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Food

The Core77 Design Blog

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  16 Dec 2014  |  Comments (2)

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In only the most recent food fad to hit the streets of London and national headlines, bearded twin brothers Gary and Alan Keery reportedly had the epiphany to open up a cereal cafe one hungover morning whilst craving a mouth-clearing and stomach settling bowl of their favorite sugar-infused processed carbohydrate with lashings of the chilled excretions of cows' udders.

Following a failed attempt to crowdsource £60,000 on Indiegogo, the duo have been riding a wave of media attention after successfully securing a business loan for the venture. Upon opening the shop in an old video rental store on London's famous Brick Lane, press coverage has reached something of a frenzy, with some actual consumers also managing to squeeze in on the fray.

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With press from far and wide initially spellbound by the novelty of an establishment offering over 100 different varieties of global cereal brands, 12 kinds of milk and 20 toppings (only a small number taking aim at the sugar content and nutritional value of the so called "cereal cocktails" on offer) things turned a little sour towards the end of the week when a news reporter from UK TV's Channel 4 got up from a table with camera in tow to launch awkward questions at one of the twins about their £3.20 ($5) price tag for a bowl of cereal in an area of the city where many residents live in deprivation.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  15 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)

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It's a clinical way of looking at it, but that's what pasta is: A bunch of extrusions. The same production method used to make aluminum cooling fins, vinyl threshold inserts and rubber hosing is also what creates tasty fusilli. And as a lifelong pasta lover, I became entranced by that GIF above when I spotted it over at BoingBoing, and I had to track down the machine doing the work. Which was fun because in the process I got to make my own GIF of conchigliette being made:

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  12 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)

PizzaHut_SubconsciousMenu8_Dec14.jpgJust look at those vacant expressions—if only there was an easier way

Something's definitely been cooking in the R&D department at Pizza Hut this year. In a market showing trends to polarization—the rise of the high-end, handmade, hipster-friendly, small batch, sourdough, pizza-craft on one hand, and the quick, easy, cheap, delivered-to-your-door stuff still going strong on the other—the middle of the road pizza chain has been struggling with a lack of relevance in recent years. Moderately priced, average pizza (to be kind?) and '80s salad bars are clearly doing it for nobody in the 2010's. And by the looks of things, they know it.

Earlier this year, we reported on the Hut's first foray into interactive ordering technology with the release of their concept touchscreen table top for (playing at) designing your own pizza (with some games and phone interconnectivity thrown in for good measure). Last month, the chain announced a total revamp, launching both an attempt at a bold and contemporary new menu—whipping out on-trend big guns like Sriracha sauce, Buffalo drizzle, "Skinny Slice" and more premium toppings, all under a pretty nauseating (and fairly offensive to Italians) campaign "The Flavor of Now" (I'm not linking to that shit)—and a big identity update; the company's fourth refresh in 15 years.

As if Sriracha, touchscreen tables and insulting geriatric Italian's (ok here's the video) wasn't enough innovation for one year, Pizza Hut have released a new concept that claims to be "the future of dining"...

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |   3 Dec 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Spare a thought for the poor shrimp of Japan. If local restaurant goers aren't going to be boiling you alive in a Shabu-Shabu broth (video) at their table (with it seems a fair amount of enjoyment!) then you might as well face the equally terrifying prospect of being sliced and diced alive to be served up as Ikezukuri sashimi (video), your spasming remains prodded at with chopsticks for entertainment.

In a new development in shrimp suffering, such freshly departed souls are now being afforded the final, posthumous insult of being dragged into the advertising of Japanese mobile provider DoCoMo. To the accompaniment of pounding death metal, the cooked creatures are being shot through the air, lightly tempura-ed through jets of flour and egg mix and undergoing partial cremation in a ball of flames before smashing head long into a crash mat and coming to rest (RIP little fellas) on a plate—all in a tenuous attempt to imply the great speeds of associated brands services.

Whilst DoCoMo can no doubt rely on a healthy number of views thanks to such pyrotechnics (8.2 million and counting), we may have to call bullshit on this machine doing anything other than turning some prawns into a sloppy lukewarm mess. We do, of course, also have to come out in condemnation of such violence against our shellfish friends. Have some respect for the dead DoCoMo.

