Posts from Food and Drink

Funding Friday: Wine and Cheese

It’s that time of the week for some fun around here. This week in the spirit of a holiday weekend, I am going to point everyone to some crowdfunding campaigns around the wine and cheese theme.

Here’s a wine glass that supposedly is impossible to spill:

And here’s a family farm that wants to bring goat’s cheese from its farm to your table:

Here’s an equity crowdfunding project for a company called Splash Wines that’s a modern day wine club

And if you just want to purchase some wine and cheese for your holiday weekend, I recommend this cheese plate and wine sampler from (The Gotham Gal is an investor).

Have a great holiday weekend everyone.

Foursquare Trip Tips

One of the things I love about Foursquare is the focus on tips. Not ratings, not reviews, but tips. It’s the power of the positive over the negative. Tips from friends are even better.

So this week, Foursquare (which is a USV portfolio company) rolled out something called Trip Tips. You go to Trip Tips, you say where you are going, and you tweet it out to your followers on Twitter or your friends on Facebook.

I am at LAX, headed to SF today. So I entered San Francisco into Trip Tips, like this:

sf trip tips

And I got these share options:

trip tips URL

I decided to tweet the trip tip out like this:

My SF list is already filling up and the best part is its immediately available on my mobile phone in the Foursquare app lists tab (bottom left):

foursquare trip tips in my list tab

And here is the list as it stands (less than ten mins after my tweet!):

my sf trip tips

Give it a try with a trip you are planning to take soon. It’s a lot of fun.

La Ruche qui dit Oui!

La Ruche qui dit Oui! (the hive that says yes) is a marketplace that connects farmers to people who want farm fresh food in their kitchens and on their tables. We got to know the company last winter when my friends Simon and Toby from Mosaic introduced me to Marc-David Choukroun, one of the two founders of La Ruche. The Gotham Gal and I were in Paris and we met up with Marc-David at a Ruche on a saturday morning. We sipped coffee and talked to the farmers and customers who were stopping by to pick up their weekly supply of meat, cheese, milk, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and bread. We were smitten.

For years, USV has been on the hunt for a way to invest in the “farm to table” market sector. As you all know very well, we believe in the power of networks to solve the challenging problems of our time. And making high quality farm fresh quality food available at a reasonable price to everyone is certainly one of those challenging problems. The most affordable food is also the most mass produced and, generally, the most unhealthy food. How can we get back to a time when the food we eat is produced nearby, is high quality, and is healthy?

One way is to use the power of the network to connect farmers and consumers. And many entrepreneurs have been working on this problem over the past twenty years. We have met with most of them. Unfortunately, not many of them, until recently, met our test of a lightweight, peer to peer, capital efficient, people powered network. We call these “thin networks” and we are drawn to them as investors and as consumers.

La Ruche has been operating in France and Belgium for the past four years. Their marketplace connects farmers, consumers, and, most importantly, hosts together to form communities (Ruches or Assemblies) that come together once a week to exchange products, feedback, and friendships. These are communities in the truest sense of the word. My colleague Nick went to a Ruche in Paris last month and there was live music playing and people were hanging out enjoying the lovely spring day. A community is the thing that La Ruche’s marketplace software helps people create.

The business model is simple. Consumers order the food they want to pick up in advance and pay for it. The farmer comes to the community at the designated time, sets up next to the other farmers, and delivers his or her products in person. The farmer keeps most of the money, but the host and La Ruche split a small take rate for facilitating the transaction. It is a win/win/win. Farmers make more money selling directly, consumers get high quality products at reasonable prices, and the hosts make money for their effort to create the community, recruit the consumers, and curate the farmers. For many hosts, the income they get from creating and running these communities helps pay the bills, in the same way that selling on Etsy can help a family make a little extra money each month to make ends meet.

La Ruche has expanded to the UK, Germany, Spain, and Italy recently. The communities are known as La Ruche qui dit Oui! in France and Belgium; The Food Assembly in the UK and Germany, ¡La Colmena que dice Si! in Spain, L’alveare che dice Si! in Italy and Boeren & Buren in flemish Belgium. With its recent expansion in Europe, the network now has 100,000 active customers, 4,500 local producers, 700 communities. The company has 70 employees operating in six countries.

