Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kelly Bothum writes about Surfing Online Lifelines for the News Journal

In her article today, journalist Kelly Bothum gave folks a look into a new online health site launching next month, while discussing why people go online for health answers and how they can connect on sites and thriving online communitities like http://www.trusera.com/. Bothum explains how Keith and Jennifer Schorsch's personal experience led them to launch Trusera:

"In 2004, Jennifer Schorsch's husband, Keith, suffered debilitating fatigue and facial paralysis, but more than a dozen doctors couldn't figure out his problem. It was only when a family friend called and offered some nonexpert advice -- "I think you have Lyme disease," he said -- that the couple were able to get Keith the help he needed.

That experience eventually led the Schorsches to start up Trusera.com, a social networking Web site that encourages people to share their health-related experiences. Visitors can browse categories, read member stories and submit questions to individual health communities on the site.

"Keith and I really feel that call saved his life, if not the quality of life," said Schorsch, who serves as marketing director of the Web site, which launched in June. "You realize you always want to have your doctor involved, but we felt that there was really a missing link -- that friend who has been through it."

For some Trusera users, Jacki Donaldson is that friend, even if they've never met her. The Gainesville, Fla., woman is a breast cancer survivor, mother of two sons and a blogger for Trusera, which has drawn visitors from 179 countries.

Three years ago, she started a personal blog about her experience with breast cancer as a way to keep family and friends in the loop about her treatment. Over time, the entries morphed into a form of communication -- and online therapy -- for her and her growing group of readers.
On Trusera, Donaldson has recounted those experiences, including her yearlong treatment with Herceptin. The cancer drug is used for HER-2 positive breast cancer, which occurs in about 20 percent to 30 percent of all women with the disease. She's heard from several Trusera users with the same type of breast cancer who worry about what it's like to go through that treatment.
"I think probably the biggest thing it does it soothes the panic," Donaldson said of her writing for Trusera. "The Internet can be dangerous because there can be a lot of unrefereed places out there. I think most women want to find someone like them who is doing OK so you have some hope going forward."

Reaching out to others

One of the strengths of online health networking, Schorsch said, is that the community does a good job of self-correcting erroneous or inflammatory statements. She pointed to a 2006 study in a British medical journal that found less than 0.2 percent of the 4,600 postings made on an Internet chat support group for breast cancer patients were misleading or inaccurate. Of the 10 incorrect statements, all but three were corrected by members within an average of five hours, the study found."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reader Reviews Average Five Stars for Spur

Ginger wrote to the Stranger with a review of Spur recently, saying:

"As terrified as I am that the rest of Seattle is going to figure out what's going on at Spur, these folks deserve major kudos for getting it right. Cocktails: spot on. Food: right up there with Sitka and How to Cook a Wolf. Service: perfect (knowledgeable; well mannnered, but still charming). If you want beer though, you're better off going to Quinn's. This is a cocktail-and-wine joint. Hallelujah!" www.spurseattle.com

13th Anniversary of Double Black Stout: Or a Story of How a PR Agency was Formed and Fueled by a Really Great Stout

You know, I'm thinking the brewers over at Redhook Brewery must have tuned-into their wiretap to my office the other week. 13 years ago I wrapped-up my final project in-house at Starbucks before rolling up my sleeves to start this agency. My final hurrah as in-house PR gal at SBUX? The co-launch of Redhook and Starbucks' Double Black Stout beer... a delicious way to exit a fabulous company and launch an equally rewarding one.

Memorable moment from the 1995 launch? Tom Douglas' recipe for Starbucks Double Stout Brownies which he created for the beer's launch. I've lost track of that recipe somewhere in my old archives but, trust me, it was a divine one.

The Seattle PI's Geoff Kaiser wrote today on his "What's On Tap" beer blog about the re-launch of Double Back Stout. It's now brewed with Lighthouse Roasters coffee, not Starbucks.

I'm looking forward to a tasting. Am thinking of saving it for the viewing of Top Chef's season premier Wednesday night. Cheers!

Keith Schorsch, CEO of Trusera, Tells His Story to Jason Brooks on KIRO Radio and MyNorthwest.com

Go to Jason Brooks' page on MyNorthwest.com to hear the interview he did with Trusera's Keith Schorsch. It's a great overview of why the Trusera community www.Trusera.com has been formed and how it's poised for the future. Keith's personal health journey plays a big part.

About Brooks' CEO Spotlights: "Seattle is home to one of the most diverse and exciting business communities in the world. Each week, Jason talks to the people responsible for leading these groundbreaking businesses. Find out their secrets to success, and plans for the future."

KIRO about Trusera: "You can find just about anything online these days, but what if you've an illness confounding doctors? In this week's CEO Spotlight KIRO Money Editor Jason Brooks reports a Seattle businessman has drawn on his own experience to help others find answers."

To listen to the interview, go midway down Jason's page on the KIRO/MyNorthwest website http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=215 and click on the Trusera logo/link in the right-hand column under "CEO Spotlight" features.

