether we should be doing something, here’s a little encouragement. We are going to fuck up. We’re not going to say the right thing. We’re not going to do the right thing. And of course, many times we actually will. And hopefully, the good will outweigh the missteps. It’s an extremely complicated space and for that reason, we see so many brands, including ourselves, awkwardly step into it, if at all.
Should we say something?
When do we say something?
Are we saying the right thing?
Are we representing the right perspective?
How does this support our people?
How does this reflect our values?
That’s a shortlist of a million concerns that comes crashing in when you start having a voice about world issues. If you even feel remotely comfortable speaking up for social justice, or the environment, or humanity, in general, that means you’ve got experience. And that experience was probably earned through a painful path of mistakes and apologies.
For the rest of us, we just don’t have that experience yet. And for something you’ve never really done, why would you expect it to go perfectly? Like anything else, you make a mistake, you learn from it, make changes. Try again.
So should you even try?
First, YES if your intention is to genuinely help. If your heart is behind it for the benefit of others, and even if you’re not saying the right thing, you’re at least trying. Trust that people will recognize the attempt. While good intentions don’t exclude you from doing harm, or receiving backlash, or any other consequences, at least you will know what and why you tried. You’ll apologize, you’ll learn, make changes, and try again.
– Josh Terry, Creative Director
You know what? This post, we’re not doing 6 picks. We’re going to do as many picks as we like because, damn it, this year we want to do things our way. We’re feeling empowered, and hopeful, and motivated, and straight-up ready to crush it in 2021!
Here’s what we’re feeling for this year:
“My hopes for the industry are to see some serious earmarked funds for independent restaurants. Also, it would be fun to see innovative uses of digital menus and QR code technology, to bring back some of sit-down personality that we’ve had to forgo. Truthfully, there’s nothing that will compare to finally sitting down at a wine bar again…
Non-work related, I’m determined to find some new music. Spent far too much time sitting in silence last year!”
“Humanity. Not on some grandiose Bill Gates philanthropic scale (thanks Bill for handling that). I’m looking forward to a boost in kindness and care for the people that are right there next to us. Looking out for our neighbors, our friends, family, and land. This year is going to be about doing right by the people and things you love.”
“Build a better restaurant industry. The impact on the restaurant industry from the pandemic can’t be overstated, and I can’t wait for it to be safe to return to dining – safe for everyone. Restaurants are our gathering places, our community centers, and I personally just want to sit at a table with my friends again.
A short post to wrap up a looooooong year seems right. No need to give 2020 more mind than necessary. To everyone who is hurting, our hearts are with you. Whether you need help or just a virtual happy hour or hug we are here for you, just reach out.
We lost a lot this year. So many lives, so much support, so much safety. But we also lost the comforts and controls that clouded what’s most important. For many of us, this year forced us to decide who and what was essential.
That’s why 2021 holds so much hope. We get a rare chance to rebuild what was broken and not just better, but the way WE want it to be. How we need it to be to enable the most important people and passions in our lives to thrive. 2021 is the beginning, so bring the bubbles and raise a fucking glass to the future. Let’s go!
This may be the first October where NOT wearing a mask is scary. Even the most gruesome, gore-drenched ghoul is just a cute distraction. Bring it Halloween.
“The movie IT has taught us you should never be alone with a clown in a dark bathroom. Leave it to Burger King to flame our fears by resurrecting Ronald in their #CancelledClown campaign.”
“Everyone knows that I have the office sweet tooth, but since Halloween is different this year, I’m upgrading my usual candy corn and supporting small chocolatiers making gorgeous treats, like these Peanut Butter Eyeballs or Chocolate Sugar Skulls.”
“Who doesn’t love a drive-in movie? Whether an old classic or a new pop-up for this crazy year, there’s no better way to watch a classic scary movie. Clue at the Zoo, anyone?”
According to Hubspot, the word-count for their top 50 posts ranged from 333 – 5,581. We’re pretty confident that we can say what we want to say at the low-end of that spectrum. We’re even going to sprinkle in a few keywords too just to SEO the shit out of this. Here goes…
vote vote vote vote vote branding vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote marketing vote vote vote vote vote vote vote votevote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote agency vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote restaurant vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote design vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote los angeles vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote food vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote photographyvote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote illustration vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote logo vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote packaging vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote social media vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote election vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote. Seriously, just vote please.
We like Vote.org as a solid, seemingly unbiased, site that keeps you up-to-date on the where, when, and how to vote.
We’re not even going to try to summarize that past 5 months since our last “6 Picks.” You know what’s going on, we know what’s going on. Fight for justice, wear a mask, and please be safe.
“Let’s lead light with a cute and catchy commercial about cow farts. Burger King as been hitting some home runs lately.”
The courage of the reporters covering the protests in Portland – follow @MrOlmos and join in the collective sigh in relief when he tweets “I am out of downtown” each night.
“Just wear a damn mask. Especially if they look anything like this awesome art series “Technologies and Face Masks” by illustrator Kit Layfield.”
“I’ve found one upside to the pandemic – fancy takeout from the kinds of restaurants you can’t get a table at or would normally only visit on a special occasion.”
“Trevor Noah. Never watched much Daily Show but he’s definitely been showing up daily on all platforms with heart, insight and entertainment for all things political.”
People work in the restaurant industry because they love it. That’s not a universal truth, but it accounts for most of us. We love restaurants, taking care of people, feeding people. We love that you can recognize a restaurateur by the way they insist on feeding you at every meeting, and the way that restaurant people are resilient.
COVID-19 created a paradox for the restaurant industry — the very act of taking care of people, feeding people put them at risk. And it put the lives of everyone working in the restaurant on the line. For many restaurateurs and chefs, the risk was simply too high. They closed their doors, waiting until it’s safe to reopen. For others, creativity was king, as they reconfigured their dining rooms to safely handle takeout, feed the frontlines, or supply groceries to their neighborhoods (where else were people going to get flour?). And a lot fell in the middle— shifting and adjusting as we all learned together that this wasn’t going to be over in just a few weeks.
And now, as our cities slowly allow the restaurant industry to reopen with a patchwork of rules and regulations, our restaurants are pivoting again, trying to find their footing in what feels like a sea of quicksand. As with the closing, restaurant people face the reopening with mixed emotions. There is joy in getting back in the kitchen, feeding our communities again and getting back to “normal” but layered with anxiety over safety. Restaurants and guests are negotiating a new etiquette around masks, distancing and new styles of service; and doing it all without the friendly smiles that smooth awkward conversations.
Against this background of uncertainty, we know one thing. Restaurants will survive. Not all of them—we’ll lose some of the places we love, restaurants where we’ve celebrated and mourned, tables at which we’ve had amazing meals and conversations. But restaurants are foundational. They are essential to our communities, our neighborhoods, and our relationships. Even as they move outside, convert to quick-service or takeout or barbecue, they will be there for us.
And we’ll be here for them. Navigating the back-to-basics marketing that will bring customers through their doors or onto their websites (because takeout isn’t going anywhere for awhile). Figuring out the single-use menus, the silverware sleeves and the cool branded masks that will be part of the restaurant industry for awhile. Designing labels for those ugly bottles of hand sanitizer on every surface, and keeping websites and social media filled with the latest information (not to mention mouth-watering photos). It’ll be awhile before we even figure out what the “new normal” is, but we’re here, finding solid footing on which to rebuild together.
Our team has seen restaurants through countless disasters, including one Hepatitis outbreak (which is when we chose “Livin’ on a Prayer” as our hand-washing song), the economic recession in 2008, and of course, the after-effects of 9/11. And now we’re tackling the immeasurable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From our new home offices and kitchen tables, we’re helping Xperience Restaurant Group’s signature brands, including Pink Taco and Sol, adapt to a world in which the restaurant “experience” is delivered in sealed paper bags, or picked up across a six-foot table piled with tequila bottles, t-shirts and other remnants of the before times. Despite those limitations, we’re helping keep the restaurants open, their brands intact, and their new sales on an upward path.
Digital marketing has been key. If you asked us 2 months ago how often to post on Instagram or send emails to your list, we would have given you some nice conservative numbers that had proven effective. Today, we’ve doubled those numbers. Customers stuck at home are opening emails and scrolling through Instagram more than ever, and we’re giving them the content they want – not much talk of hand-washing, but lots of margaritas, food porn, and just plain good humor. (See more examples over here.) The social metrics, like the sales, keep climbing. Impressions, engagement, and those all-important profile actions are growing in tandem across the brands, showing that staying connected is as essential as ever.
Now we’re starting to look at what the future could bring for the restaurants we love. Sharing resources with restaurateurs from around the globe, especially those in Asian cities now recovering from their Covid-19 outbreaks. Exploring affordable, accessible menu designs that can be printed in the back office and replaced for every diner. And digging deep on a new model of take-out packaging, because reliance on take-out and delivery is one thing we’re confident is here to stay.
Restaurants are a challenge in the best of times, but we love them, both personally and professionally. So we’ll be here, fighting alongside them from afar, until we’re on the other side of this.
Dear Bars and Restaurants.
Now we have to be there for you. Anyone reading this, we urge you to support the restaurants you love. Get take-out. Order delivery. Order gift cards and t-shirts, too. If you can, tip outrageously, or go to the next level and support COVID-19 relief campaigns from organizations like the USBG or the Restaurant Worker’s Community Foundation. Support the initiatives and policies that will have a long-term impact on this industry. There are so many ways to help, it doesn’t matter how just as long as you do.
What you’ve done for us goes beyond satisfying our palates. Those same services of comfort and celebration, well, we’re going to need that more than ever when this whole thing is over. So let’s all do what we can now to ensure the love we share with good food and drink is there for us in the future.
January and February were a bit quiet as far as the extracurricular interests. Why? Cause it was frickin cold and we were frickin busy. Well, now things are warming up, both weather and work. That chilly veil is slowly lifting, revealing the bright and inspiring around us. See what we picked!
“I’ve been obsessing over Antonia’s illustrations for The Row DTLA because they’re funky, intricate, and remind me of paper cut out collages I used to make as a kid.”
“Psychic Wines: This lil Echo Park gem is a killer spot for natural wine, boasting a few inspiring qualities: 1. Curated “vegetal water” at sub-$30 price points, 2. Helpful, friendly staff who are still clearly way cooler than you, and 3. A monthly print zine.”
“I got into some kitchen painting this weekend and had the Gorillaz album, “The Now Now,” on repeat. This one was my favorite.”
“If Uno could be any more minimal it would be “0”, or it would just look this designed concept card deck that the internet prodded Mattel into producting.”
“I have always loved cooking the recipes from @halfbakedharvest but recently have been geeking over her food styling and photography – I feel like I can taste and smell it through the screen so… mission accomplished.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m inspired by the courage and collaboration involved in putting a moldy Whopper in an ad campaign.”
Pink Taco. I’ll give you a second to get your snickers and eye-rolls out of the way. Good? Great.
To clarify, Pink Taco is named after their signature achiote-marinated chicken taco topped with fluorescent pink habanero-pickled onions. So we don’t know what that initial fuss was about. Grow up.
We love a brand that has a clear attitude right in the name. You know the exact kind of experience you’re getting. Even better when that identity is brazen and irreverent. Taking on their social media marketing was right in our wheelhouse.
Pink Taco is all about the party, so kicking off 2020 with a new location right in the raging heart of Miami Beach makes perfect sense. Especially with Snoop Dogg officiating the opening. On social media, we’ve turned their brand into a bender of feasting, boozing, skulls, and unsolicited pink taco pics.
Well, they were kinda solicited, because they’re exactly what the client and social audiences asked for.
Now to the trends!
1. Extra Reality
2. Power Distribution
3. Reward the talent
4. More than just “like”
5. Return to nature
6. Embrace Individualism
Oh yeah, that environment we mentioned, well, it’s becoming even more personal. We are further able to adapt our surroundings and services to our individual needs creating purposeful interactions that are designed to suit us best.
Hell, every year, month and minute focus on what you love.
All of us feel truly fortunate to do work that we are passionate about. Our general duties are eating, drinking, dreaming, and creating. What’s not to love? Of course, it’s not all small-batch mezcal tastings and unicorn rodeos. There’s multi-day work benders, restaurant fires, and a few incidents of food-borne illness (in all fairness it was Mongolia. But at the end of the day and year, we do what we love and are damn proud of everything it took to do it.
If this year was any indicator, 2020 is going to be a wild one. That makes pushing the chaos to the periphery and zeroing in on what matters to you even more important. Consider your place, people, and purpose. If something doesn’t ring true then try to change it. If it makes your heart swell with a resounding “YES!” then plant your feet and fucking fight for it. Yeah sure, easier said than done but at least it’s solely in your/our hands. Focus on what you love and that’s exactly what you’ll see.
See you in 2020.
Cause marketing. Corporate social responsibility. Purpose marketing. Consumption philanthropy. Community relations.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s been a part of restaurant marketing since the first restaurants were opened. In the beginning, it was just about taking care of your neighbors—chefs sharing a bit of the bounty with those who might go hungry without. In the 70s, 7-Eleven saw the potential to connect giving back with marketing—tying donations to Slurpee purchases. Since then, it seems like no good deed has gone unannounced. Continue Reading…
Do you remember that one restaurant concept that had rotating chefs? What was it called?…started with a…and had like that weird table thing with the….NOPE! You don’t remember. We don’t remember! That’s because it’s a damn near impossible thing to pull off. It just isn’t done.
Well, we’re doing it. And while we went into this hesitant, we slowly built our confidence by getting the right things in place to make this work. Like, having it quarterbacked by an organization that knows a thing or two about performance and artistic evolution, The Music Center. Getting it built by one of L.A.s most community-connecting architecture firms, Rios Clementi Hale. All guided by a board of culinary “hall-of-famers” such as Curtis Stone, Susan Feniger, and Nikki Nakayama. Then, staffing it with the best in the game, Patina. And finally, having it branded by Los Angeles’ top hospitality agency…oh hey, that’s us!
As part of The Music Center’s $40-million Plaza renovation at the top of Grand Park, we boosted Bunker Hill with 3 new food and beverage concepts. 1. Go Get ‘em Tiger, a rapidly expanding neighborhood caffeine dealer. 2. The Mullin Wine Bar, hosting food-trucks and a parade of tipple talent starting with Christiaan Rollich (Lucques, A.O.C., and The Tavern) and Lou Wine Shop. And finally, 3. the flagship restaurant, Abernethy’s, “L.A.’s Grand Pop-up.” This airy dining destination features a curation of rising local chefs from Shirley Chung to Jason Fullilove (no joke, we’re transitioning from Chinese-American cuisine to Modern-Soul). And it’s not just the food that’s getting a facelift. Along with new plates comes new menu design, website, packaging, and environmental design. That’s right, we’re doing ALL the things to complete the concept.
