Monday, March 28, 2011

Kitchen Remodel- Chapter Two!

Hubby's favorite TV program these days is Holmes on Homes.. an HG TV reality show where a guy named Mike Holmes, a Canadian contractor do-gooder, rescues helpless homeowners from un-scrupulous contractors who botch up the job while constructing or remodeling their homes. The modus operendii is that every time Holmes and crew remove a wall, or look up in the attic they find things as they shouldn't be... and of course the job gets bigger and bigger as our hero's right the wrongs left by the villains.

Well, the good news in our remodel is that we have found nothing major. And there is no real bad news... just little irritants that crop up that make the job harder, longer, more complex. We have a gem of a contractor, a young hard working guy who is one of the most punctual people I have ever met- gotta love that! He also has "people" -  Well qualified hard working electrical, gas and drywall guys who show up when they say they will, and who even clean up after themselves... lucky us!
New hood install required 1 electrician, 1 general contractor and 1 non-union supervisor!
Time in attic: 45 minutes. Time pulling wires: 30 minutes. Time hanging hood 60 minutes (+/-)
Time spent kibitzing with supervisor charged at overtime! 

The hood install went nearly seamlessly- as well as pulling wires for the new pendant lights over the bar. The instructions, written in Canadian French then translated to English were a little confusing at first, but our intrepid team used their combined creativity, ingenuity and experience to a most successful outcome. It's amazing how the addition of a range hood changes the overall atmosphere of a kitchen. Mine was transformed from cute and "cottage-y"  to  "a serious cook lives here" just in the course of a Saturday morning.
Testing the broiler with a side of salmon and stove top with sauteed vegtables proves the new range is fully operational
On Thursday, the DiNiccio brothers, Dino and Dave came and installed our new range! The old electric downdraft from hell which shall remain nameless was carted out to the front porch, and by noon my beautiful new Electrolux double oven dual fuel range was operational. We love new toys around here, and before the weekend was over we had used all four burners, the broiler and the oven. The only part left untouched is the bottom oven which is basically an  warming drawer, but will bake at 450 degrees! My new range has more bells and whistles than I may ever use, but I am looking forward to bread proofing, dehydrating and slow cooking in addition to regular baking. We have so far baked scones, and cookies, and broiled a side of salmon. But the real joy is in cooking on top, which we have proven by already making a huge pot of chicken soup, fajitas, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bacon and sauteed vegetables.  The flexibility and control of gas cook top burners just makes cooking  so much more pleasurable.
Today, the serious work began, along with camping in ones own home without a functional kitchen. The counter -tops came off and the old sink is now laying in the garage ready to be hauled off to Habitat for Humanity re-store. Contractor Geary installed the supports for the new sink, a granite composite Blanco single bowl, so tomorrow Josh will come and make the templates for the new stone counter-tops! Dishes will now be washed in the laundry sink in the garage, and the coffee pot is set up and ready for brew tomorrow morning on the bathroom vanity. Himself, the shopper guy, will make a trek to Costco for a big stack of compostable paper plates, and we will warm freezer meals in the microwave to avoid having to wash pots and pans! Thankfully, a dinner invitation or two is looming on the horizon, and a short visit to the home of the Portland daughter will relieve several days of kitchen misery.

The little irritants? Jury rigged electrics in the attic, a big hole in the floor under the range where the previous downdraft vent went and unsafe wiring for the garbage disposal that was stuffed inside a conduit which made it look good. Ugly, icky foam that had been blown in under the Formica in our garden window, which is a mess to clean up, but is revealing a nice clean level surface on which to install slate tile.  We're still waiting for a light fixture that was supposed to have been delivered on Thursday from a big box store, and no-one seems to be able to find it.

The final blow? When the counters came off, it became readily apparent what a lousy housekeeper I am... amazing what hides in all those cracks and crevices!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Kitchen Remodel - Chapter One

The shine wore off the kitchen in our cute little house about 4 months after we moved in. Oh! it looked great: Stainless steel appliances; Sink that appeared brand new; Beautiful well made glass front cabinets; And a Formica pattern that I had seen and loved for years.

Then the reality of the stove from hell set in! The brand name of this unacceptable so called kitchen range shall be withheld here to avoid the possibility of litigation-  suffice to say it is a four burner electric with downdraft ventilation.

An important fact to note here is that I had my dream kitchen in Payson before moving to Gig Harbor. A 36" Thermador Pro range which sported 6 burners and huge oven afforded me the opportunity to really cook on 6 burners, and bake to my heart's content. That range even had an infrared broil unit.. just like the big boys in the expensive restaurants use! Leaving that range behind was like leaving an old friend.  But I digress!

I've never been a fan of electric cook tops, so imagine my dismay when I discovered the coil burners on the range I inherited  here were after market, didn't fit properly, and worse, didn't heat evenly and consistently. After enduring regular whining, unending complaints and blue language emanating from the kitchen for a few months, my helpful other half diligently sought and acquired  what he thought would be the answer to my problems: halogen glass top inserts! AAARRGH!

   If you've ever tried to regulate the heat on a ceramglass top.. you know the problem. Certain pots work better than others... don't try using anything with a ridge around the bottom like a Le Cruset dutch oven or grandmas old cast iron skillet. Don't even think about putting a granite canner with a 14" bottom on it and expect to heat 4 gallons of water. What good are these things any way? Oh- right... you can boil pasta or maybe fry an egg.

And then, there is the problem of ventilation. Boiling pasta, making soup, reducing stock, steaming vegetables, all reasonable processes in a kitchen, release steam into the air. It's really best not to have steam  drifting up into the corners of the kitchen ceiling, and who knows where else all that moisture ends up. Perhaps you would wonder, at this juncture why I don't simply turn on the exhaust system?

Take a second look at the picture above. See that long skinny black section between the burner inserts? It is the exhaust intake. Right. It's a downdraft. In high school science, I learned that heat rises, and usually steam, smoke, and fumes go with it! S0! Picture this: A tall 12 quart pasta or stock pot filled with boiling liquid. I never learned how to calculate what percentage of steam comes off a boiling cauldron, but I do know that steam rising about 12-15 inches off the surface of a stove top is not easily sucked below. The roaring vibrating fan which is supposed to swallow all of that steam shakes the stove, vibrates the pot, and makes cooking a most raucous and unpleasant experience.

And so it begins! A mini-remodel of our kitchen which will include upgraded lighting, new stone counter tops, a new under mount sink, and best of all! A brand new Electolux dual-fuel 30" slide in range with, of course, a natural gas cook top. It also has a convection oven (always wanted one of those),  with bread-proofing, slow cooking and dehydration settings and even a warming drawer! But what about ventilation you ask? An overhead stainless steel 30" x 36" hood, with a 600cfm blower! Take that pasta pot, stock pot and canner!

We'll be losing a little of the visual open space between the kitchen and the dining area, but the cook will be so much happier. And in theory, a happy cook should produce better tasting and more elegant meals. Stay tune for pictures of work in progress and dinner invitations forthcoming!