Dining Out: Boulder's popular The Kitchen eatery opens a sister restaurant in Denver - congrats @kimbal @thekitchencomm
The Kitchen in Boulder has been a popular Front Range restaurant since 2004, thanks to a well-crafted menu offering creative takes on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Earlier this year, a sister restaurant opened in LoDo in the old Gumbo's space at 16th and Wazee streets. And The Kitchen Denver just might surpass its counterpart in the shadow of the Flatirons.
Think of it as sibling revelry.
Diners who remember Gumbo's, recently relocated to East 17th Avenue, will be astonished at the room's transformation, courtesy of designer Jen Lewin. It is a lovely amalgam of the old (distressed brick walls, wooden floors) and new (chandeliers whose myriad glass bulbs resemble sea creatures you might encounter in the Marianas Trench). Light pours in through the big bank of windows facing the wraparound sidewalk patio.
All this with grace notes such as striking flower arrangements and, on the pale wood bar, a white ceramic bowl filled with lemons.
But to the food, which is served by a staff that is friendly, knowledgeable, and knows how to pace a meal.
Tomato soup ($8), a Kitchen staple, was rich and creamy, laced with good olive oil. A goat gouda gougère ($6), crumbed and deep fried, resembled a hush puppy. The delicate shell collapsed when bit; the result was a delight of texture and flavor.
House-made merguez ($10), the hard Spanish sausage, came on a bed of black lentils studded with diced carrots, dolloped with cumin-spiked yogurt and perhaps a dash of allspice. Like so many of the restaurant's dishes, there was attention to contrasting colors and how they can please a diner's eye, as well as stomach.
The Kitchen is big on seasonal produce, and as the weather
This showed in one of the best starters, a melange of marinated white runner beans and peppers that was slicked with oil and bright with flavor. If this was a harbinger of summer, the dog days can come barking and baying at will.
May is ramp season, when that garlicky plant that looks like a spring onion rears up in shaded forest hollows. As a boy I hunted them at a place called Coleman Boundary in western North Carolina. Sauté them on a white-gas stove with some bacon, scramble in a mess of eggs, and you had heaven on a plate.
The Kitchen also has a way with ramps, using them in a pesto with almonds, and tossing them with gemelli pasta with breadcrumbs and parmesan. This was the essence of spring, and while it would have been nice to have seen a couple of ramps crisscrossed on the dish just for presentation's sake, it was the best $16 I have spent in a while.
The produce parade continued with a tagliatelle dish ($17). The pasta was paired with asparagus, fava beans, mint, goat cheese and a bit of fresno pepper.
For all the veggies, proteins are not ignored, down to a ribeye steak with ramp mashers and asparagus that will set you back $32.
Chargrilled chicken, which can often be boring enough to induce narcolepsy in the Energizer Bunny, was in this case something that jumped in the mouth. Two small, skin-on breasts were glazed with harissa, a sauce made with piri piri peppers that is Tunisia's gift to the world. The accompanying couscous was nearly worth the $24 admission price alone: fluffy grains mixed with roasted almond slivers, cucumbers and mint, sitting atop a puddle of cumin yogurt.
A seafood bar has primacy in one corner of the front room, with shellfish — four types of oysters, king crab legs and and lobster — piled atop shaved ice. Feeling flush? Caviar service ranges from 28 grams of American sturgeon for $50 to 56 grams of Siberian osetra for $155. (No word on how many rubles that translates into.)
A few words on the commendable cocktail program, which emphasizes craft. Two in particular stood out.
"Tarra-Gin" was a bracing mix of Hotchkiss-distilled Cap Rock Gin, house grapefruit bitters, a tarragon sprig and a blast of soda. At $11 it wasn't cheap, and perhaps should have sat there and talked about how nice you looked, but it was tasty.
A "Persian Lemon" ($9) featured lemon vodka, Pama (a pomegranate liqueur), pineapple juice and a lemon garnish, shaken and strained into a glass with a sugared rim. This was nicely balanced, favoring the tart over the treacly.
Non-alcoholic cocktails are available, including a refreshing lime rickey.
