The Centerpiece Will Observe You

Posted on February 14, 2012 by Comments Off

I’m a little behind on my event industry magazines, so just recently discovered an article on the Museum of Contemporary Art‘s Los Angeles gala this past November.

I’ve both planned and attended many non-profit galas and they definitely fit a standard model – ballroom or tent, round tables of 10, lovely (but cost-effective) florals.  While a tried-and-true formula, art museums definitely fall in to the category of those institutions that should challenge convention and do things a bit more creatively.

With that in mind, MOCA definitely stepped outside of the box with their 2011 benefit.   Curated by performance artist Marina Abramovic, the goal of the event was to engage guests in a different way.  Each of the 750 guests was given a white lab coat to wear upon arriving (much to the dismay of certain fashionistas) to serve as the “great equalizer” (source).

When guests ”entered the main dinner tent, dozens of performers were in place kneeling on Lazy Susans beneath rectangular dinner tables, heads poking through those holes so that they could turn quietly and make eye contact with the guests. (A few other performers lay on circular tables, nude, breathing life into the skeletons resting on top of them.)” (source).

Once seated, “guests were instructed to behave themselves at their dinner tables. “Look but don’t touch,” read the cards. “The centerpiece will observe you. You may observe the centerpiece. No touching, feeding, offering drink, or disrespecting the centerpiece. All communication and connection with the centerpiece must be non-verbal.”" (source)

As a guest, I can imagine that this would either be a really uncomfortable or really inspiring experience. Some recaps just highlight how awkward of an experience it was to have someone (you don’t know) stare at you for an entire meal… others triumped the creativity of the concept.

In addition to the unique table decor (it feels really strange to describe someone’s head as decor, but…) and a live performance by Debbie Harry, the dessert course left a bitter taste in many attendee’s mouths.

As articles described it – “since petits fours or cupcakes might have been much too staid a way to end the evening—no?—dessert appeared in the form of cakes in the shapes of Harry’s and Abramović’s bodies, carved up for guests’ indulgence” (source)  and “Harry stabbed her likeness — made out of cake — pulling out a heart of red velvet” (source).  Needless to say, not all guests were thrilled with the theatrics of this dramatic ending.

Other than riling people up –  debates errupted in the blogosphere about topics ranging from what constitutes art to violence against women – what did MOCA accomplish by going outside of the box with their gala? From the outside observer, it’s all about coverage. Their 2011 gala got loads more coverage (good AND bad) than any other year and encouraged people worldwide to have a conversation about MOCA and the creativity it fosters / supports.

Team Building Trend: Going MacGyver in Central Park

Posted on December 29, 2011 by Comments Off

We get a lot of requests on our team for unique team building activities. We’ve done everything from cell phone-driven scavenger hunts around NYC to go-kart racing. When we saw this UrbanDaddy post about Mountain Scout Survival School, we had to add it to our idea rolodex.

According to UrbanDaddy, the Mountain Scout Survival School is a “Central Park–based wilderness crash course that’ll show you how to build a fire, purify water and turn just about anything into a deadly weapon…

The man in charge of this operation [is] an eccentric former stuntman/SWAT consultant named Shane. Over the course of an afternoon, Shane will teach you how to handle virtually every emergency (or win any bar bet) using only common materials found around you. Tree bark (or a cocktail napkin…) is woven into rope, leaves are built into shelter, and a butter knife and some twigs transform into every squirrel’s worst nightmare.” (Source: UrbanDaddy)

I’d love to use Survival School to build camaraderie with clients, colleagues and friends.  Do you think you’d be up for the challenge?

Bribe Not!

Posted on November 29, 2011 by Comments Off

Our friends at BCD Travel recently brought to our attention the passing of the UK Bribery Act of 2010 (it went into effect this July). 

Their newsletter article on how this Act applies to event planners is really interesting – and important, for those thinking to plan any events inside the UK.

For example, “when the U.K. government enacted the new legislation in April 2010, vagueness in the wording caused considerable concern that standard corporate hospitality – such as entertaining clients at sporting events – might be deemed illegal. The U.K. government therefore delayed enforcement of the Act to publish clarification of the areas of uncertainty.

“The guidance it issued in March 2011 made it clear that ‘reasonable and proportionate’ hospitality was perfectly acceptable, at which point many meetings managers, including U.K.-based ones, switched off, thinking the legislation had little relevance beyond activities such as arms dealing or large civil engineering contracts,” says Ian Wilson, a consultant for BCD Meetings & Incentives. “However, there is still work to be done. For example, what is ‘reasonable and proportionate’ hospitality, and what do you do about facilitation payments? The key requirement is you have to show you have some procedures and processes in place.”” (Source: BCD Travel)

Bottom line, excessive hospitality with lavish amenities for your guests can result in big trouble and big fines. This even extends to the event planner – if your site visit at a hotel is deemed longer than necessary to inspect it for use, you’re considered to be in violation of the Act.

