eat design!

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When we first sat down to discuss ideas for our project, we decided we wanted to come up with something fun and playful. Preliminary ideas included a candy shop and riffs on southern desserts. Our first structured idea was to have pre-made cookies that would be decorated with a variety of garnishes determined by participants. The prospect of involving some sort of game was something we really liked. Next, we decided on something similar to the cookies, but with hot chocolate. Participants would be handed some sort of quiz or riddle to complete and their answers would determine what would go on their hot chocolate.

The addition of the quiz determining what would be on a guest's hot chocolate meant that participants would have a more playful experience at our booth. It also meant that they were going to be more directly involved in the process of creating their drink and that their drinks would be more personal for them. Along with the individuality aspects of our booth, we decided to add an element of surprise. Instead of participants being able to see their drink being made, it would be hidden and then revealed at the end. This would make our booth overall more of an exciting experience with a hint of mystery.

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Hearing Angie's lecture on User Experience was helpful in solidifying how we wanted the experience of coming to our booth to be like. It became important to think of details including what our table would look like and what we would look like in order to make everything compliment what we were serving. Because we chose to make hot chocolate, we decided we wanted our booth to have a cozier theme. This meant we would have chairs in front of our table that guests to sit in to enjoy their drink.

At first, we thought we might be able to offer more than one kind of hot chocolate but after discussion, we realized simpler was better. It was also important that we keep the amount of garnishes to a minimum. It seemed more exciting to have more than just two options for each component of the hot chocolate, but having so many options would have been too complex. The process of organizing our dish was made difficult by the amount of people we were expected to serve. Although the servings were to be small, knowing that 70-100 people would be trying our dish made planning more of a challenge.

Then we tested making garnishes! We wanted to have interesting combinations. Diane was a huge help in the planning of our garnishes. She was super knowledgable about ingredients that would work well no matter what the combination was.

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After getting some feedback from class, we had all of our ideas set. There would be three simple, two-possible-answer questions that participants would answer as they walked along the table. This would keep everything moving quickly and efficiently. Our final components for the hot chocolate were as follows:

dark hot chocolate
rims of either crushed graham cracker or crushed pretzel
a peppermint or milk stout marshmallow
a garnish of either candied orange peel or a sprig of candied thyme

We decided to decorate our booth with winter-y things. Cue snowflakes and and glitter and fake snow!

The actual event proved to be successful. Because we were placed a little separate from the other booths, it was interesting to see how people reacted to our table. They seemed to be confused either because we were so far from the others and because there was no visible food on the table. However, the element of mystery and surprise seemed intriguing to our guests. Many wanted to know what they would have gotten had they answered differently, some tried peeking to make sure they liked what they were getting, and some tried to make their friends answer similarly to them.

Some observations:
Popular combination for men = salty (late night snack), stout (saturday at the pub), and thyme (vacation in the mountains)
Popular combination for women = sweet (late night snack), peppermint (saturday watching movies), and orange (vacation at the beach)

Positive comments on our booth included the fact that people liked that the ingredients were made evident and special because the questions pertained to each individual component. That made them appreciate and think about each ingredient separately from the rest.

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wood!

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What an intimidating project! Making something from scratch and working with wood? Crazy things.

My preliminary ideas first focused mostly on attempting to fix a problem. I even asked a couple people about any problems they may have during Thanksgiving that could be fixed by a utensil or vessel.

Problems included food running into other food, portion sizes...but mostly food running into other food.

I tried to do the least amount of evaluation that I could. I attempted to generate ideas very freely without thinking too much. My favorite idea, even though I didn't make it, was definitely the turkey stuffing fist. Genius.

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After the ideation period, I decided on a turkey-shaped wooden spoon that would be able to rest on the edge of a pot to avoid dripping. Festive, functional, and fun! Was this going to solve a problem? Just the most important problem ever to be solved: no turkey spoons.

My trip to Youngblood Lumber in Northeast Minneapolis was a new and exciting experience. Because I seemed to know very little about what I was doing, I ended up getting a pretty hefty discount on my ten feet of ash. The lumber yard proved to be intimidating, but I was very proud of myself when I left.

With a sketch in hand, I set off to the shop in Rapson. Bless those shop guys' hearts. They were so willing to help me with almost every single step of my project. I felt relieved that I had worked with power tools before. The process for making my spoon was a long one.