The wine list is extensive, although the by-the-glass selection is not.
Kudos to the bartender who steered me to a Charles and Charles rosé, a Washington syrah that was a crisp counterpoint to the harissa chicken and fairly priced at $8. I belong to the generation of wine drinkers who came of age in the 1980s, when Sutter Home pretty much killed our interest in blush wines thanks to its white zinfadel. This one might have returned me to the fold.
In LoDo, the Kitchen crew has a winner.
THE KITCHEN DENVER
1530 16th St. 303-623-3127 kitchencommunity.com
Atmosphere: Stylish mix of weathered brick walls and modern fittings
Service: Friendly, knowledgeable
Beverages: Wine, beer, cocktails
Plates: Starters, $4-$14; entrees, $16-$32
Hours: Open daily. Lunch 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (weekend lunch starts June 2); dinner 5 p.m.-until.
Details: Street parking, lots.
Our star system:
**: Very Good
Stars reflect the dining reviewer's overall reaction to the restaurant's food, service and atmosphere.
love this place!
For tech entrepreneurs struggling to build stuff, the cacophony of recent press is just more noise. That’s why when my friend Andrew Chen posted an insightful analysis of Facebook user data, I was happy to get back to learning from what the company did right instead of debating what its bankers did wrong.
Chen calculated Facebook’s historical ratio of daily active users (DAU) to monthly active users (MAU) and the stats are startling. Since March 2009, when the earliest data is available, approximately 50% of Facebook users logged in daily.
As other technology companies struggle to maintain DAU to MAU ratios of 5% or less, Facebook’s numbers appear stratospherically high in comparison. But what is equally surprising is the consistency of that ratio over time. Despite periodic user revolts in reaction to changes in the site, the ratio remained strangely stable. In fact, the number has risen over the past year and is now hovering at 58% as of March of this year.
It’s as if Zuckerberg has steered the company by this golden ratio. Which begs the question: is there some wisdom here regarding this ratio as a predictor of Internet success? Obviously, there are no guarantees and starting cutting edge tech companies will always be risky business. But, assuming you have a solid business model, there are good reasons to believe that if there is one metric to focus on while building your business, it’s the percentage of users who come back daily as expressed by this ratio.
As I’ve written previously, I believe a mastery of the mechanics of habit design is increasingly deciding startup winners and losers. Not only because habits cement user behavior in an increasingly cluttered digital world, but because a high-engagement product is also a high-growth product. The two are one and the same. A high DAU to MAU ratio is a great indicator of the strength of user habits and, ceteris paribus, I’d bet on a business with the higher ratio over a competitor every time. Here’s why:
More is more
When it comes to web and mobile startups, high DAU to MAU is more important than the size or growth rate of an entrenched competitor. Case in point, Facebook defeated much earlier competitors like MySpace and Friendster, both of which had healthy growth rates and millions of users by the time Facebook got started.
This is because of what I call the “more is more principle.” High user engagement has an exponential effect on user growth. As David Skok points out on his blog, “The most important factor to increasing growth is not the Viral Coefficient, but the Viral Cycle Time.” Viral Cycle time is the amount of time it takes to complete a viral loop and it has massive impact on user growth. “For example, after 20 days with a cycle time of two days, you will have 20,470 users,” Skok writes. “But if you halved that cycle time to one day, you would have over 20 million users! It is logical that it would be better to have more cycles occur, but it is less obvious just how much better.”
Having a greater proportion of DAUs dramatically increases Viral Cycle Time for two reasons. First, daily users initiate loops more often - think tagging a photo on Facebook. Second, more daily active users means more people to respond and react to each invitation. The cycle not only perpetuates; with high DAU to MAU, it accelerates.
One way to grow
Those who talk tech split into two dogmatic camps. Some prioritize growth and accept low engagement, while others believe a company needs to nail engagement before focusing on growth. I believe this is a false dichotomy. If you have only one or the other, congratulations, you’ve got squat.
