gadgets

Virtual Reality? How About Virtual Lasagne?

Virtual Reality can create a world without calories or food intolerances. 
Diabetics can eat donuts, dieters can indulge in fried chicken, Jews can eat bacon, and every child can have peanut butter—and it’s all sugarless, low calorie, kosher, and allergen-free.

Virtual Reality is not pie in the sky. 
VR devices are already a reality with Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR headsets, and major tech players are gearing up with strategic partnerships and billion dollar acquisitions. While food scientists work out the fine points of virtual taste and texture, developers are bringing VR food applications to market.

The Russian Tea Room via YouVisit

The Russian Tea Room via YouVisit Restaurants

 

YouVisit Restaurants offers VR tours of an impressive list of New York City restaurants. It’s more 3-D tour than fully immersive experience, but the application is free and they’ve signed up hundreds of restaurants including iconic locations like The Russian Tea Room, Tavern on the Green, Delmonico’s, and Le Cirque.

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CyberCook Taster calls itself “the next evolutionary step in cooking media.” It’s designed to “tackle the disconnect” between what we read and watch and what we actually cook. The app combines a hyper-realistic kitchen simulation with hands-on, interactive elements.

laboratory pie, Project Nourished

laboratory pie, Project Nourished

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virtual reality pie, Project Nourished

 

 

Virtual Reality meets molecular gastronomy at Project Nourished, developed by the West Coast think tank Kokiri LabThe project utilizes sensory inputs through a VR headset, external food detection and motion sensors, and aromatic diffusers. The physical food is crafted mostly from algae, seaweed, fruits, vegetables, and seeds bulked up with hydrocolloid polymers and gums, while the simulated dining experience transforms the substances into a savory and sumptuous meal. The plate says ‘vegan, lo-cal, gluten-free’ while the brain is duped into perceiving steak and cheesecake.

Tastes are relatively easy to recreate. Textures are much trickier. The lab-created meals are essentially jello-like substances enhanced with salt, sweeteners, and flavor compounds. Early simulations have focused on foods like steak, lasagna, and fruit pies—all foods with large, regular surfaces and simple geometry—that are easiest to mimic and work well with the sensors.

the digital interface of taste over internet protocol

Taste I/P: the digital interface of taste over internet protocol

 

The ‘Taste I/P’ approach to Virtual Reality removes physical food from the equation. 
It borrows from the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) methodology that’s used for the delivery of voice communications over IP networks. Instead of voice messages, Taste Over I/P formulates XML-based taste messages that can travel within existing communications frameworks.

It’s earned the nickname ‘the digital lollipop’ because the transmitter communicates with tiny electrodes that are placed on the tongue. The electrodes receive electrical currents that stimulate the tongue’s heat, sensation, and taste receptors tricking the brain into perceiving flavors. The technology could make it possible to send a taste of cake with a Facebook birthday greeting, or for a television chef to share real time tastes with a viewing audience.

Virtual Reality has a long way to go before it’s the truly immersive, ultra-sensory media experience demanded by food applications.
But the early signs point to its enormous potential, both culinary and clinical, and these early glimpses whet the appetite.

Posted in diversions, gadgets, media, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

Just Because You Can Make It In a K-Cup It Doesn’t Mean You Should

Are you really stumped by soup?

PJ-BU294_OATMEA_DV_20140415113507Campbell-Soup-K-CupFor everyone who’s ever struggled with the complexities of Cup-a-Soup or instant ramen, Keurig®, the inventor/maker of the K-Cup® coffee pod has teamed up with Campbell’s® to bring us Fresh-Brewed Soup™ in pod form. Never has broth and noodles been so easy or had so many superscripts. You can also say goodbye to the onerous task of mixing water into a packet of instant oatmeal with the just-announced Keurig-General Mills partnership that will manufacture an oatmeal K-cup. Pans and stoves? Who are we, the Waltons?

Is is time to consider the possibility that food can be too convenient?
Have you looked around the supermarket lately? The garlic has been peeled, the pineapples have their cores removed, and the onions are already chopped. There are pre-cooked slices of bacon, pre-boiled eggs, and shrink-wrapped potatoes— washed and poked and ready to bake. When you tire of spreading cream cheese on your bagels just pick up some Bagel-fuls, and frozen Uncrustables come to the rescue when you forget the recipe for PB&J.

We’ve all bought our share of pre-washed salad greens and pre-trimmed baby carrots, but some of these packaged, processed shortcut foods boggle the mind. Taste and quality are compromised, they’ve lost nutrients and gained preservatives, and the price has risen exponentially. They take a minimally-packaged, shelf-stable food and transform it into a product that is encased in pouches, packets, and pods. They commit egregious culinary and environmental offenses in the name of ease and convenience.

