Archive for March, 2008

The High Cost of Cheap

March 31, 2008

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What started out as a quick trip to the Greatland Target and Home Despicable in Jersey City, turned out to be an all day affair with a detour to Ikea. It’s foolish to think that any trip to Ikea would be quick, even it was just for the Swedish meatballs. So many things to purchase! So many dreams to be had!

I decided to get my kitchen sink fixtures there, especially since I was with my two trusty design consultants. It was agreed that the Holvstad, which I originally wanted, did not live up to the dream with its brushed nickel finish, so we went with the Bagvik instead. At only $89.95, it was well designed, and even substantial, a bargain compared to Kohler and other such brands. But what I saved in dollars, I painfully paid for in precious time. Forty-five minutes spent in line in the kitchen area just to order the single fixture, while everyone before me was planning every detail of their kitchen with a sales person. Another hour through the one way labyrinth of the store to shop. Another ten minutes in line at check out. And finally, another twenty minutes to pick up the fixture from the stock area. Clocking in the traffic to get home, four hours of my time – and that my dear friends’ – is worth more than $90. And we didn’t even make it to the Home Despisable.

Blue It Is

March 28, 2008


I have finally become incapable of making the simplest decision – black or blue tiles. I originally wanted black, since the current floor is black. Seeing the cobalt blue samples at Home Depot made me think otherwise, having more depth to the color than the flat black, not to mention being cheaper than getting the black at Bergen Tile. I asked my architect; he likes both as long as it’s dark. Groan, why can’t I decide? Flipping a coin was starting to look like a good option, but instead, I asked my former roommate, who has strong opinions on home design. “Blue”, she said. “you need something pretty there”. I believe her, she had just stayed here for the week.

Lard Bread

March 27, 2008


Not the most appetizing name for baked goods, enough to offend low-carb and low-fat dieters alike, but I salivate like a Pavlov dog when I hear those words. Luckily for my waistline, I can only get this belly bomb at Caputo’s in Carroll Gardens during the day, which occurs rare to never, making it more of a special treat. I assume it’s the lard that makes this the wonder bread that it is – crisp, flaky crust and a fluffy yet creamy interior which suspends bits of salami and cheese and black pepper – I could eat the whole thing in one sitting. That sitting would take a few hours as every bite is to be savored and enjoyed.

Ryobi Corner Cat

March 26, 2008

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To ease my cabinet woes, I got the Ryobi Corner Cat Sander. It immensely helped to get the last wash of paint off the underside of the cabinet, and somewhat off of the supporting bars. I’ll still have to get another go at it when the old cabinetry is removed next week(!). Much to its detriment, the hard uneven sanding destroyed the coarse layer of sanding in minutes, balding it like Kojak. I’m relatively pleased with my $30 purchase, easy to use with a good handgrip, it beats wrecking my hands with sandpaper alone. I’m not quite sure if the suctioning vacuum bag helps, as the dust seems to land everywhere. I had read that the sandpaper pads were difficult to find, since it has a velcro-like back, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

In other experiments, it smoothed out a clean section of the cabinet beautifully, like butter. This part of the sanding should be a pleasure when I get to it in days to come. I also tried it on the little shelf under the cabinet, which may or may not stay, still covered in layers of paint. It was only so-so, but I think that the sandpaper was well worn at this point. This will require more Rock Miracle, if I decide to keep it.


March 25, 2008


Upon my house guest’s departure, I have actually been able to make some progress. An affirming meeting with my cabinet maker clarified the rear cabinet situation – I can have my microwave in the cabinet and not have to move the plug, which will stay on the outside. A power strip will feed through a hole in the cabinet, the same power strip will probably serve the electricity for the stove and cooktop. In our fine tuning, I started to get claustrophobic over the impending length of the penninsula and how it was starting to choke off more space into the path of the apartment, due to the extra 4″ depth of the broom closet. I quickly got over it when I realized that there was plenty of room around the peninsula due to the extra width of the broom closet. We agreed on a new timetable, so that installation would be by April 18. And he gave me advice on how to handle where the old cabinet meets the just as old peeling paint – chisel it off, put on new joint compound and then repaint the wall.

I feel a new call to action. I have to, since I’ve already arranged to start demo next Monday!

Kichen re-opened

March 24, 2008

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This was originally supposed to be posted on Monday, March 24.  

The Littlest Kitchen was closed last week due to out of town guests. No new progress, and lots of eating out. One evening’s dining bonanza was the bo ssam pork butt at Momofuku Ssam. An 8-lb. hulk of pork shoulder, that has to be ordered ahead of time for a party of 6-8, arrives at the table as a mountain of meat, served with lettuce, rice, and a variety of condiments. A freestyle event in which the goal is to wrap the meat and rice and kimchee and kimchee puree and hot soybean paste and scallion oil, like little almost healthy burritos. This hands on pork-orgy lends to overindulgence given its largess and how good it tastes. I had a meat hangover the next day.

And the leftover bounty of almost 2-lbs. of pork! For days, I’ve had pork and kimchee sandwiches on brioche rolls. I’ve added it to an austere kale, potato, and white bean soup. I’m still not sick of it.

I could easily survive on the sandwiches alone, but I hate bringing sandwiches to work. There is something so unsatisfying about a sandwich that is a few hours old, maybe it’s how it has had time to meld or its visual compactness, but it really has to be freshly made. I much prefer to bring a soup or stew, which doesn’t suffer over time. Searching for recipes for pork stews, I was most intrigued by this variation on menudo-like hominy stew from Epicurious. Adjusting to what I have, my bastardization involves leftover meat and canned jalapenos, instead of uncooked pork shoulder and poblano peppers.

