Kimchi Pancake: Pimp my fried

Good for the Soeul

Good for the Soeul

 

In my memory, I always associate Kimchi pancakes with a night out drinking with friends. Going to Koreatown in LA and throwing back some soju and beers, a steaming hot plate of this is just what you need at the end of a long night. I can't say I've had a bad version of it yet. And you can find them stuffed with anything and everything, from seafood to pork belly, and it's still delicious. The Kimchi pancake is a great vehicle for customization. Once you have the base of onions, chopped kimchi, and flour, the rest of the ingredients are up to you. I've only made a handful at home to date, but it's always a fun challenge. Similar to cooking full size omellette, the flip is the hardest part. Next is knowing when it's done, you need enough heat in the pan initally to give it a good crispy exterior, while keeping the insides piping hot and light. It always takes a little longer than you think it does. Here's a healthier 'daytime' version of it that makes for a good lunch for two, or an appetizer. It's flavorful without being heavy or fatty. The Dipping sauce has a sharp bright kick with minced tomatillo and heat with pepper flakes and hot sauce, and is meant to be spread sparingly over the surface.

Healthy Kimchi Chicken Sausage Pancake with Tomatillo Dipping Sauce

-1/2 cup Flour
-3 green onion sprouts
-1/4 cups water
-1 Cup Kimchi (the more sour the better) chopped. 
-handful Pine nuts
-1 egg
-1/2 tbsp sugar
-1/2 tbsp salt
-1 cup leafy greens (spinach, arugala)
-1.5 chicken sausage (fully cooked) and diced
-1/4 block tofu diced into 1/2" cubes
-Furikake
-Minced green onion tops
-few tablespoons vegetable oil

slice green onion stalks into thirds, and split white sections down the middle lengthwise. In a bowl add all ingredients except for furikake, green onion, and vegetable oil. Mix by hand. In a large 12" nonstick frying pan, add oil and heat on high till frying temperature. Pour in pancake mixture, flattening out as evenly as possible. After three minutes, the pancake should be cooked enough to be able to move freely when shaking the pan. In another pan, heat a tsbp of oil on high and coat evenly. Place this pan upside down over top of the pan with the pancake cooking, and quickly flip over.  The top should be golden brown/dark. Cook another 4-5 minutes, steam should be escaping from both sides and from center of pancake. Transfer immediately to a plate, garnish with furikake and minced green onion. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Cooking while watching Toriko. Yep, my favorite anime is about cooking. 

Cooking while watching Toriko. Yep, my favorite anime is about cooking. 


Dipping Sauce:

-thumb sized piece of ginger finely minced
-1 tbsp gochugaru (korean red pepper flakes)
-1tbsp rice vinegar
-1/4 lime juice
-1 small tomatillo minced finely
-2 tbsp fish sauce
-1 tbsp hot sauce of choice
-splash sesame oil
-2 tbsp ponzu sauce
-1 tbsp soy

Mix all ingredients well in a bowl. When serving, make sure to collect many of the solids as you pour over the pancake. 

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Bistek Tagalog: Tradition is making it your own

Bistek. A taste of growing up, a meat dish that perfectly balances savory, sweet, and acidic. Lemony meaty goodness, heartily poured over steaming rice, or for the trifecta: Rice, bistek, and a sunny side egg. On the surface, a very simple and straightforward dish, with only 6 ingredients. Beef, Garlic, pepper, soy, Onion, and lemon. It's the pinoy version of steak and onions, all fried and cooked in one pan till the juices from the meat soak and sweeten the onions, the onions add their sweetness to the meat, and holy hells do both contribute to an amazing sauce. It's one of first things I can remember my dad cooking when I was younger. The smell of frying onions and juicy marinated meat sizzling would fill the whole house and I would watch him from the kitchen table as he prepared it. 

Learning a recipe passed down to you means making it your own, based on your own context of taste, and ingredient availability. To compare, my father's Bistek used very thin slices of london broil or top round, leaner meats, and all the ingredients were set to simmer at a medium for a longer period. The meat was delicious but very well done. I use Carne Asada cut meat or a slice pieces from a top sirloin roast that are thicker, with a little more striated fat, and the timing and technique I use have softer moist pieces being cooked to medium. Having some of the native juices of medium cooked meat add just the right amount of iron tang as it mixes with the sauce and onion in your mouth. I also finish it with some roughly chopped cilantro and a fresh squueze of lemon right at serving. Though the techniques have changed, it's still very much home comfort food, a food of my peoples, always cooked in large portions to serve at parties, sunday breakfast, or just to last a few meals worth over the days.