There is still a lot of gray area and there’s still a lot that will need to be clarified (and hopefully not at the expense of some poor, unsuspecting event planner).  If you’re still unsure, BCD offers some commonsense tests:

What would competitors say? — “The simplest way for a company … to assess the risk of hospitality being considered to be a potential bribe may be to ask, in relation to each item of hospitality, ‘Would my competitors think this hospitality is excessive/suspicious?’” says the Olswang report. “If so, best practice would be to refrain, or reduce the scope of the hospitality to a more proportionate level.”

Is the host present? — Sending clients to a sporting event or dinner is much more likely to be frowned on if the host company is not present. In the case of public officials, a safe approach is to require explicit approval for attendance from the invited official’s organization.

Is the hospitality transparent and documented? — Some companies are setting up central registers of all hospitality offered and accepted.

Fall Comfort Food – New York

Posted on October 18, 2011 by Comments Off

We often get asked where to eat.  We all have some pretty decisive answers for those questions, and if we don’t know a city, we are the ultimate investigators.

One city we do know (and love) is New York. And nothing is better than autumn in New York. The air is crisp, the leaves are crimson and the comfort food options are out of this world.

So where would we go?

Gramercy Tavern (a perennial favorite) is doing a cider tasting menu on the Tavern side. The roasted Yorkshire suckling pig with autumn root vegetables and pears is what stands out on this menu – accompanied by a local pear cider, this sounds perfect for a blustery day.

And how could you not stop by season-changer Park Avenue Autumn?  Their menu just screams fall – from the fig carpaccio to the roasted pumpkin soup.  But what stands out to us as the coziest option is the simplest choice – the roasted chicken accompanied by pumpkin pie (yes, you read that right).

Cold weather also demands soup and New York is a veritable quandry of ramen locations. I’ve been to Momofuku Noodle Bar and while good, I’m more interested in trying Ippudo which Frank Bruni insists is much better than Noodle Bar and Minca.

And for dessert? I’ve wanted to go to abc kitchen for ages, and their fall-inspired desserts make this field trip even more necessary. Think caramel bread pudding with roasted almond ice cream or warm doughnuts with bacon fudge sauce.  Yum!

The only thing that would make a weekend filled with indulgent food better is a little time outside. Take the family to the Pumpking Festival in Central Park or head outside of the city to do check out the fall foliage.

Planning for Fall Travel?

Posted on October 6, 2011 by Comments Off

Just because summer is coming to end, doesn’t mean your travel plans should. Don’t worry if you don’t have something booked yet, with the help of your trusty phone (we’re Windows Phone gals ourselves), you’ll be ready to embark on an excursion in no time.

Step 1: Choose your destination & book it!
Trip Advisor: With Trip Advisor for Windows Phone you can read travel reviews from travelers, view photos and maps, and even search for cheap flights, so you can make an informed decision for your next destination.

Step 2: Find your hotel
Kayak: On the hunt for a hotel? Kayak for Windows Phone lets you compare hundreds of travel sites in seconds, so you’ll get the biggest bang for your traveling buck.

 Step 3: Pick your ride
Avis: With the Avis mobile app for Windows Phone you can create, modify and cancel reservations right from your phone.

 Step 4: Keep your plans organized (and brag to all of your friends)
My Trips: Keep all of your travel details organized with My Trips. View a list of your upcoming trips, reserved flights, lodging accommodations, rental cars and beyond, right from your WP. Want to announce where you’re headed? With seamless social network integration, you can keep all of your FB friends and tweeps updated with the latest. 

Step 5: Leave on a jet plane
British Airways: Traveling made easy. This app provides instant access to live information about your next flight – including departure time, gate number, and can even serve as your boarding pass!

Step 6: Assimilate to your surroundings
Currency Converter Pro: Assess just how far your budget will stretch by using this currency converter. Described as the most unique currency converter, this app provides conversion rates between 147 of the world’s currencies.

Polyglot: Leave your native tongue behind with the help of polyglot, your personal translator. This app provides the ability to translate text between more than 30 languages and offers playback audio.

Step 7: Explore, take pictures, ENJOY… and brag to all of your friends
Apict: Snap photos, add the polaroid effect with Apict, and upload to Facebook.

R.S.V.P.: The R Stands for Respond

Posted on September 16, 2011 by 4 Comments

Joining us today is fellow Waggener Edstrom blogger Word Surgeon.  The team at Work Shoe Blisters is all too aware of the importance of a timely invitiation response.  We loved Word Surgeon’s take on the subject – as well as the history of the term. Enjoy!

Word Surgeon is hardly Politeness Man. But it’s time to ask why people who receive an invitation with a request to R.S.V.P. can’t seem to grasp what the R stands for.

It’s an action verb, people: Respond!

R.S.V.P. is a bit of a rarity in a couple of ways. First, it’s an abbreviation from French. To spell it out: “répondez, s’il vous plait,” or “respond, please.” Perhaps it no longer pleases people to reply.

R.S.V.P. is also an exception to AP Style, which says that abbreviations of three or more letters do not take periods.

