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Kitchen

The Uncommon Life

Mixtape Mixed Drinks: Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

September 11, 2013

The Manhattan is a classic New York cocktail, so of course it inspired a playlist of classic New York songs. The Manhattan’s a sophisticated drink that evokes images of the city it’s named after during the Mad Men era. (Don Draper typically drinks an old fashioned, but we could see him drinking this as well.)

The drink can be made with Bourbon or Rye–my Manhattan is made with Bourbon.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe | UncommonGoods

Sipping a Mahattan in a Mixtape Glass can put you in a New York state of mind, no matter your location.

The Drink:
2 parts bourbon to 1 part sweet vermouth
1-2 Dash bitters
Maraschino cherry (optional)

Place ice in a cocktail shaker and then add bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters. Shake and pour (strained) into a chilled glass or pour over ice. Top with a cherry (optional).

The Playlist:
1. Incident on 57th Street-Bruce Springsteen
2. Spanish Harlem-Ben E. King
3. Positively 4th Street-Bob Dylan
4. Take the A Train-Duke Ellington
5. New York State of Mind-Billy Joel
6. New York City Serenade-Bruce Springsteen

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Knight

September 3, 2013

UncommonGoods Artist Jeff Knight

The moment I saw Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Serving Board in our Woodworking Design Challenge I started rooting for it. I love the combination of sturdy, yet beautiful, hard maple and the whimsical cloud shape of the board–and the little raindrop serving trays are the perfect finishing touch to make this simultaneously playful and functional piece truly uncommon. When I found out that Jeff is from my hometown, I crossed my fingers a little harder, even though I was pretty confident our voting community would make sure the design made it to the final round. In the end, our community and our judges agreed with me that this wooden work of art was perfect for our assortment.

Since I happened to be planning a trip back home to Fargo, North Dakota, I HAD to jump on the opportunity to see where this winning design was born. Upon my arrival Jeff, in true Midwestern fashion, graciously welcomed me into his wood shop, offered up coffee, and gave me a tour of a beautifully sawdusty space called DIY Wood Studio, a shared woodworking environment filled will tools of all sizes, projects in the works, and a lot of inspiration.

Clamp | UncommonGoodsblade2What are your most essential tools?
A trued table saw, wood glue and pipe clamps…lots of pipe clamps!

Where do you find inspiration within this space?
Inspiration strikes from the social atmosphere of the space. You never know when someone else has a suggestion or way of doing something that will inspire you to try another approach. By being around others in the studio, it adds an energy that isn’t there when you’re alone. While solitary time is sometimes necessary, I like being around others who are having fun and working through unique projects of their own.

tools2
DIY Studio | UncommonGoodsWhere does down time fit into a day in the studio?
My down time is the time I spend at the studio. I work all day (and sometimes all night) as a graphic designer, so when I need to relax and collect my thoughts, I’ll head to the studio and work through a project that is more hands-on and visceral.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I make lists. I keep ongoing lists for short and long term goals that I usually have with me all the time. I always carry a Field Notes booklet to write things down or sketch out ideas.

DIY Wood StudiosmilesawWhere does collaboration come into play with your craft?
Collaboration is necessary to find better ways of doing something. With woodworking it seems there’s always numerous ways of accomplishing the same goal, but if you allow yourself to learn from others, you grow as a maker and find new ways to solve problems.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
I definitely don’t celebrate them enough. I usually move from one project right into the next project with little time for celebrating the victories along the way. Usually they’re smaller victories that I’ll celebrate internally, like solving a problem I’ve worked on all day or getting the result just the way I see it in my head.

Nietzsche Quote | UncommonGoods

What quote keeps you motivated?
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star” – Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s been my experience that there’s always a bit of chaos that needs to happen before something really astounding happens. From chaos, comes something remarkable.

Jeff Knight WishbonesHow do you recharge your creativity?
I get recharged by allowing my mind to be open to new things and having my eyes and ears open to the world. I look to many things for inspiration; nature, comic books, toys, games, classic films, art, design, social events, friends, family, etc. I helped start a design group with friends, DSGNX, to get designers together and have the ability to be inspired and celebrate design. This group has definitely helped keep my creativity charged.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?
Be persistent–Just make, do, and be happy. Don’t succumb to the fear of failure, because really, there is no such thing.

The Uncommon Life

Our Homemade Beer Tasting Brew-haha

June 13, 2013

Some believe that Plato said, “It was a wise man who invented beer.” While Plato probably never actually said that, and we don’t know who exactly came up with the ingenious idea to turn cereal into booze, we do know how to make beer. Or I should say, we learned, thanks to our exclusive Craft a Brew Beer Brewing Kits.