 

Recipe: Bistek Tagalog (serves 6 regular people, or 3 hungry pinoy men)

Prep time: 1:00 hour, Cook time: 20 minutes

-2.5-Lbs carne asada meat, sliced 1/4-3/8 inch thick
-1/4 cup Soy Sauce
-2 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp black pepper
-1 clove garlic, minced
-2 lemons
-2 large sweet onions
-2 large frying/saute pans (12") 


In a large non-reactive bowl, mix garlic, onion, sugar, pepper, and meat thoroughly, cover and let marinade at room temperature for an hour. While the meat marinates, place the onion in the fridge, doing so will make it cry free when you chop. When the meat is ready, chop the onion into 1/4 thick sections, and separate into rings. In the pans, add a few tbsps of vegetable oil and heat on high. Once frying temp, evenly distribute the meat to both pans, and turn meat over after 3 mins, cook another 3. The goal is to get fairly light browning. At this stage the meat should be giving up its juices. Transfer the meat to a plate, leaving juices in the pan. drop the onions into both pans and let cook for a few minutes on medium heat. After onions have released their liquid some (but are not yet translucent, put the beef back into the pans on top of the onion, Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons over the meat (one lemon per pan) and let simmer together for another 5 minutes. You want the onion to act as a bit of a barrier so the beef isnt touching the bottom. After five minutes, mix all the ingredients together and cook on high till its bubbling. Place in a serving casserole, pouring sauce last and garnishing with a healthy portion of rough chopped cilantro.

 



cooking, design, ideation, design process

Ramen egg Appetizer: The Creative Itch and Design Process


I firmly hold the belief that in creative work it's the 99% perspiration that matters at the end of the day. Every now and then though two unrelated neurons fire and combine and create that spark, that tickle in the brain. You gotta give those type of thoughts room to exist, give the flash of inspiration its due. Unfortunately that leads me to cooking at strange hours of the evening.

Tonight, I was craving ramen, but most ramen places close by are already done for the day.  How could I experience ramen without having to cook a long drawn out broth? Technically I cant, but I can try to highlight one of my favorite aspects of it. 

My favorite part of eating a bowl of tonkotsu ramen is biting into the runny yolk egg. I usually save this moment to near the end. Delicately balancing it on your soup spoon, you take a bite, the hot yolk gushes in, it combines with the rich tonkotsu broth, with hints of seaweed and chopped green onion. Truly a ritual to savor. 

This appetizer tries to capture that same feeling of biting into a ramen egg, but without the broth. Instead of steaming pork broth, it's been re-imagined with the crunchy texture of a light pork rind. A seasoned piece of seaweed helps cradle the egg yolk, and prevents the pork rind from becoming soft. The aromatic pungency of Green onions is pared with the astringency of thick balsamic and the subtle heat of Korean red pepper flakes. Then a pinch of Furikake is added on top.
The yoke itself is carefully injected with soy sauce (inspired by one of my favorite local ramen shops) and it gushes out a rich swirl of gold and umber. 
The spoon will be served to the guest, and the server will gash open the egg with a knife and tell the guest to consume it as quickly as possible

It's a remix, the chords/flavors are the same (egg yolk, bonito, wakame, green onion, soy, pork) just set to a different key and beat. That's why I love cooking, your iteration cycle is so fast and the feedback you get when you make something is so visceral and immediate. You know when something is working, be it taste, texture, aesthetics, even sound. It's harder to fool yourself, for me food is such a core thing I have no illusions of importance or ego, it's either good or it isn't. You're not trying to cure cancer, or end world pollution. You have a very straighforward problem that you have most control over all of its elements. 

That's why I cook when I'm stressed, or busy, it's a way of taking a break from a design problem in my working world, by tackling another in my own domain. Failures are ok, at the end of the day almost every failure is still edible. It's still doing you the good of providing you calories. For example, this took three tries, here's what I learned from each attempt:  

first round: just a poached egg with a pork rind. Results were exactly what I expected, and nothing more, wasnt even worth photographing. throwing two ingredients together does not a dish make, but it provided a valuable baseline of what my major players were going to do. 

Round two: when I poached the egg I took away most of the white, leaving just a minimal white membrane to cover the yolk. From this reduced yolk, I came up with the idea of injecting the egg with soy sauce. The act of biting into yolk led to a pressurized pop of yolk that drowned out all other flavors. The pickled green onion garnish was overpowered. 

Round 2 - unwieldy to hold and not enough green onion

Round 2 - unwieldy to hold and not enough green onion

Round three:  I made my green onion strips much larger, and set the whole assembly on a large ramen soup spoon. I decided to cut the yolk before biting to prevent the water balloon effect. cutting it allowed the yolk/soy mixture to trickle out appealingly and the spoon caught the spillover. Success, the flavors came together at the right pace and time. Delicious. 

Round 3 - Getting the ritual down right

Round 3 - Getting the ritual down right

Is it perfected after three tries? Certainly not. Yet for the sake of my cholesterol I can't be eating egg yolks and porkrinds en masse all evening. What I can say is that the itch has been scratched. It will be shelved until a later date, or maybe provide inspiration for something else. Bon Apetit y'all. 

