Monday, February 28, 2011

NIM: Proof Apple is Evil Empire 2.0

For today's New Idea Monday I'd like to continue with my assertion that Apple is the Evil Empire 2.0 (Evil Empire 1.0 having been Microsoft).  Now, before you start filling my inbox with "Jesus would have use Apple" hate-mail, you should know I use an iPhone, and I think iTunes is just swell.  But sometimes a company is just too clever for its own good, and I become suspicious.

Photo credit:  Control4
Apple's iPhone and iPad apps have really pushed the boundaries of what a personal computing device (not laptop) can do.  So I was not really surprised when Control4 released an app for the iPad than allows a user of one of their IP based home control systems to control any controllable system in their home.  With Control4® My Home the user can dim lights, start the home theatre, close your garage door, monitor your locks and security cameras, stream music ... if this thing learns to cook, I'm in trouble.
“Consumers want the devices in their home to be integrated and easy to use. The Control4® Operating System is designed to do just that. Many of our customers use touch screens to access their Control4 system and the iPad is a great platform that meets the needs of many homeowners for exactly this task.”   -Will West, Chief Executive Officer of Control4. 
If you already own a Control4 system, you can download the iPad application from their website or iTunes.  To find a Control4 dealer in your area, click here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Free Whitecaps Cupcake

A bonus Saturday post ...

I've been a fan of Vancouver Whitecaps FC since they played their first match in 1974, and when the old NASL folded in 1984 I began the long wait for the day my club would return to the top flight of North American soccer.  As of today, that day is 21 days away, and to say I'm excited is an understatement of epic proportions.

The Whitecaps have been running a viral marketing campaign, releasing a new video for each of the 30 days  leading up to their first kick in the MLS .. I check the website over breakfast to see the latest instalment.  Today's video featured Marco of Fratelli Italian Bakery on Commercial Drive, and Whitecaps legend Carl Valentine playing a little one on one outside thebakery.  As a bonus the first 100 people to visit Fratelli today and say "21 days 'til Kickoff" will receive a free Whitecaps cupcake.

The decision to visit Fratelli Bakery was a no brainer.  I've been in love with their canoli for years.  And since I was heading into the office this morning anyway, making a quick stop along the way was an easy choice.  Not only did I get my free cupcake, I also grabbed coffee and a couple things for lunch and had a chance to chat with Marco, who seems just as excited about the Whitecaps as I am.

Oh, and the cupcake?  It tasted like VICTORY!


Fratelli Italian Bakery
1795 Commerical Drive
Vancouver, BC

Up Up and Away

Photo Credit: Mark Dayton (C)
This picture was taken by an old high school friend of mine (okay, so we're both old) in a helicopter high above my hometown, Vancouver, BC.  The dark mass of green to the right (just above the line of the city) is Stanley Park.  In the lower right is Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team; the crown shaped building beside it is BC Place, soon to be the home of my true love, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of the MLS.

This photo has nothing to do with kitchen design or food.  It's just an awesome photo.  So awesome in fact that I hope it inspires you to come visit.  I'll put on the BBQ and we'll talk appliances or something.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Food Fridays: Biggest BBQ Road Trip to Date

I am something of a BBQ aficionado.  Pork butt slow smoked over charcoal and cherry, served with a drizzle of vinegar, Ronnie's BBQ sauce and a side of 'slaw makes me weak in the knees.  Beef brisket, ribs, chicken ... doesn't really matter.  If I'm not cooking it myself, I'm searching for great restaurants that serve it.

So, when I was contacted last month by Brizo to come to New York City, my BBQ radar went crazy.  While it's true that New York City doesn't rank highly as a BBQ destination on a global scale, with a population four times that of Metro Vancouver the opportunity for great BBQ is that much better.  Besides, I already knew a number of great BBQ joints in New York ... Dinosaur, Daisy May's and Blue Smoke had all be suggested to me.  But it was RUB BBQ that made it onto my very busy NYC agenda.

There was really only one thing that made me choose RUB (Righteous Urban BBQ); his name is Paul Kirk.  In the BBQ world, Paul Kirk is a rock star.  He's won the World BBQ Championships 7 times, won the American Royal and over 475 other cooking awards. Paul Kirk and Andrew Fischel opened RUB in 2005 and, conveniently for me, it was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel.  I was joined on my BBQ quest by  JB from Baltimore and Nick from Auburn.  I figured having a Southerner along for the ride would give be another level of perspective.  JB was a relative BBQ newcomer and Nick & I were happy to educate.

