Want Some Dim Sum?
There are countless perks to being a publicist; being among the first to know about the next big opening, meeting truly inspiring entrepreneurs and my personal favorite, enjoying delicious meals with great company. A few weeks ago, the Zapwater team mixed business with pleasure in the form of a strategy meeting complete with traditional dim sum.
If you’ve missed the early buzz, allow me to share the details about the next big Chicago restaurant opening (see? Job perk!). The beloved Food Buddha, Chef Rodelio Aglibot and his Intrestco business partners, Aeron Lancero and Paul Lee are here to make our food dreams come true with the opening of Yum Cha, a Dim Sum Parlor.
But before the early-April opening, plenty of work from media outreach to menu tastings (another perk!) to opening party planning, must take place. The Zapwater team prefers to start with absorbing as much information as we possibly can about the concept. For Yum Cha, this meant experiencing a traditional dim sum meal with culinary experts at Phoenix, one of the most respected restaurants in Chinatown.
Chef Rodelio did the honor of ordering for us since we were just learning the ropes of dim sum etiquette. He told us that dim sum dinning is truly an art form, from selecting your table or seat at a table to table etiquette. Combine this knowledge with Paul Lee and the Phoenix teams countless years of experience with running Chinese restaurants, and Yum Cha is sure to be a success.
After sampling a variety of dishes, including dumplings and steamed buns, it was time for dessert. I am embarrassed to say that dessert for me has always been a fortune cookie. How did I not know I was missing out on an entire world of Chinese pastries? One bite of an egg tart later and I was hooked. It’s an egg, so that means it’s appropriate for breakfast, right?
While I can’t share all of the exciting details about Yum Cha just yet, here are some tidbits to whet your appetite:
- - Opening early April 2014
- - 333 E. Randolph St.
- - Lunch, dinner, carry out and delivery (happy Sunday!)
- - Menu will highlight traditional Chinese dishes, such as Peking Duck, Chop Suey and Egg Foo Young, alongside modern dishes that showcase a playful take on the cuisine.
- - Yum Cha is Cantonese slang for “let’s go eat dim sum”
Mary Doyle, Account Supervisor
The Polar Vortex Fashion Guide: How to Look Cool While Staying Warm
As a born and raised Midwesterner, brutal, teeth chattering winters have always been a huge part of my life. As a child, winters brought sledding, snow days and hot chocolate. As an adult, winters bring tears, heart ache, utter despair, inconvenience, terror, etc. And as a whiner throughout childhood and adulthood, most of my winters are spent constantly complaining about how cold it is.
While I sit here and shiver at my own personal pity party, I might as well look on the upside of what winter brings… a new season of fashion and a chance to revisit those winter staples I love oh so much, like chunky sweaters, oversized scarves and boots of all shapes and styles. Since I’m on such a positive streak here, I’ll mention that winter provides the opportunity to look cool and cozy, all at once!
Although personal fashion creativity tends to slightly suffer during the winter, classic everyday staples take center stage! You may be cold, miserable and severely suffering from seasonal affective disorder, but you don’t have to look it.
Here is my personal winter uniform – functional, simple and neutral… And may the force be with you for the rest of this winter.
- Parka: Select a neutral color. You will likely spend a fortune and a half on this piece. You want it to be cute and functional, so chose a shade that will match every item in your wardrobe.
- Fuzzy Hat: Go for a hat over earmuffs. A fully protected head will keep you warmer and hide that second day unwashed hair.
- Oversized Scarf: AN ABSOLUTE MUST during the polar vortex. (And in my personal opinion, a chunky scarf can make or break an outfit. SHOP WISELY.)
- Leather Pants: Leather pants will make you sweat any other time of year, but during winter, they are the most fashionable insulated pants around!
- Cozy Sweater: To keep you warm and to hide all of those lattes and muffins you’ve been indulging in this season.
- Practical Boots: Traction and waterproof are the most important words to consider when buying a pair of boots. The only thing more awkward and embarrassing than seeing someone slip on ice is being the person that slips on ice.