 

Cholesterol 3: / Me: 0 , everyone's a winner

Cholesterol 3: / Me: 0 , everyone's a winner


RECIPE: RAMEN EGG APPETIZER

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-1 egg
-roasted korean seaweed
-furikake bonito flavor
-filipino pork rinds (lighter and fluffier than others)
-soy sauce
-small needle/injecting device
-pinch red pepper powder
-green onion thick white stalk sliced into narrow slivers
-thick balsamic vinegar
-ramen soup spoon.
-hot sauce
-vinegar
-thick paper towel

In a small 2 quart pot boil water with a few spoonfuls of white vinegar. take your green onion slivers and pickle in balsamic, rub in pepper flakes, let sit. Select two large rather flat pork rinds, that have a bowl shape to them, and place onto Ramen spoon. In boiling water drop crack the egg, immediatly use a spoon or utensil to separate most of the white from the yolk. keep the yolk in the center of the rolling boil to poach, about 1 minute. Prep an injection tool with about 1ml soy sauce. Use a slotted ladel to extract the poached egg. With a paper towel in your other hand, very carefully roll the egg onto the towel to dry off excess moisture. choose the least attractive side, this will be your downfacing side, inject the soy very carefully into the runny portion of the egg. This doesnt have to be the yolk, but the space adjacent to the yolk near one edge. if you do it slowly most of the soy sauce will stay inside. Now take a square of seasoned seaweed, and cover the "ugly side" of the egg. You can now flip the egg over and lay the egg onto your pork rinds, seaweed side down. take your pickled green onion garnish. place in two diagonals on top of the egg. Sprinkle furikake over egg, then add a drop of hot sauce. To serve, slice diagonally quickly, and let the yolk flow over the pork rinds, tell guest to eat in two bites. 

pickled green onion with red pepper flake (gochugaru)

pickled green onion with red pepper flake (gochugaru)

Soy Injection

Soy Injection

Drying the egg - already injected

Drying the egg - already injected

Seaweed then flip. 

Seaweed then flip. 


Warm Memories: Beef Tongue Pho

 

I saw a video about a New York Sushi chef recently who described umami not as a taste, but as the memory of a moment in all its senses: the sum encapsulation of an entire experience bound together by a food object. I wholeheartedly agree.

I had my first bowl of Pho when I was 18 on a cold Berkeley night. We were spending our first winter as undergrads in Northern California, Katia going to Berkeley, and I to UC Davis and taking the Amtrak to see her every weekend. That winter was our first true one, having grown up in the unreal and ever temperate band of Los Angeles, winter was just another label to pass the time, like months, a separate word to express a certain length of time. True Cold - capital W - Winter was understood as a concept, always associated with snow or some far flung Eastern state where people wear sweaters. However, nature is quick to teach, seeing your own breath and feeling the icy snap of a chilled wind makes one a quick learner.

I remember we had walked out of the movies and were greeted by chill and dark streets of Shattuck Avenue. Not only was it cold, it started to rain (again something we don't see much of) , and this being the days before a Weather App or Uber, we were caught out in it. Quite the pair, bereft of the comforts of home and dreading a damp trudge to a drudge of a meal at the Dining Commons. But there was a light on the street ahead, and as we walked closer that beacon of light turned on the other senses, a smell and warmth in the cold blue darkness. I remember the windows were dripping with condensation, we couldn't see inside. What we could see was a small 24x36 poster in the window, the letters p-h-o headlining and some poorly shot photographs of bowls of soup with even worse typography proclaiming said bowls to be sold between $5.95-$8.95.

Hunger met necessity met student budget, the decision was made. Opening the door we were hit with a humid wall of funky spiced beef aroma, to the point my glasses fogged. But it seemed clean, and warm, and drier than the outside.We were lucky for our first time. The waitress, who was patient and friendly, calmly explained the basics of what pho was. (She was some kind of angel anomaly. This was before we understood the true marks of a quality establishment: the flavor is in direct proportion to the rudeness and bluntness of the place) Like magic two steaming bowls of plain pho tai came out right after she walked through the ktichen doors, and she instructed us on the ways of bean sprout and fresh mint and hoisin and Sriracha. Thus prepared, we took our first spoonful. Scalding broth, giving way to a rich earthy beefy umami, with a briny salt and the sharp iron note of raw steak slices cooking and giving up their blood to the soup. The bright clean crunch of bean sprout, and the sweetness of Hoisin and the contrast of mint! All of it underscored by the medicinal licorice of star anise and coriander seed. It was balance of so many contrasts, a flavor that keep unraveling layers of depth and character with each sip and slurp and bite, exotic yet profoundly familiar.

It was revelation. An instant warmth and comfort that took away some of our homesickness and anxiety and chill and replaced it with a golden mellow broth. Soon we were shedding layers and talking about the movie, smiles on our faces and sharing in the joy of a new small adventure. It was one of our first fond memories of the Bay Area. 

That's the magic of food, it connects and grounds you to a place, a time, with all your senses. Its moments like this that inform my senses, one of many reference points when I close my eyes to imagine a new dish coming together, those imprints and textures and colors and nuances of that time are forever in the pallete of my mind. I've learned to ask myself when I cook, not to try to figure out what something tastes like, but to ask, what do I want this dish to make me feel? What time of my life or experience do I want to put out there? 

I've made pho about 4 times this year. The pho I serve at home is still very much a work in progress. It's not as rich or deeply mellow as something you'd find at a mom and pop shop. It's still very satisfying, but it doesnt have that complex harmony of so many elements coming together.  But I will keep trying, and each attempt brings me closer to that first cold night in Berkeley, and that first warm spoonful of joy.

