So here it is, as promised, my first non-movie review posting. I can’t exactly say it isn’t movie-related given the title of the post. But it is more movie licensing related. Allow me to explain…
Last Christmas, my family gave me a Death Star popcorn popper for Christmas. It was awesome as hell, but it didn’t work very well. So, naturally I got in touch with the manufacturer. I wrote them this:
Hello Uncanny Brands,
But what I’d really like to know is if I can somehow get a refund for this turkey. It’s in perfect condition having only been used once. As I mentioned, I received it as a gift so I do not have a receipt and I do not know where it was purchased. Which is why i’m contacting you.
Any info you can provide would be appreciated.
Cohan (Star Wars super-fan, popcorn enthusiast, sad Death Star Popcorn Maker owner)
I wanted to let you know I had a chance to try out a couple of the Star Wars items you sent me. Luckily, it addition to being a full-fledged booger-eating Star Wars nerd, I like to cook. I like to think one offsets the other, which is why, I’m sure, I’m still married. So, I’m going to start with the best thing I’ve tried so far…
Lightsaber Salt & Pepper Grinders
I love these two little gadgets. I’m using the hell out of these. I love that they’re electric, which is something I never realized I wanted until I tried these. Like I said, I cook a lot, which means seasoning often at every stage. Twisting the manual grinders became such an annoyance to me that I started buying the pre-ground sea salt and black pepper and keeping them in little cellars next to my stove. The only drawback to that really is that you sacrifice a fuller flavor by using pre-ground. Salt and pepper (especially pepper) are a lot like coffee in that regard.
Side note: When in the hell are you guys gonna make a Darth Vader coffee maker? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
[NOTE: WHEN I WROTE THIS REVIEW I HAD NO IDEA THEY ALREADY HAD A DARTH VADER STOVETOP KETTLE]
Back to the grinders. They have a nice solid heft to them. I don’t feel like they’re gonna break every time I use them. I like the caps on the ends so you don’t spill salt and pepper all over when not in use, I like the size and the way they look on the countertop (like I said, big time nerd). The buttons on top are great, easy to press with either your thumb or finger. It grinds nice and fast, although I wouldn’t mind if the salt were a little slower, but I think it’s because I couldn’t find the right kind of true rock salt and had to settle for coarse sea salt, which might already be a little too small for the grinder. Oh, and I almost forgot my favorite part… I must have used these guys 4 or 5 times before I realized there are lights on the end. THAT. RULES. Especially with salt, it can be difficult to see how much you’re really applying. It’s the one way cellars win out over grinders, control. But having those lights, hot damn, it’s so much easier to see how much seasoning your dumping into your dish. So a great idea that had never occurred to me.
Now, after all that gushing, I have 3 minor complaints and/or suggestions:
1. Man oh man would i love to ditch the AA batteries in favor of a charger of some kind. Like a cell phone cable, or even some sort of dock. I’ve seen those electric corkscrews that rest on an always plugged in dock on your countertop and I dig. Something like that would really be a bonus. Then if you want to get crazy, you have a model with one or two USB ports so you can charge your phone while you’re cooking dinner. Maybe have a version where the dock is also a bluetooth speaker. The possibilities are endless.
2. When you have the grinder taken apart to change the batteries or add more salt and pepper, the battery compartment just sort of rests on the salt/pepper reservoir in an awkward, unbalanced way. Until you put the main piece back on and give it a twist to lock, it seems really unstable. This is a minor quibble, by the way.
3. For the size of these grinders, the compartments for the pre-ground salt and pepper seem awfully small. If you guys could lose the batteries in favor of a charging system there’d be more space for a larger quantity of salt and pepper. I know I go through a lot of both and the less times I have to refill, the better.
Like I said, so far this is my favorite item you’ve sent me. That being said, I’ve only tried these, the storm trooper waffle iron and the storm trooper toaster. Those reviews will be coming in separate emails. I’ll be trying out the R2D2 toaster and lightsaber immersion blender soon.