To make sure our educational experience was comprehensive, we decided to test each of our new home brew flavors by comparing them during an in-office beer tasting; but first, we had to wrangle some brewers.

The Brewers

Warehouse Operations Coordinator Bradley cooked up a batch of Southern Bourbon Stout, Product Development Associate Sarah celebrated her home state with the Texas Chipotle Amber, Marketing Analyst Kira revisited beer making by giving the West Coast IPA a try, and Marketing Analyst Matt tapped into his inner lumberjack by bottling some Vermont Maple Porter.

The goal was to keep this competition fair and balanced, but Brad did make an attempt to pick up some bonus points by adding a personal touch to his finished product. Kira went another route and, knowing that the way to a beer judge’s heart is through the stomach, brought some homemade pretzels. (She insists that these were for the purpose of palate cleansing between sips, and were no way intended as a bribe.)

There is also some suspicion that two of the contestants may have been in cahoots.

While it wasn’t too hard to get the brewers on board, recruiting judges was almost too easy. (Apparently, people jump at product testing opportunities when they involve delicious adult beverages.)

The Judges

Copywriter Stephanie, Director of Marketing Brian, and Systems Administrator Paul agreed to sample the goods.

With beer flavor checklists in hand, the judges tried each carbonated creation. Here are some beer basics discovered during the tasting.

West Coast IPA
Kira’s brewing tip: “Be Tall. It’s hard to pour things!” You have to place the strainer on top of a funnel on top of the carboy, so a step stool (or a short table) may be required to help shorter folks make beer with ease.

Judges’ Notes: Stephanie said “it definitely smells like an IPA,” but upon tasting said that this IPA “isn’t super hoppy.” She commented on notes of “citrus” and described the flavor as “75 degrees and sunny.” The beer was served cold, though. Just for clarification, the IPA could be described as tasting like a summer’s day.

Brian agreed that the beer “tastes like California,” and said that it may be a good choice for someone who doesn’t love IPAs, since it’s not too “IPA-ie.”

Texas Chipotle Amber
Sarah’s Brewing Tip: “It’s a weekend project, because it does take a while to set up.”

Judges’ Notes: Brian called this brew “ridiculously good,” “smokey and spicy,” and “interesting.” Paul agreed with the interesting comment, and added that it was “fresh,” and had “a hook…not a gimmick.”

Stephanie also called out the unique spiciness of the beer, and said she was a fan of the “big, bold Texas flavor.”

Southern Bourbon Stout
Bradley’s Brewing Tip: “Malt, grains, and patience.” He also reminded us that his kit took a little longer to brew, on account of the extra step of soaking oak chips in bourbon to infuse the beer.

Judges’ Notes: Paul was near-ecstatic about the subtle, unexpected sweetness of this stout. He described it as “almost like eating cookie dough.” Brian agreed that it was sweeter than expected, but said that though the smell was intense, like a “shot of vanilla,” the actual taste held a “multitude of flavors.”

The judges agreed that the bourbon taste was there, but it wasn’t overpowering.

Vermont Maple Porter

Matt’s Brewing Tip: “Read the instructions before you start, and make sure to sanitize everything.” Matt’s tip came about after a bit of a brewing faux pas. It turns out, that his inner lumberjack was actually neglected–he forgot to add the maple syrup.

Judges’ Notes: “It’s hard to judge accurately without the syrup,” said Stephanie. But, despite the porter’s syrup-less-ness, she called it “creamy,” “very malty,” and “smooth drinking.”

Brian didn’t appreciate the deviation from the recipe. “Matt’s renegade style often gets him in trouble,” he said. “This is another example of that.”

Paul was also unhappy with the not-maple porter, and decided to add some syrup after the fact. This improvisation is not recommended.

When the flights were finally empty, the judges all agreed on a favorite. While the Bourbon stout was a close second and “equally as good [taste-wise as the winner],” according to Brian, the champion was the Texas Chipotle Amber, which is “more memorable.”

Sarah took home the prize (which is the knowledge that she chose the beer kit the judges liked best) and all involved in our brew-haha finished the remaining spicy chipotle, (sans) maple porter, subtly sweet stout, and refreshing IPA.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Stay Chill & Kick Back Cold Ones

June 11, 2013

Research
I was already familiar with the Corkcicle, but was excited to hear of the introduction of the Chillsner— a stainless steel tool you freeze and then put in your beer, juice, or soda.

Hypothesis
My hope is that my beverage remains cold, even if I get distracted playing video games.

