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Kitchen

Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio
with Hipatia Lopez

August 12, 2016
Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork | UncommonGoods

Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork in her New Jersey Kitchen

While preparing for a holiday feast, Hipatia Lopez found herself facing 100 empanadas that needed closing. She may have finished the project with sore hands, but it gave her the idea to invent the Empanada Fork, a tool that closes empanadas, turnovers, and pastries in no time.

While many of our Studio Tours give readers a look inside creative spaces of makers of handmade goods, Hipatia’s story is a little different–and must-read for anyone who’s ever thought-up a problem-solving product, but isn’t sure what to do next. Hipatia wasn’t trained as a product designer and didn’t have a line of inventions to her name, but she was motivated. She knew she was on to something, and decided to take the next step and turn her idea into the real deal.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to physically travel to Hipatia’s home in New Jersey to learn about her process, but through phone calls, emails, and snapshots, Hipatia helped me create a virtual tour of her creative space (and kitchen). 

Empanada Fork with Dough | UncommonGoods

The Empanada Fork in action

Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Indoor Grilling Made Easy with the Flipside Stovetop Grill

June 28, 2016

Louise Gift Lab

 

Product:

Flipside Stovetop Grill

Research:

As the Inventory Planner for our Tabletop category, I am usually one of the first to get a sneak peek at the new items being added to our assortment of kitchen and cooking tools. When NéQuana, our tabletop buyer, showed me the Flipside Stovetop Grill, she thankfully noticed when my eyes lit up and offered to let me take it for a spin.
I’m a lifelong New Yorker, which means not only do I not currently have my own outdoor space, I have never had my own outdoor space. I dream of one day having a space to grill outside, but given that that time is still in the future (and that even when it happens, there will still be winters), a grill pan has been on my kitchen wish list for a while. I was particularly drawn to the Flipside Stovetop Grill because it is wide enough to cover two burners, and being able to cook in larger batches is always appealing to me – doing multiple rounds in the same pan is a pain, messy, and the first batch gets cold while subsequent batches are being cooked. When it was pointed out to me that the “Flipside” of the grill pan acts as a griddle, I was sold. It came home with me that very night.

Hypothesis:

MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sarah Grange

May 18, 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 Sarah Grange, the artist behind our new embroidery hoop art collection.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Growing up my parents always encouraged me to be creative and gave me the freedom (and the craft supplies) to do so. Around 8 years old, I decided that when I grew up my best friend and I would open an art studio/veterinary office.  While my life goals have become a little more realistic over the years (i.e. I’m probably not going to veterinary school anytime soon/ever), I’m basically that same girl.  I’m still dreaming/working towards that goal of having the perfect studio where I spend every day supporting myself by doing what I love.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist?
Graduating college and starting my small business, Kitsch & Stitch, has been one of my greatest and most exciting accomplishments.  To look back on the past two years and see the growth that has come out of the long days and nights spent designing and embroidering is incredibly motivating.  But most of all, seeing that people appreciate my creativity and work enough that they want it in their homes is one of the most exciting and motivating aspects of what I do!  Hearing that someone loves their new embroidery hoop or that it made the perfect gift for their loved one makes my day.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

What does your typical day in the studio look like?
Caffeine, good music, lots of thread and fabric, and two adorable kitties (even when they’re biting at my ankles while I work).

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
The walls and shelves in my studio are filled with art and objects that are inspiring and important to me.  I’m a bit of a collector and I love to have all sorts of art, heirlooms, and vintage knick-knacks in my space.  My antique embroidery book that belonged to my great-grandmother is one of my most treasured items.  It’s inspiring and motivating to think that women in my family have been embroidering/sewing for centuries, and here I am continuing the craft tradition (but in a very different way).

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
 “Ooo what does it do?” or “Why?”
It’s been a while since I talked to a kindergartner, but I feel like these are pretty popular questions among 3-5-year-olds.

What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
It’s a toss up between “Fake it till you make it” and “If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end,” but both essentially serve the same purpose for me. I’ve found that at times when I’m feeling intimidated or having trouble believing in myself, the best plan of action is to push those thoughts aside and keep moving forward, even if I’m not totally sure of where I’m headed.  At times when I’m doubting myself or my work, these mantras get me going again.

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

 

Sarah Grange | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make More Creative Cocktails (Through Science!)