First, I drew a sketch of the spoon on my wood and cut out a basic shape on the bandsaw. Next, I decided on a thickness for the spoon and cut that out using the technique Justin showed the class. The third step was a monster. Using a burr, I very very slowly carved out the bowl of the spoon. Fortunate for me, the tool wasn't too hard to use. Unfortunate for everyone in the shop at the time, the tool made just the worst noises. After shaping the bowl, I used three kinds of sanders to smooth out the shape of the spoon. I wanted to keep the ridges on the end of the spoon so it would look like the gobbler of a turkey. This was achieved by using the edge of a small sander to make grooves and then the face of the sander to shape the ridges.

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The rest of the sanding was done in my apartment while I listened to Christmas music. I wish I would have spent more time making the bowl of the spoon smoother in the shop because sanding it down by hand took a lot longer than expected.

After sanding, I applied some beeswax finish I purchased at the co-op. It smelled so nice and worked so well! I also added some finishing touches to the spoon to make it's turkey personality shine.

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(After sanding but before detail and finish)

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(After beeswax finish)

The finished spoon can be rested on the edge of a pot! A special turkey cooking tool for your special turkey day feast!

in action

Practical? Maybe not. Necessary? Probably not. Marketable to a stay at home mom who frequently says, "Oh fer cute!"? Absolutely.

fancy things.

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Things I enjoyed about this assignment: learning about design principles through plating, learning how to spin sugar, watching Diane plate like a maniac, thinking about every single possible thing that could go with honey spice cake.

Things I didn't enjoy about this assignment: Buying a year's worth of sugar, being frustrated by my tendency to not think daintily, late-night sugaring of fruits.

I started out this assignment on an airplane. While reading the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit, I made a giant list of ingredients that would pair with the honey spice cake. You'll also see a smaller list of things from the magazine that blew my Thanksgiving mind.

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After, I listed some possible accompaniments for the cake and some drawings of platings I actually never ended up using. The bee hive idea was nice, but coming up with a way to make abstract bees become bothersome and a little too cute-sy. I liked the idea of plating the cake inside a teacup, but realized this would go against the assignment a little. I needed to plate on a plate for sure.

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My strategy was this: make as many things as possible to have as many options as possible for as many platings as possible.

Up first: honeycomb candy. I liked the idea of incorporating more honey into the plating. Partially because I had some really good honey on hand and partially because I love honey more than most things. Tips when making honeycomb candy: never look away from the candy, don't be alarmed by it's volume, and DON'T SPREAD IT OUT (AKA, read the directions. Martha Stewart knows what she's talking about.) Trial two turned out better. LOOK HOW VOLUMINOUS.

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The inside was filled with bubbles, like it should have been. What I decided, though, was that the candy was too thick to be a successful component in a plating. It would take up too much space, too much attention. So now I have a giant tupperware of honeycomb candy that no one will eat. It's fine.

At one point I made some cranberry curd. Too thick for plating, terribly delicious.

NEXT. I wanted to incorporate some citrus components in my plating! First for flavor (I wanted fruits), second for color. I tried my hand at making candied orange peels, but I took the no-pith pathway. This meant that the peels cooked through fast and were more fragile. When they dried the sugar kind of caked up and cracked. So they weren't as pretty as I expected. But I still kept them for color!

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I also made candied lemon slices. They turned out to be very, very beautiful. But I wasn't sure how they would work within the final plating.

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Next, I made honeyed walnuts. I left some whole and chopped some up. I also made candied cranberries by pouring a simple syrup over cranberries and cooking that mixture over a pot of simmering water. I was hoping to use the syrup from the cranberries as a sauce for the plating. For color!

This is photo of some of the components I prepared for plating experimentations.

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I found it difficult to do plating experiments because I wasn't used to the idea of it. My mind doesn't default to "what would look pretty on this plate?" and having so many components to work with didn't make it easier. Here's some sketches, here are some attempts.

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Things were going alright. The cranberry sauce I originally planned to use was too translucent and not too striking. So I went back with the original cranberry curd plan. I knew I wanted to make my design organic and not too overly cohesive. Clutter that is comfortable and beautiful.

This is the final.

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I really appreciated the fact that we got some criticism during the critique. It's helpful to hear, first hand, what works and doesn't. I appreciated knowing that the plating was a little imbalanced and I definitely agreed. Overall, I'm pretty happy with my final plating. I now understand how much prep it takes to make a plating as interesting as the ones we've seen from Diane. Mad props.

the lovin' spoonful.

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And we're back. Amuse bouche-ing.

