Stranded Without an Island

Our new apartment's kitchen is the largest and most functional that we have ever had. We have a double sink with a disposal (neat), a dishwasher (convenient), and a range hood (a godsend for anyone who doesn't want their entire apartment and all fabrics within to smell of crispy bacon). We even have enough outlets to make four slices of toast, blend a smoothie, mix a batch of batter, grind some beans, pull an espresso shot, and fire up the George Foreman all at the same time. It's a modern miracle.

The only real problem is that the above-mentioned appliances take up a lot of prime countertop real estate, and the space that remains is ill-suited for an active kitchen: a lumpy surface of uneven tiles with cracked grout. It makes for a wobbly cutting board and an anxiety attack every time something spills.

So, Adam and I set off in search of an island. We explored Ikea, but didn't find the blonde wood or stainless tables particularly appealing. I ventured into Craig's List and found even less appealing Ikea cast-offs. And then, I landed on the Crate & Barrel website.

Oooh la la. The Carrara marble top is practical and gorgeous, the structural base is ideal for storage but still elegant, and it's a comfortable height for my tall chef. Naturally it's a ways out of my budget. Quite a ways.

My attempt to find a less expensive option was a bust: I found beautiful alternatives, but they're in Illinois and at least five times the price. Oops.

Custom-made reproductions by Old Plank Road Antiques

I turn to you, Dear Readers! Any ideas for an island alternative? If not, I'll be forced to haunt Crate & Barrel Outlet for a damaged floor model...

*le sigh*


Dressing Up the Bed

I mentioned earlier that I was still acclimating to the weather here in Berkeley. That means relegating my black turtlenecks to the back of the closet (with a heavy sigh), and shopping for layers. Same goes for our bed!

I love the notion of outfitting a bed. Duvet covers are like the classic foundation pieces in your wardrobe: the standby pair of jeans that just feels better wash after wash, the crisp khaki shirtdress that looks equally chic with flip-flops or I-mean-business heels. Comfortable, practical, ready to be accessorized.

Neutral linen seems the way to go for a Spring-weight duvet, and I'm seeing it everywhere

This post at The Little Big House had me ooohing and ahhing. 
Images courtesy of This is Glamorous and Blueprint Bliss.

And, of course, there's the Belgian Linen collection at Restoration Hardware.
Glorious and far-fetched, at $70 per pillowcase...

Luckily for me, I also spotted the trend at Ikea, where a mere $25 bought me a duvet cover, matching shams, and a new bedding staple. 
It's sweet with country floral pillowcases (made by my Mom)...
And dreamy with velvet shams from Pottery Barn and the West Elm pillowcases that I couldn't resist last fall.

And Matilda approves.

I don't know about you, but I feel an afternoon nap coming on...


Kitchen Chemistry: Steak on a Sandwich on a Budget

Adam here. It seems that about 60% of my posts involve flank steak. It may be difficult to understand our enthusiasm for this cut of meat until you've tried a few of our recipes. Flank steak is fantastic hot or cold. It can be paired with sweet, sour, savory, or pungent sauces. It is one of the few foods (along with stew and roasted turkey) that actually tastes better as a leftover. Additionally, for a couple like Elizabeth and I, a two-pound steak is usually enough for dinner, a midnight snack, a treat for Matilda, and a brown bag lunch the next day. This is very economical (in terms of time AND money) for a struggling family scraping by in the most expensive state in the union.

This steak started out (along with two of its brethren, which were devoured before we could locate the camera) at Andronico's market, and then made its way to the Aquatic Park in West Berkeley for a brief charcoal grilling. Grilling meat at the park is a truly Hobbesian experience, which requires one to build a fire and defend your meat from stray dogs, stray owners, and the recently released prisoners who inhabit said park. You also have to drink your beer on the sly, as that sort of thing can lead to a heavy fine (the only hope California has of balancing its budget is to fine people who can't afford their own grill).

I marinated this steak in vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, onion powder, and a tiny bit of cayenne pepper prior to grilling. Traditional charcoal briquettes were used, along with 50 mL of hexane from the lab to accelerate the process. The flank steak was then refrigerated (to immobilize the juices) and slice thin on a diagonal to elongate the grain of the meat. I will persist in calling this a sashimi cut until someone with credentials corrects me.

Our sourdough loaf was toasted and lightly coated with white truffle oil. Be aware that truffle oil permanently "truffle odorizes" anything that it touches. No amount of detergent can take truffle oil down. You should dedicate a basting brush for this ingredient and segregate it from the rest of your cooking tools.

My bleu cheese spread was prepared with one part crumbled Gorgonzola, one part Cambozola, one part cream cheese, 1/2 part unsalted butter, and salt and pepper to taste, warmed and mixed to a creamy consistency.

The rest is easy. Shove everything (including some baby arugula) between two slices of oiled bread and enjoy. We recommend pairing your sandwich with a strong red wine, as mere beer cannot compete with such a powerfully flavored entree. 

I included sliced Braeburn apples and a few green grapes as a palate cleanser between bites and sips.  Elizabeth testifies that the slice apple works well as another layer in the sandwich. (Editor's note: The apple is a sweet and crisp element that lightens each bite, making it much more suited for a warm-weather luncheon!) However, I scarfed mine before I could try this out, and she wouldn't give me a bite of hers. I guess that's something to try next time...


Setting the Table

Last weekend Adam and I got over a major hurdle in our new apartment: we actually invited people inside. This wasn't just the first time we'd entertained, it was also the first time in weeks we'd eaten something other than macaroni and cheese. Definitely an occasion for a pretty table!

A guest brought us calla lilies cut from his own yard.
They were a perfect complement for the table (and a perfect compliment to the host!).

Adam decided to serve his chilled flank steak on a bed of wild rice, garnished with bleu cheese crumbles, mint leaf chiffonade, and a drizzle of pomegranate balsamic reduction. I assembled my tablescape with the textures and colors of the food in mind.

Fresh and airy linens for a simple Spring meal.
Red glass bowls with the same color and gleam as Adam's pomegranate & vinegar syrup. 
Scalloped feather placemats to match the confetti neutrals of the wild rice.
Crisp white plates, sparkling glassware, and some tarnished silver for a rustic touch.
An elegant table- just the thing to keep the focus on the food (and off of the last pile of moving boxes in the corner!).


California Dreamin' is Becoming a Reality...

It's been a month and about 900 miles since I last wrote!

On Valentine's Day Adam and I traveled down the coast, and I moved into our apartment in Berkeley, California.

We're still sizing things up a bit.

I can't say that the transition was easy for me (did you see my tweets about ants and leaks and laundromats?). However, it's time to spring forward. I'm almost completely unpacked, I've memorized my new zip code, I no longer get all homesick and weepy when watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy, and I'm busting out my tank tops and getting acclimated to this absurdly warm weather. I'm not quite used to saying "I live in California," but...

Here we are.

I'm no longer decorating vicariously- I'm decorating, and I'm so excited to share my progress! 

More soon,


Edit: I had no idea when I wrote this post, but March 22nd was my one year anniversary of writing Shock the Bourgeois! Thanks to all of you for following along- and here's to another year of inspiration.