Category Archives: Kitchen

Boulder Area Kitchen Tour Today

Annual Dream Kitchens Tour this snowy weekend.

The weekend snows are something of a nightmare for participants in Boulder’s annual Dream Kitchens Tour to support the I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County. Those who bought the $20 tickets in advance might tough it out, but I’m afraid there won’t be too many same-day sales. Nine fabulous Boulder County kitchens are open to view today, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and tomorrow, 12 noon-4 p.m., with a demonstrator on duty at each and samples available.

10 Terrific Boulder Kitchens on Fundraising Tour

Not just kitchens but food showcased in 2010 Kitchens Are Cooking! event

I love home tours in general and kitchen tours in particular and food (of course), so I really love Kitchens Are Cooking!, an opportunity to see, admire and (yes) envy some of the most beautiful kitchens around town. The annual event, which used to be called Kitchens On Fire, takes place next weekend, May 1-2, and features 10 gorgeous Boulder County spaces in which to cook, eat and entertain. Click here for a map of locations.

The event is always a showcase for architects, interior designers, home builders and deep-pocketed homeowners, and this year, “the renowned food community” has a high profile too with cooking demonstrations in each home. Themes include Spice Up Your Life, East Meets West, Chop Chop, Cape Cod in the Rockies, Chef’s Kitchen, Curious Chef and Farm to Table, presented by folks from the Savory Spice Shop, Hapa Sushi, Cooper Teas, Cutco, Cayenne Kitchen, Mountain High Appliance, Savory Cuisines, Peppercorn, the Culinary School of the Rockies, Slow Food Boulder, What’s Cooking, Kitchen Chef Mary Collette Rogers, Chef Cheyne Keith and others.

Kitchens Are Cooking! benefits “I Have a Dream” Foundation’s Healthy Bodies = Healthy Minds initiative to provides low-income children with life skills focused on nutrition and wellbeing, participation in various recreational activities, and healthy after-school snacks. Given all the recent attention to childhood obesity coupled with malnutrition, especially in low-income communities, this is a program worth supporting.

You can purchase tickets ($18 per person, $35 for two) locally at King Soopers (866-464-2626),
Studio3 Kitchen Design (1719 15th Street, Boulder, 303-449-7383); What’s Cooking (2770 Arapahoe Road, Lafayette, 303-666-0300); and of course, at the I Have a Dream Foundation office (3012 Sterling Circle, Suite 200, Boulder, 303-444-3636). There is a link to Tickets West for online purchases, but when I search for Kitchens Are Cooking, I come to dead end on the information highway. Maybe you’ll have better luck. Otherwise, pick up tickets locally, grab a friend and save a buck. You’ll come away from the tour inspired and, if you’re like me, a tad envious of the people who have these dream kitchens.

Boulder’s Kitchens On Fire Fundraiser & Other Kitchens

Kitchen inspiration can be sophisticated or simple; it’s the food that counts

Kitchens On Fire, the 11th annual fundraiser for Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts, will take place Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16. The opportunity to look at and admire nine gorgeous spaces where homeowners cook (or don’t cook) costs $18 in advance (click here) or $20 at the homes on tour days (cash or check only).

If you go, expect to see fabulous designer kitchens like that on the right, with the highest-end appliances (Bosch, SubZero, Thermador, Wolf), cabinets (cherry, birch, walnut), counters (granite, marble, concrete), backsplashes (glass tiles now in favor), hardwood floors and custom finishes. Expect to see kitchens that are open to a family room, or “great room” in developerspeak, and/or to the dining area. Windows take in inspiring views. These certainly are kitchens that enthusiastic cooks drool over, dream about and draw inspiration from.

In a very different way, I was also inspired by “Thinking Globally Kitchens: Food and Culture in Four Boulder Kitchens” in today’s Daily Camera about Boulderites who brought the cooking and dining traditions from the corners of the world. The piece profiled a quartet cooks who turn out complicated from-scratch dishes from their original countries — as far as I can tell, in far simpler kitchens than those showcased during Kitchens on Fire. Even a modest Colorado kitchen is a far cry from those in these cooks’ countries of origins.

