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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Leftovers

If there is any better form of leftovers than Christmas turkey, I don't know what it is.  And since we hosted our family Christmas dinner this year, we were the benefactors of  the leftover turkey.  Last night was our first real chance to enjoy the bounty of smoked turkey, home made cranberry sauce and Capozzi stuffing.

Capozzi stuffing?  It's a recipe that has been in my family for generations, and until recently I only knew part of the story.  As I researched the recipe, I came across this email from my late mother who sent the recipe to my sister-in-law:
The "recipe" is one of those "a little of this, a little of that" things"  Basically, you start with soft but stale bread crumbs - old bread, not fresh - which I crumb using a little chopper, or food processor, a blender will do too.  To that I add the seasoning, and the original recipe has summer savoury, sweet basil, thyme and oregano, and of course, freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Go easy on the salt because both the cheese and the butter have salt, and I have ended up many times with a dressing that is too salty.  I do not use sage in this recipe - which makes it different from most.  Then you add, depending on the amount of crumbs, about one cup of grated Parmesan cheese, more or less, to taste.
You then, in your nice big wok frying pan!  Sauté the finely chopped veggies - onions, carrot, celery - in lots of butter.  (This is a pre-cholesterol recipe!) Then, when the veggies are soft, but not overcooked, (there should still be some colour to the celery) and the onion nice and transparent, add some finely chopped cilantro.  Then add this to the bread crumbs.  It should be quite moist, rather than dry.  If it is too dry to hold together, then cook up some more veggies to add.
There you go!  You are on your own with the seasonings, but think "Italian mama" and you will be fine!  This recipe came to my mom from Mama Capozzi in Kelowna, BC.  The Capozzi's were immigrant grocers in Kelowna in the early days, and when my Dad was out of work, they let him run a bill at the grocery store without bugging him about paying.  They also had the first grocery turntable at the checkout in town, and sold linguine in long strands doubled over, so when you cooked it it was about five feet long!  The Capozzi's children went on to build a financial empire in wine making and my Dad wrote insurance for Tommy Capozzi, who kept have accidents with his flashy cars, and was a very bad risk!  How many recipes do you know that come with a story!

My Printer Ran Out Of Jelly

This is a food-printer, Being developed at Cornell University, this device allows 3D food objects to be "printed" by a syringe whose movements are determined from computer blueprints and models. Different syringes contain different ingredients allowing the designer complete flexibility.

These "fab@home" machines have been used to print chocolates, cookies, and even domes of turkey meat. So far only liquids and gels can be used in the syringe, but researches have begun playing around with cheese, cake batter, chocolate, and dough.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One of these things just doesn't belong ...

I really like the way this toilet/bidet set looks.  The combination of wood and ceramic is really stunning.  But sorry Flora, there's no way I'm using wood anywhere near the toilet.  Just sayin' ...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Old School Meets Twitter

It was bound to happen; the combination of social media and design.  John Kestner's 'tableau' scans any photograph placed in its drawer and posts it to a Twitter account.  Conversely, digital images posted to the Twitter feed appear in the drawer as physical photographs.  The only suggestion that this table is more than it appears is the glowing drawer knob that slowly changes colour.

Now if they could just do this with food ...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Street Eats - Poke'm!

Last Friday was an opportunity to join the throngs of Christmas shoppers Downtown.  Not willingly mind you.  Trust me, I'd much rather listen to a Justin Bieber's Christmas album (if there, Heaven help us, is such a thing) than deal with the lunacy that is Christmas shopping.  But when I'm stumped on gift ideas I go to where the choices are greatest, and so Downtown I went.

The trip wasn't a total gong show because it gave me another opportunity to check out a new street-food cart.  This visit was to Poke'm.  Poke'm is serving more what I expect out of street food vendors ... Hawker-style.  Small bite sized portions of food, packed with flavour.  Their menu is simple:  6 Pokes and 6 Sauces.  Pick one of each for $3.75, or get 2 orders for $7.   For an extra 50 cents you can get a sesame bun (free with the combo).

They recommended the Fish Fritters with Japanese sauce.  Very nice choice.  Fritters were very light and tender, and most important on a chilly December day, hot!  The "sauce" is sweet wasabi, mayo and teriyaki, topped with sesame & seaweed.  Not overly Japanese-y but enough so that you get the idea.  This ain't not fish and chips is what I'm trying to say.

