Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dwell on Design Cookoff 2013 - RESULTS POST

I'm just back from the 2nd Annual Capital Cooking Blogger Cook-off at the Dwell on Design Conference in Los Angeles.  The conference is the largest gathering of interior designers and design related industries in North America, so it was a great opportunity to catch up with the latest in the industry, as well as spend the afternoon cooking with some great people.

The competition was a head-to-head single elimination format, and to add to the pressure I was paired with a "surprise guest", Twitter legend Alexandra Williams (@AlexandraFunFit).  Alexandra came in with all the flair and panache of a celebrity chef and did her best to knock me off my game with her infectious personality.  She was an absolute blast to cook with (against) but despite her best attempts to bride the judges with her Tootsie Roll offerings I advanced to the next round.


At this point, last year's Cook-off Champion, Lori Gilder entered the competition having earned a first round bye.  Please excuse the pun, but at this point things really started to heat up.  What was ultimately friendly gathering of food loving design-bloggers began to get VERY serious.  Trash talking, sabotaging.  I mean, just look at the steely resolve in Lori's eyes as she knocks Chef Doug Fletcher's hand out of the way!  What a competitor!

Okay I'm taking some poetic licence here.  It was an amazingly fun afternoon and the more time we spent cooking together the more we started cheering for each other.

Round two was the omelette round, and what my competition didn't know was that I ROCK at omelettes.  We were given an opportunity to request some special ingredients and mine came into play for this dish:  blue cheese and pears.  It's a classic combination and makes a surprisingly good omelette. Stacy Garcia and I were in one group, and Brandon Smith and Lori Gilder were in the other.  The results were a bit controversial in that both Stacy and I advanced to the final round.

Before I get on to the final round I really feel a need to say something about the ranges we were cooking on.  The Culinaria by Capital Cooking is without a doubt the closet thing to a commercial range I have cooked on that wasn't a commercial range.  All burners are rated at 23,000 BTU and since they are open burners the heat is distributed evenly across the bottom of the pans.  Even with all that power you can achieve a very nice simmer (145F) which came in very handy in the marinara round.  We didn't use the ovens so I can't really speak to their performance, but if they're anything like to burners this is definitely a range I would consider for my next kitchen, and won't hesitate suggesting it to any clients who love to cook.

Those BTU's were going to come in handy in the final round because we were about to bring out the wok's and put together a stir-fry!  Asian cooking really needs high heat to succeed because everything happens so quickly.  If your pan cools down you end up making mush, and much doesn't win cooking competitions!

Stacy went to beef & snap peas, I went for chicken & brocolli.  I'd love to tell you the rest of what I put into my dish, but it was all such a blur I can't remember.  Whatever ended up in the wok came out looking pretty good.

The results?  I'll let the judges make the announcement:

Thanks again to Capital Cooking for including me in what was a really cool afternoon.  And what did I do after winning the 2nd Annual Blogger's Cook-off?  My wife & I went to ...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Asbestos & Renovating Older Homes: What I Learned

Asbestos is hardly a new issue in the renovation business, but the fact is until a recent project (gallery forthcoming) I had never had to deal with it.  That's not to say I'd never come across it, but unless you are going to remove or otherwise disturb the asbestos-containing material, in our jurisdiction you can just leave it as is.  And that's what we chose to do ... "let sleeping dogs" lie and all that.

But for the project in question we were going to have to remove some walls, strip out the old floor down to the subfloor to allow for a new hardwood floor throughout the hose, and change the location of a window and door.  Asbestos, if it existed, was going to get disturbed and that's bad.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that in the past has been used as fire protection, insulation, and a strengthener in plaster.  Trouble is it has also been shown to cause lung cancer and other health issues.  It had been used up until the early 1980's (pretty much banned as a building material since) so any home you're looking at that's older that this asbestos will be a potential concern.