Posted by Sam Dunne  |   1 Dec 2014  |  Comments (2)

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I dare say a fair majority of us here share a healthy designerly appreciation for bags and luggage, and, in all likelihood, are partial, on occasion, to the practicalities of a trusty tote. Knowing that, and the realities of carrying around the sorts of oddities and objects that a life creating demands, I'm might also pressume that you share my pain for difficulties of carrying things flat—be it ferrying a fragile prototype across town at speed by bike or safely transporting some home-made food to a friends, or perhaps some sort of picnic scenario.

If any of this does sound familiar, then perhaps you'll be able to share (or at least forgive) my bourgeoisie delight on stumbling upon something as clever (dare I say innovative!! Too far? Too far.) and well-crafted as the Aplàt—the tote bag for holding things flat. Meaning "for dishes" in French (and perhaps a signifier for the demographic this $44 piece of fabric is no doubt aimed at) Aplàt is the brainchild of San Francisco-based designer Shujan Bertrand, where the bags are also made by hand locally.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  25 Nov 2014  |  Comments (1)

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It's about this time of year that you start to see stall owners gearing up for Christmas in the local high street markets in East London—every inch of wall and ceiling space weighed down with yet more shining dancing Psy action figures, Angry Bird backpacks and fluorescent loom-band kits. Although you have to admire some of the inventiveness (in design as well as IP-dodging), walking past these sellers never fails to give me a niggling feeling of waste in the depths of my stomach—what will have become of all this plastic and electronics by this time next year?

Samuel N. Bernier, Creative Director of leFabShop (and 2012 Core77 Design Award honoree and longtime DIYer/hacker extraordinaire) had the idea for Open Toys when he realized he could create toys from scraps of wood and cork he found in the workshop when combined with simple parts made on a 3D printer. Having gone on to design a small selection of pieces that could be used to make cars, planes, boats and helicopters, Samuel was later inspired whilst gardening to replace wood and cork (difficult to drill without tools) with fruits and vegetables.

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Being pronounced as some as a "Mr. Potato Head for the era of digital fabrication," it's certainly interesting to see how the bulk of disposable toys plastic can be designed out whilst perhaps also encouraging a little creativity in our digitally addicted toddlers. The question remains however—should we be playing with our food?

Posted by Sam Dunne  |  20 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)

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During the holiday season, there's something about being a creative industry professional that makes you a prime target for delegation of certain tasks requiring an appreciation for the visual and delicate hand-eye coordination. But every year it's the same humiliation, OCD irritability and disappointment of small children everywhere when we reach the annual realization that sick Adobe technique, awesome CAD modelling skills or even decades of workshop experience doesn't always translate to graceful arrangement of tinsel or prim and proper present wrapping.

Icing biscuits—of course a prime and reoccurring example of this phenomenon of holiday ham-fistedness (what is it about coloured liquid sugar that can look so appalling despite being spread with the upmost care!)—has fallen into the sights of home-making bloggers and entrepreneurs this year with (an industry already well into it's cycle) videos and new products aimed at the icing-incompetent.

In a lengthy video tutorial, Amber of SweetAmbs—YouTube cookie decoration sorceress—gives an highly informative if insanely detail breakdown of the process to iced cookie perfection. It seems we've been destined to failure with attempts to spread on the sugar coating—only a piping technique will suffice, not forgetting a dry time of 8 hours for the base layer. Jokes aside, you got to give her credit for her use of a scribe manipulating the sugar to form the delicate patterns.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  14 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Today, Londoners were treated to a dual celebration of the highest order: The historic Borough market on the south bank of the Thames marking its 1,000th year (nope, not an not an extra zero added in error) in business AND the observance of Apple Day (a technically international festivity marked mainly by Brits). Having clearly anticipated this momentous concurrence for some time, the market commissioned London based agencies TinMan and Teatime to create an installation befitting of such an occasion—and what better way to celebrate this humble fruit than pay homage to the brand that has usurped its image.

The installation parodying the tech giant's distinctive retail spaces—mildly amusing but also fairly brave considering Apple's recent nailing down of the rights to 'own' the design of their spaces—featured 1000 apples of all manner of varieties displayed en masse on walls and individually laid out on clear acrylic pedestals on counters with accompanying specs, of course.