The siren song of lazy food
One in five adults will drink a pod-brewed beverage today, and it’s not just coffee. Keurig makes K-Cups for tea and cocoa, and cold drinks like Snapple iced teas, lemonade, apple cider, and vitamin waters. And now oatmeal and soup. Where they’ll go next is anyone’s guess.

 

Keurig K-cup™ 5-Star Meals via Think Geek

Keurig K-Cup™ 5-Star Meals via Think Geek

 

 

Posted in coffee, fast food, gadgets | Leave a comment

As Seen On TV: Gifts that make a lump of coal look good

Remember when fruitcake used to be the worst food gift for holiday giving?

hamdogger rollnpour eggstractor

Now we have the HamDogger, and the Roll ‘n Pour, and the Eggstractor.

Holiday time ’tis the season for kitchen gadget infomercials.
The airwaves fill with long-winded, fast-talking pitchmen hawking the latest gizmo that no home should be without. They come on late at night when your guard is down and the logic of a push-button butter dispenser seems less dubious than it would at 3pm.

Resist the urge!
Especially when they tempt you with a two-fer offer. Your holiday shopping may be too long, and when you shop on TV that second one can be had for nothing more than the cost of shipping and handling, but deep down you know that a matched set of Rotato Express electric peelers is not the answer. It only doubles the chances of things ending badly on Christmas Day.

pancakepuffs

 

According to the ad for the amazing new Pancake Puff™ Pan, simply use your favorite pancake batter, pour and flip.’ Amazing.

 

betterbagger

 

Better Bagger? Actually, I’ve always considered my hands to be pretty good baggers. 

 

fatmagnet

I’m holding out for the Fat Repellant.

robostir

 

 

 

 

Robostir promises to be ‘like a third hand in the kitchen.’ No mention of the contraption’s plastic feet that fall off in the pot.

 

 


rollie-eggmaster-cooking-system-1Egg-Genie-Electric-Egg-Cookereggcracker

 

Eggs are like the Law and Order franchise of the infomercial world with their own programming block. There are the tubular creations of the Rollie Eggmaster; the Egg Genie that magically combines water and eggs to create boiled eggs (in just minutes!); and the Clever Cracker and Clever Scrambler, two separate devices that are available in a combo pack. Who knew so many cooks are stumped by eggs?

 

big-top-cupcake

 

If a little cake is a cupcake, wouldn’t that make this… cake?

 

 

buy-bake-popsDoes-Pop-N-Fun-work

 

 

Tough call: cake pop baker or pie pop maker?

 

 

Let’s let the fortune cookie maker decide.  fortunecookie

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christmas, Entertainment, gadgets | 1 Comment

7 Geeky Gadgets Where Pizza Meets Technology

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It’s a well-known fact: computer geeks love pizza.
In the technology business it’s said that if you need more productivity from your software development staff, you just hand out free t shirts and buy them pizza.
Why pizza? Because it’s delivered at all hours. Because it can be eaten with one hand while the other’s on the keyboard. And because it allows developers to make nerdy puns about pi and pie.

When pizza meets technology.
This is what happens when twin passions collide:

 

Dip Hop lets you play pizza toppings like a keyboard. It uses the very cool Makey Makey invention kit to convince your computer that the toppings are piano keys. The pizza sauces conduct a tiny bit of electricity; dip a slice into the sauce and you make a connection—and music. 

Domino’s, well-known for its commitment to speedy delivery, is testing a pizza delivery helicopter drone it calls the Domicopter.  The lightweight aircraft is eco-friendly, never gets stuck in traffic, and there’s no driver to tip.

pizzacompass

 

Pizza Compass is just what it sounds like.
The app’s pizza slice is a directional pointer to nearby pizzerias. It  provides maps, opening hours, and links to reviews.

 

 

pizzamagnetLots of pizzerias hand out refrigerator magnets, but only Red Tomato’s is bluetooth-enabled. It’s preset for your favorite pizza; just press the pie to place an order. Alas, you need to be within delivery range, and Red Tomato is located in Dubai.

pizza-hut-and-xbox-360

 

Pizza Hut passed on the refrigerator magnets and made an app for the XBox game consoleYou can place your order with the game controller, voice input, or Kinect gestures. After all, who’s really standing around the refrigerator until after the pizza arrives and they’re grabbing a soda?