And my fiancee the good Doctor K does seem to appreciate a nice bowl after a long day at the Hospital. Most of the work is in creating the broth, actual preparation is less than 10 minutes when you have all the ingredients at hand. Beef tongue is really apropos as a meat to add into Pho as the texture is so velvety and flavorful and the intensity of the beef flavor is an concentrated umami counterpoint to the clean long note of the pho broth. 

 

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RECIPE: Beef tongue Pho,


**Requires a trip to your local asian market/ 99 Ranch.**

-------------------------------
Beef tongue: 
-prepared Beef Tongue Steaks (see recipe link)
-Butter
-Pepper
-sugar
-salt


The toppings:
-bean sprouts
-cilantro
-fresh thai mint
-hoisin sauce
-green onion
-jalapeno
-rice stick noodles (vermicelli)

Pho Broth Recipe (6-10 hours):
-4 lbs beef bones
-Vietnamese pho broth packet (cloth pouch and loose spices)
-fish sauce
-onion
-Ginger root, skin scraped off with a spoon. 
-carrots
-Sugar


BROTH: 
place the bones in a large stock pot and soak in cold water for an hour. This is to remove any strong traces of blood and scum. drain and refill to covering, and set to boil. Skim off the scum that forms in the first 30 minutes of boiling. While it heats, quarter the onion, and chop the carrots and add to stock. take the ginger root and using the edge of a spoon, scrape off the excess. with tongs or a long fork, char the ginger root over your stove top flame till blackened. Once blackened, flatten and bruise the root, add to the broth. Add in about 1/3-1/4 cup of fish sauce, and a around 4-5 tablespoons of sugar. Prepare the spice packet, making sure the sachet is tightly sealed and add into the pot. Set heat to a low rolling simmer, and replace the water line every few hours. Boil for at least 6 hours, more time equals more flavor. Taste and add pepper or sugar as needed. the flavor should be clean but with a rich note of beef. Once simmered to satisfaction, remove bones, let cool to room temperature, and reserve in 16 oz portions in airtight containers in the freezer. The day of you can heat them up for single servings. 

DAY OF: 
In a pot, heat water to boil. in a smaller saucepan, heat the frozen broth to boiling. In a suate pan ,heat a pan on high with a pad of butter. cut a 1/2-3/4 inch thick portion of beef tongue, roughty a small steak portion. covere with pepper, sugar, and salt. When the butter has browned and si starting to smoke, sear the Tongue filets to attain carmelization and heating through. Once the tongue is carmelized on the outside, take off heat and let rest. Cut the meat diagonally on the bias to create thin slivers. Place rice noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes to cook. Once noodles are cooked, assemble your bowl by placing noodles, then meat, then the fresh cilantro and mint, as well as bean sprouts. pour broth over and season with hoisin and sriracha to taste. Bon apetit!

UglyDelicious: An Ode to Beef Tongue

 This cow isnt going to be doing any more tongue twisters

 This cow isnt going to be doing any more tongue twisters

I love, adore, have a soft chewy beefy spot in my heart reserved for that Most Awesome of Extra Bits: Beef tongue/AKA Lengua (para mi jente). The Flavor is oh so very the essence of beef, as if you condensed all the flavor of a cow into one square inch. Yet the texture isn't made dense for that compression, if anything it takes on a light, spongy quality, like cotton candy carne. It's also stupid simple to make (boil in water for 6 hours with a chopped onion) The only tricky part is peeling off the skin, which needs to be done while hot. 

Even with that small task included, the flavor to effort ratio is still way off the charts, it must be breaking some law of Food Thermodynamics: "One cannot extract more flavor out of a system than effort put in". Yet it does. Even the water you boil it in becomes liquid gold, a deeply savory beef stock with just a bit of earthiness all its own. However, It also provides a bit of mental gymnastics when you receive it: I had eaten and fallen in love with beef tongue long before I had cooked it myself, and the first impression seeing it uncooked was.....well. rather blunt. 

Hello. I am your new alien overlord.

Hello. I am your new alien overlord.

I mean, yes, I knew in my mind it was a tongue. But it was huge, alien pebbly mottled thing, the Ron Jeremy of Tongues. It slipped out of the plastic saran wrap and flopped into the pot with a life of its own, ready for the Jacuzzi. "Bring it on man! I'm ready for that hot water!" In my own experience I'd  only ever really see this polite flappy tip when I'd seen cows chewing. Who knew they would be packing so much under the hood. 

Yet Beef Tongue is versatile, you can cook it, and the meat is enough to feed two for a week's worth of meals. It's made for Mise en Place, the svelte texture ensures that you can reheat it by pan fry, braising, saute, deep fry, anything to your hearts content without losing its softness. Monday, cube and throw it in some tacos, check. Tuesday, braise it in Soy for an Asian brisket influence. Wednesday, pan fry it in butter and serve with roasted veg like a filet mignon. Thursday, glazed in ginger and allspice, and sliced into pho. It's like Peter Sellers, able to put on funny hats and mustaches with aplomb, taking on character yet staying true to its core. So......If you haven't tried it, DO IT (per Shia Lebouf). You'll be experiencing something new, and your taste buds will be grateful to have tasted the taste buds of this magnificent ruminant  If you've tried it but haven't cooked it, here's the recipe.Next post: Beef Tongue Pho

