Friday, December 31, 2010

Tiny Kitchen Tour: Open or closed kitchen?

The one thing that hasn't shown up in the other photos is this countertop and kitchen pass-through. 

I like the idea of an open kitchen, and enjoy talking to friends while I'm in the kitchen and they sit at the dining room table.  But this pass through opening is too low to do that, and, it feels like I'm a short order cook in a diner.

Also, the pass through visually chops up the room.  You can tell from this photo that there's way too much going on for such a small space (and that doesn't include all the repair work that needs to be done on the walls!)

A while back, I read this post on The Kitchn, about open v. closed kitchens, and I have to say, I'm really torn on what to do.  Opening the kitchen would create an island, and I could hang out with friends in the living room and the dining room while I'm in the kitchen.  The other part of me wants a closed kitchen, and to keep my dining room more formal.  Do you prefer an open or closed kitchen?

One thing I know for sure is that it needs to be all or nothing--completely open, or completely closed--because standing at this pass through makes me want to say, "Do you want fries with that?"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tiny Kitchen Tour: Pantry

One thing I really miss about my old house is the pantry.  If you've been following My French Corner for a while, you might remember last winter I posted about that pantry. Created from reclaimed space under the stairs, deep and high, it was walk-in pantry with a door.  In my new kitchen, what serves as a pantry are eight shallow shelves just to the right of my stove.

I actually like the shallow shelving (these are 7 inches, but I think 8 inches would be the perfect depth), and the height takes full advantage of wall space. The location is makes great use of what would otherwise be dead space; appliances can't placed here because the steps to the basement would be blocked.  Today the pantry is a little bare, but even filled, I think it's enough space.

But I would like a door on my pantry; items that aren't frequently used collect dust: my oversize serving platter, my dishes for entertaining, my cookbooks.  When I look at photos of kitchens with open shelving, I wonder if those dishes ever get dusty?

I'm considering a pocket door when I renovate the kitchen, or maybe framing in the space and adding a door to create a pantry similar to what these homeowners did.  I also like the commercial look of this narrow rolling unit, but it doesn't solve the open shelving issue.  There may even be the option to move the pantry to another part of the kitchen, or maybe even another place in the house.  We'll just have to wait and see . . .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tiny Kitchen Tour: Appliances

On the subject of appliances and doors colliding, how about this one?  Not that I would purposely open the oven door and the fridge at the same time, but let's just say it's happened once or twice.

As I said in yesterday's post, this kitchen was not designed for large appliances; the footprint is small and most of  it is occupied by appliances that are not the right scale for the space. At 33 inches wide and 34 inches deep, this fridge occupies a lot of precious kitchen real estate, and the interior space is so much more than I need.  I shop daily, so my refrigerator is never full; space for perishables--cheese, butter, milk, eggs--is what I need.

Earlier this year, Apartment Therapy posted on small apartment size fridges, and I continue to refer to that list as I plan my kitchen renovation.  And this jewel box kitchen with its column fridge never ceases to inspire me.

In the meantime, this refrigerator door-oven door thing in the photo gives new meaning to the phrase "from fridge-to-oven!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tiny Kitchen Tour: Retrofitting

When considering the use of space in an old house, it's important not to apply modern standards; houses that were considered luxurious in the 1940s seem modest by today's standards. 

Pre-war houses built in the 1940s were designed for the way people lived then.  For example, dishwashers were considered a luxury item and were not common in American kitchens. So when the open door of my dishwasher collides with a cabinet drawer, I have to remember that this kitchen was never designed for a dishwasher.

As you can see in the photo (click on the pic for a better look), when my cutlery drawer and my dishwasher door are both open, well, let's just say that I can empty the dishwasher without taking a step.  Rather than thinking of my kitchen as too small, I remind myself that the kitchen was not designed for oversize modern appliances, and certainly not for a dishwasher.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tour my tiny kitchen

I have a little more time for blogging this week so I thought it might be fun to do a tour of my tiny kitchen, a kind of mini-series, if you will.

I wanted my first photo to be of the entire kitchen, but I couldn't find the proper angle to get capture it without going outside, or standing on the countertop!

What you see here is the long view, captured while standing on the steps leading down to my basement.  I tried to make it look as big as possible by angling the camera--how did I do?

On the right is my sink, the dishwasher covered by the countertop, and my stove with a microwave above; what you can't see is the hulking refrigerator just across from the stove.  And right next to the fridge is a cabinet with a little more counter space.

