Monday, November 30, 2009

New Idea Monday: Going to the Edge

We live in a three dimensional world. Which creates a bit of a problem in the design world, since the majority of the work we do with presentation documents uses only 2 dimensions. As a designer I'm able to easily visualize what a 2D drawing of a crown moulding will look like once it's installed. But for a client who doesn't do this all the time, 2D drawings often leave an incomplete picture.

If you're faced with this problem for you countertop edges however, there is hope. The website has a great tool to help not only pick your countertop edge, but the colour as well. Click the edge you want, and voila, that edge is rotating in front of you in life-like 3D. Click on different colours to help you visualize the finished product.

Note: Not all edges will be offered by all countertop fabricators. Be sure to check with your designer or fabricator before setting your heart on a specific profile.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Soccer Teams

Last weekend was yet another trip down south of the 49th, this time to meet up with some old friends, do a little shopping and to take in the MLS Cup championship game at Qwest field.

The two teams competing for the MLS Cup this year, the L.A. Galaxy and Real Salt Lake come at the beautiful game from different angles. The Galaxy are all about “star power” with the likes of Landon Donovan and David Beckham giving their squad lots of notoriety. RLS on the other hand hails from the second smallest market in the MLS and relies of a more grinding type of game.

This comparison can also be made of the two of the establishments we dined/drank at in Seattle.

On the one side we have Tavern Law. One of the new “speak-easy” style of bar in the city, Tavern Law features a small tapas style menu, and a huge cocktail menu. The main room is somewhat small but very cozy. On the right side of the room (facing the bar) you’ll notice a large bank-vault door, and beside that on the wall, a phone.

This is where it pays to have friends in the know. If you phone ahead (like, perhaps a week) you can book yourself a spot in the private room. Beyond the vault door and up some narrow wooden stairs you will emerge into a room that looks like it was plucked from the prohibition era. There is a hush in the place, and a lot of happy people.

At the bar you are informed there is no cocktail menu. Instead, you tell the bartender your preferences, be they brand of liquor, flavours or even colours. Moments later you are presented with a cocktail custom-mixed for you. It’s great idea, and takes the cocktail culture to the next step. Instead of the chef creating a tasting menu, it’s the bartender.

On the other end of the food spectrum, we find The Swinery on Main. Unsophisticated, out in the open, and completely unpretentious, The Swinery is a take-out window operated by the owners of The Swinery Butcher in West Seattle. These folk are my kind of people, curing their own bacon, sausage and serving it up good and messy.

They open at 7am for breakfast, offering up breakfast burritos and biscuits along with something called a “Breakfast Waffle Dog.” That will have to wait for next time … we were still recovering from the game the day before! “Linner” (lunch+dinner) continues until 7pm.

We caught them right at the switchover (around 10) and decided on the daily special of home-made sausage with peppers and spinach on a bun, cassoulet, and home cut fries cooked in beef fat. Unlike Salumi, The Swinery branches out beyond the charcuterie genre, offering more cooked foods. Not better, just different. The only odd thing about the menu at The Swinery was their vegetarian options. I mean, really … it’s a butcher shop! Risotto is just taking up valuable menu space!

We made our way down to the UPS Gardens at 2nd and Main, pulled up a chair and dug in to a very rich and satisfying meal. Nothing really cuts the cold autumn weather in Seattle like a hot bowl of cassoulet! Too bad we didn’t find this place before the MLS Cup game at Qwest. Once the winds pick up on the Seattle waterfront, Xbox Field could be renamed Icebox Field.

And Real Salt Lake won by the way. Can’t wait until our turn in 2011!

No Man Is An Island ... But This Kitchen Is

France's Ensci Industrial Design School has come up with a clever way to save space without sacrificing storage. The cooking surface, sink space and refrigeration is combined into a sleek island along with plenty of cupboard space in between.
When not in use, the island becomes just another piece of furniture ... perfect for a loft space or even a second bar kitchen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Idea Monday: A New Twist on Saving Energy

If your local power authority is anything like BC Hydro, you are likely being bombarded with an energy saving programme like Power Smart. We're told one of the big energy wasters in the home is leaving items like phone chargers and computer equipment plugged in.

