Fitbit: Get Up and Go

October 30, 2012

Project: Fitbit Site Redesign
Client: Fitbit
Agency: Odopod
Role: Content Strategist, Copywriter

 

 

Fitbit is a set of activity trackers, devices, and apps that give you the upper hand on healthier living. How? By turning small steps into sizable changes. When redesigning the fitbit.com site, I worked closely with a visual design team to introduce the Fitbit platform.

In addition to creating consistency across visual design and voice, we crafted a system to introduce new products, including the Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale – the product page demonstrates how it works, helping you gain insights and take control of your weight by focusing on long-term trends instead of short-term blips (hello, coconut cream pie).

Nest: The Learning Thermostat

November 5, 2011

Project: Nest Site & Product Launch
Client: Nest
Agency: Odopod
Role: Copywriter, Strategist

To get people to invest in Nest, we had to convince them to care about thermostats. And for good reason. Heating and A/C represent the lion’s share of home energy use – nearly 50%. It didn’t hurt that this one was being designed by Tony Fadell’s team.

Next, it was a matter of explaining why Nest is smarter than any thermostat on the market. It learns from you and programs itself. It has the ability to save you energy and money. Win win.


I worked with a strategist to come up with the content architecture for the site. From there, I wrote the majority of copy and honed the Nest voice in the process. It resulted in a combination of storytelling, infographics, and consumer-driven features, all of which demonstrate what it’s like living with Nest and why it’s such an effective device.

Google Chrome & Virgin America Holiday Wifi

December 1, 2010

Project: Holiday Wifi with Virgin America
Client: Google Labs
Agency: BBH
Role: Scriptwriter

Thanks to Google Chrome, Virgin America passengers got to fly with free wifi during the winter holiday season. BBH was charged with promoting this offer and communicate it just before take-off. We extended the charm of Virgin’s animated in-flight safety video, bringing the gadget-toting nun into the spotlight. You can watch the video here.

Healthymagination

August 11, 2010

Project: Healthymagination
Client: GE
Agency: Big Spaceship
Role: Content Strategist, Copywriter

GE selected Big Spaceship to define the digital presence for Healthymagination, an ongoing dialogue around better health. The agency established this effort as a shared commitment to creating better health for more people, together.

Healthymagination is a celebration of individuals and groups that are innovating the world of healthcare—by improving the patient-doctor relationship, advancing medical treatment, and transforming good health into a lifestyle. The Healthymagination ecosystem extends into media-rich stories, a blog, social media channels, data visualizations, and partnerships with WebMD, GOOD, and others.

I worked with a team of strategists to define the editorial voice for this engagement and to extend that voice onto the Healthymagination site (particularly the blog), on Facebook, and Twitter. I also created content for Morsel, an iPhone app that translates healthy behaviors into simple daily tasks. Over 20,000 Morsels were completed with the first two weeks of launch.

Lastly, I wrote a feature story exploring arts-based therapies that MoMA and others are employing to transform how we understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Good stuff.

The Little Owl: A Prime Perch

January 15, 2010 | add comment

This article was originally published in Greenwich Village Block News, a print publication in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Ninety Bedford Street once occupied a shoe store. An interior door led to former speakeasy Chumley’s (which is rumored to reopen). Today, that address is home to The Little Owl. If you’re in the right seat, you can look out the window to see how the restaurant got its name. At Bedford and Grove sits a wooden building—the oldest one in the West Village—and on the corner of the roof is a statue of an owl.

When owner and executive chef Joey Campanaro was renovating, paper covered the windows. When he pulled it down, he saw the statue and settled on the name. Because the building is landmarked, the red walls and blue awning that preceded the eatery remain intact. You might recognize them from Friends—the location was used as the exterior setting for the sitcom.

Despite the economy, the place is always full—reservations are taken up to a month in advance (and are wisely suggested). You can of course take your chances without one. Of the 32 seats in the restaurant, the four at the bar can’t be reserved.

While it lacks the legacy of many West Village establishments, The Little Owl has quickly woven itself into the fabric of the neighborhood. I recently sat down with Beverage Director Tracy Gribbon to learn more about what makes the establishment so damn charming.