In Peru, writer Jessica Warnock reports, “the kitchen “is a special place…because it is closed off from the rest of the house.” In France, “kitchens are traditionally large and enclosed spaces where the family gathers to eat daily.” Ethiopians are described as “intimate and inviting people” for whom food is part of affection, family and community. Guests drop in, often without warning, and “if you are home, no guest ever leaves without eating.” Ethiopians are “very traditional and polite in the their dining habits, “which are communal, though “in many families, the children and adults dine at separate tables.” The fourth cook “grew up on a farm in northern India…and ate organic food grown on her own lands every day, drank milk from her own cows and enjoyed vegetables grown in her own garden. Twenty members of her family lived together…meaning cooking every day was an all-day process.” She fondly remembers sitting on the balcony around a home-made, wood-burning clay stove called a chulha (lower right) and enjoying “food straight from the skillet on the chulha stove.”

Cooking environments environments vary around the world according to culture, tradition and economics, but it doesn’t matter whether kitchens and implements are very plain or super-fancy as long as they are tools for preparing food with love and care.

NYTimes Starts "Learning to Cook" Series

Lack of space and equipment as much of a challenge to a new cook as a skill set and a sense of humor

For four-and-half years, I lived in a rent-controlled, midtown Manhattan apartment whose kitchen was about 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. Lined up along one long wall were a mini-refrigerator, a small wall sink with attached drainboard and a three-burner Waterman gas stove like that shown, right. It had one small oven/broiler and a lid that could be lowered to cover the burners, presumably for more workspace. There was one small upper cabinet above the refrigerator, no base cabinets and no workspace at all.

I went on what passed for a buying streak. I bought two quarts of royal blue paint for the walls and $9 worth of self-stick vinyl tiles to cover the bare concrete floor. I bought a small freezer and hid it behind the door in my bedroom. I bought a cheap white metal utility cabinet for one cornerand a maple butcherblock to cover the bare metal top of the refrigerator. I bought three pine boards (and stained them), which a co-worker who owned a drill installed as shelves and a teeny workspace on other long wall. I found some space for a little pegboard and hung a lot of utensils from nails pounded into the walls.

My mother and my aunt had given me a few extra pots, pans and utensils from their kitchens, which meant that I duplicates of some implements and none of others. I filled with items from John’s Bargain Store, all I could afford. Somewhere along the line, I acquired three or four cookbooks, none of which was that red-and-white checked Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that every other beginning cook of that era started with. And that was my early cooking environment, but enthusiasm and New York’s matchless availability of ingredients, even then, went a long way in helping me become a pretty decent home cook.

With that in my distant past, I smiled empathetically when I read what is to be the first in a New York Times weekly series on learning to cook. “How to Cook….Something” was written by Emily Weinstein, producer for Times food columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman. She loved food and had hoped to learn too cook “by osmosis,” but when that didn’t work, she decided to start cooking in her “small strip of a kitchen in Brooklyn.”

She wrote, “Before I began, I asked Mark for some advice on how to go about learning to cook. Should I just make stuff? Random stuff? Was there a hierarchy of skills I needed to master, in a certain order? Mark’s advice: ‘Think of things you really like and cook those.’”

Her first effort was a curried squash soup with frizzled leeks from a 1995 issue of Gourmet, a recipe she selected because she liked it when her mother made it. An early challenge was time, as precious a commodity in New York as space. It was 8:00 p.m. before she got started preparing soup for herself and her friend Jen. Her next epiphany involved an appropriate tool for the job. She wrote:

“Tip: Your Ikea peeler is no good for this task. I switched to a
paring knife but I didn’t have the steadiness of hand required for that. Then I
found a peeler that my mother must have given me, which worked the best. Despite
the shaky start, I was proud of myself for prepping the squash even though it
wouldn’t be added to the pot until the end of step 2. . . I didn’t have a cleaver to split the squash in half, a scale to weigh it (I needed 3 1/2 pounds’ worth, and so I just guessed, based on the recipe’s saying it would roughly equal 8 cups), or a bowl big enough to put all the squash in once it was cut into pieces. . .

