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Saturday, November 14, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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Good morning.

This week, we feast our eyes on the charitable Artist Plate Project, handle home accessories from Industrial Facility’s new Collection Objects series, pair wine with comfort food using tips from sommelier Vanessa Price, experience next-level sound through Iris Flow headphones, and learn about the power of a canine’s nose with dog-lover Cat Warren.

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with Somerset, England–based farmer Chris Smaje and architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, co-founders of the New York–based firm Weiss/Manfredi.

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See
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Generous Servings
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Marilyn Minter’s “Blue Note” (2015), for the Coalition for the Homeless’s 2020 Artist Plate Project. Courtesy Coalition for the Homeless
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For those of us who are lucky enough to have a full plate right now, consider helping those who don’t. One avenue for altruism: New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, forced to cancel its annual fall fundraising gala due to the pandemic, is launching the Artist Plate Project, a limited-edition collection of porcelain platters depicting works by 50 legendary artists, including Tauba Auerbach, Jenny Holzer, Marilyn Minter, and Rashid Johnson (the latter of whom was featured on Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast). The series will be available on the organization’s website beginning Nov. 16.

Profits from the heirloom-worthy tableware, produced by the collectible art and design company Prospect, will go toward serving the 59,000 New Yorkers who currently live in shelters or who struggle to survive on streets and in subways. A recent study by Columbia University predicts that homelessness will increase by 40 to 45 percent within the next year due to Covid-19—making the coalition’s work, which includes providing housing assistance, emergency food, clothing, and job training to those who need it most, all the more vital. Purchasing a single plate ($175, each available in an edition of 75) provides meals for 75 people in need—a big-hearted act and food for the soul. 

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Touch
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Feel-Good Furnishings
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Portabello bowl by Julie Richoz for Mattiazzi. Photo: Gerhardt Kellerman
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In the design world, Instagramable interiors get all the fanfare—but true aesthetes know that tactility is key to lasting style. So when Industrial Facility, the London design studio co-founded by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, created its Collection Objects product line, released this fall by Italian furniture company Mattiazzi, it went full throttle on the literal feel of things. “It suits everyday use and gives pleasure to living, working, and hosting at home,” Hecht says of the series, noting that each piece reflects Mattiazzi’s commitment to innovation and to minimizing its environmental footprint (the family-run company works exclusively with FSC-certified wood, and heats its factory with sawdust generated during the manufacturing process). 

Included in the assemblage: sculptural ash wall hooks by Hecht and Colin, and quilted seat pillows filled with recycled padding by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. There’s also work by three up-and-coming designers, including bowls made of wood left over from furniture production by Julie Richoz, a stackable beechwood bottle rack by Max Frommeld, and a shallow box by Julien Renault that, at first glance, looks like an unassuming stack of two lumber slabs. The designs are “respectful of the material,” Hecht says, and have hard-wearing surfaces that are happy to be handled. “These objects can be kept for generations—a quick sand-and-wax will bring them back to their original condition after years of use.”

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Taste
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Practical Pairings
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Sommelier and food writer Vanessa Price recommends pairing nachos with California chardonnay. Illustration: The Ellaphant in the Room
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Unimpressed by the snobbery that surrounds the wine industry, writer and sommelier Vanessa Price set out to prove that anyone can create palatable pairings using food in their fridge. In a weekly column for the New York magazine food and restaurant blog Grub Street, she has aligned Cheetos with Sancerre, barbecue ribs with Côte-Rôtie, and Superiority Burgers with sauvignon blanc—wittily justifying each match with a mix of science, straightforwardness, and personal anecdotes. 

Her new book,
Big Macs and Burgundy: Wine Pairings for the Real World (Harry N. Abrams), builds on her quest to demystify what to drink with the fare we’re really eating. We recently spoke with Price to learn more about her unlikely introduction to wine and how it informs her practical pairings. 

How did your passion for wine begin?

It was a happy accident. I was at university in Kentucky, looking for a flexible job that I could do around my studies, and came across a winery downtown. People laugh because it was right in the middle of bourbon country, but there was a great culture around wine there—customers would come in and ask questions about different flavors and styles. By the time I graduated, I’d decided to go work in wine. My family were like, “What does that even mean?”