I immediately noticed a couple things upon entering RUB: the smell of REAL smoke, and a big sign that said "Burn Ends R Sold Out".  Believe it or not, this indicates good BBQ ... a good pit NEVER makes more.  Considering real BBQ takes several hours to achieve, how could you?  I ordered a bourbon and coke, and set to reading the menu.

We ordered a couple 2 meat platters (pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken and pastrami), 4 sides (collards, coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans).  We threw in an order of hush-puppies for good measure.  The pulled pork was exactly as it should be:  deeply smoky, tender and shredded, not the mushy or chopped meat some places try to pass off as "pulled".  The brisket and pastrami were also excellent, and for me were the smokiest meats of the four.  A small quibble I had was that the meat was machine, not hand sliced (and yes, it DOES make a difference).  Slicing a lot of meat by hand would be tough to in a busy restaurant, but I'm surprised Chef Kirk didn't insist on it.  Chicken is tough to do well, but this chicken was really good.  I really liked how they served it shredded.  You could also order it on the bone, but whenever I serve smoked chicken, this is how I do it; simpler to make into sandwiches.

The sides were not as unanimously successful as the meats.  Hush puppies were okay.  You got a lot of them for the price, but we left a number of them on the plate.  My Souther brother Nick backs me up on this.  The hush puppies were average.  The coleslaw (vinegar based, my fave!) and baked beans were top notch, however the collards and potato salad seemed to miss the point.  The potato salad wasn't bad, it was just really .... meh.  Even a bit of seasoning would have elevated it enough.  There was nothing that was going to save the collards.  Bland, mushy, and with very little noticeable bacon fat.  I'm backed up on this by Nick as well.  Now it could be we were there later in the evening, but if that was the case they could have put up a sign beside the "Burnt Ends" sign and just not sold them.

The room is smaller than I thought it would be, but I'm guessing restaurant space in Chelsea isn't cheap, and they would need a lot of big smokers in the kitchen.  Dimly lit, the wood-clad walls are covered in blues posters while the kitchen is surrounded in quilted stainless-steel.  Service was friendly and helpful ... it was our server that steered us towards the pulled chicken.  I know this is clichĂ©, but I was expecting rudeness, especially considering the draw Paul Kirk would have.  I'm glad to have been wrong.

Overall assessment? RUB was a worthwhile visit, but both my dining companions and I agree that if we were back in New York we'd give some of the other players a try.  I fear however that my findings in Vancouver, and now New York may hold true, that REAL BBQ is really difficult to achieve in a restaurant ... unless, as Nick pointed, one happens to be in the South.  Perhaps another road trip is in order ...

RUB BBQ New York City
208 West 23rd Street
New York, NY

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Staying A Cut Above the Rest

A good knife is the most important piece of equipment in your kitchen. If it’s uncomfortable to hold, too long, too short or … heaven forbid … dull, cooking can become a chore. When I go camping or away to a friend’s place where I know I will be cooking, I take my knives with me. My friends think I’m a bit obsessive (only a little bit true) but if you’ve ever had to suffer through using a dull dollar store knife while slicing tomatoes you’ll know I’m speaking the truth.

But buying a decent knife is just the beginning. Storage of your knives is equally important. Chances are you have a drawer in your kitchen that looks just like the one on the left. Sure it looks tidy enough, but how safe do you feel reaching your hand inside to grab a knife? And assuming you find the knife with your three-fingered hand, how sharp do you suppose it will be? Even if it’s a really good knife the amount of time it’s spent in that drawer bumping up against other metal objects will take the edge right off it.

There are many good inserts for your drawers that can keep your knives organized and sharp and your fingers safe. The larger image shows a slotted knife block, which is the most common. It uses the least amount of space per knife, and can be combined with other drawer inserts if you want to be really organized. The only downside to the slotted storage is the knife is resting on its edge. (You know how to use a knife steel, right?) Some manufacturers address this problem by making inserts that are specific to a set of knives, giving each knife its own little resting spot. How cute …

If you don’t have the drawer space in your kitchen to dedicate to your knives, you’ll need to store your knives out in the open. Anybody who’s been to a garage sale has seen the knife block shown here. Big and solid or something more creative (that’s called “The Ex” by the way) they do a terrific job or organizing your knives and keeping the edges protected. However, a number of people I know don’t like them because of the potential for food waste to get trapped inside the knife slots. I’m assuming they don’t clean their knives before they put them away.