“I didn’t have a cleaver to split the squash in half, a scale to weigh it
(I needed 3 1/2 pounds’ worth, and so I just guessed, based on the recipe’s
saying it would roughly equal 8 cups), or a bowl big enough to put all the
squash in once it was cut into pieces. . .

“Failing to be properly equipped became the theme of the night. At first I
started cooking the onions and the butter in a pot that was too small to hold
all the squash (it didn’t have a cover, either; I put a frying pan on top). Then
I realized I didn’t even own a pot big enough for everything, a realization that
escorted another: I was making a ton of soup. I had to use two pots, splitting
what I had already cooked between them and proceeding from there.”

Emily did manage to make the soup, which she wrote was “was tasty and satisfying, an approximation of what my mother makes, if not a convincing imitation,” even with some adaptations, adjustments and guesses along the way. She and Jen sat down to eat at 11:15 p.m., having laughed together at her first effort, fortified along the way by beer, baguettes, cheese and chocolate-covered pretzels. Challenges aside, preparing something from scratch and sharing food with a friend or a loved one is the true pleasure in cooking. And Emily Weinstein got that right the very first time she cooked something.

Kitchens in the Parade of (Pretentious) Homes

Huge spec homes feature more kitchen that anyone needs and minimal green features

A friend and I recently went to the Parade of Homes, an annual presentation of custom homes sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver. The 2008 Parade, which continues through Labor Day, is at Solterra, a new high-end development on the west end of Lakewood — very near the recent Green Mountain Fire that charred 900 acres of open space and within earshot of Bandimere Speedway and C-470.

The press release enthusiastically describes the ’08 Parade as “eight new custom homes influenced by the hilltowns of Tuscany and France, set on a promontory overlooking the Rooney Valley and rolling foothills of western metro Denver; all on the same street; showcasing the most recent new construction technologies and exterior and interior designs.” Interiors include kitchens, my particular favorite rooms, which to me is reason enough to troll through all that indoor acreage.

You have to know that I like a real kitchen, one that is separate from the dining room and the rest of the house. An open floor plan is not for me, because when I’ve been cooking for company, I want to spare my guests a view of those dirty pots, pans and storage containers that invariably pile up when it’s time to serve the food and, even worse, the dirty dishes that accumulate after each course.

I wish that I had taken a few pictures to share, but I really couldn’t bear to, because I have no interest in encouraging such excess. FWIW, here are some trends in the kitchens of those eight designer homes — homes that, despite the opulent kitchens, I suspect will not be purchased by enthusiastic cooks:

  • Dishwashers: Why install only one dishwasher when you can just as easily have two?
  • Countertops: Granite is fading as stained and textured concrete is in. The reason, as I infer from a recent Denver Post story called “Counter Culture,” is that it is expensive — and expensive is what the Parade of Homes is all about. Wrote Heather Grimshaw in the Post, “Although pricey — concrete costs from $70 to $150 per square foot, almost twice as much as granite — it allows homeowners to redefine their interior spaces with three-dimensional elements. . . Unlike granite or marble, raw ingredients for concrete are cheap and accessible. But concrete features require handmade fabrication and a variety of custom mixes and sealers. Intricate jobs can take four weeks to three months to complete.”
  • Stoves: More ranges than cooktops and wall ovens, all with multiple burners and such brand names as Viking, Vulcan and Wolf predominant. The Parade of Homes is not Kenmore country.
  • Cabinet Wood: Nonmatching cabinets and counters. One type of wood used on the kitchen cabinets that line the wall or two that is not open to the “great room” or whatever and another wood entirely on the cabinets of the obligatory kitchen island (one house, in fact, had two islands). FWIW, the cherrywood era seems to be over.
  • Refrigerators: Siberia-size side-by-side refrigerator-freezers, all or at least most made by SubZero. A model seen in at least one home features one refrigerator door and three refrigerator drawers, mirrored by one freezer door and three freezer drawers.
  • Outdoor Kitchens: Covered patios for “outdoor living” — complete with enormous outdoor kitchens. The simple grill no longer suffices.
  • Second Indoor Kitchens: Downstairs family rooms with second full or almost-full kitchens.
  • Wine Storage: Wine cellars or wine rooms in the basements.
  • Kitchen Sinks: So many kitchens mean more sinks — an extra one or two in the main kitchen (usually on the island and perhaps in a separate bar area) and another in the auxiliary kitchen in the downstairs family room.