 

 

dominostrackerDomino’s piloted a webcam program that lets you see your pizza as it’s being made. They haven’t rolled it out in all the locations, but you can still monitor your pizza’s virtual progress with the Pizza Tracker app.

nasa-3d-print-pizza

NASA is making plans for the first pizza dinner in space with the construction of a 3D food printer for the International Space Station. ‘Ink’ nozzles print layers of liquid pizza dough, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings, and the whole thing bakes on the printer’s heated surface. Until Domino’s and Pizza Hut can colonize space, it’ll have to do.

Posted in diversions, fast food, gadgets, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

The Cereal Puffing Gun that Puts the Crunch in the Cap’n

 

cerealpuffer

 

Meet the puffing gun.

It’s a whirling, steaming 3,200-pound machine that explosively puffs up and pumps out breakfast cereal. It’s a real showstopper, which must be why the fledgling Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) has chosen it as the centerpiece of its inaugural exhibit.

Early cereals really were puffed in guns.
Cereal puffing dates back to the emergence of industrial food production at the turn of the 20th century. The process was perfected using old Army cannons including some that had seen action in the Spanish American War. The Quaker Oats Company gave its new cereal a splashy public introduction at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where eight bronze cannons cooked rice puffs and shot them over the watching crowds.

Popping the unpoppable.
Cereal makers have always looked at popcorn as the gold standard of puffs- simultaneously light, airy, crispy, and crunchy, while retaining the integrity of the corn itself. It gets that way because a kernel of corn consists of a hard shell surrounding a starchy center. When it’s heated the moisture in the corn turns to steam; contained inside the shell, the steam pressure builds and inflates the starch until eventually the puffed up kernel bursts through.

Grains like wheat and rice don’t have outer shells to trap steam so the pressure has to come from outside the kernels. A puffing gun builds up steam pressure inside a cooker (or cannon) filled with whole grains. When the vessel’s hatch is flung open, the sudden change in air pressure puffs the kernels on contact and shoots them out of the opening with an explosive rush of steam and a giant “kaboom!”

Later this summer the MOFAD folks will take a functioning puffing gun to parks, schools, and street locations around New York. BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Breakfast Cereal will explain the science behind cereal production and how Americans came to eat nearly three billion boxes of cereal every year.

Boom! is just the beginning.
The Museum of Food and Drink is in a pre-startup mode with unpaid staff members and a touring flatbed trailer in lieu of a bricks and mortar location. It’s an ambitious project that aims to do for food what the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum has done for aviation and space travel. To get there, MOFAD has stocked its board with talent and stature, including food world luminaries Mario Batali, Harold McGee, David Chang, Slow Food USA founder Patrick Martins, and modernist cooking pioneer Dave Arnold of the International Culinary Center.

Food has environmental, historical, economic, socio-cultural, industrial, and scientific dimensions; it touches all of our lives and presents some of the most challenging issues of our time. Yet there’s no American music singularly devoted to the subject. You can learn about the MOFAD mission to remedy the situation and contribute to that mission through the BOOM! project on Kickstarter.

 

Posted in diversions, food knowledge, gadgets | 1 Comment

Tech Support from the Kitchen

 

Rocket scientist apron via Zazzle

Rocket scientist apron via Zazzle

 

When it comes to tech support, nothing tops the kitchen.
It’s a treasure trove of fix-it potential. There’s wood and metal, plastic and glass; things that cool and things that heat; hard surfaces and soft; sticky and smooth.
Forget about help lines and warranties, everything you need to keep your gadgets running smoothly is right there.

 

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Boost your home Wi-Fi
Most home routers project the signal in a circle. But most routers sit near the wall where the connection comes in to your home. That means that half of its signal is drifting outside through the wall. A couple of cookie sheets or a semi-circle of foil will redirect the signal back into your house.

 

http://ashscrapyard.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/frozen-phone-freezer.jpg

Keep your phone charged.
Did you forget your cell phone charger again?
Put the phone in a cold place—the freezer compartment of the minibar fridge in your hotel room, or just a nice cold windowsill in wintertime. The cold will slow down the chemical processes inside the phone’s battery and extend the life of the charge

 

http://images.teamsugar.com/files/usr/1/15111/IMG_3210.preview.jpg

New life for old iPods
Early generations of iPods were plagued by temperamental hard drives that would lose their alignment. We’d constantly power up and power down, give them a shake or a gentle smack. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t. There are newer, more reliable models, but if you’re still plugging your earbuds into vintage Apple, you can try to bring it back to life with a night in the freezer. The hard drive contracts from the cold, and more often than not it reseats itself properly as it thaws.