Whilst of course mainly nonsense, it is a rare occasion that we're given such an education and moment of quiet contemplation of the incredible nutritious creations of mother Earth in all their fascinating sorts—I refer you to the charmingly named "Knobby Russett" below. Perhaps our relationship with fruits and vegetables would be very different if we gave them such forums more regularly, and afforded these wonders of the natural world the reverence we reserve for our electronics.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  14 Nov 2014  |  Comments (9)

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If you haven't yet heard of it, Hampton Creek is an awesome West Coast startup with a mission to redefine mass manufactured food, one product at a time. Having asked themselves what we could do differently if we reimagined food products from scratch, founders Joshua Tetrick and Josh Balk have already found a serious following—and indeed serious funding—in their attempt to make healthy food alternatives as affordable and tasty—as well as more sustainable—as their traditional counterparts. Just three years in, the brand's first product, 'Just Mayo'—an eggless sandwich-spread alternative, celebrated by loyal customers and celebrity chefs as being better than the real thing—has been flying off shelves from Whole Foods to Walmart.

Well, a dark shadow is looming over Hampton Creek this week as Big Food behemoth Unilever filed a lawsuit against the Just Mayo producers, claiming the plant-based product is deceptive to consumers because it doesn't contain any eggs, bemoaning that the product is already taking a nibble out of their billions of profits by outcompeting their Hellmann's brand. Clearly these food innovators have spooked the food industry.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  13 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Home-cooked food, hands-on learning, healthy living and modular design are all potent buzzwords. Through the Charlie Cart Project, they can be put to real social use. Both what we learn and what we eat as children affects how we develop, and our young habits can set us up for success or failure. To help build healthier skills around nutrition and inquiry, this project aims to take cooking directly into classrooms, bringing healthy food and tactile learning to kids in multiple cities. The project's current aim is to produce more of their modular "Charlie Cart" prototype and get them into use in public schools. The prototype, already tested in classrooms, incorporates space for food preparation and cooking into a single mobile unit, with storage, a full set of tools, a manual sink, counter area, oven and stove. The compact station would cut down on wasted resources and increase flexibility and expand cooking programs into multiple classes per school.

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Posted by Ray  |   7 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Premium coffee is kind of a thing these days, thanks largely to the likes of Stumptown and Blue Bottle, and the nuances of brewing a perfect cup hits a sweet spot of quasi-gastronomical experimentation... not least because it's something that many of us do on a daily basis. Now, as you sip your java juice this morning, I invite you to consider what is quite possibly the most high-tech consumer-level coffeemaker ever (it's only feature creep if it tells you the weather forecast, amirite?).

The Bruvelo is a veritable counterpoint to another Kickstarted take on pourover that we saw earlier this year. Sure, the user needs to measure the beans and mind the water temperature—as is true of any decent brew—but Craighton Berman's "Manual" coffeemaker (that is literally what it's called) is intended to be a sculptural showpiece as much as it is a pourover apparatus. Slated to ship this month, the bell-jar-like coffeemaker may well leapfrog the chemex as a coffee-nerd conversation piece—though it's certainly more practical than, say, a Juicy Salif, the holy grail of mantle-worthy kitchenware.

Manual-Pour.jpgManual labor

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Posted by Ray  |   5 Nov 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Now that jack-o-lantern season is behind us, we can look forward to two months of bacchanalian gluttony can begin (followed, of course, by the guilt and sobriety of yet another new year). But if you miss the warm glow of foodstuffs that have been 'creatively repurposed' as lamps, Japanese designer Yukiko Morita has a trick—or is that a treat?—in store for you. Exhibited at Tokyo Designers Week, her "Pampshades" give new meaning to burning carbs. These luminous loaves are made are indeed made from flour, salt and yeast... and LEDs "and more." They're reportedly covered in resin, though it's hard to discern the crustiness-vs.-doughiness factor of what is normally a perishable product.