Over-the-top-kitchens aside, what amazed me about these roughly 6,000- to 8,000-square-foot prairie palaces is that while they claimed to be “green,” other than Energy Star appliances and regular BuiltGreen standards, they were, by and large, anything but environmentally responsible. These huge homes must be heated and cooled, and while they are well insultated, unless the Denver home builders have changed the law of physics, heat rises to all those soaring ceilings found in multi-story entrance foyers and great rooms. Bathrooms and fireplaces abound. Every home had at least two washer/dryer sets — and one boasted three. Even if these are energy-saving appliances, twice as many have been manufactured, which in turn leaves a large carbon footprint.

And did I mention the abundance of flat-screen TVs almost everywhere? The “champion” was the home whose family room, great room or whatever now has supplanted the traditional living room, where one huge television screen was surrounded by six smaller screens. Maybe that home’s contribution to the green movement is that the presumptive owners won’t have to pull the ol’ SUV out of the multi-car garage to visit a sports bar when they can see all those channels from the comfort of their own over-sized furniture.

Solar collectors in Solterra? Only one house had them. However, each house was equipped with wa-a-a-a-y too many multi-bulb ceiling fixtures, often very close to one another, and not a single energy-saving light bulb was to be seen. One house accomplished zone heating with three (3!) furnaces. A couple of houses had outdoor atriums or open courtyards that would seem to be snow-catchers — except that, of course, the heated floors are designed to melt falling snow. Green? Hardly.

The Parade of Homes is open through Labor Day (September 1) from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and weekends until 8:00 p.m. Adult admission is $12 ($11.50 at King Soopers; $8 for 65-plus and and ages six to 17; under 6 free). To get there and gawk for yourself, take C-470 to the new Alameda Parkway exit and go east to the Solterra entrance.

Be A Colorado Kitchen Snoop

The next few weeks bring at least two opportunities to visit other people’s kitchens and benefit good causes as well. You might be looking for ideas for your own kitchen remodel, or you might just be a masochist who enjoys the pain of kitchen envy when comparing your own cooking area with gorgeous designer kitchens furnished with the finest — exquisite cabinets, over-the-top granite countertops and the highest-end appliances.

Boulder’s annual Kitchens on Fire (right, June 1-2 , 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) is, to quote the organizers, “a self-guided tour of inspiring kitchens of every size and shape.” Tickets are only $15 and benefit the Dairy Center for the Arts. They are available at the Dairy Center (2590 Walnut Street), on-line or by phone (303-444-SEAT).

Denver’s fourth annual Kitchens That Cook! tour (left, June 10, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) features nine show-stopping kitchens in the Park Hill, Country Club and Washington Park neighborhoods. The tour is also self-guided. Tickets are $20 in advance (on-line) or $25 on tour day (available at all stops). Proceeds benefit the Junior League of Denver. You can also preview these kitchens on the JLD’s website. These gorgeous kitchens make any enthusiastic cook drool. I often wonder, however, how many people with such magnificent showplace kitchens actually cook.

Many years ago, when Corian was the trendy countertop surface and SubZero was just coming onto the scene as the first designer appliance (the first I knew about, at any rate), a friend an I went on a tour of fancy kitchens in New Jersey’s fashionable exurbia. We were living in then-unfashionable Hoboken. We both loved to cook (and she’s a terrific baker as well). We were managing quite nicely with kitchens that we fixed up only slightly from the 1950s updates we inherited from the previous owners when we bought our 1870s brownstones — icky salmon-colored Formica countertops (in both houses), forgettable cabinets (mine were knotty pine and mounted for someone 6 inches taller than I; hers were simply cheap and mounted for someone shorter than she), merely functional appliances (neither of our kitchens came with dishwashers; I bought a roll-to-the-sink model; she settled for a half-size under-the-counter machine). We walked through these pristine kitchens where only one had any evidence (i.e., a few cookbooks on a small shelf) that anyone actually cooked, and then went home and whipped up dinners in our considerable more modest settings.