 

http://www.paperstone.co.uk/images/NewsImages/2011/banana-cd.jpgSafely fix scratchy disks (better than the method you use now)
CD and DVD lasers read data from a metal disk protected by a thin layer of plastic. When that top layer is scratched, a lot of people reach for an abrasive cleaner that makes the scratches shallower by rubbing off more plastic. Not the safest for data, but it works. Better still is a method that restores the protective layer: peel a banana and rub the fruit on the disk; then rub it in with the inside of the peel. Wipe away the excess and it’s indistinguishable (to you or to a laser) from the plastic coating.

 

http://img4-1.realsimple.timeinc.net/images/1005/new-uses-rice-cellphone_300.jpgDry a wet cellphone
Studies tell us that one in three smartphone users bring their phones with them into the bathroom, and eventually, more than half of them will drop it into the toilet. Act fast and it might be resuscitated. 
Take out the battery, wipe it all dry, inside and out, and put the phone and battery in a bowl of rice. It’s the same principle as a few grains of rice in a salt shaker—rice has a kind of magnetic attraction for water molecules and if you leave the phone in there overnight the rice will pull out all the moisture. As long as the battery didn’t get soaked, the phone should be fine, although considering where it’s been, a little cleaning might be in order.

Combine a little patience with some ingenuity and a well-stocked pantry, and look what you can accomplish.

Posted in gadgets, home, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

Have You Met Your Quantified Self?

quantself

 

Quantified Self is the name given to the movement that marries self help with data.
It’s all the wearable sensors and monitors that can track your heart rate, sleep patterns, exercise, calories consumed, and so much more. It’s all the filters, mobile apps, and data visualizations that analyze your performance. And it’s the social-sharing of data.

Self-monitoring isn’t a new idea.
Athletes have always tracked their nutrition, training, and performance. Dieters keep food journals, and migraine or allergy sufferers are counseled to keep journals that track their triggers. What’s new is our ubiquitous connectivity and the amount of data that can easily be captured. Tiny trackers can be clipped and strapped to body parts and embedded in clothing and everyday objects. Sensors can be hyper-specific taking the measure of every step, breath, and heartbeat, charting blood oxygen levels, sleep quality, sexual arousal, and how many swipes you make with your toothbrush.

Quantified Self has exploded in the world of diet and nutrition.
Early adopters were known as ‘body hackers,’ festooned with arm bands, ear tags, day-glo goggles, and dangling lead wires. They monitored everything that went in and plenty of what came out, all in the name of science.

Most of us are not so interested in counting intestinal bacterial colonies and correlating butter intake with math skills. We just want some help to stay on track with our health and fitness goals, maybe lose a few pounds, and eat more healthfully. The new generation of devices does just that, and early studies suggest that they work.

You can go crazy with all the options. There are devices just for swimmers, bodybuilders, and rock climbers. You can strap a monitor to your wrist for readings of your heart and respiratory rates, optical blood flow, perspiration, and skin temperature. There’s even a dieter’s fork that monitors every bite you put in your mouth. Barring any health concerns that require monitoring, you’ll do just fine with a set-up that includes apps to track diet and exercise, plus a scale so you can measure progress. Then you can go forth and quantify.

My Fitness Pal is the king of the calorie counting apps with 30 million registered users and a killer database. It’s basically a simple food tracker for your cell phone, but its food knowledge is scarily comprehensive. You can scan in foods through your phone’s camera, and it also seems to know all the recipes from all the major cookbooks, magazines, and websites. It never seems to take more than a tap or two to tell it what you ate, and it’s never stumped when it comes to the corresponding nutritional data. It’s also free, is available for iPhones, Blackberrys, Android, and Windows devices, and syncs with the app’s website.

With the diet piece in place, you’ll want to quantify your activity level. The Fitbit One is the shape and heft of a stick of Trident on a paper clip. Clip it to your clothes or tuck it in your pocket during the day and it records the number of steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, and calories burned. When your travels take you to the vicinity of your computer it automatically sends data updates to FitBit’s website, and it wirelessly syncs to any diet or fitness apps on your cell phone. Wear it at night and it measures your sleep by both hours and degree of restfulness.

Step on the Withings Body Scale  and it measure weight, lean and fat mass, and calculates your body mass index. It tracks trends in your weight and body composition, and connects by wi-fi to your phone where it shares the information with your calorie counter and exercise apps. It can integrate data from the other programs to produce some nifty graphs. If you’re a fan of sharing TMI, it’s also twitter-enabled.