What the photo does show is the fabulous light that pours in every afternoon; it's one of the kitchen's best features.

Ile de France products

While cheese shopping at my new neighborhood market, I (re)discovered the Ile de France line of products.  It's been a while since I'd seen the brand in the grocery store; either Whole Foods doesn't carry the line, or I've completely missed it.

Ile de France is not the cheese maker, but rather an importer of French cheeses to the United States. Like wine, French cheese is protected under the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC).  For example, Comté can only be called Comté if it is produced in the region Franche-Comté.  The history of Ile de France products is interesting; you can read about it on their website.  And while you're there, you can browse the very long list of recipes that includes everything from raclette to mac and cheese!

You can't miss the distinct blue, white, and red packaging--clearly French.  For the holiday, I decided on the Camembert along with some Ile de France mini-toasts, and both were delicious.  I'm thinking maybe I'll try their brie en croute for my next get together.

Have you tried any Ile de France products?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Francophile goodies

For those of you who love all things French, design*sponge contributing editor Anne Ditmeyer has put together a 2010 gift guide for the francophile. 

Ditmeyer, who resides in Paris and has her own blog, Prêt à Voyager, assembled the guide, selecting items that would "add a little Parisian charm to your life." 

I'm not encouraging you to spend, only to browse and enjoy the goodies.  My favorites?  I have an ongoing love affair with kitchen linens, so naturally j'adore the chic linen dishtowels from Basic French.  Although, I could easily be tempted by a pair of Bensimon sneakers . . .

Et vous?  Does anything catch your fancy?

Monday, December 20, 2010

My tiny (French) kitchen

Did I mention that I have a small kitchen?  Okay, it's bigger than Jill Santopietro's tiny kitchen, but not by much.  And it isn't really French, but it reminds me so much of the small apartment kitchens in Paris, so it's fun to pretend.

I am in the process of planning a renovation, but the kitchen still has to work for me now, so I've been looking for ways to save/increase space.

I was happy to discover this over-the-sink cutting board; you can click on the pic for a better view.  Wow, what a difference it has made!  In addition to being a cutting board it's a great place to set a few dishes to dry, and it has increased my counter space. What a great find.

Have you found ways to save/stretch space in a tiny kitchen?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Week-end Simple: Polish your silver

If you are overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done before the Christmas holiday--buying and wrapping gifts, putting up a tree, decorating, baking--then you will want to skip this post.  You don't need to add another thing to your "to do" list.  On the other hand, if you are in need of a simple, satisfying task, read on.

Over the years, polishing my silver has become as much a part of my holiday preparation as setting up the Christmas tree.  Like ironing, polishing silver is one of those tasks that requires no attention but yields instant gratification.  I actually polish my silver for Thanksgiving, but like to do some touch-up just before December 25.

I don't have a special set of flatware for the holidays; I use the same mismatched vintage silver forks, knives, and spoons all year round. But polishing makes even my everyday silver look new, and adds a sparkle and gleam to my holiday table.

How about you? 

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Macaron of the Month Club

I can't take any credit for this post, I'm simply passing it along: this week The Kitchn featured a Macaron of the Month Club from Dominique's Sweets in California's Sonoma County.

I love the idea!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

J'adore "Tiny Kitchen"

Since moving to my new house, I've been obsessed with finding ways to make my small kitchen more efficient and pleasant.  Happily, my obsession led me to a delightful series of cooking videos, "Tiny Kitchen with Jill Santopietro." 

At the time the series was filmed, Santopietro was a recipe tester for the New York Times, and did all of her cooking and recipe testing in her very tiny New York City kitchen.  In fact, the "Tiny Kitchen" series was renamed "Kitchen 4B" -- Santopietro's apartment number.

Not only are the videos expert and informative, Jill Santopietro is charming.  She's a natural in front of the camera, and watching her turn out fabulous food in that tiny space serves as a reminder that it's not the kitchen that makes the cook.

Those of you who appreciate small kitchens will enjoy Santopietro's take on the 12 top tools for a small kitchen (Kristi, you will love this!)  She is also expert at using mise en place, and cleaning-as-you-go to keep surfaces clean and clear.

And even if you don't cook in a small kitchen, treat yourself to a dose of "Tiny Kitchen"--you'll love it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Paris in the snow


By now, everyone knows that Paris has been besieged by a huge snowfall.  Here's a link to a photo slideshow with pics from around Paris.  Strangely beautiful, n'est ce pas?

And the winner is . . .

