Gaming Review: Sony Playstation VR

Post by Patrick

Virtual Reality has been something people have been dreaming of for as long as I remember and it feels like in the past few years, VR has been pushed hard with the likes of Oculus, the HTC Vive, and to some extent Microsoft’s Hololens. What makes the PlayStation VR (PSVR) special though is that it doesn’t require a powerful computer, it’s priced reasonably well and it’s relatively simple to set up without needing you to tinker too much with the settings. So it was easy to take up X-Cite’s offer to send my brother and I a PSVR to test out and write about.

The PSVR headset looks good, the build quality doesn’t feel cheap and its comfortable once you wear it. On the other hand the amount of cables it takes to set it up is unfortunate. This isn’t something you’ll leave lying around once you’re done using it for the night (unless you don’t mind clutter). As someone who is married and has three cats I have to pack it away every time I’m done using it. The reason for this clutter is that the PSVR doesn’t plug straight into the PS4. A processor box is included with the PSVR that includes an HDMI splitter, so you have thick cable running from the headset to this processor box, an HDMI cable from the PS4 into the processor box, another HDMI cable from the processor box to your TV, a USB cable from the processor box to the PS4 and a separate power cable into the processor. Oh and that doesn’t include the Playstation Camera cable which you also need for the PSVR.

Clutter aside, I was excited to try out the PSVR. I had a little bit of experience with the Oculus so I know how cool VR can be. I played a couple of games using the PSVR, Batman: Arkham VR, Driveclub VR, Rez Infinite, the Call of Duty: Jackal Assault VR, Super Hypercube and some games on the demo disc that came bundled with the headset. One thing you have to get used to when using the PSVR is that the visuals aren’t as crisp as what you’d get on your TV, there’s an annoying fuzziness that you’ll notice in most games and in some cases, games blur things in your peripherals (Batman suffers from this).

A concern I had was motion sickness and nausea. I have a sensitive stomach and I tend to get motion sickness quite easily and so was expecting to get sick playing Driveclub VR, Eve Valkyrie or Call of Duty Jackal Assault. Surprisingly though I didn’t suffer from motion sickness in any of the games I tried. Mark on the other hand got motion sickness ten minutes into Resident Evil 7 and then got motion sickness again a minute into his first race in Driveclub VR. This is something you should take into consideration before spending money on VR so find a place to try it out before you buy it.

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Review: The Leica Sofort Instant Camera

Post by Mark

I’ve wanted an instant film camera ever since I was a kid since I always found them a bit magical because you’re kinda creating something out of nothing. It’s the same reason I’ve always had a thing for fax machines, you put the paper in the machine on one end then, a few seconds later, it starts coming out on another machine all the way on the other side of the country. But for some reason I never ended up getting an instant film camera, probably because I didn’t really have a reason to get one. I’ve always had cameras growing up and later digital cameras and phone cameras so the need for an instant camera wasn’t there, until I saw the Leica Sofort. I’m not a Leica fan. I think Leica M series are over hyped, extremely over priced, and I can’t understand why anyone would want to shoot with a manual focus camera. But, when I saw the Sofort I just fell in love with the way it looked. It had a great minimal and very retro design while also not costing an arm and a leg.

The Leica Sofort comes in three colors, white, orange and mint. I knew right away I wanted the Mint color but when I tried finding one it was completely sold out everywhere online. After searching for a couple of days I finally ended up finding one shop in London that still had the mint colored Leica and quickly placed my order. When my package finally arrived to Kuwait and I opened it I right away knew I made the right choice in color. It just works really well with the retro look, the orange I think would have looked a bit like a toy while the white would have just been boring (for me at least). I’ve had the camera now for two weeks and I’ve used it in a variety of different environments. What I’ve concluded is that the camera is a hit and miss when it comes to the pictures, but thats not a surprise, thats actually exactly what I was expecting from an instant film camera.

