Kitchen #17: HH's Eclectic, Eco-friendly Samurai Style on a Peasant Budget Kitchen

Kitchen #17: HH's Eclectic, Eco-friendly Samurai Style on a Peasant Budget Kitchen

Maxwell Ryan
Mar 22, 2005

All entries are listed HERE
+ HH wins hands down in the category of most advice given...

Name: Happy Homemaker ("HH")
Location: Park Slope, Brooklyn

Favorite Kitchen Stores

  • Williams-Sonoma

    Though I hesitate to give props to this yuppie corporate behemoth, the WS website, gorgeous catalog (with terrific recipes) and affluenzic stores offer top-quality kitchen goodies (with prices to match). Block out the foofy cleaning products and frequently horrendous "Tuscan" ceramics, and focus on the solid selection of cookware, cutlery and appliances....

(more after jump)

I am submitting my kitchen because it presents an all-too-rare case of a pleasant, well-designed rental space occupying the healthy middle ground between anemic white Formica and bulging, steroid-fueled EXPO fantasy.

This kitchen was one of the deciding factors to rent this brownstone apartment, since it boasted new-ish, full-sized appliances (gas stove and dishwasher!), an efficient floorplan, nice wood cabinets with adequate storage capacity, and bright lighting.... (more after jump)

3 Compelling kitchen cooking/design tips:
I love my:

* All-Clad stainless steel cookware (oven and dishwasher-safe, lifetime warranty). Bar Keeper's Friend or Bon Ami cleaning powder is essential for keeping cookware shiny and worthy of Food Network cameras.

* Black nylon / plastic cooking utensils from Target (light, comfortable and heat-resistant to 450 F, never have to worry about scratching a pan).

* OXO santoprene handle swivel peeler, can opener and salad spinner. Simply the best!

* Henckels Five Star 7-piece set (comfortable and hygienic handles, I actually use every knife and have no need to buy additional "special" knives) (more after jump)

Store Tips Cont'd

Store staffers are generally knowledgeable and helpful, so educate yourself here, and purchase elsewhere if you must (although WS has a liberal store policy with unconditional guarantee, which is important for electrics and "lifetime" items such as knives and pans).

Hit the bargain jackpot at the WS outlet store at Woodbury Commons, which also has a Crate and Barrel .

Full disclosure: I worked at the Columbus Circle location during the holidays solely for the generous employee discount (basically handing over my paycheck back to the company) -- a wonderful way to buy all the core equipment while learning from people who are passionate about cooking. Plus, you find out which products work best for most people (All-Clad), and which items get returned (Dualit toasters).

I am truly no kitchen snob (I would eagerly recommend Chinatown / Bowery / Target stores to customers), but encourage everyone to assess his/her true cooking needs and invest in the absolute best products (regardless of the label) whose manufacturers ideally back up their performance with a guarantee.

* Park Slope Food Co-op

782 Union Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Park Slope, Brooklyn

A no-brainer for me, since the location of this beloved (and feared) members-only grocery makes it practically my corner store (and it handily beats the bodega and woeful Key Food).

If you are committed to healthy eating, can't stomach Whole Foods sticker shock, and can spare a few hours each month to work a shift, you should definitely check out the PSFC. Operated largely by members (cutting way down on payroll costs), this homespun store specializes in mostly organic / local produce, bulk items (pasta, grains, dried herbs), and eco-friendly household goods at low, low prices (a dozen eggs for a dollar).

Chat up the endearingly kooky customer who may trek in from Harlem, New Jersey or even upstate New York about seitan recipes and Bush/Rice foreign policy.

* Pearl River

477 Broadway (between Grand and Broome)

Succumb to your Asian fetish and marvel at the vast display of goods offered by this slickly refurbished update of a Chinatown favorite. The selection encompasses a broad range of decorating tastes (Zen minimalism to kitschy funk) and product categories (food, clothing, stationery, musical instruments, housewares and furnishings). Mind-boggling array of well-priced tabletop items and excellent party favor / gift ideas.

* Kam Man Food

200 Canal Street (between Mott and Mulberry)

While you're picking up star anise, Sichuan peppercorns or tapioca pearls for bubble drinks, and refilling your herbalist's prescription for foxglove root, head downstairs to check out KMF's wallet-friendly variety of ceramics, kitchen tools, woks and rice cookers.

* eBay, stoop sales, trash day, and travels (Tsukiji Fish Market and Kappabashi Dori kitchenware street in Tokyo).

Pitch Cont'd

Even though the overall aesthetics are not to my taste, I am extremely grateful for what I have, and even appreciative of what cannot be changed. For example, the linoleum floor is smooth, soft and warm underfoot (unlike stone or ceramic tile), and the laminate countertops are maintenance-free (unlike marble, concrete or stainless steel). The verdant color is cozy, reminiscent of nature, and disguises any stray stains or scuffs, and the green-and-ecru tile border adds a jazzy riff to the space.

Since I do a lot of Asian stir-fry meals (and find micro-spatter everywhere), there is no purely decorative "art for art's sake" (plus, we are reluctant to pound nails into the wall). Instead, there are vibrantly hued utilitarian objects (my signature bright red color shows up in the tea kettle, mixer, hot pads), Grandma's legacies (jadeite bowls, aluminum canister set and 50s kitsch -- the ceramic "bag of flour" used as utensil jar), and odds and ends with their own quirky history (the yard sale Delft tiles as stove trivets, "Cup O' Noodle" coffee cups from the Yokohama Ramen Museum, and the "sushi" clock from the Tokyo store devoted to selling plastic display food -- What time is it? It's unagi time!).

This kitchen is a very satisfying place because it expresses some of the qualities that I value in a person: warmth, humor, liveliness, environmental awareness, efficiency, resourcefulness, and a sense of luxury tempered by comfortable practicality. This room is definitely the heart of our home, and guests inevitably (and maddeningly) congregate here during a party!

I Love My Cont'd

* Polypropylene plastic cutting board (soft on knives, bleach it or throw it in the dishwasher).

* KitchenAid stand mixer (fabulous colors, great for making dough, mashed potatoes, whipped cream and foamy egg whites, universal attachments such as pasta rollers or ice cream bowl eliminate the need for extra appliances).

* Nespresso D300 espresso machine (dummy-proof system, superb coffee in under 30 seconds, costs less than 50 cents per serving (and emptied capsules can be recycled), compact and attractive design).

* Super-absorbent cotton towels (I don't use any disposable paper / plastic / styrofoam products) and cellulose pop-up sponges (disinfect in dishwasher or microwave, and can be composted since it's all-natural). I only run my dishwasher about twice a week, so I feel that this practice saves energy, water and time in the long run.

* Method dish soap in "Cucumber" scent (sold at Target). Cool and refreshing!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I wish I had:

* a super-duper ventilation hood.

* a sunny window where I could grow basil, rosemary, thyme and lavender.

* a tall pantry to stash the bounty from semi-monthly forays to Costco and Trader Joe's.

* a garbage disposal or easy access to a composting bin.

* drawers where the kickboards are (to stash cookie sheets, trays and platters).

* longer arms and legs to reach everything!

Itadakimas! Kanpai!

"Happy Homemaker"

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