I really enjoy gift giving. Finding just the right gift for someone is a fun challenge and something I enjoy working on. I still buy a lot of gifts from wish lists, but if I can pick out something special based on what I know of the recipient, all the better. Those are the presents I am most excited for. The key is looking beyond big box stores and mass retailers for the places the sell unique and curated items. One of my favorite online options (seriously, I have been shopping with them for years and years now) is UncommonGoods. This year, they reached out and asked me to check out their Christmas Gift Guide (you can find it here) and to pick something special to enjoy and review. Why, yes, an early Christmas present sounds lovely to me! I chose the Cuisine R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit because on a recent trip to Quebec I picked up some balsamic vinegar pearls and was curious about making my own.
All About the R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Cuisine Kit
If you’re not familiar with molecular gastronomy, it’s the practice of using chemistry to alter the properties of foods so that you can present them in new ways. It might be something like the balsamic vinegar pearls (or caviar), or it could be espresso foam, or olive oil noodles. It’s fun and trendy and is a playful way to present food. The R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit comes with measuring spoons, a slotted spoon, pipettes, a syringe, a silicon mold, and tubing, as well as several add-ins like agar agar and calcium lactate. It also comes with an instructional DVD. We opted for the version with a cookbook as well.
LadyBug and I decided to make chocolate caviar on a white chocolate cream sauce. I’m going to be honest, but it was a total disaster from the get-go. It was partially my fault and partly due to some shortcomings in the kit.
The R-Evolution kits are made in Canada. In fact, they are based in Quebec. As a result, the recipes are all in metric measurements and they occasionally call for things that aren’t readily (or obviously) available in the United States. I was able to muddle past the second hurdle, but not the first. Throughout the world it is common to weigh ingredients rather than measure them. And this makes sense – if your flour is compact, you’ll get more in a cup than if it’s fresh and aerated. When the book told me to weigh out a gram of calcium lactate, I whipped out my kitchen scale. My daughter was excited to use it. Unfortunately, my kitchen scale wasn’t really designed for that degree of sensitivity and we had a hard time getting accurate measurements.
Then, we were supposed to blend (with an immersion blender – not included) the hot chocolate mixture. But it’s not really a lot of chocolate, so the immersion blender wasn’t really immersed. Nothing like hot gelled chocolate being flung about your kitchen. I won’t list all of the troubles we had, but suffice to say they were many (and constant). Still, we got our chocolate mixture and added drop-by-drop into the other solution. And it looked like it was working. There were tiny spheres of chocolate just as expected. Sure, some looked iffy, but more of them looked great. But when it came time to strain them, they all fell apart, leaving a sticky chocolate-y mess. Boo. Even our white chocolate cream didn’t set properly. It was a fail all around.
I will try again when I can get my hands on a better kitchen scale and now that I am armed with some important knowledge about how the process works. Despite our failures, I have mostly good things to say about the kit. The materials are fairly good quality and there is enough of each of the add-ins (5 packets of each, but most recipes call for a pack or less) to experiment with. You can then buy more of what you liked. The cookbook is fun to look through, but may not be the best choice for Americans, given the conversion issue and the ingredient challenges. The DVD may be enough, or you can find recipes online. I liked the kit and would happily get another, but I would only give it as a gift to a seasoned cook who has a lot of tools at their disposal.
More About UncommonGoods
UncommonGoods launched in 1999 (I’ve probably been a customer almost that long). Based in Brooklyn, it’s a company that believes in giving back. In addition to supporting some amazing independent artisans (half of what they carry is hand made), UncommonGoods also donates to four non-profits in the areas of environment, education, women, and sexual violence. The vast majority of their products are made in the USA and many use recycled/upcycled materials. While it’s not quite the same as buying local (unless you’re in Brooklyn, too, I guess), I like that I’m getting quality items and supporting artists and small business endeavors. And, of course, the products are really cool. Really.
They’ve got a wide range of goodies there and I want pretty much all of them. Seriously though, it’s not just household items. They have fantastic toys (check ‘em out), including some great STEM and creative items. You can also find gifts for the men and women in your life (visit here and here). It’s definitely a great place to go for the person who has everything.
Shopping for Christmas 2015? Here are the cutoff dates for shipping:
Place your order by 5pm ET on the dates below to receive your order on or before December 24, 2015:
- December 17 – choose Economy shipping or faster
- December 18- choose Standard or Preferred shipping or faster
- December 21 – choose Expedited shipping or faster (not valid for PO Box addresses)
- December 22 – choose Express shipping (not valid for PO Box addresses)
- Orders placed after 5pm ET on December 23 will leave our warehouse on Monday, December 28.
Disclosure: We received the above product for review purposes. There was no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.