Just like Coltrane, you need to play it low and slow

Just like Coltrane, you need to play it low and slow

 

RECIPE: BOILED BEEF TONGUE

-1 Beef Tongue (3-5 lbs)

-Large Stockpot

-Salt

-1 large onion

-1 large carrot

-Fresh pair dishwashing gloves

Take your tongue and soak it in cold water for an hour. This helps leech out any remaining blood. Scrape the outside with a bristle brush. Pour out water and replace to cover tongue. Quarter the Onion and Carrot, toss in. Set to boil. Once it starts boiling, skim the scum off the top, and lower heat to a low simmer and add a few tbsp of salt. Too hot too fast can actually tighten up the tongue. Depending on size, simmer for 4-6 hours, topping with water as it evaporates. Make sure the tongue is fully submerged. After 4-6 hours, the tongue should be ready, one clear indicator is that the skin will peel off easily while hot. Let stock liquid cool off and reserve and store for Broth. Wearing gloves, work with the tongue while it's hot. Using a small paring knife, use the knife to start to separate the top skin from the meat, once a large enough flap is made, it should peel easily off by hand (which is why you're using dishwashing gloves to help you handle the heat) In the rare case it does not peel off easily (overboiled at too high a heat the whole time) use the paring knife to shave off top skin, making efforts to not cut too deeply into the flesh. Once you have removed the skin, Cut off the gristle - the tendon and tougher flesh at the bottom base of the tongue - where it would connect to the bottom of the mouth. Cut whole tongue into 1/2 or 1/3 sections to store in a container covered in its own broth. Will keep for 5 days, or freeze for a month. 

Bourbon Cocktail: Roots and Earth

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I've been watching the most recent season of Mind of a Chef, which splits between Chef Lee of 610 Magnolia Restaurant in Kentucky, and Magnus Nilsson of world renowned Fäviken.

Ed Lee is contemplative and conscious curator of his cooking process, understanding his cultural roots and creating a new philosophy based on the colors and memories of his life in New York, a Korean descendant, and a transplant into the soil of his adopted home of Kentucky. His is a path of constant evolution and reflection, of pairing flavors along the latitudes of Seoul, Kentucky, and New York. 

Nilsson is much more present, constantly searching for inspiration in the remote stark beauty of rural Sweden, filling his senses with all the sights, smells, and textures of nature, and letting himself give into the process of creation, nerves alive with an electric wonder, understanding the pieces will come together in their own time and harmony. Nilsson is a medium of serendipity, of a time and place that is fleeting but beautiful in the way a snowflake is beautiful , existing briefly under the right conditions, then gone.

Both Showcase bourbon. Lee devoted an entire episode to the spirit, while Magnus highlights it in a brief 5 minute segment, where he creates a cocktail that evokes the smell of opening a beehive in the spring while the bees inside are happily buzzing away. This cocktail was inspired by Magnus recipe, his attempt to capture the essence of a moment in all the aspects of color, sight, smell, and texture into a vibrant and liquid narrative. 

While at my Local Trader Joes, I noticed some peaches on sale, the tagline accompanying said "Last of the season". My recipe is an attempt to celebrate the end of a season, by going back in time to the beginning of the harvest. The finished cocktail brings notes of deep earth and and the budding grassiness of unripe peaches yet to be picked from the tree. For the honey in there, its surprisingly not sweet, because it's balanced by the salt, balsamic, and bitters. It really pulls out the musky smoky earthy notes in the Bourbon . Unripe peaces soaked in balsamic counter the dark bourbon with a bright grassy acidity, which never lets itself be pickled by the bourbon as their firm unripe flesh keeps absorption to a minimum. I added some aloe vera juice because I recently found it had a pleasant herbal sharpness to it - another note of fresh leaves, which acts a much more subdued and controllable tonic water. The pinch of salt to on portion is a nice touch, as every time you put down the glass, a little will randomly fall into the cocktail, changing the flavor as you make your way down the glass, much like the changing seasons ripen a peach. 

Recipe: Roots and Earth

(Note: all items except bourbon were purchased from my local Trader Joes)

-2 ozs Bourbon (I used WIllet pot still Reserve)

-2 tsps Honey 

-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

-1/4 unripe peach (sliced and cross sliced)

-Balsamic Vinegar

-1 oz Aloe Vera juice (pure, not the sweet kind in the green bottles)

-Pinch coarse sea Salt

-Ice

Pour bourbon, spoon in and stir honey until completely dissovled. Add bitters. Take a the 1/4 peach, slice into 4 pieces length wise and score perpendicular along length. We want to expose as much surface area to the balsamic. Take the pieces and lightly smash in your hand. Place peaches in a small bowl and douse with a few dashes of Balsamic Vinegar and let sit for a minute. take one of the soaked peach slices and moisten inner surface of glass and rim. drop in peach slices. Add two ice cubes, stir, top with Aloe Vera juice, garnish one part of edge with pinch of sea salt, to make a small mound. 



On how to present

About once a semester for the Art Center Business Club I give a presentation on how to give a good pitch to fellow design students, and really just how to work around the fear of standing in front of people. The key thing is practice, keep practicing to the point that you can hide that fear with the force of your words and the eagerness of your message. attached is a video link to my slideshow. Please watch and I hope you find it useful. 


