About bensmall2003

Aspiring journalist.

Internet Advertising Bureau sample work (Adfero)

Published November 16, 2012 (http://www.iabuk.net/news/pinterest-for-business-launched)

Pinterest for Business launched

Fast growing social networking website Pinterest has launched a new business arm to help brands market their services and products.

Until this week, companies that used Pinterest for marketing purposes were technically breaching the website’s terms of use, which did not allow commercial endeavours.

However, the rules of engagement have now changed, with the image centric site launching Pinterest for Business.

“We now have two sets of terms—one for people and one for businesses. The business terms help guide businesses on how to use Pinterest,” said product manager at Pinterest Cat Lee.

“They also enable us to separate the provisions meant for businesses from those meant for regular people.”

Businesses accounts can now be set up or existing users can convert to them. A separate website dedicated solely for these users has been launched, containing best practices, case studies and documentation.

Features of these accounts include verification badges to prevent imitation, new buttons and widgets and updates on new services that help engagement and understanding of audiences.

 

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Review: Tilted Kilt (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-tilted-kilt/)

Titled KiltThe surroundings and ambiance of the Tilted Kilt are largely irrelevant as the almost entirely male patronage of this classy joint on Jewelers Row in the Loop have their eyes fixed on one of two things: the buxom waitresses that bound around the bar with all and sundry on show as part of their tartan-sprawled, underwear-based uniform or one of the countless televisions that occupy every corner of the expansive bar showing the latest sporting fixture. The relative authenticity of the intended Scottish nature of the bar is unlikely to occur to them as they chug down their bottles of Miller Lite. For what it’s worth, this is an American sports bar with Hooters-style objectification of women that are dressed in an American man’s idea of what a sexy Scottish woman probably looks like.

Besides the name and the get-up of the servers at the Tilted Kilt, you would be hard-pressed to find any other connection to Britain. Having a “Big Arse” burger is just nonsensical, whilst the revolting-sounding “Beer Cocktails” with titles such as “Paddy Bomb” and “Belfast Boom” are a little too close to the bone, trivializing a very dark time in the history of the UK that still has reverberations today. Anyway, drinking Southern Comfort, Amaretto, orange juice and beer together in a glass sounds like a waking nightmare. The inane sense of humor and awful drink concoctions of The Tilted Kilt match its crass premise.

This particular location of the fifty-odd Tilted Kilt establishments in America has been shrouded with controversy over alleged sexual harassment by the management toward the female staff and the subsequent indifference to the issue by the company’s CEO and higher-up administration. The manager was alleged to make unwanted advances, shoot water down the staff’s uniform with a straw and lick at least one member of staff’s ear, as well as discussing explicit pornography with the customers loudly. It’s not a business that endears itself to being financially supported. (Ben Small)

Tilted Kilt, 17 North Wabash, 2nd floor, (312)269-5580.

Review: Owen and Engine (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-owen-and-engine/)

Owen and Engine“Real ales in the Engine.” Those words were a sight for my sore eyes as I gazed across the menu at Owen and Engine on an early Saturday brunch. Hand-pumped, cellar-temperature real ales in an “English” bar in Chicago. My dreams had come true. Where The Globe teased, Owen and Engine delivered, with four cask ales to choose from, all served in the imperial measurement twenty-ounce glasses and at very reasonable prices. For the first time in three months I was able to enjoy the full taste of a beer without it having the icy cold prerequisite required to enjoy. The Lagunitas Maximus IPA and Arcadia Sky High Rye both took me right back to the countryside pubs of rural Kent. Owen and Engine had me won over immediately. However, the pub, which clearly draws a huge influence from English pubs, does not actually resemble anything like any pub I have experienced in England.

Owen and Engine is a gastro-pub, through and through. The food-menu pricing and the emphasis on the quality of the food is a certain giveaway, and whilst the gastro-pub scene is thriving in England, it is never, in my experience, based around interpretations of traditional English dishes, which is the strategy of Owen and Engine. The menu features many warmly familiar items, such as pork rinds (known as pork scratchings across the pond), boiled egg and soldiers, bubble and squeak, Yorkshire pudding and Eton mess as well as the more common meals in America, like bangers and mash. They even offer a “full English” breakfast, the traditional fried, hearty breakfast of England’s working class, which has all the trimmings, including the “love it or hate it” pig’s blood delicacy of black pudding (blood sausage, as it is known in the United States).  The menu is by far the most Anglicized of any that I have come across in Chicago, and by using high-quality ingredients and intriguing techniques they have managed to keep it refreshing for an Englishman who has eaten these dishes countless times before. The delicious vinegar aioli that accompanies the house chips is a case in point: it transforms the side and provides much more texture than malt vinegar does by itself.

