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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 (1)

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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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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   5 Jun 2014  |  Comments (4)

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Fifty years ago, most things you'd find in a refrigerator, like milk, ketchup or mayonnaise, were all in glass containers. Nowadays those items are mostly contained in plastic. Plastic is cheap, it doesn't shatter when dropped, and if you think about any jar you ever had trouble opening, it's almost never a plastic one.

The benefits of glass, on the other hand, is that they're more sanitary, re-usable, have better heat resistance and are safe to microwave. So Japanese manufacturer Hakuyo Glass has been studying plastic-vs.-glass uptake in the kitchen and concluded that if they can design glass jars that are easier to open, they can win part of the market back.

To do this, they consulted Tokyo-based designer Noriko Hashida, who heads up her own ID firm and is also a professor at Shibaura Institute of Technology's College of Engineering and Design. Hashida went all-out in her research, hooking test subjects of all ages up to an electromyograph to precisely measure their muscle movement as they opened a variety of glass designs. By studying where on a package force is applied, she concluded that a parallelogram-shaped cross-section was ideal and provided the best leverage. As a former structural package designer I'll say it doesn't look too shabby, either.

Hakuyo Glass has filed a patent for Ms. Hashida's design, and it's expected they'll soon make their way to Japanese store shelves to hold jam and pickled products.

Via Nikkei Technology

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  28 May 2014  |  Comments (1)

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The simple combination cutting board below features multiple plastic sheets that allow the user to cut different items—raw meat, vegetables and bread, for instance—without cross-contamination.

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We've all seen swappable plastic sheets before. But Fiskars added that nice little touch in the grippy rubberized grommet hole, providing a place to register the sheets as they're stacked on top. It also gives you a handy way to grab the cutting board and the sheets, and provides that splash of their distinctive orange for branding purposes.

It's not a game-changer or an earth-shattering design, and it won't have an impact on the company's fortunes the way their scissors did. But the designers among you will recognize this as one of those tiny triumphs that you pore over in anonymity; it's a thoughtful little touch that makes the experience of using this cutting board incrementally better. And for Fiskars, that's part of their strategy to conquer the competition-heavy kitchen space.

In a talk given at Fiskars HQ, Petri S. Toivanen, who heads up their Kitchen Business Unit, provided answers to some niggling questions that many designers have faced: How do you design a new product that can compete in an extremely saturated market? And if there are already thousands of products out there, what's the point of designing yet another one?

We recorded and transcribed Toivanen's talk, printed below. It has been edited for clarity and brevity; if there are any technical errors, the fault is ours.


Petri S. Toivanen:

When we set out to conquer the kitchen market, we started with the consumer, with the end-user. We spent a lot of time looking at how our products are used, how people cook, how they behave in the kitchen, how they go shopping, and we also looked at the social aspect of cooking. We learned a lot of interesting things, and I would like to share just a couple of them with you.

One thing you have to understand about this business: If you go to pretty much any household in Europe, all the [kitchen] drawers are full. Everybody has pretty much everything, knives, spatulas, et cetera. So our challenge was, How do you make a compelling proposition to consumers that already have everything? Well, we believe very strongly that we can improve even the simplest things, and make things that are already good even better, to bring us forward. And we are very diligent in doing so.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 May 2014  |  Comments (2)

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It is astonishing to think that prior to the Industrial Revolution, most power on Earth came directly from either man or animal. You had a few exceptions—river dwellers figured out waterwheels, and the Dutch had their windmills—but for most of us, if you wanted to power something into motion you attached it to an ox, a horse or maybe a broad-shouldered guy named Jeff. And a recent NPR broadcast has drawn lots of ears by highlighting a forgotten animal-powered contraption from the UK: A rotating spit driven by a dog forced to run inside a large hamster-wheel, and motivated to move by a piece of burning coal.

