January 23, 2013
Wandering Buddha Restaurant, New Orleans
I dread going to New Orleans because it's not a city for vegetarians. But, on my most recent trip there earlier this month, I was shocked to discover that The Wandering Buddha, an all-vegan restaurant, had opened up...serving Korean food in a place not known for having a thriving Korean community. In fact, the Wandering Buddha may be one of only 3 Korean vegan restaurants in the United States--the others being HanGawi and Franchia in NYC. Pluses and minuses of my visit:
* It's a Korean vegan restaurant in a very meaty town. If you're a vegetarian or vegan visiting New Orleans, you MUST make the trek and support this bold initiative.
* The food tasted authentic. The cuisine wasn't clearly watered down for American or local tastes. Everything was fresh and good (not great, but good). We tried almost every dish on the menu and there were no standouts, but no clunkers either. On the plus side, perhaps I liked the side dishes to the braised tofu the best, and on the minus side, the lettuce wraps were so leafy that they were more lettucy than wrappy. The owner sold the scallion pancakes highly and my dining companions loved them. I thought they were fine but not hype-worthy.
* The bar was surprisingly clean and not too scary.
* We went on a Sunday evening and were entertained by two surprisingly excellent bands. No cover charge or drink minimum! It wasn't my kind of music (the first was zydeco and I'm not sure how to describe the second), but the performers were quite talented and overall I enjoyed the music a lot. With a full belly and good tunes in a completely unexpected location, for the first time I could almost understand why people liked vacationing in New Orleans.
* Prices were fair and I'm pretty sure we were undercharged.
* The neighborhood is sketchy.
* The restaurant faces out of the back of a dive bar, the Hi-Ho Lounge. There are a few tables outdoors. Alternatively, there are a few tables in the bar itself where the restaurant will serve food, but most drinks are ordered from the bar and are on a separate check. The arrangements were a little confusing.
* Though the bar was clean, like most New Orleans restaurants, it was smoky. The bar had high ceilings that prevented the smoke from being too oppressive.
* While the bands were great, there were some dramatic performers that acted out bizarre scenes in between the music. I had absolutely no idea what was going on or why they were there. And there was really no audience (the place probably had about 30 people in the joint, over half of whom were the band, the dramatic performers or the waitstaff) so I really didn't understand who they were performing for. Themselves, I guess. It was all too high-concept for me.
If you can handle the cigarette smoke and the sketchiness, go ahead and order in and enjoy the music. If not, order to-go and take it back to your hotel room if the weather doesn't permit outdoor eating. Either way, recommended.
January 22, 2013
Plant-Based Pizza, Willow Glen (San Jose)
Before Plant-Based Pizza opened in the Willow Glen district of San Jose in November, the Bay Area's leading vegan pizza spot was Pizza Plaza, inconveniently located in Oakland. Now, we have a hometown option! In fact, with the November openings of Plant-Based Pizza and Veggie Grill (just a few days apart), the South Bay vegan scene has gotten a lot more interesting.
Plant-Based Pizza has a small but clean facility with 5 eat-in tables, meaning they don't really expect most customers to eat on-site. On our visit, we got a peppers and shroom pizza slice and a 12" vegan BBQ pizza. The BBQ pizza had a thin crust, daiya cheese, an unobtrusively mild BBQ flavor, non-housemade fake chicken, and a few onion and cilantro here and there. Yet, the flavors worked surprisingly well together, creating an irresistible combination that meant we enjoyed every bite and had no leftovers.
Prices were on the high side but fair. The menu has many more intriguing options to explore. The world needs more vegan pizzerias! Please, let's support this place so it will remain a viable business.
Our photo gallery.
January 21, 2013
Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking an In-House Counsel Job
[This blog post holds my personal record for gestation of a blog post. The outline for this post traces back to a student talk I gave at Marquette University in 2004. I first started working on the post some time in 2005 or 2006. 7+ years later, I'm finally sharing it with the world. Sadly, I don't think the post is noticeably better for all of its incubation.]
This post provides my perspectives on the pros and cons of practicing law as in-house counsel versus at a law firm. Although my perspective is hardly unique, I am one of the comparatively few people who actually preferred practicing at a large law firm over in-house. When I tell people this, they almost always express surprise. My experiences may be colored by practicing in a start-up environment, with its advantages and disadvantages, and my conclusion may reflect my particular personality idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, this post will provide my insider's view on life as in-house counsel.