I’ll start with the good stuff, the battery lasts a pretty long time. It comes with a small rechargeable battery which I charged on the first day for like an hour. Since then I’ve used the camera to take around 80 photos and the battery is still showing as full. Another great thing about the camera is that it uses Fuji Instax Mini films which you can find all over Kuwait. I’ve been getting mine from Xcite and a double pack which contains 2×10 packs sells for KD5. That means each photo I take costs 250fils which isn’t that bad. I think the camera performed best when I took it to the “Walk This Way” sneaker event this past weekend since the photos came out looking like they were taken in the 80s or 90s which fit perfectly with the theme of the event. The portrait shots all came out great and best part is, after I took the photos, I just handed the pictures over. Like souvenirs they could keep. Even when the results didn’t come out as expected (like the ones above), the photos still had a pretty cool look.

But like I said the camera is a hit and miss. The exposure is all over the place, some portrait shots using the flash resulted in the subjects being super overexposed with washed out colors while other times the shots came out perfectly exposed with all the colors still intact. During bright sunlight a lot of shots would also be overexposed and even when I chose to underexpose (there is an option for that) it didn’t really do much. But, my biggest gripe with the camera is the fact that all the settings reset back to the default settings once you turn the camera off. One of the things I like about this camera is you have options you can choose from like selecting between four scene settings for different lighting situations, having the flash on or off, if you’d like to over expose or under expose a shot and finally most importantly, the camera has two focus modes, close (under 3m) and far. Since I mostly shoot landscape or architectural shots I would want my settings to be no flash and the focus set to further than 3m. But I need to set that up every time I turn on the camera because by default, the camera sets the flash to auto and the focus distance to close. On more than one occasion I’ve taken photos only to have them come out blurry because I forgot to set the focus or I’ve had the flash go off because I forgot to turn it off. Super annoying and I don’t understand why Leica decided to do this.

Overall though I’m happy with the camera. Yes the output isn’t consistent and sometimes random, but I like that because every time I take a picture I now eagerly wait for the photo to develop to see what I got. It’s a surprise every time. The Leica Sofort cost me around KD95 including shipping via PostaPlus to Kuwait. It’s not cheap, but it is one of the cheapest Leica’s you can buy. The camera that is the closest to it in terms of capabilities is the Fuji Mini 90 which I’ve read is what the Sofort is possibly based off. The Mini 90 costs around KD40 on Amazon without shipping or tax so basically half the price of the Leica. If you’re interested in getting the Sofort, I got it from Dale Photographic whom as of this post have all three colors in stock. [Link]


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Super/Foods is Super Good

Post by Mark

Super/Foods is a new whole foods bar that just opened up this past weekend in Shuwaikh. It belongs to a friend of mine and so I’ve know about the concept for sometime now and I’ve eagerly been waiting for it to finally open.

Whole foods is defined as foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible and thats the main philosophy behind Super/Foods. It’s a vegetarian place with a lot of vegan, gluten free and raw options as well. Their menu is pretty straight forward, you have the create your own greek yogurt or chia pudding bowls, they’ve got savory toasts, sweet toasts, a number of salads and finally drinks that include smoothies and cold pressed juices. Oh they also have a ton of dessert bites as well as pre-bagged nuts and chips.

Their chef was based in the UK and had previously worked at Nama Foods and Tanya’s Cafe, both popular raw food restaurants in the UK so even though the place is new, there is a lot of experience in the kitchen. They’ve only been open for four days now and I’ve already been there twice so far and I’m hooked on two things, their avocado on toast as well as their beet-hummus on toast sandwiches. I’m also in love with their sparkling Blue Majik drink although I think it has to do more with my obsession over its color than its magical properties.

I’m also in love with the branding of the place as well as all their packaging and all the copy thats written on them. The feel of the place along with the good food has made Super/Foods one of my favorite restaurants at the moment alongside JOA, Habra and Table Otto. So many good places at the moment, I don’t remember the last time I was so excited over food like this.

Super/Foods is currently in their soft launch phase and are open from 10AM to 6PM. They’re located in the new Mayar Complex in Shuwaikh [Google Maps] and you can follow them on instagram @superfoodskw.

And here is a picture of their [Menu]


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HABRA Beef Canteen

Post by Mark

Last night I finally got to pass by and have dinner at HABRA, the new restaurant by the well known chef Ahmed AlBader. He’s the chef behind some popular places like Burger Hub, Prime & Toast, Pizzetta, Butchers Den and eight6 Bistro that used to be located in the Avenues back in 2009. He also used to host The Chef’s Table on YouTube which I think he should actually bring back. Anyway, I’m personally not a fan of Burger Hub, Prime & Toast, Pizzetta and Butchers Den so I really wasn’t planning on trying HABRA, but I’m glad I did because I think HABRA is by far his best creation yet.

