Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

Day: December 11, 2004

Terrapass makes people feel really good about their cars!

The venture had a final presentation to a group of entrepreneurs and VCs on Thursday. We presented an entire business plan in a very unorthodox way: 14 teams presented 1-2 slides each that covered everything, from concept and branding, to certification, sales, web marketing and business planing. I presented for my team the public relations strategy. We are published in the Wharton Journal so far and we are expecting coverage in the Daily Pennsylvanian soon. The key message: people feel good about themselves and their cars when they buy a Terrapass that offsets the CO2 emissions from the cars. Finally, an tool that empowers individuals to clean up after their cars for mere $50 per year.

The feedback from the audience was very valuable: they were very impressed by the speed and the amount of accomplishemnt that was made. With the usual questions and advice on strategy, we felt that we did an awesome job that will continue to validate itself over the next few months. When do you get a chance to learn about solving problems, create a business along the way, and present to an audience of potential funders just before finals?

Wharton Art Show

Wow, who knew Wharton MBAs were this talented outside of the business and party scene? The Creative Arts Club hosted its first art show last Wednesday night in a nice club room at The Grande apartment building, 15th and Chestnut. There were over 30 students whose works were exhibited, along with an accompaniment of wine, cheese and other snacks. I exhibited 6 of my best photos: Dingmans falls, Big Sur, Manhattan skylines, Harriman State Park and Foggy view of San Francisco. The show was very well attended with over 150 people previewing the artworks which included everything: photography, beautiful paintings with different motives and techniques, jewlery, and even a music! I was very impresed by the quality of artworks. The talent level was very high and I’m hoping for a repeat in the spring. The attendance was very encouraging given this event occured right before many projects were due for the last day of classes and right before finals. Great job!

Fine dining in Philly and elsewhere

How do you spell dining heaven in Philadelphia? Oh, yes, the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. Yesterday, my wife Roxanne and I finally made the trip to this restaruant whose reputation preceedes it by far. The lunch was not a special occasion, although by the end of this experience you certainly feel that it was indeed a very special occasion. Especially given a student budget, the rarity of this endeavour made it even more special. The experience at the Fountain ranks up there with other notable top restaurants such as Le Bec Fin and Founders, both in Philly, Chanterelle in New York City, and Taillevent in Paris.

While these are all widely recognized as top restaurants, ranked at least 28 on Zagat, with highly refined dining experiences and signature dishes, they all have their own quirks that you could make a ranking depending on the occasion. My top preference is Taillevent in Paris, which I’d put as one of the top restaurants around the world. Not only is the food the best among all of the above restaurants, also confirmed by colleagues who’ve had even more such experiences, the place itself has a very homely atmosphere, with waiters who are very charming, relaxed and put you at ease instantly. The sheer lack of pretention at a place of this caliber is simply unmatched. And coming from France, that says a lot. The owner personally welcomes you and bids you good bye, the tables are separated and cozy enough for you to feel private and romantic, and if you do smoke a cigar, they bring a small table fan that strategically keeps the smoke away from other tables. I personally don’t mind, even prefer sometimes, the smoke of a good cigar, but not everyone does.

Basically, the French in this case know that you come there to enjoy the food and your company, you will spend a ton money, and you don’t need to be reminded of it or made special about it, you just have to enjoy yourself. The place itself prides on experience and it doesn’t need to create artificial exclusivity, something that’s occassionally hard for American restaurants to understand because we all yearn for some recognition of this exclusivity and we only show it with price! But I think this notion is very short-sited when it comes to enjoying the finer things in life.

The relaxed ambience at Taillevent is closest to that of the Fountain, which is why Roxanne and I enjoyed it so much. You simply immerse youselves in conversation and enjoy the food, speaking of which, the pheasant breast was awesome, grilled on top of cranberry risotto and pumpkin puree: delicious! The foie grass was good but not the most impressive of the ones I have had. The least interesting foie grass was the one at Le Bec Fin. While that at Chanterelle and Brasserie 8 1/2 in NYC has been the best so far. Mind you, these are all delicious meals, I’m talking subtleties here.

Chanterelle’s environment was perhaps the least exciting. What made up for the very sterile room (their signature) and pretention from their waiters was simply the untouchable food. Their food was right next to Taillevent in taste and enjoyment. This is the biggest reason to go to Chanterelle: the food!

Now, if you are in Philly looking for a high-end romantic place, you must visit Founders, the restaurant on top of Park Hyatt hotel. It has a very classy atmosphere with views of the city. The dining and service are top notch, and best of all, has live music on weekends with a small dance podium where you can take your significant other for a quick dance between meals. The music is matched to the quality of food and service to make for a truly romantic dining experience. I think Fountain comes in close 2nd in romantic restaurants, while Le Bec Fin a solid 3rd. Le Bec Fin had excellent menu, outstanding service, even if at times the pretention does sneak up on waiters, and very good ambience, although not as cozy or separated as Fountain, but I’d say it’s an excellent place to enjoy group dining, if all of you can afford it, of course!


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