The pub itself is beautifully decorated and unashamedly stylish with attention to detail in everything from the rustic picture frames to the high-quality, branded hand towels in the washrooms. The textured damask wallpaper and wainscot paneling aspire to a vibe that is more city-center yuppie than old-man country pub. However, the upstairs area has a warmer, more homely quality with its armchairs, Persian-style rugs and a fireplace that conveys an elegance and established feel to the bar that is impressive, considering the young age of both the establishment and the building it occupies.

The music complements the atmosphere by being authentically British without rendering the selection to obscurity. That does mean that we’re graced with the predictable sounds of “Twist and Shout,” but who doesn’t like that song? And there’s nothing like the warbles of a miserable Morrissey to help you reach the appropriate level of British, downtrodden pessimism.

Owen and Engine takes the idea behind an authentic British pub and transforms it into something completely new. Whilst it may not be genuinely British, there aren’t many better places to go to on a cold Midwestern winter’s day to curl up in an armchair with a pint of a cask ale in hand, the smell of mulled cider filling your nostrils and a hearty gourmet interpretation of a British staple in your belly. (Ben Small)

Owen and Engine, 2700 North Western, (773)235-2930.

Review: The Globe (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-the-globe/)

The GlobeThe all-inclusive nature of The Globe’s universal name suggests that its ties to being an “English” pub are not entirely fixed. The pub rather sits on the fence about it, and is probably better known as a worldly American ‘soccer bar’ than an English ‘football pub.’ Yet, if overhearing middle-aged British expats discussing social policy from their mother country over a pint of their favorite ale while a classic late-nineties soccer match entrances the rest of the patrons is your thing, then this is the place for you.

The pub certainly hints to a transatlantic link: the specials sign is adorned with the name of an obscure Yorkshire brewer, there are innumerable scarves from all-manner of English soccer teams decorating the walls and the food menu features a token number of English pub-fare items  alongside a more American selection that can be found in any pub or bar on any street in any city in the U.S. The Globe does, however, know how to tease a cask-ale-loving Brit. Gracing the left-hand side of the bar were two unassuming hand-pumps, the kind that ejects that flat, slightly warmer, most delicious kind of beer that, back home, we call ‘real ale.’ Unfortunately, the black plastic on the front of the pump that is usually embellished with a medieval comic-book style drawing of swords and dragons is blank; the pumps are nothing but dead weight there to taunt me. I’ll give them a B for trying, though.

Is The Globe an authentically British pub? The answer is a resounding no. It’s a sports bar catering for a different legion of sports fans. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. There are ample televisions that serve to keep you distracted from your compatriots and transfixed on the soccer action. The beer selection is second to none. (Although seeing a pint of Hobgoblin poured out of a tap rather than a pump and frosting up a pint glass is sacrilegious; there is a reason why American lagers are served at near freezing and English ales served in the fifties and that, my friends, is to mask taste, or lack thereof.) What’s more, the pub serves its purpose: the plethora of soccer matches they have on their schedule is very impressive, much better in fact than any pub in England, which are constrained by TV licensing laws. This detail alone means that I will no doubt be waking up painfully early on many Saturday mornings to make the journey down to The Globe to watch my team among the minority of other soccer fans in the U.S. (Ben Small)

1934 West Irving Park, (773)871-3757

Review: The English (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-english/)

The EnglishThe English, you say? There could not be a name for a pub that is quite so unashamedly barefaced about its intentions than one that simply names the nationality of its stylistic and inspirational forefathers. Sadly, however, this River North bar’s name is where the transatlantic connection abruptly concludes. There is absolutely nothing English about The English beyond the most banally contrived and token gestures.

For a start, the staff uniform designer seemed to miss the memo about the bar being inspirationally English. The Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, not the St. George’s Cross of England, tarnishes the back of the shirts with the catchphrase “God save the cuisine” across the middle. This may be a slightly pedantic criticism—the Union Jack is certainly a more recognizable emblem than the white and red of the St. George’s Cross—yet it still comes across as rather amateur and poorly thought through.

