It is 2:30 pm, a work meeting ran long, and you’re going to be late getting home to greet your 3:00 book club members. In your car, stuck in a mess of traffic, you might normally break a sweat, but instead, you reach out to your assistant to make your current time crunch more manageable. But this isn’t just any assistant, this is Momo ($699), your AI (artificial intelligence) home bot (short for robot). From your car, you verbally connect with Momo and ask it to text your book club friends to let them know you are running a few minutes late. Your friends are instructed to ring the doorbell and Momo will let them in. When you remotely ask Momo to turn off your home security system, Momo intuitively knows from past experience that you also want to turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, and play your favorite music. Knowing your calendar of events, Momo asks if you want it to turn on the electric kettle to boil water for tea and heat the oven to 250 degrees to warm the scones you made earlier that morning. As your friends arrive and ring the video doorbell, Momo’s voice greets them through the outdoor speaker and using facial recognition technology, unlocks the door. The beauty of Momo’s help is that upon your own arrival, you can breeze in, pop the scones into the preheated oven, pour hot water for tea, and greet your guests with ease. Phew!
After your book club meeting, you need to think about what to make for dinner. Or do you? With the help of Chefling Ultra-Connect, your AI Kitchen Assistant phone app tied to your digital speaker, recipes are suggested to you based upon what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Aiming to simplify your kitchen operation, Chefling saves you time by inventorying and tracking items in your pantry through a scanning system, sends you reminders if something is expired, offers recipe suggestions, and provides step-by-step hands-free cooking instructions via Amazon’s Alexa or another home digital assistant.
During your cooking prep when your hands are occupied with greasy wrappers or germy chicken packaging, you discard them with a single voice command to your Superhuman voice-activated trashcan ($200) that opens and closes its lid. As you make your Chefling generated recipe, you gather a few ingredients from your sleek indoor Smart Garden ($99+) that cares for your herbs, lettuces, and edibles by providing light, water, and nutrients.
After cleaning up dinner, you can hardly wait to put your feet up and relax in bed. Before heading to the bedroom, Momo asks if you would like Roomba, your robotic vacuum, to do a quick sweep of the floors. Ah, yes. And, of course, because Momo knows the time you usually go to bed, it has already adjusted the room temperature, closed the blinds, and turned down the lights in your bedroom. All you have left to do is dial in your mattress with a few taps on your Smartphone using the Sleep Number app. Your Sleep Number 360 iLE Smart Bed ($5,000+) offers endless head and foot positions for watching TV, reading, relaxing, or simply sleeping. Features include temperature control settings with a foot-warming option, snore reduction sensors that raise your head, sleep habit monitoring with Sleep IQ, under-the-bed lighting that turns on automatically for nighttime trips to the bathroom, and comfort adjustments to your mattress based upon your personalized sleep patterns.
Your digital assistant has already locked the doors, set the house alarm, turned off the main lights, turned on the white noise machine, and reminds you of what is on the calendar for tomorrow, checks the weather, and sets your wake up time. Nighty night.
For those who are old enough to remember Rosie the robot maid from the popular 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons, you might recall the speculation at the time that having a robot of your very own will be the future. Well, we are close. Like Momo, which is still in the prototype phase, artificially intelligent assistants are about to explode into the marketplace. These interfaces aim to make us more productive by operating our homes, running our schedules, learning our habits, and thinking for us.
Not quite as “smart” as Momo, the current Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo Dot powered by Alexa ($39+), Google Home using Google Assistant ($49+), or Apple’s Siri-enabled HomePod ($349) will play music, adjust the lights and temperatures in our homes, record calendar notes, teach kids how to spell, make telephone calls, set alarms, and provide us our weather and news of the day. They are not intuitive digital assistants yet, but it is really just a matter of months. Tech Crunch statistics show that one in five U.S. adults have adopted Smart speakers, already reaching 47.3 million users in just two years. This is an incredible leap, considering it took thirteen years for television to be adopted by 50 million users and four years for the Internet to reach that mark. As Amazon, Google, and Apple battle it out for market share and the latest in AI technology, trends show conversational and intuitive AI digital assistants with more bells and whistles will be available very soon. •
Picking out an olive oil can be an overwhelming experience. The number of oil-containing bottles and tins gracing a grocery store’s shelves is almost as impressive as the cardboard boxes lining the cereal aisle. Of course like breakfast cereals, not all olive oils are created the same. So how do you choose? Maybe you look at price. Maybe you just go for the same one you’ve always bought. Maybe you just pick one with a pretty picture on the label. Or, maybe, you choose one based on what you think you know and like about olive oil. Bottomline, no matter what you eventually decide on—be it extra virgin, virgin, refined, pure … one that hail’s from Greece, from Italy, from Croatia, from the U.S. … one that’s organic … one that’s lite … or one that’s flavor-infused, be forewarned, there’s far more to choosing an olive oil than simply glancing at the label.