Poke'm is simple, quick and with 252 combinations (I included no sauce in my calculations) you'll never get bored.  Although based on what I had on my first visit, I could have that again for quite a while and be a very happy man.

And if anyone has any ideas for a great gift for my wife, I'd really like to avoid another trip downtown.

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Poke'm
Location: Corner of Robson and Hornby
11:30 am - 6:30pm

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Marilyn


Yes, that is a cabinet.  Created by English cabinet maker (and owner of the best moustache in the business) Mark Wilkinson, the Marilyn was designed to store lingerie and jewelery.  Made of walnut, Wilkinson used both computer controlled machinery (to rough out the shape) and hand tools (finish work) to achieve the final, stunning result.

File this one under "Beyond My Ability".  Wow.

Hastings Serendipity

Sometimes the best discoveries happen completely by accident.

My driving route to and from one of my regular work stops takes me along Hastings between Main and Nanaimo.  For those who care to look, there are some terrific food and dining options along this strip ... pho joints, cheese shops, delicatessens.  Mostly old-school type places that survive simply because they're good at what they do.

A new awning caught my eye last week at the corner of Hastings and Garden (just West of Nanaimo).  The sign said "The Red Wagon" ... a new restaurant that had taken over the old space beside Pho Le Do.

I parked the car in front of Donalds Market and wandered down to investigate.  I was thrilled to see a very diner-centric menu attached to the front window.   Inside was a mix of tables and chairs that suggested this place was put together on a tight budget.  In my experience this bodes well for the diner as it usually means the focus is on the food.

I grabbed a chair at the counter (perfect for single diners like myself), had a cuppa and enjoyed some Aretha Franklin.  The vibe was certainly "diner", right down to the napkin dispensers, ketchup bottles and chalk board announcing the day's specials (Bacon & Blue Cheese Burger).  I ordered a bowl of he soup-du-jour (Cream of Onion) and a Ruben.

Both dishes were a hit.  The soup was not overly onion-y, and had be prepared to a perfect smooth consistency.  No lumps of onion here.

The sandwich?  I can say without fear of superbole that this was the best Ruben I have ever eaten.  The amazingly tender corned beef is house made, and is served with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.  House made chips (not fries) come with.

I left feeling sated and happy, knowing I'd be returning to try their brunch the next chance I had.

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The Red Wagon Restaurant
2996 West Hastings (@ Garden Dr.)
Vancouver, BC

604 585-4565

Monday, November 29, 2010

kbculture: Halftime Pastime

kbculture: Halftime Pastime: "From the Department of Guilty Pleasures comes this retro-style reefer that I'd venture would make any Man Cave [is the plural of that Men De..."

Pastrami to the World

Regular readers of I Could Eat may remember that this is the time of year my wife and I host our Cookie Exchange.  It's our official start to the Christmas season and an excuse for me to fire up the smokers yet again.  Pastrami is my go to recipe for this event, but this year I decided to add to the menu.

This is Chinese Smoked Duck.  2 ducks were brined for 24 hours and then smoked for 5 hours over white oak.  The finished bird has a deep red-brown skin which, like my smoked chicken experiences, is somewhat rubbery.  The meat is very moist and deeply smoky and rich.

I've broken down each bird, and removed the fat (there was lots!) for rendering.  The carcasses will make some nice stock (along with the pictured necks and wing tips which were also smoked) ... and now I just need to figure out what to do with the meat.  If you've dealt with duck before you know that the meat yield isn't particularly high.  Delicious yes, plentiful no.  So my concern is having enough meat to give 30 people a taste.  Any ideas will be appreciated!

Pastrami is the star of this party ... or at least that's what my friends tell me.  I used 2 smaller briskets this year and since I've acquired a small bar fridge I was able to brine them at home this year.  The actual smoking was uneventful other than a cold snap towards the end of the day which complicated things a bit (I smoked a couple pork butts at the same time as the briskets and ducks ... a little craziness is par for the course at Christmas right?).