Identity, Research, and the Designer

I read a quote from the Artist Anne Truitt, on compassion and what love is. We are judgmental creatures, we are raised in judgement from an early age, always pushed into a mould of normal (you're too fat, you look pretty, you're nerdy, you're athletic) and in turn we start to judge others. It's a shorthand for getting through daily life, we surely don't have the time nor capacity to know the full life story and circumstances of your barista, or the person holding the elevator for you. Yet in many ways we do it to even the ones we consider the closest to us. To our family and loved ones. 

from Designspiration

from Designspiration



"Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery." -Anne Truit


It's in the fullness of being willing to accept a person more than beyond what you like about them/think you know about them, that's the harder task. In our relationships with family and significant others, it's a quick lie to think "they will always be there, they're family," or "they are important to me because they make me happy." It's pulling back the veil of perception and opening oneself to the constant living reality of another soul outside yourself.

Pull away from the lens of ego, and try to see someone for who they really are, warts and all. This is a lesson, that I think needs to be practiced mindfully and daily by myself. 

Design Research

As a designer this is the implicit process we hold ourselves to when we do ethnographic research. This is where we understand the context of the project we're designing for, what are the users' drives, motivations, fears, hopes, how do these myriad, sometimes contradictory facets of a personality come together and factor into the purchase, use, and understanding of a device. The great big WHY.

We are taught to observe and take in the fullness of a persons life, yet we also distill, funnel down the relevant information into a slideshow, a report book, a presentation. Is a design insight a form of judgement? Yes and no. When done poorly and on the surface, it's a statement that neglects the deeper reasons behind an action. it's a direct cause and effect and rings false because few things in life are so. At School, unfortunately some people take on this step with the gravity of a box to be checked off, "have we done research? ok lets start making concepts" without ever questioning if the research was done well. 

Then how does one come to a full and rich insight? I don't have the clear answer yet myself, my theory as of the moment is thus: a carefully threaded design insight can be a snapshot of a person in situ, that gives the audience a glimpse, a vignette of that critical piece of knowledge, wrapped in a sense of place, time, and causality. It's an act of translation, performed with empathy and snap judgement held at bay, and eyes wide open. 

From Designspiration

From Designspiration



Perfect Imperfection, finding the core of meaning in the First Materials for a new Material Age

Why is it when we look at leather, and wood, and metal, they have a characteristic common to all of them. they have a character that grows and ages with time

In our even more connected world, there's a resurgence of the craft and natural, in an age where value in life is becoming ethereal in data, we hold onto these crafted items, made individually by hand, who have value in the effort in them. But why do we value them? 

This goes back even as far as the dawn of the Industrial Age, with John Ruskin's view on art and nature, and his influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement

The discussion between manufactured and artisan has always been one of dichotomy, Mass production has led to consistency of a product. The same experience of a pair of plastic handled scissors is the same all across the world , the same ergonomics, tolerances,  and use. But there is no soul, compared to the individual character that one's favorite leather bag takes on, or the way a tool handle burnishes and ages, there's an extra layer of meaning that grows because of the materiality of the natural material.

With the advent of new materials and manufacturing processes, I believe there is an opportunity to again experiment and fuse the laws of the natural world, with those of our modern manufacturing processes. Bio plastics and naturally sourced resins are new exciting sources. The proliferation of inexpensive connected sensors will add a new layer of meaning and redefinition of materials from passive to reactive

This writing will explore design guidelines that I've observed in working with natural materials, which may help guide and point ways forward in this new hybrid materiality:

 

Perfect Imperfection

Think of a piece of leather, or tree bark. No two areas are the same but they are bound by a regularity, that of the mathematics and principles of nature, the golden ratio, fractals, hierarchical molecular structures. Yet we think none of those things, we instinctively find beauty in them. 

In the study of music, researchers discovered it's the tiny minor variations in music performed live that brings the pleasure to the listener. Milliseconds of variance from the perfect tempo, that striving for perfection, is what people appreciate. The British Tech DJ BT brought this to life in his manually input beat tracks. where does this pleasure come from?

Sight_full_size_landscape.jpg

 

The human sensory system is a complicated and massive data input machine. The retina is able to input 10 million bits of information per second. In to keep us from being overwhelmed, only the most important information], one tiny fraction is funneled and brought from the subconscious into our conscious minds. 

Perhaps appreciation for the complexity and algorithmic beauty of natural materials is processed by the subconscious mind.

There have been attempts to bring in natural irregularity into the manufacturing process, and they are worthy in the attempt. Take for example the Egg vase by Mooi

from Marcel Wanders

from Marcel Wanders


Though we consciously appreciate the effort and philosophy, The mathematics of it, is too plain on the surface to be appreciated subconsciously. These rules are complex and subtle.

but I think more opportunities will rise with the further exploration of data visualization techniques. These attempt to pull out or mimic the core algorithms of nature, and succeed in reinterpreting it. 