Brigid Parr, Senior Publicist
A Year’s Worth of Lessons
On January 7,I celebrated my one-year anniversary with Zapwater. Transitioning from an intern position to a full-time assistant has brought a new insight to the PR industry. Below are some major takeaways:
(Sometimes)Title Doesn’t Matter
No matter what “title” you have, you are never too important for the little jobs. I’m always amazed at the work ethic at Zapwater, and how any team member is willing to step in to help someone in need. I will never forget the day I saw an account supervisor volunteer to work the front door at an event. Her lack of hesitation to work a position below her level really spoke to the company culture at Zapwater, and its message that, above all, we’re a team!
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
I over analyze EVERYTHING! As I move into my second year at the company, my managers have taught me the importance of confidence in your work. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes its better to just learn from your experience and move forward then dwell in the past.
Always Give 100%
Put your heart and soul in every project you do! By investing your time and talent there is no way that you can fail. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Come to work with a positive attitude and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
I’m looking forward to what this year will bring my way as I continue my journey with Zapwater. As a very famous Chicagoan once said:
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” – Oprah
Alexis Lucente, Assistant Publicist
In The (Polar) Vortex
While the days may be getting longer, winter certainly has definitely arrived. For most Americans, 2014 started off with a frosty bang. The polar vortex spared few states, even impacting places like Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina. Chicago reached a record of 16 below. It was so cold out that the lake began steaming. Hardest hit was Minneapolis which reached a brutal 23 below. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with #Chiberia and #PolarVortex.
The good news is that it’s uphill from here! However, to get you through the additional cold, dreary days ahead, here are some tips on surviving the winter doldrums.
- Get movin’. Too cold to go outside? My colleague, Stephanie P. introduced me to BodyRockTV which has fantastic workouts that you can do from the comfort of your home. Nike Training Club, another great option, is an app that lets you custom design your workouts.
- Bring nature to you. Studies show that plants help improve mood and productivity. Indoor friendly plants like airplants can help add cheer and color to dreary days.
- Stay social. Post-holidays, it can be tough to motivate yourself off of the couch but fight the urge. Simple activities like a board-game night keep you in touch with friends and keep you warm.
- Veg out. Fight the urge to overeat just because you’re bored. Load up on colorful fruits and veggies which have a host of nutritional benefits.
Try these proven tips or experiment with some of your own. Before we all know it, spring will have sprung.
- Nora Sarrawi, Vice President
** Photo credit: www.instagram.com/advckman
Social Media Spotlight: Flipagram, Video Content and the Death of Sponsored Posts
In December, we predicted that social media would scale back to the essentials and video would become a huge part of brands and company’s 2014 social media strategies. As the end of the year approached, we were excited to see what unfolded on our social pages.
Videos are everywhere.
It’s refreshing to see that instead of trying to completely reinvent the wheel again, social media teams, app developers and the big guys behind our favorite platforms are realizing the power of an old standby. There have been a lot of new developments on this front, and it’s allowing brands to explore how they create and use content in this format. Whether their navigating the newest app, working with slow motion capabilities, adhering to the 15-second time limit or something else, we’re only a month into the new year and there have been some fantastic video offerings out there.
We’re personally enjoying Flipagram, which re-launched in November 2013 with new functionality (all for the better!). Scrapbookers and kids with a love for creating nostalgic recaps of their high school sports team know the formula: take your favorite photos, add some music, put them into motion, and presto, a pretty great recap of the highlights from a major event or time period. The app saw a spike in downloads and use – becoming the top free app for the last week in December – for 2013 end of the year recaps (you know you probably did one, or at least thought about it!). Now that we’ve been exposed to the app, we can come to expect a lot more. Recaps of events, highlights of a spring runway or collection, your weekend food outings and more, all accompanied by your favorite hits at the moment. Read more at Apps Worth Downloading: Flipagram
Disclaimer: Remember to choose your song choices wisely, no one wants to look back at those memories and have Justin Bieber (who you just absolutely loved in that moment) mumbling his way through a track in the background.
The best part about all of this, it comes at a time when some of your favorite sites are making big changes. Facebook recently just announced that they will be doing away with Sponsored Posts/Stories after some privacy complaints and one big lawsuit. (Facebook to Sunset Sponsored Stores by April) The Facebook team’s solution for brands and social media pros? Be creative and engaging with the content that you’re posting on Facebook to drive more traffic to your page…. Thanks a heap for those words of wisdom, FB.
