A few years ago, my sister (chef to the core) introduced me to Yotam Ottolenghi. I was a little skeptical at first but bravely tried a few recipes. His shakshuka is amazing and the orange olive oil cake, steeped in syrup, defies reason. I’ve added orange juice to a ham-hock soup. And I’ve added fistfuls of freshly ground herbs to salad dressings convinced that no one will be able to eat the dressed salad, only to be stunned by the flavors.

Yotam’s recipes are magical.

And now, joy of joys, comes Yotam’s latest offering, Sweet. I love the Australian connection and I love the recipes. It’s hard to choose which ones to try. Think saffron, orange and honey madeleines; tahini and halva brownies; pistachio and rosewater semolina cake; almond butter cake with cardamom and plums; apricot and amaretto cheesecake; schiatcciata with grapes and fennel seeds; or lemon and blackcurrant stripe cake – my first attempt made with mixed berries instead (pictured above) for Christmas Day. Yotam unabashedly loves sugar, and so do I.

Getting to that picture-perfect cake wasn’t a picture-perfect affair. I’ve learned, just like running a business, that baking can be a little chaotic. What you present to the world does not necessarily reveal the missteps that got you there. The nicks and dents in the cake can be filled in with just a little extra crème patissiere to make it look perfect and smooth on the outside. There was plenty of chaos in our kitchen en-route to that little striped cake.

Still, I’m ever willing to press on. Baking and business both take practice. And the pavlova, the origin of which is a hotly contested topic between Australia and New Zealand, is calling me. Here it finds new expression. Which should I try first? The Cape gooseberry pavlova or the cinnamon pavlova with praline cream and fresh figs or the rolled pavlova with peaches and blackberries?


Embracing Graffiti

Over the Xmas hols (holidays for short in Aussie slang) I escaped down under to visit family and bask in the very warm sunshine. You can’t visit Melbourne without a trip to Brunswick Street, the Fitzroy neighborhood’s main drag. Brunswick Street is one of the ritziest streets in town and provides a lot of upscale and very hip shopping and eating pleasure.

The tiny alleys and streets feeding into Brunswick were an unexpected surprise. There we found both occupied and abandoned buildings joyfully encased in graffiti. Now I’ve never been much of a fan of wall art. Wall art can often mean that the neighborhood doesn’t have the buying power to renovate the building behind the facade. But here, off Brunswick Street, one of the most expensive places in town, the colorful walls are encouraged and are just captivating.

Fitzroy is not the only neighborhood in Melbourne with extraordinary street art. Renowned for its vibrant contributions to the urban scene, artists have been encouraged to contribute by the city which provides public wall space as future gallery space. Walking maps abound and are a good way to find a corner or two of graffiti to peruse. Serious art lovers can even take a tour or a workshop with local practicing artists.

I loved it all. Preview below. Visit Melbourne if you can.


Crowdfunding in Oz

I was born in Australia and half my heart still remains there. I’m a dual citizen and visit my family there regularly. Of course, as I’ve launched my own crowdfunding platform, Small Change, here in the US, I’ve also been following the progress of crowdfunding in Australia with much interest.

Legislation has been a long time coming. As other markets around the world were taking off the Australian market stagnated while the Federal Government deliberated for more than two years. Finally, in early 2017 the Crowdsourced Funding Act 2017 passed into legislation. This bill, however, only applied to unlisted public companies and there were concerns that this would deny small to medium enterprises access to crowdfunding. This time the Government acted fast and in September the bill was amended to include proprietary companies.

Australia’s Fintech Industry is already growing rapidly. Let’s see what happens next.

Genius and Gender

Liza Mundy gets it right in this fantastic opinion piece. Genius is not gender-specific. Military heroes – be they on the battlefield or behind the scenes – are most often depicted as men. Yet, during World War II, more than half of the American code-breaking force was female. Over 10,000 women flexing their intellectual muscles to keep us safe. The military was visionary enough to give these women, most of whom were excluded from their chosen fields, an opportunity to use their talents. We all benefitted.

Why haven’t we ingrained this lesson? Economists have told us over and over again, there is value in diversity. Science has assured us that ingenuity belongs to all genders. Yet, today we continue to confine leadership and technology to one gender and one race in this country.

As Liza so aptly puts it, “There is a lesson here for the tech bros.” In the noise of technological gain, we’ve lost sight of how to make the most lasting advances. We want innovation, strength and security. To get it, it’s time to acknowledge the presence, power and genius of the women who are making intellectual change each and every day.