LESSONS FROM BUILDING A NEW WEBSITE
By Carina Hayek
As I turn the corner on five years at GP, I’m getting ready to launch the newest iteration of our website. It’ll be my third website launch at GP, but the previous two went largely unnoticed – by design. Our first website relaunch was early 2019 and I’d inherited it from my predecessor. There were minor changes to design and copy and some underlying SEO work that had been done. But by and large, very few noticeable changes to outsiders. Our next change took place in 2020, just before pandemic hit and dramatically changed how we operated. Visually, our website didn’t change, but behind the scenes, we made a major change in moving to WordPress, overhauling search engine optimization, increasing the number of calls to action, implementing better tracking and flow throughs, and creating strategic content to drive traffic. It worked. Despite the lull in events, we doubled our site visitors and the number of leads we generated on our website.
Although we had a lot of great elements on our website, our business was evolving and as much as we worked to integrate the changes in our existing website structure, it was starting to look dated and it didn’t serve us in the ways we needed it to serve us – and our visitors.
As we considered our needs for our website, we knew that it had to reflect our future while staying true to our ethos; that we had to prioritize the visitor experience and make it easy for them to navigate the complexity of GP – without realizing how complex it could be; and to build a platform that would allow for continued growth, evolution, and expansion. But that makes it sound simple. We engaged a consulting team to facilitate the project and a website team to lead development. Here’s what we learned along the way.
Although we are all things to all people, we needed to create a site that made us the exact right thing for that specific visitor on our site – no matter who they were or what they were looking for (as long as it was catering, events, or hospitality related, of course). That meant creating a path that took them from 30,000 feet to 10 feet effortlessly.
Look for the friction. These are the moments that your preferences are being challenged and for most people, it’s instinctive to push back or reject whatever is creating that friction or discomfort. It’s often accompanied by statements of “I don’t like it,” or “That’s now how we’ve done it,” or even “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work.” Instead of immediately pushing back, sit in that discomfort and ask what’s triggering that. It’s a humbling and necessary part of the process.
This goes hand in hand with coming to terms with the fact that we’re not building the website for ourselves, but very specifically for people who are not us. People who bring their tastes, perspectives, and experiences to their viewing of our website. This seems elementary, but as we’ve been sharing the website with more people within GP, we need to remind ourselves of this. This is especially true if you’re building something to draw in a different generation. (Ouch)
Look for people who are going to disagree with you. One of the early pain points we had in working on our website was people agreeing to all feedback without pushing back and providing their opinions. Have the disagreements and discussions throughout the process because all the data points are important considerations. We want the best solution, not just a solution.
And most importantly, before beginning, plan to plan. And plan to spend a lot of time planning. At the end of the day, it saves time and frustration and can even help accelerate the process. When you think you’re done planning, take another day to do more planning. Although we spent a lot of time planning (which led to frustration and a feeling that we weren’t making progress), we continued to uncover areas that we perhaps didn’t plan enough. We also discovered that we’re a lot more complex than we might want to admit.
The rest of the stuff – CTAs, SEO, UI/UX, and all the myriad acronyms; the brand and mission alignment; the story-telling and customer journey – everyone knows and should be an automatic part of the website development process.
Our launch date is right around the corner, and I can’t wait to see the result of our months of hard work, sleepless nights, and feisty debates. And although we’ll take a moment to catch our breath and appreciate what we’ve built, a website is not a destination, but a journey. It should be ever evolving, and if we’ve done our jobs right, the new site should continue to grow and evolve as GP does.
FOOD TRADITIONS NEW AND OLD
It goes without saying that all of us at GP love food. We asked our team members to share some of their memorable food moments from 2021. From introducing new foods to a baby’s palate to honoring loved ones through cherished flavors and traditions, we’re sharing some of our favorite food moments.
Pureed Baby Food
Ali Rea Baum, Senior Event Director
One big culinary change that has occurred in my life in 2021 is adding pureed baby food onto the menu. For our 7-month-old, every few days we try to introduce new foods and tastes. One day we try pureed carrots, the next the same item but with some cinnamon, and the next day some scrambled eggs. Whether she likes the food or not, she always manages to get more on her face (or the floor) than in her stomach.
