Food

A Lesson in Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots are not actually babies in their Carrot families. They are adults that didn't make the 'good looking club' only to be cut down and shaved into something that doesn't even exist naturally IRL. 

I discovered this fact a few years ago and I think about it from time to time. When I pass by a bag of 'baby carrots,' my heart sinks and I spend about 7 seconds thinking about what their true expressions of form would've been before being tossed into the 'not good enough' corner and then forced to take the same shape as the rest of their fellow rebels. I still always buy a bag to snack on later. Nom nom.

I've been cooking a lot more lately and have actually had to purchase real, adult carrots for recipes. When I meet them in their stacks at the market, they seem so boring. They're all straight, tall, some are chunkier than others, but there's no variety to what I'm looking at and on top of all this, they're dirty and need to be peeled. Ain't nobody got time for that. What's so special about these ones anyway?

Every now and then I'll meet one with a little flair of character that has snuck into a pile on display for the world to see. I tell it, "Show'em who's boss you badass carrot." When I go to the farmer's market, I see the ones who had so much fun in the soil that it's a miracle the gardeners even knew to categorize them as carrots. (Apparently, carrots can throw raging parties where they wrap around each other and end up looking like corkscrews. Party animals.)

  Google search of 'carrots twisted.'

Google search of 'carrots twisted.'

However, when I started to use carrots in my cooking, I as a user of carrots began to appreciate the reliability of the straight and uptight, boring carrots. They were easy to peel and chop, tasted richer in flavor, and according to The Carrot Museum, they are richer in nutrients when they mature the way they are supposed to mature. 

What I'd like to point out here is not that there is a Carrot Museum in this world (what?!), but that as designers in the UX world, sometimes it is best to leave certain components alone. If they are reliable, simple, and satisfying, focus on another aspect that actually needs some change and help. Use your reliable, simple, and satisfying feature to gain trust from your user and anchor your extended experimentations on the foundations of what works and what will, more likely than not, always work. Use it as the stable ingredient in your larger recipe for service delivery and/or digital feature.

As an artist and designer, I like to change things up. A new way of doing things brings fresh perspectives and intentional awareness is heightened when engaging in a novel interaction. You can spice things up every now and then just to keep the user engaged but remember that your experience, as fancy as it can be, will always be an ingredient to a human's larger soup of encounters s/he experiences every day. 

It's hard not to make your UX/Service design shine brightly to stand out from the crowd but I think there is something to be said about being the same, boring yet reliable service available for people. No nonsense. Just a basic and nutritious ingredient to a user's journey throughout his/her day.

Steadiness is a virtue. Perhaps 'baby carrots' would agree.

Solfinn + Family

Remember when I went to that pop-up dinner from Rødder? And then they invited me to their wine shop the day after? I went and had a wonderful hang with them. 

One of the things that Rødder prides itself on is their knack for finding natural wine that is oh so delicious and wonderful. I bought a bottle to gift the Airbnb that I was staying at but felt tempted to bring it back home to the states with me instead.

Inside the store there are rad posters of bands and just a quaint space where you can tell most of the finances and emailing takes place for this small business. 

The sweetest treat of the day, other than the amazing rosé they opened and shared, was the arrival of Solfinn's daughter who was dressed oh so french and chic. 

I also met Solfinn's wife who had apparently designed some of the posters that were inside the wine shop. She is an architect by trade and told me that she will be returning to work in a few months.

She was so social and playful the entire time and was also very curious when it came to my camera. (Photographed here is also the international phenomenon, Sophie la Girafe)

Solfinn and his beautiful family. They had just spend 3 weeks in Paris for their holiday and were back in Denmark to cook up a storm.

I was so pleased to be able to hang out with just awesome people and I really felt all the kindness ooze out of everyone. Maybe it was the weather that day or it could've been the wine but it was just so chill. 

I love good people.

Food for... Eating.

When my brother and I went to Japan, we waited in line for sushi at the fish market for 4 hours. Yes. 4 hours. 

Needless to say, I love food. It has always been 'live to eat' and never the other way around. There are articles written out there about our current culture's obsession with food and the endless boards that exist on Pinterest which is everyone's not-so-guilty pleasure. So, I will gladly own up to the fact that, yes, I am a Millennial who is obsessed with food. 

Food lovers - you HAVE to go to Copenhagen. 

Your first thought might be, "Did you go to NOMA?!" The answer is no, I did not. 

