Sunday, February 22, 2009
Roca Tranquila Restaurant is full of light and culinary energy
I had a power lunch at Roca Tranquila on the Costa del Sol last week-end and swore I would be back with lots of time and an empty stomach. This place is one of the best restaurants I have been to in a long time.
I loved the location high up in the hills, with stunning views of the Mediterranean sea. When one enters one stumbles into the Andalucían kitchen where the food is prepared in front of your eyes by the Danish chef Kasper Nielsen.
Kasper has been living on the Costa del Sol for several years and is passionate about Spanish food. But Spanish food for Kasper's comes with a twist, for example the scallop which was superbly fresh and perfectly cooked came surrounded by a vanilla flavoured olive oil, which provided a very interesting contrast. The flavour from a desert in a starter is a surprise anytime. I also had a wonderful salmon soup, where the soup part was so light, lean and tasty it was like tasting milk with massive amount of flavour, with perfectly cooked chunks of salmon. It was a superb soup.
What I loved most was the light, this was probably due to the fact I had been starving for it all winter and when I saw it coming through the big windows in the old farmhouse with 60cm think walls, breaking and creating shadows, I was sold. The place opened in the summer of 2008 and is being discovered by locals as well as visitors, I hope it soon will be discovered by the folks of Guide Michelin, as this one is worth a detour, with that I do not mean two stars, for that they still need to push, but it has potential.
If you are in the area, do stop by, and take lots of time, it will not be wasted.
At Cinc sentist restaurant the 5th sense is family values.
In the modern world of build, spin and flip the values of tradition is something I really appriciate. The fastest way to create tradition is to set up a family business, you instantly have family heritage. When I stepped into Cincsentist in Barcelona I knew I had come to place where people care. The material attention to detail was high, but here it was the human element that aired. Amèlie Artal greeted us in perfect english, slightly puzzled, we found out she was native of Canada and had worked at Netscape and was well versed in technology, she had joined her brother, the chef, Jordi Artal and their mother in a real family venture Cincsentits.
The place is a narrow, yet airy place, the mother (I who I did not catch the name of) said they had actually removed tables and one could feel the space. A brave move in a downturn, but I got the feeling they had decided to outlive bad times and create a culinary icon.
We decided follow Amèlie’s advice and have the 7 course tasting menu with their wines selection. It made things easy, we had after all had a super though week and wanted to unwind with good food, fun stories and lots of laughter. We laughed so much we almost fell off our chairs. The tasting menu was a great choice. Several of the dishes were really amazing. I was particularly fond of the foie gras on a crispy cracker with onion comfit and with a sweet glacing. It was simply perfect. I like the deep flavour of the oxtail, which had been cooked for 36hours. The Scallop was great. The mint sorbet on top of cubes of granny smith apples was super fresh and wonderful in colour. The beuty of this sampling menu is that each portion is small and one is not stuffed after the meal, only a bit tipsy after all that good wine, so if you only want a culinary experience you need to leave wine in the glass after each course ;-)
We had a great chat with Jordi, Amèlie and their lovely mother. Jordi is a self-taught chef, a massive talent, who clearly can progress further. It was great hearing their story of moving back to Spain and setting up a restaurant in Barcelona and aim for the highest standard. Guide Michelin recognised their effort and awarded the team a star in 2008.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Mobile Experiences - The new paradigm
After seeing the Palm Pre I realised something I kind of knew for sometime, but could not really express in words, now I think I can. The iPhone introduced a new paradigm in mobile user experiences, multi-touch and gestural navigation. This is obvious somehow, but I always had a small problem with the iPhone UI in that the control of it was quite basic, a sort of forward-back-up-down-in-out UI. I have referred to it as a pretty mess, it works but does not scale very far. When I first saw it this lack of scalability bothered me, on the other hand like many others I was totally mesmerised with the fluidity of touch, but I first somehow dismissed the multi-touch and gestures to be a gimmicky. I was wrong, it is the beginning of the touch paradigm.
Let me try to elaborate. There has been 3 paradigms of handhelds user experiences. The first was dedicated function keys, where each of the key functions had its dedicated key and leading to either too many keys (remote controls) or impossible to use user interfaces (Japanese Watches) phones with dedicated keys simply did not provide the function scalability needed. In 1994 Nokia introduced the first soft key phone, with the 2110 this became paradigm shift, and in about 15 years all phones with keys have followed this into its defacto standard 3 soft keys (OK, Menu and Back, of which OK is surrounded with 4-way navigation). Two years ago Apple brought out its iPhone. It introduced the first finger only operated touch user interface. The touch screen, its integration and responsiveness was at such a quality that it immediately laid the fundamental for a change in the mobile landscape. The fact that it was a paradigm shift, I only now discovered when I played with the Palm Pre. The Palm Pre was designed among other by Paul Mercer, a friend and brilliant UE designer. He had the good taste to recognize that multi-touch is a paradigm, and just copied what Apple did and then took it further, much further. The Palm Pre is the first touch UE offering a new UI style, which is essentially is a new way of handling core navigation, like navigating in list, across applications and in and out of applications.