Morgan Golumbuk, Event Director
When I think about New York City – and what I love about dining in New York City – I think about Kiki’s. I think about tumbling in from a cold night swathed in coats and scarves and beanies and sitting down to unpretentious, well-executed food in an unpretentious, well-executed restaurant. The evening after wrapping up my last wedding of the year in mid-December, I met my cousin for a perfect Greek meal there: roasted lemon potatoes, grilled octopus, braised lamb, moussaka and, of course, the essential staple, horiatiki. Described on the menu as “traditional-no-lettuce-having-Greek salad,” the dish is full of chunky tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, kalamata olives, and a wedge of feta that could’ve served as a meal all its own. It was the perfect mix of refreshing and indulgent, and a memorable end to a very, very memorable season.
Linda Abbey, Executive Vice President
I inherited the hospitality gene from my dad George who loved to have “people ‘round” to cook for them. One Christmas he made a show-stopper English trifle — homemade lemon sponge, layered with apricots, brandied custard, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Since dad is no longer with us, I now continue the tradition of whipping up his recipe in the trifle bowl he gifted me years ago.
I recently had an amazing dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab! This restaurant has been a Miami staple since 1913. The stone crabs at Joe’s are famous for being incredibly fresh and sweet. The claws are paired perfectly with a homemade mustard sauce – a savory combination of mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and A1 steak sauce. I was inspired to make the mustard sauce at home, so I visited a local fish market to buy the stone crabs. Delicious!
Cinnamon French Toast with Caramelized Blueberries & Maple Syrup
Ronnie Davis, Managing Director
My Grandmother hated wasting anything; probably a result of her Russian heritage. After a holiday dinner there was always breakfast the next day to consider. She would take leftover Challah bread and make her version of French Toast. She would add a half teaspoon of ground Cinnamon to the egg batter, and sauté both sides until brown. When you thought it was finished, she would top it Berries, mostly Blueberries, and bake it for 12-14 minutes until the Berries had “Caramelized”. Add Maple Syrup and you have an amazing dish. Over the years, I started using French Bread in place of the Challah and serendipity! I think of her whenever I make it.
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Carina Hayek, Director of Marketing
Our main tradition during any holiday season is variety. I can count on one hand (maybe with a couple extra fingers) how many times we’ve had turkey for Thanksgiving in the 30+ years we’ve lived in the United States. But one tradition we’ve borrowed from our fellow parishioners and adapted in our own way is the Feast of Seven Fishes. A traditional Christmas Eve feast for Italian-Americans, it’s a grand meal featuring a variety of fish dishes. But in the midst of the epic amount of baking we (read: my mother) does in the days leading up to Christmas and the equally epic feasts we have on Christmas Day, we needed a rest on Christmas Even and opted for a cooking-free, smaller version of Seven Fishes and order sushi. We don’t do this every year, but often enough to make it a delicious, stress free tradition.
Kate Michelli, Sales strategy & Operations
Some photos from our Wigilia – Polish meatless Christmas Eve Dinner. The dinner has been a tradition passed down in my family for generations. All items are homemade.
We start off with Oplatek (The unleavened wafers are baked from pure wheat flour and water, are usually rectangular in shape and very thin. The Opłatki wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images). Each person shares a small piece of their larger piece with each person while wishing them well in the new year. Once that is over we sit for a toast and the meal begins.
- Mushroom soup with onions (with or without oyster crackers)
- Fish – this year was haddock and salmon
- Kapusta (split peas and cabbage)
- Homemade cheese, potato and sauerkraut pierogi
Also on the table:
- Cooked prunes
- Black olives
Cherish Knudsen, Event Producer
This is a family recipe that we make for the Holidays or just whenever we feel like it. It is yummy, comforting, and sort of healthy! My mother and I just made it over the Holidays for our family to enjoy. It is not only one of my personal favorites but even my nieces and nephews love it! Great way to eat your greens while still feeling comforted… Most of all, its made with love… Enjoy!