Posted in diet, gadgets, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

2013 Will be the Year of Toast

image via Smash It Up!

 

That’s right, toasted bread.
Leading food industry prognosticators are calling it the next big thing. They polled the food pros, consulted charts and graphs, and gazed into their crystal balls. It seems all signs point to toast.

We snicker at the idea of a restaurant toast trend because it’s toast, for god’s sake. It’s as homey a staple as you’ll find. Bread regularly appears in 99% of U.S. households, and toasters have been a home kitchen workhorse for over 100 years. Restaurants will really have to dazzle us if we’re going to pay for something so ordinary—and did I tell you that you can kiss complimentary bread baskets goodbye? Yup, another trend.

Industry experts predict that restaurants will be charging for bread board samplers designed for sharing. There will be toasted, grilled, and griddled bread options and a whole  menu of savory toppings, spreads, dips, and schmears. The toppers and condiments will take their inspiration from other predicted trends like fruit paired with savories; bitter, sour, and fermented flavors; and meat from heads and necks (cow, pig, lamb).

Dessert will bring another toasty assortment, sweet this time. Restaurants will be toasting up brioche, cake slices, and fruit- and nut-filled breads to spread with flavored butters, fruit compotes, and sweet sauces. Expect to see plenty of the newly trendy ricotta cheese topped with the equally faddish hyperlocal (think zip code) honey.

Bone up on toast trivia. You’ll dazzle at the dinner table when that bread board arrives.

  • The scientific term for the toasting process is called the Maillard reaction—it causes bread to turn brown through a series of biochemical reactions between the sugars and amino acids that create new, darker molecules on the surface of the bread.
  • It takes precisely 216 seconds in a standard 900 watt toaster to achieve the perfect golden-brown slice of toast. So says a British researcher after toasting and tasting 2,000 slices.
  • The ancient Greeks used to char toast and drop bits into glasses of wine. The slightly carbonized surface creates something like the substance found in a Brita water pitcherfiltering out impurities and improving the taste of the wine. That’s why we call it a toast when we raise a glass before we drink.
Posted in food trends, gadgets, restaurants | 1 Comment

Low-Tech Fixes in a High-Tech World

Rocket scientist apron via Zazzle

 

There are plenty of little home remedies for jump-starting balky gadgets.
There’s the blow dryer technique to warm the ink in an old toner cartridge to get it flowing; or the register at the supermarket checkout that only works when the cashier wraps the credit card in a plastic bag. My personal favorite is the trick where you use your head as an antenna: let’s say you’re pushing the button but you’re out of remote range for your car door opener. Touch the metal part of the key fob to your chin, hit the button again, and this time you’ve got it.

Nothing tops the kitchen when it comes to tech support.
It’s a treasure trove of fix-it potential. There’s wood and metal; things that cool and things that heat; hard surfaces and soft; sticky and smooth. Combine a little patience with some ingenuity and a well-stocked pantry, and look what you can accomplish.

resized

Boost your home Wi-Fi
Most home routers project the signal in a circle. But most routers sit near the wall where the connection comes in to your home. That means that half of its signal is drifting outside through the wall. A couple of cookie sheets or a semi-circle of foil will redirect the signal back into your house.

http://ashscrapyard.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/frozen-phone-freezer.jpg

Keep your phone charged
Did you forget your cell phone charger again?
Put the phone in a cold place—the freezer compartment of the minibar fridge in your hotel room, or just a nice cold windowsill in wintertime. The cold will slow down the chemical processes inside the phone’s battery and extend the life of the charge.

http://images.teamsugar.com/files/usr/1/15111/IMG_3210.preview.jpg

New life for old iPods
Early generations of iPods were plagued by temperamental hard drives that would lose their alignment. We’d constantly power up and power down, give them a shake or a gentle smack. Sometimes it worked; most of us moved on to newer, more reliable models.
A night in the freezer might bring it back to life; the hard drive contracts from the cold, and more often than not it reseats itself properly as it thaws.

http://www.paperstone.co.uk/images/NewsImages/2011/banana-cd.jpgSafely fix scratchy disks (better than the method you use now)
CD and DVD lasers read data from a metal disk protected by a thin layer of plastic. When that top layer is scratched, a lot of people reach for an abrasive cleaner that makes the scratches shallower by rubbing off more plastic. Not the safest for data, but it works. Better still is a method that restores the protective layer: peel a banana and rub the fruit on the disk; then rub it in with the inside of the peel. Wipe away the excess and it’s indistinguishable (to you or to a laser) from the plastic coating.