Do you think your beginnings in wine country Kentucky gave you a different take on the industry?

I think it did. Later, during my training at New York’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust, the teacher would describe different wines by saying they were “earthy” or “tasted like a plum”—but to me, it all just tasted of red wine. I realized that we describe wine in ways that take a lot for granted about what people know about it. The baseline of conversation, either unwittingly or arrogantly, is well above what would be a fair place to start. So I decided I wanted to write about wine specifically with this in mind: How do you talk about wine within a context that people can understand, and not [using language like] “tannins,” “acids,” and “a long finish”? Can you contextualize wine with food that everyone knows?

It’s a remarkably sensible approach. Why do you think it resonates with people?

It’s entertaining. Sancerre and Cheetos—that’s hilarious. But it’s also educational. If I say to you, “When you have viscous food, you need a wine that is lean in body and high in acid, with a spirited minerality,” you’re not going to know what I’m talking about. Instead, I could say, “You know that orange-y powder that gets stuck to your fingers when you eat Cheetos? That creates a viscous feeling in your mouth. You need to pair it with a wine that acts like a squeegee on [your tongue], which is usually something with a higher acidity, like a Sancerre.” Put that way, the information sticks. 

What are some of the most surprising combinations you’ve come up with?

I love ones that introduce people to wines they wouldn’t not normally know or try—things like putting a [McDonald’s] Filet-O-Fish with an Austrian Blaufränkisch, or a hot-caramel sundae with twenty-year-old tawny [port]. I take wine very seriously, but I want to present it to people in a way that feels less daunting.

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Hear
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Surround Sound
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Courtesy Iris
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Music fans missing a regular calendar of gigs will find a lifeline in Iris Flow, headphones made to mimic the sound quality of in-person performances of all kinds. Created by the London tech start-up Iris, which is backed by Queen drummer Roger Taylor, the device features a patented algorithm that restores complex spatial information that is inevitably lost in the recording process (and often results in flat, lifeless audio), allowing users to take in sounds as if they were happening right in front of them. Not only do these amplified details make for an immersive experience, they also stimulate neurological pathways in the brain by requiring it to subconsciously piece together the music. It’s a meditative, engaging exercise that’s ideal for getting into the zone—for work, exercise, or a momentary escape into sonic bliss.

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Smell
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Catching a Whiff
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Author Cat Warren and one of her dogs, Rev. Photo: Juli Leonard
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Anyone who’s ever owned a dog (or been owned by one) knows that scent is paramount to how canines experience the world. But for Cat Warren, a science journalism professor at North Carolina State University, this observation became something of an obsession. She interviewed countless cognitive psychologists, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, plus dog breeders, trainers, and handlers, to learn more about the subject, and wrote two books on her findings—What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, followed by an edition that translates her research for younger readers, newly out in paperback—that detail the remarkable, often life-saving power of a hound’s snout.

“We humans are highly practical and slightly lazy, and use dogs for scent-detection work because they co-evolved with us,” says Warren, nothing that man’s best friend has many millions more olfactory receptor cells, and a significantly bigger part of the brain devoted to smelling, than humans. “And a dog can smell in stereo,” she continues. “Each nostril can operate independently, which helps trained scent-detection dogs locate the source of the smell much more quickly—whether it’s the smell of whale scat floating on the water a mile away, or the faint odor of a buried land mine.” It’s no wonder canines frequently become heroes, like the German Shepherd police dog, Trakr, who located the last 9/11 survivor in the rubble of the World Trade Center, or the pooches that find drowning victims more than 200 feet under the sea. “Dogs can help make the invisible visible,” Warren says. “We need to watch them closely, know they can help translate the complex language of scent for us, and feel gratitude that they are so willing to work with us sometimes clueless humans.”

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, who contributed the See, Touch, and Smell columns, and Tom Morris, who contributed the Taste and Hear columns.

Co-Editors: Spencer Bailey and Tiffany Jow
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

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