I thought about going there and giving myself an insanely expensive treat but I decided that I wanted to keep that experience for later on in my life so that I have something to look forward to (and also to have an excuse to come back to Copenhagen). I laugh about this because it only shows how deep my adoration for food really is. I am literally planning when the peak of my dining experience should be but I have no shame in this arena and neither do my siblings.

Little did I know that some of the chefs who have trained at NOMA have exited and started restaurants of their own - one of them is Christian Puglisi and I basically played in his playground for a large portion of my time in Copenhagen.

If I'm going to go with this playground analogy, this man has the best sand box called Mirabelle, the most wonderful snack tables for recess called Manfreds, the best swing set with trained pushers called Relæ, and the coolest kids in town to hang out with. He also has one of those domes you can crawl over called Bæst but I unfortunately didn't get to try that gem. 

Mirabelle

The Airbnb I stayed at had a really great book of local eateries that they crafted themselves and I am forever indebted to my hosts for introducing me to this place. I think I came here a total of 4 times. Yes. I liked it that much. 

It was such a laid back place to do some work, to read, and to get some wonderful food. The people there are wonderful and there is a glass wall between the cafe and the bakers that make is so delightful to be creepy and stare at the process of all the goodies that come out of this place.

What I kept going back for:
1) The Sourdough Bread. This bread, ladies and gentlemen, is the best sourdough bread I have ever had. Ever. Ugh... I can't even write about it because it's so good. Let's just say that the day I was flying out of Copenhagen to come back to the states, I swung by to grab some to eat on the plane. It's that good. 

2) The Cortado. I used to be a barista in Los Angeles, CA and let me tell you how hard it is to steam milk. It's one of those things that people really take for granted and I did so myself until I had the task to create some on a daily basis. Mirabelle does an impeccable job and their espresso is fantastic as well. So. Good. 

3) The Plain Roman. This delightful treat is a thin focaccia like bread topped with sliced potatoes and leeks. There were other options available but this one takes the cake. It's so simple and clean but oh so delicious. 

4) The Croissant. Oh. My. ... This croissant is amazing. The Danish baker who creates this I found is a young woman (through my Instagram research - basically internet stalking) and she is famous in Denmark for producing these goodies. In their take away menu it reads, "Our croissants are very popular and are ripped off the shelves every morning. Come early or call ahead to make sure you get one," and it is so true. It was only the third time I came to Mirabelle that they had some available. 

 

Manfreds

I didn't feel like sitting at a restaurant but I did want some great food to take home so I figured it was my chance to try Manfreds. The reviews read that their beef tartare was impeccable. I'm actually really afraid of raw meat - I came out of my vegetarianism around 3 years ago but everything told me that I needed to try this dish. I ordered the beef tartare and the green dish of the day.

The hostess was really sweet and made sure I got some of Mirabelle's sourdough bread to accompany my meal. The. Best. Ever.

I ate both dishes in the comfort of my rented apartment and wow. It was delicious. Beef tartare is actually good and I think I may have been introduced to it in the best way possible. And with that bread? I don't think anything can go wrong with that bread.  

The green dish had olives in it and that's something that I still can't get around. I can detect those things in their smallest form in pizza so that shows how much I react to it. I wish I liked it though because the rest of the dish was spectacular and I can see how it would've been oh so wonderful if I enjoyed the enhancing flavor.

 

Relæ

The very last night I had in Copenhagen was originally planned for dinner with my new letterpress friend, Katrine. We had to cancel but I was miraculously called for an opportunity to eat at Relæ which I had been crossing my fingers for the entire trip. 

I wrote that if I were to compare Christian Puglisi's restaurants to a playground that this place would be the swing set with trained pushers and boy was it a blissful ride. All I had to do was sit down and enjoy the acclimation of slowly being pushed higher and higher and then being brought down gently with a joyous treat at the end.

Another addition to this dinner that made it a serendipitous experience was meeting a fellow diner to my right who was visiting from New York. He, too, was on a small sabbatical and it turns out that his girlfriend is in the same industry as me. We had much to talk about throughout the night and it was nice to share a meal with someone who was also about to embark on an adventure of new work and challenges ahead. 


Other delightful finds in Copenhagen include:

Grød

One of the strangest things I fell in love with in this magical city was oatmeal. Growing up, I didn't even know what oatmeal was until later on in elementary school, didn't taste it until high school, and even then I didn't like it. It always puzzled me how people could eat oatmeal and feel satisfied.