Experiment
I have to admit I was a little skeptical about using the Chillsner. Also I was a little nervous my lips would get stuck to it, due to the Chillsner’s time in the freezer. So on the first night, I put the product in the freezer for an hour. (The instructions call for 45 minutes.) I took it out and stuck it in the bottle, but not following the instructions, I spilled some of my beer because I didn’t take a sip first. Stupid physics.

The first attempt worked pretty well, even though I purposely put the Chillsner in a warm beer, and it cooled it pretty quickly. Yum.

The next night, the Chillsner had been in the freezer for 24 hours. My lips still didn’t get stuck. Also I made sure not to spill my beer. It kept my chilled beer chilled as I nursed it for an hour and a half. Normally I don’t take this long to drink a beer, but sacrifices must be made in the name of science.

Conclusion
Overall, I was pleased. My beer stayed cold for much longer than I was used to. I look forward to using the Chillsner this summer.

Maker Stories

Frost Glass’s Banded Lacework Design Wins!

June 6, 2013

I’m never happy to see a design challenge end, but I admit I took a sigh of relief two weeks ago when Candace, Jim, and Justina met via Google Hangout to pick a winner in the Glass Art Design Challenge. I wasn’t only glad we had an amazing winning design, but that my desk could be free from all of these beautiful, yet very fragile samples. I tend to be a little too clumsy to host such a design challenge.

But the greatest joy I get is making the phone call to a design challenge winner to let them know that the judges picked their work to be featured in our collection. When I called Patrick and Carrie of Frost Glass, Patrick told me that they have always loved the UncommonGoods catalog and wondered when would be the perfect time to submit their work to us. It delighted me even more to tell him that the judges loved the colors and interesting design elements in their Banded Lacework Glasses.

 

Meet Patrick and Carrie Frost and help us welcome them into our UncommonGoods artist family!

What is one uncommon fact about you?
We are both uncommonly determined and happy people!

How did you begin in glass arts?
Each of us got “hooked” on glass during our time in college. Carrie studied and received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Patrick got started with a BS from the Illinois State University. This is a common case for many artists working in glass that they become enthralled upon the first encounter, and there are many university programs across the country where this can happen.

The real education began for us after school however – the real education and understanding that drives your glasswork comes through years of study and education through alternative means. Volunteering at craft schools, working for other glassmakers, finding ways to be involved in workshops, looking for residencies, work-study programs, whatever it takes to keep going until you are adequately prepared to start working for yourself full time. Every person you work with and all of your experiences culminate to give you your true skill set and vision for what you would like to create and how you will execute your plan.

Where do you get inspiration for your glass designs?
Our designs are based upon a process where we look for a function that needs to be filled, and then create a design that can perform that function in the most interesting way possible. Each of us has a vast body of knowledge that encompasses techniques both traditional and unusual, which came from numerous experiences with master glassmakers from around the world. We love the style of the Mid-Century Modern and feel like it was an important time for design so some of the functions, shapes, and colors come from this era. Sometimes when you think you have done something really unique you will open a book and see something very similar has been done 50, 100, or 2000 years ago!

Describe your artistic process.
Our process up to this point has been to generate a line of glasswork that embodies the idea of elevating everyday experience. We hit upon an idea of experiential luxury after doing some research and found it was an interesting concept that applied to a lot of the things we were doing at the time. Our glasswork is designed to give you an experience through its function, as well as by transforming the space in which it resides. This connection with the client and their home creates a really unique bond between the artist and consumer that is unique to a handcrafted object.

Describe your workspace.
At the time we share a small private studio with a good friend, it has been a real saving grace after spending 16 months or so on the road. Trying to start a business from a mobile office is difficult, especially when you are lugging around all of your tools, glass, etc! We rent a small house, which is almost entirely consumed by glass our office / “war room” features a large-scale desk calendar that is dismantled, stuck up page by page to the wall to give the entire year-at-a-glance (gold stars are sometimes used to note an especially productive day). Being here allowed us to take all of our equipment and belongings from 5 separate locations and put them in one place. Having our work, office duties, photography, packing and shipping consolidated gave us the real opportunity to launch our business.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
This is a great opportunity it doesn’t cost anything to enter there is really nothing to lose! Even the opportunity for a jury to look at your work usually costs money; here you get a team of professionals to evaluate your design for free! The semi-finalists get great exposure on the website through the voting platform and there is another opportunity for honest feedback and insight into your work. We made a goal several years ago when looking at an UncommonGoods catalog to some day be featured in their collection, and it took this long to do it. Without ever having that thought or goal to begin with it never would have happened!