Toys & Games
Parenting magazine listed its best toys of the year for 2010 in its November issue, and the Chimp and Zee Shopping Cart Dash was one of the games receiving praise. Parents’ Choice also gave the game an award this fall, so the game seems to be racking up some honors.
This food-themed game teaches kids about foods and counting at the same time. Essentially, the players race to complete their shopping list and pay with coins for their items after each turn. The game is recommended for ages 3 and up and can be played with 2 to 4 players.
Pressman Toy was featuring this game in November as a give-away, so you can find a lot of ‘reviews’ of this product on the web. I was not a participant in this promotion, and I’m often a bit skeptical of these give-aways and the subsequent reviews, but this toy made the cut for me. It’s about food and I could see my daughter enjoying it.
With that said, out of all the reviews I read, this one from Enjoy Life, Enjoy Now seems the most sincere. The author is a foodie mom who wants to go to culinary school, and I trust foodies.
The game retails for around $15 at Amazon and I have just put in my order. If I remember, I will give a follow up review once I have had a chance to test the game out.
These days there are tons of cooking play sets on the market, so it’s nice to see something different once in a while. I really like this wooden mixer sold by Land of Nod. A lot of play mixers get mediocre reviews on sites like Amazon and are often cheaply made, but this one looks to be of solid construction – and fun too. It has a turn crank to make the mixer head spin, the top part tilts so the bowl can be removed easily (just like a KitchenAid), and there are some food ‘accessories’ to help with imaginative play. Sure, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of other mixer toys, but it looks like this one will last for a while.
I haven’t actually tried this item out, but Land of Nod usually sells high quality wood toys made by companies such as Haba and Plan Toys. Land of Nod products, however, can be expensive, but that is often the case with quality wooden toys and furniture. This item will run you about $50 and that doesn’t include shipping.
But if you like wood instead of plastic for toys, this mixer set is a good option. It has a nice simple look to it, and it will probably last a lot longer than cheaper plastic sets. It will also match a lot of the wooden kitchen play sets on the market these days.
If you sign up for Gilt, you can access their sales aggregator site and this week KidKraft has a sale. This retro kitchen in red is on sale for $110 (+$18 shipping) and is regularly $150. I think it looks rather cool, and I am definitely tempted to buy one. The knobs turn, doors open, and it is made out of wood products instead of plastic. If you don’t like red, you can also get a silver one on Amazon for $150 with about the same cost of shipping, so this is definitely a good buy if you want this specific color.
It also seams as if this might be a close-out model because the next iteration of this cooking playset has a refrigerator and it also sells for $150 at Amazon (but is only in pink). Granted, there are fewer knobs to turn with the new kitchen, one less storage drawer, and no grilling grate on top, but it does have a fridge which can provide for a different type of imaginative play. Of course the newer toy would also be bulkier and take up more space. I guess it is all a trade-off between what you think the little ones might like and how much play space you have.
The sale at Gilt only lasts for another couple days (ending 17 October at 8pm CDT) and there is always a chance the item may sell out earlier. If you don’t catch the sale though, you can always look for similar items on the web. These KidKraft sets seem to get good reviews on Amazon.
Royal VKB out of the Netherlands designs some very interesting home products, and this puzzle dinner tray for kids is pretty neat. I think children would get a kick out of putting the pieces together before a meal, and it sort of reminds me of the Melissa and Doug dinner play set that my daughter used to play with.
I do worry a bit that the sunken areas where the puzzle pieces go will collect food and be difficult to clean, but that is a small price to pay to let a kid have some fun.
Also, the plate needs to be rotated perfectly for the pieces to fit, so I could definitely see a kid putting the cup in the slot only to have it tip over and spill its contents. You can see what I mean by watching this video on YouTube.
You can purchase the Puzzle Dinner Tray on Amazon for $50.
I ran into this concept on ghigos.com. It is a brilliant way to create a do-it-yourself foodie chess set.
I think I am going to start searching for the pieces to make this reality.
I have been seeing in cooking magazines recently an advertisement for the Top Chef Quickfire Challenge Game. I love watching the show and was just about to buy the game to try it out when I read a bad review at Amazon. Apparently, the reviewer says that the questions about the show are so obscure that they will mostly stump you. In the Eat Me Daily blog, the writer also concurs that the game is a bit ridiculous and makes no sense. Who really remembers the lives of contestants from four years ago? I don’t, and nor do I want to.
Of course, out of the 750 questions there are general food-related ones that have nothing to do with the show or contestants, but I still think the game is a bad idea. Why not just make a game about cooking in general and leave out the reality TV element? I would imagine that this product will get mediocre-at-best reviews as people leave more feedback, but at the time of writing there is only one review at Amazon. We’ll see.
