Thursday, February 28, 2008


It's just coincidence (I think....) that several R2D2 items have come to my attention recently.

One is a 5-inch-tall pepper grinder. You twist his head and pepper comes out the bottom. It costs $19.95 from ThinkGeek.

From the same website comes the R2D2 trash can for $99.

And then, the piece de resistance, is an R2D2 cake (shown at left) from Mark Joseph Cakes in Brooklyn. They do not do mail order (for obvious reasons), but they will deliver to the tri-state (NY, NJ, CT) area. Or if you live in NYC, you can go and pick up the cake yourself from their store in D.U.M.B.O. (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Beyond scratch & sniff...waaay beyond

A small company called First Flavor, in Bala Cynwyd, PA, has come up with a marketing idea that is either genius or disgusting. They have developed a technology called Peel 'n Taste, where a thin sheet of edible film is impregnated with flavor. (It's the same technology as is used to make those breath freshener strips.)

First Flavor is marketing the idea to companies that hope to encourage consumers to buy their product by giving them a taste first. The flavor strip can be delivered in a number of ways, including print ads, direct-mail brochures or in-store displays. First Flavor has created test ads that taste like everything from toothpaste to cherry-vanilla cola to cheese pizza (eeeuww).

One company that has taken them up on the idea is Welch's. Some time in February, People magazine will run an ad that will have a Peel 'n Taste insert for Welch's grape juice. (Hard to imagine anyone who doesn't know what Welch's grape juice tastes like.....)

The challenge to the reader of such a magazine ad is to make sure that s/he is not licking the flavor strip (in the doctor's office, let's say) after several other people have had their go at it. The tip off is in the sealed pouch that holds the flavor strip. If the pouch is unsealed, then someone else has already licked it.

On a side note, First Flavor says that the inspiration for their flavor strips was the scene in the Willy Wonka movie (the Gene Wilder version) in which the kids try one of Wonka's inventions: lickable wallpaper.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Customer-designed food

A number of food companies (Haagen-Dazs, Stonyfield Farm) now have customers choose their new flavors. What's next? Design your own breakfast cereal?

Well, actually, yes. It hasn't hit this country yet, but a German website called lets you customize your mix of grains, nuts and dried fruit that are the components of muesli. Not to tease you, since we can't do it yet in this country, but some of the options for a customized muesli include 5-grain flakes, mango and Brazil nuts (and, inexplicably, gummi bears).

So MyMuesli isn't available yet, but there seems to be some momentum in the area of customized, made-to-order food. For example, a little mom-and-pop (actually mom-and-son) company called YouBar makes customized nutrition bars. For $40 (plus shipping) you get a dozen bars that you design yourself on their website.

And then there are personalized M&Ms. Not food, of course, but still part of the trend. For $48, you get four 7-ounce bags of M&Ms printed with two different messages of your own design. Or, if you only want to order specific colors, it's $24 for 4 bags.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hot chocolate jug

OK. So Valentine's Day is here and maybe you received (or gave) chocolate as a token of your affection. But why should it be only one day a year? And by "it" I mean chocolate. Here's a cool way to enjoy chocolate (and its health benefits) on a regular basis without eating candy.

Bodum, a company known for its coffee and tea paraphernalia, makes a cute glass jug for making hot cocoa called a Chocolatiere. It has a frother in the lid that blends the cocoa and gives it a nice head of cocoa foam. The Chocolatiere holds 40 ounces and sells for about $20.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All-chocolate hotel room

Like Willy Wonka, Godiva has hidden a note in a box of chocolates. When you open that box from your sweetie tomorrow, you may find yourself the winner of a getaway weekend for two in New York City. The prize includes a stay at the Bryant Park Hotel and a suite made almost entirely of chocolate, including a Jackson Pollock-style painting made from drips of melted chocolate, chocolate candles on the dining table and huge chocolate logs in the fireplace.

Check the New York Daily News site for a photo gallery of all the sweet suite details.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Good luck fruit for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year--which starts today and goes for 15 days--has many foods that are meant to be eaten to bring good luck. One of them is the grapefruit-like pummelo (also called pomelo, Chinese grapefruit or shaddock).

A pummelo looks a good deal like a grapefruit (no particular surprise since the grapefruit is a cross between a pummelo and an orange), but has a greener skin and is sometimes pear-shaped. However, the real difference between a grapefruit and a pummelo lies on the inside. The skin of the pummelo is extremely thick and very cottony. And the fruit segments are further protected by tough membranes that need to be removed.

However, once you've done the work, you will be rewarded by the intriguing fruit inside. The segments are filled with sturdy, individual flavor cells that taste something like grapefruit, but sweeter. Your best bet for finding a pummelo this time of year would be in an Asian market, especially if you live anywhere where Chinese New Year is celebrated.