Let’s face it, we’ve all been making, or trying to make, a lot of bread. In San Francisco they are taping sourdough starter to street poles. No lie. This apocalypse looks different to us in so many ways but never did we think baking would be at the epicenter of a lockdown. Enter the Balmuda Toaster or oven or steamer. Yeah, we’re not sure either but it definitely makes you look amazing when toasting up a slice of that aforementioned sourdough. Brass tacks, this Japanese designed feat-of-engineering has possibly taken our most mundane cooking task and up-leveled it with some NASA grade innovation. A water port allows you to fill a steam reservoir inside the toaster’s Ferrari grade heater core. This steam cloud envelops your bread allowing a faster, crisp without drying out. Now that the moisture is sealed in your slice, the steam dissipates and the heat fires up a second time. This result is a pillowy soft inside with a crisp, golden, toasted bark of tasty. Need more. Gen Terao, the CEO, built in several other settings for bread baking and high heat if you want to go full oven. A simple knob with pictures of bread styles leaves little room for error, unlike your sourdough process. With a black or white option it will compliment any kitchen and frankly out shine anything else in it including you. Save up your shekels though, performance and beauty like this come at a cost. We hope you are getting great at baking because you might not be able to afford store bought bread for a while after Balmuda ownership. Don’t sweat it, we think we’re spending 2020 at home anyway.
All Gear Stuff
Right about now you might be thinking of fleeing the city and hunkering down in the wilderness to escape this pandemic or those who just don’t comprehend “social distancing” and in turn, are jeopardizing all humanity. We understand. The city, yours and ours, feels a bit eerie and tense these days albeit less dramatic than my previous statement evoked. Interestingly enough, before COVID-19 showed up we here at FTHQ started to research the overlanding trend. In short, overlanding is rigged AF car camping usually done with an aftermarket kitted out 4X4. Through this investigation, and frankly awe with some of the tweaks enthusiasts make, we discovered the Nomad Kitchen Company. This pop-in-pop-out kitchen is just what you need to gourmet yourself while waiting out the virus. Or, dare we say vacation in the wilderness. There will be a day this scare has subsided and “camping” will be a recreational activity, not an isolation tactic. We’ve been backcountry fans for decades and have our share of lightweight gourmet cooking kits. For years a quick setup, quick cleanup at camp has been a tricky maneuver. Even with three decades of innovations perfecting our pack kitchen, there’s room for improvement. That’s one reason Overlanding is so appealing. The Nomad Kitchen has all the specs of a quick set up, fully functioning, quick clean up kitchen. Best part, you can drop it in the back of your G-Wagon as easily as your Tacoma. A 10-second deployment sets you up with a sink, prep area, and stovetop so you can get to your mise en place tout suite. Complete with locking slides that can hold up to 200lbs you’ll not only have a solid extension kitchen but you can apply that extra force when carving your bone-in ribeye. At the time we wrote this they have 35 days left on their crowdfunding campaign. Shipping this summer. So, yeah, we hope that is post-pandemic but look at it this way, you’ll not only have a new gadget for vacation this year but be extra prepared for the new normal of our world. That isn’t meant to be doomsday talk. It is meant to be positive. We will leave our houses again soon and enjoy our lives as we used too just with some new precautions and a little more preparedness than before. This kitchen makes that all the more comfortable.
It’s not news to anyone that the hospitality industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 threat. The shutdown mandate for the industry has been in effect for three weeks now and writing about food seems a bit insensitive and frankly less meaningful, although, a mindless escape from the morbid 24 hour news cycle we’re captured in is a welcome reprieve.
What’s incredible to us is how the hospitality industry is reacting. Down and out (for the time being) many have funds to help their employees while others are still cooking to help frontline workers stay nourished and healthy. It’s these selfless pivots that have us most impressed (humbled and optimistic). Hedley & Bennett, the apron makers, launched the Wake Up & Fight mask effort this week and besides impressing us gave us an amazing way to help our frontline workers be more protected. They have innovated by turning their apron factory into a protective mask operation to aid in the worldwide shortage in personal protection equipment (PPE).