I dropped by last night and ended up waiting an hour and forty five minutes to get a table for three. It was a Sunday so I can’t imagine how long the wait might be on a weekend. Luckily HABRA is walking distance to like 200 speciality coffee shops and a Pick Yo so killing time wasn’t an issue. We walked around, had frozen yogurt and coffee until we got the call that our table was ready.

The place is pretty small and very cozy. We sat down on a corner table and just started ordering a ton of stuff since everything on the menu sounded so good.

Kale and nori slaw KD1.750
Crispy brussel sprouts KD2.000
Bone marrow, chimichuri, sour dough KD3.750
Grilled avocado KD2.250
Grilled rapanini, jaggery, tamarind butter KD2.250
Rib and manchengo fries KD4.500
Baked sweet potato, cinnamon sugar butter KD 1.950
Chef’s burger KD6.500
Four and a half hour braised rib, Korean sweet chili KD6.950
Pulled lamb, dates, prunes KD3.500
Three-way Kalbi KD8.500
Charred cantaloup, ice cream, meringue, honey KD2.500
Pomegranate and pecan brownie KD2.750

Everything we had was delicious. My least favorite item was probably the burger while my favorite was the braised rib (pictured above). The bone marrow and Kalbi both came a close second (note: don’t share the bone marrow with a friend, be selfish and let them order their own). And don’t bother ordering the cantaloup dessert, it was impossible to eat. Our total came out to KD19 per person including tips and drinks which is reasonable considering the amount of food we had.

Was it worth the nearly 2 hour wait? I think so, I mean it wasn’t like I was standing in line for 2 hours, theres a lot to do in the area so just make sure you pass by and put your name on the list and then go do your thing. If you’re just gonna wait until the restaurant becomes less popular I don’t think thats gonna happen anytime soon. Every place in that area is busy all the time and HABRA doesn’t have that many tables inside. Speaking of the location, HABRA is located right next to Gia in Kuwait City, close to SOMU. Here is their location on [Google Maps]. They’re also located on instagram @habrakw and they’re currently open daily from 6PM to 10PM.


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MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Air – My Review

Post by Mark

I don’t think any notebook has ever gotten as much hate as the new MacBook Pro’s have and I can’t understand why. Last week I replaced my 13″ MacBook Air with the new 13″ MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and I just love it.

Before I go ahead and explain why I love the new MacBook Pro so much and why I think its so much better than my already amazing MacBook Air, I’m going to first quickly explain why the biggest issues people have with the MacBook Pro don’t really affect me. This review is also fairly long compared to my regular posts so I’ve titled all the main paragraphs that way you can skip down to the area you care more about if you don’t feel like reading.

No USB Ports
This is probably the biggest issue people have with the new MacBook Pros, they don’t have the regular USB Type-A ports and instead Apple replaced them with the newer, slimmer, faster, better but also less popular USB-C ports. In my case I rarely used the USB ports on my MacBook Air, the only time I ever used them was when I traveled I’d charge my iPhone from my Air’s USB port and when I wanted to copy stuff onto or off memory sticks. I barely used USB so for me if the ports are USB-C or Type-A… I don’t really care. I bought the USB-C to Type-A Apple adapter so IF I ever need a regular Type-A port, I’ll just use the adapter. I’d rather have a slimmer notebook without any USB ports than a thicker one with. But again thats because I rarely used the ports to begin with and I can always move things around wirelessly.

No SD Card Slot
This I was more upset with than the lack of USB ports. I take a lot of photos with my camera for the blog and when I travel so it was very practical having an SD card slot in my MacBook Air. But it’s not that big a deal really having no SD card slot. My current camera’s SD card has WiFi anyway so I’ll just wirelessly transfer the photos onto my Mac. Actually, most of the time I copy the photos over to my phone first, edit them in VSCO and then AirDrop them onto my Mac. That’s what I did with these pictures in this post for example.