Yields 2 Pies
- 10-16 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach per pie (depends on how dense you want it)
- 2 Pie crusts – fresh or frozen
- (If use Pillsbury crust – 2 in one pkg-follow directions: Roll out like you roll a rug – don’t pinch it off with the flap going away from you)
- Plastic food gloves (to squeeze water from spinach)
- 4 – 5 Eggs (total)
- 8 oz of each: whole milk Mozzarella cheese & fontina cheese
- 3-4 cloves Garlic per pie
- Mushrooms (if you want)
- Boil, then simmer spinach and press to drain water (use just enough water to cook)
- Saute garlic (*and mushrooms if you’d like) in a little extra virgin olive oil
- Place cooked (& drained) spinach into oil with garlic (mushrooms?) – add mixture of mozzarella and fontina cheese (10-16 ounces/ pie) and 2 eggs per pie…heat, melt & combine mixture….add salt and pepper to taste….
- Put pie crust in oven while pre-heating 4-5 minutes (350 degrees)
- Put spinach mixture in pie crusts
- Cook pies for 40-45 minutes
- Let pies stand for approx. 5-10 minutes before cutting…. And enjoy!
Unstructured Meals and Greenmarket Finds
Liz Neumark, Founder and Chair
Our end of December at home was quiet. The kids were scattered around the globe having been home for 2 weeks during Thanksgiving. It was a time of unstructured meals and zero family obligations.
My first food project involved canning about 20 lbs of apricots and cherries I had frozen during the summer. My efforts yielded 4 cases of jams and chutneys.
On Christmas Eve, I made latkes from the bag of russets left over from Chanukah. Latkes are amazing for any holiday! I had a few heads of late season broccoli from the Greenmarket and roasted them on a cold night with olive oil and sea salt, along with fried gnocchi and sage in butter. Pure comfort.
(The steak and cat is wishful thinking on the part of Kimchi who only wished that meat was for her. Silly Kitty!)
Not pictured are the endless cheeses I ate, the creamiest creamed spinach (local!), crock pot soups and stews, various smoked fish on black bread and everything else that drove me back to the gym this week in search of self-discipline. It was a peaceful and delicious end to the year.
QUICK AND EASY SUMMER DESSERTS
By Great Performances
As we roll into the hot and hazy days of summer, we fill our plates with the best of summer’s bounty from flavor-packed, sun-warmed tomatoes to surprisingly sweet and fresh corn; from cool and crisp summer salads to hot-off-the-grill kabobs. We love celebrating summer with all things vegetables — especially when it’s fresh from our farms.
And for those of us who crave something sweet at the end of the day (or as midday treat), we’ve rounded up some super easy summer desserts. These no-sweat recipes will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but allow you to enjoy summer evenings in the backyard, watching the fireflies do their nightly dance.
Cake Mix Magic
Julie Vallo, our HR manager who supports our venues, loves baking. Although she typically bakes things from scratch, her magical recipes using boxed cake mix make baking a snap. The beauty of these treats is they are so versatile. You can easily change up flavors and create delicious combinations. Strawberry cake mix with chocolate chip add-ins. Chocolate cake mix with chopped up toffee candy bars. The possibilities are endless.
Cake Mix Magic Cookies
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine any flavor cake mix, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 large eggs, and up to 1 cup of mix ins (chocolate chips, mini m&m, coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, chopped up candy bars).
Put batter in refrigerator for about 30 – 45 minutes. Once chilled, scoop 24 balls and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
Cake Mix Magic Biscotti
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine any flavor box cake mix, 1 cup all purpose flour, ½ cup melted butter, 3 large eggs, and up to 1 cup of mix ins (chocolate chips, mini m&m, coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, chopped up candy bars).
Divide dough in half and form 2 flattened logs about 12 x 2 inches. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 30 – 45 minutes. Bake logs for 25 – 30 minutes (they should feel firm in the middle). Remove from oven and let cool 15 – 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F.
Once the logs have cooled, cut into ½” to 1” slices. Arrange slices on baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Flip logs and bake another 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Once they are cooled, dip in melted chocolate – you can dip the entire cookie or just half the cookie.
Store in an airtight container. These are perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee or on their own. I promise they won’t last long!
Ronnie Davis, our indefatigable managing director (and international man of mystery), shares his recipe for cherry clafoutis.
Traditional clafoutis is made with cherries that still have their pits. The pits give some almond flavor to the dish. But prepared that way can be a little more difficult to eat, so in this recipe we have pitted the cherries first. You can leave them in if you want.
Note that the texture of clafoutis is like a sturdy custard, so if it feels a little rubbery, that is just how it’s supposed to be.