April 6, 2015

Erica gives the Molecular Mixology Mojito Kit a Try | UncommonGoods

Product:  Molecular Mixology Kit – Mojito Set 

Research:
I’m usually a straight whiskey or red wine drinker, mostly due to laziness and complete lack of skill with any drink that requires shaking, stirring, or straining, but I was curious to see if the Molecular Mixology Mojito Kit could help me hone my cocktail skills. My idea of mixing a drink is adding a little Diet Coke to the whiskey, so there’s a lot of room for improvement. To prepare, I watched the product’s Youtube video, which led me to believe that I, too, could create fancy drinks in just a few steps and stocked up on rum and mint leaves.

Hypothesis:
I will be the best bartender since Sam Malone and impress my friends. Besides, Molecular Mixology sounds somewhat hipster, and with my recent move to Brooklyn, maybe this kit could help me better fit in to the new neighborhood.

Experiment: 
Materials Needed:
Molecular Mixology Kit
Hand Blender
Bowls
Mint
Rum
Club Soda
Ice
Sugar
Stove
Pots
Friends

I cut the recipes in half because they make a huge amount of mojitos and it was a school night. Since my mission this evening is to be fancy, I decided to start with the mint caviar recipe. What could be fancier than caviar?

Experiment 1, Mint Caviar:

Step 1:
I first read through the instructions and gathered materials.

Step 2:

Making Caviar Mojitos | UncommonGoods
Impatience won out over the instructions I just read, so rather than bringing the sugar, mint, and water to a boil on the stove, I used an electric kettle to boil the water and poured it over the sugar and mint leaves.

Blending the Mojito Caviar | UncommonGoods
Step 3:
I then blended the mixture together, strained it, and added the Sodium Alginate packet before letting the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

Step 4:
Watch an episode of something on Netflix while the Sodium Alginate mixture sits (for best results, try Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

Step 5:
Add Calcium Lactate to a separate bowl of water and stir.

Caviar Dropper | UncommonGoods

 

Caviar Dropper and Bowl
Step 6:
Fill the pipette with the Sodium Alginate mixture and add to the Calcium Lactate bowl in drops. This was by far my favorite part, because the mint caviar formed right away and this step felt the most like I was doing science. Having wine on hand helps the process and is good insurance in case the molecular mixology doesn’t end well.

Rinsing Mojito Caviar | UncommonGoods
Step 7:
Remove the mint caviar from the solution with a sieve and rinse with water.

Step 8:
Put the Caviar in the bottom of a glass and cover with blended ice, rum, and club soda.
Molecular Mojito | UncommonGoods
Step 9:
Stir and sip. This wasn’t the best mojito I’ve ever tasted, mostly because the mint flavor isn’t distributed throughout the drink, so depending on how much caviar you get in each sip, it tastes more or less like the cocktail should. But what it sometimes lacked in consistent flavor it made up for in cool factor, and I would eat those mint caviar drops by themselves. Next time—and they give you enough of the chemical packets for several next times—I would add food coloring to the mint solution so it is more festive and interesting to look at in the glass. I also might try making the caviar for different types of drinks and flavor combinations.

Experiment 2, Mojito Bubbles:

Mojito Bubbles | UncommonGoods
Step 1:
Put Calcium Lactate, sugar, mint, and lime wedges in a high ball glass and crush wish a muddler. Since I have neither a highball glass nor a muddler, I bashed them together with a spoon in a plastic cup. Less classy, but it got the job done.

Step 2:
Add rum and club soda. Mix until the calcium is dissolved and filter.

Mint Bubbles | UncommonGoods
Step 3:
Place mint leaves in the bubble mold and fill them with the liquid mixture. Freeze.

Step 4:
SCIENCE! Dissolve the Sodium Alginate in a bowl and blend. Unmold the iced mojitos into the bowl and stir. Because I didn’t read the directions first to see that they needed to freeze and started these late, I didn’t get to this part until the following morning.

Step 5:
Pick up the spheres with a slotted spoon and rinse them in a bowl of water.

Molecular Mixology - Mojito Bubbles | UncommonGoodsBreakfast of Champions

Step 6:
Enjoy! While slightly more involved, I much preferred these to the mint caviar mojitos. The bubble bursts in your mouth and fills it with an intense mojito flavor. Kind of like grown up Gushers.

Conclusion:
I could see using this kit to make drinks for a special dinner or event, but it was also very fun as an activity for a night in. The directions were easy to follow and provided fun science facts about the process. My friends all really enjoyed the science aspect of the kit, and there was something very satisfying about completing the full process and presenting a beautiful drink rather than just gulping it down. Next time, I might try experimenting with different drinks using the chemical compounds provided. While I won’t be leaving UncommonGoods to open my own bar any time soon, I learned something new and now have a fun activity to use again in the future.

