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Here I am!

Sorry, this blog has remained inactive in inverse proportion to the activity involved in getting settled into the Bay Area. You might suspect that starting up a new job and getting moved into a new place would leave little time for cooking, but you’d only be partially correct; there’s ALWAYS time for cooking, but the barrier for entry to me for a while here has been accumulating the kitchen gadgetry necessary to continue doing this.  I had to sell off all my electrics in NZ, see, because of voltage differences (things like dehydrators, blenders, food processors, vacuum sealers, rice cookers, etc. are, I was surprised to find, nearly-impossible to find in dual-voltage flavors).  So I had to sell off all that stuff and am trying to rebuy most of it here, but it’s pretty expensive and a slow process. I’ve had to do a bit of careful planning to pick some recipes I can do with what I have over the coming weeks, while also trying to leverage the seasons here.

Complicating, too, is having to relearn where to find everything.  In NZ, I knew exactly where to go to find this or that ingredient, so I could move pretty quickly on the weekends to get what I needed.  The Bay Area has a dizzying array of options for everything, and learning new names for things or places to find certain ingredients has been a bit like playing Zelda: lots of discoveries to make and careful mapping to keep it all straight. It’s kinda fun, and also a little frustrating, because every day that passes is more momentum lost on this mammoth project.

Before I get into the what I’ve been cooking lately, though, I thought I’d give a little tour of our new digs, most specifically the bits that relate to being creative in the kitchen.

I really, really like being utilitarian, and also kinda like the ‘restaurant aesthetic’, if such a thing exists. It makes me feel more legit as a chef, and makes cooking much easier. We found some steel shelving at Home Depot that was similar to the shelving we had in NZ, which I loved. We’ve upped the cool factor a bit by buying clasp glass jars to store all our ingredients in, mostly because our kitchen has little cabinet space. The plastic tubs I kept my Alinea ingredients in in NZ weren’t airtight, which made them susceptible to the humidity there. I replaced them here with some simple Mason jars (super-cheap at Wal-Mart), which I think will keep them sealed a bit better and also looks kinda cool.

We also found these little jars at an outlet store in Berkeley that work perfectly for storing our spices in a nice way.

In KY, Sarah and I went to a Williams Sonoma one sleepy afternoon mid-week and asked if we could test all their knives. I like to cook with Sarah, and the fundamental knife we always fight for is the chef knife, so I wanted us each to get one that fit us. Sarah chose a Ken Onion Shun knife, while I went with a classic Shun. They’re both beautiful and it’s fun getting to do the comparison at a shop like that, you can really clearly tell the differences between the knives and can pick one that fits you perfectly.

And perhaps not entirely-related to our kitchen (but still in the realm of food) is a bit of decoration we’ve spent a few years collecting and are just now getting a chance to hang. These are business cards from restaurants around the world that we’ve eaten at and found memorable (either for the food or the experience). Sarah made a template for the case for each card that we had custom-made at a plastics place in NZ, and they’re held together by binder rings. Right now it skews a bit heavy for NZ restaurants, but we’re hoping to flesh out the west coast section of the curtain over the months ahead. The whole thing is hung at the moment from a bit of copper pipe and cabeling we’ve installed at our place. You probably can’t tell from the photo, but one glaring omission from the curtain is a card from Alinea…only because I didn’t notice business cards when we visited.

And now…on with the show!