[I had promised a recipe the other day and then failed to deliver. My apologies. We had a bit of a meltdown over here, as in, our DSL modem was fried. So instead of giving you a recipe, I fixed all of our technical issues and then gave myself the morning off to go skiing, which put me in a much better frame of mind to write this post.]
Here is where the fun begins for me! I had tremendous difficulty narrowing down the kitchens I wanted to explore. As you cooks and bakers know, the kitchen reveals a lot about someone – especially a food blogger. It is a personal and private space as well as one you share with friends when they come to visit, dine, or party. Because of that, I had a long list of bloggers lined up to ask to partake in this kitchen tour in case any of the original ten declined. But not a one said no! All of these great people are not only welcoming my nosy little self into their kitchens, but you as well! Such a gracious and friendly group.
Based on what I knew about these bloggers, I tried to get a decent distribution of types of kitchens. The point of the kitchen tours is to highlight the wide range of kitchens, tools, and setups behind an equally wide range of blogs. The coolest part for me is discovering commonalities as well as some really clever and unique ideas. So let’s get started, shall we? Please give my friends a warm use real butter welcome as only my kickass readers know how!
Our first stop is Australia where we are visiting with my dear Barbara of Winos and Foodies. I had no idea what to expect other than “classy” and I was not disappointed. Barbara *is* classy and eloquent and she has a wicked sense of humor. I’m learning all sorts of Aussie slang from my emails with her. She makes me laugh and sometimes she makes me cry. The woman is incredibly well-grounded and full of good, practical sense.
blog: Winos and Foodies
location: Main Beach on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
house: apartment rented, building about 20 years old
kitchen footprint: no idea
photos: all photos of the Winos and Foodies kitchen are courtesy of Barbara
Barbara recently moved into this apartment and because she is undergoing more chemotherapy, she warned that she hadn’t been able to do much with it in the way of organization. Stepping into the kitchen space, it looks quite organized to me. I love the bright and airy feel of it. My eye tends to go straight to the little things, like these awesome bags made of parachute silk hanging from a wine cork board that her son made.
entering the kitchen : shopping bags on the nearby wall
It is beautiful, but Barbara is a serious cook/baker who knows her food and her kitchens.
In our last house I designed a brilliant kitchen with wooden floors, fabulous Corian benchtops, gas hob, walk in pantry, huge crockery cupboard. However we are leasing here and I have to take what comes. Crappy stove, granite benches, tiled floor, electric hob.. I can’t tell you the number of things I break when I drop them on floor or bench top.
Well, it hasn’t kept her from creating some gorgeous and delicious food on her blog nor from teaching her strapping boys how to fold gyoza or roast veggies.
looking into the kitchen
Clearly a neat and organized person who keeps a clean workspace, Barbara confided that her pantry is very cluttered.
That’s because Bryan did the moving and just shoved everything in and I don’t have the energy to sort it out.
Well, I’m glad I didn’t show my pantry, because it is packed to the hilt such that light cannot escape… Honestly, I don’t think Bryan did such a bad job, do you? Nice and spacious shelving. I was admiring the assortment of tea cups when Barbara emailed:
Meant to comment on the photo of my crockery cupboard. It looks a little bare. The day after we moved in to this apartment the shelf fell and the china and glasses smashed onto the floor (those bloody tiles again)… We hadn’t transferred the insurance so we can’t claim for replacements.
While I know Barbara doesn’t get hung up over these sorts of things, I felt frustrated for her as a friend and as a fellow cook – because I hate moving and I hate having my kitchen world disrupted like that.
pantry : cupboards
Apparently, Barbara has a thing for chickens because there are several around her kitchen – all gifts from friends. One fell victim (literally) to that blasted tile floor. I especially love the chicken hanging from the Star Wars clock. She keeps cooking essentials like oils and sauces in wine baskets near the stove along with garlic, onions, seasonings. This woman does not mess around.
nice touches around the kitchen
What fascinated me more than any other item was the Thermomix. First off, Barbara does not keep many things on her bench tops, so if an appliance is out, then you know it is 1) something she uses often and 2) good. I had never heard of such a thing, but read her description:
The Thermomix replaces a heap of appliances as it weighs, chops, minces, grinds, sautées, steams, blends, juices. I was going to make butter today but I’ve misplaced the butterfly from the centre so I boiled eggs instead. It makes perfect boiled eggs, steamed rice, soups, cake mixtures, whips cream, egg custard. You can also grind your own wheat for flour or sugar to make icing sugar. Being in a smaller kitchen here it is a great space saver. It is ridiculously expensive here in Australia but in my condition worth the investment.
I almost wish I didn’t know about it because now I can’t stop thinking about what a wonderful thing a Thermomix is.
her son’s star wars clock : perfect eggs and awesome appliances (thermomix on right)
Barbara takes advantage of lots of natural light for her photography. This is Barbara’s dining room where she shoots her photos in the morning or if it is afternoon, she photographs on the balcony. Oh, and did you notice that view? How easily I’d be distracted. I’ll bet it’s just as beautiful at night.
look at that view!
