Fruits Of My Labor

This afternoon, I planted a small kitchen herb garden and sowed the seeds of my very own personal strawberry plant.

It took me about fifteen minutes to prep the soil, sow the seeds and set the finished pots up on my little apartment porch. It took me another ten minutes to clean up. All in all, the whole endeavor took less than half an hour – and would have gone even quicker if I hadn’t somehow managed to spill potting soil all over my white carpet.

I know I’m usually a big proponent of technology and machine-made innovation. But, when it comes to my food, the only technology I want involved is the innovation that created the vaccuum that restored my carpet back to a practically-sparkling white after the great soil spill of 2010.

Which is to say, I cannot wait to enjoy the organic, homegrown, potted-by-hand fruits – and herbs – of today’s labor. It was even worth messing up my manicure for. After all, my nails can be repainted. My body, and the bodies of the friends and family I plan on feeding fresh chives, thyme, basil, parsley, cilantro and strawberries to…well, we only have one shot at taking good care of those.

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Robot Cooks: Machines Can Prepare Sushi & Rock A Chef’s Hat

Today, The New York Times ran an article about the rise of robotic chefs, including the new granola-bar-delivering Snackbot at Carnegie Mellon University and the omelet-making  Chief Cook bot in Switzerland.  From Japanese restaurants where robots make Ramen to entire conventions devoted to mechanized methods for preparing everything from sushi to sliced veggies, it appears that RoboCop is out and RoboChef is in. (Insert ‘dead or alive, you’re eating with me’ joke here).

Of course, I already have a robot that makes Ramen – it’s called the microwave. But it doesn’t have a jaunty chef’s hat and cute little googly eyes. So I suppose there are worse things modern technology could be churning out. Although, as an avowed foodie, a former foodservice employee and a long-time proponent of the ancient Jewish philosophy of ‘food is love,’ I’m not sure mechanical chefs can ever really replace the flesh and blood kind.

Sure, robots can slice and dice as methodically (or maybe even more so) as the best sous chef. But they can’t take a quick break to dirty dance with a waitress to whatever salsa tune is on the stereo. Or pour a tequila shot between services. Or freeze half to death looking for some long-lost root vegetable in the walk in and then spend the rest of the day complaining about it.  And they certainly can’t taste the food they prepare. Which, as far as I’m concerned, eliminates all the excitement and passion from the cooking process. Not to mention the tastebuds.

So although the gadget-geek side of me thinks a sushi-rolling robot is pretty darn cool, the side of me that loves food – and loves all the madcap behind-the-scenes drama and passion that goes into preparing it (and in most cases, preparing it well) – isn’t such a fan of seeing my chefs du jour replaced by chefs du circuitboard.

Not that I would argue with a robot making my morning toast. I just don’t want any Termibroilers taking over the food world full-force. Although having a chef with machine guns for arms might help cut down on those obnoxious diners who insist on sending their food back fifty times right in the middle of a rush.

Dating: iPhone Applications for Food Will Save Your Butt (even if you don’t exactly have an iPhone)

See this post in its original format on Speed LA Dating.

So, you’re tooling around town with that special someone when suddenly, hunger strikes. You need food, and you need it fast. You also need it to work for your low-carb, low-fat, macrobiotic vegan diet. Or however it is you happen to be eating this month. Hey, nobody’s judging. It is LA after all.

Fortunately, in this land of Mozza and Matsuhisa, Oki Dog and Kogi BBQ, there are as many options for satisfying your stomach as there are surgeries for stapling it up afterward. Which begs the question – when you’re standing on the sidewalk in a strange part of the city, trying to impress your date with that perfect palate pleasing pick, how do you figure out which restaurant is the right one?

Lucky for you, there just so happens to be an app for that — and no, I’m not just talking about the drool-worthy biscuits at Animal on Fairfax. I’m talking about the kind of app that accessorizes your phone and makes your life a whole lot easier in the process. And, in fact, there are multiple applications that can turn your favorite iPhone, iPod, Droid, Hero, Blackberry, Palm or carrier pigeon into your very own, personalized Zagat Guide. Okay, so you’re probably not going to find an app for your favorite carrier pigeon. But, I guarantee you, any of these apps will help you find a place that’ll serve that sucker up on a silver platter.

Everyone knows about Yelp. Even my mother – who thinks Twitter is something you do when you’re stifling laughter – knows about Yelp. But, did you know that Yelp has a secret, special feature? It’s what’s called an “Easter egg” in the web business, and basically, it turns your iPhone 3GS into a 3D experience. Using technology known as augmented reality, the Yelp app will literally layer Yelp’s listings over the real, live world. So you can literally see what’s near you, and what other people think of the place — sort of like google street view for your cell phone. Don’t have an iPhone? Don’t worry. The Layar app will do the same 3D thing with even more features — you can set favorites, see stories about what you’re looking at and more. And, it works on any Android phone, as well as on the iPhone.

Augmented reality is awesome and all, but what if you just want to find a place that fits your picky preferences? Enter UrbanSpoon. This fun little app lets you set up a search by location, cuisine and cost. You can also set separate filters like popularity, no chains, distance, etc. Or, for a really fun experience, just turn it on, and shake it up. It makes a sound like a slot machine and serves up a random mix of results — perfect for picking out an appetizing adventure. You can get it for the iPhone and Blackberry, and you can also get it on any phone via text.

So, you’ve shaken your phone, seen the wonderful world of augmented reality and finally picked the perfect place to take your date. Now what? Well, if you’re smart, you’ll bust out yourOpenTable app and start setting up some reservations. Don’t have an app-friendly phone? No problem. Just hit the mobile version