Archive for the ‘Kitchen Critique’ Category

The Lesser of the Uglies

September 18, 2008

The peninsula was always supposed to be multi-purpose as a work surface and a dining space. I still need to get counter height stools in order for it to serve as the latter. In all my research, I have yet to find stools that I like. They’re all hideous. It’s become a matter of getting something cheap and bearable, and then replacing it when I find the real deal at a flea market. These shinto stools from Pearl River could be that alternative at $29.50. Simple and slim, they’re the right height and the right price. They’re not even that ugly, and I would want vintage versions of these that are more weathered and worn.

The irony of this is that I actually like the peninsula as a dedicated work space, and not as a resting/hanging out/dining spot. I prefer to sit at a separate table away from where I cook and clean. Maybe that’s just how I’m feeling now because I do have those two kinds of spaces. It’ll be good to have the option of sitting at the peninsula, at least for my guests.

Re-thinking Trash

September 17, 2008

I was convinced that I wanted the Rationell trash bin set from Ikea to go under the kitchen sink. It was small, since I don’t make that much garbage; it has a lid, to cover the garbage that I don’t take out that often; and it rolled out, so that I wouldn’t have to reach in. Done. But in adjusting to the kitchen, I’ve discovered that I don’t mind having the garbage can out, there’s plenty of room, and it’s nice not to have to open a cabinet to throw something away. The garbage can just has to be a little more appealing than the purple plastic thing that I have. Aside from being small and covered, I found that I wanted a step can because often my hands are wet or dirty. The best candidate that I’ve found is the Simple Human 10-liter step can. More of a size for the bathroom or office, it’s just right for The Littlest Kitchen since it’s the right size for grocery store plastic bags. It’s silver and slim, which is a little more look-at-me than I like, if not match-y with the fridges. At $29.99, it’s going to have to wait.

A Paper Towel Holder

September 16, 2008

For the most part, I try not to use paper towels. I’d rather use thin dish towels and cloth napkins, as opposed to throwing away something that is going to make more methane gas in our overcrowded landfills. But sometimes it’s unavoidable, like for wiping up anything greasy, drying poultry, or cleaning after the cat’s nervous affliction. I’m finding a need for a paper towel holder.

I particularly like the whimsical Michael Graves version with its bunny ears popping out of the top like a magician’s hat. Or am I reading too much into this, and they’re just design-y phallic protuberances? The base is sort of fat at 7 1/4″ in diameter, taking up quite a bit of precious counter space. Squidged in the corner, it may not make a difference, but it makes its presence known.

For something more discreet, the Ikea Ordning is only 5 3/8″ in diameter and only $7.99. Even more discreet is the Euro Paper Towel Holder, which looks like an attenuated paper clip, or one of those things that holds receipts at the cash register at the diner.

What I definitely don’t need is the iTouchless automatic paper towel holder. A germaphobe’s dream that dispenses towels without having to touch the rest of the roll, I see the logic, I see the niche in the market place, it just strikes me as excessive. Sure to be a best seller in Sky Mall.

Food Stamps Diet

August 28, 2008

Over a year ago, Queens City Councilman Eric Gioia tried to prove a point by going on a food stamp diet of $28 a week. He couldn’t make it past day five, felt lethargic, and gained two pounds, as chronicled in the Daily News. The power of his example is the slippery slope of poverty. Being only able to afford cheap, processed food leads to a cycle of bad health and despondency. In his struggle to empathically live like over a million New Yorkers on food stamps, he draws attention to the need for food stamps reform. Does it have to take experiencing another’s life to initiate change? A sincere effort, but not much has changed, and food prices have gone up, in a catch up piece a year later. Will it be a hunger strike next?

99¢ love

August 22, 2008

I was happy to see that someone else out there shares my growing love for the 99¢ Stores. In Henry Alford’s 99¢ challenge in the New York Times from a few months ago, he spent a week making dinner with only ingredients from the 99¢ store. His thoroughness and ingenuity are an inspiration. I don’t think that he had a monetary limit, and there certainly wasn’t one to his cooking imagination (natch, the chilled pear soup).

There is a gleefulness in his bargain shopping, that fellow cheapskates like myself can appreciate. Similarly, I share his hesitation of buying super cheap meat; my bugaboo being cheap milk, hence I just can’t quit you Whole Foods. His comparison of the changing inventory to harvest is a delightful metaphor to what seasonally falls off the truck. In our fetishization of food, it’s satisfying to see the veil of snobbery being lifted away. Good food is where you find it. Or in this case, how you make it and present it.