Battery Life
This wasn’t an issue until Consumer Reports tested the new MacBook Pro’s late last month and got battery life that ranged anywhere from 4 to 18 hours. They cited major inconsistencies which I have yet to encounter with my short time with the notebook. So far my MacBook Pro is lasting me as much as my MacBook Air would which is to say all day of on and off use.

Max 16GB of RAM
A lot of people have made a fuss that the maximum amount of RAM the new MacBook Pro’s support is 16GB. I had 8GB of RAM on my MacBook Air and I was doing design work and editing large files on it without any issues. I have 8GB of RAM on my new MacBook Pro and I expect it to perform even better than my MacBook Air so I’m fine with the 16GB limit since I don’t need more than 8.

The Review
Now with the controversial items out of the way let me start my review. I’ve never owned a MacBook Pro (or PowerBook). My first notebook ever was a white 12″ iBook G3 Dual USB back in 2001 (considered the most unreliable Apple notebook ever). Since then I’ve had a bunch of other low end Apple notebooks until I moved up to the MacBook Air. I got my first one in 2011 and then replaced it in 2015 with the updated model. Anyone who owns a MacBook Air will tell you they’re incredible notebooks and I really didn’t need to replace mine, it was more than enough for my needs, but something about the new MacBook Pro’s attracted me, I think it was the Touch Bar but once I saw them I knew I needed one. In the week I’ve owned the MacBook Pro, a few things have really impressed me compared to the MacBook Air:

The Size
Somehow Apple has managed to make the MacBook Pro smaller than the MacBook Air and also weigh the same. Side by side when compared to the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro is clearly smaller and more compact.

The Screen
My biggest issue with the MacBook Air was the screen, not because it didn’t have a retina display which I could care less about, but because the viewing angle was terrible. I used to constantly adjust the screen tilt to make sure I was getting the best viewing angle. With the new MacBook Pro I don’t have that issue, no matter how much I move the screen looks great. The color difference and brightness is another thing I instantly noticed, side by side the MacBook Air looks dimmer and the colors duller when compared to the Pro. I’d find it really difficult to move back to the MacBook Air now.

The Sound
The speakers on the new MacBook Pro are much better than the MacBook Air. Like the difference in sound quality is pretty dramatic, other than the fact the sound is much more louder on the MacBook Pro, it also has more bass and much more clarity to it. And because the speakers are pointing towards you (with the Air the sound is indirect), the left and right channels are also a lot more clearly defined. I’ve started listening to music on my notebook which I never used to do before.

The Keyboard
Based on the reviews I read online about the keyboard, I was worried I was going to hate it. I don’t, it’s now one of my favorite things in the new MacBook Pro. I type better with it, I type faster and it just feels so much more solid when compared to the MacBook Air keyboard which now feels too squishy to me.

What About the Touch Bar?
This is one area I have yet to make up my mind on. There are two parts to the Touch Bar, the main touch display area and the TouchID (fingerprint sensor) which is located on the far right. I love the TouchID since it allows me to sign into my MacBook instantly. I’m also hoping that soon I could use TouchID to unlock 1Password like I do on my iPhone, that option alone would make this MacBook Pro worth it over the Air.

Now the touch display area of the Touch Bar is what I’m still trying to get a hang of. Right now it really isn’t that useful. It looks cool for sure but it’s currently not that much more practical than keyboard short cuts. Also not all apps support it yet and the ones that do don’t allow that much customization to it. Because of the way I rest my hands on the keyboard while using the trackpad I also keep accidentally touching the Esc button which is annoying (I’ve done it 3 times while writing this article) but I’m getting used to it. While I’m typing this post up I have Spotify showing on my Touch Bar but for I wish instead of the audio scrubber showing (pictured above), I could choose to show the name of the song and artist in that space instead. The Touch Bar is still new though so I’m hoping we’ll get more customization options over the next year as companies start understanding what people want from the Touch Bar.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro
This is a really easy recommendation to make, the MacBook Pro is a much better machine over the Air in every way. The MacBook Pro weighs the same as the Air but is also smaller in size so the biggest advantage the Air had over the Pro series doesn’t exist anymore. The MacBook Pro screen is better, the keyboard is better and if you’re used to listening to music on the Air’s speakers, then you’re gonna love the MacBook Pro. The only thing I have difficulty recommending is the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar over the version without the Touch Bar. Is the Touch Bar worth an extra $300? I think I’m leaning towards a yes, but only if you’ve got the money to spend. If you don’t thats fine, you aren’t really missing much.

