Archive for April, 2008

450 ft. of Ikea

April 30, 2008

I confess that the past four weekends have not been spent fruitfully working on home improvements, but going on joy trips to Ikea. Most of my needs were addressed in the first round, but how could I resist all the subsequent ventures? I definitely didn’t need anything when we last went, a spontaneous trip after a Newark airport drop off. But, I discovered that I liked their small kitchen set up for a small apartment. A kitchen nook with an island, it manages to squeeze in a full size refrigerator into less than 50 square feet. The island offers up a good amount of counter space, along with a 24″ cooktop and oven and a set of drawers. The sink was a little claustrophobic and small for me, but it still manages to maximize the counter by installing a rail system for a dish drying rack. I didn’t notice until later that the rack is actually nailed into a piece of MDF that hugs the refrigerator, reminding me of my future panel for the un-broom closet, not bothersome at all. A nice layout, but where is all the food and cookware and dishes supposed to be stored? In the floor to ceiling wardrobe cabinets that one barely notices upon entering. Can I move in during renovation?


Renewed Cabinet Interest

April 29, 2008

I had completely lost interest in the “vintage” cabinet for over a month. I had pretty much written it off as my painter’s problem, whenever that time comes. Besides, I weekends were for having fun with my friends. But as two of my friends left for the long haul to LA, it was back to me and my cabinet.

Without the old cabinets in the way, I was able to get a new perspective and position on the gunky undersides. The corner cat was able to sand off some of the edges and flat areas well, but I still needed Rock Miracle for the corners. I used up what little that I had left, realizing that I also need a sharper scraper since my plastic scrapers has been dulled down and mucked up.

The big accomplishment was removing the offending towel holder. With a hammer, two screwdrivers, scissors, pliers and the mantra, “lefty loosey, righty tighty”, I was able to take out the body and one of the screws. Unfortunately, one screw is way stuck in there. I may need the many strength of the opposite sex to get it out, or leave it there.

Picking Up Speed

April 25, 2008

I thought that I would have to live with my moonscaped kitchen for another couple of weeks, so imagine my surprise to find smooth cement partially laid down. The electricity looks untouched from yesterday, but all it needs is the outlet since the box and line are in. It’s really happening.

The only thing standing between me and real progress is tile glue. For almost two weeks, I have not had a chance to go out and buy it. I refuse to go to Home Dystopia, which admittedly have good after work hours. I have to make it a priority to go to my beloved local hardware store this weekend. Along with updating my architect and cabinet maker, getting a basket for my sink, and maybe working on that cabinet. I’ve almost forgotten what Rock Miracle smells like.


April 24, 2008

What looks like a disaster is on a slow road to progress. The small notch in the wood floor adjacent to the kitchen has been skimmed off so that the edge is smooth. The BX cable for the extra electrical line is being run to the column where the column has been knocked out to house the line. Assuredly, the box for this separate line has been added. What feels like two steps back is really two steps forward.

There is so much more to be done before the cabinets get installed the week of May 6 – finish the rewiring, patch the holes from the rewiring, seal and cement the floors, tile the floors. My cabinet maker and I decided that the best time to paint would be after his installation and before the marble, since there is no point in painting the walls where the cabinets cover it up.

I think about how much time that I frittered away on the old cabinet, when I should have given more thought to the rewiring. The enormity and necessity of the task didn’t really hit me until the old cabinets went away and I saw what really needed to be done. So much work for so little space!

Top 10 Sandwiches

April 23, 2008

In The Littlest Non-Existing Kitchen, I do not have the slightest desire to cook. I have a microwave, a toaster oven, a George Forman grill, a rice cooker, and a crock pot, all of which could facillitate my cooking needs. But without having a designated area to concentrate my efforts, it’s all a hassle. I only have the wherewithal to heat leftovers from meals out, or assemble sandwiches.

The key to a good sandwich is on the spot, fresh assembly. That’s why I refuse to bring sandwiches to work. In those few hours post-assembly, it enters rigor mortis and it’s just not satisfying. I like distinct texture and flavor from all the ingredients that harmonize together. In tribute to my new favorite meal (and the Earl himself), here are my Top 10 sandwiches, in no particular order.

1. Lil’ Pig’s meatloaf sandwich has velvety meatloaf, tangy swiss cheese and carmelized onions all pressed together in a loving embrace. Lil’ Pig, 64 Lafayette Avenue at South Elliott Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

2. Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1’s House Special is the classic banh mi of roast meat, creamy pate, pickled carrots and refreshing cilantro on a crusty baguette, a cross cultural gift. Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1, 369 Broome Street between Elizabeth and Mulberry Street, Chinatown, Manhattan.

3. Clinton Street Baking Co.’s egg biscuit is the best way to start the morning – fluffy scrambled eggs on a buttery biscuit with a blanket of melted cheese, a schmear of tomato jam, and crispy bacon. My favorite breakfast sandwich. Clinton Street Baking Co., 4 Clinton Street between Houston and Stanton, Lower East Side, Manhattan.

4. Or would it be Egg’s ham, Grafton cheddar and fig jam on a biscuit? Egg, 135 N. 5th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

5. B & H Dairy has my favorite grilled cheese on challah. Perfect with a cup of split pea soup. B & H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue between St. Mark’s Place and 7th Street, East Village, Manhattan.

6. Taim’s falafel sandwich isn’t served on an ordinary flavorless pita, but an airy, springy disc more akin to a round ciabbata, upholding perfectly toothsome falafel and crisp salad. Taim, 222 Waverly Place at W. 11th Street, West Village, Manhattan.