As the story goes, Morita worked in a bakery in her native Kyoto eight years ago, subsquently graduating from the Kyoto University of Arts in 2008 and reportedly launching Pampshades as early as 2010 (the name is a portmanteau of 'pan'—French for bread, derived from the Latin panem—and lampshade). The brief timeline on her website further notes that the first prototype dates back to 2007 and that she relocated to Kobe as of this year.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  13 Oct 2014  |  Comments (2)

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For most of us consumers, beer is something we buy in bottles and cans, its creation process something of a mystery; we have a vague notion of grains and a fermentation process being involved. Home brewers more firmly understand the science, but much of their alchemy happens inside opaque stainless steel containers, with your average home brewing set-up hewing to the Walter White Meth Lab school of design. So for his final-year design project Freddie Paul, a Product Design student at London's South Bank University, decided to make the home brewing process more transparent. Literally.

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Beer Tree is a gravity fed home brewing kit for brewing craft ales. It concentrates on the brewing process as something to be enjoyed and celebrated. The process can be completely visualised from start to finish, involving the user more than traditional kits to create a strong sense of satisfaction and pride over the final product.

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The video gives you a better sense of what the Beer Tree looks like in action:

We're digging Paul's use of laser-etched graphics on the control panel, his use of materials and the overall form. One commenter on the video is more critical: "It looks impossible to clean and sanitize, your mash tun will lose so much heat, it looks like you can't vorlauf" and more brewerspeak. Another commenter is more upbeat: "My close friends and I have all agreed. We would pay good money to own one of these. Seriously consider making a Kickstarter for manufacturing of this product. I would sign up to back you TODAY."

Paul, if you're reading this: Given that you've graduated and we don't see a current employer on your Coroflot profile, perhaps the crowdsourcing is worth a go?

Check out Paul's shots of the development process after the jump.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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What's more fascinating than watching the progression of a talented artist or designer's work? Also, Creative Dads is becoming a thing. First we saw Michael Chou devising a better way to serve up ice cream to his kids. Now we see Nathan Shields, father of toddlers Gryphon and Alice, devising increasingly sophisticated methods of creating pancakes with aesthetic and representational value.

Using a plastic squirt bottle filled with pancake batter, in early 2012 Shields was drawing primitive forms to amuse his kids, with a hot non-stick pan as his canvas:

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However, at some point he discovered that whatever streams of batter were "drawn" first would of course cook for longer, meaning they'd be darker brown upon flipping.

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With this understanding of how to create tonality, Shields' drawings swiftly grew more sophisticated and defined:

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This technique led to his popular Beatles Pancakes YouTube video:

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Posted by core jr  |  16 Sep 2014  |  Comments (0)

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by KitchenFanatic

[Editor's Note: This product was sent to us from Savora for review.]

Among food lovers, graduating from "parmesan" powder out of a green cardboard cylinder to freshly grating Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table is a rite of passage. So too is grating your own nutmeg and zesting your own orange peel. The staggering selection of graters at a Williams-Sonoma indicates that more Americans are willing to GIY (Grate-It-Yourself). You can find graters in all shapes and sizes, tailor-made for specific ingredients (nutmeg, ginger, citrus zest, chocolate and coconut, to name a few). But with 3,795 search results for "grater" in Amazon's Home & Kitchen department, do we really need another one to throw on the pile? The people at Savora, a line of culinary gadgets owned by the North American Lifetime Brands, think so.

The Savora Hand Grater, a relative newcomer, combines rasp-like perforations with a removable container in one racy handheld grater. The company's lead designer, Sid Ramnarace—who has previously worked with Ford Motors—is behind the ergonomic designs that "mirror the smooth, aerodynamic lines of a modern automobile." Indeed, Savora's products have a whiff of something newly acquired by a man in a midlife crisis.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |  11 Sep 2014  |  Comments (2)

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This past weekend, Reddit users have been delighting in pictures of prepackaged grape juice (alas, not wine) and bread (or is that gum?) communion reportedly handed out to one church-going user's 7,000-strong congregation. The Reddit faithful were quick to dub the curiosities 'Christables' after a certain packaged lunchtray product and offered up a number of other amusing puns and slogan suggestions—from mildly disrespectful to brazen copyright infringement—including gems such as "I Can't Believe It's Not Salvation" to "# Bad dap bap bap baaa...I'm loving Him #."