As we stressed in our end of the year blog, now more than ever, it will be critical for brands to know who they are and to own it. For their social media team to think big, while keeping content focused on the Fantastic Five (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube). We know, you know…and now we sound like the team at FB. But, what can we say, with less promotional tools or fan hatred for the ones that are still out there (Instagram ads, anyone? Which we all know are basically Sponsored Stories on a different Facebook-owned platform), we’re excited to see what brands come up with and how they use video, the newest apps, and site add-ons to their benefit. Word of mouth is totally back.
Happy 2014 and happy social media planning! Share any cool content ideas or apps you’re loving with our team on Twitter! DO IT www.twitter.com/zapwater
- Stephanie Poquette, Senior Publicist
Marriage Equality Takes Home a Grammy
Last Sunday night was the 56th annual Grammy Awards and 2014 will surely be remembered as the year that things went gay.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, known, in part, for their Marriage Equality Act anthem “Same Love,” performed their song as 33 couples – some gay, some straight – exchanged wedding vows. The moving display also included Queen Latifah moderating the vows and an appearance by Madonna, a star who came out for gay rights decades before it became the norm. Open Your Heart indeed!
In a similar key, Sara Bareilles performed her song “Brave,” which lyrically is about encouraging a gay friend to come out – this, while appearing with the ultimate mother figure, Carole King, who sang along approvingly. In another segment, young country star Hunter Hayes crooned an achingly earnest anti-bullying song, “Invisible,” whose lyrics could have been snatched right from gay columnist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. While the onstage wedding will go down as the most memorable, it should be noted all the appreciation and support that marriage equality received throughout the three plus hour broadcast.
No statement can be made without reaction from both sides of the fence accordingly. Many celebrated, including celebrities:
- My face hurts from smiling. That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to see. Much much love. Well done, Grammys – Neil Patrick Harris
- That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen on TV – The Rock
- WOW THAT was a Grammy moment for the ages. Congrats to the newlyweds!!!!! – Diane Warren
Of course, there were also some negative comments said (looking at you Kirk Cameron), but really who cares at this point.
I truly am so proud to see how far things have come just in the past year. Knowing that there is marriage equality in 17 states and growing. Knowing that starting in June, as a gay man, I can legally get married in Chicago. Knowing that all of the gay youth at home were able to tune in and feel accepted while watching the Grammy’s. Or even knowing that 28.5 million people tuned in and received the message that Same Love truly is the way of the future. Those that would argue otherwise truly seem to be in the ever decreasing minority.
Watch the entire performance at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imya_Iyu248
- Michael Corrigan, Account Supervisor
This year one of my New Year’s resolutions is to really start working out and eating right. I know that is totally cliché, but since having a baby this past summer I have found every excuse to not work out, the main one being that I hate leaving my chubby cheek nugget for even a minute!
I have also thoroughly enjoyed being able to drink cocktails again and have been enjoying Chicago’s amazing new restaurants a little too much lately (have you been to Mott St. or Nico Osteria yet? YUM!). So, I have sworn to get back into the gym in 2014 and back onto a healthy eating regime. I am back to cooking healthy meals and thought I’d share one of my absolute favorites to make. I cook Sunday night dinner every week and my house is an open door that night for friends and family to come over. It’s a tradition we’ve had for years and it’s my all-time favorite during the winter months. This is something I would make on a Sunday. It’s simple, substitutes pasta for quinoa and is a great winter meal filled with tons of flavor and none of the guilt of eating an entire bowl of pasta.
Caprese Quinoa Bake
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serving Size: 3-4
§ 2 cups cooked quinoa
§ 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce
§ 2 tablespoon tomato paste
§ 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
§ 1 cup low-fat mozzarella, divided
§ 1/2-1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
§ 1 large bunch fresh basil, cut into ribbons
§ 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat tomato sauce and tomato paste over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in parmesan, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa. Fold in half of the mozzarella and half of the tomatoes, then chop 6 fresh basil leaves and add them in too. Once combined, spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the entire quinoa mixture into the dish. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds or shredded mozzarella and the remaining tomatoes.
3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.
4. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil ribbons. Allow to sit five minutes and then serve.
