08 June 2012

Thermador's Freedom Induction

Last February, I wrote a post about an induction cooktop from Gaggenau I'd seen in Germany the previous month. Gaggenau calls it Full Surface Induction and I was completely blown away by it when I saw it for the first time. Full Surface Induction dispensed with the idea of burners all together and turned the entire cooktop surface into a cooking zone. The appliance could sense the size of the pot resting on it and only activated the induction coils beneath that particular pot.

I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. When I wrote that post almost a year-and-a-half ago I summed it all up with a lament about how that technology wasn't heading across the Atlantic any time soon.

It turns out I was wrong about that, Gaggenau's Full Surface Induction will be available in North America in August of this year.

In the meantime, last January, my friend and colleague Susan Serra wrote a post about Thermador's new Freedom Induction cooktop. Thermador is a sister brand to Gaggenau and next month, the Thermador Freedom Induction will make its North American debut.

When I was at Bosch/ Thermador/ Gaggenau's new facility in Irvine, CA last week I saw the prototype of this Thermador cooktop and I met the man who designed it. I admit it, I'm a geek when it comes to appliances, induction cooktops particularly. As amazing as Gaggenau's Full Surface Induction is, Thermador's Freedom Induction is even more so. Thermador's Freedom Induction has a 6.5" full-color screen that will teach you how to use the appliance essentially.

Here's a video showing the man behind this innovation, Malte Peters, and an early version of this appliance. The cooktop he's describing has a clear glass surface, so that you can see the many, many induction coils that live underneath it. These smaller coils are how Freedom Induction works.

All contemporary induction coils activate when they sense ferrous metal. Ordinarily, these coils are the size and shape of a conventional, round burner. Freedom Induction allows a user to place odd-sized pots and pans anywhere on its surface and it'll accommodate up to five pots at a time and a user can control each of those pots individually.

What's more is that somebody can move a pot to another position and transfer the cooking settings to the new position. It's revolutionary and this video of the original Gaggenau Full Surface Induction explains how this technology works better than I can.

Induction cooktops make so much sense I can barely stand it. They are significantly more efficient than any other cooking technology out there. They have the same level of control that gas does but without the radiant heat and wasted energy that accompanies gas. And unlike a traditional electric cooktop, the burners and cooking surface never get hot, so they're infinitely safer in homes with children or the elderly.

So if you're on the fence about induction, buy yourself a set of All-Clad cookware and go for it. I have never met anyone who'd made the switch to induction who regretted it. There are a wide variety of models available from Bosch, Thermador and Gaggenau and if you have any questions about this technology, please shoot me an e-mail. I'm somewhat a zealot when it comes to this stuff and I'll answer all questions gladly.

07 June 2012

Meet my new living room carpet

I just ordered this carpet the other day. I've been in the market for a handmade carpet for years and finally, I chanced upon an opportunity to take care of the glaring hole in my living room decor.

I've been coveting handmade carpets for years but I've always been concerned about the conditions under which they're made. Enter Novica, a world marketplace that operates in association with National Geographic. Novica gave me a $200 credit that I used toward my carpet.

Novica is sort of like a developing world Etsy in that that site connects artisans from all over the world and allows them the opportunity to sell their wares directly to end users. In my case, my carpet was woven by a man in India named Khalil Ahmed. Here's his statement from Novica's website:

I come from a long lineage of carpet weavers. My ancestors have been in this field for more than centuries now. We are five brothers and two sisters, and we grew up as witnesses to the craft of weaving at home. I remember how enthralled we would be every time we saw varied colors merging into different weaves.

I was just in school when I began to learn this art. I was taught by my father and older brothers, and at the time it was like a game that offered moments of great fun. As I grew up I took the loom and began to weave my own pieces. It felt so amazing when I finished my first piece!

It took me almost three years to learn the fine art of weaving. At first my designs were simple and now, as I've gained mastery, they are more intricate. It also has to do with what people want. Before they wanted simple and elegant designs, but nowadays they are more demanding, not only in design, but also in terms of quality and price. It is therefore my responsibility to update my designs and work with quality materials to fulfill people's expectations and requirements.

As a family, we have seen some hard times. I remember a period during my childhood when the situation was so bad I had to work at a tobacco company all day for only a couple of Rupees. I still to cringe to remember those days, but I do not blame my parents. I know they were extremely difficult times, and that was the only option.

I have seen really bad days in my time, but they have given me the strength and determination to do well in life. For example, I had always dreamt of going abroad, so I worked hard and I realize my dreams. In 1992, I went to London for an exhibition. I also got the opportunity to go to Turkistan and Brazil. They were all wonderful experiences.

Before there were only a few families who designed and wove rugs, and people would have to come to our homes to buy them. Nowadays there are more opportunities for us weavers to sell our rugs and carpets with exhibitions happening every now and then. They offer us to show our products to more people rather than relying only with visitors coming to our homes.