As comments on the thread point towards, the incongruity that we (even non-believers) feel at the sight of this object has to do with the design language: disposable plastic + aluminum-foiled symbols of the fast and packaged food industries that is unavoidably synonymous with cheapness, convenience and transience—a culmination that no amount of script typography, biblical quotes and cross symbols can outweigh.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  20 Aug 2014  |  Comments (2)

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We think of factories producing iPhones, IKEA flatpacks and Infinitis, and as ID'ers we have an idea of what those production lines look like. But chances are you've never been inside a factory that makes cakes and desserts. Unifiller Systems, Inc. is a company that creates cake-decorating machines and food processing equipment, and their "sizzle reel" is pretty fascinating:

Once you've seen those machines above in action, it makes sense that circular cakes would be filled and iced on a turntable. But how do they get the filling into rectangular cakes, which don't have rotational symmetry? Surprisingly, for sheet cakes they use a "split and fill" technology that slices the cake horizontally while simultaneously injecting the filling (see it in action around 0:28):

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Aug 2014  |  Comments (1)

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From Australia comes this clever re-think of the common butter knife. Sydney-based industrial designers Sacha Pantschenko, Norman Oliveria and Craig Andrews put their heads together and came up with the ButterUp, which adds a row of precisely-shaped holes to the blunt edge of the blade. This enables one to "grate" a cold stick of butter, creating easier-to-spread ribbons:

It's not surprising that the ButterUp quickly reached (and tripled) its Kickstarter funding target, garnering AUD $126,213 at press time over a $38,000 goal; what is surprising is how badly, and quickly, people want this design. Rather than opt for the least-expensive, $12-per-unit buy-in with a March 2015 delivery date, nearly a hundred backers opted to pay $60 to have a single unit delivered by this September! These people take their toast seriously.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  18 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Cheesemaking is a millennia-old industry, full of straightforward food science as well as dark corners of tradition and biological happenstance. Understanding the variety of traditional cheese production can make for a very long grocery trip, but some of the salient details may have escaped you by hiding in the packaging. Many cheese counters prominently display the reserve wheels of cheese that haven't been parceled out into dinner-party-sized chunks, and almost every counter sells wedged cheeses with clearly visible rinds. This isn't just to conjure delicious old-world charm. If your cheesemonger is nowhere to be found, or if you're generally foodie-shy, here are a few fun facts you can find built into the hard rinds of fine cheeses.

Country of origin. Like many wines, some types of cheese are regionally specific. Parmesan, or Parmigiano Reggiano (the so-called King of Cheeses), hails from a land of salty paternalism—Italy and Italy alone. Because by law it must be produced in the provinces Parma, Reggio Emilia, or Bologna, that wheel of cheese must sport at least one prominent D.O.P. stamp to be legit. On French products you'll see an A.O.P (possibly A.O.C), and regional American makers (like those using Wisconsin milk) use their own stamps too. Some cheeses give more subtle clues, like Spanish Manchego which virtually always has a basket-weave rind, having been historically pressed in grass baskets traditional to the La Mancha region where it is produced.

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Cheese type and region. Though we rely heavily on our local cheese counter for proper labeling, most rind-bearing wheel-born cheeses do what they can to clear up the basics. It's very common for the basic info about type, brand and region to be carefully written in multiple orientations around the perimeter of the wheel, so it can be seen even in small segments. Bold dotted-line letters are often used, likely because stamps and dyes used on living, breathing cheeses tend to become less distinct as the rounds age, like that tacky text tattoo you got in college. Certain shapes often correspond with cheese type too. Pecorino Romano often uses a repeating dot pattern, along with a sheep's head icon within a dotted diamond. Grana Padano is completely covered with ovaloid "lozenge" symbols and four-leaf clover icons.

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Posted by Core77 Design Awards  |  15 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Some of us plan vacations based on a region's culinary specialties—which, for the record, is completely legitimate and delicious. Scouring travel books for information on locavorous delights is one thing, but in the interest of making cuisine more, um, digestible, we recommend Food Maps, by photographer Henry Hargreaves and chef/stylist Caitlin Levin. Joining forces as Hargreaves and Levin, the duo recently received a DIY Notable in the 2014 Core77 Design Awards for a series of maps depicting each country made up with its popular foodstuffs.