Yesterday, we found ourselves weaving between stalls filled with steaming green curry over sticky rice, carefully craddeling bowls of banana yuzu, and bumping elbows to catch a glimpse of a coconut being freshly hacked open. Thai dancers and martial arts masters took center stage. Locals stayed out of the lush heat while admiring silver, hand-made jewelry. All this…in the heart of Downtown LA. At the 6th annual Stu and the Kids food fest, there were amazing options like Prawn Tacos, Street Pad Thai, Tapioca Pudding… and yep, some Six Degrees branding!
Each year, we get a chance to create the branding and marketing materials for one of LA’s best food events. The city’s most well-known restaurants and chefs gather to give everyone a taste of their best Thai-inspired dishes and drinks at the “Flavors of Asia” event, put on by chef Stu Skversky and his non-profit.
Attendees of this food fest also get served up their dose of good karma for the week— all proceeds are used to fund scholarships for university education, to help underserved and orphaned Hill Tribe kids in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
At Six Degrees LA, we’ve been creating full marketing materials for the Stu and the Kids events from the get-go. Every year, things just get better and better. Case in point: this year the team from Nightshade was serving up was an endless supply of Baby Corn Elote with Chili Miso Aioli + Furikake. We may have made a few too many trips over to that table, but hey- all in the name of charity!
Hosted inside the incredible Vibiana restaurant & event space, this year our team got to enjoy our branding handy-work (graphics, t-shirts, signage, etc.) along with all the off-menu bites from Los Angeles heavy-hitters like République, Redbird, Wolfgang Puck Catering, The Rose, Magpies, and more.
To pitch in our part, the Six Degrees team whipped up some custom illustrations. They played on childhood whimsy, pulled from Thai food tradition, and conjured up the feeling of a crowded celebration.
We’re so glad our print and digital marketing materials could help get the word out, and keep Sunday festive. We’re always honored to be a part of the event and this year was no exception. Thanks for all you do, Stu!
If you can remember the excitement of running downstairs to find presents under the Christmas tree, the joy of winning a championship game, the thrill of sneaking multiple free samples of your favorite snack…you start to understand the magical madness of National Wetzel Day. This very special holiday is at the core of our client Wetzel’s Pretzels’ marketing calendar, but it’s also at the core of the their brand identity. That’s why we pulled out all the stops to execute our most successful social media marketing campaign ever, with unmatched Instagram follower growth strategies, tailored influencer marketing collabs, playful video content, and implementation of innovative social platform tools.
33.6% increase in Instagram followers
207% increase in Facebook impressions
In less than a month, we earned Wetzel’s a 33.6% increase in IG followers (with over 2.6k added in 3 days), a 207% year-over-year increase in Facebook impressions, and secured over 2.6 million potential reach from influencer partnerships. When the final metrics were tallied and the flour dust had settled, Wetzel’s exceeded their goals for both offer redemptions and check average, giving out a record-breaking 106,000 free Original Pretzels.
GET YOUR OWN FREEKIN’ PRETZEL (DAY)
This #NationalWetzelDay was our first at the helm of the brand’s social media strategy and execution, so we started from the top and focused all our efforts on the key goals:
- Reclaim the broader industry holiday of National Pretzel Day, and own it as #NationalWetzelDay,
- Win exposure for the brand in key markets and drive in-store offer redemptions for a single day promo, and
- Make that follower count climb.
For those unfamiliar, April 26th is the one day a year that all pretzel companies lose their minds. All kinds of offers, ads and gimmicks are flying around, but there is no better deal than at Wetzel’s: show up to any of the brands 350+ locations, get an Original Pretzel handed to you– no strings attached.
We kicked off our social media campaign with a clear theme: The ultimate pretzel free-for-all. Everyone gets their own “Handheld Happiness,” because you sure as hell shouldn’t have to share your favorite snack.
Riffing on our full in-store poster, we launched dynamic paid ads, cover photos, and rolled out (pun intended) a whole month of tactical organic social posts designed to drum up excitement and make Wetzel’s some serious dough on April 26th.
This rolling campaign allowed us to flex our creative muscles and show off the power of video content. Starting with an animated teaser post on World Party Day, we kept all eyes (and hands) on Wetzel’s, so that everyone knew our Baker Boys meant business, with cohesive bold and bright messaging.
We also rolled out special social media tools to drive much-kneaded engagement, including custom branded Instagram Stickers and a Snapchat Filter. These strategic social pieces took the pretzel party to where the kids (and their cool parents) are, letting us leverage their personal audiences while they celebrated right on their own profiles.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The final week before #NationalWetzelDay, we kicked things into high gear by deploying 5 key influencer partners to tell our bold, always-in-motion story, as well as tapping dozens of national micro foodie and lifestyle influencers to spread the word.
Our team took a look at Wetzel’s brand differentiators and target markets, and we went after influencer collabs that presented the best growth opportunities (an untapped tween market, hungry for viral content), as well as the key purchasers (millennial snackers and mall-going families). We secured contracts with accounts with impressive engagement rates, recognizable content of their own, and an authentic voice. Oh yeah..and they had a whole lot of followers, too.
Ultimate mom-on-the-go @obsessedbyportia, teen dancer @tatimcquay, millennial skate star @jennifer.charlene, tween TikTok heartthrob @samhurley, and action sport hero @soloflow each created a “countdown” post, that debuted on their profile (as well as on @wetzelspretzels) leading up to 4/26.
One of these branded content pieces has now earned 160k views on Instagram, while another well over 190k on TikTok, the new tween frontier. On Wetzel Day weekend alone, these posts raked in a whopping 81k likes, driving over 460k new audience impressions back to the brand’s profile.
All this buzz really picked up once the day arrived— our day-of post started trending on everyone’s Explore page. Over 260 users tagged us on their Instagram Feed and Story posts as they partied with pretzels. By the time the ovens cooled down, 106,000 pretzels had devoured and Wetzel’s had smashed through their campaign goals.
Our team is proud to have once again proved the power of social media marketing and help a client MAKE. THAT. DOUGH.
While usually that’s just a saying, we literally just opened a train-inspired restaurant concept that serves gravy. There’s a bunch of non-gravy items too. And you should get on it. 8th Notch basically means “full-throttle” in train speak and like its namesake, this restaurant hasn’t slowed down since opening a few weeks ago. With Chef Donald conducting a menu of what we’ve called “southern californian comfort food,” 8th Notch is blending traditional Texas BBQ with K-town casual. Meats smoked in-house, signature sauces and rubs, curated craft beers, creative Sabe drinks, all stationed right above the Wilshire/Noramandie Metro…uh…station.
Our train-centric branding both compliments 8th Notch and the larger Platform 35 Market Hall aesthetics. We drew inspiration from locomotion and local motion in the form of transit schedules, routes, and intermingling a dimensional steel beer map with an illustrated landscape of L.A. landmarks. This massive mural makes the perfect background for the rose-gold tap system.
In the culinary world, it’s the dessert and pastry pioneers that get the glory. Angie Dudley’s Cake Pops, Bea Vo’s Duffin, Dominique Ansel’s Cronuts. And let’s just name drop a bunch of other handheld sweets for good measure; Croclair, Cruffin, Wonut, Townie, blah blah. While hybrid names are all sorts of fun it’s not often that product innovation perfectly matches an existing brand. We bring you The Pie Hole‘s…er…Pie Holes! It just makes sense.
Dueling docs on Netflix and Hulu have made the Fyre Festival, well, fire right now. But before that infamous failure there was another music festival that dreamed big and didn’t quite make it: NiFi.
You’ve probably never heard of it because there wasn’t much drama or sensationalism. There was no Ja Rule, no misleading models, floppy cheese sandwiches, or lord-of-the-flies-esque glamping manarchy (come on dudes you didn’t have to desecrate tents). NiFi just quietly didn’t happen. What did happen though was the creation of some great branding, lofty conceptual design, a ripping music track, and a hell of a lot of fun putting it all together. Rock In Peace NiFi.
TOP FOOD TRENDS FOR 2019
2019 is here! We’ll bet you are as confused as we are about where the last 3 months went. The only thing to do now is to over-design a page in your diary with New Year’s resolutions, and then prepare yourself for all the good meals to come. Here are the food & drink trends Six Degrees LA is most excited for in 2019:
HOLD ON TIGHT
Finger food has been around since, well, the beginning of mankind. It’s no surprise that handheld eats are stealing the spotlight again— on any given Sunday, you can hear your neighbor yelling at Alexa to cancel their second brunch plan as they sprint out the door to hip-hop yoga. Everyone is busier and more active than ever before, and food has to keep up in the New Year.
In LA, Katsu Sando has become the hottest hand-held bite around. Think Uncrustables, but with A5 wagyu chateaubriand between each nostalgic slice of soft milk bread. Coast to coast, street food will continue to get an elevated twist in 2019 — see NYC’s Mr. Bing for more proof that people are hungry for their favorite flavors to come in self-contained packages. (FYI, this Beijing street crepe acts as a delicious wrapper for crispy wontons.)
As the saying goes, one meal in-hand is worth two in the fridge.
“I’m constantly looking for new spots to drop into, but I don’t always have a friend to drag with me. I’ll throw down for a gourmet ingredient if it’s in a convenient hand-held package that I can grab by myself. Street food forever!”
– Jessica (Marketing + Social Coordinator)
PHARM TO TABLE
First, there was the water. Now, CBD is ready to be the biggest revolution in food since gluten-free. We’ve seen coffee, cocktails and even chef’s tasting menus, but in 2019, we’re looking for CBD to show up in foods with a good-for-you attitude that play up its health benefits, and everywhere else.
No surprise, our creative director Josh picked this as his favorite trend for 2019.
“With recreational status sweeping through the world and our recently passed Farm Bill, it’s clear cannabis is the future. Society has been able to step past stoner stereotypes and accept the value of this plant. That makes for a leap in innovation and exploration. We may never have such an important crop or consumable in our lifetime and now we have the freedom to start using it as intended. Oh yeah, and I guess weed have litless potsibilities for word play.”
ALMONDS ARE SO 2017
Oat milk (or mylk, for those worried about dairy farmers) made a splash in the coffee world a few years back, but now we’re watching it go big. We prefer it to pea milk, and graphic designer Uriel is pouring it on his cereal.
“I had given up on the notion of enjoying milk ever again. But then, I was introduced to oat milk at Blue Bottle in Century City. My 10 year streak of no cereal was broken. Hello Cinnamon Toast Crunch! Oat Milk is the closest one so far!”
Only problem? Oat milk is so hot, they can’t make it fast enough. We think we’ll be seeing more of it in 2019.
SEA TO SNACK
We’re known for our stacks of snacks around here, and our 2019 snack obsession just might come from the sea via Trader Joe’s. Sea vegetables have been making waves on fine-dining menus over the past few years, and now they’re moving into the snack world. Puffed water lily seeds, kelp jerky and crispy salmon skins sound strange, but our snacker-in-chief Julie loves their salty, umami burst. For bonus points, they’re super-sustainable and good for the planet.
“Snacking has always been my meal of choice and with a little salt, a little spice and a dose of vitamin C and omega-3’s, and plenty of antioxidants how can you go wrong? It’s now just a way of life. I keep a hidden stash in my office; I take it out after especially long client calls.”
We still aren’t totally convinced by the idea of sweet hummus, but we’re on board with restaurant desserts that bring some nutrition along with their decadence. Olive oil on our ice cream or chia seeds in our sweets? Sign us up – in fact, we’ll be first in line for The Pie Hole’s new blood orange yogurt pie in January.
“After two years of working out everyday and meal prepping for my work week, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve fallen victim of the health trend that everyone in LA seems to be following. Dessert getting a “better for you spin” gives me an excuse to eat a dessert and pretend that it is “guilt free”. A little sugar never hurt nobody, right?”
–Kara (Creative Assistant)
FEEDING THE WORLD
Restaurants have long been quick to respond to the disasters in their neighborhoods, but when the hurricane hit Puerto Rico in 2017, no one expected that it would be chefs that came to the rescue. It was Jose Andres and his NGO Central World Kitchen who stepped up when traditional relief organizations were struggling to respond to the devastation. Since then, we’ve watched as his kitchens and ones from other chefs have been mobilized not to distant lands, but to our own backyard. Guy Fieri made headlines when he helped during last year’s fires, but we’re seeing more and more chefs taking to the front lines—with cooks lining up to volunteer and kitchens sprouting in parking lots.
“As these disasters become the new abnormal, chefs dish up comfort and camaraderie in the form of countless hot meals, on the firelines and at the California border.”
-Amanda (Marketing Strategy)
We look forward to the time when our heroes don’t need to come out of the kitchen to step up and save the world. In the meantime, we’re happy to live in a world where chefs get Nobel Peace prizes.
FROM OUR SIX DEGREES LA TEAM TO YOURS, WARM WISHES & GOOD DISHES IN THE NEW YEAR!
Who knew that our 11-year-old response to “what do you like to do?” was a premonition! Here we are as adults still just sitting around, “drawing and stuff.” Sure our tools may be a bit more advanced and our sketches tend to have a lot less dinosaurs and skate-parks (if you are reading this and have a dinosaur-skate-park concept you better pick up the damn phone) we still pride ourselves on putting pencil to paper to enrich our brands with some unique art. Check out some illustration samples below:
Light a cinnamon candle and pull out your only real sweater…Q4 is fast approaching! As social media marketers, planning out content calendars has us preparing for the holiday season sooner than most people are comfortable with (we’re as eager as your local pharmacy, starting to unbox their Santa swag as we speak). What makes social media management so important is this dual nature; months ahead of time you are busy strategizing, creating, and programming. And the second part? That’s all about living in the moment, tracking Twitter trends and rattling off DM responses on a minute-by-minute basis.
To stay on track in both these mindsets, the key is to ask yourself— what is the goal of your brand’s social media? At Six Degrees LA, we’re in the holiday spirit, so we’ll let you in on a little secret. The right answer should be: engagement.
Social engagement is at the core of effective planning and posting across the Big 3 platforms.
As social algorithms get smarter and push towards greater personalization, Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram are counting on engagement to let them know when to show your posts, and who to show them to.
Let’s say your dripping ice cream cone, sizzling steak photo, or oozing grilled cheese Boomerang manages to stop the roaming thumb of your ideal customer— now what?
If they double tap, comment, tag, or share— IG rewards your post. What about if they are an influential account? Yep, more points for you, and more eyes on your post. What about speed? In 2018, things gotten taken up a notch when it was proven that the quicker someone saves your IG post and tags their friend, the nicer the app will be to your account.
