Published on December 12th, 2009 | by Greg0
2009: Highs and Lows
We have some brand new items to tell you about, so hold off on finalizing your gift lists for another day if you can. This article, though, is our round-up of things we loved this year… as well as things that we were disappointed in. For those unaware, TrulyObscure is fairly unique- every article here is a review, typically accomplished after a month or so of testing, and when possible by multiple people who then come up with a consensus opinion. We can’t do that for everything- some films, video games, and the like are often singular experiences. We feel that this method offers something a little different from other blogs and magazines; we aren’t Consumer Reports, but can and do handle things that they don’t. Of course, a month isn’t always long enough to learn all of the ins and outs of an item, and opinions can shift greatly over time. That’s why we want to offer our updates on a few of the best items of the yearâ€¦ and point out some products that, with the benefit of hindsight and experience, lost some of their luster.
Good often triumphs, and luckily, most things we’ve seen, tried, eaten, drunk, and used have left us feeling positive.
In the kitchen and for your pleasure:
- KAI Shun took top place in the knife category this year. We still use the Ken Onion blade a bit more, but the Bob Kramer blade inspires awe and aahs whenever it’s used.
- Our favorite chocolate was definitely TCHO- a local chocolatier that offers flavors to savor, expensive but surprisingly intricate.
- The dessert most likely to shave time off of our lives award goes to the Clairesquare, and it gives us both dreams and nightmares, alternately.
- We think we found the teabags of the future- even if they are a little bit more painful to dispose of! The Ineeka teas were also quite worthy of the nifty bags; the peppermint was especially worthy of note. We still haven’t seen these around though, which makes us sad.
- On the other hand, we have seen the Navarro Vineyards label pretty widely around the San Francisco area- every nice restaurant seems to have started serving these excellent grape juices. It’s nice to see a fairly obscure product get some love!
- The single strangest thing we tried this year was likely Le Whif. A gastronomic treat, we enjoy the slightly illicit sensation of getting high off of mint chocolate. We hear they might push into other flavors- might we suggest bacon?
Gadgets, gizmos and gear:
- Want an inexpensive personal portable HD video camera? Now’s the time- and both Flip models that we checked out offer great feature sets at slightly different pricepoints. We should also mention, though, that the ContourHD offered specific advantages for those planning on dropping out of planes or engaging in dangerous activities.
- Tech lovers, our two for you happened to be reviewed in the same article. Those who are aiming at the low end (around $50), you can actually save some money using the Wi-Fire, a wifi extender that actually works (well). Of course, if you’ve got a bit more money to spare, isn’t it time that you backed up every piece of data you have (and your family’s as well)? The Seagate Black Armor NAS 220 offers two terabytes of storage for under $400, is easy to use, and was perfectly reliable.
- And for those in need of a serious scanner, we tried nearly every variety and shape and size this year. But our all-around favorites were two Fujitsu models, one portable and one not-so-much, that handled pretty much everything without missing a beat.
- Our audio gadget of the year is the Squeezebox Boom. Logitech has recently released the Wifi model and the Touch is coming soon, but the Boom kept us rocking all year long, and despite constant use still looks and feels brand new.
- We tried out a surprising number of interesting and useful bags this year. The Zuca still grabs a fair bit of attention, but two other bags continue to haul most of our wares around. Those would be the OGIO Bus, which offered an innovative integration of a larger duffel and a small carry-on plus an attention-grabbing style, and the Boblbee Velocity, a pricey but unique and super-durable smaller bag.
Not all was roses though…
- Axe let us down this year- we had some hope when we heard about men’s haircare products – but the shampoos and other items are definitely for boys. Though we would barely wish them on even grade school bullies.
- Most overblown PR-speak goes to the Mozaniac puzzles. We still giggle at their suggestion that their silly and pointless puzzles “at their most profound… are a major discovery about the true shape of yin and yang, the basic interacting or complementary forces in life”.
- Some movies just aren’t worth watching. This year, that was Nobel Son. It was simply careless film making, and mediocre (or worse) in most every way.
- Our greatest disappointment was when the lights went out. We had reliability issues with the Vessel demi-glow candelas and Luau lamp from the beginning, ostensibly due to getting non-production units. After a few months of irregular indoor use, both ceased working- the Luau simply died in it’s cradle and the demi-glows suffered from serious charging and battery-life issues.