Advantages of In-House Practice
The Lawyer Can Become a Business Decision-Maker. In-house lawyers take on business responsibility in several ways. First, to the extent the lawyer supervises outside counsel, the lawyer usually handles those vendor relationships. Second, the in-house lawyer often gap-fills any business decisions that aren’t owned by other people within the company. Finally, the in-house lawyer may share in making business decisions with the “business” people. Often, the in-house counsel’s co-workers prize the lawyer’s business input as much as his/her legal analysis.
The Lawyer Becomes Part of the Team. Most outside counsel have a “hired gun” relationship with their clients. The outside counsel is responsible for providing the best service possible, but then that lawyer flips his/her advice “over the wall” and leaves the implementation to someone else. In contrast, in-house counsel often become part of the execution team. Because in-house counsel are part of the team, they can be much more proactive than the outside lawyers. They can raise issues early and see the issues through to resolution.
In-House Counsel’s Interests Better Align with Corporate Objectives. Even with innovations in alternative billing and long-term multi-iteration relationships between companies and firms, usually an outside counsel’s interests do not align very well with the client’s. After all, the law firm has its own profits to manage, and doing so inevitably diverges with the client’s profit maximization. This is endemic to any customer/vendor relationship. Certainly hours-based billing creates numerous potential conflicts of interest between firm and client.
In-house counsel’s economic interests align much more closely with the client’s. There will never be perfect alignment, but the combination of being an employee plus possibly an equity interest makes a huge difference.
As an added bonus, usually in-house counsel don’t keep timesheets and don’t have billable quotas. This is often the #1 advantage cited by new in-house lawyers. However, this isn’t always the case. Some companies use a chargeback method to divisions/departments that requires keeping track of expenses; and companies may view in-house counsel as substitutes for outside counsel, which makes their goal to squeeze as much value out of the in-house counsel as possible.
Greater Ownership of Outcomes. It’s often easier for in-house counsel to point to specific favorable outcomes for the company and claim credit/ownership of those outcomes. A product counsel can point to a new successful product they guided through the development process and feel a sense of responsibility; a litigator achieving a favorable case outcome can have the same feeling.
Easier Prioritization. In-house counsel can often prioritize conflicting time demands easier because, after all, the requests are all coming from the same company and they can be prioritized based on profitability or the company’s strategic objectives. In contrast, outside counsel have a tough time prioritizing conflicting requests. Naturally, every client wants to be #1 but inevitability priority choices must be made, and telling a client that they aren’t #1 isn’t a path towards long-term client happiness.
On the other hand, it can be even harder for in-house counsel to tell a co-worker that they are not at the top of the priority list. So although it may be easier to prioritize tasks, it may be more painful to say no to people you have to work with the next day.
Better Work/Life Balance. The stereotype is that in-house counsel have a better work/life balance. I wonder about this in practice. Sure, in-house counsel can call up outside counsel and dump a project on them on Friday at 5pm while the in-house counsel goes on to enjoy the weekend. However, to the extent that in-house counsel are cost centers and the company is trying to maximize value out of a cost center, inevitably there will be significant pressure placed on the in-house counsel to do more and work harder. In the end, I think this is very specific to the company and the legal department. Some employers are going to provide better work/life balance than others.
Cons of In-House Counsel
You’re Answerable to a Boss. Some of you may find this an odd “con.” Doesn’t everyone have a boss? The answer, of course, is yes unless you’re self-employed. Even a CEO is answerable to the board or investors.
However, at some law firms, the supervisor/supervisee relationship can be quite attenuated. In firms with a power-partner model, the associate’s power partner is the boss; but at firms with a free-agency model for assigning new projects, it’s possible that no one partner views him/herself “responsible” for an associate. As it turns out, that was the situation I had when I was at the law firm. Although I had partners who nominally were accountable for my time, in practice I had a significant degree of autonomy. Partners have even more independence.
In-house, the lawyer will have a boss in the classic sense. The boss will conduct your performance evaluations, and your success will depend on doing what the boss wants you to do and keeping your boss happy. If the boss isn’t a lawyer but second-guesses your legal advice, that can get especially awkward.
Because bosses can change—they can leave the company or the position can be reorganized (a fairly common occurrence)—the job can change unexpectedly. Even if you love your current boss, your next boss may be a jerk. With a change in supervisors, a good job can become a terrible job overnight. There is almost nothing in-house counsel can do to avoid this risk.