Referred to in the broadcast as "an essential part of every large kitchen in Britain in the 16th century," this Turnspit dog and possible Welsh Corgi relative was specially bred to fit inside the running wheel. An 1858 British book called Anecdotes of Dogs describes them as "long-bodied, crooked-legged and ugly dogs, with a suspicious, unhappy look about them." The wheel that they ran inside was attached to a spit holding a piece of meat over the fire. Says NPR:

When any meat was to be roasted, one of these dogs was hoisted into a wooden wheel mounted on the wall near the fireplace. The wheel was attached to a chain, which ran down to the spit. As the dog ran, like a hamster in a cage, the spit turned.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Auto designers and Milan-friendly furniture folks are the rockstars of industrial design, but designers who work on camping cookware deserve more credit than they get. To take cookware, a line of objects with clearly-defined form factors, and completely re-think them to make them compact, minimalist and lightweight is a challenge many of us would (and did) fail at in design school; but look at some of the leading camping goods companies and you'll see all manner of clever design solutions and a real understanding of materials.

Sometimes the innovations are small, as with GSI Outdoors' Halulite Pot. For example, a built-in strainer is something you've seen in conventional cookware, as with these:

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But the moderate design flaw with those designs is that they require hand protection from the heat of the lid. GSI's designers got around this with two simple pieces of silicone to protect your mitts while you pour and hold the lid in place.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Gothenburg-based Katja Wulff runs a blog called Coffee Machine Cuisine - How to cook food with your coffee maker. She's been hooked on coffeemaker cooking since she pioneered the field in a 2009 dorm room, whipping up her first batch of noodles in the pot; to date she's made "pizzas, pastas, cat food...shellfish soup, testicle tacos (this was really a good one), cakes, breads, burgers, Swedish meatballs, pig tail soup... Pretty much everything in my old coffee maker."

Wulff's blog, filled with her entries accompanied by boyfriend Dan Sorenson's photos, is as weird as it is fascinating. And in addition to the coffeemaker—handed down from her grandmother, it appears to be from the 70s or '80s—she also experiments with using other household devices to produce meals, resulting in descriptions like the following:

Grease the minute steak and chop the onion and the bell pepper. Add pasta and a dash of oil in the coffee maker carafe, pour water into the brewer and a pinch of salt in the filter thingy. Start your coffee maker and plug in your hair waffle iron.

Yes, two types of curling iron, a clothes iron, a hair straightener, a hair dryer and a dishwasher have all popped up in Wulff's recipes. It's a fascinating look at how many objects in our house are designed to create heat, and how they can all be hacked for culinary purposes.

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

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There's a certain intimacy in sharing a meal with a loved one. Unfortunately, the time spent together is more likely than not obstructed by modern-day distractions at some point (I'm looking at you, iPhone). There are all kinds of designs out there focusing on pulling people together and helping them appreciate the moment they're in—just take a look at First Date Cutlery. (And while most of these interaction designs blend right into the dining experience, some stick out like a super-stacked fork.) Michigan-based designer Sophia Thomas has created a subtle way to embody those dear moments with friends over a meal with her ongoing series, "Encoded Intonation."

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The series is certainly abstract, in concept and product. My favorite installment, "Encoded Intonation III," features more material association to sound as plates and knives sporting a "soundwaved" edge from recordings straight from the mouths of the designer's most frequent dinner companions.

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Posted by Ray  |  17 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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It's never a perfect analogy, but it can be interesting when it comes close enough: Attempting to translate one creative discipline into another is, to mutilate the metaphors, more difficult than turning water into wine—rather, the old saying regarding "dancing about architecture" comes to mind. For Milan Design Week 2014, the Centrum Designu Gdynia ambitiously sought to distill a dozen products by Polish Pomeranian designers into culinary delights. Although the concept itself was executed to varying degrees of success, "Taste of an Object" offered a nice twist on the tried-and-true local design showcase.

Taking inspiration from Richard E. Cytowic's The Man Who Tasted Shapes (MIT Press 2003), the Gdynia Design Centre worked with razy2 design group to develop an exhibition in which "an object goes beyond the limits of how it's typically perceived."

"Flavors have shape," he started, frowning into the depths of the roasting pan. "I wanted the taste of this chicken to be pointed shape, but it came out all round." He looked up at me, still blushing. "Well I mean it's nearly spherical," he emphasized, trying to keep the volume down. "I can't serve this if it doesn't have points."
..."When I taste something with intense flavor, the feeling sweeps down to my arm into my fingertips. I feel it—its weight, its texture, whether it's warm or cold, everything. I feel it like I'm actually grasping something." He held his palms up. "Of course, there's nothing really there," he said, staring at his hands. "But it's not illusion because I feel it."

