Original image
Hugh Merwin

11 Wild and Crazy Sandwich Mashups

Original image
Hugh Merwin

I’m not a big fan of the word “mashup” when applied to art or videos, because the words “combination,” “crossover,” or just “mix” will do just fine. The neologism “mashup” makes me think of food, so the term makes sense when applied to these sandwiches that are a fusion of different styles, ingredients, or unrelated recipes. Note that I use the term “sandwich” pretty loosely as well.

1. Cubano Corn Dog

Photograph by Drew Swantak.

The delicious Cuban sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. American fair fare is made by deep-frying food on a stick. To adapt the Cuban sandwich to the fair food format, Perry Santanachote made the shredded pork, cubed ham, cheese, and pickle relish stick together with gelatin long enough to dip it in cornbread batter and deep-fry it. The gelatin cooks away, but the cornbread shell holds all those ingredients inside. By then it is essentially a corn dog with a much better meat filling. Get the entire recipe at Thrillist

2. Funnel Cake Burger

While we’re on fair foods, surely you’ve thought of the versatility of the classic funnel cake. They are fairly flat and can be made in any size, so why not use one for a hamburger bun? Josh at Culinary Brodown explains how to do it, and includes a recipe for a savory funnel cake that has no sugar in it. And a ketchup recipe that does. You can still add powdered sugar if you like your burger on the sweet side, but that’s a matter of preference.

3. Reuben Sandwich Pot Pie

When is a sandwich a pie, and vice-versa? When you want it to be! If you love the taste of a Reuben sandwich, you can make it hot, tasty, and special to impress someone with the Reuben Sandwich Pot Pie from Stef at the Cupcake Project. It’s got the classic corned beef and sauerkraut inside a savory crust made with rye flour, with a Swiss cheese sauce and more rye and Swiss in the crumbly topping.

4. Cheeseburger Pop Tart

Self-described “Burger pervert” Mathew Ramsey of Pornburger managed to make a cheeseburger in the form of a pop tart. No sweets, just all savory burger in a toaster pastry crust.

This after school special is a meme-nto of my childhood: a smashed grass-fed beef patty, with a bacon onion jam, melty cheddar cheese, in a buttery pop tart pastry.

Alas, there are no instructions included for making your own, a fact that had commenters raking him over the coals for. If you can get the ingredients, you can make this your own.

5. Apple Pie Grilled Cheese

Photograph by Drew Swantek.

My mother always loved a slice of cheddar cheese with her apple pie. And she makes a good apple pie. If you appreciate those two flavors together, try an Apple Pie Grilled Cheese. These are small double-crust apple pies that make a sandwich when you put cheese between two of them and melt it. Fancy! Get the complete recipe at Thrillist.

6. Koopa Troopa Bacon Turtle Burger

Ooh, this is a perfect sandwich for a kid’s birthday party, or a video game night! Dress up your bacon turtle burgers as Super Mario Koopa Troopa turtles with colored, edible shells. They’ve got hamburger, hot dogs, and bacon inside and visual appeal outside, so take pictures before you eat them. They won’t last long. Get all the steps for making them at Instructables.

7. Ramen Hoagie Roll

Photograph by Hugh Merwin.

You can put your choice of sandwiches inside ramen noodles when you make a Ramen Hoagie roll. You use two packages of noodles, somewhat cooked, and then formed into a roll shape and baked. It’s a bit crispy, but if you love ramen, this will made a great sandwich with something like Philly cheesesteak or meatballs with marinara or even cold cuts inside.

8. French Fry Hamburger Bun

Why have a side order of fries when you can have them on your burger? Oh, you’re right, that’s a lot of carbs (as if you weren’t getting that with fries on the side). What if you were able to get rid of the bun, and use fries as the bun? Genius. The French Fry Bun is made with real French fries. Nick Chipman at Dude Foods made this by using edible glue to connect a row of fries together long enough to serve a hamburger patty and fixin’s between two of them. If this seems like more trouble than you’d prefer, Chapman also has a scheme for using hash browns for a sandwich bun.

9. Dog in a Dog

This is a fusion of a Dachshund and a hot dog. A wiener dog and a wiener. Dog in a Dog is a hot dog wrapped in dinner roll dough in the shape of a dog. The eyes are cheese and black beans. You may have to do this a few times to get it to look right, but what fun that will be!

10. Cheerios Coated Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Photograph by Yvonne Ruperti.

This sandwich is like combining breakfast and lunch, except that you know as well as I do that a grilled cheese for breakfast and a bowl of cereal any time of the day is perfectly fine. But when you want both, Serious Eats shows us how to encrust a grilled cheese with Cheerios by using melted cheese as the glue. And we can use any excuse to add more melted cheese to a sandwich! You can substitute other kinds of cereals, but I might have to draw the line at using Froot Loops.

11. The Double Decker Mac & Cheese Stuffed Bacon Weave Taco

Nick Chipman at Dude Foods went out on a limb to combine all his favorites into a supreme taco mashup. First he made a couple of bacon weave taco shells, which is bacon, but once it’s woven, can be used to hold other foods in place. Then he put your everyday taco ingredients into one, filled the other with delicious macaroni and cheese, then nested the taco inside the mac-and-cheese taco. The result is the Double Decker Mac & Cheese Stuffed Bacon Weave Taco. It’s a good thing all your favorite foods are in there, because you’ve not only filled your calorie limit for the day, you’ve probably also exceeded your sodium limit for the week.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
Original image
© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.