But Grød is so different. They stripped down the humble oatmeal and dressed it up with natural ingredients to enhance its flavor. One that surprised me was Icelandic yogurt which is very similar to greek yogurt. Wow.

Total times I tried different dishes here: 3. It's that good.

 

Höst

Another coveted place that is just as tough to get into as Relæ was Höst. I got a last minute reservation and got to spend some time eating delicious treats, meeting and talking wonderful servers, and reading my book. 

The people here were so wonderful and the food was fun and paired with great wine. Something to note about this restaurant is their attention to their dinnerware. Each piece was created and/or selected for the dish in mind which supports the dish to achieve its maximum potential.

The interior is also really magical and quaint and you can tell why they have won 3 international design awards. They were also named the world's best designed restaurant at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in 2014 so there's that.

Service Design Notes: During my dining experiences, a lot of the restaurants had a interesting way to welcome you to their table. They would bring out a little treat for you while you began to browse the menu to figure out what you wanted to eat. This is a great way to welcome users and also gives a way for restaurants to buy a little bit of time. It also makes the introduction memorable as opposed to the standard bread in a basket.

UX Notes: One of the most important things about design is that everything must breathe together in its function and form. I once interviewed a girl for a UX position who stated that "UI is not UX." As we talked more, I found out that she likes to cook and asked her if she just eats out of the pot or pan she cooked from or if she makes an effort to place it on a dish in a way that appealed to her. The answer was the latter. Having visuals support your hard work of research and functional design elevates your design to correctly communicate how you want your users to receive your product. Food and mobile screen? Not so different.

 

Rødder: Pop-up Dinner

I mentioned several times that I did some research into my tribes that exist in Copenhagen. During this quest I found a blog that belonged to one of the main Service Design groups in Denmark. I reached out in hopes of meeting like-minded people but sadly, it was summer, and they weren't holding any events during my stay. However, I continued to read their blog and looked at some of their past events.

One of their events looked so festive that I searched a bit more to find who had hosted such a lovely looking event. Turns out that it was hosted by a group called Rødder: Two chefs holding pop-up dining experiences filled with thoughtful, locally grown produce that were transformed with creativity onto a plate. I crossed my fingers and sent them an email to see if they would be hosting an event during my stay. Lo and behold, they were. So, I bought a ticket. 

I arrived a little late to the dinner but was met with smiling chefs who directed me to a spot in a long dinner table setting. I talked to them about this set up and they described to me that it was very intentional on how they wanted everyone to feel united as well as cozy enough to spark conversation during communal dining. Remember - Danes don't just party with anyone. 

I sat down and was met with two groups to the left and right of me. I must've looked timid (and I'll admit I was - I was horrified that I was late and also that it seemed to be a very family oriented event) so they were kind enough to spark conversation. Again, to me, Danes are so friendly and kind. What is this nonsense of them being cold and unapproachable? Someone please correct this misunderstanding.

We talked about many things and eventually, many of them asked me how I got a ticket to this event. I told them my story and they were sort of amazed. I then found out that Rødder was the first group to ever host pop-up dinners and spearheaded this notion of celebratory communal dining with local food. Here I was, sitting at a lovely pop-up dinner, with a ticket that was coveted by many who were met with 'sold out' notifications during an online check-out process. #jelly?

Needless to say, the meal was fantastic. 

Chef Esben

Chef Solfinn

Aren't these lily pad looking things gorgeous? I still have yet to find the names of them. If you know what they are, please share!

Lovely plant centerpieces

This dessert was amazing. Vanilla mouse with fennel, gooseberries, and lemon ice.

At the end of the meal, I talked with some of the chefs and they asked if I was the girl from Chicago who had emailed them about their event. Such great memory, right? We chatted a bit and I thanked them for the meal. We ended the conversation with them inviting me to their wine shop to chill and hang out the next day. Umm... yes. I will be there.

Service Design Notes: There were no technology components involved in this dinner experience except for the ticket purchasing which wasn't even checked upon arriving. What do you think about honor systems? I think that the better we get at service design, the more honor systems we will see in the industry. I believe this to be true because as we design better experiences, we connect with humans better and create mini-relationships even if it's for the designed moment. When we connect and develop these mini-relationships, we don't need to play police because cooperation, respect, and the golden rule is part of the transaction of receiving a service.