The catchphrase itself would suggest a selection of English delicacies across the menu. However, this would sadly not be the case, as even the tried and tested “fish and chips” comes with French fries, instead of the chunky chips that are expected as an accomplice to the ever-familiar beer-battered cod. The rest of the menu could be found in any given bar in the city except for one notable exception that caught the eye of this curious Englishman immediately: “English crisps.” An “English” dish that any native of England would expect to simply be a bag of potato chips, as those are what us Brits refer to as “crisps.” What English is serving up under the banner of “English crisps” is a concoction of waffle fries, pork shoulder, cheese, cabbage, onion and sour cream. I’d walk the streets of Chicago bearing a beefeater uniform singing “God Save the Queen” if someone could demonstrate a connection between the name of the dish, its contents and the supposed English origin.

On to the beer; not one of the draft selections is a beer from outside the U.S. besides the predictable inclusion of Guinness. (Although the inept bartender proved that she had no familiarity with the methodology of pouring the “perfect” pint of the black stuff.) The selection of bottled English imports includes the staple brews but is intriguingly dominated by beers from the St. Peter’s brewery, a range of beers that is not widespread in the UK and assumedly has been developed and marketed for international drinkers, much like the lazily named Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale, which provides an entry-level reference to English culture for the American audience. The bar is in River North, so it would be blasphemy for there not to be any craft cocktails on the menu. England is represented by the Pimm’s Cup; the atypical summer’s day indulgence for those upper-class folk who also like to root for hopeless homegrown talent at Wimbledon over a bowl of strawberries and cream. Nonetheless, the fruit-filled gin-based liqueur cocktail is undeniably (and proudly) English, and the namesake bar did a fine job of replicating it.

The décor and ambiance of The English does little to endear itself to any notion of Britishness. The aesthetics of the bar are largely comprised of the exposed metal of the building’s former industrial use, which better represents the history of Chicago’s Near North Side than anything else, combined with an art deco interior. Huge, ten-foot painted portraits of antiquated figures adorn the walls, yet when asked whom they might be, the bartender responded, “Nobody, the owner just thought it looked cool.” It is that curious lack of depth that defines The English. The bar serves its purpose to the swathes of River North’s young professionals, but the substance behind its ideology has been lost in translation. (Ben Small)

The English, 444 North La Salle, (312)222-6200.

Review: Elephant & Castle (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-elephant-castle/)

Elephant and CastleThere is something about the dark brown hues of the Elephant & Castle at 185 North Wabash, one of three locations the chain inhabits in Chicago, that is distinctly off. Yes, they’ve got the aesthetic of an English pub spot on, but there is something ostensibly lacking in the pseudo-used floral carpets, stained-glass windows and exposed brickwork that looks like it goes back about an inch before reaching plaster. Perhaps it is harsh to judge a downtown pub for being inauthentic in its decor; the bottom floor of a skyscraper is hardly akin to a centuries-old countryside village home-cum-pub with a roaring fireplace and a ceiling that was built when the average height of the human race was a few inches shorter. Regardless, for the uninitiated, Elephant & Castle looks the part.

The walls are adorned with a plethora of contrived artifacts that rather than simply make a nod to life on the other side of the pond, they head bang to the sounds of Black Sabbath. In other words, there is absolutely no subtlety. Each picture frame (which there are a large number of) features one of the following: The Beatles, a beefeater, a member of the royalty, the Spice Girls or a beer advert (typically Guinness or London Pride). What’s wrong with an antiquated painting of a fox hunting scene? Or a depiction of our once great Navy? These are the sorts of images a pub back in blighty would proudly display as representing our culture. Elephant & Castle’s approach reduces English culture to a list of predetermined stereotypes that appeal to the lowest common denominator. How long before Harry Potter, lightning bolt and all, begins decking out these English-style pubs in America?

All is not lost, however, with Elephant & Castle. They managed to adhere to one of the most important requirements of an English pub: the imperial measurement of a pint. Yes, for the first time in the U.S. I could tuck into a twenty-ounce, 568 milliliter pint of beer, unlike the sixteen ounce, 473-milliliter glasses of beer that falsely call themselves pints. This is a crucial requirement for any pub that aspires to being authentically English. Although the Elephant & Castle does dedicate a whole page of the menu to crassly hammer home how it uses imperial measurements and how quaintly English that trait is, we’ve already ascertained that subtlety is not in the vocabulary of the chain. The beer selection itself is also very impressive with Boddingtons, London Pride and Newcastle Brown Ale being just three of the numerous British offerings. Opting for Boddingtons, as the notion of a deliciously creamy pint of bitter whet my appetite, I managed to forget that it tastes like absolutely nothing and there’s a reason I never drink it back home, even when it’s half the price of what it cost at E&C. My compatriot, an American, smartly chose the more flavorful London Pride which has a hoppy richness that brings back the memories of how English beer should taste.