I’m a magnetic strip guy myself. Mounted to the wall typically beneath your upper cabinets, the strip keeps your knives well organized and out where you can see them. It’s not for everybody … people with ugly knives for example … but it reminds me that I’m in a working kitchen. If you’d rather not have your knives on the wall, there are magnetic knife blocks that will sit on your countertop that achieve a similar result.

The main thing to remember is that your knives deserve respect. Store them properly and they will last longer and always be where you need them.

Monday, February 21, 2011

NIM - Biomimicry

Today's New Idea Monday (NIM) comes to you from The Big Apple.

When I first found out about the itinerary for my Brizo-sponsored trip to New York, I was immediately drawn to the title for one of the seminars.  The seminar was presented by San Francisco architect Sean Culman and was on "biomimicry" a term I'd never heard of and wasn't convinced was even real.

Biomimicry is the science that analyses nature's best ideas and then adapts them for human use.  It was coined by scientist Janine Benyus in her book "Biomimicry:  Innovation Inspired by Nature."  Canadian scientist David Suzuki also turned it into a Nature of Things programme on the CBC.

There are several examples of biomimicry in practice today including:
  • Waterproof protein based adhesives that are used in the production of plywood inspired by a similar protein used by mussels to attach themselves to rocks in the sea
  • Ridges on the blades of win turbines that actually reduce drag and increase efficiency.  Similar ridges were discovered on the fins of blue whales.
  • Other examples can be found on the Nature of Things site.

    Brizo's H2Okinetic Technology® uses the principles of biomimicry to "reinvent the showering experience—creating a warmer, more luxurious shower experience that blankets the body while using less water."  Simple physics tells us that the larger a mass, the better its heat retention qualities.  H2Okinetic Technology is designed to use larger droplets: the shower stays warmer longer, and the heavier droplets create a massaging effect allowing the bather "feel more enveloped in the warmth of the water" which could lead to the bather using less water.  H2Okinetic is available is Brizo's shower heads and body sprays to help you create a complete shower system.

    What other examples of biomimicry do you think could be used in the home? 

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Fan Form & Function - Part 2

    I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet these days over ventilation and I'm not sure why.  But for today I'd like to put aside the whole function debate and take another look at some of the more stylish fans on the market.

    Italian manufacturer Elica is well know for really focussing on the form of their fans, and I'm glad to say that most of them are available in North America.  The Stone Gallery caught my eye a while back, not because of the stone face per se, but because it's added a light to help highlight the texture of the stone.  I don't find the light itself all that attractive and would likely remove it and find another way to wash the stone face with light, but I really appreciate the thought they put into this.

    The wonderfully named Alba Cubo is new for 2011.  Your eyes aren't deceiving you, there is no duct attached to this island hood.  What we have here is a very clear case of form over function; the fan is "self venting," or rather, it filters the air through charcoal filters and pumps it back into the room.  There is a duct available, but in terms of aesthetics the ductless option gets my nod.

    The Starlight is something I've not seen before.  It's not a ventilator for cooking; it's an air purifier and pendant light.  I can see this being used in the dining room in an open plan kitchen ... especially if your island hood isn't ducted (looking at YOU Alba Cubo).  The Starlight comes with a remote control to adjust the speed of filtration, but also the LED lighting which can be changed to one of 256 different colours.

    All Photos:

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Ban the Boob Tube

    Photo Credit:
    There was a time when adding a television to the kitchen was impractical and nearly impossible.  Today, televisions are much smaller, flatter and some even feature the added functionality of WiFi internet access or a video security system.  Adding a television to your kitchen design is simply a matter of making a shelf, and plugging it in.

    But really, should you?