I've started using a small amount of curing salt with my pastrami.  Yes, I know about the negative health aspects, but I use less than is called for, and the finished meat is beautiful, so I'll risk it for the one time a year I make pastrami.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NIM - The Ups & Downs of Bathroom Sinks

Determining the height of the bathroom sink is a real struggle for some people.

If you walk into your typical home centre and have a look at pretty much any bathroom sink cabinet or pedestal sink you'll find they come at an average height of 30" (765mm).  If you're an average height person you'll be spending the better part of your life bent over when you wash your hands at one of these sinks.

Many designers (myself included) have started using kitchen heigh cabinets to solve this problem.  However, the 36" (915mm) height of the countertop can be a bit of a stretch for children and those who require a wheelchair for mobility.

For years I've thought it would be great to have a sink you could adjust to suit the user.  We've played around with some ideas, but the plumbing always seems to get in the way.  The Allatezza height adjustable sinks by Italian company Rapsel seem to have that problem sorted out.  The pedestal uses pneumatics to raise and lower the sink ... you pump it up or down like a barbershop chair!  And as if being functional wasn't enough, they look pretty darn cool!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Photo Mural in Tile

French company OKHYO has come up with one of the coolest ideas for tile I've seen in a long time.  If you can remember the 1970's, you'll likely remember the photo wallpaper that was popping up in rec rooms throughout suburbia.  Scenes of tranquil streams and mountain ranges were popular designs.

OKHYO has taken this idea and brought it to the world of ceramic tile.  Browse through their catalogue of designs to select a scene you like, indicate the size of the area you want to tile, and then select the size and grade of tile (interior or exterior).

You can then adjust the image size and location in your field of tile before you order, a nice option if you'd rather not have a faucet or electric outlet in the middle of your picture.  And if you can't find an image you like you can upload one of your own.

The OKHYO site is fun to play with even if you don't plan on using their tiles.  Select a room, and then select a tile image to place it in the room.  Everwonder what your office would look like with a New York City backdrop?  Some of their images border on the "sickeningly cute" but if you want a dalmation puppy to adorn your backsplash (seriously, it's in the image gallery under "Animaux") who am I to judge?  One note:  You'll need to brush up on your French and Metric system to use the site.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Last Friendly Trip to Seattle

Yes, that's an Air-Stream trailer.  An Air-Stream trailer that's been converted into Skillet's travelling food show.  If you live in Seattle you are very lucky because this Air-Stream is cruising your streets and serving up some very tasty grub.

It was a happy accident that led us to Skillet.  We were at a coffee shop on Alki Beach in West Seattle, taking a break from walking the dogs when this beautiful silver bullet drives by.  I'd actually heard of Skillet before, having read about it in an article about the street food scene in Seattle and Portland.  I gave chase, but the trailer turned the corner and was gone.  Disappointed we headed back to the car only to see Skillet parked not 10 metres from my drivers' side door!

There was no way we could pass up a chance to try some Seattle street food.  But since we'd already made plans for lunch that day (more on that later), a slice of lasagne or a burger with poutine was out of the question (no offence Skillet, but poutine is NOT made with cheddar).  It's a shame because it all looked really good.  They even sell something called Bacon Jam, which regrettably they were out of that day.  Probably for the best as I have no idea how the border guards would react when I included "bacon jam" in my customs declaration

We ordered a bowl of Roasted Duck & Coconut Curry Soup.  For $5 the bowl seemed a bit small at first.  But then we opened the lid and realized that about 40% of the soup was huge chunks of very tender roasted duck!  The soup was amazing.  Flavourful, satisfying and a perfect way to warm up on what was a typically cool November day in the Pacific Northwest.

Our planned destination for the day was also in West Seattle.  I've mentioned The Swinery before, but the last time we visited The Swinery it was at their temporary kitchen near Pioneer Square.  They've since closed down that location and have moved into some newly renovated digs on California Avenue.

These folk run a butcher shop the way it was meant to be.  Meats are sourced as locally as possible and most everything is cured in house.  Don't see what you want?  Just ask and they can likely source it.  Other products, like the bacon candy from last post, are also available.  (Note:  Just tried some on the Bacon Brittle and it's AWESOME!)