The menu featured all the usual staples: fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and chicken curry. Opting for the obvious choice, fish and chips, proved to be a wise decision as E&C did a great job of recreating the world renowned pub fare. The batter was delectably crispy and the chips were chunky and well-cooked, and the whole meal came on top of grease-proof paper to give that added level of authenticity. Admittedly though, the meal was reminiscent of a chain pub rendition of fish and chips in England rather than the kind of quality that you’d find in a standalone fish-and-chip shop. Regardless, you could tell E&C did their research.

Overall, what lets Elephant & Castle down is its contrived references to its inspiration. Even in England, there would never be a huge sign with a cartoon arrow pointing to the location of the “loo,” while putting every single English expression in quotation marks is just a little insulting. Someone should let the head honchos at Elephant & Castle know that no one really says “bang on” over there. For the untrained Yank, however, E&C does a pretty good job. (Ben Small)

Elephant & Castle, 185 North Wabash, (312)345-1710

Review: Duke of Perth (Newcity)

Published October 5, 2011 (http://boozemuse.com/2011/10/05/review-duke-of-perth/)

Duke of PerthA disclaimer should be lodged before I begin discussing the Duke of Perth: It is a Scottish pub, and some may find it slightly audacious, maybe even a little offensive, that an English chap is making evaluations on intended Scottish cultural imitation. I am no expert on pubs in Scotland, although I have certainly frequented a few of the establishments north of the border. Regardless, the Duke of Perth has an aura akin to any given English pub, only with a much larger emphasis on men dressed in kilts and whisky.

The Duke of Perth really feels like it has been around a long time. Shelves that line the walls are stocked full of old clocks, ornate metal plates and bottles of Scotch that look like they’ve gathered a few years dust, while the wide array of wooden furniture has an appearance that suggests the current pub is not the first owner. A particularly impressive ancient wooden cabinet is used to house the ninety single malts boasted by the Duke. This edifice dominates the tiny, gracefully weathered bar. The pub is filled with the assorted paraphernalia that one expects to find in a British pub, such as the antiquated beer advertisements and painted depictions of old British gentry. A few curveballs are thrown with the inclusion of a taxidermy stag’s head above the bar wearing a British police officer’s hat and Celtic tools on the walls that provide the obligatory nod to Scotland.

What is particularly pleasing about the Duke of Perth is that it shuns the innovations of most modern bars as a television-free space with a musical soundtrack fitting to the Scottish atmosphere (if I had closed my eyes and had a fan blown in my face, I could well have been in the Highlands). The music is kept at a reasonable level, allowing the gentle murmur of the patrons’ conversation to fill the pub, instead of the usual practice of people shouting at each other as Journey obnoxiously insists that we shouldn’t stop believing.

The draft selection is dominated by the wonderful Scottish brewery Belhaven. Their Twisted Thistle IPA and “Wee Heavy” beers, in particular, are a great representation of the quality of beers on the other side of the pond. The lack of Tennent’s, however, is a sorry state of affairs, as the streets of Glasgow are fueled by that substandard yet culturally dominant brand of lager. You would be hard-pressed to find a pub in Scotland’s cities not stocking the Scottish equivalent of Budweiser. The Scotch selection is also extensive, featuring an assortment that spans from Islay to Speyside and everywhere in between.

The Duke of Perth has gained notoriety for its fish and chips, which are all-you-can-eat on Fridays and Saturdays for a mere ten dollars. The dish lives up to its reputation, but the portions are so large that the idea of “all-you-can-eat” becomes slightly redundant after you reach capacity with just one plate. The rest of the menu contains a number of dishes that try to force a Scottish connection by placing the name of a place in the country before a typical Americana dish, such as the “Islay chicken sandwich.”

The Duke is a great place to go if you want to feel like you are eating a plate of fish and chips and sinking a pint in someone’s public living room; it has a homely feel that many pubs on the British Isles aspire to. The Scottish vibe is not overwhelming but provides something a little different from the pubs that base themselves on that “small county to the south of Scotland.” (Ben Small)

Duke of Perth, 2913 North Clark, (773)477-1741