Over the past six months, USV has worked with Marc-David and his partner Guilhem Cheron to put together the right investor group to help La Ruche with their european expansion. La Ruche is a socially conscious mission driven organization that values farmers and communities and the needs of both as much as (or more than) the pure profit motive. In the US, they would be a B Corporation. And so they needed an investor group that was aligned on that. I am pleased and proud to say that they have succeeded in finding that investor group and USV is part of it. Our partners in this adventure are Frederic Court of Felix Capital, existing investor Rodolphe Menegaux and Xange, Eric Archambeau and Aymeric Jung of the social venture capital fund Quadia, and a few angel investors who are aligned with the company and its mission.

If you find yourself in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, or the UK in the coming months, go to La Ruche and find a Ruche or Assembly and stop by and check it out. It’s something to see. Here’s a map that will help you find one near you.

Fun Friday: Favorite Breakfast Place

I just woke up and I’m meeting AVC regular JamesHRH in 15mins so this is going to be a short one.

We are meeting at Swingers in Santa Monica, a diner that makes great breakfasts and serves strong black coffee. It’s my go to spot on the west side of LA.

Where is your favorite place to meet for breakfast?

The Eater 38

My wife and I were investors in the blog network Curbed until it was sold last last year to Vox. Curbed has three primary brands, Curbed (local real estate), Eater (local food & restaurants), and Racked (local shopping). The network operates across something like 25 cities in the US. Curbed is a classic example of a blog network, with a unique voice, attitude, and angle. They built a very nice and highly profitable business over six years and sold to a larger blog network Vox. Most of the team has stayed at Vox and are in key management roles there. Vox is a pretty interesting business too and the Gotham Gal and I are small investors in that company by virtue of our Curbed investment. This is all a bit of backdrop and disclosure for the thing I want to talk about which is the Eater 38.

The Eater 38 is one of my favorite things on the Internet. It is a map/list of the 38 “essential” restaurants right now in about 27 cities in North America. The fact that there are 38 restaurants on the list, not 10, not 25, not 50, but 38 is classic Curbed. They do things their own way and they do it right and they do it well.

But the thing about the 38 that I like most is the concept of “essential.” These are not the finest restaurants. This is not where you will find the very best food right now. These are not the trendiest restaurants right now either. These are the places that you should go to tonight, tomorrow, and again and again, right now. The 38 is updated twice a year (I think) so its always up to date and it changes a fair bit. The 38 recognizes that restaurants ebb and flow. Today’s essential restaurant is not always tomorrow’s.

When I go to a new city and am looking for a place to eat, I will always check the 38 in that city (if there is one). Earlier this week a good friend emailed the Gotham Gal looking for a large table or private room to take a bunch of people to dinner this weekend. I pulled up the NYC 38 on my phone and we went down the list and we found exactly the right place for them.

In the wake of the sale to Vox, Eater has been moved over to Vox’s modern CMS and the Eater 38 has been jazzed up with a nice map/list interface on the web and mobile web. Here are a few of them for all of you to check out (somewhat based on the AVC readership):

New York City 38

San Francisco 38

Los Angeles 38

Philadelphia 38 (for Kirk and LE)

Austin 38 (for JLM)

Toronto 38 (for William)

San Diego 38 (for Howard)

Documenting A Trip

I’ve always liked the idea of documenting a trip, leaving breadcrumbs for others to follow, or at least consider as they are planning a similar trip. The Gotham Gal and I do it very differently but we both do it.

She writes a blog post, chock full of photos, and a few links, every day recounting the prior day’s activities. Here’s her post on the day we recently spent on Lake Como. She has written hundreds of blog posts like that (according to her archive page, she has written 357 travel posts). If you are planning a trip to South Africa, you can go to her blog, search on South Africa, Cape Town, or some other keyword and get a bunch of posts like that which you might want to read while planning your trip. You can do that sort of thing for many places in the world that she has visited, with our without me and our kids.

I like to checkin to places on Swarm, save them on Foursquare, leave tips and photos, and then add them to lists on Foursquare. I’m building one now for the trip we are taking. I’ve built lists like this for Tokyo, Paris, and many other places.