I can't say too much about the butcher shop outside of what I read and saw.  Such is the plight of a tourist without a fridge or a kitchen ... I just wasn't able to do the place justice.  But fortunately that didn't mean we couldn't enjoy some of their product, for just around the corner and behind the butcher shop is their lunch counter.  (That's head butcher & owner Joey Brewer in the kitchen working on a bottom round roast.)

Just like their old kitchen in Pioneer Square, vegetarians should stay away.  There's a breakfast menu (served Saturday and Sunday from 10-2) that features Biscuits & Gravy and a Daily Hash.  The lunch menu (served Tuesday to Friday from 11-3, and a smaller lunch menu for the weekend) has a burger, pulled pork sandwich, Scotch Eggs ... and FRIES!  I use the upper case letters because these are old school fries, cooked lovingly in healthy (seriously!) tallow.  If that's too healthy for you, there's the Danger Fries that take Tallow Fries and add a bacon-cheese bechamel sauce.

J had a breakfast sandwich:  house-made sausage with egg and cheddar on a fresh bun.  The sausage was so tasty in this.  Like any sausage made with fresh meat, the flavour of the meat really stands out.  The pork flavour from this sausage was off the chart.  If I could change one thing I would use a biscuit instead of the bun.  Minor I know, but when I see Biscuits & Gravy on the menu, I get a little loopy.

I went with the Bacon Dog.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "where's the bacon?"  Think inside the bun, or rather, inside the wiener.  The wieners are 40% Swinery bacon, and very juicy as a result. They're a European-style wiener so they have that snap to the skin when you bit into them.  And if the BEST WIENER EVER isn't enough, The Swinery provides their own pickles for condiments.  Sauerkraut, pickled onions and some amazing dills complete a really good hot dog.  Add in some Tallow Fries (no Danger Fries... we're not piggy!)  I felt there was too much bun for his hot dog, easily solvable by using a thinner baguette.

And so ended our last friendly trip to Seattle.  Next year the Whitecaps join the MLS, and Seattle, saddly, will become enemy territory.  Good thing we know where to eat ... just in case we get caught behind enemy lines.

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Skillet Street Food
Seattle, WA
Check their calendar for their locations

The Swinery
3207 California Avenue SW
Seattle, WA
206.932.4211

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Post Ever


I kid you not.  Bacon candy!  This is even better than making my own bacon.  Details on where these treats came from in a few days ... but in the meantime, think about it.  Bacon Candy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

Countertop surface manufacturer Vetrazzo is finding out just how tough it is to stay afloat in tough economy. If you're at all considering "cashing in on the green economy, I'd suggest you follow the link and read the story first.  Even great ideas get burned by those that are supposed to help.

Mission Serendipity

The typical autumn rains have been absent these days and we've been blessed with some really nice weather.  Not t-shirt weather, but go for a drive in the country type weather.  So on a recent visit to see my sons in Pitt Meadows, I suggested we carry on up the north side of the river, cross the bridge in Mission and pay ah-Beetz Pizza in Abbotsford a visit.

But this was one of those times I should have called ahead, because when we arrived owner Terry informed me they weren't going to open that night.  Dejected, I asked him if there was anything nearby worthwhile so we could salvage the road trip.  He suggested we return to Mission and seek out Cleopatra.

Cleopatra Mediterranean Cuisine is and unassuming little restaurant along the main drag in downtown Mission, the sort of commercial area that looks like at hasn't changed much in 50 years.  Furniture stores, doctors' offices, pawn shops ... and several restaurants of the "family" variety.

The interior of the restaurant is finished in bright paints and tiles inviting you inside to sit at a small group of tables near the front (I suspect take-out is bug business here).  And if the decor isn't enough to get you in, the wondrous spicy smell of Mediterranean cooking will be.  Both my sons were grinning from ear to ear as they inspected the buffet tables that were teaming with all sorts of Middle Eastern salads, mezes and meat dishes.

The deal of the day is the buffet, although each item is available a la cart.  For about $8 (slightly less at lunch time) you get a plate piled high with as much or as little of each item as you like.  The owners are proud of what they serve and with good reason.  Dinner was delicious and satisfying.  It's at least as good as anything I've had in Vancouver.