If I were selecting a winner based on the creativity of the responses, it would have been impossible to pick!  But, I left the choice to chance, and the random generator selected Heather B for the Limoges giveaway.

Heather, if you email me your mailing information, I'll mail your gift on Monday.  Thanks to all for entering!

Week-end Simple: Make breakfast

Blustery winds, snow, cold mornings.  There's no denying that for many of us, the cold weather has arrived, and this weekend wouldn't it be so nice to stay between the warm sheets a little longer, and wake-up to a real breakfast?

Since I've moved, I'm leaving earlier in the mornings, and at 5:30 am, I'm not ready for anything more than a coffee.  I'll take some cheese and bread  or dried apricots and almonds with me, to have a little later in the morning, but, I really miss my morning breakfast ritual.

So this weekend I plan to enjoy my favorites--tartine, raspberry jam, fresh juice, and lots of coffee with milk.

What's your favorite weekend breakfast?

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Staub brasier

If you've been following My French Corner, you know that I recently moved to a smaller house.  I had to pare down considerably, especially in my kitchen.

In this tiny kitchen, storage for pots and pans is at a premium, with long handles and lids presenting the biggest challenge.  So after thinking it through, I decided to swap out several pieces of cookware for one.  Out went two skillets, a large sauce pan, a paella pan, and a dutch oven, and in came a 4-quart Staub brasier.  Now, one piece of cookware does the job of five.

The brasier, a beautiful graphite color, is pretty enough to sit on the stovetop when I'm not using it.  There are no long handles to get in the way, and because I can leave it sitting out, I don't have to contend with the lid rattling around in a drawer or cabinet.  So far I've used my Staub to prepare eggs, grilled cheese, soup, roast chicken, fish, and rice.

Was the swap worth it?  Well, the jury is still out, but so far I think the five-for-one-trade was worth it.

What do you think?

Monday, December 6, 2010

LeSportsac saga

Anyone who knows me can vouch for this:  I don't carry a purse.  I know, I know, it's very un-French.

So, what do I use?  Well, for years, I've carried a small 3-Zip cosmetic bag from Le Sportsac.  I bought it for a France trip years ago, and it was perfect:  my passport and cell phone fit into the top zip compartment, my francs/euros in the second, and I stashed my dollars in the third.  The bag fit nicely in my hand or pocket, and ever since that trip, it's functioned as both my wallet and purse.

The problem is that it's easy to lose LeSportsac.  For example, say I'm at the market on the day before Thanksgiving and I put LeSportsac down and forget to pick it up and I walk out of the market and don't realize it until 7:00 that evening? 

Au revoir, LeSportsac.

I need to get a purse.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Limoges Giveaway

Just in time for the holidays, a lovely, little, Limoges giveaway!

This miniature Limoges plate has a diameter of 1-1/2" and is in excellent condition. It is set in a small  plate stand, for sitting up on a table, or hanging on a wall.  The color is a deep raspberry with a gold gilt rim and gilt scene.  The scene is a maiden and her suitor; he is on bended knee, she appears to be surprised.

If you are a lover of Limoges, or miniatures, or, all things French, you will love this tiny treasure.  To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is tell us what you think the suitor is saying to the maiden!  The winner will be announced on Friday, December 10.

Bonne chance!

P.S.  This would also make a lovely Christmas tree ornament!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Week-end Simple: Iron your table linens

The Christmas holiday is approaching, and for so many people it means the weekend will be spent shopping:  running from store to store, fighting for parking places, weary from trying to cross everything off the list.

Et moi?  This weekend, I will iron my table linens.  After Thanksgiving, I laundered my linens; now they are soft and sweet smelling, and ready to be ironed in preparation for Christmas. 

I admit, it's not a very exciting thing to do over the weekend, but, I enjoy ironing. And especially this time of year, when so much energy is used for buying and accumulating and acquiring, small household tasks keep me focused on the simpler parts of the holiday, the parts that have to do with family and home.

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

La vache qui rit bowl

I love Laughing Cow cheese, and, like the cow, I had to laugh when I saw this footed bowl at Blazing Thyme, a site that sells French housewares.

It's not for me, but, I know a few friends who would love this bowl, or any of the items at Blazing Thyme, including the La Rochere glassware, the kitchen linens, the beautiful vintage-print footed bowls.  I confess that I did fall in love with this butter dish, large enough to hold a block of French butter.

I guess it's not too early to start thinking about holiday gifts and some of these pretty items on this site might just fit the bill.