Joanne’s approach is more like a travel magazine or the travel section of a newspaper. It’s great but you have to consume it in bulk quantities. What I like about my approach is it is microchunked down to the smallest atomic unit, the place, with value added metadata (tips and photos), and then built up into lists of various sorts. It feels more like a database that I am building than a magazine.

But both of these approaches work and deliver a lot of value to travelers who might want to follow in our footsteps. And we follow others in their footsteps so what goes around comes around. We use travel magazines, travel sections of newspapers, blogs, and Foursquare to plan our trips. Last week I read online a Food and Wine article on the Piedmont wine region, and it in, I read about a restaurant called Piazza Duomo, checked it out on Foursquare, and we booked a lunch there the next day. It was a fantastic lunch, now documented in a Gotham Gal blog post and a Foursquare tip.


There is only one company to date that the Gotham Gal has made an angel investment and subsequently USV has invested in and that is Kitchensurfing. I was not involved in either investment decision. The Gotham Gal made the angel investment herself. And because I was conflicted, by virtue of her investment, I recused myself from USV’s investment decision. So I don’t know as much about this company as many others in the USV portfolio.

But I know this much, it’s a fantastic service. Last night we had a dozen people at our beach house. The Gotham Gal is a great cook but she wasn’t really down with the idea of cooking and cleaning up for that large of a group. So we went with Kitchensurfing.

We wanted to eat healthy, lots of farm fresh foods, cooked without any heavy sauces or spices. We selected Chef Warren and he came through for us. He picked up some chicken at the local chicken farm. And he brought all sorts of fresh vegetables.

Our meal wasn’t one of the standard menus on his Kitchensurfing page. But it was pretty close in terms of price and selection to this one. We obviously customized it.

He grilled everything up to perfection, served it buffet style, and cleaned up everything and left the kitchen and grill as he found it.

I tweeted this out as dinner was served:

If you find yourself in a similar situation, with a house full of guests, without a desire to cook and clean, and are willing to spend what you’d spend if you went out to eat, try Kitchensurfing. It’s great.

Fun Friday: Foursquare Time Machine

Those of you who use Foursquare to database your life can have some fun today. Foursquare launched a cool interactive visualization tool called Time Machine yesterday.

Go there, login, and watch Foursquare go back in time and show you all of your movements around your city and the world. For me it was the past four years. Trips I'd almost forgotten came back to life. And at the end, I got this. You can get one too.


A few things about that infographic. The placed I've checked into the most, The Coffee Shop, is a place I will never go to again. Sometime in early 2012, I was treated badly by a hostess, and on the way out I vowed never to return. I haven't and won't.

I've been using Foursquare for about four years and have checked in almost 5,000 times. That's an average of 3.4x a day. No wonder Foursquare is so good at making recommendations for me when I am in places I don't know much about.

While we are on the topic of Foursquare, I want to address some tweets I saw yesterday that mangled some things I said about the company. I spoke at two events yesterday and at both I was asked about Foursquare. I said the same thing at both events, which is that Foursquare has pivoted the product from being primarily about checkins to being primarily about maps with people in them. They've done a fantastic job at that. But the market doesn't know that Foursquare is about maps and map search with people in it. They could do a better job in getting that word out. And I am happy to help them do that.

Feature Friday: Save To Foursquare

I am a big fan of bookmarking. I mean that in the largest sense. When I find something I want to read, watch, do, etc, I like to save it somewhere that I can find it when I need it.

When it comes to restaurants I want to go to, I like to use Foursquare's Save button. Here's how it works:

Let's say you are reading that Montmartre’s French Fries Are New York’s Best and you think "I have to try them".

You click the save to Foursquare button in your browser and this happens:

Save to foursquare #1

The default is that you will save that place to your "to do list"

But if you happen to have a list called "best french fries in NYC" like I do, then you can change the drop down and save it there

French fries in NYC

If you like reading about places to go out but don't have a good way to save them (to your phone and web), give the Save To Foursquare button a try.

Full disclosure: USV has an investment in Foursquare, The Gotham Gal and I have an investment in Montmartre, and I love french fries.

Fun Friday: Morning Joe

It feels like its been a while since we did a fun friday around here. So here goes.

How do you like your morning cup of coffee?

I go with the Cortado, ideally in a shot glass. Here's one from Kava, the coffee shop near my home in the far west village.


So how do you take your morning cup? Photos please.