Furthermore, job advancement in-house often requires a boss who will champion for your cause. Sadly, many bosses are not very good at being advocates for their supervisees, in which case in-house lawyers can get stuck in their career progression.
You’re Expected to Know the Answers. In-house, your clients expect you to know the law cold. Occasionally it’s acceptable to request some research time, but most of the time it’s not. In some cases, your clients will think you’re an idiot if you don’t know the answer off the top of your head. In particular, in-house can be a difficult place for newly graduated JDs because usually there’s no training.
Lawyers who start in-house face the added problem that the business clients don’t prize legal accuracy as much as they prize good business counseling. If anything, clients hate legally accurate answers that conflict with their business objectives. As a result, lawyers who start in-house, over time, often become more skilled at business counseling than legal counseling; they don’t necessarily know all of the relevant legal doctrine, and the clients don’t value that extra legal expertise. But in-house counsel are socialized to give clients what they want, which is that they want “yes,” not “no.” As a result, in-house counsel are constantly under pressure to distort their legal analysis to support a business conclusion of “yes.”
Finally, because in-house counsel often are viewed as more skilled at business counseling than legal analysis, their clients sometimes value outside counsel’s advice more than in-house counsel’s. (This is true with outside consultants as well, who often are hired to say exactly what someone internally has already said).
In-House Counsel as a Cost Center. As mentioned above, often employers hire in-house counsel to reduce expenditures on outside counsel. This means employers try to maximize the return from each in-house counsel and reduce in-house counsel’s ability to pay for outside counsel. In-house counsel are obvious targets in any layoff, and they are often expendable after an acquisition.
In-House Counsel as Too Generalist and Too Specialist. In terms of future employment opportunities, in-house counsel can end up in a weird squeeze. On the one hand, in-house counsel often are generalists. They handle any legal matters that appear on their desk, especially in companies where the legal department is small. Further, in-house counsel often are expected to keep up with a wide-ranging set of practice areas, making them the master of none. At the same time, in-house counsel can become incredibly specialized; they focus on the legal issues posed by a single company in a single industry, and thus they may lack the practice diversity across industries and competitors that outside counsel can develop.
Thin Infrastructure. Often, in-house legal departments provide light resources for attorneys. For example, secretarial staff may be spread thin or non-existent. The company may not subscribe to helpful publications or databases.
Consequences of Internal Conflicts. Inevitably, your clients will want to skirt the law, even if the company is fundamentally trying to be ethical. There are too many laws, too many stupid laws, too many laws that impose unreasonable compliance costs, and too many grey areas. In-house counsel have few good choices in these circumstances, especially if the lawyer advised the client on one course of action and the client rejected the advice. If the lawyer feels like he/she needs to “withdraw” from the representation because of the client’s now-possibly-shady behavior or because of the implicit vote of no confidence due to the client ignoring the lawyer’s advice, the lawyer’s options are limited. The lawyer can simply walk away from the job, immediately cutting off the salary (and foregoing any equity upside) and burning bridges with the remaining co-workers; or the lawyer can slowly try to find alternative employment, a time-consuming and costly transition. A standard “best practice” for law firms is to not become too dependent on any single client because it will create pressures to do unethical things. In-house counsel, by the very nature of the position, violate that best practice.
For more thoughts, see The Conglomerate.
January 10, 2013
Recommended Vegetarian Cookbooks for New Vegetarians
by Guest Blogger Lisa Goldman
[Eric's note: I am occasionally asked for vegetarian cookbook recommendations by people who are becoming vegetarian or looking to eat less meat. Given that my cooking repertoire is quite limited and usually involves the microwave as a key resource, I asked my wife Lisa--who actually does cook using cookbooks--for her expert opinion. Note: the links are Amazon affiliate links, but I recommend you try out any cookbooks from the public library before buying.]
Eric has requested many times that I write a guest blog post on Vegetarian & Vegan Cookbooks. I promised to deliver and then, much to his dismay & frustration, delayed many months because I wasn’t sure where to start.
The Vegetarian & Vegan Cookbook category has exploded in the last decade. Back when I started to cook (around 1993 when I moved into my first college housing with a kitchen), library & bookstore shelves had such a limited selection, it was easy to navigate and narrow down which books to select or recommend. But now, their shelves practically groan from the load. This is a good thing! However, it has become impossible to put together a well-researched list that’s truly exhaustive of all the choices available.