So goes the excerpt of Cytowic's book, a seed of source material that is planted in the geopolitical context of the Pomerania region of northern Poland, across the Baltic Sea from Sweden. Described as "a region of a turbulent history linked with and age-long fight for independence," Pomerania is also an incubator, "a base for brave yet developing, unique projects."

Mouthwatering though they may be, chef Rafal Walesa's gastronomic concoctions are only obliquely related to the products—but that's precisely the point. After all, one can only imagine that literal interpretations of, say, a radiator (there are actually three heating-related products in the show) or an urn might not be nearly as appetizing as the photogenic treats that were on view. (Note: The captioned images below alternate between food and product, with the dishes followed by the design that inspired them.)

TasteofanObject-WelnaPowietrze-1.jpgChocolate sponge cake is perhaps the ultimate comfort food

TasteofanObject-WelnaPowietrze-2.jpg"Welna & Powietrze" armchair by Malafor (Agata Kulik-Pomorska & Pawel Pomorski)

TasteofanObject-Pillou-1.jpgHard candy is intended to symbolize cast aluminum, while its lemon tea flavor conjures the contrast of heat on a cold winter day

TasteofanObject-Pillou-2.jpg"Pillou" radiator by None Grupa (Marta Szaban & Antoni Krzempek) for Terma

TasteofanObject-TearDrop-1.jpgRed wine jelly offers a twist on a drink for a solemn occasion

TasteofanObject-TearDrop-2.jpg"Tear Drop" by Aeon Form (Aleksander Bielawski, Robert Kowalczyk & Dominik Sedzicki)

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Posted by erika rae  |   9 Apr 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Much like "The Uncomfortable Series" from KK Studio, San Francisco-based photographer Lawrie Brown's play on food design is a slightly unsettling look at the food we interact with on a daily basis. Her series—aptly named "Colored Food"—features all kinds of familiar cuisines covered in colorful latex paint. Blue chicken, green corn, cereal floating in a mysterious pink liquid—every single one zeros in on some nerve that I just can't place.

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For those who were around—and heaven forbid, might have even enjoyed—Heinz's unfortunately named colored ketchup ("EZ Squirt"), this vibrant ice cream topping may bring back a few memories:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   7 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Of all the product designs people are willing to wait in line for, it's been demonstrated that iPhones, iPads and game consoles get a big "yes." But will people stand in line for something more mundane, like a cup?

They will if it was "designed" by Dominique Ansel, the NYC pastry chef famous for his queue-creating Cronuts. Following an announcement via Instagram by Ansel, Eater.com reports that the Frenchman recently tried his first Oreo; after learning that it was meant to be eaten with milk—"[not] a natural combination in French culture"—Ansel pushed the alien concept further, crafting a milk-holding cup from a cookie.

His resultant Chocolate Chip Cookie Milk Shots are going to be unveiled this Sunday at SXSW. And if his Cronut sales are any indication, the lines for these things will probably start somewhere north by northeast.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  26 Feb 2014  |  Comments (5)

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Is the Huffington Post written and edited by teenagers? I was surprised to see, making the social media rounds, an article touting a "new" packaging technology for ice cream: Ben & Jerry's Cores, which combine several flavors together in the same container, keeping each separate but contiguous. The unattributed writer breathlessly refers to it as "[a] new (mind-blowing/world peace-solving) concept," wonders "What will Ben & Jerry's think of next?" and states "we can't believe no one has thought of this yet."

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Posted by Ray  |   7 Feb 2014  |  Comments (1)

NOWNESS-BompasParr-GherkinChandelier-2.jpgWe're saving these pickles for the end, but you can skip ahead if you must.

...the slush-caked roads of the Greater Tri-state Area, that is. (Ok, that was a really cheesy, but take the puns with a grain of salt. You've been warned.)