- 2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
- 2 tablespoons of blanched slivered almonds
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup of sugar (can reduce to 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of milk (2% or whole milk)
- 3/4 teaspoon of almond extract (can sub 2 teaspoons of Amaretto)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Butter and flour baking dish, scatter with cherries and slivered almonds: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9X9 or 10X7 baking dish. Scatter the cherries and slivered almonds over the bottom of the dish.
- Make batter with eggs, sugar, salt, and flour: Whisk the eggs and sugars together until smooth. Whisk in the salt and flour until smooth.
- Add the milk, almond extract, and vanilla extract: Whisk until smooth.
- Pour batter into the baking dish over the cherries and slivered almonds.
- Bake: Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes or until lightly browned and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Check about halfway through the baking and if the top is getting well browned tent it loosely with aluminum foil.
- Remove from oven to cool: When you pull it out of the oven it will wiggle a bit which is normal. Place on a wire rack to cool. The clafoutis will have puffed up quite a bit and will deflate while cooling.
- Dust with powdered sugar: When cool dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar. Serve.
Cobbled Together Dessert
Liz Neumark, our inimitable founder and fearless leader, spends as much time as possible up at Katchkie Farm. Her passion during the summer months when produce is at its peak is to can, pickle, and preserve the summer bounty for gifts and to enjoy during the colder months.
Second to her penchant for preserving is her love of baking, and we often are treated to delicious banana bread and muffins at the office. Here she shares a delicious recipe for a rhubarb crumble that can easily be adapted to any summer fruit.
Summer Rhubarb Crumble
Combine 8 cups of chopped rhubarb (or peaches, or any combination of summer fruits) with 1 cup of sugar and let sit for about an hour in your baking pan.
Mix together 1 ½ sticks of softened butter, 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of oats or granola, ¾ cup of brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix until well blended. Add 1 egg and combine until it starts feeling crumbly. This is your topping.
Spread the topping on the waiting fruit and bake in a 350˚F oven for 45 minutes until bubbly. Let cool for at least 15 minutes (if you can wait that long), and enjoy straight up or top with ice cream or crème fraiche.
Strawberries and Cream with a Kick
Carina Hayek, our Director of Marketing, loves vanilla ice cream because it’s perfection on its own or a delightful paired with other flavors. On most evenings, she’ll throw a dash of cinnamon on top (you know, for the health supportive benefits), but when she’s feeling a little extra fancy, she’ll add some strawberries with a twist. This unexpectedly delicious combination pairs well with a Lambrusco.
Black Pepper Balsamic Strawberries with Vanilla Ice Cream
When you’re buying balsamic vinegar, read the labels. You’ll find that the thick, syrupy ones tend to have a lot of added sugars. Instead, make your own – buy a bottle of balsamic vinegar, pour into a small saucepan, and reduce over medium / medium-low heat until it’s thick and syrupy. Make sure to keep an eye on the pan so it doesn’t burn! Store in a clean, glass bottle or jar and use any time you need something sweet, tangy, and tart.
Roughly chop or slice a pint of strawberries and macerate with up to a tablespoon of sugar. Don’t add too much sugar as you want them to be a bit tart. Scoop some vanilla ice cream into a bowl, spoon a generous amount of strawberries with their juices on top. Drizzle with a thick and syrupy balsamic vinegar (a little goes a long way), and finish with some grinds of fresh black pepper. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Sarah Saracino, our HR director, looks for quick and easy desserts that will tempt the tastebuds of her family. This super easy banana cream pie recipe is easily customized, comes together in minutes, and is the perfect solution for last minute gatherings. Even though it takes a couple hours to chill, that means you have time to enjoy your meal and the day before tucking into this deliciousness.
Easy Banana Cream Pie
Using a hand mixer, whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar until you have soft peaks.
Slice 2 bananas into 1/4″ slices and lay on the bottom of a fully cooked 9″ pie shell (you can make your own or buy a pre-baked one).
In a medium bowl, combine 2 packages of vanilla instant pudding with 2 ½ cups cold milk and whisk until thoroughly combined. Fold in ½ cup of the prepared whipped cream. Pour into prepared pastry shell.
Chill for at least 3 hours, garnish with remaining whipped cream and additional banana slices. Slice, serve, and enjoy!