Let’s first take a look at user growth. Distribution, of course, is critically important and no company can survive without a sound customer acquisition strategy. Not only is growth essential but it is something engineer-driven companies love to work on. In fact, the title of “Growth Hacker” has recently become a badge of honor among Silicon Valley digerati. Tweaking viral coefficients and instantly seeing the results is intoxicating. It’s startup feedback at its finest.
But optimizing growth without engagement has its pitfalls. As Peter Thiel recently told his class at Stanford, the effectiveness of distribution channels tends to follow a power law. Just as businesses tend to have only one revenue stream, they also have only one good growth strategy - the effectiveness of which is 10x the results of other distribution channels. The problem with having only one real way to grow is that the method becomes obvious to others and is quickly copied. For example, in its early days, Facebook capitalized on users importing their email contact list to drive growth. But soon thereafter, so did everyone else.
But having competitors copy you is a high-class problem. It means something is working. Worse yet is discovering a fantastic viral loop that drives growth only to see engagement crater when users realize there's little long-term value in the service. Ringtone businesses, sheep-throwing Facebook games circa 2008, and today's social video sharing apps using questionable growth tactics, are just a few of the "leaky bucket" businesses that occur when distribution outpaces engagement.
When it comes to building a big business, clearly a good acquisition channel is mandatory, but not sufficient. Given the power law of user growth, you will likely only have one major way of acquiring customers and it won’t be much of a secret. You’ll need some other competitive advantage.
Engagement as advantage
As opposed to distribution channels, the mechanics driving user engagement do not follow a power law. In fact, it is the nuances of user behavior that make the competition irrelevant, just as it did in the case of Facebook’s early rivals.
Discovering non-obvious user needs and creating accompanying habits is accomplished through deep observation grounded in solid behavioral theory, followed by methodical trial and error. It takes time to create new habits and getting the user to act the way you’d hoped is accomplished by uncovering a thousand tiny insights into the user's psyche. The process of uncovering latent needs is characterized by understanding more about users than they know about themselves.
The distribution strategy will always be obvious, but the behavioral insights are important secrets that can only be discovered through rigorous testing. Zynga had one obvious way to acquire users, namely Facebook ads. But the company has a cadre of behavioral insights it uses to craft addictive games. It collects terabytes of information daily to alter game dynamics to boost user engagement. Quora primarily drives users to its site through Google search traffic. But the conjecture about all the reasons why the service is so sticky spills over a long question thread. Instagram posted images to Twitter and Facebook to drive user acquisition, placing its growth strategy in plain sight. However, the founders, one of whom studied psychology as a Symbolic Systems major at Stanford, acquired a deep understanding of what makes users tick and click.
But why can’t behavioral design be copied like a distribution strategy? Because competitors are not able to recognize and act upon these kinds of insights. You can know the competition’s product feels better to use, but you won’t know why. Engaging products gain their advantages by leveraging tiny improvements, which together create huge advantage. From the outside, you can’t tell what’s working and what isn’t.
For example, the iPhone is objectively a better designed, more user-friendly, and ultimately more engaging product than the Android experience. But why? Nearly everyone, when given the choice between an Android interface and an iPhone, chooses the iPhone. There are plenty of good reasons to own an Android, but intuitive interface ain’t one. Google knows this and yet they can’t replicate Apple because they don’t know the answer to “why?” You can’t make decisions between seemingly identical interface choices unless you’ve walked the path of user behavior. Without this knowledge, copying the competition becomes a game of throwing darts at features.
Habit design requires a fundamentally different, though complementary skill set to growth hacking. Designing high-engagement products is an art which is increasingly becoming a science. The craft crosses the disciplines of psychology and design - both fields which are hard to learn in a short period of time. Unfortunately, designing habits often falls in the organisational abyss between the founders’ vision and what is technically feasible.
But those companies able to habituate users quickly enjoy massive advantages. Not only does engagement drive growth for the reasons stated above, but users tend to shut out other, sometimes superior, solutions. In fact, business history is peppered with technically inferior products beating competitors because of the fierce loyalty of habituated users (I’m looking at you Apple addicts). Users only have time and brain cycles for a limited number of services. If a high proportion of users are using your service daily, they aren’t using the competition’s.