Thanks Jason for the terrific story.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Things We Like: When Seattle Times Restaurant Reviewer Uses the Word "Divine" Describing Spur's Food

Providence Cicero's review of our friends and clients Spur was amazing. We're so proud of the Chefs, Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, cocktail maestro David Nelson, and Spur's servers and crew. And just look at this cool photo Dean Rutz took of the guys for the Times. Wow. If you missed it, read it:

Co-chefs concoct adventurous mix of flavors and textures at Spur
By Providence Cicero
Special to The Seattle Times

It's not easy being married to a restaurant critic.

My husband went along on my first visit to Spur, Belltown's trendy, new gastropub. I thought we were having a lovely meal. It began with a trio of smoked-salmon crostini. Each fragile toast bore a nugget of soft, gently smoked sockeye on a pouf of mascarpone, boffo little bites enlivened with pickled shallots, spicy micro radish greens and crunchy fried capers.

But then came potato-leek soup. There wasn't more than a puddle of rich, creamy potage in the bowl. The rest was foam, and from that ebb tide emerged three whole prawns, looking like they were making a run for it.

Mussels followed, gripped by some fearsome-looking crustacean. It was a giant chicharon, a canopy of fried pork rind sheltering the shellfish. It took some might to break it into pieces small enough to dunk, and it crackled like a windshield shattering when it hit hot liquid, merging its delicious bacon-flavor with the scallion- and chili-stoked broth.

It was after that, as he nibbled politely on crispy little drumettes of chili-glazed chicken confit, with whipped buttermilk where he thought mashed potatoes belonged, that he calmly announced, "I don't think I need to come back here with you."

"You're not enjoying this food?" I asked, nonplused.

"There are certain things you don't fool around with," he said. "I shudder to think what tagliatelle with parmesan foam is like, or carpaccio with fried béarnaise."

I enjoyed both on my second visit (sans husband) to Spur, where fooling around with food is part of the fun. Co-chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough dabble in the shape-shifting world of molecular gastronomy, finding new ways to manipulate flavor and texture, but they do so judiciously, not just for effect.

Fried béarnaise sounds like a gimmick, but that rich sauce, transformed into springy, grape-size globules, released a flood of tarragon in the mouth, mightily enhancing tissue-thin raw beef.
Foam did indeed froth from the pasta. It faintly echoed the smoky oyster mushrooms and melting ribbons of nutty parmesan that clung to the fresh noodles. A duck egg, cooked sous vide to a quivering, semisolid state, nested among the tiny bubbles. A vigorous toss with fork and spoon distributed pale foam and orange yolk, and the result was akin to a divine carbonara sauce.

Sous vide is the process of vacuum sealing and slow-cooking food in a warm-water bath. It results in a moist, velvety texture, and it's used here on both steak and fish to great effect. Lush butterfish (another name, in some parts, for sablefish or black cod), sauced with foaming fish fumé, is paired with earthy companions: chanterelles, chopped black kale, white beans and marble-size potatoes. Sweet shallot marmalade and sharp, spicy Tasmanian peppercorn vinaigrette temper the gaminess of flat-iron steak arrayed against a crisp-creamy slab of fried mashed potato.

As much as these 27-year-old chefs like to play with their thermal immersion circulator, and with ingredients like agar-agar, they don't get carried away by chemistry. Their cooking has integrity as well as verve.

They tweak their short menu monthly, and nothing on it resembles a science experiment, except maybe the chocolate "soil" and almond "caviar," two of the "playful accompaniments" to gelato. Granted, the powdery chocolate tastes way better than dirt, but the liquid pearls released little almond flavor, nor did either much enliven bland, thin Bing cherry gelato. Foie gras ice cream was more voluptuous; its savory swagger perfect with a pistachio financier teacake drizzled with sweet elderflower syrup.

Fruit tartlets were exceptional. In early October these tiny shortbread canoes held wild huckleberries dressed up with candied orange peel, sprigs of lavender mint and dots of Bavarian cream. The waiter made a point of explaining that the kitchen had "suspended physics" by devising warm Bavarian cream. When I pointed out that the plate had been chilled and sauce congealed, he was back in a flash with warm, fluid spoonfuls of vanilla cream.

Food hadn't come that swiftly all night. The lag time between ordering and eating was sometimes long, and no two plates ordered together managed to arrive simultaneously.
It was a different story on another night sitting at the small bar, where cubbies are stocked with high-end spirits and small TVs soundlessly run spaghetti Westerns. Service never missed a beat and I had the added pleasure of observing head barman David Nelson practice his own kind of alchemy.

Dozens of small, chubby corked bottles line the far edge of the bar. They hold his house-made tinctures and bitters. His expertly crafted drinks include the elegant Kentucky Tuxedo and the raffish Red Hook. The former blends bourbon and sherry with a hint of lavender and orange. The latter, named not for the beer but for the Brooklyn neighborhood, winks at a Manhattan with a mix of rye, maraschino liqueur and Punt y Mes. It's not shaken but stirred, slowly. "For at least a minute," says the meticulous Nelson, "unless we're really busy."

Spur was packed on both visits. The youngish crowd gravitated toward the high, communal bar tables that seat eight, though eventually the dining area and even the wing chairs by the front door filled with patrons dressed to match the artsy, urban-industrial surroundings.

It's not everybody's kind of place. Just ask my husband. But I could see becoming a regular.

Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com
photo of dana tough and brian mccracken by DEAN RUTZ for THE SEATTLE TIMES