With that said, I did find one website/blog for Top Chef enthusiasts that did play the game and liked it. You can read the post at All Top Chef, and I guess if you really love the show in a cultish way, the game may be more accessible. So even though I won’t be buying the game, maybe these sample questions will help make up your mind. Just ask yourself if this type of game would be fun to play with friends or family.
- Which Season 1 contestant was a part-time model at the time of the show?
- Which Top Chef judge earned three Michelin stars by the age of 26?
- In Season 4’s Restaurant Wars challenge, what dish of Lisa’s did Anthony Bourdain call, “baby vomit with wood chips?
- Who was the youngest competitor in Season 3 – Casey, Lia or Sara N.?
- What are the two ingredients in a roux?
- True or false: Adding sugar to water raises its freezing point.
- What are the two integral ingredients in ganache?
If this sounds fun to you, then you can purchase the game at Amazon for under $14.
A while back I wrote about the Table Topics Gourmet Edition game, which is basically a set of cards that act as conversation starters at parties, for family, or for groups of people. Table Topics offers a wide range of subjects, but the gourmet edition intrigued me enough to buy it, and here are my impressions.
Overall, I think the idea is a good one, and if you regularly have cooking clubs or entertain with a bunch of foodies it is definitely worth considering. There are 125 cards each with one question in a deck enclosed in a see-through plastic cube. The cards are the same size as Monopoly property cards.
As for the questions, there are definitely many interesting ones in the deck, but not all of the cards will be great conversation starters, and it will depend upon you and your audience. For a couple living together for a long time, you may only find that about 50 or so cards really provoke interesting food discussion as many of questions fall flat if you know each other well.
About a quarter of the cards seem a bit contrived or vague, and I doubt that they would really inspire a lot of interesting conversation. For instance one card asks: “Which aspect of cooking do you enjoy the most?” Half of the conversation would probably be spent on trying to define what the question is exactly asking.
Or another example: “How do you choose which wine to buy?” I understand where they are going with such open-ended questions, but one could think of similar ways to broach the same subject that would start conversation a lot better. Instead these vague questions provoke a lot of uninteresting qualified answers. When it is hot out I buy this wine. When I make this meal I buy this wine. When I go to a party I buy this type of wine etc.
And then there are some questions that are rather mundane such as “What online cooking resources do you use?” and “Which food magazines do you read?” Are these topics really that interesting for discussion?
I think the deck will provide almost anyone with at least 50 useful conversation starters, and the groups I think would get the most out of the deck are:
(1) Couples in a new relationship who are also foodies. This group will find another 30-40 cards useful.
(2) Cooking groups or clubs. About a 100 cards would be useful in this setting.
(3) People who are foodies and travel a lot either domestically or internationally. About 20 or so cards will become more interesting if you have traveled.
As for professional cooks, it is hard to say. I think some of the questions would be more fun for them than home cooks, but a lot would be annoyingly basic and vague. I probably wouldn’t get this set for a professional cook unless they are budding young cooks.
Despite some marginal questions, I would recommend the Table Topics Gourmet Edition as it will be useful every now if you are a foodie and entertain. Just try to think of it in terms of any other game; it is not something you would use daily but bring out when the right situation comes along. I am sure it will entertain in the proper setting, and if you run into a bad question, feel free to ‘amend’ it to get the conversation going or just move on to another card.
I recently visited a home store in Minneapolis called Twin Cities Green that features ecologically friendly products. They have a range of home and kitchen products that are easy on the environment. You can find their entire collection at their online shop.
Of special interest was a set of children’s plastic cookware. The company that produces it is called Green Toys, and they make their play sets using recycled milk jugs. But not only is environmentally conscious production, the sets are well-designed and look great. The Green Toys Chef Set seen above will be coming out on October 15th and you can pre-order it at Amazon.com.
Though Twin Cities Green didn’t have this item yet, they probably will in the future. I also liked the cookware and dining set. I enjoy shopping at this store, and recommend stopping by if you live in or near Minneapolis. Other items of interest were: salvaged barn wood dining tables, a compost tumbler, bio-degradable outdoor cups and utensils, recycled paper cutting boards, and locally made soaps among other items.
I have seen these conversation card sets called Table Topics rated very highly on Amazon and ran across one in a cooking magazine about a year ago. Basically, they are simple conversation starters but they can be used for parties or other gatherings to start people talking and to get to know one another.
The Table Topics Conversation Cards – Gourmet Edition (right) would be great for foodie gifts or dinner parties. Also, if driving around wine country the travel edition of Topics To Go – Wine would be fun. Again, reviews of these sets are usually postive, though if you have a strained relationship with your spouse, partner or family, you may want to stay away from some of the sets that raise bigger more contentious issues. There are numerous sets for different groups and situations: for couples, families, travel, girls night out, ‘right and wrong’, bachelorette party, kids, religion and for the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
You can see the whole range of Table Topics sets at my Amazon Store under games and toys.