I ordered my MacBook Pro from eBay and it cost me KD548 ($1,789) and another KD10.5 to ship to Kuwait using PostPlus. It was considerably cheaper to buy it on eBay since Apple charges tax and I would have ended up paying KD600 ($1,963) if I had purchased it from the Apple Store. It was also quicker since when I was ordering the MacBook Pro, the wait time on the Apple Store was 3-4 weeks before shipping. But, the advantage of ordering directly from the Apple Store is you could customize your Mac with more RAM or a faster CPU. I also purchased the “Space Gray” color which is what you see in the pictures in this post. Let me know if you have any questions.

Update: Turns out 1Password already works with TouchID, I just needed to enable it in the settings!


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Best Games of 2016

Post by Patrick

Mark posted his top 5 video games last week, but 2016 was a great year for video games and it was challenging for me to narrow the list down to 10 yet alone 5. There were a lot of great games from AAA studios and a lot of great games from smaller studios. There were also few games that I loved playing that didn’t make it to the list, games that people should still check out like Hitman, Dragon Quest Builders, Pokemon Sun/Moon and the Division. 2017 is looking promising as well, so fingers crossed! Check out my favorite games of 2016 below.

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Hermanos Kitchen – Filipino Asian Restaurant

Post by Mark

hermanos1

A couple of weeks back I was driving in Salmiya when I got stuck in a bit of inside road traffic. While waiting for it to clear up I spotted a small hole in the wall restaurant next to me called Hermanos Kitchen. So I looked for it on instagram to see what the place was and it turned out to be a Filipino restaurant. It looked like a nice place so yesterday I decided to pass by and try it out.

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Hermanos has only been open for a few of months now and so is still fairly new. The interior is small with around 6 tables and looked good for a hole in the wall. They had a Westlife concert playing on the television which is actually exactly what I would have expected at a Filipino restaurant. The menu was hand written on the wall and I couldn’t understand any of it. I had’t really had any Filipino cuisine previously and so had no idea what all the items were. It was one of those occasions where I wished the menu had pictures alongside the dish names or at least a description in English.

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The waiter tried his best to explain and recommend dishes and I ended up ordering three of them, the Astig Na Chicken BBQ, Fish Be Wit U and the Manoy Bikol Express. Also ordered an A&W Root Beer Float!

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From the three dishes I ended up liking only the chicken BBQ, but the other two I actually wouldn’t have ordered if I knew exactly what they were since they contained ingredients I generally don’t like. My favorite thing though obviously had to be the A&W Root Beer float, hadn’t had that since A&W shutdown over a decade ago.

There a lot of different Filipino restaurants in Kuwait but this one just seems like the nicest one. The prices are pretty good with my bill coming out to around KD7. I just wish it was more non-Filipino friendly, an English menu would have made things much more easier. If I do go back it would definitely have to be with an Asian a Filipino friend which I just realized, I don’t think I have.

Check out Hermanos Kitchen on instagram under the account @hermanoskitchen and on Facebook [Here]. They’re located in Salmiya behind Johnny Rockets [Google Maps]


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Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 vs Beolit 15

Post by Mark

beolit15-1

Back in 2013 I picked up the Beolit 12 from the local Bang & Olufsen dealer. Although I had buyers remorse at first, I quickly got over it as soon as I started using it and then instantly fell in love with it. Other than the beautiful design, the Beolit sounded incredible especially since it was a small portable unit that ran on batteries. It turned out to be a great buy and I started taking it to the beach and outdoor gatherings with me, even friends were always telling me to bring it along, thats how good it was.

But, back in January my Beolit stopped holding a charge. I ended up with a fairly common blinking red light issue with the and the battery was just dead. Thankfully the unit was still covered under warranty and the local dealer (who are great btw) managed to order a new battery from Dubai and get it installed in my unit. Everything was great again until last month when I got the blinking red light again. This time my unit was out of warranty but I couldn’t even pay to get it fixed since the model was discontinued and the dealer had no more batteries to swap. Instead the dealer offered me a discount on the newer Beolit 15, and I would be able to buy it for KD175. I checked Amazon UK though just to compare and noticed that with shipping to Kuwait the price was KD133 for the exact same model. I sent them a screenshot and they got back to me telling me the lowest they could do is KD150. I took that deal and I’m now a proud owner of both the Beolit 12 and 15.