Beginning thoughts on this project include some good ol' mind mappin' and class-time distractions. Creating a dish around in-season foods at this time of year is exciting and cozy and full of delicious.

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Apparently I have the tendency to flock towards pie-related things. I'm too used to making pies, though. I needed something new. I did figure out that I totally wanted to use beer.

These assignments actually keep me up at night. I'm saying there were times, at night, where I was unconsciously ruminating over images of seasonal foods in spoons.

My first day of trials was centered around pears, squash, beets, and beer. I made a sauce with beer, honey, and molasses. I used half it on on some cut up squash, which I then sprinkled with thyme and threw in the oven. I used the other half of the sauce on pears that had been cooking in butter on the stove. The sauce mixed with the butter let it to become sticky and thick, which was totally what I wanted. The pears were coated in something delicious. The squash turned out fine too, but the consistency of the glaze wasn't right. You win, pears.

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Moving on to another texture...
The lab in which we experimented with gels was pretty sweet. I was inspired to do some sort of gel-ball-juice-caviar-orb thing with my amuse bouche. After some research, I found that agar agar powder and oil could be used as an easy-to-find alternative to the calcium and alginate solutions. The process was actually pretty easy and worked fairly well. A liquid was brought to a boil with the agar powder, the agar powder was dissolved, and the mixture was dropped into cold oil to form spheres. Here's the thing, though. Guess if beer-agar ball tastes good. It doesn't. It tastes awful.

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Somehow still thinking this day was going to be successful, I baked thin slices of pear, squash, and beet. I have no pictures of the finished product because upon tasting a beer ball (worst name) with a beer-glazed pear, I felt sad and threw in the towel for the day. I was pleased with the pears, but had an inkling I could come up with something more creative.

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What I did notice at this point during agar powder research time was that the solutions I made were hardening to gel consistency on their own and fairly quickly. The next day I tried to make two more gels; one with root beer and cream, and one with beer, sugar, and creme. Both mixtures set well, but upon tasting them, I couldn't get behind the texture. They were like way too hard jello jigglers. I felt disgusted, frustrated, and not wanting to ever eat jello again.

I needed to think of a more delicious way to transform a liquid into a solid. Enter: candy. I had recently viewed an episode of Good Eats where Sir Alton Brown showed me how easy it was to make my own candy corn. It was really, very neat. This inspiring episode led me to think about marshmallows (gelatin, duh). I've never made candy before, but this seemed like it wouldn't be too hard. AND I would get to buy a kitchen gadget I've always wanted--hey there, candy thermometer.

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I decided to go with sweet potatoes and beer. Nice. Here, I wanted to focus on combining several textures on the spoon.

The rest of the afternoon was spent prepping and gathering needed items: sweet potato puree, gelatin (no agar this time. sorry, vegans), corn syrup, and a delicious stout. Come mallow-time, I was way pumped. It totally wasn't that difficult and using a candy thermometer made me feel totally professional.

Honestly, can you think of there being any problems with the way a spiced chocolate stout sweet potato marshmallow would taste? Aside from some rookie candy-making mistakes, I was pretty pleased with myself. Pleased enough to make a Facebook status about it.

The next time I made the mallows, I added more beer (all beer, no water) and more sweet potato. I needed something to go with them, so I thought to make a stout ganache. For more texture, I thought first of crushed pretzels, but decided on sweet potato chips to reinforce the flavor in the marshmallow. I was going to make a hot chocolate to put in the bottom of the spoon, but I wanted a meltier, less liquidy texture.

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Here's the finished product: a sweet potato, double chocolate stout (Southern Tier 2x Stout to be exact), a chocolate stout ganache, and crushed sweet potato and beet chips. I really like the way I combined textures here, as well as the way the sweetness was complemented by the saltiness of the chips and slight bitterness of the beer.

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I loved how the amuse bouche assignment got me to think of unusual flavor combinations. And I feel like it's nice to think of food on a very small, condensed scale. It calls for more concentration and attention to detail.

Yes.

Food Innovation Assignment

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Here's what I've been thinking about so far. In list form.


  • Never have I ever cooked orzo...why is that.

  • I like the idea of making something that makes whomever is eating it do something. For example, how "exciting" is it when you go to a restaurant and a dessert option is make your own s'mores? A little bit exciting.
  • Rice pudding popsicles. That's something I thought of.
  • It might be cool to take two dishes with different ethnic tastes and merge them. The common factor maybe being orzo or rice.
  • Cooking scares me sometimes. I'd much rather bake and so I'm going to extremes in my mind to figure out some way I can make orzo into a cookie. Probably not possible, and definitely not delicious.