Design firm nonobject's provocative concept , "rawphisticated phone" is asking similar questions about the meaning of surface in interfaces

from FastCompany

from FastCompany


Imagine a texture for a cloth material, based on your sleep patterns for the past two yeras, what would that look like? There would be a pattern, but not wholly obvious.

"Nature follows underlying laws of pattern and algorithm , and so new materials must be based on similar laws that are just as complex and subtle"

To repeat the theme, but not clone it outright from piece to piece, I think is the general idea.


Intentional transformation

When we cut and form that raw piece of wood, or tan that piece of raw leather, we do something to it, we bring it under our own power and expose and highlight a certain element. When we tan a piece of buffalo hide, we accentuate it marbling and pebbling, when a piece of rare wood is cut with the grain, we see the sensual patterning, and find delight in an unexpected whorl or twist to that grain pattern.

Walnut-460.jpg


I think here, the idea of perfect imperfection applies, to the processes of making by hand. Every stitch of a well made bag, is regular because of the machine, but made ever so slightly irregular due to the skill of the seamstress. But again, the irregularity is not overtly or consciously noted, if we did see a missed stitch, we would want a refund. The appreciation here again comes from the that almost perfect execution that we subconsciously filter. 

"There is a quality of human effort that nears perfection that is enjoyable aesthetically"



Aging and Character

 

Take for example, this bag from the Superior labor, Over time, the straps will patina and brown, especially with the handle, the painted edges will get scuffed and dog eared, and the tone of the canvas will weather with the sun. The way it ages, is honest and clear

The mass manufactured objects we use today do not have that same quality of permeability and sensibility of aging. When we scratch the corner of our phone, the scratch is bare and rough. In contrast. when we scuff the corner of a piece of leather, it too becomes marred, but it heals itself over time, absorbing the imperfection and making it part of its overall character. 

"Absorb imperfections put on through use and the environment and make it part of it's character"

LG has done something interesting in it's flex phone, with its self healing backing, but I think something can be pushed further to not only heal, but to leave a trace of character behind. 

LG-G-Flex-Self-healing-coating.png


One possible way is to question gloss coatings. they are the landmark of new and shiny and pretty and industrially mass produced, but they also are the most vulnerable surface, one scratch ruins the effect. 


The Quality of life

 

I think these base materials, like wood and leather , and to a degree metals have not only a heritage of being the first materials, but they have the quality of having come from life and the earth. The perceived number of steps from raw material to applied use is are fewer and more directly understood. They were once living, harvested, cut, and treated and now to be put to useful purpose. The material isn't abstracted too far from the original source, A piece of walnut furniture will retain the qualities of color, density, and grain, as the original. Its the quality of maintaining the essence of life from that original state, that gives us the adjectives we apply to these materials. Wood is warm, leather is luxurious and supple, metal is earthy and dense. 

(This explains why some sustainable products hit it too literally on the nose by making things out of bamboo. It's not a critique on sustainable)

Plastics and petroleum based products don't have the same perceived value, they are extracted from the earth, forcefully and to our knowledge at the detriment to the environment. They undergo unknowable processes and chemical transitions, to finally turn into a pelleted form which is melted into whatever purpose we desire. So many unknowable steps that the material is alien, cold, disconnected from its source.

Take it even a step further. I know I fantasize, but imagine genetic engineering that could have plants actually grow base bioplastic pellets. It would have many fewer steps, and we can imagine these pellets harvested and then purified and sorted in a handful of steps (like grain). A crop of polymers, the analogy would hold. 

It's an issue of message and framework. Currently, Bio derived polymers from plants are an exciting new direction, but they are just a material source switch, the way we manufacture, use, and dispose of them still exists in a broken system that is unsustainable. Bioplastics are great on the front end, but if we still put them in the landfill, we are hitting a dead end.  

 

These are just musings I've had for a while on materials and what they mean to me. I'll write more as they come. Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Please let me know below. 

 

 

 

Atopia Chronicles: How Good Sci Fi gets you thinking, about well....Everything

Topics:

This is a very old post that I wrote a year ago, (Yikes!) that I never ended up posting. It mainly dealt with what I saw interesting happening with human interactions with technology. I drew some parallels to a science fiction book that I had just finished, Atopia Chronicles, that envisioned seamless human interfaces with technology that altered sense and perception. Since I'm currently taking an interface class at Art Center, I thought to put this up, better late than never

Augmented reality

Yelp's Monocle feature still gives me a kick when I turn it on and can pan 360 degrees and see whats around me to eat. A more interesting AR experience is with the Wikitude app for IOS. I live in nestled in a the valley of a mountain range, where a wide network of hiking trails courses through the spines and sides of the mountains surrounding me. Wikitude has a channel for geotagged images. I turned it on, and panned around, I was surrounded by data ghosts.

It's fascinating, that simple innocuous feature let me see snippets of peoples previous experiences, hikes, what they tweeted, the picture they took. I learned a high school church group climbed up the side of the mountain 500 meters away, 6 months ago, and that  it was sunny. A couple stopped by the riverbed 150 meters away and snapped photos standing on the large boulders that deposited themselves there.  each a unique experience, each I would have never known, but the data is forever tied to that spot, a memory forever etched into the digital world, and existing transient in the real world. accessible through the looking glass of my smartphone. Now that I'm aware, I'll make sure any of my images arent geotagged. to me it feels like digital littering. 