We Polar Vortexans have been experiencing some technical difficulties lately. Unlike the proverbial perambulating pretzels, the roads are not getting a-salted, and it's a kind of a problem. Many of the hardest-hit states in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. are running low on sodium, and Quartz notes that they may have to turn to an arguably less savory solution, such as "cheese brine and other dairy waste products."

Indeed, Gizmodo picked up on Modern Farmer's report on the win-win waste disposal practice last November. The smell, apparently, is an issue (though 'tis the season for nasal congestion anyway), but it's definitely a creative whey to solve two problems at once.

CheeseCOMP.jpgL: Lotsa Mozza; R: More on Milwaukee's industrial-strength cheese grater at the Journal-Sentinel.

Of course, cheese runoff is just one of the upcycled waste products that the National Geographic examines in their alt-de-icer round-up, which concludes with some DIY (De-Ice-Yourself, duh) tips. "You can easily try the brine or juice methods. Combine salt with molasses or beet juice from your grocery store, or that green liquid in pickle jars. Mix it all up, pour it into a spray bottle, and spray away. If all goes well, you will achieve maximum meltage with minimal salt."

Lo and behold, the folks across the Hudson had turned to last of those options, so to speak, some three years ago. As early as 2011, certain municipalities in northern New Jersey were substituting in "a briny mixture of salt and water that resembles pickle juice" for NaCl (a recipe for dis-ice-ter, if you will). At seven cents a gallon, it's difficult to determine how much money they'll save on $63/ton salt, not least because it's not clear how much of each it takes to deice, say, a mile of road. (According to the Times, NYC's Sanitation Department started the season with 250K tons of road salt and have used 346,112 tons so far; more on the cost savings below).

In any case, the CBS reporter's attempt is decidedly non-superlative:

Bergen County? More like gherkin county.

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Posted by erika rae  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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You might remember watching in awe as your grade school science teacher magically lit up an LED with a potato or three. There's not much to it—a natural acid serves as the electrolytic medium between a pair of terminals—but it's certainly a clever way to illustrate the basic principles of batteries and circuits. Now, photographer Caleb Charland is bringing back the science of natural batteries in a series of photos that might just evoke the same sense of wonder as those classroom demos from your childhood.

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Back to Light, features daisy chains of fresh fruit basking in a glow of their power, so to speak. The apples and limes are a little more photogenic than the tubers that traditionally serve as the humble battery, but given his sense of composition, we'd bet that Charland could make potatoes look this good too. Since the long-exposure photographs are illuminated solely by their subject matter to make for a kind of autonomous still life, the light source is paramount; the arrangements are either backlit or clustered around the bulb, huddled together in quasi-ritualistic fashion powering small light sources.

The project is not only intriguing for highlighting the unusual use of fruit in an energy-giving sense, but also for fueling our curiosity about just how many citruses it would take to sustain household lights.

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Posted by Ray  |  24 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Baby steps, as the saying goes. This week saw one of the wackier 3D-printing news items in recent memory: Expecting parents now have the option to celebrate gestation with a life-size model of their progeny in utero. 3D Babies uses ultrasound data to generate a fetus figurine, a kind of memento partum: "Your 3D Baby will be a treasured family remembrance of your pregnancy and new baby."

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If we're a decade out from the first generation of Facebook babies—a generation that has had its entire life documented, from delivery to present-day, in digital media—just give it a few more years for kids to be embarrassed by that weird ABS curio next to the baby pictures on the mantle... or stranger yet, a sculpture of a certain enfant célèbre (pardon my French), North West herself. If the availability of Kanye & Kim's kid is where it gets into possible hoax territory, let's just say it was kind of a stillborn idea from the start, elevating helicopter parenthood into something rather creepier.

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Posted by erika rae  |   7 Jan 2014  |  Comments (0)

EdibleFireworks-FloatingBubbles.jpgGiant floating bubbles filled with orange-scented smoke make their way to the noses of onlookers.

We hope you had a great New Year's Eve filled with friends, kitschy noisemakers and too many drinks. But the truth of the matter is this—you probably didn't catch fireworks as cool as the thousands of people who got to taste their light show in London. Food scientists Bompas & Parr (the partners behind the jelly project that blew our minds) teamed up with Vodafone and the mayor of London to create an edible experience for the area's annual New Year's Eve fireworks show on the Thames River.