7. Tulcingo Del Valle’s roast pork cemitas is a torta plus with spicy smoky chipotle peppers, mild and creamy queso blanco and avocado, and a mysterious herbaceous leaf that asserts itself in an already flavorful sandwich. All on a sesame seed bun. Tulcingo Del Valle, 665 Tenth Avenue between 47th and 48th Street, Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.

8. Togo’s #16 is essentially an antipasto platter in a hero roll. A sentimental favorite from high school. Togo’s, nationwide.

9. #1 Dumpling House’s tuna sandwich is the sandwich that taught me that tuna loves minced scallion and I love a tuna salad on their sesame scallion pancake. #1 Dumpling House, 118 Eldridge Street, between Broome and Grand Streets, Chinatown, Manhattan.

10. Margon’s cubano sandwich is my new favorite Cubano now that Manhattan Heroes is no longer, and much better than the precious Bouchon Bakery for half the price. I think the trick is the slow low press, so it steams, but doesn’t dry out. It takes longer, but it’s worth it. Margon, 136 W. 46th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, Midtown, Manhattan.

My current favorite at home is roast beef and horseradish cheddar and tomato and mayonnaise on Trader Joe’s toasted ciabbata roll. There are weeks of sandwiches to be had.


April 22, 2008

I still think that my kitchen is littler, but “The Littlest Kitchen Channel” on You Tube has the littlest chefs. Claiming to be “the most edible, incredible, eatable, treatable, littlest kitchen around”, it’s an instructional cooking show hosted by two kids making their kid food in six minutes of cute. Pizza is made with flattened biscuit dough and jarred sauce. Key lime pie is a quick spin of egg yolks, condensed milk, and key lime juice. They make it look so easy. And fun. Only two “shows”, these future foodies have loads of potential, with room to grow.

The Un-Broom Broom Closet

April 21, 2008

Our collective brain power of three Berkeley grads, could not figure out how to make the broom closet more functional than to not keep brooms in it. In my architect’s plan, he had designed the broom closet , essentially a very shallow closet that hugs a column in order to a) liaise between the sink/cooktop counter and the peninsula to create one flush line; b) provide a natural interruption between the counter and peninsula as not to require a mega piece of marble, or a small lame piece, or an even lamer substitute material; and c) hold some more crap.

I’ve had issues with this piece, especially the piece that hugs the wall next to the cooktop, and have asked my architect to reconsider, much to his dismay and resistance. I consulted with my design friends who were former architect students, and we considered other possibilities like a counter height cabinet with shelves above, or hinged drawers like those Ikea shoe shelves, but all the ideas led to problems with a or b. It was agreed that what my architect had planned was the best, on the outside. It’s the interiors that need to be tweaked for maximum usage. So instead of using it to house the brooms and mops, it’ll have adjustable shelves for spices, boxes of aluminum foil and ziploc bags, etc. Not a bad solution.

Planning the Pantry

April 18, 2008

I have been procrastinating for over a month, maybe two, in figuring out my pantry/bookshelves. In accordance to the plan and continuation to the rest of the apartment that has been done, there will be a bookcase in the hall that is like the ones that are already there. Same height and construction, but the height of the shelves will be shorter to accommodate shorter books, and shallower for just a tad more space. Basically, I want it to function like the crappy old bookcase that is have there now. So the new bookcases should have similar heights to the elder, and not match the newer side opposite of it.

This will be back to back with the pantry shelves, which are inside the kitchen. The pantry shelves have always been conceived to be like those orderly kitchen shelves aplenty in the Porn-kea catalog – matching jars and bottles, exotic packaged of foodstuff, and repetitive cans – an art director’s dream. These shelves are even more shallow than the bookshelves, wide enough to hold a mason jar, or a box of cereal in a single row. Again, I think the heights can be similar to the crap bookcase, if not a wee shorter if need be when the other variables are taken into account – the outlet, the intercom, the intersecting microwave cabinet. An ideal plan, which hopefully works with my reality.


April 17, 2008

I fully admit that I am a creature of habit. In the morning, I get up, make coffee in the French press, and read the newspaper. Without a kitchen my whole coffee routine is thrown off and I actually have to think about it. Can’t boil water, I heat two mugs of water in the microwave. Each time I want water, I have to walk to the bathroom. After I stir the coffee grounds in the press, I have to walk over to the bathroom to rinse and deposit the spatula that I use to stir my coffee. The dirty dishes sit in the drainer in the tub. When it’s time to take my shower after the newspaper, I have to move the drainer back into the main room. What a pain.

I’ve been dreading washing the dishes in the bathroom. There’s something about food in the bathroom that grosses me out. Maybe it’s literally the expression, “Don’t shit where you eat”. I digress. It wasn’t bad, just a dinky sink and a non-pivoting faucet. Not that I look forward to doing this for a month.

Demo Day Two

April 16, 2008

Without anything in the kitchen it almost seems spacious! Good riddance to bad crap! So long, lame small stove whose knobs came off whenever I turned them! Adios, rotting sink cabinet! The floor was actually the least offensive, and most solid, but nothing could be done about them after the walls were take out last year.

I am amazed by the amount of concrete in the kitchen. Little hills and valleys of cement soon to have more self-leveling concrete over it, before the tiles can be set with a tile glue. In taking out the floors, they pulled out some of the plaster on the bottom where the walls meet, which will also have to be reworked, possibly before the tiles get put in. It feels like a whole new beginning.