Faced with an R.S.V.P., people these days tend to reply only if they are coming and tend not to reply if they are not coming. But reply you should, whatever your intention, in a timely manner. A host wants to know who will be there with enough lead time to be able to provide food, beverages, and any other perks or party supplies. If you don’t reply, but do show up, you risk being left hungry, sober and sans gift bag. Quel dommage!

When you see R.S.V.P., let the host know your plan. It’s in your best interest not to be the pathetic invitee who replies — but not till too late in the afternoon of the evening event. By then all arrangements are made and your reputation is sealed. First responders are heroes, unlike last responders.

Word Surgeon knows more about language than manners, so toss him a language question; you’ll be sure to get a polite answer.

Image: Word Surgeon

Coffee Jet Packs?

Posted on September 14, 2011 by Comments Off


Quite possibly the coolest way to serve coffee I’ve ever seen… taken at Microsoft’s //build/ with my Windows Phone.

Pinched from Virgin Atlantic

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Comments Off

Our friends Simon and Mary gave these to the Work Shoe Blisters team today. These little silver airplanes are the business class salt & pepper shakers provided by Virgin Atlantic.   What we love about them is the message on the bottom of their little silver feet – “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.”  Kudos to Virgin Atlantic for making chotskies cool enough to want to pinch.

Edible Masterpieces

Posted on August 11, 2011 by Comments Off

I have a longstanding love/love relationship with the Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. I’ve been to quite a few of his restaurants (you can read about past trips here) and I have to admit, I was quite excited to hear that he’s the mastermind behind the new café at the Whitney – a little place called Untitled.  It offers simple, comforting and seasonal cooking in a coffee shop setting.

Untitled, at The Whitney

The menu is definitely much simpler than the other Union Square Hospitality Group offerings. The All Day Menu features classics like cheesy eggs and huckleberry buttermilk pancakes. Dinner is served only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and, with three courses priced at $46 and a corkage fee of $10, the meal is an outrageous bargain according to NY standards (source: Tasting Table).   But knowing that chef Chris Bradley (formerly of Gramercy Tavern) is running the show, you have to assume that these things are anything but ordinary.

This is now the second Danny Meyer restaurant that’s opened in a museum – there’s also The Modern at MOMA (which, if you’re in the hood, is definitely worth a visit).  This got me thinking – museums aren’t typically known for their fine dining, so what’s driving this trend?

The last few years have seen an influx of high-end, celebrity-chef driven museum dining options.  Gone are the days of hot dogs and astronaut ice cream. The likelihood of having a seasonal risotto with a glass of wine is much more common – and only if you’ve booked a reservation.

The Wright, Guggenheim Museum

The Wright at the Guggenheim in New York has won numerous awards (2010 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant Design and a pretty solid Zagat rating).  There’s Lincoln at Lincoln Center, a “modern interpretation of Italian cuisine” that has gorgeous views of the reflecting pool and Henry Moore sculpture. There’s Zola at DC’s International Spy Museum.  And, while not a restaurant, a unique collaboration and one of my favorite places – SF MOMA’s Rooftop Coffee Bar which is run by Blue Bottle Coffee and Miette Patisserie (you can read more about my visit here).

Lincoln Restaurant, Lincoln Center

Megan explored this in her post on Memorable Meals and I think this only reinforces the point. Restaurateurs and museums are seeing increased value in enhancing a museum visit through untraditional means – food.





Images from Untitled, The Wright, and the New York Times.

The New Restaurant Reviewer

Posted on July 7, 2011 by 4 Comments

Imagine you’re at a nice restaurant or a coffee shop or even the latest burger joint enjoying your meal when someone busts out their SLR camera and starts snapping glamour shots of their food. They’re moving their plate so it captures the best light, they’re angling their latte so the foam art shows up just so, and they’re just becoming generally annoying…

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I appreciate more than a well-done latte or some gorgeous molecular gastronomy. But enough is enough.

New York Magazine had a great article of just this topic. It seems that more and more NYC restaurants are embracing the no-photo policy.

Photo from Happy Healthy Life

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is one of these restaurants and it was interesting to read why restaurants are starting to institute this policy:

“The first is that it’s annoying both for [the chef], and for other diners, if a customer is snapping shots of the eighteen courses served at the restaurant. [The restaurant also believes that] Photos floating around the web will ruin the element of surprise for his customers, most of whom make their reservations six weeks out.”

When it comes to fine dining, I’d have to agree.

New York Magazine writer Phoebe Damrosch goes on to outline her proposed photos-in-restaurants policy:

“I know I am not alone in being interrupted all day by phone calls, text messages, and incoming e-mails. On the occasions that I manage to sneak out to a restaurant, I just want a glass of wine, something delicious to eat, a little eye contact, enough time to just enjoy myself — all fleeting, and all hard to quantify, document, or post to a Flickr page.

… If you aren’t planning on writing about your dining experience and are instead just going to upload your food photos to Facebook so that your tenth-grade lab partner can “Like” them, consider not taking the shots. Instead, enjoy your dinner, enjoy your company, and then tweet about it on the way home.”

Well said, Phoebe.

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