This race for higher metrics is never ending.
The effects of a single engagement are like ripples (in your matcha latte art, or freshly garnished cocktail). To stay on top, you’ve got to stay vigilant, making sure your pics and captions encourage people to either interact because of a gut-instinct (“Melissa has to see this egg yolk pop”) or because they are emotionally invested in your brand (“My opinion helps decide what ethically sourced, sustainable poptart they make next. I VOTE STRAWBERRY DAIQUIRI”).
Following up on these comments and mentions— quickly and strategically— are what push your brand to the top of social trend conversations, and help you show off the brand voice that differentiates you.
At Six Degrees LA, we like to think about engagement as the first step in the sales funnel. It’s true that social should be a hell of a lot fun and tell your creative story, but in today’s world, it’s also your first, organic chance to reach new audiences, create a lead, and drive a guest through the doors.
Social engagement can feel very personal, so we get why people might feel like they should keep things in-house. But with a crucial need for strategy, a 24/7 list of tasks & your online reputation at stake, don’t be afraid to get support – all brands deserves strong photography, influencer interaction, constant customer response management, and reliable analytics! As the important holiday season approaches, the best gift you can give your brand is a serious social revamp, one that puts engagement at the top.
Typically for our Trader Joe’s office snack-run, I have one request: coffee. While I prefer leaving what kind of coffee up to interpretation, today I was feeling very, very specific. Ethiopian (I am well aware that they stock a delightful shade-grown, fair-trade, organic, serenaded-to, gently caressed Ethiopian).
So, they got coffee from Thailand instead.
They do say that Thailand is the Ethiopia of Southeast Asia…mmm…do they? Probably not. In any case, it inspired me to sit down and write about my visit to a coffee plantation in Northern Thailand. It also inspired me to plan a trip to Ethiopia, in order to write a blog post about Ethiopian coffee. So keep checking back. Coming 2021.
I love coffee. Not with any sort of high-brow barista fanaticism, but simply as a person who enjoys the ritual of caffeine. If it tastes good, then even better. French-press, pour-over, percolators, crushing beans with a shovel in the dessert and using a dirty bandana as a filter. Definitely done that. For me, the process amplifies the product.
To this end, I headed off on a four hour motorbike ride up a mountain in Northern Thailand, to visit a coffee plantation that was nothing more than a grid coordinate. After hours bumping between paved roads, gravel, dirt… I was salivating over the awaiting cup o’ joe.
Lucky for us, they had a sign.
We arrived at the plantation’s “tasting room”. Our barista was an elderly woman sitting on top of a few wooden pallets with a small pot of water on a camping burner, cups, saucers, and some bags of beans. They say Thailand is the land of 1000 smiles and this lady was wearing 999 of them when we walked up. While they were fresh out of organic Pumpkin Spice or Skinny Frapp, she was delighted to grind up some beans by hand, dump them in a patina press and get the brew going.
The tasting room was nothing more than a thatched-roof bamboo platform dangling off the mountainside over a lush plantation. Coffee trees lined the slopes, funneling down into a vibrant grove of palms, thick ferns, and rows of drying racks filled with sunbathing beans. I swear I saw this same view in a reclaimed wood picture frame in Starbucks!
We perched on a couple of tree stumps and our barista brought over a tray with two small cups of muddy coffee. No sugar. No cream. Just the way it should be…but with a couple Ritz crackers? Ok, we’ll get to that. Now, this coffee was black— blacker than black. The rich aroma of floral arabica rose above the earthen jungle air. The flavor was even richer and darker. Nutty, chocolate-y, bold, but with a soothing heaviness. And while you may think Ritz crackers only pair well with Cheese Whiz, they also go great with coffee, where the buttery saltiness balanced nicely with the bitterness.
Hours later in Chiang Mai we were still a little shaky. It may have been the potent coffee. It may have been the white-knuckle descent down, down the mountain on a motorbike with “delayed” braking. Regardless— it was a worthwhile caffeine ritual.
Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
One of the food trends we were most looking forward to in 2018 was the rise of the vegetables. Plant-based foods have been moving closer to the center of the plate, but in the past few months, they’ve also been making headlines. It’s taken a while, but at least part of Michael Pollan’s 2006 mantra has truly taken hold. “Mostly plants” is a dietary choice that’s growing faster than the movement against straws (ok, maybe not, but we think this vegetarian food trend will last longer.)
In just the past few months, Impossible Meats has doubled their production, WeWork announced their vegetarian-only dining policy, and the phrase “vegetable slaughterhouse” has almost started to sound normal. In LA, we don’t think twice about meatless meals — compared to juice cleanses and watching your macros, a plate filled with vegetables doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice — but this trend is taking hold across the country and around the world. Even the UK, not typically known for either their vegetables or their trend-setting cuisine, is taking a major role in moving vegetable-centric dishes to the top of the menu. Even the Great British Baking Show just announced that their next season will include a Vegan Week, and we can’t wait to see it.
And us? We’re helping our clients expand their stories and their brands to include new options for the vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores of the world. We knew this trend was going somewhere when the altar of burgers & bacon, Slater’s 50/50, didn’t just add the Impossible Burger, but sold it like crazy — and not just at the beach locations (check out the campaign we created to launch it).
Past client Bobcat Diner shows off how to do veg-centric options, with their Portobello Mushroom Burger
The Pie Hole, normally known for their homemade butter crusts and custard pies, is testing a vegan Blackberry Mango Galette that we’re launching on social, to go with an array of sweet & savory vegetarian options (Veggie Curry Pot Pie anyone?). Even the just-opened Bok Bok, another client, may have a chicken in their logo, but their fresh, crispy falafel might just convince us to give up meat forever.
It’s no longer enough to have one veggie option to address the dinner plan “veto vote.” Restaurants are making great food that happens to be vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for business.
We’ll raise of glass of cold brew with oat milk to that.
A client just asked us: “Is it okay to have a pro-America message for 4th of July?”
WHAT THE F…reedom!?!? Ok, my knee jerk reaction was outrage– silent outrage– as, typically, berating clients impacts the overall longevity of our relationship. However, it wasn’t some sense of professionalism that held me back. It’s that, that question isn’t outrageous anymore. In fact, similar concerns have been voiced by a few clients over the past year. The concern is: is it okay to love America?
But for now, let’s push business and branding and marketing aside. What I’m about to say is personal; it’s about individual beliefs. I can’t speak to the various ideologies of our entire team, but after much discussion in the office, I am going to speak for the collective heart of 6DG.
The America WE love stands for acceptance and freedom. Our America stands with open arms as a gesture of welcome and support. Those words forged at the foot of The Statue of Liberty are a promise, not just to the outside world but to the people already here who find themselves as outsiders. Our idea of America stands by that promise, as unwavering as the colossus herself. It’s still a golden beacon of hope and liberty regardless of the storm that passes over it. THAT is the America we love and are proud of.
So if you are asking whether it’s okay to be pro-America, dig a little deeper and think about what YOU want America to be. If those ideals seem to have fallen into shadow, maybe you need to start that conversation to bring them into the light.
Slater’s 50/50 made headlines from the get-go. When things kicked off for them in 2009, the “better burger” category didn’t even exist yet. Umami JUST opened, Shake Shack was just a shake shack, and spots like Hopdoddy and Stout weren’t even conceived. So you better believe when Scott Slater revolutionized the patty platform with a blend of bacon and beef, people were going to talk about it. And they did. From The Food Network to Late Night, Slater’s was top of mind and bottom of stomach.
Now you can get a solid burger just about anywhere (pretty sure we saw some dry-aged Wagyu on toasted gluten-free brioche warming in the display at AM/PM). Slater’s culinary beacon of beef and bacon didn’t shine as bright in a sea of free-range, locally-sourced, positively-reinforced, artisanal, craft burger creations.
But the light is far from out. To complement new ownership’s aggressive franchise expansion plans, we were brought on to help reignite the brand and move it forward. We gave Slater’s back the voice they heralded in their hot sh*t hay-day. Loud, unapologetic and attention-grabbing. Bold copy meets bold design. Instead of just relying on cacophonous combos of bread-meat-bread, we let the branding do the talking and implemented a full-out strategic marketing maelstrom to bring it to light. Social, PR, advertising, in-store, activations, contests, digital content, collateral; we’re coming at it from all directions.
With 19.3K Followers, 3 new nationwide locations and a growing list of future openings, Slater’s bacon…er, beacon, is getting brighter.
Let’s take a moment and honor the tenacity of human innovation. Since the dawn of man, we have struggled, fought, and overcome nearly insurmountable socioeconomic, geopolitical, and biophysical obstacles with the singular purpose of turning organic matter into booze. So cheers to you, the inventors of intoxicants, the pioneers of palliatives, the masters…of…a…m (hiccup)
If you’ve eaten a pretzel somewhere other than a sports venue or brew-pub then chances are it was Wetzel’s Pretzels. Wetzel’s is one of those brands that’s just always been there. You wouldn’t know it through advertising. Their viral content isn’t popping up on Buzzfeed (unless being consumed by Kardashians). But when that fresh-baked buttery aroma hits you, all sense of free will is lost. You’ll come to with an crumpled yellow bag in your hand, salt on your shirt, and complete satisfaction.
But even a brand with that kind of Pavlovian cravability needs to evolve. Our initial scope was to help strategize new revenue streams but our exploration quickly expanded into photoshoots, new creative, and a fresh progression of the overall brand. Don’t worry, it’s still fresh-baked and buttery.
As a marketing and branding agency, we’re always looking for ways we can set our clients apart. Our recent project for client Slater’s 50/50 let us capitalize on the year’s biggest marketing tool — video content. Want to hear a fun fact? 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week. Combining playful, bold marketing pieces with engagement-oriented social media platforms is an insanely effective way to get the word out about food, and make sure your brand stands out from a sea of competitors.
Slater’s 50/50 is known for their loud, unapologetic approach to “Burgers. Bacon. Beer.” We created equally amped-up set of videos for their most recent offering: The Impossible Burger. With so much buzz among young, savvy audiences for Impossible Foods, this called for something dynamic and craveable.
Six Degrees LA introduced the world to the #SlatersImpossibleChallenge, created to catch the attention of both current carnivorous customers and brand new audiences. We brought in Slater’s founder Scott Slater to transitioning the headline-grabbing concoction of 2009 to the brand of the future, showcasing the chain’s ingredient option overload and never-back-down attitude.
The #SlatersImpossibleChallenge debuted on social media and the Slater’s website, getting Slater’s in people’s faces and on their mind all day long.
Crafted to be the optimal length and format for Facebook audiences and shareability (social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined), these videos continue to rack up the views for Slater’s and spread the gospel of the Impossible.
Start Here: Why You Deserve a Brand Session
Jump in with both feet. Just keep swimming. Ready. Aim. Fire.
We’re all for moving fast and being decisive, but there’s something to be said for starting at the beginning. When creating a new business, or trying to change the direction of an existing one, it can feel like you spend all of your time talking about it. And you probably are, but are you talking about the right things?
Even if you spend every hour of the day talking about your new business, it’s important to stop, take a breath, gather the team around the table, and have a real conversation about what you’re building. Not about which sconces should go in the dining room or whether you can afford that really cool oven, but about the guiding principles of your brand.
We know that sounds heady and intangible, but it’s actually very practical. A brand session is critical to bringing your team into alignment on the big picture—it defines your true north. You may have a perfect, complete vision of your new business, but if it only lives inside your head, it’s almost impossible to transform that vision into reality. If everyone on the team has a slightly different vision of the goal, you run the risk of ending up with a mish-mash of a brand.
We kick off every branding project with a brand session for one simple reason: to define the brand in a way that brings everyone together on the same path.
The session itself is what’s really important; a guided conversation that explores the most critical aspects of your new business. We’ll dig into the areas that are key to your success, things like: the values that are the foundation of your brand, where your concept falls within the bigger market, and the things that make you stand out from your competition.
We customize each session, based on each client’s needs, but what remains the same is the results. Not only do you walk out of the room immediately after the session with a better understanding of your own brand, but but we wrap things up with a brand summary report, ready to be shared with potential investors and landlords, and incorporated into training materials.
Bottom line? It’s time to start at the beginning and build a strong foundation for your brand. Then, you can get that cool oven.
The end of the year is equal parts reflection and anticipation. While some people take pleasure in dwelling on the highlights of 2017, we’re looking toward the future (can you blame us?). We’ve taken a more personal approach, to cut through all the other industry predictions, projections and prognostications for next year. Here are the 2018 food trends we’re most excited to see pop up:
On High Heat: Filipino Food
Filipino food started the transition from regional home cooking to restaurant worthy fare in the past few years, and we love it. This year, the trend-makers are saying it will go fully mainstream (not just in Los Angeles!).
Our designer Uriel is a fan of Neri’s, a filipino spot not far up Wilshire from our office.
“I usually order pancit bihon. How can you not love something that works as take out, and still tastes just as delicious as leftovers? Every order is full of flavor — it’s definitely a staple now.”
While this trend might not be a surprise to our inner circle of foodie friends, watch for filipino concepts to spread far and wide. The entire office is all for a roll, so you can bet anything that comes with lumpia will be an immediate order in 2018!
Nice Knowing You, Food Waste
Root-to-stem is another 2018 food trend that’s (finally) making its way from the chef-driven restaurant into the everyday dining destination. Three years since Dan Barber thrust the issue into the spotlight with WasteED, it’s finally gotten the momentum it needs to start making a difference. Our Creative Coordinator Stephanie has a personal passion for restaurants taking a stand against unnecessary waste.
“I’ve been an Imperfect Produce and Ugly Juice customer, but I love hearing about more and more restaurants using food that’s unusable by market standards. There are food trucks that I’m planning to try in the new year, just because they are part of this movement.”
Whether it’s about using all of the parts of the plant (carrot-top pesto, anyone?), finding a second use for unused ingredients (love the charred onion vermouth at Broken Shaker!), or turning bycatch into menu items, we’re big fans of putting more food into mouths instead of landfills.
Speaking of vegetables, they’ll keep moving their way to the center of the plate. This year saw Impossible Food go from science experiment to cult “burger” to familiar option here in CA, which shows a willingness to explore alt-protein entrées. Cauliflower “rice” is finding a place on the shelves at Trader Joe’s and our Creative Director Josh is going to be the first to fill up his shopping cart. Taking things a step further, we’re also thinking about replacing our 2017 staple of almond milk with a cheaper, even more environmentally friendly option garnering foodie press: oat-milk. If we’re extending Meatless Mondays, why not go all the way?