It fills me with great pride to tell you that in 2002, I won National Award for one of my hand-woven dhurrie rugs.

It's a great feeling to be in this field, carrying on such a precious family legacy. I only wish that my children will take forward this art.
I'll write more about my purchase and Novica in the coming weeks after my carpet arrives. It shipped from Khalil's studio this morning and I ought to have it in two weeks. In the meantime, take a look through Novica's offerings. They're providing a forum where the developing world and the West can interact directly. This allows anybody to impact developing world lives personally.

It's precisely these kinds of direct interactions that make the world a smaller and better place. Thank you Novica.

06 June 2012

Sprayer faucets

Many people think they need a professional sprayer faucet, even if they don't cook. In most cases, the sprayer they think they need hangs slack after around six months of use.

Sure, they look good but really, how much value do they add when they're hanging in the middle of your sink?

Enter Blanco's Culina. The Culina combines a resilient faucet with a magnet and the result is amazing. Here's a video of me putting a Culina through its paces in Germany last year. In that video too you'll see my pals Susan Serra and Leslie Clagett. Those two women who have seen it all and aren't easily snowed by glossy PR. I think they'll back me in my endorsement of this faucet.

05 June 2012

Think about Silgranit

I've spent my whole professional life specifying stainless steel sinks but in the last few years something else has shown up on my radar.

Namely the Silgranit sink from Blanco.

Anybody who's had a stainless sink knows that having one involves ignoring scratches or buffing them out regularly. Who needs that added aggravation?

Silgranit gets rid of that hassle and gives you a stain and scratch resistant sink that you can also coordinate with your counters.

Silgranit sinks can be undermounted or dropped in and using one ensures a lifetime of trouble-free use. If you're in the market for a new kitchen sink, consider a Silgranit.

03 June 2012

Sunday night traveler's tale

I spent the shank of last week in Costa Mesa, CA and my journey home started yesterday morning. I flew from John Wayne Airport in Irvine to Chicago for the first leg of my trip home.

Once in Chicago, I changed planes and flew home to Tampa/ St. Pete. On that second flight I met a man whose name I don't know. However what I do know was that he'd started his day in Beijing.

If you spend any time in airports, it's obvious that a lot of people fly between the US and China. This guy was different in that Beijing was his home and always had been.


He was a businessman in his 50s and he was on the flight to Tampa so that he could go on vacation for five days in Sand Key, a beach area just south of Clearwater. Clearwater's a dump but I didn't come out and say that to him. However, Sand Key is one of the loveliest spots along this coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches of Sand Key are broad and wide and the water is the emerald-clear I equate with the Florida I know and call home.


Anyhow, I asked how someone from Beijing could decide that Sand Key was the perfect spot for some R&R and he told me that when he was young he saw a movie in China and he was completely taken with the surroundings where the movie was filmed. I have no idea which movie he was talking about but through years of research he'd figured out that it had been filmed on Sand Key.

As he navigated the nightmare of the Cultural Revolution and the upheavals attendant to China's rise to its current status, one vision guided him through it -- the beach at Sand Key. As his peers, professors and parents were "re-educated" and persecuted through the years, the idea of a white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico was something that never left him.

Now that he'd made it in a newly ascendant China he was headed to the place that guided him like a beacon through the trials of his life.

My seatmate has no intention of leaving his homeland, he just needed to touch the place that had brought him so much solace.

I hope he finds there what he was looking for.

I'm used to seeing Chinese tourists in places like Rome, London and New York but I've never met someone who was heading to a place so close to home.

When I was a kid, we used to pray for the starving people in Red China. Over the course of the last 30 years things have changed a bit.

It's easy to rail against Chinese usurping the world stage, but it's the US's consumerist culture, one that demands forever cheaper goods, that brought modern China into being. China's willingness to buy US debt has allowed the US to engage in its constant state of low-level warfare without feeling the financial strain that normally accompanies military ventures.

The Chinese government is a human rights nightmare but how has the US fared with all of the "free" money China bankrolls? When US drones wipe out civilian populations abroad how are we any better off? The US's "War on Terror[ism]" has had us abandon the moral upper hand in the interest of national security and we've done it with Chinese money.

However, none of that matters when it comes down to having a conversation (let alone a two-and-a-half hour one) with someone who's actually Chinese.

Governments and how they behave are different from the people they purport to represent. All it takes sometimes is a flight from ORD to TPA to make that clear. My seatmate's not so different from me, as wildly different as our life stories are. But at the end of the day, the two of us want to make a buck, want to enjoy some R&R sometimes and we want to leave a legacy so our descendants will remember us once we're gone.

I used to fantasize about Pompeii and I saw it in person four years ago. My seatmate used to fantasize about Sand Key and he's seeing it in person right now.

Despite political differences, he and I are the same person and I'm a better man for having met him.