    The kitchen television has been my nemesis for a long time.  Typically I’m asked to design something similar to a microwave cabinet to house the TV.  I’m not a fan of the microwave shelf either, but using cupboard space for something that contributes nothing to the function of a kitchen just doesn’t make sense.  I don’t buy the “I’ll use it to watch cooking shows” argument.  No programme on FoodTV shows you how to cook step-by-step and waits for you to perform the task at hand.  By the time you’ve creamed the butter and sugar, Anna Olsen is pulling the cookies out of the oven.  You have a PVR and can pause?  Good luck getting the batter out of your remote control.

    Photo Credit:
    So what about mounting your television on the wall so it won’t use up space?  Assuming you have wall space that is in comfortable sight of where you’ll be cooking (remote at the ready), you’ll still need to run power and cable.   If you have a digital box, PVR or Blue-Ray player, you’ll need to mount that as well.  Brackets exist that can hold all this in place, but do you really want your kitchen looking like a sports bar?  Find a piece of art, and leave the television in the living room, or better yet a media room where it’s designed to go. 

    There have been a number of attempts to implement televisions into standard kitchen appliances in order to deal with the space issues.  The most basic is a fold-down flat-screen that mounts underneath your upper cabinetry.  Leaning on your countertops 4" away from the screen is not my idea of comfort.  Then there's still the issue of cabling.  A number of refigerator came on the market in the last 10 years with screens in the door; some even had cameras!  Not sure what the thinking was here ... perhaps so you wouldn't miss any of the game when you went for a beer?  But my all-time favourite, and I've seen at least three of these, is the ingenious hoodfan-television!  Do I even need to go over the safety issues I have with this?  Many of these Franken-Visions have been discontinued by their manufacturers.  The rest should be.

    If you’re still determined to get your TV fix in the kitchen, consider these other options.
    • In a kitchen that is open to a family room, consider mounting the television in a place it can be viewed easily from the kitchen.
    • Use your laptop.  In addition to searching for great new recipes or reading useful spaces, you can use a product like Apple TV to stream PVR'd programmes to your laptop.  When you leave the kitchen, so can the laptop.
    • Luxurite.  The ONLY acceptable solution I've seen to the “TV in the kitchen” dilemma.

    Better idea?  Turn off the TV and invite some friends or family into the kitchen and cook up a storm.  That’s going to be much more interesting than anything on TV.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Anyone Hungry?

    ©2007-2011 ~ILIKESURREAL
    It seems having a split personality was getting a bit much for me.

    I've been posting about food on "I Could Eat" since January of 2008.  In a bid to get more "professional" and write about something I REALLY knew I introduced useful spaces in March of 2009.  And so for the past year I've been splitting my writing time, and feeling like I'm not really giving either project the attention it deserves.

    But rather than chose one project over the other, I've decided to merge the two.  After all, what goes better with the subject of kitchens than the subject of food?  And if in the process I can inspire someone looking for a kitchen designer to try a new recipe, or a weekend griller to re-design their kitchen ... you get the idea.

    So, for all of you who follow useful spaces you're about to get a little hungry.  I've just added 2 years worth of food posts as well, so have a look through the archives to see what I've been up to.  And if you run into a link error (I'm sure there are a few I've missed) please leave me a message in that post.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Banister-Bending Staircases

    Photo Credit:
    Dornob always seems to come up with an amazing array of out-of this world design in ordinary places.  This latest entry shows some beautiful staircases that would give most carpenters a fit.  Designed with 3D computer software and machined with lasers these bannisters are quite  simply works of art.

    I'm not quite sure how easy these would be to navigate after a couple glasses of wine!

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    It's The Little Things That Count

    These two small chocolate hearts were left on my desk this morning by my best friend, reason for cooking and love of my life.  Nothing huge, nothing fancy, but a small gestures that reminds me I'm the luckiest man in the world.

    Happy Valentines Day.

    New York, New York, it's a Brizo Town

    Where do I begin? What I thought was a hoax turned out to be one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in 15 years as a designer. Brizo faucets made the generous offer of inviting myself and 19 other design bloggers to New York City for a few days of product knowledge, design analysis and fashion.

    I won’t lie to you. This was a very draining 3 days. I know some of my co-workers and friends told me they were jealous of me and my free junket. The truth is I came home exhausted. The majority of our stay was in workshops in the (it should be noted, very nice) hotel. What little I did see of New York was from the back seat of a limousine on our way from one event to the next. This was most definitely a working trip.