“I don’t really know anyone that ONLY eats meat. Probably because they would be either 1. in a hospital, or 2. a palate-picky three-year-old. Exploring plant-based alternatives brings on a whole new world of culinary innovation. You really have to be creative in re-imagining certain flavors and textures that ultimately will make amazing food more accessible to everyone.”
Based on projected 2018 food trends, we’ll be expecting new innovations to hit menus and store shelves any minute.
Stacks of Snacks
There’s nothing new about afternoon snacks in the Six Degrees LA office. Stop by anytime, and you’ll see us noshing on peanut butter pretzels or the occasional plate of cookies from Milk Jar. It turns out that we’re trend-setters— UK grocery chain Waitrose calls this “fourth meal” one of their top food trends for 2018. It’s a growing segment in the US, so hopefully with new flavor profiles and elevated snack-size bites, our CEO Julie won’t have to turn to our emergency cheese stick stash anymore.
Signed, Sealed, Delicious
We’re looking forward to washing down our afternoon noms with the signature beverages that are set to sprout up on menus everywhere. Trends in cold brew coffee, cocktail-hour shrubs, or ubiquitous craft teas and juices are coalescing into what we’re calling the “better beverage” movement. Our Marketing Director Amanda is keen to push clients to think about their signature drink offerings alongside their cravable dishes; we’re looking forward to seeing all kinds of concepts embracing this strategic— and tasty— move.
Scrub The Kitchen
Most of all, in 2018 trends, we’re looking forward to seeing restaurants and kitchens (not to mention Hollywood and every other workplace) becoming better places for everyone to work. It’s hard enough for anyone to make it in the restaurant world, without adding abuse, harassment and discrimination to the mix. Our Marketing & Social Coordinator Jessica looks forward to relaying to the office only uplifting industry headlines in the new year.
“It’s powerful to see change taking place, especially at the highest levels. More ethical leadership and diversity of thought give me hope that the culinary world will continue to clean up its act.”
Let 2018 be the year where everyone in a restaurant is judged on their merit and treated with respect.
From our Six Degrees LA team to yours, warm wishes & good dishes in the new year!
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Every time you pick up a menu, it tells you a story. The feel of the pages in your hands, the way the items are described, and even the tiny details like the serifs on the type become a part of the story, even before a single word is read. It’s easy to create a menu that you love, but how do you craft a menu design that tells the story of your brand, while growing the bottom line? Because your menu isn’t just your story, it’s your sales tool. A well-designed menu both reinforces your brand to create loyalty and subtly directs guests to your best items.
When we tackle a brand new menu, we always start with the brand – so we know what story to tell. Then we create different ways to share that story through three key elements of the design.
1. The physical menu.
Plain paper or laminated? A leather-bound beast that should be filled with wine and steak, or a plastic tri-fold that makes you think of hash browns and homemade soup? Is it a printed menu board or a digital screen? The piece that people hold in their hands has a deep impact on their understanding of a restaurant – if the physical menu doesn’t match the surroundings, the brand or the advertising, it makes people uncomfortable. Unless you’re building the next Vespertine, that’s a really terrible start to a dining experience.
For instance, for our client Magnolia House, a comfortable and sophisticated bar concept with hospitality in its very name, we designed the menus to feel like a library book, substantial and fabric covered and more inviting than the expected vinyl.
2. The words on the page.
Like the format, the copy should fit your restaurant’s brand personality and voice. Strangely enough, there are two categories of restaurants that can get away with minimalistic descriptions: conceptual, high-end restaurants, and fast food chains that rely on photos. For the restaurants in the middle, names and descriptions are key to both the story and profitability. Guests are drawn to creative names and longer descriptions – within reason, adjectives are good, paragraphs are not. A family-owned trattoria that shares the origin of grandma’s meatball recipe reinforces their story, while a chef-driven restaurant should share a few details on the culinary techniques and unique preparations. Even the choice of “Appetizers” vs “Shared” will impact how guests see your restaurant.
For our client Black Angus, injecting brand voice and mouthwatering, steakhouse-speak makes each item jump out at guests. Every word on the page has to reinforce your brand.
3. The graphic design.
Once you have the materials and copy, all that remains is the design–which we tend to think is the most important piece. Menu design must be legible, to your audience and in your space (romantic, dim lighting requires some special care). Legibility includes the choice of font, size of the type, color, white space and a plethora of other factors. A good design will establish a clear hierarchy, drawing attention to highly profitable items, and leading them away from the ones you need to have on there.
For recent client Bobcat Diner, strong design meant creating graphic elements from scratch, ones that could provide both whimsy and the spirit of the wilderness; hand-drawn maps and characters helped orient the important menu items and gave it a guide-book feel.
Great design brings your brand to life and creates value, and those two things are the first steps to creating loyalty.
COLUMN – Josh Terry; Creative Director
As the Creative Director of a restaurant branding agency, I feel like I should enjoy oysters. I feel like I should enjoy all food and drink and for the most part I do– except oysters. Believe me though, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve sought out these briny bites up and down the coast from Swan Oyster Depot, to L&E, to Olympia Oyster Bar. Every time thinking that this will be the time that wins me over.
Why would I subject myself to all this unsatisfactory slurping? Because I really FEEL like I should enjoy oysters. And pretty much everyone I’m with loves them. They go nuts for them. And when everyone’s eyes light up as an icy plateau of shellfish is paraded across the restaurant, I’m always there to kill the buzz with an unenthusiastic “meh.”
Oh but I’ve seen the pearly light! (Figuratively, pearls would probably be a choking hazard). All it took was a trip up to the Hog Island Oyster farm in Tomales Bay. In my day, I’ve eaten some weird stuff produced by interesting processes (think Sun Cooked Stew in Africa and Live-Shrimp in Cambodia) so when it came to this hang-up, I realized maybe it was the process that was missing. Sometimes I need to go through a gastronomic gauntlet to really appreciate the product. In this case, it was shucking my own oysters.
Hog Island is a simple setup. It’s a working oyster farm, so the frills are for function not form. That’s a welcome treat for someone who has worked in an industry rife with overdone design and empty restaurant concept development. Past the piled up nets, buoys, and gurgling troughs of oysters in various stages of processing there is a “pick-up” window. You place your order and get a quick demo to hopefully reduce the amount of self-stabbings and bits of broken oyster shell you consume. Armed with the requisite amount of instruction and appropriate tools: oyster knife, protective glove, and cold beers- we carried our tray of 60 (you basically order by the dozen…or five dozen. That’s commitment.) assorted Sweetwaters, Kumamotos, and French hogs over the to picnic/shucking zone.
By about the 5th or 6th oyster you really start getting the hang of it. By the 12th, I was a machine and by the 20th+ I was a machine covered in sea-water, bits of shell, and beer. Pro tip – be wary of the beer-to-oyster ratio, as your newfound shucking skills may regress. By the end of it all, I had put down more oysters in that one sitting then I’d probably had in my entire life. Shell yes! Shuck yeah!
I now love oysters.
This past weekend, the 46th Walker Cup returned to California for the first time in 35 years, teeing off at the Los Angeles Country Club. The legendary golf match is a biennial team competition that pits USA against Great Britain and Ireland— three countries that sure do love a good lawn mower. The Match is held over two days as 20 amateur players vie for the team title and national pride.
The impressive grounds of Los Angeles Country Club North demanded an impressive and refined dining experience for fans and participants alike. Wolfgang Puck Catering won the dining contract with a strong proposal last year. Can you guess which LA marketing agency helped them with it? Yep, Six Degrees LA at your service. As the event drew near, we joined the marketing team to make sure the signage and print elements were also up to par.
We don’t want to brag, but we’ve had plenty of experience in both special event branding and venue branding.
Our design sensibility led us to create clean graphics for each of the food stands; the menus were packed with flavor synonymous with California and Wolfgang Puck, including wood-fired pizza, street food, and farmers market staples that showcased LA’s rich cultural core to the rest of the world. Our work kept things simple and straightforward so attendees could get back to the action on the fairway.
The trick for big events is understanding the flow of space and the variations of deliverables needed to fit it. Experience teaches you how each piece fits together, in order to drive the customer towards the product. The job of a restaurant marketing agency like us is to take the list of food offerings from Wolfgang Puck and create print-ready materials.
For this event, we created menu boards, menus for tent posts, and a brochure dining guide that helped people find food options on site. Our font choices and unique icons reflected the local, fresh energy and helped the food experience at the Walker Cup feel very SoCal— even with the sound of posh accents all around.
The weekend wrapped up with a resounding win for Team USA, bolstered by efforts from several California players, including a La Cañada native. We’d like to think we were part of the victory–maybe catching sight of our menu boards helped them feel right at home.
Photo by Harry How
If there’s one thing we recognize at Six Degrees LA, it’s that feeling good about where you eat is a must for all people. Shockingly, food tastes better when you’re not having an identity crisis and guilt isn’t choking you up! It may seem simple, but during our many years in restaurant branding, especially as a LA marketing agency with a whole range of clients, we’ve learned time and time again that the dining choices customers make reflect their emotions, desires, and yes—sometimes politics— rather than simply deciding on a food price point. To help make this more complex call, they rely on a perception of a brand from start to finish.
This past week, big restaurant branding headlines coming from Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells in Manhattan and Brad Greenhill’s Katoi in Corktown, Detroit have brought the issue of naming and social responsibility to the forefront. As the NYT and Eater reported, both restaurants have come under heavy criticism for problematic monikers; their historical and cultural implications weighed on the conscience of customers and critics and, ultimately, lead to a need to re-name in order to remain loyal to the brand vision .
And then of course there’s the grumblings over Dunkin Donuts, who are playing the name-game in their own corporate way. Sometimes it’s hard not to throw up your hands and roll your eyes (Come on guys, you sell donuts— everyone knows you sell donuts), but this news cycle just confirms that ethics, ethos, and the bottom-line all drive choices to try and better represent a restaurant to a customer.
We won’t get political and dwell on whether motivations are always pure (because it’s a Monday and no one needs that kind of suffering) but as a LA marketing agency we know that branding extends beyond a name and into skills we’ve mastered— like restaurant logo design and photography revamps— and each element must reflect the brand identity. Usually the situation isn’t as extreme as the issues getting recent press attention, but our role is the same.
Clients come to us when they recognize a disconnect between where they see themselves and where customers see them, and we use strategy, aesthetics, and brand messaging to help create an experience that each guest can feel good about.
Don’t get us wrong, the big name on the sign is important. The one moniker lives beyond every medium, making it the single lasting impression of a brand. But if picking a whole new name feels like an insurmountable logistical nightmare (To-Go bag reprint? Legal footer EVERYWHERE? Bartender pocket squares, anyone?), that’s where we step in and help make adjustments to a brand identity through a whole spectrum of elements. We’ve helped with everything from VIP fundraisers to community murals to sticking logos on Magic 8 balls.
If you have the slightest inkling that you may want a name change, it should be addressed immediately. “Sooner-rather-than-later” couldn’t ring more true (Tom Colicchio and Brad Greenhill would agree, we think). There are tools we can employ to explore the possibility, from market research to guest surveys. Analytics + our instincts can help you be sure your company is making the responsible call.
Can’t wait for the data? Check out our “When Restaurant Branding Should Happen” infographic that takes our signature tongue-in-cheek approach to answering the pesky question.
In any case, fixing a perception problem starts with finding a partner that can handle the logistical and creative heat. Let’s talk— before the angry tweets roll in and well before the pain of chiseling out logos on all those beautiful engraved maple cutting boards.
From a brand perspective, “Stu and His Friends Support Stu and the Kids” does not seem to be a great event name. Aside from being very clear that someone name “Stu” is looking for support, it doesn’t provide a lot of clues to either the cause or the event. But, despite the cryptic naming, Stu’s event is one that everyone looks forward to each year and one we’ve been proud to support for a number of years.
What you need to know is that Stu’s “Friends” are some of Los Angeles’s best chefs, and “the Kids” are underserved and orphaned children from the Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand. Stu is Stuart Skversky, and he’s made it his mission to help these kids; he teaches English and cooking to the younger kids, and raises money to help the older kids get a college education and build themselves a better future.
The first fundraiser for Stu and the Kids was held in 2011, and it’s grown tremendously each year. We got involved in 2014, and have helped each year since then. Over the years, we’ve helped with everything from finding a location (OK, it was a parking lot), to making the hand-drawn logo, and, of course, volunteering to take out the trash at the event. This year, we created the event’s signature graphic and event-day signage, and handled Stu’s Facebook advertising and content calendar.
The event has grown so popular that there were plenty of volunteers to take out the trash, so we got to focus on taking pictures of the food as we sampled it, and went live on Facebook for his presentation, from thank-yous to Thai dancers. The past weekend’s fundraiser featured some of LA’s top chefs and restaurants – including Walter Manzke, Neal Fraser, Jason Neroni, Sherry Yard and Ray Garcia – not to mention chefs Jet Tila and Rocco Whalen. We’re honored to be in such talented company and help raise money for Stu and the Kids. See you next year!
Thanks to Erik Fischer Photography and Victor Vic Photography.
Pop the champagne and toss some confetti! We’re celebrating a huge milestone with our friends at Black Angus Steakhouse – one million subscribers to their email Prime Club. That’s nearly double the number from when we updated their branding a little over three years ago. We found the sweet spot of success by connecting with Black Angus loyalists about promotions, celebrations, and a consistent flow of news about what’s going on at each of their 45 locations.
Over 200,000 members signed up in the past year, after we launched a brand new Black Angus website. When you have 50 years of steak-making history, it can be a challenge to bring your guests into the digital age with you, but we’ve proven that email is an effective way to connect restaurant guests. We see up to a 17% increase in sales in the day following a key email blast!
Our homepage redesign focused on putting the Prime Club front and center for our daily visitors and making the sign-up process simple. We designed a pop-up that was to the point – sign up for the Prime Club and receive free goodies, mainly a free birthday steak dinner. (Of course, with a sign-up offer that good, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention that in-store sign ups are also going strong.) It’s a bold offering, and one that many marketers would tell you would lead to a low-quality list, but the results say otherwise. Not only do the sales jump after each blast, but the list has low attrition and strong engagement.
To keep up the momentum, we completely revamped the design of the emails, staying on-brand with direct messaging but with a fresh photography style and bold graphic elements. We diversified our promotions, from traditional coupons and LTOs to celebrating National Hamburger Day and highlighting our newest cocktails. We successfully expanded our appeal from the everyday Black Angus diner to include a newer and younger audience (you know, that elusive millennial everyone’s fighting over).