UX Notes: These long tables that were quite narrow were consciously selected and designed for these events by Rødder. When creating an experience, it is important to consider the physical space of where you are constructing your experience because this is where the unconscious mind and emotions creep in and can determine which direction your experience will go towards. I believe this set up is successful for Rødder because the physical space forced naturally reserved Danes to get close and enjoy food in good company.

Danish Culture

During the first part of my trip while my friend was traveling with me, two of the hosts we met at the Airbnb mentioned that Danes aren't very friendly and that they are hard to get to know. I heard this a few times throughout my trip but the more I spent time in Denmark, the less I believe this to be true. 

I thought about why I didn't experience this distance between myself and the Danes and I concluded that it could be because of my Korean culture. Both cultures are pretty reserved and it takes a bit of time to create bonds and friendships with people.

There are no good or bad sides to this. It's simply just the way certain populations work. But like I said, I did not experience this and I believe it is also partly because I met so many people in the arts as well as the restaurant service industry who were all so welcoming, friendly, and kind. 


Fie, one of the girls I met at Alhambra & Sons, was kind enough to extend a sincere welcome and offered to take me to the part of town where she grew up. I was floored by her kindness and gladly received it. We actually talked about this activity of invitation during our hang out and she too said that it is out of a Dane's norm to ask someone out to dinner and a get-together so quickly. At this point, I could care less because all I felt was warm, sincere kindness from a human to another human. 

I learned so much about Fie and her family during the few hours we spent time together. She showed me her hometown which was a gorgeous place that had rich history and lovely architecture. We talked about many things and she shared with me her Christmas traditions (Christmas is celebrated profusely in Denmark - something I am dying to experience), lovely stories about her family, and hilarious jokes about the current state of Danish politics. All I could think was, "This is so wonderful. She is so wonderful. How did I get here?"
 

Some facts about Denmark

1) In the old days, there were dog statues in the windowsill of many homes. Why? You're going to love this. 

Apparently, some of the women of this town didn't enjoy monogamy so whenever the dogs were facing out towards the street, it meant that their husbands were home. When their husbands left, however, they turned the dogs to face inward - to beckon in their lovers. Ha. I couldn't stop laughing at this story. There are also these old contraptions of mirrors by the windows to spy on the street and everything. Such clever ladies, I'd say.
 

2) Danish people never complain. 

This was the view from where we were eating. Gorgeous.

We ate by the seaside and I ordered a Coke Zero for my fried, seafood meal. Don't ask me why but I love Coke Zero and can tell the difference between Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and just Coke. Ew. I'm grossed out at myself after reading that sentence. Anyway, what I had received initially was Coke and after a couple of sips, I asked the waitress if she would bring me a Coke Zero instead of the Coke. Simple mishap - could happen anywhere, right? Oh man was I in trouble. Fie was kind enough to smooth out the situation but after the waitress left, she told me, "Yeah... Danish people don't complain about those things." 

I was utterly humiliated but allowed myself to slowly forget about it as we continued to eat and share stories about our lives. I felt really awful about not keeping to cultural specifics because I felt as though I had bad manners in that moment - but I guess this is why we travel. To encounter these kinds of moments and re-evaluate why we do things on a day-to-day basis. 
 

3) Be very afraid of geese. 

This is a seaside pool where locals come to hang out. Nearby, the goose farm exists.

Roasting and eating a goose during Christmas is actually a thing in Denmark.  I think it originated here and there was a goose farm pretty close to the seaside. Coming from a Korean family, I never knew what you were supposed to eat during Christmas and our family quickly decided to not figure it out but to feast on grilled meats on a tabletop grill. Fie shared that during the early winter months, children would wander together to the community pool by the lake but would be firmly warned to stay away from the geese. Fact: They can get to be the size of little ponies and can attack people if provoked. How do you categorize this? First world problems? Someone help me. 

I was so thankful to have had this experience with Fie. She also took me to Denmark's famous ice cream shop called Ismageriet where I had delicious elderberry ice cream with marshmallow goo on top. Just thinking about it makes me want another taste.

There is always a line but it goes quickly. Be prepared to know what you're going to order when you get to the front! (You can also taste as many samples as you'd like but the people behind you may judge.)

UX notes: Just like cultures have their own set of manners and rules for how things should behave, digital products informally have rules for proper manners as well. For example, asking for a credit card to test out a trial run for an app? That's bad manners. Hiding a button to encourage an accidental invite to everyone you've ever had an email exchange with in your life as LinkedIn connections? Bad manners. It is important to look at the culture of what positive manners products are producing and follow suit. Otherwise, where is the human culture in technology?


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