My thoughts and recommendations below reflect only my narrow and somewhat dated sampling (I haven’t purchased nearly as many cookbooks in the past ~3 years as I did the previous 5+ years before that). Still, I hope it’s helpful, and I welcome your feedback.
CATEGORY 1 – MY FAVORITES
(1) Moosewood Cookbook – I’m talking about the original from Mollie Katzen. I think this was my first cookbook and it’s one of the top 10 best selling cookbooks of all time *in any category.* Originally published in 1977 (updated in the 1990s), some of the recipes are a little dated. But, many are still great. Three of my favorites: Brazilian Black Bean Soup, Lentil Bulgar Salad and Gypsy Soup. This one will never lose its spot on my shelf.
(2) Veganomicon – Isa Chandra Moskowitz has published many cookbooks. If I could only pick one, it would be this one, although it would be tough to part with her original book Vegan with a Vengeance. There are a lot of great recipes here. If you want to “try before you buy,” check out the dozens of recipes she’s posted at her website. Favorites include: Snobby Joes, Pineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir-fry, Lentils & Caramelized Onions, Pasta Della California, Tamarind Lentils, Potato & Kale Enchiladas, Jambalaya & Manzana Chili Verde.
(3) Peas & Thank You – I picked this one up on a whim at Costco a couple years ago. Author Sarah Matheny has a very popular blog. Her recipes are simple and very kid/family friendly. This isn’t the book I’d necessarily use to impress guests, as some of her shortcuts result in less exciting flavors than in Veganomicon (for example), but it still very good and certainly beats microwaved frozen food.
MY “PRETTY GOOD, IT HAS AT LEAST 3 RECIPES I REALLY LIKE AND HAVE MADE MORE THAN 3x SO I’M KEEPING IT” CATEGORY
I don’t have a lot of bookshelf space, and as Eric will tell you, I can be pretty unsentimental and ruthless in sorting and giving away lesser-used items in my house. So, the cookbooks that have made this category, while not my favorites, still deserve consideration.
(1) Books by Dreena Burton. I own Vive le Vegan and Eat Drink & Be Vegan. I’ve found many of her savory recipes to be serviceable but not “wow this is amazing.” In my opinion, she really excels in the sweets category. If you are interested in baking vegan, look here first. I prefer her chocolate chip cookie recipe to anyone else’s (including Isa’s), but all of her cookie recipes are excellent. If I were buying today, I’d probably go with her most recent and well-reviewed Let Them Eat Vegan (but I haven’t tried that book myself yet).
(2) Books by Nava Atlas. I own Vegetarian Express (now updated/revised and called Vegan Express), Vegan Soups & Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook and Vegetarian 5 Ingredient Gourmet. I think Vegetarian Express might have been my second cookbook after Moosewood. It’s sort of the predecessor to Peas & Thank You: a simple cookbook for getting healthy meals on the table for the family quickly. No “wow” recipes, but lots of reliable and easy stand-bys (Mexican Casserole is my favorite). Nava also has a website if you’d like to try out some of her recipes to see if her tastes suit yours. I confess that, in the past few years, her books have collected dust on my shelf. I cannot recall the last time I cracked one. It might be time to pass them along. If I had to keep only one, it would be her Soups and Stews book because I’m a real soup & stew lover.
(3) Moosewood Restaurant Books. These cookbooks are often confused with Mollie Katzen’s original Moosewood Book. In fact, Mollie has nothing to do with these, and they are written by a variety of chefs from the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca. Still, these books are generally very good. I own Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites and Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I flip through these on a regular basis. I particularly like the Lentil Sambar recipe in Low Fat Favorites. I’ve also heard good things about the Moosewood Daily Specials cookbook. I’m not sure I’d buy these retail, but if you see a deal on them somewhere, they’re worth picking up. (Note, most of the Moosewood Restaurant books have a “fish” chapter, but they are otherwise entirely vegetarian.)
(4) Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World – If you’re really interested in vegan baking and cupcakes in particular, this cult favorite by Isa & her friend Terry Hope Romano is definitely fun. If I ever want curry favor with Eric, I know that the Banana Split Sundae cupcake recipe here will do the trick.