For my project we had the flooring, plaster, insulation and exterior stucco all tested.  We gathered samples from each area, sealed them individually in Zip-loc bags, and brought them to a local testing lab.  There's a small fee associated to test each sample (our total was around $300) and we had the results in a week.  The only area with asbestos was the floor.  Old linoleum tile is a frequent culprit it seems.

The next step was calling in the abatement contractor.  I don't know about you, but the word "abatement" used to invoke images of men in space suits and a building draped in white plastic à la "E.T.".  Turns out that only the most extreme cases involve this.  The real issue is containing the area with the asbestos, and ensuring there is a pressure situation that forces all the potentially contaminated air through a filter.  Workers all wear appropriate protection (masks and suits) and once the work is done the air is checked and re-checked to ensure there are no asbestos particles in the air.

The work in question only took 3 days ... I had the abatement contractor remove all the plaster and insulations as well (while they were in there).  In the end I received the reports the abatement contractor submitted to show the work was done properly and completely.  All in all a very painless procedure.  True there is an added cost to your project, but the safety of the workers and homeowners make it more than worth the expense.

For more information on asbestos and home renovations, have a look at this terrific summary provided by WorksafeBC.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dwell on Design Cookoff 2013

I'm away next weekend to attend another designe trade show.  This time it's Dwell on Design, North America’s largest modern design event.  I'll be in sunny Los Angeles having a look at more than 400 exhibitors, 2000 products, and taking part in the 2nd Annual Dwell on Design Cookoff!

On Saturday, June 22 2:00 at the Capital Range Booth (Booth #1331 if you're going to be there) I'll be crossing knives and sauté pans for the Battle of the Bloggers.  You may recognize some of my (so-called) competition from previous blog and designer events.  Rest assured, as the only resident Canadian in the competition I'll be pulling out all the stops and fighting for this one like it was my own version of the Brier (yeah, curling is BAD ASS!)

Erica Islas

Lisa Smith
Lori Gilder

Brandon Smith

Stacy Garcia

Arne Salvesen

Capital Cooking Equipment is the gracious sponsor for this event, so in addition to watching the competition crumble at my super awesome knife skills, I'll get to cook on some pretty amazing product. I'll let you know about their latest offerings in the same post I show off my trophy!

Friday, June 7, 2013

LEGO Museum ... Designed with LEGO?

As a self-professed LEGO appreciator, I was thrilled to see this conceptual video from Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.  His firm BIG is in the process of designing the new LEGO museum being built in Billund, the birthplace of LEGO.


The building will express the 'systematic creativity' of the modular brick toys and is projected to attract 250,000 visitors annually. Set to open in 2016 in denmark, the museum will use the built form to convey the tenants of LEGO play-- stimulated learning and connective thinking. Source 
 What's really amazing to me is how the techniques used in LEGO building are incoporated into the design of the museum.  What would be better?  If the building units could be re-arranged and if my tour  guide was this guy:


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bi-Fold Shower Door

I'm finishing up a bathroom project this week and wanted to share a detail that was a true collaboration. I started with an idea, which was modified by another idea my client picked up from my glass fabricator's web site (which turned out to be an idea my glass fabricator borrowed from another fabricator) and finally morphed into the shower door you see here:

The idea I started with was based on the shower "shields" you find in many European washrooms; a partial glass shield that prevents the shower from spraying all over the bathroom without completely blocking access to the tub.  

It was a good idea, but the client said he planned on using the tub more than the shower and didn't want to feel "closed in".  The hope was to have the glass fold out of the way. However, if we kept the shield at a size that would prevent shower spray it would be to big to fold, and if we made it smaller it wouldn't stop the spray.  So we added the bifold:

This is how the shield will spend most of its time; folded up against the wall.  It should be noted that in the open position the shield is not secured in place.  If you lean up against it you will come tumbling out onto the floor.  As such it's not a great solution for someone with any balance issues, but for this client it was the perfect answer.
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