Monday, January 31, 2011

NIM - Concept Shower/Bath
This issue of New Idea Mondays brings us a fresh take on bathing.  The Tulip comes to us courtesy of designer Piotr Pyrtek.  A shower/bath combination, it's designed to for use in small bathrooms.  Efficient in its use of space, The Tulip is also efficient in its use of water.  The bath mode features jets for a relaxing spa experience.  The space-aged shower configuration offers a standard overhead spray, as well as body hydro-massage and the option for steam.
Regretably, this fixture is still looking for a manufacturer.  I can think of a couple obstacles to it being UL or CSA certified ... that enclosed shower mode for one.  But the concept is solid, and as designers face smaller and smaller living spaces, this type of creative thinking will be needed.  We'll keep our eyes open ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Honesty and The Big Apple

I'll be honest.  At first I thought someone was playing a joke on me  Then I thought it had something to do with the upcoming KBIS show in Las Vegas (more on that later).  But a couple emails later I was thrilled to realize that I had been invited by Brizo Faucets to join them in New York City for a little design tête-à-tête.

Floriano Kitchen Faucet by Brizo
Along with19 other designers, architects and blog authors (the common thread amongst us) from the USA and Canada, I'll be in New York City during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.  Brizo is covering all costs during my 4 day visit where we'll be learning about their line of faucets, their philosophy on design and green innovations (really looking forward to finding out what "biomimcry" is).

If Jason wears jeans, can I?
You may be wondering where the connection is between Brizo and fashion.  Brizo, very fashion-forward with their designs, is a big sponsor of fashion designer Jason Wu's work.  A quick look at each of their websites and you can really see some connections.  Part of our stay in New York will include Jason Wu's fashion show during Fashion Week, and a cocktail party afterwards.

More honesty:  I'm a little worried about being around so many well-dressed people.  Do you think the suit I wore for high-school graduation will be back in style yet?

I'll be posting about the event and sharing with you the insights I gain during this very generous opportunity.

Thanks Brizo, and thanks to Paul Anater and Corey Klassen for recommending me for this trip!

The full trip report can be found HERE.

Monday, January 24, 2011

NIM - I Love the Danes

My brother's wife is Danish. She's a truly wonderful woman, but ever since they married my brother has been trying to convince me how great the Danes are at design. The funny thing is, he doesn't really need to convince me.

Take the Chop knife from Normann-Copenhagen as an example. I'm a sucker for new kitchen tools, and this one is as clever as any I've seen. Available in 4 colours, the Chop is a stylized mezzaluna that comes complete with its own cover. Remove the blade cover, grab the handle and rock the knife across your favourite herbs. Simple. Elegant.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Morning Brekkie

It's been a while since I wrote about something I've cooked at home and this morning's breakfast seemed a good place to re-start. We woke to another grey Sunday morning in North Burnaby. It's not as cold here as it is in the rest of Canada but it's damp, which makes 5° feel a lot colder. Bottom line, it's a good morning for a hearty breakfast and lounging around watching Spanish League Football (Benzema just scored for Real Madrid).

After lunch at Red Wagon earlier this week I stopped in at Moccia Urbani Salumeria. Moccia does some of the finest charcuterie in the city and I try to stop by any time I'm in the area (Note: Their retail operation is only open Thursday - Saturday. Plan yur trip accordingly). On this visit they were featuring Breakfast Sausage ... and mildly spiced pork sausage that inspired this morning's breakfast.

2276 East Hastings St.,
Vancouver, BC

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Back to the Earth, LEGO-Style
If you've had a look at my profile (the words below my smiling face on the right), you'll know my introduction to the world of design came from LEGO.  It seemed to me that the simple LEGO block could be used to build just about anything.

French company Meco Concept has taken this concept a step further with their Meco-Press (Note:  website is in French).  The portable press can churn out 30 LEGO-Style Blocks every hour.  The bricks make rammed-earth houses simple to construct, and more flexible in their design.  Building materials simply come from the job site, provided the soil on the job site is at least 20% clay.  The bricks are quite strong, water resistant, but need help with insulation.

The Meco-Press is available for sale, or rent if you happen to live in France!

Red Wagon - Revisited

Red Wagon is fast becoming my go to place for comfort food lunches.  I first told you about this new Hastings Street diner last month, and have been back a number of times with various friends and family members.  There's nothing mind-blowing here about the food, which is kind of the point.  Diner classics, really well executed, it a friendly, unpretentious environment.

Yesterday was my first crack at their burger.  Now, I'm not one of those overly critical navel gazing burger Nazis from the various Burger Clubs scattered across the map.  I mean, seriously, it's a burger:  meat, bun, condiments.  The moment a discussion on burgers breaks into a flame war ... well, you're taking yourself way too seriously.

Having said that, the burger at Red Wagon is top notch.  Good Bun:Meat ratio, fresh toppings ... the bacon and cheddar I added were ... um ... baconny and cheesey.  Like I said, it's a burger.  No unctuous needed. The fries were also excellent; the kind you'd order after school, and devour with great enthusiasm with an ice cold Coke.  I see a poutine in my future.

