Friday, February 20, 2015

The Urban Cultivator

When  the kids were young I spent hours in my vegetable garden after work and on the weekends, planting , harvesting then canning.  It would have been great to have a unit like the Urban Cultivator inside to handle the herbs and lettuces all year round.  Instead of buying a whole bunch of kale and throwing out half of it, with this unit you can just take out exactly the amount needed. Very nice.

The Urban Cultivator is an indoor garden appliance that can grow herbs, an assortment  of vegetables, and microgreens.  You have two styles to choose from: a stand alone unit or a built-in unit that fits in the same size area that a dishwasher would fit into.  The unit is plumbed into the water line in much the same way as the dishwasher is, so you don't need to worry about watering the plants.  It fits rather seamlessly into a kitchen design and you have a choice of glass color - clear, half or dark tone and frost. 

Four bins come with the residential unit.  After planting your seeds you then select the correct program.  Lighting and watering is automatic after that.  You will still need to know what plants require more water than others, so you can properly pair the plants up, much like you would in an outdoor garden.

For anyone with a business or a chef/cook that just needs more than the residential unit,  there is a much larger commercial unit.

Stand Alone Unit with butcher block top.

 Happy Gardening.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cooking with Chef Lourdes Castro at KBIS 2015

Mini S'More Cupcakes

Throughout the tradeshow there is a variety of  culinary events providing great food and a moment to rest your feet.  This is Chef Castro whom you may recognize if you saw her on NBC's Today show or  The Talk which is CBS.  She is also the author of 3 cookbooks: Simply Mexican, Eat,Drink,Think in Spanish and Latin Grilling. Loudes' recipes have appeared in the Food & Wine Magazine as well as in the New York times and other papers/magazines. 

At this event she was making Smoked Paprika Crusted Shrimp Skewers and some Mini S'More Cupcakes.  Both were delicious.   See below for the cupcake recipe.

Mini S'More Cupcakes

Makes one double layer cake or 72 mini cupcakes.

1 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 c flour
1 Tbl baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/2 c hot water

4 egg whites
1 c sugar
pinch of salt

12 large Graham crackers finely crushed

Conventional Oven:  Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Grease pans (cake or cupcake ones).

Prepare the cake batter -  Place all cake ingredients in a large bowl, beat on medium speed 2 or 3 min. until batter is smooth and shiny. Pour batter into the pans and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

Prepare the meringue -  Place egg whites, sugar and salt in a work bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water. Stir the egg white mixture until the sugar is dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch, about 4 minutes.  the mixture should be a bit frothy and milky in color.  Remove the bowl and whisk on high speed until egg whites are stiff and glossy about 5 minutes

Assemble and frost - Lightly dab a small amount of water on the top of cakes or cupcakes using pastry brush or crumbled towel.  Sprinkle the graham crackers over the tops. With cupcakes place a dollop of the meringue on top.  then use a kitchen torch to burn the meringue.  For a layer cake you can place some meringue on the top of the bottom layer then put the 2nd layer on top.  Finish by dolloping more of the meringue over the top of the cake. 

They were so good at the show. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tubs Steal the Show at KBIS 2015 - Part 1 - The Aquabrass Story

If you were at KBIS this year, you couldn't help but see the plethora of freestanding tubs displayed with such a sense of flair and style.  It may very well be the year of the tub.

Keeping the tub has always been a kind of dilemma for homeowners when they start to think about remodeling the bathroom.  They often want a bigger shower and find that the tub is in the way.  You can see the distress on their faces.  In my latest bathroom remodel I moved the toilet to the other side of the space which enabled me to separate  the all-in-one shower/tub unit creating one frameless shower enclosure and one bath tub area.  So now the real decision is what type of tub to purchase.  The trend these days is to go with a freestanding tub and make it the center of attention or the focal point.

Let me introduce you to a company called Aquabrass.  Aquabrass is headquartered in Montreal Canada and manufacturers a wide range of bathroom and kitchen fixtures.  Recently they launched a new limited series of hand-painted freestanding tubs known as their Kanvas line.  These  stunning tubs would add an artistic as well as distinctive touch to any bath remodel. 

 These stone resin tubs have a high-resistant glossy white finish and the artwork is protected with lacquer.  They come with a press pop-up drain included as well as a build-in overflow.  They are made to fit into any space so they are not large in size.  They measure 56" at the base, 28" deep measuring from the floor to the highest side ( 25" inside the tub), and 30" wide.  They weigh around 330 lbs and can hold up to 95 gal of water.  The lowest price is around $8,000.00. 