EdibleFireworks-Sketches.jpgEarly sketches of the firework experience

Viewers stood clad with light-up armbands that flashed in beat to the show they were watching. The different colored fireworks corresponded to different scents and tastes that were projected into the audience through peach snow, edible banana confetti, strawberry smoke and floating bubbles filled with Seville orange scented smoke. Check out a video from the event:

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Posted by erika rae  |  30 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

C77YiR.jpgnikkorizushi-01.jpgThese design-inspired sushi rolls have us questioning our lunch choices.

Core77 2013 Year in Review: Top Ten Posts · Furniture, Pt. 1 · Furniture, Pt. 2
Digital Fabrication, Pt. 1 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 2 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 3 · Digital Fabrication, Pt. 4
Insights from the Core77 Questionnaire · Maker Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Future · Food & Drink
Materials, Pt. 1: Wood · Materials, Pt. 2: Creative Repurposing · Materials, Pt. 3: The New Stuff
True I.D. Stories · High-Tech Headlines · The Year in Photos

From Kickstarted CNC cookware to sandwich doodles, we've had quite the year in food hacks and innovations. Some of them completely unnecessary (I'm looking at you, Budweiser beer can design) and some were absurdly awesome flags made of regional food favorites.

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Beer

We started out the year with an influx of beer innovation in design in the form of a designer-centric drinking guide—to your brew's color, that is. The Beertone Color Reference Guide is an ode to Pantone's color swatch format that gives beer drinking designers an industry-friendly look at the brew they're throwing back.

Of course, mainstream drinkers were more likely to come across some of the new beer packaging we saw. Sam Adams' parent company, Boston Beer Co.—a group who had never previously dealt with the design of their cans—turned to IDEO to help them come up with the best of the best. And then there was that time that Budwesier developed a more "on-brand" shape with the curved form that matched their bow-tie logo. (We aren't quite sure whether that accomplished anything or not.) And IDEO isn't the only one getting involved in beer—Marc Newson took a stab at designing a storage system for Heineken, dubbed The Sub.

Lastly, PicoBrew helped us get our beer quicker with their Kickstarted brewing process in a week instead of the standard 6–8 weeks. It was just one of many crowdfunded foodie innovations this year, from a simple sous-vide device to an righty- and lefty-friendly ice cream scoop that made its debut in a classroom.

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Posted by erika rae  |   4 Dec 2013  |  Comments (0)

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'Tis the season to do all kind of holiday things. Amongst the multitudes of baked cookies and gift wrap, some of you may make it a tradition to make your own gingerbread houses—sometimes half-heartedly and half-eaten, depending on your tastes. No matter the level of strategy and effort you put into your sugary construction, I'm willing to bet that none of your attempts will ever turn out as appetizing and lifelike as the buildings food stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves have put together.

With world-famous silhouettes to guide them, they've created a set of candy architecture that we'd all think twice about eating. The buildings are so lifelike that I had to keep reminding myself that every surface on all of the houses is edible. The series features several well-known art museums: Guggenheim, Louvre and the Tate Modern, to name a few. The duo wanted to show candy in a more serious light, one that isn't focused on the vivid colors and sweetness we're so used to associating with sugary treats.

Click the jump for more photos of the sugary architecture.

GingerbreadHouse-TateModern.jpgLondon's Tate Modern

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Posted by erika rae  |  15 Nov 2013  |  Comments (0)

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It's not like tea-drinkers choose tea for its immediacy or anything, but to push the "right here, right now" agenda even further, there's now a tea you can inhale instead of sip. London-based Camellia's Tea House debuted this new-age teatime experience at the 2013 Experimental Food Society Spectacular. The team set up a room full of vaporized teas and "sippers" tasted them with straws. Check out the video below to get a better visual for the presentation:

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Posted by Ray  |  25 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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With Halloween festivities more or less underway this weekend, the holiday season is just around the corner and shopping aside, I imagine most of us are anticipating yet another stretch of eating, drinking and making merry. Here, we'll look at several stories related to the former. Service and packaging notwithstanding, some of these news items aren't explicitly related to design, but they certainly hold lessons for designers of all stripes.