Seeing this led me to mature my thinking. There is three layers in User Experience or a UI Style. The highest level I call Bling (this is because, it caters to the visual senses) it contains the visuals, colours, content density and partly motion. The next level below it is Control (This caters to the mind or rationale) This is where the efficiency is created, where one gets stuff done, one navigates into applications, within applications and between applications. It is where services should be integrated. It is much more than functionality, more than an application. The lowest level of a user experience is the Utility level. In this level one experiences such thing as application installation, network control, power management. It is where latency is managed. This level of user experience is almost totally provided by engineering, except when operating at world class level, when UE designers and Engineers co-operate deeply.
Now if we look at empiric's, my opinion is that the Asians, with Samsung, LG at the forefront have realised that they need to invest in user experience, but it has been exclusively done at Bling level. Companies like TAT has greatly helped to create this layer in experience, the motions are fluid, there is fun animations , things look good.
At the control level we have more fundamental innovations, they are things like pinching, flicking, flipping into 'back' of application like in iPhone Weather or flipping below, like in the Maps app. In the PalmPre there are the cards and their shuffling, the Chucking, meaning closing the app. These are fundamental design solutions, solutions I call 'of course design' when invented it is the only reaction user have. They provide deep long lasting innovation, they are the gear shift and steering wheel type of innovations. They cannot be customised from customer to customer.
What now is going to be killer interesting is will there become a legal fight in the Control layer or not. It did not happen in the past paradigm 'soft keys', when Nokia let the others do soft keys, to the great benefit of humanity in my opinion. Apple clearly raised their voice with multi-touch gestures, when the Palm Pre was launched, which in some ways reduces their differentiation, but greatly expands the opportunity for people to be able to operate these new devices. At Fjord we spend alot of time innovationg in the control layer, it is hard work as coming up with 'of-course design' does not happen very often.
When I look at Google's Android it lacks Bling innovation, it lacks Control Innovations, but all innovation has gone into the Utility layer. This somehow fits with my impression of Google. They are a utility, and with utility I do not mean a commodity or anything negative, more in the direction of Air and Water, necessities for life. By focusing on utility in the beginning one can build a very solid user experience paradigm, Android somehow reminds me of the early days of GMail, just another e-mail service that just worked, now 4 years later it is becoming a cloud based content platform integrating core elements of your digital life. What makes the Google strategy powerful is its utility focus, as fragmentation is smaller further down, but it is still far more fragmented than on the PC or Web side, making progress slower, but I suspect Google is in no rush.
Now one can ask will there be new paradigms in mobile experience, the answer is of course, I for one believe we are going to see smarter keys. Text input on touch screens are simply too bad. People like moving keys and the sensory feeling they provide.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Come and taste our Mobile World Congress Desert at the Fjord stand
Lots of people are hibernating in this recession, at Fjord, we decided to go fresh with a new desert at Mobile World Congress. With Freddie Raoult we designed a new desert that you can sample at our stand 1F07, Hall 1. You can also meet the management of Fjord and hear about our plans for our New York office.
You can also meet our tech partner Futurice. If you are not in Barcelona next week do stop by our new website at www.fjordnet.com
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Loosing data hurts...
This story and nice appology prompted some thoughts on data loss. Last week I was installing Google Lattitude on my Nokia N95 8GB when something went horribly wrong. The phone completely died. It does not start, just sits with a turned on screen.
Now who should I blame; Google, Nokia, myself for installing new SW. Who should pay for fixing it, there is no warranty and most importantly what happens with the really nice pictures I took last week of my daughter.
I am quite sad, I tried to do a soft booth and a hard reset, nothing helped.
know I am sitting on a timebomb with my digital Life stored in Lifeblog, which is now obsolete, some transferred into iPhoto and some exported into raw 'negatives', but very little stored on-line. I just cannot decide where to take my 20000 digital pictures. Who can I trust!
At what point will we see the multimedia banking industry emerge where you pay for not loosing the data. I guess I need to loose more data to fork up more Money. I already pay for MobileMe and have 3 back ups on hard disks, but I still know I am F****ed eventually...
If you have ideas on the N95, let me know, I really want some of the pictures out of it!