So why don't we just unplug things? Well, for me, it's simply because of the inconvenience of pluging and un-plugging ... and the more inconvenient something is, the less likely many of will be to do it.

Enter the Plug-n-Twist. Designer Yong-jin Kim has come up with a clever way to turn off a circuit while leaving your charger plugged in. A simple twist turns the circuit on or off. This product is still in the concept stage, but is a great example of a simple solution for one of life's annoying little problems.

Thanks to Design Milk for this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Chipotle Off the Old Block

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what if it gives you jalapenos & tomatoes?

Our garden was quite successful this year, and at the end of September we found ourselves with a plethora of jalapenos and tomatoes. The tomatoes are pretty easy to deal with. We usually just roast them with some olive oil and herbs, and then freeze the resulting sauce. It's a great way to enjoy the flavours of summer all year long.

Jalapenos however don't freeze so well. To sort out this little dilemma I turned (as I often do) to my smokers. Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos ... and as I had both smokers and peppers I took a shot at making one of my favorite Latino ingredients.  The peppers were halved and seeded, and then placed face down on the smoker racks. I also had a few leftover tomatoes and some space on the racks ... smoked tomato sauce anyone?

The smokers were kept at a constant 180°F using lump charcoal and French Oak. Tomatoes are done when the pulp is soft enough to easily squeeze out of the skins . I took the resulting pulp, and reduced it with chicken stock and white wine ...

... and served it with some home-made pasta. Easily the best pasta sauce I have in my recipe collection.

The chipotle took a bit longer since they're being dried as well as smoked. The finished product is beautiful just to look at ... the fire engine red of the jalapenos now turned to a deep black-burgundy from the smoke. I haven't cooked with these chipotle yet, but they will find their way into the rubs and sauces I'll use next smoking season.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Home Grown Hallowe'en - Epilogue

What do you do with leftover jack-o-lantern? I came up with several creative options that included gravity, flight, and demolition.

What can I say? I'm inspired by the Mythbusters.

Unfortunately, my more mature side (aka my wife) suggested a more practical solution. So, we made purée, and now have about 12 little orange bags of pumpkin mush in the freezer.

Any and all suggestions for how to use it up are appreciated! My ideas don't seem to be well received.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

New Idea Mondays - Shower Wall Radiator

Monday mornings are a drag to begin with, even more so when faced with a cold shower stall. Yes, you could just run the shower and let things heat up. Or, you could install the Shower Wall Radiator from Vismaravetro.

Slim enough to leave lots of room in any bathroom, the radiator uses a crystall technology that allows it to be installed inside the shower, warming the walls, while the water warms you.

Mondays just got a little better.

Countertops: Recycled Glass

Considering the attention being paid to the environment today, it is of little surprise that the variety of “green” building materials is on the rise. Whether it’s reclaimed lumber for cabinet doors, Energy-Star compliant appliances or low VOC finishes, there’s no shortage of ways to keep your kitchen “green.”

One of the fastest growing segments of this industry is recycled glass surfacing. There are several brands available: Vetrazzo, IceStone, EnviroGlass, amongst others. The make-up of each brand is essentially the same: The recycled material is crushed and combined with a binder (e.g. cement, epoxy) and then treated with various pigments and additives (e.g. hardeners, strengtheners).

Recycled glass countertops are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Each of the websites I've linked above will have photos of the colours they have aavailable. Do yourself a favour ... go see them in person. This is a great example of a product being improved by the use of a recycled material. The depth and shine created by the segments of glass is unique in the industry, and while the colour choice at the moment is somewhat limited, time and market share will improve that.

On the downside, recycled glass does not fabricate as well as other surfaces like quartz or stone. The fabricator has to pay particular attention to edges where chunks of glass can become dislodged. Recycled glass countertops also need to be sealed, which is not a major problem, but needs to be considered when comparing it to quartz or solid surfaces.
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