This discovery also proves that if you're looking for good value in a restaurant, ask a cook that offers the same in his restaurant.  People who love food love sharing their discoveries.  Thanks Terry for sharing yours.

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Cleopatra Mediterranean Cuisine
33082 1st Ave
Mission, BC
(604) 287-1767

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Search of the Great Pumpkin

This has been a really rough year for the farmers in Metro Vancouver.  Rain has rendered many of the annual crops mush.  Even our back patio harvest was pathetic this year, each veggie more rotten than the next.  It's a shame, but part of the yearly cycle for those who chose to eke their living from the good Earth.

The more resilient farm folk turn to other, more creative ways to make ends meet; something to hold things together when the crops fail to produce.  Agri-tourism is becoming increasingly important to the farming community.  Whether it be a simple gift shop, cooking classes or a corn maze, getting the folk to come and see what happens on the farm also helps the farmers earn some additional income, and has the extra benefit of promoting the real job of growing things.

This week, my son and I wandered over to the Laity Pumpkin Patch.  These folk have been selling pumpkins to jack-o-lantern aficionados for 20 years now, and they've become quite good at it.  They understand that going to pick up a pumpkin isn't just about shopping for the biggest, orange-est gourd you can find.  It's about a trip to the country to visit the animals, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and tour around on a good old hay-ride.

There is an admission fee ($3 for those over 2 years old) but that includes all activities, including the corn maze.  There's a small petting zoo and an "Enchanted Forest", but the real attraction for even the youngest visitor is finding the perfect pumpkin.  There's no shortage of selection, and if you're feeling like grabbing a lot of pumpkins the farm even provides wheel-barrows.

This is the last weekend for the pumpkin farm so be sure to get out there before the trick-or-treaters come knockin'.  They're open daily from 9:30 to 5:00 weather permitting.  (Translation:  phone first if it's raining.)


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Laity Pumpkin Patch
21145 128th Avenue
Maple Ridge, BC

Phone: (604) 467-4302

Monday, October 25, 2010

NIM - Concept Dishwasher

Photo Courtesy of dornob.com
The designers at Ahha Project have come up with one of the coolest new ideas I've seen in a while. I know some of you will point to the KitchenAid Briva ... but I'll just point back and say it's discontinued.  So there.

The ECO addresses a dilemma faced in many kitchens:  Once you fill up the sink with dirty dishes, where do you wash the veggies?  Here, the sink just rotates out of the way and brings another sink into play.  And if you're looking for a faster way to clean fruits and veggies, there's a setting for that as well.

The bad news is that this is just at the concept stage.  As soon as I hear its gone into production I'll let you know.

Will Travel For Footy

I'm happy to say that this is the last year I will have to travel to see the best football (soccer) league in Canada and the US.  And while some will argue that that Vancouver Whitecaps FC were often the best team (I'm one of them), the MLS is without a doubt the best league.  Next year Vancouver Whitecaps FC joins the MLS, but until then I've had to make runs down the I-5 to catch Seattle Sounders FC matches.  Last year we went down to see an exhibition match against English side Chelsea.  At the beginning of October this year I drove solo to the Emerald City to take in the US Open Cup.

I arrived a bit early, mainly so I could pick up some sandwiches at Salumi.  Salmui closes at 3-ish and I'd promised some friends I'd pick up dinner.  But once the sandwiches were procured, I still had 4 hours before game time.  What's a footy fan to do? 

Duh!

The Guinness was courtesy of Fado Irish Pub.  I'm always skeptical of any "Irish" pub.  Most are just a tourist trick to bring in the drinkers.  Having never been to Ireland, I cannot comment at how authentic Fado is, but if Sounders supporters group Gorilla FC uses it as home base ... well at least you know you'll be able to catch some footy on the TV.  Fado is in fact a chain, but the beer and whiskey selection was extensive, and the menu made a pretty decent stab at Irish cuisine.  

The Boxty & Corned Beef I had was excellent.  Boxty is the Irish version of potato pancakes.  In this dish it was treated like a tortilla, wrapped around some very flavourful corned beef.  

The game was great ... Seattle retaining their US Open Cup title for one more year and ensuring they'll be in the CONCACAF Champions League next year (good thing considering they've botched up their Champions League run for this year).  I even managed to meet up with some of the visiting Columbus fans who travelled a long way to watch their team lose.  But that's footy fans for you.  Sometimes it's just about supporting your team.