Get the Molecular Mixology Kit!

Design

Video Kitty: Celebrating the Cats of the Internet

June 18, 2014

It has been said that the Internet is the dog park for cat owners. Sure, your kitty isn’t likely to run an obstacle course or act frisky on command. But the web makes a great place for cat lovers of all kinds to swap tips and stories. And when those cute moments do happen? Catch them on video and, boom, you’ve got an instant audience bigger than that spaniel at the dog park ever had. In honor of those compulsively-watchable cats of the Internet, we’ve helped to create the Video Kitty glassware series!

Video Kitty Tumblers | UncommonGoods

Our Product Development team spent countless hours of research, combing through the endless supply of adorable online videos, in order to determine the most charismatic, most popular and most iconic types of celebrity cats.

We then worked with artist Patricia Carlin on how to capture that star quality, with its mix of undeniable cuteness and think-out-side-the-box, sit-inside-the-box attitude.

“Refuses to be Typecast”
That’s right. You can’t pigeonhole a performer of this caliber. Unless you have an actual pigeonhole for it to climb into. Or a shoebox, cereal box, milk carton, or pretty much any container of any size. It’s been proven before that, for a cat to find a place in your heart, it merely needs to find a place in your empty packaging.
Refused to be Typecast

“A Finely Nuanced Performance”
A true cat celebrity is a master of subtlety. Extreme subtlety. Verging on laziness, even. But with the kind of artistic integrity that you’ll never find displayed by their online rivals. That’s right, sloths—we’re calling you out. Because anyone can move slowly, but it takes genius to convey such a total disdain for effort.
A Finely Nuanced Performance

“Ready for a Close-up”
A-List cats maintain a very complex relationship with their fans. They’re not going to pay attention to you just because you ask. But they will occasionally allow a devotee to massage their back, or provide them with food. And those times when a cat stares deeply into your eyes and wonders what you would taste like—that’s a kind of love, isn’t it?
Ready for a Close-up

“Catapults to Stardom”
Ultimately, the cats that reach true stardom are simply different than the rest of us. And not just because we’re different species. No, they are the beautiful ones. The risk takers. The ones with the courage and dignity to carry on, even as the paparazzi revels in their supposed failures. Also, totes LOLZ when tha fuzzy kitteh falls down. ROFL!
Catapults to Stardom

So raise a glass (or a mug) to your favorite feline celebrity, whether it’s online or in your own home.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Tea to Go

May 21, 2014

Tea to Go | UncommonGoods

Research:
Do you know that person who wakes up with just enough time to brush, shower, and dress and barely catch the train? Well that’s me. I’m all about getting things to go, in order to save time – typical New Yorker, I know. Hence the reason I chose the Tea to Go for my experiment, figured it would make the difficulties of staying warm on the go, a thing of the past.

Hypothesis:
I am hoping that this keeps my tea warm without burning my hand, as well as keeping it hot for at least an hour. With public transportation being as unpredictable as it is, this would be a big thing for me.

I’m going into this with no knowledge of how the glass apparatus would hold up against the traditional metal thermos that I’m used to. The plan is to use the Tea to Go all the ways that it has been advertised and to see if it meets the needs of someone who’s the definition of a person on the go.

Experiment:
First, I got everything prepared: a kettle of boiling water, 1 peppermint tea for those frigid mornings, 1 peach tea with ice for the playful days, and some loose White Riesling tea for those sleep-in mornings that you can only dream of.

Tea

The body consists of very a thick glass tube and a heavy duty rubber grip. The inner body includes a small perforated section for the tea, then a long portion where the liquid will flow through. I didn’t realize how tall it was until I put it next to my jar of Linguini noodles and, as you can see, it’s right up there.

Tea to Go | UncommonGoods

According to the instructions, I poured the hot water through the small compartment for the tea bag – that was a no go. The water took really long to fill up the tube and I wasn’t about to wait. It made sense if you had to time to allow your tea seep and brew a stronger tea, which wasn’t what I was going for. Instead, I filled up the tube from the larger side and things went smoothly. After letting it sit for 10 minutes, I gave the bottle a slight tilt to allow everything to diffuse evenly and off we go.