Recession Gourmet

August 15, 2008

I am deeply amused by Time Magazine’s Recession Gourmet piece last month. A fun little jaunt with a Top Chef for one meal that feeds four for $10. Cute. Tasty. Amateurs.

An applaudable effort, I’d love to try all six recipes on the website, but $10 is such an extravagance for one meal on the piety diet-y. Well, in my case, it could probably be stretched to six meals, and unrecognizable by the end of the week since I’d re-fashion the leftovers so I don’t get bored. So maybe Tom Coliccio’s pasta and pork loin would serve me well. Except that I don’t have any olive oil. Necessary as in Joel Stein’s recipe instructions: “you’ll be using a lot of it, so get used to it”. That’s a big ticket item that Joel and Tom didn’t have to buy which would have busted through the $10 ceiling.

There is some careful deliberation at the grocery store, and they’re certainly right about the rising cost of food. A good place for value in quantity, the bountiful supermarket can be deceptive. When you only have $1.04 left over and want to buy eggs, but the starting price is $2 for a half dozen, you’re out of luck. Thus, I have no eggs. I wish that I could go to a market that sells small scale items for small scale prices. Someplace where I can buy 2 eggs at a time or a stalk of celery instead of a bunch. Does anyone really finish that hulking bunch of celery? A statistic mentioned in Ron Leiber’s column from the Department of Agriculture states that Americans waste 27 percent of food available to human consumption. At $25 week, I can’t afford that.

How Do They Do It?

August 8, 2008

Struggling with my self-imposed food budget diet, I’m amazed at New York Magazine’s $20 meals. Granted that the $20 is per serving, but I can’t help but feel a little cheated. What is the total amount spent? What basics were a given – butter, oil, eggs, flour? Where did they shop? How many servings did their total purchases make? My $25 this week barely bought the makings for four dishes, not including some things that I already had and are starting to run out of – oil, lemon, pasta, couscous. I’ve made this stretch over seven meals (and counting!), so my average per serving is not so bad, it may end up being $2.50 per meal in the end.

What suffers most on the piety diet-y is variety, which is the most incredible thing about the high-low showdown’s bounty. When you’re limited to ingredients, you’re limited to options. Another lesson learned in the cheap challenge is that labor makes all the difference. Such is the reality of my evenings.

The Starlux in Wildwood

June 9, 2008

It’s not common to find a boutique hotel that has a kitcheonette. But in Wildwood, New Jersey, the do-wop retro chic of The Starlux answers to their family base clientele looking for sun and fun on the beach boardwalk with carefully considered kitcheonettes in their stylized motel rooms. Created in 2001, The Starlux flawlessly blends in with all the other motels from the 50s and 60s, and possibly one ups them with the kitsch of a rentable streamline trailer and the groovy glass enclosed lounge.

The editing of this nostalgic mid-century modern aesthetic comes down to curating colors and lines from contemporary options that best convey when the the Jetsons meet Fonzie. Muted aqua with touches of bright Fiestaware coral immerse you in the era. Sleek lines from the shiny new “stainless” fridge, the bullet-shaped pendant lights and aluminum clad peninsula offer a futuristic, aerodynamic feel. The blond wood barstols and wood panel give a more natural touch ala the Scandinavians. Other fine details such as the oval cut out in the frosted plexi cabinet door, the dancing rhombus geometric wallpaper, and the sink fixtures which look like a remotely look a like a bird about to take flight, add to the look. Even the candy-colored microwave is a stylistic feature.

In the land of funnel cakes and barrel of fries, the kitcheonette offers a chance to dine in. With style, no less.

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?

Bye Bye Blueprint

February 12, 2008


Traveling brings about the obligatory raid at the newstand. I had to get the Rolling Stone with Britney Spears – consumed before getting in the air, the new Dwell for its homes under 1000 sq. ft, and the final issue of Blueprint, the hipper, quirkier version of Martha Stewart Living. It’s always sad to see the demise of a magazne, Blueprint makes me sadder still since it had good solutions for the budget home enthusiast, a possibly un-lucrative demographic, as witnessed by the ill-fated Budget Living. This month’s kitchen makeover story transforms a drab 30’s 10′ x 10′ kitchen into a vibrant retro space. The ideas are really good and simple – colorfully painted cabinets with punches of contrasting utensils, a milky white corian counter and sink, and sleek, streamline fixtures – dramatic differences that come at a small price. I even like that they kept the twee stove in the corner, made cuter flanked by so much color and shine. An appealing layout with clear and intimate details makes for nice eye candy. Going to show that fresh ideas don’t require a lot of money, but to keep a magazine running does.