Cooking In My Friend's Kitchen In Berkeley
Hello to the KF. Here is my holiday report-in-progress.
We took a road trip down to California and are camping out in our friends' new house in Berkeley, house sitting and dog sitting while they are off on their holiday. It is sort of a working vacation for me - Have Laptop Will Travel - though not very much work is getting done, to be honest.
My friend is an excellent cook. We spend a week together every summer in Tahoe, taking turns cooking, and I know a bit about her ways in the kitchen. I was confident that her kitchen would be very usable, and didn't even bring my knife roll.
Reality has not disappointed. The kitchen is small, but nicely appointed, and her tidy nature and logical mind has arranged cookware, spices, bowls, oils, knives, etc all where they fall naturally to hand. I have at my disposal a Kitchen Aid mixer, a food processor, a 30" Wolf residential range, two sharp knives and a thick wood board. Everything I need.
I always enjoy cooking in a new kitchen, whether a rental beach house, a tiny gite, or my friend's new-to-her house. The pleasure of minor discoveries, overcoming modest challenges, improvising and problem-solving. Making even too-familiar dishes is fun again. Look at me, I BOILED WATER.
So far I have made:
- Last night we had some other friends over for local free-range, organically raised, and sympathetically euthanized chickens, which I deboned (respectfully) and stuffed with roast chestnuts, mushrooms, and cubes of unacceptable bread. The bread was my first attempt at bread baking for a year or so, and the loaves were too hunchbacked to serve as were, but they could be salvaged at stuffing.
- We also had purple and white mashed potatoes, swirled together in a ying-yang design that looked cool, until ti was flooded with gravy. Turns out that the flesh of purple potatoes is not terribly purple, but if you cook the peeled skin and puree it, that can be mixed back into the potatoes to make a vivid purple color. They say the best nutrients are in the skin anyway,
- Omelettes and protein burgers for breakfast and lunch
- Tonight we had a spinach and arugula salad with orange zest vinaigrette, bolognaise sauce over rotini, and my second attempt at bread, which was rather better.
I do miss a few things from my kitchen. My kitchen scale, because I'm trying to get back into baking bread, but my recipe is by-weight, and when converted to by-volume, something is not right. I think I'm making a shaggy 85% hydration dough, and it turns out like Wonder Bread. My Magic Mill, because my friend doesn't seem to have a dough hook for her Kitchen Aid and I don't want to burn up her food processor with bread dough, so I am Kneading. By, Hand. Oof. My cast iron pan, because while the burners on this Wolf are pretty impressive and could certainly sear like a champ, I don't want to thrash any of my friend's pretty pans like I thrash my greasy blackened lump of iron. Finally, my sharpening stones - but, Hints From Heloise Here, the slightly rough rim on the underside of a dish or bowl makes a very effective whetstone.
Tomorrow we have been invited to some other friends' for Christmas Eve dinner. Conveniently, they live a block away. The main course is lamb, and I've volunteered to bring a risotto and some appetizer. On Christmas Day, another friend who lives a few miles from here has invited us to dinner, and we'll be joined by my father who will bring sashimi. I'll make cracked crab and spaghetti carbonara. Later on I feel in the mood to make a chowder.
We have a lot of friends in Berkeley. While we've made good friends in Portland, most of our closest are still here in the Bay Area. I was at a pub with one of them this afternoon, talking about where we'd like to retire. He said he wanted to retire right where he lives now, in a charming country-style house at the foot of the Berkeley Hills, just a half mile walk to dozens of shops and eateries, and a quick light rail ride across the bay from San Francisco. I said I'd like to do the same, but unfortunately even small houses in this area cost a million dollars or very nearly. I have a large house in Portland, but when we're ready to downsize, selling it might not get us even a bungalow in a nice part of the Berkeley, or in most of the Bay Area for that matter.
Ah well, we'll cross that bridge when we have to, still many years from now. For the next week, I'll enjoy visiting our friends, working a bit here and there, cooking in my friend's perfect little kitchen, and riding my bike in the Berkeley Hills, thinking about how we might possibly be able to end up here again and how I'll need some lower gears for the bike if we do. These hills are Steep.
This post was edited by johnliu on Tue, Dec 24, 13 at 2:14