Making Tea | UncommonGoodsHot Tea | UncommonGoods

The rubber grip was hotter than I expected, but definitely manageable. After being out of my house for 20 minutes the tea was still extremely hot, and I had to implement the blow-and-sip method, which worked just fine. After being in public transportation for an hour, my tea kept hot (and this is with me keeping the top off so in order to drink). It didn’t really cool down at all, I still had hot tea after an hour and half – that’s a plus.

Loose Leaf Tea

I also gave it a try with loose leaf tea. From looking at the perforations you can tell that large loose tea leaves are the best choice, so that you don’t have leaf residue floating around. I didn’t take that into account until much later. Even though some of the excess tea got in the drinking tube, it was not a big deal. But it’s just something to keep in mind for those who don’t like things floating in their drinks.

The Tea to Go certainly holds up for hot tea 100%. NY Winter – here we come!

Iced Tea to Go | UncommonGoods

Next I gave the bottle a try with iced tea. I let the Peach tea bag seep in a little bit of boiling water before adding filtered water. The water was still relatively warm so I decided to add some ice cubes, which quickly melted but were able to provide me with a cold drink. Took my book, iced tea and an orange and enjoyed the break from freezing temperatures and read for a few on my stoop.

I came back in after an hour with very little tea gone (Harry is just that captivating!), and I was amazed to find out it was still very cold, like a beverage right out the fridge.

Conclusion:
Being a person who lives in New York and has experienced the wonders of Jack Frost first hand, the Tea to Go has become my accessory for those cold rushed mornings. It’s a pretty simple but effective device that will keep my hands and tea warm.

Not only is it good for those frigid mornings we’ve come to love, but it’s versatile enough to keep tea cool for those strolling days. I’m thinking it’s going to come in handy as summer approaches, since it has officially been added to my morning check list – keys, metrocard, money, and Tea to Go.

Design

An Easy Answer to Olive Pit Etiquette

May 15, 2014

Enjoying olives discreetly isn’t always easy. Where do you ditch the pit? In a crumpled napkin? On the side of your hors d’oeuvre plate for everyone to see? The usual options aren’t exactly attractive. With that in mind, we created the Olive Server.

Olive Server | UncommonGoods

This innovative dish solves the pit problem, holds your picks, and displays those tangy, salty treats in style. To design the Olive Server, our Product Development Team partnered with Paul Brothe, a ceramicist who conceptualized the piece based on his love of nature-inspired ceramics, a modern, lead-free take on traditional Majolica pottery, and the goal of keeping pits unseen.

Sketches

When Brothe first presented his prototype, we loved that it was made of sturdy earthenware painted a natural green color, and provided a way to both serve olives and hide pits. From there, we made a few adjustments to make the Olive Server even more appealing to our customers who want practical serveware with a fun twist.

Original Prototype

While the original design featured a porcine, two-holed opening for depositing pits, we decided to give the pit cavern an oval shape and one larger hole. We wanted to make the piece really pop, but we didn’t want to detract from the realistic olive form, so we chose four colors to accentuate the incorporated shapes.

Process

The fruit-shaped basin is actually two parts. The bowl holds the pits, keeping them in one place for easy cleanup, while the lid keeps them under cover. We chose to line the bowl with a pimento-inspired burnt orange and give the exterior an olive green color. We also added a shade of green to the “leaf” where the olives sit and a branch-hued brown to the pick holder. Now each individually-functional element of the server is uniquely eye-catching, enhancing the look of the all-in-one display.

Olive Server | UncommonGoods

To create the finished servers, each piece is cast from a mold, inspected and trimmed, thoroughly dried, and then fired overnight at a temperature of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

trimming_sqfired_sq

Two techniques are used to glaze these bisque fired pieces—dipping and brushing. The glazing is done by hand using special glazes formulated in-house at Brothe’s Jersey City, NJ studio, so the colors are truly unique. The colored servers are then fired overnight one more time, allowing the glazes to fuse together and create a smooth, glassy surface.

Glazing

The result is a high-quality dish that provides an attractive way to serve olives, keeps pesky pits out of sight, and is uncommon enough to stir conversation at any cocktail or dinner party.

Buy the Olive Dish | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make Cocktail Bitters

December 19, 2013

Morgan | Bitters

Research
I’m a devoted whisky (and occasionally whiskey) drinker and usually enjoy my Scotch like I enjoy the top shelf of my dresser: neat. But I was intrigued to see if bitters might prove an opportunity to salvage a liquor I’ve all but quit–rum. The recipe calls for a high-proof rum, so I picked up one of my favorite antiseptics, Bacardi 151. I also bought an aged rum (to test my bitters in later) that I was hoping might change my opinions of the drink. That rum, Plantation Grande Reserve (note the fancy pants name), was a vast improvement over any rum I could remember tasting (in either direction), in my younger days, so I was looking forward to a different experience, perhaps.
Bitters 1

Bacardi 151? Hello old friend.