But the maps are much more than messes waiting to happen. "We have taken many of the iconic foods of countries and continents and turned them into physical maps," says the team. "These maps show how food has traveled the globe—transforming and becoming a part of the cultural identity of that place."

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The work is detailed, demarcating different states and provinces with different ingredients. The use of perishable materials served as de facto deadlines for creating work. "The food was perishable, so we had to make it quickly so the ingredients didn't start to turn and look awful," says Hargreaves. Because who wants to look at an Italy made up of mushy, bruised tomatoes?

The finished products look good enough to eat, but the process was just as painstaking as any recipe you'd find in a Julia Childs cookbook. Check out this behind-the-scenes video:

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  22 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

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A backgrounder for those of you who don't live in Berkeley: Spirulina is a superfood. A superfood, for those who aren't obsessed with nutritional fads, is a food that is off-the-charts rich in vitamins, minerals and other stuff that is obviously yet mysteriously Good For You. Despite their grandiose title, it is a great idea to eat these uncommon comestibles; however, spirulina in particular can be a bit of work to get your hands on. It's traditionally grown in small ponds—historically in a lake system in Chad of all places—and it looks, to those without deep enthusiasm for biology, like pond scum. This is not a sexy or garden-variety foodstuff, but once harvested and dried it's easily added to other foods or taken as a supplement... at a pretty high cost. But what if it wasn't hard to harvest?

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Tom Vered of Grow Spirulina has adapted (and sells) a method of home growing spirulina, and he's upped his own ante with a new standalone design, ostensibly to be sold online soon. This 10-liter machine would combine the precise biochemical and mechanical needs of a growing zone with the user-friendliness of an at-home yogurt maker. Besides the thrill of owning a unique appliance, you'd get the added benefits of taking your spirulina fresh and getting way more oomph per scoop. The literature varies on the specific difference, but even as a superfood, spirulina loses a lot of nutritional value when dried.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  14 Jul 2014  |  Comments (5)

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In recent years we've seen some neat re-thinks of basic cookware, from a self-stirring pot to Mike Whitehead's CNC-milled cast iron skillet. Now a rocket scientist from the UK, Dr. Tom Povey, has designed a line of pots and saucepans that boast astonishing efficiency.

Oxford professor Povey knows all about influencing temperature changes, as his day job in the Osney Thermo-Fluids Laboratory involves thermodynamics and jet engines. And whilst engaged in his hobby of mountain climbing, Povey ran into the problem of trying to boil water at high altitude, which takes longer than it does at sea level, burning more of the precious fuel you've hauled up the mountain. After realizing that much of the heat in conventional cooking is wasted, he set about designing a more efficient pot with this assistance of some fellow lab brainiacs.

"The problem with the current shape of [existing cookware] means a lot of the heat is dissipated into the air," Povey told The Telegraph. "So, it is an aerodynamic and heat transfer problem and we applied the science used in rocket and jet engines to create a shape of a pan that is more energy efficient."

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Povey's radical-looking cast-aluminum Flare line, which UK kitchenware brand Lakeland began selling last week, employs something you see on turbines: Fins. These carry the heat from the base to the sides more efficiently, reportedly cooking food some 44% faster than a conventional pan. And a conventional pan requires 40% more energy to achieve the same results as you'd get with a Flare pan, making it ideal both for camping—less gas to carry—as well as appealing to kitchenbound consumers for both the energy savings and the evenness of the cooking.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  11 Jul 2014  |  Comments (9)

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Earlier this week in La Jolla, California, what appeared to be a massive oil spill in the water began creeping towards the beach. However, closer inspection revealed that the inky cloud was not a batch of Exxon-Mobil's finest at all, but an enormous school of fish. Specifically, anchovies.

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Posted by erika rae  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

DataCuisine-Salt.jpg"Take it with a Pinch of Salt!" (a dish exploring the street noise levels in Barcelona throughout the day)

Last week, BoingBoing picked up on a TL;DR study that validated the value of artistic presentation... when it comes to salad. A team of psychologists from Oxford recently published the finding that thoughtful plating goes a long way towards enhancing the overall perception of the dining experience. In short, if it looks good, we're more likely to think that it tastes good too (and that it's worth a few extra pounds—sterling, that is).