One more suggestion: a Sarlacc Pit meat grinder.
I’m chugging along on the Star Wars kitchen gadget train. My latest test runs were with the Stormtrooper toaster and the R2D2 toaster. To be frank, neither work well at all. At least the Deathstar popcorn popper made a small amount of perfectly fine popcorn while it was rifling out hot, unpopped kernels like Jesse Ventura laying waste to the jungle with his Gatling gun in Predator.
[NOTE: A FRIEND OF MINE WAS KEEN TO POINT OUT IT REALLY WASN’T JESSE VENTURA LAYING WASTE TO THE FOREST WITH A GATLING GUN, BUT RATHER HIS FRIEND, MAC AFTER JESSE VENTURA GOT HIMSELF KILLED IN GRUESOME FASHION – MY MISTAKE]
Both toasters have almost identical problems, but before I get into that, I’m going to look at them separately, then after that, what they have in common. So…
Jesus this thing is big. That is both a good and bad thing. Bad because its counter top footprint is huge. It looks great, it’s a life size stormtrooper head after all. But a life size stormtrooper head is a large appliance to have on your countertop. Along with it’s over all size comes large bread slots large enough for bagels to fit. A key component the R2D2 toaster is missing. I’m a New Yorker and accommodating bagels is an absolute must. So that’s a definite plus for the Stormtrooper. I do not like that the controls are on the back. I had it set up on my breakfast bar in my kitchen so the face is, uh… well, facing in. Reaching around it is awkward. I’d rather see the controls on the side maybe? I don’t know. On the front would totally disrupt the totally life-like stormtooper face it’s got going on. So maybe there is no solution, and yet it bothered me. Added to which, the plunger doesn’t go down smoothly. It hitches on something unless you push down in an absolute unwavering straight line. And it feels cheap. I mean cheaply made. Using it a couple of times and I felt like I was fortunate to have not broken it. One small note about the controls… I find it clever and hilarious that the doneness dial goes from the “Light side” to the “Dark side.” Perfect. If it worked. I’ll get to that.
Okay, now R2D2:
Much smaller footprint. Also a good and a bad thing. Good because it takes up less counter space. Bad because the slots hardly fit a normal piece of sliced bread, let alone a bagel. I don’t even think it could fit one of those shitty frozen Lender’s bagels, much less the bulging wonderful monster bagels you can get at any bakery and half the bodegas here. That automatically to me is a deal-breaker. I realize that for a whole bunch of people that aren’t me, maybe the lack of bagel accommodation is just fine. That being said, i had to kinda cram in even the slices of basic whole wheat bread I tried toasting and they were not thicker than any of your average loaves of sliced bread. It is nice to have the primary star wars design on the side, so the controls can face either way. I will say I am surprised the R2D2 toaster wasn’t designed to look like an actual R2D2 robot. I mean, R2D2 already looks like a toaster. Maybe R5D4 since he’s got a flat top. Oh, even better, the gonk power droid from the original movie – that guy absolutely looks like a toaster… but from a branding standpoint, i guess he’s pretty obscure (I told you I was a booger-eating Star Wars nerd).
As I mentioned above, the “Light side/Dark side” thing is great. But I’m afraid that dial doesn’t work well at all. Neither toaster works well at all. I think the primary problem is how they toast the image onto the side of the bread. Sure it toasts the design, but then does not toast the rest of the area on that side of the bread. Then the other side toasts almost like normal. If you have to sacrifice the efficacy of an appliance in service of something so frivolous, then you should do away with that aspect altogether. I mean, look at that big ole stormtrooper head on your counter top… do you really need the Imperial logo poorly burned into the side of your unevenly toasted bread? I say no. Added to which, that dial is pretty useless. Anything other than all the way dark and the dang thing just keeps popping early over and over. It’s extremely frustrating. Any other setting but total dark side is pointless. It warms the bread and pops, no toast. Turn the dial up, replunge and it warms the bread and pops, no toast. Not until you put it all the way will it finally toast, and even then it’s probably going to burn. The only way I got either to work right was to put the doneness setting all the way, push ‘er down, then return to check on it every few minutes until I thought it was done, then manually pop it. And even then, the side with the design is only half toasted, because the filaments are not evenly distributed. And even if they were, i noticed on both toasters, maybe 25% of the filaments weren’t glowing at all anyway.