COOKBOOKS ON MY SHELF THAT I WISH I COULD SPEAK HIGHER OF, BUT RARELY USE
(1) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – Deborah Madison is a highly regarded cookbook author, and this book makes lots of other people’s “must have” lists. However, I have been disappointed with it. The recipes taste good; she does know how to cook! But they tend to be on the rich side, and she regularly does the “recipe within a recipe” stunt, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. I detest getting knee deep into a recipe only to realize that ingredient #7 is actually an entirely separate recipe (e.g. “add 1T of Romanesco sauce, found on page xx” which of course is complicated and makes a 2C batch, so now you don’t know what the heck to do with your 2C-1T of sauce). I rarely cook from this book.
(2) How to Cook Everything Vegetarian – This one was released more recently and is authored by Mark Bittman, whom everyone seems to love. And, while I have been impressed with several of his articles, I’ve been underwhelmed by the handful of recipes I’ve tried from this book. Nothing awful, but no obvious “must repeat” recipes either. Maybe I’ve just selected the wrong things. I’m not ready to toss this into the give-away stack quite yet, but it’s hardly at the top of my recommendation list.
(3) How it All Vegan – The was one of the first popular vegan cookbooks, and used to be talked about regularly, but it’s completely dropped off my radar in favor of more current vegan books like Veganomicon. I love the spirit of it, but I think Veganomicon supersedes it; no need for both.
(4) Vegan Brunch – I bought this because I thought Isa could do no wrong. And while I wouldn’t call this book “wrong,” I haven’t found a lot right with it. I like her coffee chocolate chip muffin recipe in here. Otherwise, nada.
(5) Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker – I LOVE the concept of the slow cooker. When I come home at the end of the day, I’m already too hungry to start cooking. It’s not uncommon for me to eat some crappy microwave dinner just to sate myself, and then start cooking a decent meal which I’ll have the next day (which rarely tastes as good as eating something freshly made). But with a slow cooker, I can prep in the morning, and then it’s ready for me when I come home later. But, there’s a price to pay for that convenience. Most veggie meals I’ve attempted in the crockpot come out mediocre. I bought this cookbook to help with that, but haven’t found anything amazing. Still, I’m holding on to it, because hope springs eternal. I’ll keep trying. The No Hurry Curry recipe isn’t bad.
(6) World Vegetarian – I like Madhur Jaffrey for some reason I can’t even recall. Maybe I saw her on a cooking show? Who knows. I also like the idea of this book. In general, I favor ethnic foods with interesting spices and flavors. So, I thought it’d be awesome to sample all sorts of exotic recipes from this book. Somehow, I haven’t ever found my favorites in this book though. Check it out from the library and see what you think. Let me know if you find some winners.
MY COOKBOOK WISHLIST
(1) Plenty or Jerusalem – Both of these cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi are bestsellers. With beautiful pictures and purported great recipes, there’s a lot of inspiration here. Yotam is a professional chef. I checked out Plenty from the library once and tried a couple recipes. They were very good, but pretty heavy (lots of oil) and somewhat complicated. I’d still love to have one on my shelf so I could have more time to peruse and try my hand at lightening some of them up a little for my tastes.
(2) The I [Heart] Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook – I am a loyal TJs shopper. I have previously purchased a cookbook devoted to TJs products before, but it wasn’t vegetarian and there weren’t many recipes that appealed to me. But, I’d love to give it another shot with this edition.
(3) The Indian Slow Cooker – I mentioned my unrequited love for the slow cooker. This book has good reviews, and I think many vegetarian Indian dishes may actually lend themselves to the slow-cooking methods. I wish my library had this book so I could try it out. Until then, it’s on my wishlist to purchase. (Not entirely vegetarian.)
(4) Super Natural Every Day – Heidi Swanson authors the very popular 101 Cookbooks blog. She’s based out of SF and I like her focus on health rather than diet. Her photography is beautiful too. Another highly reviewed cookbook that I’ve sampled from the library and enjoyed.
(5) Appetite for Reduction –Isa published this one a year or two ago. I’ve checked it out from the library a few times. The recipes are good. Not as amazing as some of the Veganomicon ones. There is a price to pay for cutting out so much of the fat and calories after all. But, if you’re interested in some lighter vegan recipes this is a good book to have around. Honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t put this on my shelf yet. (Hey Eric – do you SEE my spending restraint?!)
(6) The Sprouted Kitchen – I keep hearing great things about this one from people I trust. I’ll be looking to check this one out at the library soon. (Not completely vegetarian, but almost.)