Pork and hominy stew – serves six

-fry up 3 slices of chopped bacon in a stockpot
-remove bacon with slotted spoon, reserve for later
-add 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped carrot, cook until soft, 5 minutes
-add 6 cloves minced garlic, stir to coat, 1 minute
-add 1t marjoram and 2t chili powder, stir to coat, 1 minute
-add 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup beer, 2-15 oz. cans hominy, 1 can diced tomatoes with juice, and 10 pickled jalapenos stir and bring to a boil, simmer covered for 20 minutes.
-add 1lb. shredded pork, cook until heated through, 10 minutes-serve with sprinkled bacon bits on top

Spicy and flavorful, I find the marjoram to be negligible. I’m sure it can be substituted with oregeno and/or bay leaf, or left out altogether. I also wouldn’t mind celery added to the vegetable mix, if I had it.

Wanted: Remodeling Coach

March 14, 2008


As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, in the great remodeling challenge, not only do I need a General Contractor, but I also need a Remodeling Coach. Or House Therapist. Or Kitchen Whisperer. Or when it comes down to it, Translator and Overall Mensch.

It’s comforting to see that I’m not the only person that has difficulty grasping the scope of their renovation. And not the only one who is overwhelmed, if not paralyzed, by the chain of effect of decision making. I thought that my problem was that I didn’t have a GC, but what I really need is project manager who is working in my best interest by dispensing advice, researching various sources, and talking me down from the ledge. But how can I afford a professional hand holder, when I can’t even afford a GC? Isn’t that what friends are for?

A Note to the Architect

March 13, 2008


Hi – I haven’t abandoned the kitchen to resign myself to a life of take out. Work’s been super busy, so much so that I get to stay for an extra month. And my weekends are dutifully spent slaving over the cabinet. I’ve come to a few decisions and would like to have you input:

– Ideally the purpose of the rear cabinet is to house the ugly microwave, and let’s face it all microwaves are ugly, so buying a new small one won’t necessarily do me any good. I think that your initial measurement of 18″ is probably the best since it also is the same width as the weird indent next to the pillar. The only solution is to move the outlet – one inside for the microwave, and one outside at counter height. Patrick doesn’t think that it would cost much, not more than $100.

– Does the side of the broom closet wrap around the pillar to be adjacent to the stove? Will there be a problem with heat? I’ll stick to two doors for this.

-I’ll probably get this Elkay undermount sink:

I’m not sure that this is the exact sink that I saw in the store, since it was a different price. But the idea is that it’s the exact size of the sink that I have now which I like fine.

-What is your opinion on the placement of the fridge and freezer? I just have to get the correct kind of hinging. Patrick thinks that the fridge should be on the right as not to block the oven.

-I’m on the fence about the tiles. The HD doesn’t have black tiles, only cobalt, which is actually quite nice. Bergen has black, I have to go back and look at it. I remember that you liked both equally?

-I’d like to keep the interior kitchen walls white, like the pod, and not like the geode that you suggested.

-I’m going to get rid of the little shelf above the sink since it won’t line up with the sink. I like having a shelf there maybe the length of the cabinet, any suggestions?

-With the indentation from the pillar in the corner where the sink cabinet is, is it meant to be filled or be zig zag like how it is now? Same with the oven space?

I’m meeting with Jeremy on Wednesday to finalize the plan and schedule, so let me know what you think. Thanks!


PS. Where are you? Hope all is well!

Yakitori Ice Cream

March 12, 2008

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Working in midtown west for the past few years, I must have walked by Yakitori Totto a million times, but have never been in. My loss, as I have missed out on some of the best yakitori around. Cooked on a well-seasoned iron grill, skewers of chicken parts and ever-tender meatballs come out juicy with just enough char. Relatively simple, but done so well. They even grill their gyoza on a stick for a crisp skin that is fused by the heat creating a thin lacy layer of starch, sublime in the way that burnt crispy rice is. Speaking of burnt crispy rice, the rice balls offer a textbook example of this kind of perfection. Equally good off the grill are the salads with either a shiso or wasabi dressing. A small dish of raw tuna cubes makes me embrace mercury whole heartedly.

The revelation of the evening was the dessert – vanilla ice cream with drizzled molasses and toasted soy bean powder. It’s not everyday that I find a new taste sensation, and this I can have every day as long as I can find the ingredients. It took two Japanese grocery stores to find the soybean powder, discreetly tucked away on a shelf with other mysterious powders and flours at the Sunrise Mart. Just as an exotic of a find is the generic, non-fancy, non-organic grocery store which has the molasses. Almost a refined derivative of the hot fudge sundae, it is creamy and sweet, with just enough acrid bite and nuttiness.

Yakitori Ice Cream
-scoop 1/4 cup vanilla ice cream in a bowl
-drizzle 1t molasses over ice cream
-sprinkle 1t soybean powder over top

Thinking Out of the Cabinet

March 11, 2008

ed8417e1-3d80-48e7-9861-f82592964b17_400.jpg 315b3fda-0883-4628-84fa-2a6cbfa0481b_400.jpgI’ve come to an impasse with the underside of the cabinet. For all the elbow grease and fumes that I put into the stripping, I’m not seeing results. I’m flummoxed. There has to be a better way.I’m having a problem with getting to the trim/rails and the corners. My glop and scrape technique isn’t working on theses tight spaces since I can’t build enough torque and momentum. Heeding the advice of my cabinetmaker, I got a metal brush from the dreaded Home Depot (1 brush bought=1 hour wasted), which did better than the plastic scraper, but not phenomenally so. I need power.I was about to buy the Ryobi Detail Sander from The Place That Has No Name, but of course, it’s out of stock. Thinking that I was going to buy it online, I did some more sleuthing, and even thought it got four out of five good reviews on, it was slammed everywhere else on the internet. I think I’ll go with the Power Cat instead.