At a time when there are so many avenues for digital marketing, we’re thrilled we’ve found success for Black Angus with organic branded content that actually inspires people to go out for dinner (or lunch, or drinks…). So cheers to steak & success – and here’s to another million members.
Most discussions about walls these days are negative and politically charged. Let’s take a break from all that and talk about a wall we just put up on Beverly Blvd. with the help of Hattas Public Murals to advertise L.A.’s next greatest, fantastic, amazing food hall, Edin Park.
While many of the submissions for the proposed border wall design featured drab facades and intimidating features, we’re proud to say that none of them had a slice of pizza wearing a wide-brimmed hat talking on its phone, nor a 10ft bacon-wrapped hot-dog bouncer with a clipboard. Our design did. Now we just have to worry about the 30+ food concepts and 10+ fitness studios we need to develop on the other side of it. It’s going to be tremendous.
Some of us are of an age where we still harbor a (tiny) crush on our first supermodel. We may be all grown-up now, but Cindy Crawford gives us a little flutter in our hearts and reminds us of a time when the world was filled with possibility, and we could go anywhere and become anyone, as long as we wore our Calvins, with a cold Pepsi at hand.
by Amanda, Marketing & Strategy
This year, we’ve had several clients in need of social media strategy, and inevitably, content calendars, as part of their restaurant marketing package. So, we thought it was time to fine-tune our own content calendar template.
by Josh, Creative & Design
Millennials, millennials, those damn millennials. Just the mention quickly diverges into a fist-shaking critique of their work habits, emotional sensitivity, and their cyborgian connection to social media. Well, we’re not here to jump on that conversation. We like millennials. In fact, with nearly $1.3 trillion in purchasing power and almost 50% of their food expenses coming from dining out, we LOVE millennials. Gen Z on the other hand, geez it’s like they are a bunch of socially conscious, risk-averse babies. Basically, the younger generation will never be as hard-working/enlightened/pleasant-smelling/athletic or as awesome as our generation, says EVERY GENERATION EVER. Continue Reading…
by Jennie, Operations & Marketing
One of the first things people notice when they’re in our office (besides the never-ending construction on Wilshire) is the full bar in our conference room. What can we say except every office should be set up for success with a multitude of spirits at the ready. We even recently found (and promptly purchased) perfect glasses for our weekly sipping.
by Amanda, Marketing & Strategy
Recently, we had the chance to break out of our delicious Los Angeles foodie bubble and take a trip to the gateway of Yosemite: Merced, California. We created the brand identity for Bobcat Diner, a new restaurant concept with ambitious plans for growth. With the location and expansion plans in mind, we took inspiration from the iconic graphics of the National and State Parks to create a design that would resonate with the local Merced community, and work just as well in new locations across the country. We didn’t take it too seriously, though, with a tongue-in-cheek approach to the outdoors tucked away within the copy.
We were lucky to be brought in at the very beginning of construction, so you’ll find our graphic design work in the campfire logo, oversized trail maps on the walls (providing helpful directions to lunch and dinner over the mountainous milkshakes), and the guide to Bobcat Guide merit badges. The menus serve as a Guide Book, filled with hand-drawn illustrations for our Bobcat Guide Tips to accompany the menu of diner mainstays including breakfast skillets, burgers and sandwiches.
Once the design was complete and construction underway, our marketing team took over the restaurant’s pre-opening social media, bringing the brand’s outdoorsy voice to life and building anticipation for the opening. When California’s unexpected rain caused construction delays, we tackled the challenge of keeping interest high as the opening day changed, and changed again. When the grand opening finally arrived, we were there to capture the excitement before handing the social reins back to to the restaurant team.
All in all, we enjoyed our excursion into the wilds of Central California, and like the restaurant, we try to be true to the Bobcat Oath, even back here in Los Angeles.
We want to make things look better. That’s what Beautify Earth wants, too. Their mission is to link up loving artists with unloved spaces to turn them into something everyone can love. Yeah, we used “love” 3 times because there is a lot needed right now and Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica was a great place to start.
Our lead designer, Uriel Bautista, took charge of the design, planning, and application. He also moonlighted as the mechanical lift operator (shhh…don’t tell OSHA). Literally, in the moonlight.
“Unurban Coffee House has one of the chillest vibes in Santa Monica. The owner, staff and regulars are filled with positive energy. They do open mic nights, it’s cozy and funky. This place’s atmosphere rejuvenates my hope in good people. The mission was to have the exterior match the spirit of the inside. So, I used their existing logo as a focal point and rays of energy radiating from it. With organic ribbons and leaves in visually-pleasing colors, the wall was filled with expanding love. It was an unforgettable experience.”
We’re giving 2016 the finger. Ok, not THE finger. In fact some people don’t even consider it a finger at all. We’re giving 2016 a thumb – a “thumbs up” to be exact. Because honestly 2016 was solid. Bombarded by social-media bad mouthing it seems like a lot of people were pretty pissed about the whole year. We just don’t share that sentiment. Just look below. Good times were had, great work was done, and we still have all of our limbs (maybe a few injuries that we swear were NOT Pokemon Go-related). What else can be said? It was a damn good year.
In that regard, we’re giving 2017 an enthusiastic handshake. You know, the one that’s a little firm. Maybe just a little bit too firm, but not to the point of actually hurting – just firm enough to confidently say, “I’m in charge.” Yeah 2017, we’re going to own you. Ahhh, who are we kidding…give us a hug.
No thanks to furry walls or Jonah Hill, but we finally got into The Greek Theatre. We say “finally” because our first go was a few years back supporting AEG and Nederlander with new branding and environmental design as they bid against Live Nation. It got ugly. Lots of news articles, community uproar, council meetings, legalities and petitions – and the result was nobody got the contract.
Well, when it comes to outdoor music venues in LA, THIS was our season (read about the Hollywood Bowl just a few swipes down). This time on the side of SMG and Premier with a monolithic bar concept as our Trojan horse. And it worked. The Greek really holds a special place in our hearts; where the Hollywood Bowl captures an elevated cultural evening of performance and food and wine pairing, The Greek has the soul of a club venue in a gorgeous setting; hip-flasks and hard-rock (harder rock at least…and then there’s Josh Groban).
There are two evening activities in Los Angeles we recommend to visitors. Go to The Hollywood Bowl and go to The Edison (hey, we did that brand too!). Though the Edison is cool for the aesthetic and absinthe, going to The Bowl is just one of those quintessential L.A. experiences that combines the best in food, music, atmosphere and summer-SoCal outdoor lifestyle. And you can bring your own absinthe! (Update: Guess you can’t bring liquor in, just beer and wine. Anyway, bringing absinthe into a venue is both a reckless decision for your liver, the people around you, and you can’t even do the cool pour-over the sugar-cube spoony thing).
First off, let’s clear up the location. Afrikaburn. It’s like Burning Man but in Africa. If that still doesn’t put an image in your head then imagine the cast of Mad Max: Fury Road having a huge party in-between takes (actually any Mad Max film…and yes – there is an actual Thunderdome at Burning Man sans Tina Turner). That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the magic of this event(s) but I just want to give you a visual.
We’re crouched in a roadside ditch about 25km north of Baghdad. Securing my M4 to my dust-caked shoulder harness, I reached deep under my heavy chest armor to pull out a small water-proof notebook. It’s time to give a Creative Brief. Okay okay, there really isn’t anything creative about it and it’s actually called an Operations Order. But the purpose is the same: deliver essential information effectively to your troops so they’re clear on the mission and everyone – down to the lowest rank – knows how to accomplish the objective. You know, in case something happens like your comms drop out in a blinding 120+ degrees sandstorm, or your Creative Director had to attend an unexpected site-visit at the new Firestone Brewery (I’m just giving you a heads up that’s going to happen) at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.
There isn’t much of my military past that I can apply to my creative present, but the Operations Order is one of them. Sometimes you have weeks to prepare building a miniature movie set that would make Lucas swoon, and sometimes you’re crouching in a ditch in Iraq scratching in the sand with sticks.
In it’s simplest format, it is quick and direct – it cuts to the essentials. That lack of focus is the bane of most Creative Briefs; long biblical doctrines of bullshit that turn over every stone to include the anecdote about the CFOs nephew who burped up a yellow marble at Easter and hence inspired their spherical logo design. Sure, sure – there’s good stuff in there – but in the bulk of it the momentum and direction gets lost. Leaving the team bewildered and thinking only about joining their CD on mid-day brewery tours. And frankly, I don’t have time to write that shit, so it never gets done.
And so, in a wonderful blending of militant urgency and creative need, the Brief Creative Brief was born.
Following the format of the Army’s Operation Order this simple 5-paragraph (mmm…maybe more like keywords and sentence fragments) format gets to the project-specific goods without all the thirst inducing clutter. If it’s more than a page, you’re doing it wrong.
Here we go:
SITUATION: Recon. This isn’t a snapshot of your Wikipedia page, but the reasoning and background that has gotten the client to the point of doing this project. It’s also good to give a few keywords that describes the current state of the client.
MISSION: Objective. What are we trying to accomplish? Is it changing the perception of the client from those keywords we addressed above? Get butts in seats. We need to be as clear as possible, and highlight the main goals of the project in order to create. Again, highlight keywords. If in fact that sandstorm whips through our agency, our personnel need to know the direction we’re headed.
TARGET: Well…it’s the target. These are our demographics. Who do we want to engage with the this project? Who is the audience? It’s also important to quickly explain the current demo if we are looking to shift that focus.
EXECUTION: Deliverables. Often there will be an over-arching not-so-brief Creative Brief for larger campaigns. This brief is a breakdown of those individual parts so we have a measurable approach in accomplishable steps.
SCHEDULE: Oh yes, the deadlines. It’s important to set smaller, accomplishable goals and checkpoints to make sure the big drop-dead date is met and the creative on track.
We want to rant. Drone on about heat-lamp-esque lighting, plate compositions that read like the portfolio pages of the finest Japanese faux-food artists, and of course physics defying drop-shadows that cling unnaturally to the bottom of plates like miserable clouds. We’re talking about most of the chain restaurant photography pre-Instagram. Those were dark times. Well, actually, over-lit, over-saturated times.
But instead of just complaining we’ve done something about it. We partnered up with Eskite Photography Studio and shot new photographs for Black Angus. They had a dated photo collection that needed to be…well, refreshed to match the rebrand we’ve been working on. Ah hell, we might as well just show you. The new photos are on the right, by the way.
When we think of an Italian sandwich, it’s a cross between catering on a Scorsese set and one of Subway’s monuments of deli meat. When we think of Italian fashion? It’s more like velour tracksuits with gold chains and marinara dotted undershirts (if it IS a Scorsese set, it’s probably not marinara). Clearly, we had some stereotypes to dispel when we took on our newest client. Cue amazing branded designs.
We see tourists in Los Angeles year round, but our favorite time to host friends and family is fall, when temperatures dip into the low 70s, afternoons are sunny and crisp, and the season brings festive touches to all our local haunts – pumpkins at coffee shop doors, gourds aplenty at the farmers markets…we finally feel ready to hit the town instead of being holed up in AC with our blackout curtains up. With the outdoor temperature on-point for frolicking around in a scarf with hot coffee, here are six places you must visit in LA this fall.
We love Los Angeles because it’s infuriating in its movement and overstimulation; construction cranes everywhere, billboards soaring from every building screaming for our attention, peeling and cracked brick walls looming in every alleyway on every major boulevard from DTLA to the sea. But near those construction sites are rows of plywood walls asking to be drawn on, painted, and plastered with wheat paste. Those billboards and alleyways are just asking for color, creativity, and the perfect quippy message to be scrawled in the dead of night.
With temperatures dipping from 75 to 90 and back again like a boomerang summer that just won’t quit, we here at 6D are willing fall to start in earnest and we’re dreaming of highs in the low 70s. To help it along, we’ve started baking again, heat be damned – the pumpkin goods are out, the lattes are cinnamon-heavy, and the desserts should be full of stone fruits. Continue Reading…
We find inspiration all over – in billboards we see on the way to the office, in nature on our weekend hikes, in the grocery store on unique packaging (ok, ok, booze bottles). But obviously the source of most of our inspiration is online – from Pinterest to Tumblr to traditional blogs, we crave creativity from every corner of the web. So, we had two of our designers round up some of their favorite sites to they go to to help get their creative juices flowing. Continue Reading…
We know we’ve been gone for awhile, and we’re here to clear up the confusion. No, we haven’t given ourselves huge raises and headed off to a tropical paradise for good. Even though we deserve it. The truth is, we’ve embraced LA more than ever before. Six Degrees has been off the radar because we’re hard at work putting a handful of fresh, revamped brands back on it. With our signature creative (and unapologetic) approach, we’ve given these clients an attitude—and aesthetic—adjustment. With all this new exposure, it’s almost our way of embracing the scandalous California summer dress code. Almost.
Here’s what we’ve been up to:
I think Tinder has ruined the hiring process. I have a few friends who go on a 30-minute blitzkrieg of right-swipes before we go out at night. It’s a numbers game. If you connect with everyone, then maybe someone will connect with you. It doesn’t go any deeper than that, and I kind of get it.
The same depressing phenomenon happens when we post a job listing—we get hundreds of replies that are so cookie-cutter, so copy-pasted that I can just tell we’re on the other side of someone’s rapid right-swipe. To the point that our postings have become so specific and obscure that just the subject line tells me whether you’ve read it. Unfortunately, there could also be some brilliant applicants out there who have fallen into the auto response trap. So how do you dazzle us with your sheer brilliance and talent? Continue Reading…
We’ll give you this Snapchat, in the social-photo-app game your logo is a standout. Whether that was the intent or just a remnant from your Pictaboo beginnings, it is effective in at least being different.
But let’s step back. Suppose you are knocking on our door looking for some branding (next time email or call us first, you completely interrupted our dart game). We’re sitting in the conference room and you’re pitching us this cool new concept. The UI is rock solid, you’re ebbing into UAT and all you need is a new logo to polish off the package. We’re in. We’re fans of any technology that allows us to share regrettable content without lasting repercussions.
There are many old and tired brands out there that fail to realize the value of good branding and that their lack there of may be a reason for their shortcomings as a business. As a marketing and branding agency, we’ve created a handy (albeit snarky) infographic to determine whether your brand is fit as a fiddle, needs a check up, or is in dire need of an ambulance.
Ever wanted to take a short trip back to the 1970s, but without the avocado-hued appliances, shag carpet and other assorted “missteps” of the decade? We’ve got you covered. Just cruise up the 101 into North Hollywood and find yourself in the idyllic setting of The Garland. Stylish, modern, yet thoroughly nostalgic, it’s the best spot in LA to retreat from the chaos, but not get too far-out*. (*puns are very ’70s, the lack of internet access made people desperate for cheesy entertainment) Continue Reading…
As people everywhere are trading in their cup of corporate chain coffee for specialty brews crafted by expert baristas, coffee culture is infiltrating the far corners of the world and the United States is leading the caffeine-fueled charge. Coffee is no longer just a way to wake up; it’s a science and an art.