Pulling from the get one give one model, each purchase allows a mask to be made for frontline essential workers. It’s a triple collab between HEPA filter maker Think Crucial, Dr. Robert Cho, Chief of Staff of Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena, CA and them. Their apron material is used to sew a mask with an inside pocket for a replaceable HEPA filter. It’s important to note that this doesn’t replace an N95 respirator in effectiveness but the CDC says the point of a mask is not to protect you from inhaling the virus but to stop the spread of it, especially if you are asymptomatic. Frontline workers need PPE because they are face-to-face with live, confirmed, symptomatic patients all day long. Heros in other words. In such a critical moment in history this selfless, in it together humanity will be rewarded not just those who spearhead these efforts but all of us worldwide. You can purchase masks from their website or send a bulk order inquiry if you are so inclined to help at scale.
We’ve always been big fans of eating at home. So much so we often recreate our favorite restaurant meals in our home kitchen with fairly good accuracy. The favorite is a solid, full spread, Peter Lugar’s recreation that we get super pumped about, but we digress. Equal Parts is a new cookware company aimed at helping us eat, and cook, more in our kitchens. To aid in this increasingly difficult behavior, considering the ease of food delivery these days, every purchase includes a coach. The coach is accessed through a text chat provided when you receive your products. They dub it “Your friend in the kitchen” which we love because friends who know how to cook are some of the best. Starting up is pretty easy. A simple chef knife runs you $80 with “your friend coach”. You can then work your way up to an entire 20 piece kitchen set. Interesting side note, Equal Parts was a design agency called Gin Lane just a few short months ago. They gave up their clients to focus full time on birthing their own DTC products and brands. A huge move, and that’s coming from an agency owning veteran. With that news, you’re probably wondering what a former design agency knows about making cookware. Apparently a lot. Not surprising they lead with design and decided to shroud their cookware in a sleek matte black. This covers the aluminum and ceramic core. Ceramic instead of Teflon keeps the toxicity at bay while letting the eggs slide away. The aluminum makes for a lighter, and faster to heat, base with the same cooking quality as steel. They finished off each piece with a comfort forward handle and universal lids. We LOVE universal lids. They are by far the hardest thing to store in a kitchen. Less of them means a more organized pan draw. We likey. Enamored with the service we’re anxious to try this first hand. No NYC pop-up store yet so we started with a chef’s knife. We’ll report back on the experience here and on our Insta. Needless to say, we have high hopes.
It’s safe to say coffee culture is a habit rivaling the crack epidemic of the 90’s. A harsh but not accidental comparison. We dubbed it “New Joe City”. Playing the finest supply and demand game, The Barisieur Brewing Alarm Clock wakes you up with a beep and an olfactory, pavlovian trigger known as warm caffeine. Disguised in a gorgeous and meticulously crafted wood exoskeleton, a series of modern electronics and intricate micro-plumbing converge to deliver a morning kickstart like none other. Originally a crowdfunding idea by designer Joshua Renouf, this alarm clock concept launched his design company Barisieur. In his words, the studio is a brand driven by design, experience and exceptional quality. Currently the coffee clock is the companies only product but we’d guess they have other lines in the works. A toothbrush that makes you a breakfast burrito OR a wind-proof umbrella that calls you an uber would be a nice next move. Just sayin’.
For years hydroponics has carried a stigma associated with your sophomore roommate’s
cannabis closet experiment. On the contrary, hydroponics have been in play with far more practical benefits for some time. Ever have a juicy, red tomato in January? Yeah, that’s most likely the hydroponics. The Monsanto issues aside, Futurefarms Spacepot Hydroponic Grow System brings the benefits of nutrient rich water growing science to your kitchen countertop. The beautiful, sleek system boasts the ability for a simple three step path to delicious, hearty plants in just 5 weeks. The crew is a collaboration of scientists, creators and makers in California who are on a mission to bring hydroponics into our homes to improve our well-being and lifestyle. In our case that’s perpetuating the Italian-American stereotype with fresh basil all winter long. And hey, your college roommate might actually get another swing at the bat this time as a culinary herb dealer.