One thing you’ll notice is that the menu—a reflection of the space—is tiny. It’s manageable…selective. An emphasis on quality, seasonal ingredients stems from longstanding relationships with food purveyors and specialized distributors. “The product is really important to us,” says Tracy. Specials are dictated by what’s freshest and most readily available.

Dishes like the whole fish reveal the Mediterranean influence that is Joey’s specialty, although the gravy meatball sliders are the most coveted item on the menu. The recipe is included here, compliments of the chef.

If you crave a martini before the sliders, you’re out of luck. Your options are beer or wine. Licensing was the initial reason for not offering hard alcohol. But management soon realized they enjoyed the ease of serving only beer and wine. Besides that, a full bar would require expertise in spatial configuration. Tracy has concocted a handful of wine-based cocktails. The Fraise Passé, a blend of lemonade, vin blanc, sparkling wine, and fresh strawberry juice is particularly refreshing.

While she’s held nearly every position imaginable in the industry, Tracy started out at a Jewish deli in Atlanta. Fourteen at the time, she was relied on to deal with a few ornery regulars (and she was good at it). Now responsible for the entire wine selection, she enjoys getting to know winemakers and reps. After meeting with Kyle MacLachlan, she added his cabernet sauvignon, Pursued By Bear, to the offerings. You’re more likely to see celebrities dining rather than promoting wines, however. Barbara Bush showed up not long ago.

Regardless of any luminary appeal, The Little Owl remains friendly and unassuming. Joey’s team is a close one, which explains the affable respect with which they treat their customers. As Tracy says, “We’re in the business of providing a good time, so we should enjoy it.”

The Little Owl’s Gravy Meatball Sliders

Ingredients

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
Arugula leaves (optional)
18 small soft rolls, split horizontally

Preparation

Mix all meats, panko, 1/2 cup water, 6 tablespoons cheese, egg, egg yolk, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in large bowl. Form into eighteen 2-inch-meatballs.

Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry meatballs until brown all over. Transfer to plate. Pour off drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add olive oil to skillet. Add onion, garlic, basil and fennel seeds. Sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add all tomatoes with juices. Bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Puree sauce in processor until almost smooth. Return to same skillet. Add meatballs. Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes longer.

Place arugula leaves on bottom of each roll, if desired. Top each with 1 meatball. Drizzle meatballs with some of sauce and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and 2 tablespoons cheese. Cover with tops of rolls. Makes 6 servings.

Enjoy!

Berta’s Tap Room

October 14, 2009 | add comment

My grandpa Woody Berta owned a tavern in Ottawa, Illinois, across from the post office. He and his two brothers sold it ages ago (and he’s since passed on), but Berta’s continues on, with a pool table slightly askew and burgers on toasted buns.

In the Tap Room’s heyday, Woody and his brothers, Ray and Charlie, had a small flyer printed by the local Union boys. The front says “Berta’s TAP ROOM” and has a drawing of a bubbly martini glass. The lower right corner reads “Air Conditioned for Your Comfort.” The inside shows a map of the city limits. And the back has the poem printed below. When I asked my grandpa, he couldn’t remember who wrote it, but talk about atmosphere.

When you’re startin’ out some evening
And the night is cold and drear…
I’d suggest you stop at Berta’s
For a little “Atmosphere.”

Then next morning bright and early
When the “shakes” are getting’ near:
Yeah…you’re getting smarter, brother,
Woody fed ya too much beer.

When you’re reachin’ for the aspirin
’Cause your stomach’s feelin’ weak,
It’s ’cause Chuck was leanin’ heavy
On the bottle—so to speak.

Then you face the little woman
With those alibis galore…
When she’s finished in the bathroom—
Wipin’ Berta’s off the floor.

But you’re wrong, it isn’t whiskey
That’s got ya feelin’ queer—
Ray just poured an over-dose
Of Berta’s “ATMOSPHERE”!!

 

Cafe Cluny’s Dark Chocolate Torte

February 1, 2009 | add comment

This article was originally published in WestView, a print publication in New York’s West Village.