First up, a couple of articles that examine food as a 'manufactured' product; not so much the industrial food complex but rather the entrepreneurial, product-driven side of how and what we eat. In contrast to, say, the riveting true stories behind Apple or Twitter—tech companies whose success is precisely why they remain compelling to the general public—food may seem an unlikely area of innovation. Yet it's an interesting topic for almost the exact opposite reason as bleeding-edge technology: Although food is essential to our continued existence in a way that iPhones and followers are not, we remain (at times blissfully) unaware of where, exactly, it comes from. From prepping potatoes by the pallet-load to harvesting hundreds of hectares of jalapeños, we got a closer look at the unsung line cooks and idiosyncratic entrepreneur behind New York City's Balthazar and Southern California-based Huy Fong Foods (of Sri Racha fame), respectively.

Balthazar-MarvinOrellanaforNYT.jpgPhoto by Marvin Orellana for the New York Times

I'll spare you the NYC-insider take (the restaurant is around the corner from Core HQ), but Willy Staley does well to establish the context of Balthazar's 'downtown-ness,' setting the scene with Soho's manufacturing heritage before diving into the details, which might apply to any major restaurant operation. Of course, this being Lower Manhattan, the stakes (cue rimshot) are higher, and restauranteur Keith McNally's iconic brasserie would not have become a veritable institution if not for its quality and consistency. "During the busy season—roughly fall Fashion Week to Memorial Day—the restaurant spends $90,000 a week on food to feed some 10,000 guests."

I highly recommend the custom-styled/art-directed Times Magazine feature "22 Hours in Balthazar" to non-NYCers and non-foodies alike: local flavor and jargon aside, it's a fascinating case study in both service design and how things are made.

Roughly one in 10 people who enter Balthazar orders the steak frites. It is far and away the restaurant's best-selling dish, and Balthazar can sell as many as 200 on a busy day. A plate of steak and potatoes requires a tremendous input of labor if you're going to charge $38 for it. At a smaller restaurant, cooks are typically responsible for setting up their own mise-en-place—preparing food for their stations—before each service begins, but at Balthazar, things are necessarily more atomized. The fries, for example, go through numerous steps of prep, done by a few different people, before they wind up on a plate.

(I should also add that the Frites video makes for a fascinating contrast to the Mac Pro manufacturing vid that has made rounds this week...)

ChiliPeppers-AmitDaveforReuters-viaQuartz.jpgPhoto by Amit Dave / Reuters, via Quartz

Sri Racha, on the other hand, should need no introduction, though a bit a backstory is in order. Roberto Ferdman of Quartz reports that David Tran founded Huy Fong foods shortly after he landed in Los Angeles in 1980. Longing for the signature spice of his native Vietnam, made his own hot sauce (the ingredients read "Chilis, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar," plus a few less savory preservatives) and started selling it in the now-iconic squeeze bottle with the green cap as a community service. The rest, of course, is history: Rooster sauce, as one of my friends calls it, is now a staple in all variety of Asian eatery and beyond.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |   7 Oct 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Popping up in a small, leafy square in central Vienna this design week, the 'Construisine' community kitchen and workshop creates a space for local residents to cook food from regional produce and build furniture from recycled wood, whilst drawing important parallels between the two in an attempt to encourage the Viennese public to embrace making.

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With a whole host of fun food making tools, the creators Johanna Dehio [previously] and Dominik Hehl also offer revellers 'recipes' for furniture making, the installation thus growing in size the more it is used.

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |   3 Oct 2013  |  Comments (1)

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The Passionwege format returns for this year's Vienna Design Week linking emerging international design talent with what's left of the city's historic industries. Among the designers are Franco-Swiss duo Bertille & Mathieu, who have combined forces with crystal glass and chandelier manufacturer Lobmeyr to make the ultra-high end brand that little bit more accesible.

Having sought inspiration with a visit to the brand's age-old factory, the two designer drew interesting parralels between the process of crystal manufacturer and candy making—both involving the melting and boiling of powders (sand in the case of crystal, sugar in confectionary) and the subsequent depositing, shaping and setting of the molten sustenance into a clear solid.

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