Gathering data on our cultural misconceptions is one thing; presenting it is another thing entirely—but it so happens that a couple of designers have undertaken this very task. In an (unrelated) inversion of the Oxford experiment, Data Cuisine is a research project in which socioeconomic data is presented as culinary visual- and gastronom-izations. Whereas the psychologists tested the eaters with an edible Kandinsky, Susanne Jaschko and Moritz Stefaner lead workshop participants in translating data sets into recipes: "Have you ever tried to imagine how a fish soup tastes whose recipe is based on publicly available local fishing data? Or what a pizza would be like if it was based on Helsinki's population mix? Data Cuisine explores food as a means of data expression—or, if you like—edible diagrams."

DataCuisine-Lentils.jpg"Age & Language in Lentils" (a visualization of the median age, population sizes and languages spoken in the USA and Italy)

DataCuisine-Noodles.jpg"First Date Noodles" (a look at the number of people who will have sex on a first date)

So far, there have only been two workshops (one in Helsinki and one in Barcelona), but the plates that they've posted to the website have proved thought-provoking. For example, the noodle arrangement pictured above, titled "First Date Noodles." The tangled ball of noodles represents the number of men and women (denoted by pink and blue noodles) who will have sex on a first date—59 percent of women and 86 percent of men, based on an informal survey among the cooks' Facebook acquaintances. The outlying noodles represent those who abstain.

DataCuisine-EmigrationFish.jpgEmigration Fish" (a dish representing the number of young people who emigrate from Spain)

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

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True industrial design seeks out problems that can be solved with objects. The more common the problem, and the easier it is to produce the item you've designed to solve it, the more successful you'll be. And the Holy Grail, of course, is to find that common problem that no one's solved yet.

So here's a great example of a simple, monomaterial product design that's become a tremendous business success by addressing an unmet need in the kitchen. When it comes to storing food, we've got Ziploc bags, Tupperware, plastic wraps and aluminum foils, which are good at storing most things. But what they're lousy at preserving is a fruit or vegetable that's been cut in half; you've undoubtedly thrown away half of something because you couldn't use it all up in time.

Enter Food Huggers, which are nothing more than little silicone discs molded with a lip and an undercut.

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By making them in four sizes—which nest for storage, by the way—industrial designers Michelle Ivankovic and marketer Adrienne McNicholas have covered all of the bases, whether you're looking to save a small or large chunk of fruit or vegetable.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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"If you turn the tablet away from me one more time, Susan, I'm going to throw this margarita in your face!"

Here's what would be perfect: If you would take just two bites of that expensive dessert I upsold you on, one quick sip from the cappucino I talked you into, then pay the check and get the hell out of the restaurant. Because there's people waiting and I need to flip this table so I can make more money.

I learned a few things as a waiter in the '80s and '90s. One was that spiked hair and a fanny pack was not a good look. The other was that a server's job isn't just to take the orders and sling the chow—our job was to sell. Bigger checks meant bigger tips, and the manager was constantly coaching us on which high-margin specials to push, which desserts we needed to move, what the exciting new beer we had on tap was.

Well, now the Chili's Grill & Bar chain has found that, surprise surprise, tablets are better than humans at selling. "When your server is a screen, you spend more money," as The Atlantic puts it. Since installing over 55,000 tablets at tables, the restaurant has found that diners order more appetizers and desserts and even leave bigger tips by going along with the default tip setting, which is of course jacked up. They also tie the kids up with unlimited on-screen games that run $0.99.

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The tablets are manufactured by a company called Ziosk, the self-styled "industry leader for tabletop menu, ordering, entertainment and payment" for restaurants. (But they are not without competition, see below.) Ziosk reckons the tablets, which flash attractive-looking food photos to entice diners to click, boost appetizer sales by 20% and desserts by 30%. They also shave about 5 minutes off of each meal, presumably because one never needs to flag a waiter down. Add it all up and these babies essentially pay for themselves, as the company claims: "The Ziosk platform is a revenue center, not a cost center for the restaurant and our offering is 'less than free.'"

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