My plan was to stay the night with friends in town, but the game ended early enough that I decided to do the road warrior and drive home the same night.  An uneventful drive aided by the fine folk of the Washington State OES.  If you've ever been to one of the rest stops along the I-5 you know that this service group offers up free coffee and cookies for road-weary travelers.  It was 10pm and I had another 2 hours of driving to go.  I fealt I qualified as "road weary."  "Gladys" was behind the counter that night, and when I pointed at the cookie I wanted she said, "Oh dear.  Those are dunkers."  I'd never heard the term, but when I almost broke a tooth when I bit into the cookie, I knew what she meant.




Friday, October 22, 2010

Work in Progress: Pitt Meadows (or: No, I'm Not Independently Wealthy)

Despite what some may think, I'm not an independent designer.  I work with the fine folk over at Paradigm Kitchen Design ... you may have noticed the link over to the right, below my smiling mug.  In addition to the design work I do for Paradigm, I've also been keeping a blog for them.  The Paradigm Blog is more focussed on the company and what it can do, while useful spaces is more about me and things I find interesting. 

Normally, I'm happy to keep the two blogs separate, but every now and then I post something on one that seems appropriate for the other.  Such is the case my most recent post on the Paradigm Blog: WIP - Ridge Meadows Reno - Part 1.

This project is my second re-re-do, the first being a project I did in West Vancouver.  I did the first remodel for the Ridge Meadows folk back in 2000.  I suppose the fact that I'm back there means things went well the first time!  Anyway, have a read and keep following the action over on the Paradigm Blog.  I'll be updating as things happen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Street Eats - Kimono Koi Crepes

Quick ... when you think of Japanese food, what's the first thing you think of?  If you said crepes, then you're either lying or better versed on Japanese cuisine than I (which wouldn't be difficult, trust me).

Kimono Koi Crepes likely has the best location of the new food carts.  Just come up from the Vancouver Centre station on the Canada Line and you run right into it - either the cart itself or the lineup in front of it.  Kimono serves up a wide variety of savory and sweet Japanese style crepes.  Ingredients include tuna sausage, ham and cheese and usually a couple daily specials.  But it's on the sweet side where they really shine.  Cheesecake, brownies, ice cream ... topped off with a couple Pocky. 

A couple things to note:

These are not small crepes.  They're rolled into a cone so they hold a lot of filling, so for your $5-$10 you get a lot.

The sweet crepes are ... well ... SWEET.  The "Banana Brownie" (banana, brownie, nutella, custard, fresh cream, chocolate syrup) I enjoyed left me with the sugar shakes a couple hours later, but was so good I'd do it again.

There are only two people working the stand, and they make each crepe to order.  Translation: expect a wait.  I was there in the middle of the afternoon and waited about 20 minutes.  I'd expect lunch would be longer.

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Kimono Koi Crepes
Granville St & W Georgia St
Vancouver, BC
12:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Tuesday to Sunday, Closed on Mondays

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Solid Design - Italian Style - Part 2

It bares repeating ... the Italians do SOLID design.  And by SOLID, it appears I mean Solid Surface.


Italian company Moma Design features many different bathroom fixtures, a number of them created from Corian.  Shown abopve are the Provence bathtub and the Docciacqua shower head.  Besides their clean aesthetic, because they're made of Corian, the surfaces are non-porous.  Translation:  easy to keep clean.

While putting together this post I came across another post from last year that featured a Corian kitchen from ... you guessed it, Italy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ode to a Dougnut

It's called a Rolly-Polly, and when they're fresh out of the fryer there's not a better doughnut in the city. I've been coming to Honey Dougnuts in Deep Cove for years ... even before my kids were born. Whenever I sign a client in Deep Cove I celebrate a little bit more because I'll be closer to the Rolly. I signed such a client last week. Hooray.