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Since there weren’t any decent comparison posts online I figured I’d put one together. Originally I was planning on selling my Beolit 12 but now I decided to keep it since I realized although both models look the same, they’re pretty different with how they work.

First thing you’ll notice is the price difference, the newer Beolit 15 is considerably cheaper than the 12. I originally paid KD250 for the Beolit 12 but like I mentioned, you can get the 15 from Amazon UK delivered to you in Kuwait for just KD133. I think the price drop probably has to do with the fact they’ve cut a few corners (more on that later), that the Beolit 15 no longer uses Apple’s proprietary protocol Airplay (so no licensing fees to pay Apple) and also because they’ve now been producing the Beolit for a few years so it’s probably cheaper to make.

airplay

The Beolit 15 no longer uses Airplay and instead uses Bluetooth which most people will prefer, but not me, and I’ll explain why. With the Beolit 12 I could setup the unit on my home network and then stream music to the unit whenever I wanted from wherever I was in the house. The Beolit 15 on the other hand uses Bluetooth. I like Bluetooth, it definitely makes things more convenient as a portable unit, it also allows Android users to stream music to it but it also makes it less practical as a home system compared to the 12. B&O have included a “power saving” feature where after 15 minutes of inactivity, the unit shutdowns… even when connected to a power source! This means every time I want to stream music to the Beolit I need to go to my bedroom and turn it on first. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is because I didn’t have to do that before and there is no technical reason why B&O you shouldn’t be able to keep the Beolit 15 always on when connected to a power source. Another issue that arrises because of Bluetooth is that my phone now has to be close to the unit. I have my Beolit in my bedroom, if I play music when I first wake up, I can’t then take my phone and move to my laundry room to iron a shirt because the music will start cutting off. I need to leave my phone in the bedroom if I want the music to keep playing which isn’t practical. This is why I’ve decided to keep my Beolit 12 as my permanently-plugged-in-always-on-bedroom-speaker, and the Beolit 15 strictly for when I need music when I go camping or to the beach. On the bright side, side by side the Beolit 15 surprisingly sounded a bit better, the music sounded fuller and I think it’s because it has a slightly different speaker arrangement. It’s not a big difference but it was noticeable when switching between one unit and the other.

There are a few other differences between the two models. The Beolit 12 has flat touch buttons on top of the device to control the unit while the Beolit 15 has push buttons. I prefer the flat buttons since I think it makes the device more water proof. I’ve had liquids spill on top of the unit and the buttons kept working because there was nowhere for the liquid to seep in. I’d imagine with the new push buttons, the liquids would be able to make their way inside unless the buttons are weather proofed and I haven’t be able to find any info on that. Another change is the leather handle, the Beolit 12 had a thicker harder leather handle while the 15 has a thinner softer leather handle so I’m worried the new handle isn’t as durable as the older model. Finally the power cable on the Beolit 15 is a regular black cable that feels cheap and looks out of place while the Beolit 12 had a cable with a color that matched the unit and was also thicker and had a nice texture to it.

beolit15-3

If it sounds like I’m being picky thats because I am. End of the day this is a beautifully designed speaker by Bang & Olufsen and small things like using a cheap looking black power cable hurts the design. Instead of feeling like I stepped up with the Beolit 15, it feels like I’ve stepped down to an economical version of the Beolit 12. But then again that would explain why it’s now considerably cheaper. Battery life on both devices is supposed to be similar but I haven’t timed it or anything myself. B&O say the Beolit 15 has a 24 hour battery life but they said that about the A2 and I have yet to make it last more than a few hours. So thats marketing BS, expect it to last around 4-8 hours depending on how loud you play it, just like the Beolit 12.

Would I recommend the Beolit 15? As a portable unit for sure, I doubt you’ll find anything that sounds as good or looks as good and with the new price point its definitely much more accessible. But if you’re looking primarily for a small home speaker and you use Apple devices, then I would recommend the older Beolit 12 instead. It’s still available to buy and although slightly more expensive, the ability to keep it always on and being able to keep your phone anywhere you want in the house makes it a much more practical home speaker.