I’m sorry, but these toasters are terrible. I wouldn’t even give these away as gifts. I’m not sure if I would even donate them to the Salvation Army or otherwise. Nobody wants a toaster that doesn’t work right. It’s like having a super-cool ice cream machine that only spits out liquid. There are plenty of options out there that work great and cost the same, or less than these two. My Hamilton Beach toaster is boring to look at, but boy howdy it toasts like a goddamn master. It is the Yoda of toasters, if I can intrude on the uncanny brands world. And it’s $15 cheaper than both of these. I’m sure there are diehard collectors out there who want to add these to their repertoire, but people like that aren’t going to take it out of the packaging anyway.
This is my last review of the items you recently sent me to test out, The Lightsaber Immersion Blender. First of all, this thing has got some weight to it (a good thing). Makes you feel like you’re holding a power tool, which I guess is exactly what an immersion blender is. I used it last weekend when I made a huge batch of marinara sauce for freezing. I dumped 6 large cans of whole peeled san marzano tomatoes into a 10 quart stockpot with a large jar of marinated artichoke hearts and another large jar of garlic stuffed castelveltrano olives, along with some other herbs and spices. I heated it until it started simmering, then unleashed the lightsaber immersion blender on the whole kit and kaboodle. I really did the job well. It cut through the contents of that stockpot like a warm knife through butter. Any time the head of the immersion blender got close to the bottom of the pot, it sucked it right to it, like a powerful vacuum cleaner exactly how a good immersion blender should. After maybe ten minutes of really getting in there, I had a nicely puree’d tomato sauce with zero chunks. Usually I use a potato masher so I have chunks, but this time I wanted to created a nice smooth sauce to see how the lightsaber blender handled it. It did great. Zero complaints. My only suggestion would be a longer stem. It’s just a little bit short. It was almost too short to reach the bottom of the stock pot without submerging the handle… almost. But one more can of tomatoes and it wouldn’t have been long enough. I probably wouldn’t have even noted it’s length, but I already have a great immersion blender I love, so I compared them. The Lightsaber is…
You know what? Disregard everything I wrote about the length. I was wrong. I just went and compared them side by side, the lightsaber with my Kitchen Aid immersion blender and they’re exactly the same length. The handle of my Kitchen Aid is an inch or two longer, but the actual blender attachment is the same. I misjudged it.
Okay, so my actual only suggestion would be, again to have a charging dock instead of a AC cord. It sucks having to wrangle the cord so it doesn’t catch on fire while using it in a pot on the stove. I don’t know how feasible this would be. I would imagine to create the kind of power an immersion blender needs to function properly you might have to use a wall outlet, but one can dream. Just imagine…a charging dock that looks like R2D2. handle of the immersion blender sticking out his head like Return of the Jedi. Ah, geek dreams.
Well, there you have it. If I didn’t already own an immersion blender, the Lightsaber immersion blender would get a lot of use. In fact, it still may. It’s pretty looks pretty bad ass. And it works well.
And here ends my reviews of all the items you sent me: Stormtrooper Waffle Iron, Lightsaber Salt and Pepper Grinders, Stormtrooper Toaster, R2D2 Toaster and Lightsaber Immersion Blender. I hope these reviews have been useful in some way. Should you ever decide you’d want to send me more merchandise to review, please do not hesitate to sent it along. I’m happy to test out anything you’d like, and I rather enjoy writing these reviews.
[NOTE: It has been several weeks since I sent in my last review and I have yet to receive a single reply to any of the reviews I’ve sent in. No idea what that means, but if at any point I hear back from Uncanny Brands I’ll be sure to update here on Aberration Type.]