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Food

The Uncommon Life

Instagram Challenge: FARMERS MARKETS

July 8, 2015

market_square

The next Instagram Challenge theme is FARMERS MARKETS. With summer’s long awaited return comes the opening season for our favorite local outdoor markets. The trucks roll in – laden with delicious fruits and vegetables in radiant colors and intriguing shapes – the stands come up, and that sweet, farm-fresh smell fills the air. Whether it’s melon or strawberries, asparagus or eggplant, goat cheese or maple syrup, we want to see what locally sourced goodness is making its way to your table this summer. While sharing your best shots, be sure to use the hashtag #UGInstafun for a chance to win a $50 gift card. Visit here to see the entries we’ve received so far.

 

Congratulations to @2stixobutter for topping off our Summertime Instagram Challenge with this great shot of kayaks docked along the water!

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Trust Your Gut?

July 1, 2015

http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/molecular-gastronomy-kit-cuisine?utm_medium=social+networks&utm_source=twitter
Considering the fact that it’s connected to your brain by a nerve that handles all things “anxious feelings,” yeah. The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve,” has multiple branches that go from the brain’s cerebellum, lightly touches your heart, then finds it final destination at the lowest part of your abdomen—those gut feelings you get about a bad date or that questionable job offer. The vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the body’s organs to your brain, meaning gut instincts are literally emotional intuitions that are transferred up to your brain—jury’s still out on what happens when you have a bad feeling about something AND indigestion. That might call for a sick day.

Molecular Gastronomy Kit – Cuisine |$49.00 – 65.00

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Potato, Potahto, & Two More Potatoes (All Seasoned Differently!)

May 22, 2015

Louise Geller | UncommonGoods

 

Product: Potato Seasoning Set and Potato People

Research:
There is nothing more ubiquitous than the potato when it comes to filling the role of “starch” on a U.S. dinner plate. In fact, the average American eats over 140 pounds of potatoes per year! And yet, despite a centuries-old national love affair with potatoes, our most popular side dish often gets a bad rap, because so many of our 140+ pounds each come to us fried in oil, coated in preservatives, and slathered in fatty or sugary condiments. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When eaten with a more simple preparation (and with the skins left on!) potatoes are a great source of Vitamins C and B6, Potassium, Fiber, and Iron, and the complex carbohydrates are great for keeping your energy up.

I am a firm believer that food is at its most truly delicious when it is prepared simply and healthfully, so when I saw Julie Pederson’s Potato Seasoning Set I was immediately excited to take it for a test ride. Julie Pederson is wonderful at creating food and drink kits to help you explore new flavors and combinations, from herbal tea to baking salts. Since there are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes grown, and the kit has 12 different seasoning mixes, there are seemingly endless ways to play, create, and EAT! Who could resist?

Since I was already going to be playing with potatoes, I also wanted to try out our Potato People, a super fun set of potato nails that use the natural heat conducting power of metal to help potatoes cook faster on the grill or in the oven, and look hilarious while they are doing it.

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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Steve Reid and Judith Irving

April 30, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Steve Reid and Judith Irving, creators of our delectable Caramel Sauce Set.

Steve Reid and Judith Irving | Caramel Sauce Sets | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be makers?
Fat Toad Farm started out as an experiment in homesteading. As a family, we wanted to see how self-sufficient we could be. We began this adventure with some chickens, a garden, and hand-milking a lovely French Alpine doe named Jupiter in our garage. We slowly started to produce more milk than we could use as a family. At that point, my daughter Josey returned home from a five year stay in Mexico. She told us about a Mexican confection called “cajeta” (traditional name for goat’s milk caramel) that she said was very popular all over Mexico and that she had learned how to make. We made some small batches of it on our kitchen stove and it really was quite delicious! We gave some to our friends and family and it was a big hit. We soon realized that we had a really unique and delicious product on our hands and decided to take our “hobby” to the next level. Fast forward eight years and we are now milking 60 goats in a modern milking parlor, making our goat’s milk caramel sauce in our own commercial kitchen, and selling it to over 300 specialty food stores throughout the United States.

What was the most exciting thing about starting your own business?
We have always been excited and grateful to be able to working from our home, on our own farm, using our neighborhood land and working as a family. After years and years of “working out,” this has been a rare privilege. Being able to make decisions and seeing them being implemented from beginning until the end is also very exciting, and sometimes nerve wracking. The ability to make changes and improvements to our business rests solely on our shoulders which can be quite overwhelming and empowering at the same time.

What does your typical day at work look like?
On any given day you will catch Steve or Colene milking the goats early in the morning (6:00) and me [Judith] doing chores. Jenny and either Calley or Christine arrive at 7 to the caramel room Monday through Friday, to start the caramel production process. Jenny stays in there meticulously hand-stirring our velvety caramel sauce for about five hours in traditional copper kettles.

