Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lessons From Having Too Much Make-Up On In Daylight… or Why It’s Important to Understand Your Customers

Like many industries, the cosmetics industry holds a twice yearly products showcases where they invite consumers to take a seat and try out some make-up and skincare products. The local location of Nordstrom was hosting one over the weekend.

Our tarts are considered higher-end existing in the “gourmet” and “artisanal” food sections of stores and deli cases (and in many cases “grab & go”). How does this tie in to a few hours at the cosmetics counter you ask? I thought it would be interesting to compare how other industries market and present higher end products to the consumer (which sometimes, is me) and see if I could gain anything from the experience.

I decided my skin and my patience could handle two product samplings from two very different skin care and cosmetic companies, with two very different results.

Cosmetic company one: In the world of higher end skin care, a mid-tier line which touts their botantical ingredients and environmental stewardship.

Upon sitting down, the product associate asks me one question about my skin (oily? Normal? Dry?) then proceeds to wipe off the small amount of make-up I had applied that morning and lather my face with products, stopping only to give me the briefest overview about what she was using and why it would be good for me. I will admit, at one point my skin was silky soft, but I could not tell you how many products it took to get there, or did I have an inkling if I would be interested in any of the products she chose. After an abbreviated make-up session (most of their color pallets were a little too natural for my liking), and a product card outlining several times daily skin care products and regimes, it was time to move on.

Cosmetic company two: (after a side trip to the ladies room to wipe down a bit of the first company) A definitely high end marketed line, lots of glossy magazine advertising touting a certain lifestyle and products to match.

Upon sitting down the product associate asks me what products I currently use, what I’m concerned about and how much time would I like to spend looking at their products (it’s free and I’m sitting, what’s the rush?). She showed me a few tiers of skin care products, making recommendations but allowing me to choose if I wanted to have it applied. End result pre-make-up was also silky smooth skin and I knew how we had gotten there. I allowed her to have some fun with make-up, since I so rarely really deck myself out these days, and I thought the eye-treatment she did was fabulous. Had I had the budget to acquire some of the products, this associate would have gotten a few sales.

The experience reinforced the importance of listening to your customer, offering them solutions and while giving them options to choose from. And while your product may not be the right solution for them now, leaving them with a good taste and feeling about your products leaves the door open for possible sales in the future.

This has me wondering, what sort of situations have turned you off from purchasing a product (in any industry)? 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Recipe to Celebrate a Piece of the Pi…. Caramelized Onion & Apple Feta Pie

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Portland Farmer Chef Connection Conference (try saying that 5 times fast!). It’s a yearly gathering of farmers, producers, restaurateurs and students discussing timely topics and networking. One of the big draws of the event is the community lunch. All attendees are encouraged to bring something to share for the table, and figured this was an opportunity to make something different.

I’m generally a big planner (as many of you know), but it took me until about Saturday eve to figure out what to bring (and you know what I was doing Sunday as the conference was Monday). Clearly my inspiration paid off, since it seemed to be a well received and I’ve gotten a few requests for the recipe.

As I had made/brought 5 pies, I scaled the recipe back to make one pie or a flat 17 x 9 tart (which can be sliced up into bite size appetizers).

One 9” pie crust or piece of puff pastry 17" x 9"
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup best quality feta, small diced or crumbled
1 –2  apples, peeled and cut into 1/2” chunks (if small, use two, you want about a cup)
1 onion, sliced
1 Tbl olive oil (for sautéing, substitute what works for you)
pinch of thyme, rosemary, black pepper
salt to taste

Oven at 375

In a small pan over med high heat saut̩ onions until brown, reduce heat to med-low and add apples, allowing to cook until softened. Add seasoning (taste and adjust to suit if needed), allow to heat and incorporate. (Note Рif using tart apples, you may need to add in a pinch of sugar. Allow to melt through the mixture over the heat)

Take off heat, set aside.

If using puff pastry, prick sheet with a fork at intervals, to reduce the crust fluffing up too much during baking. Use a coated cookie sheet or a silipat on a baking sheet for best results.

Spread the 1/2 cup of sour cream on the base of the pie crust or puff pastry. Sprinkle about half the feta on top. Gently layer the apple & onion mixture over the sour cream and feta. Sprinkle the remaining feta over the top. Bake at 375 for about 30 mins until brown and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly and set. Serve warm & enjoy.