I believe they sell other pastries (they do - I saw the menu) but it's always been about the Rolly for me. And so even though Honey's has changed (they've added '& Goodies' to their name and expanded recently) I remain faithfull to that big ball of fried dough, and always will.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Modular Sound

I spend a lot of time on-line. Whether it's for work or entertainment, the internet is an amazing source of just about everything ... some of them even useful. Music is easily my favourite internet commodity, whether it be from iTunes or internet radio, music is continually being streamed through my laptop. The one downside to this way of obtaining your music is that it often means you have to listen through your computer.

The folks at Chordette have recognized this and offer a series of modular compenents that allow you to play your music from a music server, PC, MAC, iPhone, iPod, laptop, cell phone, PDA, or stream it from the Internet. The system begins with the Chordette Gem, a high quality USB / Bluetooth DAC which lets you easily take music from any digital source directly into your stereo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting Corked

Cork flooring isn't anything new.  In fact, when I first got into this industry 15 years ago, it wasn't new then either.  Cork has been used as a flooring material for years.  It's resilient, comfortable to stand on, and is considered a "green" choice since it's renewable. 

In a strangely related issue, there is continued debate over the use of cork versus the Stelvin, or screw top closure in the wine industry.  (This is a design blog, not a wine blog so I won't wade into the discussion.  But do click the link if you're at all into wine.  Interesting times ahead).  It reminded me of an elementary school teacher I had who asked all his students to ask their parents to collect their wine corks for him ... not for a school art project, but for a home remodelling project.  The plan was to glue the flat ends of the corks along the wall for a sort of 1970's themed wine room.  Come to think of it, it was the 70's!

Photo courtesy of Jelinek
Years later, when I was introduced to cork flooring, I remembered my teacher's wine room and wondered if that sort of recycling project would work for flooring.  Apparently the folks at Jelinek Cork Group were asking themselves the same question.  Through programmes like Cork Re-Harvest, Jelinek is able to reclaim some of the millions of cork stoppers that go into the landfill every year.  The cork is re-cycled into various cork products, like coasters and gaskets.  But what really caught my eye and reminded me of the wine room all those years ago was their Mosaic line.

Photo courtesy of Jelinek
The wine corks are cut into circular discs about 6mm (1/4") thick and glued on a paper backing, much like mosaic ceramic tiles. Installation is similar to ceramic tiles as well.  Just like any other cork floor, the cork mosaic can be stained, and like ceramic tile, the patterns that can be created are limitless . These floors have all the characteristics of regular cork floors but besides being suitable in most common rooms such as bathrooms, kitchens and entrance ways, they are also suitable for saunas, showers, pool surrounds, and other potentially wet areas.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's Not A Drinking Fountain Either

Kitchen & Residential Design is one of my all-time favorite blogs.  Its author, Paul Anater, has a terrific sense of design, but it's his sense of humour that keeps me coming back.

A while back Paul received an email from a reader asking for some ... assistance: 

Help! My husband, my son and I were over at my cousin's new house last weekend and while we were walking around the master bath and oohing and aahing over the size and decor it was hard not to notice that she had one of those things (I blush when I say the word) next to the toilet. I can't help it, every time I see one they just scream out to me "We have lots of s*x and don't shower afterwards." Anyhow, my four-year-old asked why they had two toilets in the bathroom. I was embarrassed and didn't know what to say, so I told him that there were two so that no one had to wait while the other one finished. He said "nasty" and didn't push it any further. But seriously, what do you tell the kids?
Paul's answer cuts to the chase, and is exactly what I would have told the client ... right after I picked my lower jaw up from the floor.

I asked for Paul's permission to reprint this for two reasons:
  1. It's just DAMN funny.
  2. It nicely illustrates something that designers have to face everyday:  ignorance, and an unwillingness to accept that ignorance.
Now before you accuse me of calling this lady "stupid", I used the word "ignorance", and ignorance is not the same as stupidity.  As ridiculous as I find her comments, I applaud her for asking for guidance in an area she obviously knows nothing about.  I've commented many times before about the multitide of product decisions faced when doing a remodel.  There's no possible way you can know about all of them.  So ask.  As silly as you think the question is, the only stupid thing to do would be to not ask and remain ignorant.

I won't laugh.  Promise.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bivalve Blessings

This past weekend my wife was away in Las Vegas to celebrate her sister's birthday. She is violently allergic to bivalves (oysters, mussels, clams, etc.), so when we're apart for any length of time (which is rare) I make haste to the closest source of oysters, mussels or clams.  And so, on Saturday night, my sons and a group of friends sat down at Kits Daily Kitchen and indulged in four dozen "Little Wing" oysters.