Hypothesis
I don’t think I’ve ever tried bitters before, but I’m coming in with a semi-open mind. I like bitter things. There’s something smart-sounding about the word “bitters.” As I have a general preference for straight alcohol, I’m not sure how much this will “add” to the experience, but perhaps since I’m less predisposed towards rum, it may make that drink more enjoyable. (Spoiler alert: I cheated and came up with this last line after the experiment.)

Experiment
Preparing the mixture is actually a good bit of fun, adding the composite spices and ingredients as if your high school science teacher were a part-time bartender. (I didn’t see you and you didn’t see me, Mr. Chard.)

DIY Cocktail Bitters | UncommonGoods

Here I am masterfully peeling an apple and not cutting myself, the skins to be mixed into the jar of rum and spices. No blood! Easy enough.

The preparation requires a morning and evening shake of the mixture in its jar, which is a fun way to interact with your little blooming bundle of joy, and to appreciate the visual richness and beauty of the concoction as it does its thing. Eventually you’ll forget to shake it one morning and you’ll feel guilty for the rest of the day. Just let it go–it’ll be fine.

DAY 1 TEST
Finally, after a long and eager wait, 2 weeks are up and it’s time to open my present! Hold on there just a minute, bud–a few more steps before we’re ready for cheers. First we have to strain through cheesecloth (which doubles as gauze if you cut yourself peeling that apple earlier–try to use the clean portion).

Bitters | UncommonGoods

The liquid is separated from the solid ingredients, which are placed on the stove to simmer with water then cool. This is a good opportunity to be extremely impatient, blow on the mixture, and just dump it in hot anyway. (Again, you’re probably fine.)

Bitters in Process | UncommonGoods

After cooling, we strain the mixture once again. OK, this is your exit solids! In the trash you go! We then get started on simple syrup (a sugar and water mixture that is heated and added in equal parts to the rum mixture). Add to dropper bottle then the big payoff.

I decided on bourbon because, well, I like bourbon and it seems to feature in a good number of bitters cocktails. I could make a cocktail, but I’d rather really taste the bitters here just to see how they work with the alcohol. A bit of bitters drip drop into some Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Drinking Bourbon

Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing it for me. Nope. Had I done something wrong? I don’t think so. Was it last Friday when I neglected to shake the bitters? Were they exacting their revenge? Nah – I don’t think bitters hold grudges (although they are called bitters…). I think it was just the combination. The iconic Buffalo Trace flavor now muddled into something indecipherable and a bit all over the place. I added a bit more but that just added to the confusion. My eyes saw the Buffalo Trace and my mouth was failing to compute.

Give up? No way. We’ll try again tomorrow.

DAY 2 TEST
New shirt, new day, new opportunity to drink.

Back on the saddle and off the wagon with something a bit more compatible, perhaps – rum. Yes, my aged rum would make a late-game, surprise guest appearance in a highly unscientific evaluation.

In one glass – straight aged rum
In the other – that same rum with a few drops of bitters.

Bitters and Rum

This one makes sense. The rums obviously blend well, and this time I’m able to actually taste the spiced apple. Not overpowering, but definitely adds another dimension. Yeah – I get it.

Conclusion
I could see this enhancing a mediocre rum or allowing for a drinker to taste a decent one from a different perspective. I imagine you could mix into a number of different cocktails with different alcohols. (The instruction booklet names a few.)

The highlight for me though was the process. Enjoying a drink usually consists of nothing more than opening a bottle and pouring it. Occasionally this might involve stirring in a few extra ingredients–and sure–there are even bitters you could buy. But there was something very satisfying about the process; in the interaction with all the individual ingredients, in the ultimate unification of those flavors. There was something satisfying in the wait. Alcohol is one of those things that can take longer than anything to get right. We buy liquors that have been waiting for years, heck, decades to taste just right, then we sip them and they’re gone.

This kit represents the process, the time, the care that goes into a good drink. This probably won’t change my lineup of standby drinks or undying love of a good straight Scotch, but it was an interesting ride, I learned a bit, and I have something new to taste along with some of my old favorites. Nah, I ain’t bitter.

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