Over the weekend we had the privilege to observe this science and art in action as the best baristas from across the United States gathered at the Long Beach Convention Center for the 14th annual U.S. Coffee Championships. The ever-growing coffee scene of Los Angeles was well represented at the competition with baristas from Verve Coffee Roasters, Intelligentsia, Klatch Coffee, Adante Coffee Roasters and of course three time Barista Championship runner up Charles Babinski from Go Get Em Tiger and G&B Coffee.
We arrived promptly at 9am. Having starved ourselves of coffee before arriving at the championships, we were ready to indulge in unlimited cups of delicious brew from the many coffee roasters on rotation at the espresso bar. After suitably caffeinating ourselves with High Wire Coffee and perusing the many vendors of coffee related paraphernalia, we finally took a seat in the bleacher stands to watch the semifinals of the Barista Championships.
In each routine, baristas must present four sensory judges a shot of espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink, while two technical judges grade their working skills from prep to clean up. Many baristas excitedly discussed the unique origin stories of their specialty coffees or shared inspiring anecdotes of small coffee farms in the far reaches of the world. Baristas expertly guided judges and viewers alike through the flavor profiles of their coffee and the techniques used to craft each drink.
The signature drink was a true expression of combined science and art. Utilizing various syrups, aromatics, fruit and different heating and cooling methods, Baristas took a chemist-like approach to their signature drinks, producing mouth watering coffee cocktails. Eden Marie Abramowicz (pictured above) of Intelligentsia topped her coffee beverage off with a hibiscus infused foam, where as Charles Babinski of Go Get Em Tiger/G&B Coffee utilized pine tree honey, juniper syrup and a grapefruit reduction to accentuate the vanilla sweetness of his Honduras grown Ocotillo espresso.
Speaking of Charles Babinski, the seasoned competitor finally won the championships and the well deserved (long overdue) title of best barista in the United States. Aside from his elegant signature beverage that obviously rocked the judges taste buds, Charles approached his routine in a way that stood out from the rest. Instead of discussing the rare origin of his coffee or sharing a lofty story about experimental production methods, Babinski kept things real by reflecting on the importance of utilizing established systems and standards in order to provide a quality and consistent experience, whether it be producing the coffee on the 3.5 hectare Honduras farm or serving a cappuccino at Go Get Em Tiger. Speaking as an owner of two successful coffee shops in LA,
Upon opening a shop it became exceedingly clear that it is all about the customer’s experience. If you serve somebody a delicious cup of coffee they are grateful and if you did it quickly they are even happier. It was when we were able to give a service that was thoughtful and considerate that the whole idea really resonated with me. I’m talking about automation, yes it gives us a consistent recipe and it serves coffeeshop logistics great, but more than anything, it gives us time. Time to give the type of service that we are proud of. Time to make a connection.
This is exactly the model Go Get Em Tiger and G&B are based around, with their long walk up bars that allow for connections to be made between baristas and customers alike. Charles noted that often these things are swept under the rug in favor of something small and handcrafted. Sincere, passionate and relatable, Charles Babinski is a true master of his craft.
Overall it was an exciting and educational experience fueled by an excessive amount of delicious coffee. The moral of the story is Los Angeles is home to some of the best baristas in the world (sorry, Seattle).
In Los Angeles, we are currently experiencing the sunny warmth of what we like to call June-uary. We love to rub in the fact that we can don tank tops and hang out on the beach in the middle of winter, but we do feel a bit of sympathy for the majority of you toughing out snowmaggedon 2015. With that said, we are sending warmth to the frozen regions via a sun-kissed playlist full of good vibes and tropical beats. Here are 25 of the best tropical house tracks that will melt away the harsh winter and transport you to a hammock underneath the palm trees. So grab your sunscreen and pineapples, turn up the volume and relax. Welcome to a tropical winter!
The brothers behind Bicos Hospitality came to us to help them create and launch a new concept in Pasadena. They wanted to build a new, laid-back bar that was comfortable & sophisticated in equal measure – a destination for hanging out with friends, meeting a colleague for a drink, or taking a date. We were anxious to rise to the challenge and give new life to a 100 year old house. Check out the whole process below. We started with a name, then colors, logos, a story, hand-sketched elements, and Magnolia House was born.
Once we had the brand nailed down, we came up with ways to translate the heart of the house into every aspect of the experience. We designed the menus to feel like a library book, substantial and fabric covered and more inviting than the expected vinyl. The signage was given a similarly understated yet impactful treatment, and we also put together fun collateral pieces that harken back to an old-school pub vibe and blended seamlessly with the ambiance of the interior and the space’s history. The final products are shown here (along with the website, which we also designed).
And here’s a little of Magnolia House’s well-earned buzz:
In Los Angeles, it takes constant reminders to realize that it is, in fact, December and the holidays are approaching at full speed. Things are hectic and before you hit that festive brick wall, there simply is not enough time to get into the holiday spirit. We have crafted a holiday playlist to help you get in the mood, don that ugly Christmas sweater and string up a few lights around the house. Oh, and this holiday music selection won’t make your ears bleed, from The Who to No Doubt, to a little Kaskade, there is some alternative holiday cheer here for everyone. Enjoy!
It’s that time of year when the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange and the weather makes you want to curl up in front of a warm, flickering hearth with a delicious seasonal drink. Oh wait…this is Los Angeles, where summer lingers all year and the only falling foliage is drought-ridden palm fronds. The only orange we experience during the fall season are blazing wild fires, sunsets/sunrises, the obnoxious Ferrari that takes our parking spot, and PUMPKINS. The start of autumn is marked by a plethora of pumpkin products hitting store shelves, the availability of pumpkin spice in our lattes (Starbucks may have jumped the gun this year—August?), and most importantly, pumpkin beer.
To pay homage to these supposed autumnal months, we decided to curate the Mother of all pumpkin beer tastings. We took the best pumpkin beers from all the “best pumpkin beers” lists from the past 3 years. We cross-referenced them, analyzed their characteristics, corroborated their stories, and wound up with the most elite, delicious, pumpkiny, pumpkin beers of the past decade. We even had a frickin’ spreadsheet! Well, we couldn’t buy most of them (dang your uppity distribution radiuses). We scrapped the list and decided to just grab what was available to us. The result? An eclectic spread of pumpkin brews ranging from ales to sours, all brewed on the western side of the United States where autumn barely whispers.
Let’s be honest, we’re no cicerones (guess that’s like a beer sommelier), but we collectively have enough beer drinking experience to be able to recognize a good brew and describe its qualities, rating it on a scale of 1 to 5. Before we began the tasting our Creative Director asked, “Are we going to talk about floral notes and shit?” No. No we are not. But being designers and all, we did feel the need to judge the label design as well as the beer. To highlight our tasting expertise and by “expertise” we mean lively “personalities”, we recorded the entire tasting session, hence the hilarious quotes found throughout. Yes, we actually said that shit. Cheers!
We began the tasting with the least alcoholic beer and planned to work our way up to the more alcoholic ones. The order was quickly forgotten after we were a few beers in.
Pumpkin aromas and flavors abound, Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale satiated our pumpkin craving taste buds. A beer so smooth that the conversation drifted to a less savory part of the beer spectrum regarding malt liquor, more specifically, Steel Reserve. Don’t ask. After such a delicious beer, we were entirely unprepared for what we tasted next…one sip left the entire team spluttering.
In effort to make our pumpkin beer tasting a little more authentic, we lit the fireplace. Well, rather we found a video that promised three hours of the best fireplace on our laptop. Pair that with some choice classical music and Epic Brewing’s pumpkin porter. You can almost hear the faint whispers of autumn.
By this time we were all feeling the heat from the fireplace screensaver…or was it the booze? Doesn’t matter, we were all ready for a little more heat from Avery Brewing’s 17.22% porter aged in bourbon barrels. For dramatic effect, classical violins were singing in the background as we took our first sips.
Maybe they do need pumpkins in their beer, or perhaps yams were a substitute simply because The Bruery is located in Orange County where they don’t have legitimate pumpkin patches. Whatever the reason, we thought this beer was a perfect example of autumn in Los Angeles. Underwhelming.
These beers ended up our tasting list due to the limited availability of pumpkin beer, so would we drink most of these again? Probably not, except for Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale…we will take a case of that!
Four words: Bourbon Banana Pudding Cheesecake. And, if you want to get technical: With Bourbon Whipped Cream. You know you want to see how this all goes down.
Basically, we followed this recipe from The Candid Appetite, minus the extraneous garnish. And if our crust experience was any indication, I’d swap out the Nilla wafers for your typical graham cracker crust (but that might be due to our use of gluten-free wafer impersonators, so take that for what it’s worth). We also pared way back on the photos, ’cause you know what isn’t cute? Mashed banana, numerous portioned amounts of the same ingredient, whipped cream cheese and pouring. So much pouring. We’re assuming you’ve got that stuff covered. We did take some liberties with the quantity of bourbon in the whipped cream, though. (Full disclosure: we may’ve doubled it…and then splashed in a little extra. Shhhh, just go with it.)
So this dairy-fueled adventure concludes our Bourbon Series. I mean, seriously, where do you go after Bourbon Banana Pudding Cheesecake? Nowhere. There’s no next step from there. Except a nap, maybe.
Hope you enjoyed our favorite booze 3 different ways! Did you try them all? Just 1? Are you one of those bourbon-haters we’ve heard about? Let us know what you think we should build a series around next!
This is a meaty, smoky, spicy, messy and totally irresistible sort of dish. It’s for people who aren’t shy about having sauce on their face, their hands, maybe down the front of their shirt. Basically, it’s a recipe for bros. Or ladies with a little edge. Ready? Let’s get to it.
This time of year, weekends are dominated by football. College, pro and (in some parts of the country) Friday night lights. Am I right, fellow Southerners? You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, regardless of your preferred level of play, tailgating, fantasy leagues and weekends crowded around big screen TVs or bar booths wearing your team’s jersey is totally a thing. To rise to the occasion, we’ve got bacon-wrapped chicken, slathered in bourbon BBQ sauce.
These will disappear quickly, so be sure to make probably a dozen or more than you think you need. Seriously. The upside is that it’s so simple to throw these together that you won’t even mind. 1) Wrap chicken in bacon 2) Place in oven 3) Combine sauce ingredients and simmer for a few minutes. So easy it should be criminal.
Here’s the recipe we used. Don’t judge, Betty’s been around the block and she knows a thing or two.
Now go get messy. Ready? Break!
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s October. Which means that in all reasonable parts of the country (but not Southern California), there’s a chill in the air, pumpkins seem like an appropriate seasonal purchase and footwear has transitioned into cute boot territory. Not that I’m jealous. Ahem.
Anyway, in an effort to capture even the tiniest sip of autumnal magic, we decided to hop behind the bar (it’s never a tough decision to make) and whip up a cocktail that conjures the crunch of crisp fallen leaves, buffalo print scarves and the smell of crackling fires. Or, y’know, knock a few back while watching football and impress the socks off your friends. Choose your own autumnal magic here, we’re not judging. Let’s get to the bourbon, shall we?
First, you gotta make the apple cider ice cubes. We were working with some giant ice trays, so 2 cubes were all that would fit in the glass, but if you have a “standard” tray, you’d probably want 3 or 4. Once those are nice and solid, all you’ve got to do is toss in a small spoon of brown sugar, a few dashes of bitters and muddle that business. Add the cider ice cubes and then top with bourbon. Feel free to play with the ratios of frozen cider to bourbon (or just pour a bit of leftover cider on top for a less boozy cocktail). Easy peasy and super seasonal. Cheers!
Apple Cider Old Fashioned
Apple Cider Ice Cubes
1 spoonful Brown Sugar
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Bourbon (we used Bulleit, but go with your favorite)
Here at 6D, we’re big fans of bourbon – smoky, sweet and smooth, with just a smoldering hint of heat at the end, it’s one of our go-to liquors. (What? We like a cocktail.) With whiskey as our muse, we wanted to put together a little series for you that showcases 3 ways to enjoy a shot (or two) of the good stuff. So here’s what’s coming up: a bourbon cocktail with fall flair and a nice spicy depth, a bourbon BBQ sauce (and bacon-wrapped chicken to slather it on), and a sinfully Southern-inspired, bourbon-infused cheesecake that will blow your mind. Stay tuned, because we’re kicking off soon.
The last time we were in an old garage ingesting stimulants and listening to punk-rock was…well, this morning. How’s that for some quick blogging? Here are some other adjectives that may describe this post; expedient, fast, cracky, super-pumped-and-excited-to-write-about-this-awesome-coffee-purple-monkey-dishwasher (really refraining from engaging the ‘caps lock’ here)! But let’s not get caught up in caffeine side-effects. The bottom line is there is a really good guy named Greg, roasting some artisan beans in a rented garage on Glendale Boulevard.
Between flipping through the pages of “Two Cheers for Anarchism” and sips of an Ethiopian/Geisha blend of cold-brew, Greg gave us a run down of the beginnings of Trystero. Espresso is up, an extremely smooth, earthy, and bold Kenyan. A few years back, he started roasting beans on his stove top. Damn, this coffee is strong. That hobby grew, equipment got upgraded, beans were carefully selected, a few apartments got a little too smoky and well, here he is in Atwater Village, roasting full-time on-demand, and that demand is high. Damn, the cup’s empty. Back to the cold-brew. www.trysterocoffee.com
Hello friends. It may only be Wednesday, but this week has been long, right? No? Just us, then? Well, that’s fair. At any rate, we put a little playlist together for you to carry you through those days when the clients are humorless, the conference calls are tedious and the agendas are long. We tend to take the “laugh it off” tactic to scenarios such as those, so we may all sound maniacal, but at least we’re having a good time. Welcome to the madness.
Stu has a bunch of friends and we’re happy to be one of them. But really this isn’t about his friends, acquaintances or even casual-Facebook-birthday-well-wishers. It’s about the kids.
The short story, Stu moved to Thailand to help kids in need (the long story is here stuandthekids.org/about/, we’ll let him tell it). Our story is that we met Stu in Chiang Mai about a year ago and he became our Los Angeles-Thailand ambassador. He introduced us to interesting local cuisine, raucous nightlife, and of course the kids! Came to find out that we know a lot of the same people, him being a Chef (notably for the best Mexican food in Southeast Asia) and that we could use these connections to do some good.