http://img4-1.realsimple.timeinc.net/images/1005/new-uses-rice-cellphone_300.jpgDry a wet cellphone
Studies tell us that one in three smartphone users bring their phones with them into the bathroom, and eventually, more than half of them will drop it into the toilet. Act fast and it might be resuscitated.
Take out the battery, wipe it all dry, inside and out, and put the phone and battery in a bowl of rice. It’s the same principle as a few grains of rice in a salt shaker—rice has a kind of magnetic attraction for water molecules and if you leave the phone in there overnight the rice will pull out all the moisture. As long as the battery didn’t get soaked, the phone should be fine, although considering where it’s been, a little cleaning might be in order.

 

Posted in gadgets, home, Science/Technology | Leave a comment

Beverage, Meet Laptop

image via Remember the Plamo

You know you shouldn’t, but you do.
You check your email every morning with the day’s first cup of coffee at your elbow, and wind down in the evening with a little facebooking and a glass of chardonnay perched nearby. Your latté and laptop share a table at Starbucks, and when you’re on an airplane, everything’s crowded together on the fold-down tray .
Sooner or later, beverages and laptops cross paths.

Now what?

Electric Power Plug Icon Clip Art Unplug and disconnect the power cord fast: the electrolytic activity from combining electricity and liquids begins on contact.

http://www.toshiba-india.com/laptop/images/common/battery-icon.png If it’s running normally on the battery, shut down in your usual way and remove the battery. If there’s a burning smell, smoke, or sparks, turn it off by any means possible and get that battery out.

http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/024/7/7/USB_Icon_by_momentscomic.png Disconnect any other drives or devices that are connected to your laptop.

 

Invert the laptop to drain any excess liquid to prevent it from coming into contact with the screen. And wait.

It’s a bit of a crap shoot.
The laptop could eventually power up without skipping a beat or there could be complete ruination. If you opt to bring it in for a professional repair, just know that liquid damage is almost never covered by the warranty—even Apple Care and other extended service contracts—and they will know.

Of course nobody relishes the disruption of their activity, and there is the possible expense to repair or replace, but it could be worse (think superglue or maple syrup). And you’re not worried about your data because you back up religiously, right? Just in case (no lectures, no recriminations) you can contact a data-recovery company like DriveSavers. You’d better be desperate, because you’ll pay dearly for this service.

http://www.777icons.com/libs/art-toolbar/hourglass-icon.gif Still waiting. You really don’t want to power up for a good 72 hours after it’s completely disgorged the liquid. Every day or so you can give the laptop a gentle jiggle to drain any trapped fluid. Some people swear by hair dryers to speed up the process, but unless the spill was water, you run the risk of baking the liquid’s sugars and impurities right into the computer’s innards. Stick to air-drying, and resist the temptation to try it out too soon.

https://www.grantgopher.com/Portals/0/Success%20Icon.jpg

You’re back online and it’s all looking good. You know that nothing fried on contact, but there could still be damage that has yet to be revealed.

If you spilled water, you should be fine. Anything else—coffee, tea, soda, juice—and you’ve got potentially corrosive sugar or acid residue in there. Unless you’re totally confident in your ability to take your computer apart and swab the components with distilled water or denatured alcohol, take it to a professional for a thorough cleaning.

An ounce of prevention…. Lifehacker gives us The Best Foods (and Strategies) for Eating at Your Computer.

 

 

Posted in gadgets, Science/Technology | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

BabyNes: Like a Coffee Maker for Babies

Eager to repeat the success of its Nespresso coffee makers, Nestlé has rolled out machines that make tea, smoothies, and now baby formula.

The BabyNes works just like a single-serve coffee maker, minus the cappuccino frothing wand. Add water to the tank, pop in a capsule, push a button, and you’ve made perfectly warmed and mixed baby formula. The company’s  press release emphasizes safety, convenience and hygiene, touting a ‘microbiological’ filter built into each capsule to eliminate bacteria present in the water.

An extravagant new mouth to feed.
Naturally, such convenience doesn’t come cheap. The machine costs around $300, and the single-serve capsules cost more than $2 a pop. That’s 2 to 3 times the cost of canned, pre-mixed formula, which is itself a few times the cost of powdered formula (and, if you were curious, triple the price of an espresso pod). Figure that the capsules alone will run you an extra $650 each year.

What else is wrong with this picture?
Nestlé has engaged in a decades-long tug-of-war with public health advocates over baby formula. The two sides are always going to be at odds since breastfeeding is key to improving health, nutrition, and child mortality rates, especially in developing nations, and Nestlé is the world’s largest manufacturer of breast milk substitutes. Now, global health advocates are gearing up for a new tussle over the BabyNes.