Don’t judge an olive oil by its cover
In 2010, the University of California at Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, published a report on the quality of olive oils readily available in America’s grocery stores. And of the 19 brands tested, “69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.” The study, partially funded by California olive oil producers, received its fair share of criticism but nonetheless, proved what many expert olive oil tasters had been saying for years—not all EVOO labeled as so, is indeed EVOO.
“If you’re using olive oil for the health benefits,” says Chicago-based culinary expert and Iron Chef America judge-in-rotation Mario Rizzotti, “but it’s not really olive oil, then you’re not getting the health benefits.” And in a country plagued by cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and obesity problems, it’s vital to do as much as possible to improve our overall health—which is why Rizzotti is on a mission to help Americans choose products, and foods, that will put everyone on the road to better health—one EVOO spoonful at a time.
Drizzle, don’t dip
“What we’re trying to accomplish is to promote the healthy benefits of authentic Italian food and authentic Italian ingredients,” Rizzotti says. “There are so many things out there that people consider Italian that in Italy, we don’t even have.”
And one of those things, says Rizzotti, is the presentation of bread baskets with accompanying bowls of olive oil before the meal.
“That’s not Italian,” he said.
“Really?” I asked. I mean you can barely go to an Italian restaurant here in the U.S. without a substantial serving of bread hitting your table long before your meal arrives. And so, admittedly, I was skeptical. How can that be? It’s a staple practice in most stateside Italian restaurants but here was a genuine Italian chef telling me the practice was anything but authentic Italian. So I Googled it, and as it turns out, Google agreed with the Italian.
“I use olive oil for cooking,” explained Rizzotti, “but really good olive oil should be used for finishing dishes and drizzled on food once its prepared.” He uses Terre Rosse DOP Umbria Kosher Organic EVOO, which he has shipped directly to him from Italy’s Umbria region, just north of Rome, bordering Tuscany. Interested in trying the oil Rizzotti dubs liquid gold? You can purchase Terre Rosse on his website, MarioRizzotti.com, $22 for 250ml.
Curious about other olive oils? Or maybe you have a favorite and want to see how it stacks up to world-renowned oils. Check out BestOliveOils.com for the most recent list of The World’s Best Olive Oils. The list represents compiled results from the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest most comprehensive olive oil quality contest. Or better yet, plan to attend the 2019 event, May 10 in NYC and be one of the first to experience award-winning olive oils paired with regional specialties from around the world by the International Culinary Center team and NYIOOC Resident Chef Perola Polillo. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15. More information visit NYOliveOil.com.
How to choose an olive oil
When purchasing EVOO, there’s plenty to consider and individual palates have different opinions as to what tastes good and what doesn’t. Therefore, the best advice is twofold—first, educate yourself on the different varietals, and second, don’t be afraid to experiment with new oils.
“There’s lots of good olive oils,” said Rizzotti, "and lots of opinions," he added. But whether you choose an oil from his homeland of Italy, or one from anywhere in the globe, he wants you to know these two things:
One, “cold pressed” doesn’t really mean cold: It only means the olives cannot be pressed in an environment with a temperature exceeding 80.6 F. In other words, it’s marketing lingo consumers have come to associate with quality but in all actuality, doesn’t directly correlate.
And two, just like the “Product of Italy” quote on the back of his cooking jacket, if you want an Italian olive oil, the label, in accordance with Italian law, must say either Product of Italy or 100% Italian. "Made from Italian Olives," "Packaged in Italy," and "Made in Italy" don't assure an authentic product. •