Another interesting example of the digital interfacing with the real world is Microsoft's illumiroom concept. It can scan the depth and surfaces of your "tv" area, and create dynamic and immersive effects with it. Imagine a video game where the force of an explosion ripples through your room. 

ex: Microsoft's Illumiroom concept:

Atopia:

Another aspect of the Seamless tech future of Atopia Chronicles are the PSSI kids. They were integrated with neural interface systems from birth, because of their use of technology at an early age, they are capable of "splintering" their consciousness in varying degrees. For example, one could have a minor part of your mind searching the web for spaghetti recipes, while another part of you can have a projected hologram giving a lecture halfway across the world simultaneously, in effect, the ultimate multi-tasking experience. They can also use Virtual "phantom" limbs and senses that are tied into their neural network, so you can become an awesome surfer by having the water become like your own skin. 

real life:

With the incalculable torrent of data around us, we've created our own phantom limbs to filter massive amounts of data. There's the rise of meta-data sites, like NOTCOT.org or TheAwesomer.com that cull the best from the noise. With so much data, we cant possibly scour. At the same time, marketing algorithms to personalize what we like on video sites, e-retail are learning what we like, are giving us more of what we like under the term "related content"  

hen we wait in line, it's automatic to log onto Facebook and "exist" there while our bodies are queud up waiting to order. Think about it, when is the last time you've looked at your surroundings while waiting in a line? If the wait is longer than one minute, how often do you instinctively check your status. 

Just on the horizon, we have an experiment with augmenting to retraining our senses, eerily similar to what was presented in the novel. Fast Company highlights an experiment to make your tongue an input extension for data, a strip placed on the tongue could provide an electric signal that the tongue can feel and eventually learn differences in signals. the writer posits being able to "feel out free wifi"

Plugged into weighted piezo whiskers, a user can sense orientation, wind, and the lightest touch. Through tongueduino, we hope to bring electro-tactile sensory substitution beyond vision replacement, towards open-ended sensory augmentation.

My Father's Hands

I remember when I was a young child of around 5 or 6, I was fascinated by my father's hands. He was 27-28 at the time, but age didnt hold much context or relevance to me, just the fact he was older, and that I could see it in his hands. The veins were bulging and winding under the skin like rivers, almost backtracking their course in their paths. His tendons were thick and ropy when he used them, knuckles taught and knobby, hands ashen and dry from hard work. He worked many odd jobs when we were younger in Australia: construction worker, courier, early shift baker (which meant lots of a palm heart pastries for breakfast from the day olds bag he'd bring back) .

Dirty Working Hands

Photo by Daniel Y. Goat Flickr

I only learned recently all the odd jobs and manual labor he did to support the family when I was little. When I was kid there was something magical about the detail and texture of his hands, how different they looked from my own small fresh young hands, skin pink and soft. I think I knew on some unconscious level something had changed them deeply to make them look that way.

My Hands

I've been At Art Center College of Design for three terms now, a year to the day. 

My hands have experienced a lot, some of it for the worse. Barehanding acetone, burning myself, cutting myself, covered in grease, grime, epoxy. The ache in my hands from 18 hours of sanding, drilling, and cutting, and only 2 hours of sleep. Some of it was for the better. overcoming my conscious block and finally remembering how to draw without hesitation like a kid. The automatic turn of the pencil to keep the tip needle sharp. the glass smooth finish to a piece perfectly sanded down. Although they probably will never match the sheer degree of roughness that my younger fathers' and blue collar lifers, they now have stories to tell. 

A design education is unique in that its just as much physical training as it is mental. I can tell if something is out of perspective, I can intuit flat spots on a surface by running my hands over it. If a glue joint is sound by flexing and torsioning it ever so slightly. Oh, and you can't forget the sanding, the endless hours and epochs wax-on-wax-off zen like quality to sanding, 

My hands used to be constantly sweaty, a combination of physiological and psychological. I used to be a nervous guy, always overthinking social situations, nervous around new people, they'd get clammy and I'd have to wipe my palms just before I shook someones hand, lest they meet my own special "clammy salmon" shake. I'm not so nervous, the constant stream of Decide and Do has burnt away the excess, the overthinking. Also the chemicals have probably done their fair share of burning away my sweat glands - This is the first time in my life I've had to use hand lotion. (another aside - the callouses on the tips of my fingers intermittently result in dead taps on touchscreens)

I see the similarity to my fathers hands, the knowledge imparted to them through work and trial, though the veins aren't quite a warped or pulsing, the skin not quite as rough or scarred, they do hold their own kind of magic to them, their own history.

Hello World

This shall serve as the whetstone, the furnace and the bellows from which my ideas and voice will be forged, honed, sharpened. Topics will vary from daily musings, casual cultural observations, to more focused thinking about topics in my career and development as an industrial designer. 

It's going to be rough, and more or less suck at the outset, but the goal over time is to suck less. To re-appropriate what Dave Grohl says of Musicians:

".....Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old f*cking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f*cking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some sh*tty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass sh*t, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again!"

David Grohl on the American Idol