New Year’s (Kitchen) Resolutions

Shape-up suggestions for the cooking year ahead

In an article on the front page of the food section in today’s Denver Post, writers Ellen Sweets and Tucker Shaw and food editor Kristin Browning-Blas suggested that readers “spend a little energy now to get the kitchen back in tip-top shape” following a holiday season filled with cooking and baking. Their article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a list of their good counsel — and what I’m resolving to do about them.

Sharpen Your Knives: They suggest having them professionally sharpened now and again — and I’ve done that, now and again. When the Cooking School of the Rockies (now the Culinary School of the Rockies) had a volunteer assistant program, I took advantage of the knife-sharpening services whenever I was working on a day that the truck rolled in. Coincidentally, the Post’s business section recently featured one such service in a front page business story.

Refresh Your Spices: Mine really need refreshing. I do cook through mainstream ground spices and herbs fairly quickly, but some of the exotic ethic seasonings — Indian, Chinese, Indonesian. Thai — linger and linger. In fact, I should probably be too embarrassed to admit that some of my Indian spices moved to Colorado with me from New Jersey in 1988 — but the fact that I am doing so publicly might motivate me to toss and replace them. We have wonderful Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores, as well as a couple of dedicated spice shops in Denver, so there’s no reason for me to keep these almost-flavorless powders around….except I’m habitually too thrifty to throw them out.

Replace Your Sponges: I do replace them when they get too grody, but whenever they need a bath, I stick them in the dishwasher. The Post writers also suggest nuking them in the microwave as a maintenance tactic, but I’ve never tried that.

Clean Your Oven: I’m pretty conscientious about this, because I hate to bake in a dirty oven. My Viking range’s self-cleaning oven makes conscientiousness pretty easy. While it is self-cleaning, I soak the stainless steel racks in a strong ammonia solution and remove the residue with steel wool.

Toss the Live Stuff: The Post food team suggests replacing baking soda, baking powder, self-rising flour, yeast and such every few months. Of those, I only have baking soda and powder, and I’m afraid I’m not too good on keeping fresh products on hand.

Arm & Hammer in the Fridge: Sometimes a box is in there, but not right now. Thanks for reminding me.

Get Wired: They suggest the availability of music to listen to while cooking. We have a good radio with satellite reception in the next room, which I listen to mostly when preparing a big meal for a lot of people — Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. They also think an Internet hookup in the kitchen is useful. We have wireless networking in our house, so I wouldn’t need a hookup — but I also wouldn’t dare have my laptop in the kitchen. The potential for disaster is just too great.

Can the Jars: The writers remind readers to toss old and unrecognizable items that lurk in the back of the refrigerator. I’m pretty good at doing this anyway, but I’ll go through the shelves again.

Cull Your Cookbooks: They think a cookbook that hasn’t been used in a year or two should be off the shelves. I could no sooner do that than cut off my left arm. I always mark up the recipes that I’ve made, date them and note the changes — and how the dish turned out. I couldn’t part with any of them. Sorry.

Organize Those Loose Recipes: I keep them organized in looseleaf notebooks — a fat one with most of my recipes, one just with Asian and Mexican dishes and a third with Cooking School of the Rockies recipes (plus those from other cooking classes). I treat them like cookbooks, marking them up as I cook along.

Clean Out the Utensil Drawer: I last did this when my son got his own apartment a few years ago and outfitted him very well with extras. I do keep nostalgia utensils, some that were my late mother’s, that I’ve hung on the wall. I use just about everything that’s left.

Wash the Walls: I don’t think so! It might be necessary, but this is not a task that I will take on. I periodically take down the stuff that’s hung on the walls or perched on top of the cabinets, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

Get on Your Knees: The Posters remind us to “give thanks for the good meals you had in the past year and the ones yet to come.” While there, they suggest scrubbing the baseboards. I’m off the hook, because my kitchen cabinets go to the floor, and there’s hardly any additional wall or baseboard showing.

Fight Fire: They also remind readers to keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. We have one, and we’ve fortunately never had to use it. Another reason to get on our knees with gratitude.

Happy, healthy and delicious 2007 to all!