    Brizo, in my experience, is a very clever, forward thinking company. Gathering a group of designers together to discuss their product is just good business. Gathering a group of designers who blog, tweet and otherwise engage social media like no other group I’ve seen is downright genius. They talk to us; we talk to our readers and followers. It’s one of the best uses of social media that I’ve come across.

    This kind of thinking is not only evident in their marketing department, but in their product design group as well. We were able to spend several hours with Brizo’s industrial design team, following the design process from start to finish. We were even given a glimpse of the future, seeing several examples of products they are just about to release and several that are simply in the idea stage. In return we were sworn to secrecy, but believe me there’s some pretty cool stuff on the way.

    The highlight for me however was the opportunity to work with this very diverse group of designers that Brizo brought together. Our final task of the trip was designing a bathroom that employed the principals of “biomimicry,” something Brizo has taken to heart. I’ll discuss “biomimcry” in a future post, but essentially it is the idea of solving design problems by mimicking a process in nature that has already solved the same problem.

    The task came to us a design challenge:  Design a bathroom that answers the question "How does Nature bathe?". We were divided into 5 groups and each given the same floor plan. Outside of that we were only limited to our imaginations, and of course our choice of faucets ... no real limitation to be honest because Brizo has really done an excellent job of creating a wide ranging series of product.

    Our team (Lori Gilder, Patricia Davis Brown and yours truly) went with a very simple design.  Lots of natural materials (to be gathered from the job site to emphasive the "green" aspects of the design) and curbed lines to emphasize the natural shapes found in nature.  We chose the Sederna line for our project; clean, simple lines and the use of glass inserts in the handle really give a designer an opportunity to make the faucet part of the design.

    Once all our design work was done, Brizo presented us with a once-in-a lifetime experience (at least for me): a fashion show during New York’s Fashion Week with designer Jason Wu, a designer Brizo has been sponsoring for 4 years. Fashion is a real fascination to me, and I’m not (just) talking about the beautiful women. Fashion is essentially design for humans so the whole process of designing clothes relates to kitchen design, even if only in a conceptual way.

    Photo Credit: Jayme Thornton
    (My Favourite)
    Jason’s work is, in a word, elegant. The line we saw at the show was inspired by Versailles, or rather the restoration of the palace. The theme of “raw structure” beneath elaborate surface decorations manifested itself in simple, almost architectural in their shape dresses, skirts and jackets adorned with decorative elements; jewels, military-inspired appliquĂ©s. Even the models’ hair and shoes were adorned with gold leaf.

    I learned quite a bit at the fashion show. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the subtle ways in which it finds its way into any design can make all the difference in the world. The use of gold leaf to invoke the opulence of Versailles, or the simple twist of Brizo’s Virage (inspired by some Parisian wrought iron) to suggest the spiral of a twisting vine, each helps complete the design.

    Photo Credit:  Michelle Carangi

    Photo Credit:  Michelle Carangi
    For a more complete, and much better view of Jason Wu's collection than I'm able to give, I encourage you to visit the blogs of two brilliant women, Reina Cox at If the Lampshade Fits, and Michelle Carangi at Holley & Gill.

    Photo Credit - Jayme Thornton
    The week ended with a cocktail party with Jason. There was a question and answer sessions where Jason answered our questions, and had the opportunity to have our picture taken with designer. In case you’re wondering, he’s a very nice young man, and an ex-Vancouverite to boot!

    I took a little time to myself as the evening wound down, took some pictures of the city from the balcony and reflected on the trip. Will I be using Brizo faucets? Not exclusively (sorry Jai) but they will definitely be one of the lines I will use from now on. I like the way they look at design, I like their product, and I immensely respect the way they were willing to work with the design community to help become better designers.

    The #BrizoFW Team
    Photo Credit:  Jayme Thornton

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Getting The Job Done

    This is a pile of flooring.  Really nice bamboo engineered flooring.  It's going to go brilliantly with the Quarter-sawn White Oak cabinetry we're installing in this kitchen.  But I know what you're asking:  Why is he posting about a pile of flooring?

    This morning this pile of flooring was not in the kitchen, where it is now.  It was downstairs in a back bedroom.  If you know anything about flooring, you know that flooring should be stored in the room it's being installed in so the wood can acclimatise, or "adjust" the the conditions of the room.  It's important to do this to ensure a proper installation.