After morning chores are complete, you’ll find me printing off orders and labels at my computer and then preparing the days shipments from our “shipping center” at the back of our small farm store. Inside the farmhouse, Calley and Christine will be at the kitchen table, computers revved up, developing new marketing materials, products, and flavors, and generating all of our social media.

Midday, I do chores again, the caramel finishing team starts “bottling” the caramel until 3, I often do farm tours or handle basic financial work. By 4, the milking and chore team are back at it, the caramel team is done and wrapping up their administrative work. By 7 p.m., milking is done, the chickens are put to bed, the 2 baby goats that get bottles have been fed and everyone is off to whatever it is they are doing that evening to wind down. (Check out the video below to see everyone in action.)

 

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Walking around the farm you’ll see different kinds of toad figurines of all different colors, shapes, and sizes. In the beginning, when we were trying to think of a name for the farm, we had been walking through our fields and we kept finding these fat, healthy toads hopping as we walked along. Toads are a sign of a healthy ecosystem and fertile lands which we took as a good omen. That is when we became Fat Toad Farm. I think having real toads present as well as little trinkets, helps us remember how we started and how far we have come.

Caramel Corn Made with Fat Toad Farms Caramel

What are some of the things you’ve heard people say upon tasting your caramel creations for the first time?
“Oh my goodness!”
“I could just eat this straight out of the jar with a spoon.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my husband.”
“I’m going to have to hide this from my wife.”
“This has no calories, right?”
“Mmmmmmmmmmm. Just one more taste…”
“Sweet, but not too sweet. Just right!”
“You can really taste the goat’s milk!”
“This is lick-the-spoon good.”

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can get through today.” Surprisingly, we heard the quote on NPR and we all initially just laughed. Once we really thought about it though, it stuck with us. Here on the farm, things can get pretty hard but we have realized you just have to find the light and continue to work towards it.

Caramel Sauce | UncommonGoods

Bring this Caramel Home!

Maker Stories

Kendyll Hillegas’ Food for Thought

March 31, 2015

In the grip of the snowiest winter on record for the Boston area, Kendyll Hillegas was illustrating a pink, soft serve ice cream cone in her Quincy, MA studio.

Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods

As an exercise of pure optimism, her subject makes sense: summer is just around the corner, despite the brutal, lingering winter endured by much of the country. But the singular delight of a popsicle in any season is just one of Kendyll’s creative obsessions. She lavishes equal aesthetic appreciation on herbs, fruits and vegetables, and baked goods—especially pie.

The Last Slice | Kendyll Hillegas

Much of her work celebrates the multi-sensory experience of food, from the simple comfort of golden, buttered toast to the elaborate artificiality of multicolored candy machines. Each of these portrait-like images is an exploration of subtle color and texture, but through these details also conveys a sense of taste, aroma, and even memory. For example, commenting on “Ice Pops,” one of her exclusive pieces for UncommonGoods, Kendyll invokes a time and place much warmer than snowbound Boston:

“I was inspired by childhood memories of warm afternoons spent playing in the sprinklers. After getting thoroughly wet, we’d sit in the sun in our swimsuits, drying off and eating ice pops. Growing up in Southern California, many childhood food memories have frozen treats in them…this is definitely a favorite.”

Ice Pops by Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods
Ice Pops | UncommonGoods

Like many artists, Kendyll strives for a more universal connection through her work, one that transcends her personal associations and speaks to something in others’ experience. When asked how she hopes people react when they receive her work, she invokes that universal connection:

“My hope is that the work that I make—while inspired and informed by my own narrative—would connect people with particular memories, moments and feelings of their own. Whether it’s nostalgia, wistfulness, laughter, or longing, it never ceases to amaze me how varied and powerful people’s responses can be to images of food.”

Kendyll's materials

It may not be a revelation that food brings people together, but Kendyll’s dedication to it goes beyond familiar foodie clichés. Take her love affair with pie: it began at 15, when she and a friend tested the “5 second rule” by eating the last remaining slice of pumpkin pie that had tragically fallen on the kitchen floor. The incident elevated pie to a symbol of friendship, silly spontaneity, and determination for the artist, who has been on an epic quest to make the perfect pie ever since—whether through colored pencil and gouache, or through flaky crust and sweet filling.

The Last Slice | Pie Painting by Kendyll Hillegas | UncommonGoods

Going forward, Kendyll says she’s interested in creating images of people eating together and sharing meals, in addition to continuing her studies of food itself as a subject. Her aspiration is to stay connected with her growing portfolio of food work while simultaneously remaining open to approaching new subjects and trying new techniques.

See Kendy'll Collection!