The oysters were as perfect as could be. Briney, sweet and rich ... washed down with a nice Pouilly-Fuisse they were worth the wait. Conversations flowed, more food was ordered (Pork cheeks, King Crab belly, stuffed Zucchini flowers), more friends joined the table throughout the evening. The restaurant emptied out around us. Dessert arrived, we caught up on each other's lives, and then it was time to go.

But somewhere between the slurps of a great oysters, lively conversation with my sons and friends, and dessert, I began to count all the blessing in my life that had combined to make the evening.

I am blessed with the love of my life.  My wife is truly my better half.  She knows me better than anyone.  She comforts me when I'm down, and kicks my ass when I feel sorry for myself.  I am a better man for just knowing her.  Her alergy is no burden on me ... in fact without it, the oyster-fest wouldn't have happened.

I am blessed with a family.  My sons are becoming fine young men.  And even though they are at the age when they are more interested in spending time with their friends than with their old man, we always find time for each other. 

I am blessed with friends.  I believe the saying "You don't get to pick your family, but you pick your friends" is only partially correct.  I believe your friends pick you.  The people that have included me in their lives add dimension to mine.  They challenge and inspire me.

For some this was just another meal. For others, it was their first time enjoying raw oysters. For me, it was a chance to revisit with some old friends and be thankful for all that I have ...

... and the oysters.  I was definitely blessed with the oysters.

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Kitsilano Daily Kitchen
1809 W 1st Ave
Vancouver, BC
604.569.2741

Monday, September 20, 2010

NIM: Just Hangin' Around

Heating is something I haven't discussed a lot on useful spaces.  It's not that it's not important ... ask anyone who walks into a cold bathroom every morning at 6am ... it's just that it's not really all that design oriented.  In North America the majority of homes have some form of central heating which is primarily hidden from view.  Localized heating (electric or water) really gives us the only opportunity to bring any design into the equation. Sadly, most heaters are utilitarian at best, and downright ugly at their worst.

I am completely unsurprised to find that the Italians have once again come up with an elegant solution to this problem.  Ad-Hoc design features a wide variety of electric space heaters to work with practically any decor.  My favorite of the group is the Tiki (pictured left) which is suspended from the ceiling.  Available in "satin" or "white", the Tiki is rated at 750W.

Would you even guess that it was a heater?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Street Eats - Re-Up BBQ

It's been a long time coming, but Vancouver finally has a street food scene. And by street food, I'm not talking about hot dogs, or those roasted chestnuts you see around Christmas.  No, the streets of the city are now home to a wide variety of food, including burritos, fish balls, crepes and pizza.  It was actually the visit to Roaming Dragon at the PNE that inspired me to visit some of the new additions to our culinary scene.  If what I ate there is any indication of what Vancouver is about to offer, then I may not have to travel to Portland or Seattle to get my street food fix.  One can only hope.

My first visit was Re-Up Barbeque.  As a barbeque practitioner myself, I'm always thrilled, and then sceptical when I hear about someone offering pulled-pork sandwiches.  For such a simple dish, pulled pork, at least in our part of the world, is done poorly more often than well.  Approaching Re-Up's tiny cart at the corner of Hornby and Georgia it would be easy to lower you expectations, and that would be a mistake.
From within their tiny stainless steel box, Re-Up BBQ serves up pulled pork sandwiches for only $6.  The pulled pork and a couple of home-made sodas ($2 each) make up their total menu.  But what they lack in variety they more than make up for in quality and flavour. 

The sandwiches are generous in size, and are made the way I like them:  with a large dollop of coleslaw on the top and plenty of sauce.  The sodas were fine.  Not great, but for $2 I'd rather have them than an over-priced bottle of water.  An amazing value for a top quality lunch.  In addition, you have the added benefit of being able to grab your lunch, and take a seat on the steps of the Art Gallery overlooking the fountain.  For a brief moment, Vancouver feels like a grown-up city.

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Re-Up BBQ
700 Hornby St
Vancouver, BC
CASH ONLY
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