My dining cohort made a great observation about Red Wagon during our lunch.  He said "I love the clientèle here," which nicely backs up my comment about the diner being unpretentious.  The room was filled with all walks of life:  the hard-hat crowd, the ladies who lunch, students, professionals ... and whatever you want to label me as.  It's comfortable ... and that (along with the great music they play!) is what keeps me coming back.

Friday, January 21, 2011

‘Mirror Cube’ Tree Hotel Hangs in the Sky
I really appreciate architects who make an effort to have their work blend with its surroundings. Whether it's a new home that pays homage to the historic designs of a neighbourhood, or a structure that almost disappears into its environment, design needs to respect its environment.

This mirrored cube is in fact part of a hotel in the north of Sweden.  The two storied unit contains everything you need for one of those weekends when you just want to disappear for a while.  Bird lovers need not fear; the cube is covered in an infra-red film visible only to birds.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Islands

A couple of very different additions to the collection of islands I've discussed over the past few years. Both are excellent examples of functional design, but what really caught my eye was how each was able to showcase the beauty of the wood it was made from.

This stunning kitchen is the creation of Sabrina Bignami of b-arch studios in Prato, Italy.  What could have easily become a cold and soulless space has been made warm and perhaps even whimsical by the use of aged pine for the island.  The pine sits in complete contrast to the concrete, stainless steel and painted barn board, focussing all attention to the centre of the room.  The countertop, large enough to house the sink and cooktop, is a combination of solid wood and stainless steel.

Island #2 comes courtesy of my favourite designer, Johnny Grey.  Made from a select piece of burr oak, the island uses the natural grain of the wood to stand out as the predominant design feature.  The gap between the two pieces of oak is back-lit with LED lights Grey describes it this way:
Imagine looking across a field at night and seeing an old barn with gaps between the boards and light peeping through. The mystery of what lies behind and the darkness all around provides a comforting feeling as well as a desire to know more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your Fridge is So Groovy Baby

Thanks to Paul Anater for finding this one.  It's quite long, but the pay-off is worth it.  Especially when Westinghouse shows us how to do-it-ourselves, and swing baby swing!  Check it out at 2:45 into the video.

All kidding aside, it's surprising how advanced the thinking behind this is.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New Pit in Town

Going out for really good Souther-style barbeque often leads to severe disappointment.  In fact, unless you live in one of the barbeque hotbeds in the world (all in the US and most in the Southeast) you're much better off to find someone with a Weber "Bullet" or some such smoker and make friends with them.  The fact is, without charcoal, real wood and lots of time you just can't get the flavour and texture you can at home.

Having said that, I was really glad to see Peckinpah open its doors before the Christmas break.  Located at the corner of Water and Carrall in Gastown, Peckinpah is offering "Carolina" style barbeque.  They never quite claim which Carolina they mean ... and there are several.  But from the sauces I tasted they seem to be doing a blend of the two dominate flavours in the Carolinas:  tomato and vinegar.  All of the standard meats are there:  pork butt, beef brisket, pork ribs and sausage (no chicken as of yet).  

I could get picky and claim that some items were not truly "Carolina" barbeque, but since we're here in Cascadia I find the motto "beggars can't be choosers" more appropriate.  Whether "authentic" (HATE that word) or not, Peckinpah serves some terrific "Q".  All meats are offered as sandwiches or as platters with the usual array of sides:  baked beans, coleslaw, "southern greens" (collards or something damn close), corn bread and creamed corn.  

The meats arrived rubbed, but unsauced.  Sauces (tomato and vinegar) are at your table so you can choose how wet you like it.  You get one side with a sandwich and two with a platter, so of course my lunch companion and I ordered two platters (brisket and pork butt) so we could try as many sides as possible.  

The pork butt was my favourite.  Nicely pulled into strands, rather than coarsely shredded, which to me is a sign of carelessness.  The brisket was perfectly cooked as well, but both lacked any of the bark you get from burnt rub.

I'm not an expert on the commercial smokers, but this is one of those things I think you miss when you don't use charcoal and wood chunks.  You also miss the smoke ring and the deep smoky flavour that comes with it.  The meat was delicious, just not overly smoky.

The collards were the best of the sides.  Cooked with bacon fat they were also the only green thing on our plates.  The beans and coleslaw were fine, not great.  You should fill up on meat anyway ... it's barbeque, not a salad bar!  

A couple other small issues were the lack of hushpuppies and pecan pie on the menu.  The former seems to be a contentious issue with ownership (some are for them, some are against them) and the latter is forgiven because of the Pumpkin bread Pudding that did make the cut.  The bar menu also features a nice variety of bourbons.  Translation:  a Maker's Mark makes everything better.

I still stand by my assertion that you can make better barbeque in your own back yard.  But if you don't have a backyard, or hell, if you don't feel like waiting 12 hours for the butts to smoke, at least now you have a better option than anywhere else in Metro Vancouver.

2 Water Street, Vancouver, BC
(corner of Water Street and Carrall)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Racing into a New Year

As a New Year's gift, may I present the Der Truffeljäger von Zuffenhausen
Designed for the 1971 24 Hours at Le Mans, this Porsche was not only the fastest entry, but featured pig butchery markings.  I may have started following auto sports had I known about this. 

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