Can't have one without the other
But focusing on engagement without growth is also a losing proposition. For one, virality is not something that can be bolted on to a product after it is in the wild. Distribution is not an afterthought and it needs to be built into the core of the experience. Either the company has a viral growth mechanic or it doesn’t. So no matter how engaging your service is, it will remain niche unless there is a way to get it in front of new users en masse.
Creating a company with both high engagement and high growth requires a sound distribution engine fueled by active users. Both engagement and growth are essential to a company's viability and by adhering to the tao of DAU and MAU, founders have an accurate point of focus to increase their odds of success.
This post in Tweets
- A high DAU to MAU ratio is an indicator of the strength of user habits.
- High user engagement has an exponential effect on user growth because it speeds Viral Cycle Time.
- Given the power law of user growth, you will likely only have one major way of acquiring customers and it won’t be a secret for long.
- Distribution strategy will always be obvious, but behavioral insights are secrets that can only be discovered through testing.
- The process of uncovering latent needs is characterized by understanding more about users than they know about themselves.
- Companies able to habituate users quickly enjoy massive advantages over their competition.
- Business history is peppered with technically inferior products beating competitors because of the loyalty of habituated users.
- Virality cannot be bolted on to a product after it is in the wild. It needs to be built into the core of the experience.
- Creating a company with both high engagement and high growth requires a sound distribution engine fueled by active users.
- Follow the tao of DAU over MAU.
Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography
Editor’s Note: Nir Eyal is the founder of two acquired startups and an advisor to several Bay Area companies and incubators. Nir blogs about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com. Follow him on Twitter @nireyal.
this was also a great virality read: http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/lessons-learnt-viral-marketing/
"I hope we never sell a car here" -- George Blankenship, @teslamotors VP worldwide sales on new store. Brilliant!
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft successfully berthed with the International Space Station this morning after a long overnight approach including several unplanned maneuvers. The crew at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, concluded a long night of flight demonstrations and troubleshooting by watching astronaut Don Pettit control the station’s robotic arm and grapple the Dragon at 6:56 a.m. PDT.
“Looks like we’ve got a Dragon by the tail,” Pettit said from the station’s Cupola module once the capture was made.
Pettit’s successful capture of the Dragon was greeted by cheers at both SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters and NASA’s mission control in Houston. For both SpaceX and NASA the capture moment marks the beginning of a shift in how cargo will be delivered to and from the space station, with the eventual goal of changing how manned flight itself is done to low Earth orbit.
But Dragon’s overnight approach was not without hiccups, demonstrating the true test-flight nature of the mission. A problem with the devices used to guide the Dragon as it approached the station forced an initial retreat. In the end there were a handful of changes made to the initial flight plan, but at 6:49 a.m. PDT, the Dragon sat just 10 meters (32 feet) from the ISS when NASA flight director Holly Ridings gave the command SpaceX had been waiting years to hear: “go for capture.”
Early Friday morning the SpaceX team in Hawthorne completed the approach initiation burn of the Dragon’s Draco thrusters to move the spacecraft roughly 1,000 meters to a point where it could change its alignment relative to the station before performing the first series of demonstration maneuvers close to the ISS. The Dragon spacecraft could be seen on Earth by its flashing strobe light against the night sky.
Once in place at 350 meters, Dragon completed a 180-degree yaw rotation to align itself, and then another short burn was performed to move to the 250-meter point where the demonstrations would begin.
At 2:29 a.m. PDT, the SpaceX team confirmed Dragon was holding at 250 meters (820 feet), but Andre Kuipers, the Dutch astronaut on board the station, noticed the spacecraft was slightly forward of where it was expected to be. NASA engineers in Houston said the position was acceptable.
As the ISS and Dragon passed in and out of sunlight orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, the teams in Houston and Hawthorne prepared for what has long been considered the most challenging and critical part of the mission, demonstrating Dragon can make several different maneuvers in close range to the ISS, with commands being sent from both the ground and from the astronauts on the station.