So you’re hungry and want tacos for dinner, huh? In the great, ancient tradition of hungry-people-eating-food-they-want-to-eat-in-order-to-become-less-hungry, you’ve got a few go-to options: go out, order in, or even cook to get what you so desire. The only problem? Those options require effort. Be honest with yourself: do you really feel like putting in that kind of work? Especially when eating tacos is supposed to be one of the most effortless culinary experiences of all time. But what’s a hungry taco lover to do? What about ‘no pain, no gain,’ you wonder? The answer is in this revolutionary, (practically) effortless alternative to your average, everyday taco-procurement strategies. We’re talking about the “You Better Have Tacos” doormat, and we urge you to lay that bad boy outside your door and wait for the cha-ching, cha-ching — I mean crinkle, crinkle — of an endless supply our fave member of the no-utensil food group, brought to you by your friends, neighbors, and anyone else who should pass through your threshold. It’s so simple, you may weep. So convenient, you may never leave your place again. So foolproof…well we think that it maybe, probably, most likely will work. But if for whatever reason it doesn’t, well then at at least you’ve got a good place to wipe off your shoes — you know, in case you gotta go out for tacos in the rain.
You may think that here at FTHQ, we’re partial to utensils of the four-pronged variety, but we generally appreciate any and all cutlery that helps us deliver food into our perpetually hungry mouths. And although we’ve been known to nearly jump up-and-down in excitement about all kinds of eating instruments — knives, salad tongs, corn-on-the-cob holders, you name it — it’s been a while since tableware has gotten us as excited as these 100% edible and biodegradable utensils from Bakeys. With funding from a successful Kickstarter campaign and an aim to provide a viable alternative to the billions of plastic utensils thrown into landfills every year, Bakeys Edible Cutlery has it covered when it comes to usability and sustainability. Turns out sorghum, an environmentally-friendly crop you may have never heard of, seems to be the magic ingredient. Not only does sorghum allow Bakeys to produce 100 edible spoons with the same energy required to make a single plastic one, it also prevents the utensils from degrading in liquids — a particularly important fact for the environmentally-conscious ice cream enthusiasts among us.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream made with the Soft Shell Ice Cream Ball, a product from YayLabs!. It combines two of our favorite summer pastimes, ice cream and ball games. Pleasing to both artisanal ice cream aficionados and more casual ice cream enthusiasts alike, the Soft Shell Ice Cream Ball embodies the highbrow/lowbrow dichotomy in a way that only a homemade ice cream maker that looks like your average, everyday kickball could. Fight the been-there-done-that end-of-summer slump by bringing it on all of your adventures and shaking, tossing, rolling it until you get the smooth and creamy ice cream you had previously been too intimidated to make on your own (and it only takes 20 to 30 minutes!). We urge you to proceed with caution, however — you don’t want anyone mistaking your next batch of strawberry-blueberry ice cream for their next dodgeball weapon.
When it comes to “the best thing since sliced bread” conversation, we feel that grilled cheese is, if not the top contender, then at least one of the leading contestants for that most honorable of culinary titles. After all, what’s more ubiquitous, versatile, and universally enjoyable than a piece of melted cheese sandwiched between two pieces of perfectly toasted (and perhaps pre-sliced) bread? We’ll leave it for you to decide, but one thing’s for sure, grilled cheese just got a whole lot better thanks to Boska, a Dutch company that has been specializing in the cheese tool industry for more than a century (or, in other words, for way longer than you’ve been dunking cheesy triangle wedges into bowls of tomato soup). As if creating a delicious grilled cheese sandwich wasn’t already simple enough, Boska has made it even easier with reusable “toastabags” that provide a no-mess way for you to make grilled cheese using only a toaster. All you have to do is choose your ingredients, put them in a toastabag, pop the whole thing into your toaster, and wait for cheesy toasted perfection to arrive. Who knows, one bite, and you may decide that the toastabag has edged its way in as your pick for the best thing since sliced bread.