Good is what we did, and lots of it. Last Saturday everyone came together to raise money, awareness, and the culinary bar with their spin on Thai inspired dishes.
A huge thank you to Bodega Wine Bar, BLD, Cooks County, Chefs To End Hunger, The Ensaymada Project, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, Golden Road Brewery, Helms Bakery, Hudson House, LA Specialty, Patina Restaurant Group, Playa Provisions, Savore Catering, République, Simple Things, Solsticio Wines, Susina Bakery, The Tripel, Warren’s Blackboard, Wolfgang Puck, and Erick Fischer for the great photos.
Check out the full gallery right HERE.
Life as a carb-loving glutard (def. one who is unable to deal with gluten due to allergy, sensitivity, or Celiac) sucks. You’ll wistfully remember every sandwich you unfairly deemed “boring” or scone you passed up on the chance that it was too dry and regret you didn’t devour every last morsel with flour-loving abandon. Or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, once you know the mere suggestion of your typical baked good will send your body into DEFCON 3, you will do almost anything for a substitute that doesn’t taste like gritty cardboard. Enter this recipe.
This cake is light, lovely and has a wonderful balance of tart lemony sunshine, warm vanilla bean and delicate powdered sweetness. But be warned, it is a bit labor-intensive (I’m looking at you, unreasonable amount of lemon zest and meringue), but it will TOTALLY pass the, “This is gluten-free?!” test of incredulousness. The best part (if it gets better than being an actually delicious gf cake) is that it actually gets better after a day or two in the refrigerator, so feel free to
hog it all for yourself share generous pieces with people so they may also have leftovers. But enough with the chit-chat. Let’s get to the good stuff.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 1/2 cups almond flour
10 1/2 oz ricotta
Flaked almonds, to decorate
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the base and sides of a 9″ springform pan with baking paper and set aside.Place the butter, 1 cup of sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the egg yolks, one at a time, continuing to beat until fully combined. Add the almond flour and beat to combine. Fold ricotta through the almond meal mixture.Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with a hand-held electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites mixture and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the tops with a palette knife, decorate the cake with almond flakes, and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked and firm to touch. Allow to cool completely in the pan, then carefully remove the outer rim and transfer to a cake plate. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.
For your listening pleasure, we’ve put together a little playlist for you, featuring a little questionable language. Our favorites are when the f-bombs come out of nowhere – happy, upbeat songs that toss one in or even a slower ballad-y situation that suddenly gets a bit more…emotive. Anyway, hope you enjoy this eclectic little mix (with headphones, if you’re in that type of office).
We’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen around here, and we’re not at all ashamed that much of said time centers around mixing drinks. So when we happened across a particularly (innocent enough) non-alcoholic summery beverage over on Smitten Kitchen, we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn it into a delicious frozen blended rum concoction. Can you blame us?
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 6:
1C frozen pineapple chunks
2C coconut milk (we used the canned kind)
2/3C lime juice
1/3C granulated or superfine sugar (more or less to taste)
1C coconut rum (optional)
Lime slices & mint for garnish
Basically, all you have to do is throw everything in a blender (depending on what you’re working with, you may want to pulverize the ice and pineapple a bit first before you add the remaining ingredients) and pulse until you have a nice slushy consistency. Top with a lime wedge and some fragrant mint and your taste buds may as well be on a tropical vacation. Warning: this is EXCEPTIONALLY easy to drink, especially if you’re hot, thirsty, or umm…alive, so just keep that in mind. Cheers!
If you spend time around Gardena or Long Beach, you may’ve seen (or even tasted) the first few stores of Japanese import, Tokyo Bento. A concept by Dream Dining, a successful and well-known company in Japan, their team approached us to help them crack the US market with a new fast-casual concept. That process began with a brand story that educated customers on the differences between the bentos we’re familiar with and the traditional Japanese style, and then translated the brand personality into design. Tokyo Bento has big plans for rolling out more locations, so we’re excited to see it grow and develop.
Of course, the first order of business was to create colors and type that reflect the casual style of service that also tipped its hat to the nostalgia felt by those who grew up with homemade bentos. We created the origami pieces to capture the whimsical personality and also showcase the company’s Japanese roots. It provided the perfect graphic backdrop to their minimal collateral: menus, wax paper for service and the bento builders’ uniforms.
We also created an instructional (and fun!) menu graphic that would be easy to understand as customers got acquainted with what Tokyo Bento’s meals were like and how they could be customized. Besides serving a more traditional bento, Tokyo Bento also offers several sauces with an international flair that really elevates the whole situation. Have you visited yet? Our favorite is the portobello mushroom on the unbelievably soft, sweet bao bun, topped with the Peruvian Salsa sauce. So insanely craveable. The only downside is that they don’t have more locations….yet.
The changing of seasons always makes us thirsty. As do Mondays, busy days, slow days, all phases of the moon, weather of any sort and food. So, maybe we just like drinking. At any rate, this seemed as good of an excuse as any to jump behind the bar and share three different cocktails that all boast a lot of freshness to celebrate Spring. Or Wednesday. Whatever.
First up is this light and refreshing concoction with champagne, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and mint. Thankfully, it couldn’t be simpler, so even those with zero bartending skills can whip this out and impress a fancy crowd.
Throw some ice in a lowball glass, pour what looks like a socially acceptable amount of bubbly in there, top off with elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine is a staple, but we opted to try an organic version here) and then toss in a few cucumber slices, some mint and give it a stir. The champagne may make it seem fussy, but the cocktail is actually quite refreshing, perfect for pairing with a meal, or you can enjoy the delicate flavor on its own.
Next on the docket is a springy twist on a cocktail staple in the 6D repertoire. A quick bourbon and ginger ale is our zingy happy hour go-to, but the addition of muddled strawberries and basil makes it more special and seasonal.
Start with a highball, toss in 3 or 4 ripe strawberries and give them a good crushing. (Nothing personal strawberries, and I promise it’s for a good cause.) Then add ice and bourbon (we used 2oz. of Bulleit). Add the ginger ale to taste (less if you like this one beefy, more if you’re just looking for a little afternoon pick-me-up), and then top with basil. The result? A little sweet, a little spice, a little heat, and a little snack at the end. Boozy strawberries are the best.
And finally, a rum concoction that will have you magically transported to Hawaii. Because that’s where we got the rum. And the idea. And this drink is best enjoyed beachside, because it’s essentially a papaya mojito.
Plop a single sugar cube at the bottom of a highball. Pour some papaya juice over the top (an ounce or two, depending on your taste), toss in your mint and then muddle them together to meld the flavors. Pour in 2 oz of rum (light, spiced or dark, it’s up to you – we liked spiced) and then get fizzy and top it off with club soda. (I always add a splash more juice at this point, too, mostly because it helps complete the illusion that I’m back in Hawaii. Just go with it.) Give it a stir, then garnish with more mint, a squeeze of lime and enjoy.
The first thing you should order is french fries covered in étouffée. Just trust us on this one. It’s not on the menu, so don’t even bother looking yet. First things first. From there, you can take many turns. Gumbo, jambalaya and po’boys are the easy choices, and basically any fried seafood is guaranteed to make you happy. There are other southern staples like fried chicken, meatloaf and pork chops, if that’s more your speed. And a few Legaux specialties like Shrimp Ryan and Harold & Belle’s Scampi round out the offerings. Oh, and did I mention they won Best Creole in LA from LA Magazine? Not too shabby.
So flash to the big event. I’m crouched on a thatched-bamboo platform in Southern Cambodia, about to eat a mouthful of live shrimp. Actually, they’re called Dancing Shrimp. The cute name doesn’t make it any better as I’m now picturing a playful group of “Off-Broadway” shellfish, passionate about their performance and a brood of brine on the way. My appetite and curiosity (and peer pressure) is about to end that life. Damn that second rule.
To the best of my understanding, I’m supposed to give the clay-pot in front of me three hard shakes (the shrimp are probably pissed-off enough without being rigorously agitated), rip off the lid, and scoop the contents into my mouth. The group of Cambodian teens that have convinced me to do this are at the edge or their floor-cushions and I’m getting the feeling this is one of those times that humor is the point over pride. Whatever.
I shake the pot, pop the lid, and like Pandora’s box little shrimp shoot out in all directions. Spoon in hand I dig into the container and heap a pile into my mouth. To any animal rights activists, I say this in the most compassionate and remorseful way possible. The shrimp were extraordinary. The initial shock of their flicking was quickly surpassed by an intense blast of scolding chili, garlic and cooling citrus. I chewed quickly but guiltily savored what could be described as the weirdest/best/freshest ceviche I’ve tried. Although wide-eyed and grinning, no one laughed. I had another scoop.
Karma typically dictates against eating unconscious crustaceans, but in a predominantly Buddhist country I’ll believe their sacrifice was probably deserved and definitely delicious. Would I eat it again? No. But that one-time guilt is easily diluted with an afternoon/evening/morning of beers with new friends.
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I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m an Anthony Bourdain groupie. Ok, there is a little bit of shame so let me clarify. It’s not that I’m into him specifically but the lifestyle he portrays on No Reservations, The Layover, and now Parts Unknown. Traveling, great food, wild nights, and interesting times. I don’t chat about him on fan sites or stalk him at speaking engagements. Hell, I haven’t even liked him on Facebook (I like you Anthony, I just don’t like like you). I’m a follower of his adventures and that’s the lifestyle I want to lead. Eat, Drink, Travel, Repeat.
I realized this as I was perched on a curb, devouring the greatest sandwich of my life. As a lover of all things between two pieces of bread, I had remembered one of his episodes about Bahn Mi. A quick Google search placed me right there on the Bourdain Trail in Hoi An, a sleepy, cobble-stoned village on the central-coast of Vietnam.
Positioned between an alleyway and a shoe store, Bahn Mi Phuong is nothing more than a display case and a small kitchen with a round-plastic table and a few stools (additional seating can be found on the curb). Despite their fame, they’ve been slinging sandwiches out of the same unpretentious location for over 20 years. Behind stacks of crispy baguettes, fresh produce, and mounds of pork, two cooks are working with impressive speed and precision, churning out irresistible sandwiches to the masses.
If Subway has “sandwich artists” then these guys make that “art” look like stick figures sketched by toddlers. With only a few options which I’ll call “The Works” and “The Works with Egg,” I can see how they’ve perfected their craft. There may be more varieties, but I don’t speak Vietnamese and I was too hungry to care. It was 9am and I wanted sandwiches (I’m writing this at 4pm and I REALLY want sandwiches again. Always plural). I pass them 30,000 VND, about $1.50 USD, and watch them split open two huge baguettes, slather them with paté and homemade mayo, lay down a charcuterie of different pork parts, and top that with a pile of thinly julienned cucumber, green mango, carrots, daikon, and a secret sauce rendered from roasted pig. Topped with fresh cilantro and an egg, the two masterpieces slid off the line and straight into my hands.
No chairs, no table, no napkins and I managed to make quite a mess of myself, perched on a curb, with motorbikes streaking by inches from my feet. It wasn’t one of my more refined eating moments (though to be honest, there aren’t many), but I don’t care because these are the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. My mouth is on fire but I still don’t care because there is another curb around the corner that I can perch on and drink frosty 5000 VND beers. That’s only 25 Cents. Vietnam is heaven.
Now that I think about it, I’m not AS ashamed to call myself a Bourdain groupie. If it results in amazing food in interesting places then I’ll follow him anywhere. So, thanks Tony, I may even “like” you on Facebook someday.
Digging in to the comfort food at Tart is like visiting your impossibly cool hippie aunt…if you were from Georgia. Or at least that’s what was conjured for this Southern girl. Every detail toes the line between quirky-cool and too-kitschy, somehow managing to land on being too much and just enough all at once.
We ordered fried chicken sandwiches, the BLET and 2 eggs with smoked trout (breakfast all day!). Executive Chef Nick Erven (formerly of Messhall) came to Tart just earlier this year and his menu didn’t disappoint. With a flair for Southern flavors tempered with a California affinity for healthier choices, everything tasted indulgent and authentic without venturing into butter-soaked Southern caricature territory (you know who you are).
While I’m always a sucker for an all-day breakfast, (not to mention bottomless mimosas and a whole punch bowl situation), the dinner menu proved just tempting enough to lure me back at a later date. Meatloaf? Hush puppies? Black eyed peas? Don’t even get me started on the desserts. I’d beat a path back to my ancestral side of the Mason-Dixon line for any of those things, but as long as Tart’s around, I can find all that goodness a lot closer to home.
After lunch, we got a quick tour of Farmer’s Daughter, the hotel similarly decked out in quirky kitsch goodness. It’s hip, but friendly. There’s a pool (which you can dive into fully clothed for a discount on your meal at Tart or take your phone in with you and get it for free), a cool outdoor lounge and totally renovated rooms (complete with denim comforters) that only hint at their cheesy motel past…but in a cool way. The location is hard to beat, and the available rental bikes make sure you can cruise the neighborhood with ease. Next time you have out-of-town guests, you should suggest they stay here. Or at least stop by for an awesome crowd-pleasing meal. If you’re cheap, you can always take a quick dip and score a deal.
This edition of “In the Kitchen” is going to take a bit of a turn. Why, you ask? Well, because one of our own is in the middle of her own personal hell – an extremely (and we can’t emphasize extremely enough) limited diet to identify food allergies and sensitivities. We won’t give you all the details, because, well, they’re kinda gross. But here’s a little peek at what happens when you take someone who loves food (and writes about it daily) and take away dairy, grains, gluten, soy, sugar, tomatoes, eggplant, spices, tropical fruit, eggs, shellfish, beans, alcohol (and some other stuff she can’t even remember right now because she’s carb-deprived) for 6 weeks. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. (My dog/kitchen helper is awfully cute, though.)
You may notice from that list above that my food choices mostly include meat and green vegetables. So, that’s I’ve been cooking…a lot of. My local Farmer’s Market has become my new best friend. I can get pretty much all my produce there and save the major investment for meat from Whole Foods (and I do mean ‘major investment’). Working long-ish days means I usually have to do all my cooking on the weekend and then reheat leftovers throughout the week. Here’s one such weekend.
So I start by soaking all the green stuff in a vinegar mixture to kill any yucky stuff like E. Coli and agitate everything around to get off the dirt/bugs/other things I don’t want to think about. We’ve got kale, brussels sprouts and some broccoli in there. Fiber, much? Not pictured is all the bacon I cooked while my veggies were in the bath. Now, I don’t normally condone cooking things in bacon fat (despite my solidly Southern roots), but desperate times call for desperate measures. Spoiler alert: that kale is getting cooked in all the bacon pan drippings. Believe it.