Just before 3:00 a.m. PDT, with a short burst of the thrusters, Dragon again began approaching the ISS. Minutes later, with the Dragon 220 meters from the station, astronaut Kuipers sent a command via the UHF communications link and Dragon aborted its approach as expected and returned to the 250 meter hold position. Test one was complete.
Kuipers planned to send a command for Dragon to hold at 235 meters, but problems with Dragon’s on-board thermal camera used for the rendezvous with the ISS kept it at the 250 meter point. After a few minutes the test resumed and Kuipers issued Dragon a hold command at 235 meters, but it happened a bit earlier than planned.
Over the next half hour or so, the teams in Hawthorne and Houston were busy evaluating the data from the on-board sensors to make sure both the station and Dragon agreed on their relative positions before moving any closer, particularly inside the simply named “Keep Out Sphere” that surrounds the ISS at 200 meters.
As time progressed, some questions were raised from the data being analyzed from Dragon’s thermal image sensors and the on-board LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors. The two different devices are used to independently measure the distance between the two spacecraft. This information is then used by Dragon’s guidance system as it approaches the ISS. The data provided by the thermal cameras was causing the engineers to further evaluate the sensor.
Dragon was sent to an unplanned hold position at 200 meters in hopes of giving the thermal sensors a chance to obtain better data on the position of Dragon relative to the ISS.
By 4:20 a.m. PDT Dragon was once again on the move, this time to a position 150 meters from the station. After checking the sensors again, Dragon was cleared to fly to the next hold point at 30 meters. But less than 20 minutes later Dragon was held at 78 meters as SpaceX made some changes to the spacecraft’s LIDAR equipment. At 5:21 a.m. PDT the approach was resumed but just four minutes later SpaceX issued a retreat command, moving Dragon away from the ISS.
Dragon returned to 78 meters while a problem with the LIDAR was analyzed. It turns out the laser used by the LIDAR was receiving stray reflections from the Japanese Kibo laboratory on the station. Over the course of the next half hour, SpaceX engineers analyzed how to resolve the problem with the stray LIDAR signals, eventually deciding to narrow the view of the LIDAR. Essentially they put blinders on the sensors so they could only see straight ahead, where the Dragon was set to be berthed with the station.
Eventually Dragon was given the go-ahead to proceed to the 30-meter point, and then to the 10-meter location where it would be captured by the station’s robotic arm. After rescheduling the planed grapple a few times during the morning, the go-ahead was given for a capture at 7:02 a.m., which would take place in the dark as the two spacecraft passed over Australia. Dragon took roughly 20 minutes to fly the final 20 meters to its final hold position.
With Dragon in place at 10 meters, NASA’s Holly Ridings sat at her flight director desk in Houston with a purple stuffed dragon toy on the console above her. She anxiously twirled her pen in her hand as she told astronaut Pettit that Dragon was operating on a single LIDAR and should that one fail, the spacecraft would abort.
But in the final minutes, everything went well as Pettit maneuvered the arm towards Dragon. As the end of the arm inched towards the capsule, lights from the ISS bathed Dragon in an orange glow. A few minutes ahead of schedule at 6:56 a.m. PDT, capture was confirmed by NASA, marking the first time a private spacecraft was attached to the International Space Station.
The capture occurred 3 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 23 seconds after the Falcon 9 had lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Tuesday morning. After another hour and a few reconfigurations of Dragon the robotic arm slowly pulled the capsule towards the station and at 8:52 a.m. PDT NASA confirmed Dragon was firmly attached to the station itself and the robotic arm was no longer holding it in place. After tightening the 16 bolts attaching Dragon to the station’s Harmony module, the ISS officially had its first private spacecraft visitor.
There are several more steps before the hatch between the ISS and Dragon will be opened early Saturday. Once opened, the crew on board the station will spend several days unpacking the 1,014 pounds (460 kilograms) of cargo on board Dragon. Once empty, the crew will load up Dragon with 1,367 (620 kilograms) of cargo before the spacecraft is released from the station and returns to earth with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 31.