The Star Spangled Spatula immediately reminds you of why we flip grilled meat over flare licking heat in early July. The walnut handle and stainless prong makes you feel like a patriotic colonist armed with a state of the art weapon ready to battle, and win, the fiery grill revolution. No joke, the thing is build tough. Jacob Riley-Wasserman, the designer, was a top honored RISD student and knew his way around function and fashion. This ingenious tool unfortunately reminds us of something else far less celebratory. Jacob passed from cancer this year after what seemed to be a long fight with the disease. Always looking for the upside, as was Jacob from what I can gather, he started Flip4Cancer which donates some of the spatula proceeds to fight cancer. Talk about a legacy. Own one of these and remember the designer every time you flip a burger, fight cancer with every grill day this summer and humbly honor our country, land of the American dream, while it hangs holstered off the side of your barbecue.
My dad was an auto mechanic for 20 years. After that he became a self taught electrical engineer. It’s safe to assume tools and their boxes were a big part of my childhood. To date I have at least 10 different toolboxes. One for electrical, one for plumbing, one for cars, one for the house. The list goes on. The appeal of the BBQ Toolbox is therefore obvious but instead of this container synonymous with work, it’s a beacon for play. Flipping out like an old school True Value gem, the trademark red box reveals two grilling surfaces and a place for your prized sauces and critical grill tools. Summer music festivals are about to get “worked”.
Considering the run up to this weekend, we continue with the grill gadget prep and the Relic Portable Brick Oven. Clocking in at $1100 and 3000 degrees fahrenheit, this one might have to get through the wife before it makes it to your deck. If it flies, you just turned your $60 standard grill into a Napoleotano’s birth right. Aside from the pizzas you could make in this cast iron turtle shell think about the meats. Cherry wood infused poultry. Walnut wood ribeyes. We’re drooling just typing those combos. Don’t forget about the vegetable ramifications. Wood fired asparagus, corn and even tomatoes might just have appeal to your better half enough to elicit a “yes”.
Sometimes it rains on Memorial Day weekend. Sometimes it rains most of the summer. This is mother natures way of blessing the earth and replenishing life but it does deprive you from your weekly summer grilling rituals. If this summer turns soggy the Otto O.F.B. Steak Griller is your backup QB (Quick Burner). Fashioned after the commercial kitchen mainstay, the salamander, this broiler uses radiant heat to crisp up any protein to that perfect grill kissed aesthetic and texture. Pair this with a sous vide machine and you might ditch the grill all together.
There’s nothing more satisfying than that first time you fire up the grill each year. In prelude to the Memorial Day ritual most of us restock our grill gadget arsenal with mostly unnecessary but highly pleasurable new toys. The SteakChamp might not actually fall into that category because of it’s incredibly functional tech. A simple set of colored LED’s flash green for rare, yellow for medium and red for well to indicate that illusive inner doneness. No, it does not talk to your phone but part of the grill experience is hanging out and tending to it. We’ve field tested this one and the thermometer is dead on. As soon as we get a flashing green we know we have a perfectly done medium rare cut. Now you just have to convince your butcher to cut you that 3 inch porterhouse.
When I first saw these I was mesmerized. The curves, the way they stack, the pure color, all of it transfixing my eyes even without food on the plates. Compostable, bamboo pulp and inexpensive are not the next words I expected to hear out of Michiyo Tanabe’s mouth when we chatted in her booth at the NY Gift Show. Aside from the unique aesthetics Wasara’s process is extremely refined and…well, good. Bamboo grows extremely fast, meaning it needs to be cut back often. That’s recycle #1. They also use bagasse, a by-product of making sugarcane juice. Most of the 100 million tons is discarded as waste. Michiyo and team uses some of this to soften the bamboo. That’s recycle #2. Finally, because it’s softer than wood pulp it uses less energy to produce the final product. So, use them to make you feel great about helping the planet or reduce waste or recycle materials. We use them because they are gorgeous.