    But like I said, the flooring was downstairs.

    My client purchased the flooring themselves, and arranged for its delivery.  The company that delivered the flooring (apparently one guy in a 1980 Toyota Corolla) saw fit to place the flooring downstairs.  That wasn't the wrong choice.  In fact it was a good choice since it kept the flooring out of the way of the dry-wallers who were finishing up last week, and the cabinets which were delivered this week.

    But the fact remains, the flooring needed to be upstairs.

    Normally I'd ask the clients to move it.  They ordered it after all.  But these clients are older, and even if they offered (which they did) I'd be a heel for allowing them to do so.  My contractor has moved on to another project while the cabinets are being installed, so he's out.  So too were the cabinet delivery guys who muttered something about it "not being their &*^% job."

    Which brings me back to this pile of flooring:  Twenty packages each weighing about seventy-five pounds separated from where they were to where they needed to be by two flights of stairs and one maze-like hallway.  It took my installer and I about 20 minutes to move it all which was about five minutes less than it took me to write this post.

    Sometimes you just need to do what needs to be done.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Noodling Away at the Winter Blahs

    This is a tough time of year for many folk in Vancouver.  The rains settle in and we're a ways off from a long weekend.  Over the years I've discovered overcoming the mid-winter blahs can be as simple as a nice, warm bowl of soup.  I've commented a couple times on the joys of phở, the Vietnamese soup made of beef broth and vermicelli. Ramen is the Japanese version.  The noodles are thicker, and the seasoning is completely different, but the affect ramen can have on a chilled Vancouverite is the same.

    Thanks to a large population of Japanese students in Vancouver, we're home to many terrific ramen joints.     Benkei Ramen is one of my favorites, and lucky me, there's one within a 15 minute walk of my office (and right beside my bank).  Part of a group of 5 restaurants, Benkei serves up traditional Ramen, along with other Japanese specialities.

    Ramen is a traditional Japanese noodle soup made with a a variety of broths, and garnished with meat and vegetables.  Benkei serves up the traditional Shoyu broth, but for a real treat try the Shio which is made by boiling pork and pork bones to extract all the rich taste. This Fukuoka-born ramen contains collagen and calcium - a source for beatiful skin and strong bones. And its delicious!

    Benkei Ramen
    545 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C.
    Phone: 604-568-4861

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Countertops - Recycled Glass2

    I've discussed recycled glass countertops before, but with the Vetrazzo product you\re dealing with glass and concrete.  Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but it's not exactly a glass countertop is it.

    Glass2 is made from 99% recycled glass, is non-porous, and ... get ready for it ... is post-formable!  For my non-industry readers, that means you can bend the stuff!  Make columns, curve the countertop over the edge of your bar ... the possibilities are almost endless.  There's a limited, but beautiful array of colours available.  Check out Harmony or Ash White. 

    Another nice feature of Glass2 is that it mills virtually the same as granite or quartz, meaning your local fabricator can handle it.  Glass2 distributors throughout the USA and Canada.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Making Up Is Hard to Do

    Illustration credit:
    Some more ventilation discussion for your consideration:  It wasn't long ago that hood fans rated at over 200 CFM were considered "powerful". Today it’s not uncommon to see range hoods rated at 800 CFM or better.  CFM stands for cubic ceet per minute, and its the measurement of the rate the air inside your house is being moved outside your house.

    The CFM rating of your hood fan isn’t just going to affect how quickly the smell of a fish dinner will be cleared from the kitchen.  It’s going to have an impact on your entire house.  As the fan takes air from the house, the air pressure inside the house will drop, causing air outside the house to attempt to get inside.  It will find its way through cracks in the exterior of your house, around poorly sealed windows and doors.  If you’ve gone to the effort of sealing those entrances (well done!) the air is going to find its way in through any chimneys or exhaust vents.  Along with the outside air, fumes from your water heater or furnace (for example) will be drawn back down the exhaust flue and into the house.  This is called backdrafting and presents a very dangerous situation; Carbon monoxide poisoning.

    The good news is that this can all be prevented simply by replacing the air you exhaust from the inside of the house with air from outside the house; make-up air.  Make-up air prevents backdrafting, but it also allows the hoodfan you purchased to work at exhausting cooking odours and fumes rather than sucking the air in from the outside. 