Another concept offered by Aqubrass is the Aquazone.  The Aquazone is a space saving bath and shower unit molded into one separate but equal wet zone.  It this 59" x 59 1/2" space, you have 28.5" allocated for the tub and 28.5" allocated for the shower  with the tub being 18" deep on the inside.  It's made of a solid Lucite acrylic one-piece construction material and comes with 2 wheels and 6 adjustable levelers so one person can roll this in place.  This definitely has a place in homes with small bathrooms.  The panels shown can be used for seating or double as a wall shelves.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Contemporary Hardware of Distinction

Noveau style
 I tell all my clients that "hardware is jewelry" in the kitchen, but it's hard to find a fit when you have a slab door and don't want the bulk of a handle. While there are some beautiful knobs and pulls in oil rubbed bronze, brushed nickel, copper and a variety of other finishes, the sleek look of contemporary and modern is not always available. But at KBIS this year, I found a great hardware solution to this issue.  An American company out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Contemporary Pull, is making a very sophisticated, simple, unique and impressive pull that provides functionality along with a flush mount within the cabinet giving the cabinetry that clean-lined look that people love. Oh, I was so excited when I saw this product.

Color Choices
Eclipse style

This is an industrial grade aluminum metal and you have a choice of six colors: natural, ebony, bronze, Bordeaux, peacock and canary.  Plus the new colors for 2015: gold, modern grey and copper.  If you look at the canary pull in the side picture, you can see how the pull sits into a recess cut in the door where the pull is installed.

There are four style choices at the moment but the possibilities are far greater than that.  You can get the geometric design as a square hole, a round one or you can have interconnecting parts known as "Eclipse" on have the curved lines of the "Noveau" style.

My congratulations to Pamela and Steven the owners of Contemporary Pull for making such a great product. And I think Pamela designed a stunning piece of contemporary hardware.

One other sidebar to this post: this booth gave out the best chocolate at KBIS - Indulgence Chocolatiers.  So good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Design & Construction Week - 2015 Overview

Last month at Design and Construction Week in Las Vegas I saw some fabulous products.  It's so much fun and so productive to go to this event.  It allows me to be aware of the top products on the market as well as the most innovative one.  And I often get to see things in their conceptual stage and not quite ready for the world yet.  It's a whirlwind of an event and my Fitbit showed that I walked around 28,000 steps a day.  There was much to see and so little time to see it.

My Top Five Items of the Show:

Freestanding Tubs:
Bath tubs took center stage this year.  There's always a dilemma for homeowners on whether or not to keep the bathtub. I think that you should have one bathtub in the house because they are very functional for bathing children and for relaxing.  So, the current trend is to make the tub the focal point in the room.  Several hand painted tubs were on display.

Top Zero Seamless Stainless Steel Undermount Sink:

By far one of the best items presented at the show was the seamless undermount sink.  In the US we tend to do undermount sinks in the kitchen where there is a joint between the countertop and the underside and after time junk can stick in that joint area.  But this is a seamless undermount sink. Very sleek. Very clean lined.   I want one of these.

Opti-myst Fireplace:

DCDimplex has a fireplace that's not fueled by gas or wood, but by water.  Using ultrasonic technology, the water creates mist  and in doing so creates the illusion of flames and smoke. Very cool.

Urban City Designs:

Custom stone work that's really only limited by your imagination.
Whether you want to dress up the kitchen with a unique backsplash or add pizazz to the entryway with a tiled dome or a medallion at the center, these tiles will make a statement in any room. And the metal chair you see in the picture was made by them just for the event.  It was very comfortable. I love the chair. They could sell this chair, but it was just a place for the person manning the booth to sit for the event..

Diamon-Fusion Nanotechnology:

This Diamon-Fusion process makes surfaces easier to clean by making them more water and oil repellent.  Think about the shower glass here.  You have a beautiful frameless shower but is susceptible to soap scum and hard water stains.  Well, DFI is a protective coating on the glass that has a barrier against hard water mineral deposits, environmental pollutants and weathering.  They gave me a sample to use on my car window.

There were five big tradeshows/events going on in Vegas during the same week as the Design and Construction Event.  The place was hopping.