If you’re interested in the Beolit 15, they come in a variety of colors (mine is polar blue) and is available locally I believe for KD195 and on Amazon UK for around KD133 or KD150 (shipped to Kuwait) depending on the color. Here is the Amazon UK [Link]


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Meet the Oracle, by Breville

Post by Mark

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As most of you know by now, my obsession du jour is currently coffee, specifically lattes. I just started having them for the first time around 2 months back and I’ve been hooked ever since. Like everything I obsess over, I start really getting into, reading as much as I can and watching endless hours of videos until I know the subject inside out, and thats what I have been doing with coffee machines. Arabica had already passed me a small coffee machine to play around with, the Delonghi Magnifica S but I quickly grew out of it and wanted more. So I started doing a lot of research and had finally decided on the Breville Dual Boiler unit with the Smart Grinder Pro. Just to clear something up quickly, Breville is called Sage in the UK so the machine is listed on Amazon UK as the Sage Dual Boiler not Breville.

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The reason I decided on the Breville Dual Boiler is because it would allow me to pull my espresso shot while at the same time I can steam the milk. That option was important for me since it would save me a lot of time and was a closer experience to the professional coffee machines. You would think pulling shots and steaming at the same time would be a common feature with these machines but they actually aren’t except in the higher end models. Coffee and steam both require different temperatures, so with single boiler units, you either pull your espresso shot first, then wait for the boiler to heat up to a higher temp so you can steam your milk or the other way around, you steam your milk and then wait for the water to cool down before pulling your espresso shot. With dual boiler units, one boiler is set at the correct temp for coffee, the other for steam and you can perform both tasks at the same time.

arabic

After finally deciding on my machine, I placed the order on Amazon UK and then posted the article on the blog on how you could order expensive appliances from Amazon UK and end up paying less than the listed UK price and get it shipped to your doorstep here in Kuwait. That night, like every night for the past few weeks I was watching random videos on youtube on coffee machines and I came across a video review of the Breville Oracle. I was a bit surprised because I thought the unit I was getting was there top of the line model but the Oracle was even a step above mine. The Dual Boiler didn’t have a built in coffee grinder so I was ordering the Smart Grinder Pro along with the unit but the Oracle had one built in. There was another Breville model that had a built in grinder called the Breville Express, but that unit had a single boiler and I didn’t know there was a dual boiler also with a built in grinder.

But the Oracle not only had a grinder and a dual boiler, but it also had a feature I hadn’t seen on any other machine during my research, it not only ground the beans, but it also filled up the portafilter with the correct amount of coffee and then tamped it (check the video I shot above). But that wasn’t the only trick up its sleeve, the Oracle also automatically steamed the milk for you but unlike most automatic steamers, the Oracle allowed you to set the temperature of the milk and generated micro-foams so you could create latte art. So I quickly headed to Amazon to check the price and it was around KD500 shipped to Kuwait, around KD100 more than the cost of the Dual Boiler and Smart Grinder Pro units I had ordered. The KD400 I was paying for my items was already more than I wanted to spend on an obsession I’ll probably be bored of in a months time, so I wasn’t going to pay even more for the Oracle.

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Randomly, the next day, I get an email from my classified section. Every time someone posts an item for sale, I get an email informing me what the item is so I can make sure people aren’t selling anything inappropriate. The email I got that afternoon was informing me that someone was selling the Oracle in my classified section, it was in like new condition and he was asking KD250 for it. Right away I got in touch with the guy and asked him if he’d let it go for KD200, he agreed and I headed over 30 minutes later and picked up the machine. The guy turned out to be a reader of my blog and after reading about how you could order appliances from Amazon UK, had ordered his 6th coffee machine. Since he wasn’t using the Oracle, he decided to sell it which is how I ended up with the unit. Such a strange coincidence.