Here it is, freshly washed and dried and piled in the dutch oven. With the added bacon-y deliciousness in there, all I add is a little garlic and a sprinkle of pepper. Stir it all together and then let it wilt down to a texture you don’t have to chew for about 3 days (you know what I’m talking about). I keep the kale leaves moving so they all get a nice even coating and don’t burn. Try this. You can thank me later.
While that’s working, I gather and prep all the fixin’s for my chicken. The stuff in the bowl (sage, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil) go on top of the bird. Everything else goes inside. Yes, I feel a little strange taking advantage of a chicken with aromatics. After you taste the finished product, it’ll feel less wrong. A couple garlic cloves, about 1/4 – 1/2 of a sweet onion (depending on the size), some citrus (lemon or lime), and a little bonus basil gets tucked inside, and the oil and herbs get rubbed into the skin. Like so.
(Note: I hate fussing with twine nonsense, so I just cut a small slit through the skin to tuck the legs in and keep them from getting too dry.) Pop that bird in a 425 oven for around an hour ’til it’s lovely, golden and ready to be devoured.
While the oven is occupied, I’ll put the crock pot to use, too. Chop up some onion, more herbs, pour in some chicken stock (for moisture) and top with pork chops, salt, pepper, dry mustard and anything else that would go well. (If I was allowed, there would also be some cumin and maybe a little chipotle in there.) Set that sucker on low for about 8 hours.
Not pictured: the broccoli and Brussels sprouts I roasted with garlic, rosemary-infused olive oil and onion. Also not pictured: the parmesan cheese I would’ve really liked to sprinkle on top of both those vegetables….if I could.
So there you have it, friends. If you’re free to eat whatever your heart desires, have some cheese for me. I’ll be eating my bazillionth salad and sweating meat until this madness ends.
Many of you avid Starbucks fans may have noticed the change in the pastry display at your favorite neighborhood coffee chain. Where are your maple cranberry orange scones? What about the marshmallow dream bars? Gone are the dull baggies used to carry your breakfast, and in are unfamiliar pink paper pockets that oddly complement the famous (if slightly odd) mermaid logo. Everything’s changing. I’m confused. Hold me, Starbucks.
The coffee company has recently partnered with La Boulange – a delightful landmark of a French bakery and café in San Francisco – to bring about a new era of offering fine pastries along with your daily hit of caffeine that keeps you functional and happy. Native Frenchman and founder of the bay area bakery, Pascal Rigo, has been whipping up baked goods for most of his life and is finally expanding his puffy little delicacies across the country. When we heard the news that the partnership was happening and La Boulange’s incredible pastries would be making their debut at our local Starbucks, we knew we had to pick some up to try. It was a good life decision.
Here’s what we daintily sampled with grace and dignity (and definitely did not gluttonously shove into our faces): raspberry passion fruit loaf cake, blueberry yogurt muffin with honey, carrot cake muffin with pecans, ham and cheese croissant, and tomato and cheese croissant. (The chocolate croissant didn’t make an appearance here because they are apparently in such high demand that seeing one is akin to crossing paths with a sasquatch…though hopefully more tasty.)
Not only were the muffins moist and the croissants perfectly flakey, but the flavors were well balanced – no cheap knockoffs here. As someone whose morning tastes skew towards the savory over the sweet, the ham and cheese croissant was the clear winner, mostly because the tomato and cheese reminded me too much of pizza. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. For diehard fans of La Boulange, it’s hard to compare to the just-out-of-the-oven freshness and mind-blowing variety of the real thing, but Starbucks has won a huge victory for their food reputation with these new additions. Our only negative was the bit of despair when you realize a few crumbs on your greedy little fingers are all that’s left of your pastry.
Crenshaw Boulevard, Skid Row, South Vermont: these are places we Angelenos associate with the term “street.” Night + Market’s location on Sunset? Perhaps slightly “street” when Little Wayne is performing down the strip at the Roxy, but even then… not exactly. While the address of the restaurant is somewhat contradictory to its street food concept, I’ll let it slide—Night + Market’s flavors are better fitting for a Thai palace than our pot-holed LA roads anyway.
Step into Night + Market and you get a sense of authenticity right off the bat. With walls full of a mishmash of framed artwork, Thai album covers, sporadic neon signs and a Buddhist homage to one’s ancestors, one could easily forget they’re in West Hollywood. Well, if they didn’t notice the communal tables. Or the ever-so popular Mason jar glasses. Oh, or the mixologist-approved drink list. And once you notice the list, trust me when I say, the Mekong Old-Fashioned with a splash of lychee juice makes the perfect aperitif. In terms of flavor, this is just the beginning…
After a single sip of that drink, I put myself in Chef Kris Yenbamroong’s hands. So when it said the papaya salad “should be enjoyed with sticky or coconut rice” on the menu, I had to oblige. The curried crab and crab fried rice, I swear was made with ingredients straight from Krabi. And the pad thai? Had the perfect amount of spice and tasted like the Thai noodle we all know and love, yet was somehow better than any other—could the dried shrimp have made it that good? Foolishly stuffing myself with their generous portions, I saved no room for dessert, but I have no doubt that the ice cream sandwich would have been mind blowing. Because hell, even the beef grapow sounded mind blowing and I don’t even eat meat.
I can’t quite put my tongue on it, but Night + Market really is the freshest tasting, most flavorful, yet authentically done Thai food sans MSG I’ve ever had… well, ever. But be warned: mentally prepare to wait a bit, as everything takes a bit longer than you’d expect. And the bill you’ll receive in the end is much, much greater than any you’ve paid in Thaitown. Your belly will un-regretfully know exactly why.
I know it’s been a rough week when I start planning what I’ll be baking over the weekend on Friday night. It was one of those weeks. Therapy baking ensued.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the cheesy baked goodness.
As an avid reader of Shutterbean, I owe Tracy a thank you for providing me with lots of new recipes to try, this one included. So here it is:
makes 2 5 x 9 loaves
recipe slightly adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 5 ounces sharp orange cheddar, coarsely shredded
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Grease two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Using your fingers, mix 2 tbsp. butter into the flour mixture until well incorporated (it should look like sand). Add the cheese; toss to coat. Add the buttermilk and stir until the dough just comes together. Divide between the pans; smooth the tops.
Cut a shallow cross all the way across the tops of the loaves. Thinly slice the remaining 1 tbsp. butter. Place the butter in the cuts in each loaf. Bake until the top is browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan at least 30 minutes before slicing.
I definitely did not wait the prescribed cooling period before slicing. How can any normal human being resist not one but TWO pans of warm, melty, buttery, fresh-out-of-the-oven-y cheese bread?! They can’t. Or at least I couldn’t. And it was just as dreamy as I had hoped.
Curious how the process looks? Oh, good. Because there are photos to share.
Shred up your cheese. Sneak a few bites. Get your dry ingredients whisked, mix in the cheese, and bring the wet ingredients to the party.
Stir it up until all the liquid is incorporated. It’s gonna be messy. Divide the dough in half and plop it into 2 greased baking dishes.
Now it gets really diabolical. Slash a little cross into the tops and shove some butter in there. Trust me.
Once it comes out of the oven, all golden and buttery and delicious, I dare you to try to wait long enough for it to cool down before you begin shoving pieces in your mouth like an animal.
Can you believe it? The man behind 23 turns 5-0 this Sunday, February 17th. Obviously the occasion needed to be celebrated. And clearly no small gathering was going to cut it.
Michael Jordan’s Steak House is celebrating this milestone event with a five-course wine dinner in Chicago, New York, and Connecticut. Each course features Terlato wines (including some of Michael’s favorites), expertly paired with featured dishes crafted by chefs in MJ’s restaurants (you can see a sample above). The meal follows the course of Jordan’s career, from high school, through his record-shattering basketball career, and to present day as a majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
We’re proud to have had a hand in the design celebrating the first 50 years of Michael Jordan and wish him nothing but continued success for the next 50.
If you’re near a Michael Jordan’s Steak House this Sunday, make reservations soon to enjoy this special wine dinner & charity auction. But because he’s just that kind of guy, each table dining that night will receive a complimentary slice of 23 layer cake to celebrate.
Leisure activities can be so inefficient. You gotta go to dinner. THEN the movie (or the other way around if you’re into matinees) and there’s still cocktails afterwards. It’s such a time suck. Thankfully, AMC has found a way to maximize your free time by stacking the meal, the drinks and the entertainment all in one reclining lounge chair of indulgence.
Here’s the skinny: it’s 21+ only, so no poorly behaved children & teenagers (and the poorly behaved adults have no excuse). Seats are assigned, so no line-standing. There’s a full bar in the lobby if you’ve got time to kill, or you can order anything from the bar in the theater (if you’ve had a rough day or really hate your movie). You’ll be seated in an impressively comfy recliner with a swivel tray and a server will stop by to give you instructions and/or take your order. If you want to wait ’til the film gets underway, there’s a call button to push and your server will pop up out of the shadows. We ordered a lobster flatbread and were pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The prices are a little inflated across the board, but it’s hard to argue with on-demand service in the middle of a movie.
Overall, I’d recommend checking it out because I’m not a big movie-goer, but I’d be a much more willing participant with good food and drinks to help pass the time.
See for yourself:
AMC Loews Marina 6
13455 Maxella Ave Ste 270
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Obviously, we love food. We also love lending our talents to worthy causes. Luckily, we got to combine the two for the local do-gooders at Los Angeles Food Bank. For forty years, the LA Food Bank has provided food, support, and hope to needy individuals and families in the Los Angeles area. So we jumped at the chance to have the honor of designing their 40th anniversary logo.
Just last year, the food bank distributed 60 million pounds of food to over 1 million individuals throughout Los Angeles County, with the help of more than 31,000 volunteers. To learn more about what they do, how to help, or to donate, please visit their website: http://www.lafoodbank.org.
Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica is a veritable wonderland for the cheese-obsessed (like Andrew Steiner himself), but a minefield of nightmares for the lactose-intolerant. Thankfully, we fall into the former category. Or at least we’re wannabe cheese-obsessed. We’ve had cheese. We enjoy cheese. So we went to the Cheese Man to delve deeper into dairy. The consensus? That place stinks! In the best way possible.
If you’d like to tag along on this little cheese adventure, read on. Vegans, avert your eyes. This is about to get real.
With a solid four years of press surrounding his successful shop, Andrew’s back story is pretty well known. Back when he was a server at Patina, it all started with a cart, a bunch of books and strong feelings for cheese. Innumerable wheels later, Andrew was named Maitre d’Fromage (Cheese Man for us laypeople), and the rest is history.
Being decidedly on the ‘novice’ side when it comes to cheese, we had some questions for Andrew. And if you’ve got holiday plans that call for fancy cheese, we even have some of his seasonal recommendations and tasting notes below.
When people come in and don’t know anything about cheese, where do you start? What’s a good entry-level cheese?
Well, usually I ask what they like, and most of the time the answer is, “I don’t know,” or they lead off with, “I really don’t like…” which is fine. I mean, it’s funny how many people think they do or don’t like something, but they don’t actually know. So if I’m really starting off with no information, I’ll have them try a mild cheese first, something rich and buttery, because those tend to be crowd-pleasers. It’s fun to get someone excited about something new or different. But it’s important to remember that the whole point is to enjoy what you’re eating. So when people come in and just ask for what my favorites are, I really encourage them to go through some samples. My taste could be totally different from their taste. You try some and find what you like. And then pair it with what appeals to you. It’s really pretty simple.
What about the other side of the coin? How do you deal with the folks who think they know it all?
They’re a little trickier. I’ve had people come in and tell me about some great cheese they had in France and they’re so sad when I tell them they can get that cheese at Von’s. Or someone will come in raving about a cheese and I’ll order a sample to try it, because I love it when I can learn something new. But it comes in and I’ll taste and it’s just terrible. Then these people will call me or come back in asking, “Hey, what did you think of the cheese?” or “So when are you going to start selling it?” and I have to tell them no. ‘No, I did not enjoy that,’ which is really the key factor.
Then what does it take to get you excited about stocking a new cheese? And how often does that happen these days?
There’s definitely a lot of tasting involved – I get samples all the time. I’d say that as far as being surprised by a cheese, it comes down to complexity of flavors and the length – how long it stays with you. And I only find a new great one maybe once or twice a month, so it’s pretty rare. There was a cheese recently that I tried and wasn’t blown away at first, but the flavor just extended and the more it lingered, the more I liked it. I had read a review that really ripped it, and that really sucked, because I don’t think the reviewer knew what he was talking about. But that was a good one. I wrote them a letter saying I disagreed with the review. (laughs)
This is probably like asking you to choose a favorite child, but if you had to pick your favorite cheese-producing animal, is it cow, goat, or sheep?
It’s funny you ask about the favorite child because like parents would probably tell you, it depends on the day. (laughs) But if I really had to choose, I’d probably say sheep. Their milk is higher in protein and fat, so you can really pack a lot of flavor in there. Even more specifically I’d say a certain breed called Lacaune. Their milk is used for Roquefort cheese. It’s really phenomenal.
This time of year tends to involve a lot of hostess gifts and finger food for parties. What are your seasonal recommendations?
This first one is a work of art. It’s a Grevenbroecker from Belgium. It’s really stunning on a platter. It’s made differently than a typical blue cheese, so it develops all these “fingers” going all the way through the cheese. It’s really rich, with some sweetness and a peppery zing. It’s a wonderfully complex treat, but also really accessible for everyone. Definitely one of my top picks.
This next one is Brin d’Amour, from Corsica. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese covered in rosemary, savory, juniper berries and chili peppers. Obviously, it’s really herbaceous, but also a little sour. It’s rich enough so all those herbs really complement the flavor instead of being overpowered by it. As far as wine goes, it’s made to go with big reds, but I prefer a grassy Sauvignon Blanc for a pairing.
Oh man, this Vacherin Mont d’Or is one of the finest achievements of human civilization. It’s made from raw milk way up in the Swiss Alps. It’s this precious, high-altitude winter milk, and they wrap it in the bark of a spruce tree. The flavor is just incredible – scrambled eggs, butter, and wood. So, so good.
Thanks, Andrew for your time and cheese-pertise (exper-cheese? …too much?) After all this cheese talk (and sampling, we’re not gonna lie), we couldn’t walk out without some treats. We picked up 3 cheeses to snack on back at the office and some awesome hard-to-find beers to pair with them. And we got one of these bags to cart our loot off in.
If you get a chance to swing by Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica, we strongly suggest you stop in. Just don’t let the smell stop you.
Andrew’s Cheese Shop
Monday – Friday
11:00 AM-7:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM