February 8, 2012Comments are off for this post.

Accidental Existentialism in Food Trucks

I always feel a little lost during the first few weeks back on campus after break. There's that thing called homework that I'd tried to forget about and the strange transformation in my schedule that fills up all my free time with poorly timed blocks of class. But while all this is par for the course, my usual adjustment period was recently complicated by the mysterious white truck lurking on Tufts grounds.

I first noticed this unmarked white vehicle parked on Packard while living off campus over break. As I walked passed it, I would try to determine it's purpose, but it would always stare silently back at me, taunting me in its unwillingness to reveal its secrets. Thoughts and questions about this white leviathan haunted my dreams for days, but as the semester began to approach, the elusive beast faded from my mind. Would it were so easy.

On the first Monday of classes, I left wind ensemble rehearsal with a spring in my step. Thrilled to be making music once more, I felt as if the world were at my fingertips and was more than ready to tackle the three hour night class looming before me. And then I saw it. The white truck was waiting for me across from Anderson as if it knew I would have to pass by on my way to class. It's side was open and two men were operating from within, a line of students forming along the back. What kind of seedy business were they up to? I had to know.

I approached at a brisk walk, not wanting the wily white truck to know I was onto it. I gazed within to see beautiful columns of meat being carved into what I could only assume were delicious sandwiches of some sort. I resisted temptation and walked on. This scenario would repeat itself again on Wednesday and once more I chose not to stop despite the call of the white food truck. My curiosity was too strong, however, so I ventured back during our ten minute break, only to find it silently sitting in the dark once more, waiting patiently for our paths to cross some point in the future.

For weeks this white truck has piqued my curiosity and recently tempted my taste buds, and still I've yet to try it. Always in a rush to class, I've passed it, looking longingly at the meats taunting me from behind the open window. How is it that I've been too busy to stop and try something I so desperately want?

Here I am, entering my last semester at Tufts and I'm too worried about getting to class a few minutes early to stop and treat my tastebuds to a new experience. This wasn't originally supposed to be existential or particularly meaningful, I was just asked to throw something together as filler for the opinions section and the food truck was suggested as a possible topic. I knew that my personal history with the food truck could possibly be a starting point, but now that I've double checked the definition of existentialism with Wikipedia, it seems I ended up writing an existential piece anyway.

So where does that leave us? While the mystery of the mysterious white truck has been nearly brought to a close (I plan to visit it for lunch tomorrow), there are still many more journeys out there to be taken and mysterious white trucks to investigate. Four years goes by incredibly fast and with May growing closer every day, that five minute early arrival to class seems less and less important, especially when compared to a warm, delicious gyro full of freshly carved meat from the existential food truck.

 

November 9, 2011Comments are off for this post.

The Speech UI Revolution

With Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4S last month, the paradigm of human-computer interaction saw what will become the largest shift since the original iPhone brought capacitive touch screens to the masses. In a single decade we have gone from typing on a set of static keys on a phone, to interacting with an adaptive touch screen display, to now being able to have a conversation with our phone. This transition reflects the desire of people to interact with technology as we do with each other. Touch brought our gadgets and technology out of the realm of plastic devices into objects of desire with emotional value. We bring our smart phones everywhere, sleep with them in our beds at night, and caress their screens until they give us what we want.

The touch revolution helped make interactions with technology more intuitive, more responsive, and much more powerful. A single pane of glass with an adaptive user interface allows developers and designers to create a custom environment for each situation the user is in, so that content can become the focus of applications instead of menu placement and UI design. Users no longer have to worry about where the ‘copy and paste’ command is in the new MS Office ribbon, and instead can focus on making their creations look, read, and feel the way they want them to. This transformation also allows designers to create incredible experiences that replicate real-world instruments, allow the user to simply navigate to an address by tapping on a map, and rotate an image by manipulating as they would an actual photograph. So if touch is so great, why did I say that the introduction of Siri will change the way we interact with technology?

For as long as we’ve had computers, we’ve dreamed of interacting with them as we do with each other, through conversation. One needs only to look at science fiction classics like Star Wars and of course the infamous Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Conversation, whether verbal, textual, or ultimately through body language, is how we are able to communicate most effectively. While voice-to-text technology has existed in rudimentary forms since the 50′s, Siri is the first “digital assistant” to have an actual conversation with you. A conversational interaction is far more powerful than existing speech recognition command interfaces like those found in Google’s Android or Vlingo’s smartphone software. Instead of issuing a keyword, “navigate to”, and a search term, “Starbucks”, the user can now converse with the computer to narrow results, select the best option, and then act upon the information.

With computers, smartphones, and tablets now shipping with much more hardware processing power than the average user will need, designers and developers can focus on changing the interaction paradigm and desktop metaphor we’ve adjusted to over the last few decades. In a fantastic interview with The Verge, Android designer Matias Duarte talks about designing interfaces that reflect the uses and realities of technology, instead of building on archaic metaphors that no longer apply. Touch was the first milestone in enabling this UI revolution, but speech recognition will take us even further. With speech, our technology begins to have a “soul”, a spirit, an attitude even. Siri’s designers understood this and instead of simply building call and response into the engine, they gave Siri attitude, writing custom responses that created a personality for the machine. As computer synthesized voices become more natural and speech recognition algorithms get better at detecting the meaning behind natural language, the interactions we have with technology will continue to blend the lines between human-human interaction and human-computer interaction.

So where does this leave us? Children being born now will never know a world where speaking to your computer labeled you as a geek who didn’t get out enough. Interacting with computers will continue to become more and more natural as speech recognition matures and computers become better at reading facial expressions and body language. While Minority Report set what has become the gold standard for futuristic user interfaces, the reality is far simpler. Complex hand-waving and gestural cues will become obsolete as we talk to and interact with technology as we would with our friends. This may seem like a far-off vision of the future, but as Apple demonstrated with their “Knowledge Navigator” tablet concept in 1987, technology that seems as far out as flying cars can be attained in mere decades. Touch helped us connect with our devices and speech recognition will help us build relationships with them, bringing our science fiction dreams ever more close to reality.

November 6, 2011Comments are off for this post.

Interview with Tufts Gordon Institute

This past summer the Gordon Institute at Tufts sponsored my internship with 1Minute40Seconds, a startup founded by alum Blade Kotelly and based in Cambridge. Three of the recipients were interviewed to highlight their experiences. For me, working at a startup, applying the skills I've acquired throughout my life, and embedding myself in the entrepreneurial scene in and around Boston was a fantastic, transformative experience. Below is a snippet from the interview.

 

William Vaughan currently interns for 1Minute40Seconds, a technology company founded by Blade Kotelly, E95. Vaughan applies his industrial psychology coursework to make Kotelly's product as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.
"I've really been able to incorporate all those things I've learned in class about how people think into an actual design," Vaughan said. "The biggest thing I've learned is how to put knowledge into the real word—actually working on a product instead of a project for class. I'm learning how to plan on a project, implement it, consult with my team, and create a presentation that shows where we are and how much farther we have to go."

 

See the rest of my interview and those of the other students here.

November 1, 2011Comments are off for this post.

Drink.

Most places won’t serve this to you for a few very good reasons,” Will said to me as he delicately placed a raw egg yolk into a small shooter glass on the bar before me, sliding it along a spoon into the awaiting layered liqueurs. As instructed, I sipped on the egg whites and bitters that adorned the top of the drink, drank the next layer of brandy to steel myself, and, with one swift motion, took the remaining Curaçao and egg yolk into my mouth. There was no going back. Time to drink.

Drink. So many connotations for such a small word. I drink orange juice in the morning, drink a glass of red wine at night, drink beer at frat parties, and drink shots at pregames, but the best Drink is the bar. With no sign outdoors, no marker on the entrance, and only a tiny black sign at the bottom of the staircase to remind the regulars, Drink is a bar that is just as elusive as the Knickebein I was about to consume. Winner of the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail, a national bar competition held annually in New Orleans, Drink has created a name for itself and is quickly becoming the go-to bar for industry professionals visiting Boston.

As a part of Barbara Lynch’s family of incredible Boston restaurants, Drink breaks some of the most standard rules in the traditional bar handbook. Located beneath another one of Lynch’s restaurants, Sportello, Drink hearkens back to the days of speakeasies and secret retreats from a chaotic world. You descend the stairs and proceed through a door into a world where every aspect of the bar is coordinated to create the perfect cocktail experience. Solid black counters line the brick walls and the three U-shaped bars extend outward beneath the windows looking up onto the sidewalk above. Behind the bar lie not rows upon rows of various alcohols, but glass bowls of lemons, limes, and oranges, and the necessary tools to turn separate ingredients into one amazing cocktail.

Entering Drink is like falling down the rabbit’s hole. Every turn and twist sends you into a new adventure of alcoholic exploration.  It’s almost like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books; you begin your evening’s experience by telling the bartender your favorite alcohols or flavors, and each of the knowledgeable bartenders is able to transform your unsure words into the perfect drink you never knew you loved. I’ve brought friends who have started by the night by requesting “something that tastes like rainbows and unicorns” and others who have simply asked for an Old Fashioned. After a few questions about whether you like things sweet or bitter, fruity or savory, stirred or shaken, Drink’s specialists are off to create a unique cocktail just for you.

This interaction between the bartender and the customer is truly what sets Drink apart from most bars and restaurants in Boston. Instead of fighting your way to the front of the bar only to yell out, “RUM AND COKE!” at the top of your lungs, you are treated like a friend who is stopping by to hang out for the evening. A simple folded white cloth and a glass of water mark your place at the bar while your bartender pulls the necessary ingredients from beneath the bar and begins to work his magic.

While I’ve been referring to the staff at Drink as bartenders, they would more aptly be described as mixologists. Creating drinks is as much an art form as it as a profession, and the mixologists at Drink demonstrate this well, perfecting the traditional cocktails such as Daiquiris or Manhattans with love, while experimenting at an individual level with each and every order. A well-made cocktail is delicious, but nothing beats the experience of sitting in a dimly lit underground Mecca of mixology, watching some of the best bartenders in the world create your personalized drink right before your very eyes.

One night, after starting with a delicious St. Germaine cocktail followed by a cucumber-infused gin drink, my friend and I were itching to try something a bit more adventurous. Before us, Will, the bartender, had just placed half an eggshell into a glass and was carefully sliding the yolk into it, saving it to add to the drink he was making. He added a few liqueurs to a shooter and then slid the egg in, placing it before the man sitting to our right. Amazed, we looked on in disbelief as he sipped the drink and contemplated the yellow yolk staring back at him. The yolk won, and the man refused the rest of the drink.

My friend and I looked at each other, and, without a single word, we accepted the challenge. We would conquer the egg yolk drink and live with whatever consequences we would have to face. So there we were, eyes wide with a combination of fear and exhilaration, as we took the raw yolk into our mouths, broke it with our tongues, and drank.

As published in the Tufts Observer

October 3, 2011Comments are off for this post.

All About the Pitch

This week I'm starting a new category called "Lesson Learned" to catalogue some of the important and probably obvious lessons I've learned recently and throughout my life. While I hope that some people might benefit from these posts, their true intent is to create a mental backup for me in case I forget them!

Back in January I was taking a class called Entrepreneurship and Business Planning, where we worked in teams to create a business idea and build out the supporting documentation and research, from market analysis to presenting a fully developed business plan in front of successful entrepreneurs and investors. Once our teams had formed, we each had to come up with some business ideas, share them with the group, and pitch the best two to the class to decide which business we would develop throughout the semester. Having come up with a few ideas over the past few years, some ridiculous, others only slightly crazy, I was excited to pitch these ideas and hopefully build them out into something I could eventually turn into a business. I shared a few of my ideas with a group and one was chosen to be presented in class.

And then I messed up.

While the idea was clear to me, I didn't spend enough time thinking it over and making it simple for everyone else to understand. When I stood up in front of the class I blundered through a short, awkward presentation trying to unsuccessfully distill the business idea into a short pitch everyone would understand. I babbled something about a foursquare for living a green life, but most of the class had no idea what foursquare was and if they did they really weren't any better off. I think I received one, maybe two votes, with the professor initially forgetting to add mine to the list of possible ventures when polling the students.

My fatal flaw was assuming that it's easy to explain something you're familiar with in a short amount of time to people who have no idea what you're talking about. It seems obvious, but somehow I'd missed it until that day. Giving presentations and improvising talks have always been things I'm pretty good at, but when your time to talk is reduced to 60 seconds, every single word counts and should be chosen wisely. You cannot be over prepared for a presentation, particularly when you have under a minute to convince the audience that your idea is the best.

 

So what was my idea and how should I have approached the pitch? My basic idea was to create a social game around making environmentally friendly choices in the real world. Google Power-Meter and Microsoft Hohm had just launched and I felt that the general consumer was beginning to become more environmentally conscious. These tools for measuring power usage, combined with the inclusion of MPG measurements in current hybrids, could create a large amount of data around a user's energy consumption. I felt that this could create an opportunity where a social platform could tie in this data and create a game around being efficient. Beating the average Prius mileage could gain you points or badges to be used in purchasing sponsored green products for example. While the idea isn't horrible (at least in my mind) it wasn't necessarily complete nor was it the right time for something like this. As we've seen, foursquare usage has plateaued and both Google and Microsoft have shut down their energy monitoring products. In a world where social networks are a dime a dozen and systems that monitor energy use are still not well-integrated and expensive (business opportunity?), my idea may not have been the best one.

But I should've been able to convince the class anyway.

When preparing for the pitch, I should have detailed all the aspects of the idea on paper and sorted them into categories such as revenue opportunities, market needs they addressed, and features that would draw users. By breaking down the idea, I would have been able to understand what was and was not compelling about it. The non-compelling aspects could be pushed aside and left to deal with later, while the best aspects of the business would be featured in my one minute pitch. Presenting the problem (concern for the environment without direct positive reinforcement) and then the solution (a social game that rewards you for being green) would have been a great way to pitch to the class in just 30 seconds, well below the one minute marker.

Think carefully about your idea, reduce it until every single word has importance, rehearse your delivery, and you will amaze the audience. Every. Single. Time.

September 27, 2011Comments are off for this post.

Dropping Focus

  

Over the past few days I've been struggling with the decision of whether or not to drop my Finance class. While the class was interesting, informative, and definitely helpful for my future, it was adding a lot of work to my limited amount of time that is already divided among four other classes, work study, my position at 1minute40seconds, and multiple clubs on campus. Then there's also the issue of having "Will" time to write things like this, take photographs, play music, and generally take part in the world around me. But at what point does it become necessary to consider dropping a class instead of plowing ahead and making things work? I always have a hard time quitting things that I've signed up for, feeling as though it's shirking my responsibility. Dropping a class always feels the same way and ultimately figuring out the decision causes a lot of stress.

As I was reaching a relative state of anxiety trying to figure out what the best decision for my future self would be, I came to the important realization that my future self will be able to handle whatever gets thrown at him just as I am able to today. The biggest difference between the unknowns of the future and the knowns of the present is that I am currently able to have a modicum control over the stressors in my life. Once I leave college behind me in May this opportunity will likely be less available to me. As a senior who has always taken more classes than necessary and has taken required classes as soon as possible I have a bit of leeway in determining how I spend my senior year. I realized that I could spend the year taking as many classes as possible while filling my schedule with classes and work so that 12 hour days sans breaks became the norm (as it had been so far this semester), or I could lighten my credit load a bit and participate more in some of the incredible opportunities only offered while in school.

Being at college offers you the incredible opportunity to participate in clubs and organizations of any kind imaginable, which I've done over the past three years. I've played in the Tufts Pep Band and the Wind Ensemble, danced on the ballroom team, and become president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), but these activities have always come second to classes and been second class citizens. Now with the newfound responsibilities of holding office in HFES, I've opened my mind to the simple thought that college is more than learning in classes and networking, it's a place to explore and play around with different clubs, responsibilities, and roles. While this is something I've always held to be true, I don't think now that I ever truly believed it before. Now I do.

My generation has been taught to do as many things as possible as well as we can. This has been great for me because I'm interested in so many different subject areas, but it keeps us from learning one of the most important aspects of success: focus. As the Twitter and Facebook generation, we've become used to constant interruption from notifications and being a pinball bumped around from track practice to the after class meeting, saxophone lessons, checking out the latest episode of Archer, and doing homework from five different classes. We don't know how to focus. When I'm in class I'm constantly responding to emails for other classes or groups, and while at group meetings I'm figuring out how to tackle my first set of homework problems. Maybe this is only a problem for me, but I find it hard to agree.

So what's the solution? Sacrifice. But not personal sacrifice. We don't have to sacrifice ourselves, our interests, our unique beliefs that mark us as individuals, but we have to sacrifice the idea of being able to do everything for everyone. Decisions have to be made and sometimes we have to trim the fat out of our lives. This could be choosing classes over activities as I have done in the past, letting a harmful friendship fade, or dropping a class that can be taken again the following semester. The key is to understand where you are and what is valuable to you. I made my decision and while the future me might have to struggle through some financial documents while starting a company, the present me is making sure he'll have a senior year to look back on and remember with happy recollection of activities and events that hopefully helped make him into the man he is.

September 23, 2011Comments are off for this post.

Delivering Good Design

I’ve just finished reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.  It’s a fantastic book that anyone interested in entrepreneurship, management or just the pursuit of happiness should read.  Focused on providing a great customer experience from the outset, Zappos eventually evolved the policy of “Delivering Happiness”.  The notion that Hsieh describes in the book, delivering happiness through the best customer service, reflects what has attracted me to human factors and user focused design.  We are finally at a crossroads in technology where computers, even mobile phones and tablets, have enough computing power to easily accomplish almost every task a typical user could wish to complete.  This hardware transformation that has occured over the past decade is incredible, yet technology still baffles and frustrates a large portion of the population.

But why is this?  Products are designed around hardware and existing software, not around the user.  Interfaces are designed by engineers concerned with optimization and matching input to a well-designed backend, but this mode of interface design has become outdated with our increasingly powerful hardware. If we can use the extra speed of today’s computers to create more elegant designs that may be slightly slower in developer terms, but make more sense to the user, why shouldn’t we?

Design is not about form or function alone, but about the interaction each of these two components share with the user.  Any technology, from a door handle to the latest smartphone is nothing more than dead weight unless someone is able to use it effectively.  This need is what made me fall in love with user centered design.  By creating with the user in mind, we are able to deliver happiness to the user through an intuitive interface, a rewarding interaction, and a sense of ease and comfort when using the product. I may be going against the basic principles of human factors design when saying this, but this does’t necessarily mean that hours of research, consumer studies, focus groups, just ask Microsoft’s Windows team whose research about Windows Explorer led them to the wrong conclusion and resulted in an ugly and unusable design. Assuming that users don’t use a feature because it isn’t accessible, the design team added every option back into the menu, creating a very functional design that will confuse most users and leave the rest searching the sea of buttons for the correct one.

So what is the key to creating interfaces and designs that users will love? Understanding. Engineers nor designers are the end users of the system. While we may all think we understand how others think it’s not often the case. To understand the user we have to leave behind our own experiences and ideas and take on those of others. This can be done through research and usability testing, but can also be done by acting the role of our target user. Start a design as the end user, not the designer, and you will ultimately meet yourself halfway with an elegant, beautiful design that users will flock to.

September 22, 2011Comments are off for this post.

.me

Over the past few years I’ve been trying to figure out how to present myself on the web. It began with AIM,then poorly written geocities sites, followed by MySpace, and ultimately Facebook. None of these established a public presence and didn’t help me establish my personal brand online.

This changed when my first website became www.willvaughanphotography.com, where I showcased my current photographs and set up a basic pricing scheme. While poorly built by simply slicing images in Photoshop, it was my first online site I could truly be proud. It was difficult to update, however, and hasn’t been updated in years. I moved to my first site at williamhvaughan.com, which I used to establish a portfolio and a blog. This was created in Rapidweaver and updating was easier, but still required uploading new html and assets every time I wanted to make a post.

I was hoping to launch a site entirely written by me, but it quickly became clear that maintaining the site and uploading content would be time-consuming and I'd rather be putting that time into creating the content and enjoying my last year at Tufts! So today I'm launching willvaughan.me, my portal to the web. This site will likely change as I continue to play around with my online presence. I'd love any feedback on posts, projects, or the site in general. Thanks for visiting!

Stay tuned for updates and feel free to follow me on twitter, or Google+.

April 9, 2011No Comments

Cupcakes

Two weeks I wrote about my culinary explorations of the s’more variety. With the semester coming to the final stretch, writing has been forced to take a back seat. Spring break ended with a great two-day skiing trip to Attitash and Wildcat, with beautiful spring skiing conditions. Fresh snow on the mountain both days, with temperatures in the thirties and low forties and sun lighting the slopes. While the skiing was incredible, I could not escape from the task that was waiting for me back home; the most difficult baking challenge I’ve ever taken on: the S’more Cupcake.A cupcake may seem like nothing for someone who has mastered S’more Chicken, but this recipe involved creating everything from scratch, including the frosting. This meant I would have to use a candy thermometer for the first time, and combat my arch nemesis, egg white peaks. The last time I attempted a recipe that involved beating egg whites to specific peakicity my meringues ended up as some sort of freak mushy meringue nightmare. While scarred, I knew that if I were to ever master the art of the novice baker, I had to conquer the egg whites once and for all.

Once my candy thermometer arrived from Amazon, I headed to the store to acquire the necessary ingredients. The S’more Cupcake consists of three main components: the graham cracker bottom, the cake portion, and the marshmallow frosting. The graham cracker crust and the cupcake batter both went down without a fight, proving no match for my rolling pin and electric mixer. With the cupcakes cooking in the over, it was time to tackle the frosting. Now I realize for those familiar with baking, a candy thermometer is nothing new, but to me, the idea of having to mix ingredients at certain temperatures is a bit intimidating. What doubled the intimidation level, however, was that I had to time my egg white beating with the decreasing temperature of the syrup so that they could be mixed together at the opportune moment.Syrup simmering on the stove, I began beating the egg whites, watching hopefully for the liquidy mess to turn into a beautiful mountain range of soft peaks. To my amazement the peaks began to form and the temperature of the syrup reached the correct temperature. I mixed them together and miraculously produced a delicious, marshmallowy frosting.

With the cupcakes cooled, I frosted each with a dollop of marshmallow frosting and then sprinkled some shaved chocolate on top for effect. I couldn’t wait for post-dinner dessert time to come around and gently unwrapped the reward of my toils in the kitchen. It was delicious. The warm chocolate blended perfectly with the graham cracker crust and the marshmallow frosting topped it off with a light sweetness. I wound up with lots of extra batter, frosting, and crust, and made a mini S’more cake, which lasted mere days in our house of six college students. This brief exploration into S’more desserts was delicious, fun, and horrible for my waistline, but definitely worth it!

March 22, 2011No Comments

I’ll Have S’more Please

Spring break has arrived, bringing with it some of that elusive free time that disappears during the semester.  While some unfortunate students are suffering through warm weather and endless parties in the warmer regions of the world, I’ve been lucky enough to head home to the beautiful weather of Massachusetts.  To take advantage of this opportunity, I decided to tackle some of the cooking projects that have caught my eye during the semester.

As many of my close friends know, a secret pipe dream of mine is to open a s’more focused restaurant in the vein of the specialty dessert restaurants, like froyo and cupcake shops, that have become popular in recent years.  My vision is to provide diners with gourmet s’more ingredients that they can then roast over their personal fireplaces.  Some diners may wish for the traditional restaurant motif where they are able to order from a menu and have the food brought to them, ready to be enjoyed.  This is understandable, but first, we need to come up with some s’more inspired recipe.

Despite my deep desire that the s’more become a universal dessert known throughout the world, many tell me that it is only known in the U.S. and Canada, and then particularly in the northern regions.  For the unfortunately uninitiated, a s’more is a medley of three fairly delicious ingredients: graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows.  When brought together and heated by fire, these ingredients combine to form the s’more, the world’s greatest dessert (followed at a distant second by the infamous whoopie pie).  If you’ve never had one, I am so sorry.  Make your way to your nearest grocer, procure the necessary ingredients, roast your marshmallow over open flame if possible (otherwise assemble and microwave for ~10 seconds), assemble, and rejoice at the discovery of heaven on earth.

Now back to the recipes.

My first experiment of the week was a delicious S’mores Cheesecake Bar from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, recommended to me by a close friend who shares my passion for s’mores.  The recipe was relatively simple, although a bit more complicated than the dessert from which it draws inspiration.  Unfortunately I had to double the recipe due to a double dose butter meltdown, and now have an enormous brownie pan of cheesecake goodness in my refrigerator.  Well, to be honest, there is about a 3/4 empty brownie tin in my fridge as I have become addicted to these things.  Seriously, they are incredible.  Tracey may have to be a future consultant for the restaurant.

So at this point two thoughts might be battling it out in your head: 1. What kind of restaurant doesn’t have a main course?  2.  Why is there a picture of chicken, asparagus, and sweet potatoes in a post about s’mores?  Then again, maybe not, but they do make a fantastic segue into the next evolution of the s’more.

Dear reader, it is time I introduced you to S’more chicken, the first main course meal to be inspired by s’mores.  When I proposed the idea to my friends a few months back, I was rewarded with scoffs and laughter, doubters who didn’t believe in the simple power of the s’more.  For weeks I endured their laughter and derision, formulating the recipe in my mind, but never had the time or ingredients to test my deliciously crazy meal.  Before I knew it, however, spring break had arrived.

I headed to the nearest Market Basket and acquired the necessary ingredients.  The meal is still a work in progress, but, without further ado, I give you: S’more chicken.

I headed to the nearest Market Basket and acquired the necessary ingredients.  The meal is still a work in progress, but, without further ado, I give you: S’more chicken.  Incredibly simple to make, the only ingredients needed are chicken, sweet potato, graham crackers, eggs, marshmallow, lime, flour and brown sugar.  I chose asparagus for my vegetable, which worked well, but am still experimenting for the perfect compliment.  Boil the sweet potatoes and mash them, adding milk or butter to taste.  Dip the chicken in flour, whipped eggs, and crushed graham with brown sugar crackers before placing it in a pan of heated oil to fry.  While the s’more inspiration for the  graham cracker encrusted chicken is clear, the other aspect of the dish that traces its roots to the classic s’more is the white marshmallow-lime reduction sauce seen on the sweet potatoes.  To make this, heat marshmallow cream in a sauce pan with some milk and heat on the stove to dissolve the marshmallow.  Add a squirt of lime juice to taste, adding flavor and censoring the sweetness of the sugary marshmallow.  For the asparagus, I placed it on a baking sheet with some olive oil, crushed pepper, salt, and brown sugar and baked it in the oven for a few minutes.  Together the meal was delicious, combining sweet and savory in an exquisite manner, but don’t take my word for it, try it out!

So after conquering the seemingly impossible task of creating a tasty s’more chicken meal, where will I go next?  After a brief skiing break, I hope to try my luck with another of Tracey’s recipes, a s’more cupcake, that will complement the dessert offerings.  Check back for updates on my semi-official s’more baking week,cyber and definitely leave comments with any recipe suggestions or ideas!