The BabyNes machine has been cited for 130 violations of the World Health Organization standards, mostly for Nestlé’s misleading and inappropriate marketing claims touting its superior nutrition. The most serious charge is that it fails to meet basic standards for use in markets outside of the U.S. and Western Europe. The BabyNes reconstitutes powdered formula with water heated to 40 degrees celsius, a temperature that is pleasing to a nursing infant but far below the 70 degrees necessary to kill water-borne bacteria commonly found in developing nations, even after it’s passed through the capsule’s filter.

Nestlé is hoping that the pricey BabyNes will join the ranks of high status baby products like thousand dollar all-terrain strollers, digital video baby monitors, and electric baby wipe warmers. It’s a market with little price sensitivity, and presumably one with few concerns for water-borne bacteria.

Nestlé's BabyNes: This is NOT a coffee maker

Nestlé's Nespresso: THIS is a coffee maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Cup of Coffee You Ever Had.

The New York Times called it “majestic” and “titillating; Time Magazine named it to the list of The Top 10 Everything of 2008; and when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz happened to stumble across one at a tiny café in lower Manhattan, he declared it made “the best cup of brewed coffee I have ever tasted.”

They’re all raving about the Clover, an eyebrow-raisingly pricey coffeemaker that brings high-tech precision to gadget-loving coffee drinkers. It also brews a hell of a cup of coffee.

Schultz discovered the Clover in 2006, curious about the customers lined up to get into a small, independent coffee shop. The Clover was then a cult object, hand-built in a converted, Seattle trolley shed. Costing $11,000 and requiring the equivalent of a masters degree in barista arts to operate, there were fewer than 200 in use worldwide—you could find more Flickr photo tributes to the Clover than there were machines in existence. So wowed was Schultz that Starbucks bought the Clover’s maker, and now distributes Clovers exclusively to Starbucks.

Why all the fuss?
Your home coffeemaker is probably an automatic drip; it boils the water and pours it over the beans, dripping the coffee into a carafe. You control the beans and the grind, and the coffeemaker and gravity do the rest. Some prefer the pour over; basically a manual drip that lets you adjust the water temperature and timing of the pour for a bit more nuance.

The next step up the scale of coffee fanatacism is the French press. The grounds and sub-boiling water steep until you push down on a plunger attached to a mesh filter that uses pressure to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds. The vacuum pot, those glass-globed contraptions found in cafes frequented by coffee geeks, achieves similar results. The pressure is created by heated water vapor that’s forced into the top globe; it agitates the ground coffee until the pot is removed from its heat source and the finished brew filters down to the bottom globe. Both of these methods add elements of control to the temperature and brewing time.

None match the precision of the Clover. It brews one cup at a time using pistons and valves that alternate a pressure push with a vacuum pull. It’s outfitted with proprietary Cloverware software and an Ethernet port connected to an online database that micromanage every variable of the brewing process. In the hands of a skilled barista, the choice of bean, grind, coffee dose, brew time, water quantity, and temperature contribute to one perfect, magnificent cup of coffee that will have you reaching into a wine lover’s vocabulary to describe it: a cocoa nose to the Sumatra; hints of tobacco and walnut in the Nicaragua; a voluptuous, plummy Peaberry.

Where can I get this ambrosial brew?
Starbucks has placed Clovers in just a few hundred locations, and done so with so little fanfare that you have to wonder if the company really wanted the Clover coffeemakers or just didn’t want them in the hands of the competition. You can click Clover Brewing System in the search filter on the Starbucks Store Locator and hope there’s one nearby. And keep an eye out for Clovers in the independent coffee shops, where they are holding tightly to those they purchased before Starbucks cornered the market.

 

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A Message to the Unconverted: you really want a rice cooker.

Creative Commons image by anomalous4
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To those of you who don’t own a rice cooker…

I know what you’re thinking. What self-respecting home cook keeps a one-hit wonder? Especially a single-purpose appliance that hogs counter space AND requires electricity.

To those of you who have one…

Remember when that was you?
Few things divide the cooking community into two distinct, equally impassioned camps like the rice cooker. […]
Posted in appliances + gadgets, cooking, gadgets | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Just in Time for Easter: learn how to boil an egg

image courtesy of Bella Irae

You

You think you know how to boil an egg.

I’m here to tell you that you can do better.