    Unfortunately, there’s no “standard” to determine what size fan will require make-up air.  It will depend on the house, the fan you wish to use, and many other factors.  Newer homes (e.g. R2000 rated) with tighter envelopes may require make-up air with a fan rated at only 450 CFM.  An older home may be fine with a 650 CFM fan.  Building codes are not much help either.  Bruce Manclark , co-owner of Delta-T, an energy services company in Eugene, Oregon, offers this observation:
    With few exceptions, residential codes are silent on the question of providing makeup air. The Uniform Mechanical Code (section 706, 1994 edition) states vaguely that "operation of exhaust fans, kitchen ventilation systems, clothes dryers, or fireplaces shall be considered in determining combustion air requirements to avoid unsatisfactory operation of installed gas appliances."
    The only way to be sure how much (if any) make-up air you will require is to have an HVAC engineer test your home.  It’s important to consider this, as well as the cost of adding make-up air to your project when determining the project’s budget.  You’ll also need to consider the possibility of having to heat the make-up air, especially in cooler climates. 

    An easier solution is to limit the size of the fan you wish to use.  A 1200 CFM fan is overkill for the average cook. A correctly positioned and sized fan (wider than the cooking surface!) rated at 600 CFM and under is more than adequate unless you plan on running an underground restaurant out of your house. 

    For a more detailed look at make-up air, this article from provides a detailed overview.  Your kitchen design professional is also an excellent source of information.
    I wrote this post for the Paradigm Kitchen Design blog and thought I'd share it here as well.  Enjoy!

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Street Eats - Arturo's ... or Mexican Mayhem

    Mexican food ... good Mexican food is very difficult to find in Metro Vancouver.  I've been looking a long time, and outside of a couple places I've reviewed  here (Los Compadres and Dona Cata) it's been a long and fruitless search.  So when the City of Vancouver announced its street food programme, I was hopeful.  Mexican lends itself nicely to food carts.  Anyone who's been to Los Angeles or Portland will tell you that.

    Just up the street from the Waterfront Skytrain station you'll find Arturo's Mexico to Go.  You can't miss it really.   Big Air-Stream type trailer with wafts of spicy smells emanating from within.  The menu is pretty straight forward:  enchiladas, quesadillas, tortilla soup ... but where were the tacos???

    The taco, the mainstay of the Mexican street food vendor is absent from the menu.  The tacotino was the closet thing they had ... essentially a taco that is rolled instead of folded.

    I'm honestly not really interested in the other stuff.  I'm sure it's tasty (the line-ups seem to be proof of that) but it just seems so ... predictable and Tex-Mex.  I don't want to sound like I'm being critical of Arturo's (although I likely am).  This is a business after all and you need to put items on your menu that will sell and pay your bills.  Still, if you LOVE the food of your homeland like the cook in the trailer said he did ... why wouldn't you put it on your menu?

    Tacos!  Jeesh.  It's not rocket science.

    The tacotino?  First of all, flour tortilla.  They claimed they couldn't get good corn tortillas.  I can (El Comal in Burnaby for one) so I'm sure they can.  The pork (al pastor) was a little dry, which could be because it was later in the day.  But the lime-chipotle sauce was so citrus-y I couldn't really taste the seasoning for the pork.  It was a bitter disappointment to what started as a hopeful discovery.

    The better discovery this month was El Comal.  It's actually a importer/producer/distributor of Mexican food products.  There is a retail store front, so if you're looking for hominy for your posole, this is the place.  And yes, they have corn tortillas.

    They also make their own salsas, tamales and other Mexican dishes you can take home (carnitas sold by the pound!) or enjoy in their VERY cramped dining room.  Now I know somebody's going to call "hypocrite" on me when they see the picture of the tamales I had for lunch.  Spanish rice, refried beans ... I know, pretty clichĂ©.  But in my defence, I didn't order them specifically.  They came with the tamales.

    The tamales were excellent.  Not as good as those from the sorely missed La Salza deli on Hastings, but a damn fine replacement.  Definitely worth another visit or two on the way to Burnaby Lake Park.

    Arturo's Mexico to Go
    Corner of Howe Street & West Cordova
    Vancouver, BC

    El Comal Mexican Food
    7650 Winston St
    Burnaby, BC V5A2H4
    Tel: (604) 420-1327
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