** This recipe is modified from one I found on Half Baked Harvest
2014 Trend Prediction #12: 2014 and the New “DIY”
I’ve never considered myself a crafty person. It’s not that I’m not interested in it…quite the opposite actually. I love the idea of hosting a party with all my own party favors, invitations, etc. But, when Martha Stewart tells me to “start by making your own loom from just chicken wire and reclaimed wood,” I quickly throw in the towel.
Of course, that all started to change this year. Perhaps in reaction to the current economy, “do-it-yourself,” or “DIY,” is becoming a growing trend. In fact, Google Trends demonstrates that searches for the term “DIY” have dramatically increased in the past few years.
Thanks to social media tools like Pinterest, “DIY” has gone from a hobby of a select few, to mainstream. As more and more people started posting their DIY projects on Pinterest, it suddenly became accessible.
And for those DIYers who learn best from a combination of audio & visual coaching, there’s YouTube.
Taken together, these tools helped “DIY” become more than a weekend afternoon activity, it became an aspirational lifestyle that women everywhere wanted to conquer.
My prediction is that in 2014 we are going to see the DIY trend explode. We’re already starting to see it become the norm for entertaining, party favors, etc. but this is only the beginning. In 2014, I think we’ll see “DIY” transition from “do-it-yourself” to “design-it-yourself.” People will start to reject the simple how-to guides and instructions manuals, instead putting their own creative spin on projects. After all, they say this generation is known for our creative and innovative approach, why don’t we put it to good use?
In the food industry, we’re already starting to see evidence of this trend with the heightened interest in hyper-local food sourcing and food transparency. Gardening in the kitchen or balcony is gaining momentum as more people are tending to consume more vegetables and locally-sourced products. In the next year, you can expect to see more restaurants embracing this “urban gardening” trend by growing their own herbs and produce. And, as more consumers are able to grow food at home, brands will definitely tap into this trend, offering “DIY kits” as well as advice and guidance on how to drive the consumer experience to the new heights.
Just the other day, a good friend of mine told me how he wants to start making his own cheese. At first I laughed (because he’s not the patient or health-conscious type) but it really got me thinking. If the DIY trend has reached even the most late adopters, what’s next?
2014 Trend Prediction #11: Everyday Veggieday
As a publicist in the hospitality
A couple months back, Eater Chicago posted a story about the increase of vegetarian tasting menus and many Chicago restaurants. Having worked with the wonderful Chef Patrick Sheerin of Trenchermen, I loved his thoughts on working more vegetables into the menu:
“Vegetarian menus are not just a trend…it’s not going away,” Sheerin says. He cites “the science behind the diet, the potential to cure diseases and the environmental impact” for the trend, “plus it is a great challenge to our team to craft with plants as opposed to meat as the focal point of the dish.”
It’s exciting to hear that a chef is viewing this as a challenge versus an afterthought. I am already a fan of Trenchermen and am looking forward to becoming a fan of places like GT Fish & Oyster and Grace.
Later Meatless Monday, hello vegetarian every day!
2014 Trend Prediction #10: “Good For Us” Leads the Way
Goodbye, 2013, year of the selfie. I’m anxiously awaiting 2014, which I have coined the “Year of the Welfie.” In spite of the narcissism that pervades social media, we are as a culture increasingly concerned about our community, our planet and our neighbors. Next year will be about giving back, asking more of ourselves and others, wasting less and sharing more.
As someone who works in consumer marketing, I spend a lot of time reading about consumer insights and trends. Being a former literature major, it’s one of my favorite perks of the job. What I’ve noticed is that across industry, fortune 100 or budding start-up, it’s all about making sure that the things we make and do work hard for us as a collective.
The National Restaurant Association released their 2014 trends report which listed local, sustainable and children’s nutrition as its top trends. Walgreens recently debuted the country’s first-ever Net Zero Energy Store which will attempt to generate more energy than it consumes. And who didn’t cry (in some cases repeatedly) watching a city, including our President, come together to help Bat Boy save the day?!
We’re all in it together. It’s up to us to make sure we’re thinking globally, acting locally and doing our part to support one another. Next time you want to snap that Sunday Selfie think twice. A Wednesday Welfie is more sharable and way more fun.