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I’ve now had the Oracle for close to a week and I’m just so in love with it. Setting up the machine was fairly easy to do, the most important aspect you need to get right is dialing in how fine you want your beans to be ground. There are 65 levels to choose from but selecting the correct level is fairly easy with a bit of trial and error. With every espresso pull you should get around 20-25ml of espresso, if you get more than that you need to grind your beans finer, if you get less than that you need to grind your beans coarser. Once you set that the first time, as long as you continue to use the same beans you’ll get a consistent espresso pull every single time. I’m using the Arabica Blend of beans from Arabica and the coffee I’ve been producing is as good as the coffee I would get at their shop. I even stole a few empty cups from them so I could compare the volume I was making to theirs and I’ve basically nailed it now. I also experimented with 6 different kinds of milk before settling on the full fat Lactofree milk from Almarai. The steamer in the Oracle is so ridiculously good, I have the temperature set at 60 degrees which is when the milk is at its sweetest point and combined with the Lactofree milk I end up with such a deliciously sweet tasting milk. I’ve even been steaming milk for my hot chocolate and god damn the hot chocolates I am making are coming out so good.

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Over the past week I’ve made a whole variety of coffees for friends from Americanos, Cappucinos, Lattes to straight up espresso shots, and everyone just thought it was the best shit ever. And it’s all because of the machine and the beans. Although I am physically at the machine making the coffee, I’m really not doing much, it’s the machine that is really doing all the work for me while making it look like I’m the amazing barista. I also don’t really have anything negative thing to say about the machine. I kinda wish I had more space on top of the machine for all my cups but thats a minor quibble. The machine also does go through a lot of coffee beans. 500 grams of beans make around 22 cups of coffee give or take. The Arabica Blend of beans I get is KD10 for 500 grams which means every espresso pull costs me around 450 fils. A liter of milk is 450 fils so add around 150 fils and each latte I make costs me roughly 600 fils. At Arabica it costs KD1.850 for a similar sized latte so I’m saving KD1.250 per cup when I make it at home. Since I paid only KD200 for my machine and I have 3 lattes a day, that means I’ll recoup the cost of the machine in less than 2 months time. Not a bad deal at all. Cleaning the machine is fairly easy, I’ve developed a routine I perform at the end of the night and it just takes around 5 minutes which is a small price to pay for great consistent coffee.

As you can tell from this post I love this machine and I can’t recommend it enough. I really wanted to dig into even more details about what makes this machine special but it would be too long of a post and I’d bore 90% of you talking about little things nobody really cares about. Instead if you want to find out even more about the machine then I’d recommend you watch [This Video] on Youtube, they give a great rundown of the machines features. I then suggest you head to Amazon UK and order one since this really is the only coffee machine you ever need [Link]


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Followup On Vigonovo the Italian Restaurant

Post by Mark

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Back in August a new Italian restaurant opened up called Vigonovo and I wrote about it on the blog a couple of days after their opening. I didn’t mention anything about the food back then since they had just opened but now that I’ve been there a bunch of times I can say Vigonovo has become one of my favorite restaurants in Kuwait.

The food first of all is really great, its Italian but its light with simple ingredients so you never leave in a food coma no matter how much you eat. The menu is always changing and the portions are tapas sized which means you get to eat more than one dish (my average is 3 dishes). But, my favorite thing about Vigonovo has to be the chef, Marco. Its become a habit for me and my friends now to just go there and have him whip up whatever he wants for us. Since the cooking is homestyle it just feels natural to let Marco tell us what we are having that night, as if we’re visiting his home. And I don’t think we are the only people who do that, I think most of his regulars let him just decide what they’re having, it’s more fun. Speaking of his regulars, I didn’t realize we had such a large Italian community until I started going to Vigonovo. Every time I’m there at least two or three other tables are filled with Italians.

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I don’t really have anything negative to say about the place, I think the lights could be dimmer in the evening and I find the blue walls weird (when you see it you’ll understand) and thats about it. Oh and their instagram account is private which I’ve told Marco I find annoying because it means I need to follow them to find out about new dishes.

If you’re looking for an authentic Italian restaurant in Kuwait then this is it. The place is located in Salmiya next to Gia. They’re right next door to Lorenzo in the shop called “Rose Gathering” (they’ll be changing the sign soon). Vigonovo is currently open daily from 5PM onwards except on Fridays when they close. Definitely worth checking out. Here is their location on [Google Maps] and their instagram account is @vigonovo_kw


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