A couple days later...

This is my first mind map:
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The result was fried rice pudding arancini balls. I thought this may have been the best idea ever. Ever. It was a dessert, the flavor combinations were endless, I COULD MAKE A SAUCE. I got my arborio rice for a thicker consistency, my whole milk, and made rice pudding for the first time.

I think I hate rice pudding. Maybe it's because I stood over a stove for half an hour, trying to make the pudding super starchy, or maybe it's because I might be slightly lactose-intolerant.

(Notice: Throughout this blog post you will be viewing poorly lit and composed photos. You're welcome.)

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It tasted fine, but the idea of making a fried rice pudding ball wasn't exciting to me. I knew I was capable of coming up with more ideas, and I'm pretty sure it had been done before. I actually wonder if it would have been successful had I gone through with it. Too bad.

Later that week, I made my second mind map, still clinging to the idea that I could make a dessert.

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So I tried something. I tried to make a rice pudding pumpkin pie. Because it was seasonal and I like pumpkin pie and it sounded good. When the first hints of fall appear, all I can think about is cinnamonandpumpkinandmapleandapples and I can't escape it. First I made a pumpkin rice pudding (still with the arborio rice) and then poured it on top of a graham cracker crust. It didn't taste...bad. It definitely wasn't exciting...it didn't seem too innovative...I kind of just didn't want to eat it. Back to the drawing board!

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Please enjoy this kind-of-mind-map at the bottom of my Dramatic Literature notes. The class was talking about colonialism and I was thinking about rice. Again.

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I needed to get away from the idea of making a dessert. It wasn't going over too well and I needed to challenge myself. I still liked the idea of making something you could eat with your hands, kind of a street food thing. I knew I liked the idea of using a classic rice dish and so I tried to think up as many as possible. By the end of my mapping, I had two top dishes: paella and jambalaya, both of which I've never made before.

I thought making egg rolls was pretty smart. They seemed like street food to me, I liked the idea of making a dipping sauce, and I also liked the idea of merging two types of cuisine. My first attempt to make jambalaya was a vegetarian attempt. Here's the thing, guys. Guess what? It didn't taste like jambalaya. Because there was no meat. I had to buy the meat, you guys. Aside from the meat issue, I tried using rice wrappers for frying the egg rolls in and because I thought I may get brownie points for using rice in two different ways. No dice. Unless your mouth wants to encounter a lot of weird, chewy bubbles, leave those for the raw spring rolls. Please.

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Basically what you'll see here are a couple of Jimmy Dean sausages fried in multiple layers of Saran wrap.

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The next morning I headed over to the Seward Co-op to get myself some andouille sausage. I'd like to add that I've never purchased sausage in my life. Also, I picked up some spring roll wrappers in the frozen food section of United Noodles. My second jambalaya attempt turned out remarkably better. Cooking everything in the fat rendered from the sausage made everything taste better (Oh, really? Meat actually makes things taste better?). No, yeah. So much better. The rice cooked up perfectly this time, just the right consistency. The spring roll wrappers I bought worked SO. MUCH. BETTER. They actually looked like egg rolls.

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Now, the sauce you see in the picture is made up of two kinds of mustard, mayo, and paprika. I like it, I'm not sure if it masks the flavor of the rolls yet...but I'll be serving it.

Why didn't I ever try making something with orzo? The texture of it wasn't intriguing to me and I felt it couldn't be manipulated as much. The different varieties of white rice and how crucial it is to so many dishes around the world offered up so many possibilities.

This project was super challenging. A lot of the time I had to ask myself what innovation meant. I was constantly worried that I wasn't being innovative enough. In the end, I'm pretty pleased with what I decided to make. I think it's interesting to consume a well-known dish through a different kind of...container. After seeing everyone's finished products in class, I wish I experimented more with the texture of rice, it's purpose in a dish, and, scientifically, what it's capable of. Instead of just taking a classic rice dish and doing something different with it, I would have liked to use rice in a more non-conventional way. I appreciate this project pushing me to use ingredients I don't normally cook with (meat.) and to develop ideas through a design lens. The first lecture we had concerning some basic design concepts and how they're implemented in the food business helped jumpstart my creative process and allowed me to think in a way I'm not used to. Always keeping in mind, "Have I seen this before?" and "Do people want this?" was helpful throughout the process.


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