We’ll end our visit to Australia watching Barbara finish a lovely flourless chocolate cake with powdered sugar. Thanks for the tour, Barbara!
a simple touch of sugar on a flourless chocolate cake : our barbara
Next up, we head to Berkeley, California and drop in on my buddy, Figs. We became friends through blogging and also through some commonalities in our lives: we love to cook, we’re both ski whores, we were both diagnosed with breast cancer, we both cuss freely. I had the pleasure of meeting Cindy last summer when I happened to pass through the Bay Area. The woman is the Anti-Flake – she has got it together – and I love her for that. I get some great ideas from her blog.
blog: Figs, Lavender, and Cheese
location: Berkeley, CA, in the hills above the campus and on the edge of Tilden Regional Park
house: A 1948 ranch house — the first and last house we ever plan to buy. We call it our “raunch house,” but we really do like it. Lots of windows, wood work, and views. Redwoods included!
kitchen footprint: 10×17+ (feet) (we have a bay that I didn’t count)
photos: all photos of the Figs, Lavender, and Cheese kitchen are courtesy of Cindy
Cindy’s kitchen is the heart and center of her home:
It is truly the room where we live. I’m usually in this room doing something, and so is everyone else. We eat there, Sophie does her homework and art projects at the kitchen table and practices her violin in there most of the time. When I entertain I set out drinks and appetizers on the table, and everyone hangs around there while I finish cooking. [I spend] a lot [of time in the kitchen], starting the minute I get home from work. I’m usually standing at the sink as Sophie works at the kitchen table… and then violin practice. If we’re not in the mountains, a good weekend day is an entire one spent in the kitchen, provided I have the other day to be outside.
I can’t help but smile at the kid art everywhere (courtesy of 8-year old Sophie). Have a looksee:
the figs kitchen (i like the music stand)
Much goes on around the stove and this is obvious when you see how she keeps the hardware and the spices within arm’s reach. Oh, I love the kettle in this next picture. I’ll let Cindy describe it all.
That stove. It’s a vintage Merritt-O’Keefe that a friend who was remodeling her kitchen gave us, requesting only that we make it “go away.” We have a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, I love the look. It has a great simmer setting (I made a lot of stocks and soup). And it was free. If I didn’t have it, I probably would NOT have a zoomy Wolff range. For obvious reasons. On the other hand, the oven is small (the door on the right) and doesn’t heat very evenly. The door on the left is a ginormous broiler that I use for storage only. Underneath the oven is ANOTHER broiler. What was up with broilers in those days?? Most things one might broil, I cook on the gas grill. Husband built me a nice shelf above the oven and installed a rack for my pans. I’d lose my mind if I had to pull pans out from a cupboard every time I needed them. That bookcase. I have A LOT of cookbooks, which is sort of stupid because I get most of my recipes online. I just can’t resist them though.
nice pot rack over the range : the tower of cookbooks
I had to inquire about her jars of ingredients – or rather the jars themselves – because I too have jars (we consumed a lot of spaghetti sauce back in the day). I love the solid lids and rubber seals on these.
I actually bought all those jars. I run them through the dishwasher every now and then and didn’t want to mess with lids that rusted and needed replacing. I find storing dry goods like this so much better than having them crammed in a cupboard. [On the left:] some homemade limoncello I just bottled and some caramel pear butter.
I noticed that she has both a knife block and a magnetic knife strip by the sink. I’ve always loved the idea of a knife strip, but I wouldn’t know where to mount it and I would worry about someone (not me) getting hurt because of it.
LOVE my knife strip. The blades don’t get bounced around in a drawer or take up room in a block. Notice that Husband placed it above the dish drainer, so you need only give the knife a rinse before returning it. This is also a good location because no one can bump into it.
Great idea and location. I guess it can’t be any more dangerous than my Danger Drawer, right?
kitchen sink overlooking the yard
The majority of my cooking and baking friends are pretty organized. Our kitchens might be stuffed to the hilt, but we are organized about that stuffed-to-the-hilt-edness. Both Barbara and Cindy are clean-as-you-cook types (as am I). I only know of one or two people who make an explosion of a mess when they cook or bake. What sort are you? Cindy, who is always full of nifty tidbits added:
One of my best entertaining tips is to start with an empty dishwasher. Then you can at least load in dirty dishes as you go to keep them out of your way.
What she loves about her kitchen:
I love the size and layout: This was one of the only houses we looked at where I didn’t think the kitchen needed to be torn out immediately (good thing because we could not have afforded to do that). I love the big windows that look out into our garden. I also love the original butter-yellow tile.
And what she hates about it:
Tile really sucks, you know? It’s lovely when it’s clean, but keeping the grout clean is a never-ended chore. If I could have my pick of counter surfaces, I would choose honed black granite–a matte black surface that looks like a lab bench.
the dining nook
Cindy usually shoots her blog photos on her marble pastry board, shown below bedecked in cookies. Her favorite appliance is her KitchenAid stand mixer which has its own dedicated counter space peninsula for quick and easy access. I love those mixers too – especially how the top of the mixer has a striking resemblance to the cranial structure of the aliens from the Alien(s) movies.
sugar cookies : teh kitchenaid stand mixer
Here is a parting photo of Ms. Figs, cutting into a delicious apple quince pie she made for Thanksgiving. Something Cindy wrote to me really made me smile. I had asked what her motivations were for cooking and baking. The first sentence is what a lot of us say. I found the last sentence very touching.
It’s a creative outlet and most of the time the best way for me to relax at the end of the day. Also, we like to eat good food but can’t afford to eat out much. And I want to set an example for my daughter.
You’re raising a very special and beautiful daughter, Cindy. Thank you for bringing us into your sanctuary. I’ll see you in May!
cindy serves up a mean apple quince pie
Three kitchens down, eight to go. I hope you found that to be as fun and informative as I did. We’ll have two more kitchens next Thursday – from opposite coasts!
week 1: use real butter