Eggs, water, pan, heat.
It’s not exactly rocket science. But we want the perfect hard-cooked egg. We want shells that don’t crack, firm but tender whites, the barest hint of a moist sheen at the center of a bright yellow yolk. We want shells that peel off easily and a kitchen free of sulfur smells. […]
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A Bunch of Things About Bananas

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I’m all for leaving well enough alone when it comes to the banana.

I think bananas are just about perfect. Each comes in a neat, little package. It tells you when it’s ripe without any of the sniffing or thumping or squeezing required by other fruits. There’s a handy pull tab when you’re ready to open it. And it consistently delivers as promised– who’s ever heard of a dud?

For those of you who believe there’s always room for improvement, I give you a round-up of the latest banana innovations. […]

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Grocery Shopping Jetson-Style.

     Jetsons image courtesy of Hanna-Barbera

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If only life could be like the futuristic utopia of The Jetsons. A hungry Jane pushes a few buttons on the food-a-rac-a-cycle and there’s dinner for four. No chopping, no sauté pans to wash, and best of all– no grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping is the most universally detested of all household errands.

We are inconvenienced by trips to the dry cleaner, we shudder at the thought of holiday gift shopping, but nothing fills us with dread like a trip to the supermarket. […]

Posted in gadgets, home delivery, shopping | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the Big Idea?!

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A better mousetrap

The bagel guillotine. The salad shooter. The Veg-O-Matic. Not a one came from GE Research or Westinghouse Laboratory. Each of these contributions to the culinary arts was conceived in the mind of a home cook.

A new website has come along that applies a crowdsourcing model to turn concepts into products. Quirky is not exclusively a platform for kitchen innovations, but with a strong natural affinity between cooking and tinkering, the site receives a steady stream of cooking-related submissions. […]

Posted in food business, gadgets, Science/Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Future Dining: a waiterless society

Restaurants go High Tech with e-Menus

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We might gripe about high prices, overdone steaks, or a long wait for a table, but nothing irritates us more than lousy service.

Restaurants are experimenting with a host of new gadgets, gizmos, and geekery that could reinvent restaurant service.

For now it’s mostly a marketing gimmick, but ultimately restaurant owners hope to reduce staffing costs by automating many functions. For the diner it can mean an end to desperate efforts to flag down an inattentive waiter. No more intrusive social interaction with “hello-my-name-is-kimberly-and-I’ll-be-your-server.”

But what will happen to all of those out-of-work actors? […]

Posted in Entertainment, food trends, gadgets | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Weigh Your Options

Gadget Love

Do you get a little weak in the knees in a cookware store?  If you’re like most of us, your love for kitchen gadgets knows no bounds. Cherry pitters and fondue pots, rice steamers and egg separators,  presses for garlic and sandwiches, grinders for coffee and spices— no gizmo is too esoteric or uni-tasking to lust after.

First the bad news: with all that kitchenware overflowing your drawers and cupboards, you’re missing a most essential piece of equipment. The good news: you get to buy a new gadget.

A scale will make you a better cook. Recipes work better when you weigh the ingredients. Measurements depend on how you purchase, store, and scoop dry ingredients: a cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 4 to 6 ounces. If a recipe calls for 4 cups of flour, without a scale you can end up with as little as 16 ounces or as much as 24 ounces. That means your main ingredient could be off by as much as 50%.

Even if you’re not a baker, a kitchen scale makes measuring quicker, easier, and cleaner. A good scale will have a repeatable tare function that reports the net weight of each ingredient as it’s added in sequence. You can measure and mix in one bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup.

What to look for

Measurements should be precise. The scale should update instantaneously so that you can see the changing measurement as you add ingredients.

The display should be easy to read and  switch between metric units and U.S. pounds and ounces.

Need more bells and whistles? Take a look at these:

For smaller tasks, try a measuring cup or measuring spoon with a built-in digital scale.

The Rhianna combines a digital scale with an ipod dock and speaker system.

The Breville Ikon scale adds a kitchen timer and temperature probe.

Old Will Knott Scales maintains a folksy website, human phone-answerers and order-takers, and stocks an enormous selection of kitchen scales.

Posted in appliances + gadgets, cooking, gadgets | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Tweet ‘n Eat

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

image courtesy of City Food Magazine

Are you a Twitter skeptic?

Have you been slow to warm to the charms of microblogging?
We all know the pitfalls: the time-sucking potential; the relentless stream of random messages; the trivial, navel-gazing quality of too many tweets.

It’s time to stop blaming the messenger! […]

Posted in gadgets, phone applications, social media | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments
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