Oh, the many sweets to be found in the West Village—chocolate chip bread pudding at Blue Ribbon Bakery, profiteroles at August, “banoffee” pie at the Spotted Pig, the list goes on. There is one West Village treat, however, that is far superior to all others. It makes Jacques Torres hot chocolate seem rather ordinary and turns Magnolia cupcakes into dog scraps.

This dessert, though served at Café Cluny, is baked in TriBeCa and shipped, ever so gently, up to the neighborhood. I speak of my beloved dark chocolate torte. If you have yet to try it, drop this paper immediately and find your way over to the corner of West 4th and West 12th Streets. It is a rich slice of heaven, topped with a dollop of mascarpone.

Because of Café Cluny’s pint-sized kitchen, the torte is made farther downtown at sister restaurant, the Odeon. Both are owned by Lynn Wagenknecht and partners, as is Café Luxembourg. Jackie Zion, pastry chef at the Odeon, invited me into the kitchen to learn how to make this delectable treat.

As she prepped her station, I learned about Jackie’s first job, one that you might say set her down a culinary path. At age 14, she worked at a Dairy Queen in Bergen County, New Jersey. In between making Blizzards, changing mixers and decorating cakes, she realized how much fun she had bustling around a kitchen and learned a valuable lesson early on. “When you see somebody with an ice cream cone,” she said, “they’re just so happy.” This simple truth stayed with her.

Jackie went on to study fine arts but became disenchanted with the growing emphasis on digital techniques. She yearned for something more tangible and soon enrolled in the New York Restaurant School to study as a pastry chef. “I’m a bad cook,” she said with a laugh, explaining that what she loves about baking¾as opposed to cooking¾is the precision it demands.

Aside from making all of the desserts for Café Cluny and the Odeon (their menus have little overlap), she makes ice cream for Café Luxembourg. Jackie enjoys making this versatile sweet because it gives her a chance to explore myriad flavors. The day of my visit, I helped her fold melted chocolate into mint ice cream to make mint chocolate chip. She had steeped mint leaves in the milk and cream to give it an exceptionally refreshing flavor.

The dark chocolate torte has been on the menu at Café Cluny for about a year. One of the restaurant owners had shared with Jackie a recipe that she began toying with. The original called for solely unsweetened chocolate. She instead balances equal parts unsweetened and 72% chocolate. Her favored brand is San Francisco-based Guittard. Coincidentally, my former boss (and the woman somewhat responsible for my move to New York) is now part of the Guittard family. The chocolate remains one of my favorites and is ideal for baking.

If the choice of Guittard wasn’t enough to earn my loyalty, Jackie’s comment that “white chocolate is not even chocolate” swiftly did so. She doesn’t strike me as a snob on any front, but when it comes to chocolate, let’s be honest, dark is best, milk has its place, but white is just wrong.

As Jackie made the dessert, I picked up a few insider tips, like relying on superfine sugar because it dissolves better and using kosher salt for its taste. Now, any pastry chef worthy of the title knows that water and chocolate don’t get along well. Jackie employs an unconventional method to get around this. First, she combines water with butter and sugar over heat. She then removes the mixture from the stovetop and folds the chocolate to smoothly melt it in.

The torte is less complicated to make than I had anticipated, and the finished product is delicious. As always, it is the perfect blend of bittersweet flavor and a creamy, almost ganache-like texture. The accompanying mascarpone is unsweetened, though Jackie had me try it sweetened, which is her preference. It’s nice, but I am partial to the former. Be warned, this dessert is incredibly rich. You may want to split a slice. Or, if you’re like me, pair it with a glass of red wine and have it for dinner. It makes for a brilliant entrée.

Café Cluny Dark Chocolate Torte

6 oz. 72% chocolate
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
5 eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. superfine sugar
8 oz. unsalted butter
1 cup water (plus more for water bath)
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whip eggs with 1/3 of sugar and pinch of salt for ten minutes or until size quadruples. Heat rest of sugar with water and butter in small saucepan. Once melted, remove from heat and add chocolate. Whisk until chocolate has melted. Combine with egg mixture, blending until smooth. Pour into 9-inch pan, bake in water bath (add water to height of batter) for 30 minutes. Let set once it is out of the oven. Serve warm (microwave if needed), sprinkled with powdered sugar. Place a dollop of mascarpone on each slice.