Serious Eats culinary director Daniel Gritzer gives a tour of the kitchen in his new apartment, including knives, cookware, coffee gear, and a very curious and ancient little bottle in the cocktail cabinet...
Okay, so technically this isn't in the kitchen, it's in the dining room. But I'm proud of my home bar and I wanted to show it to you. I think I have enough booze to run a cocktail bar out of my place. Only problem is, at the moment, I have nowhere to put it. So right now, it's all tightly and precariously packed right to the edge of an old, cheap Ikea rolling desk. Having this much booze on wheels is never a good idea. One accidental bump, and my floor is going to be flooded in a tsunami of insta-Long Island Iced Tea. Please walk past it carefully as we proceed to the kitchen.
This is what is known as a galley kitchen, which is a cute way of saying it's so damned small you can fit it on a 747 and still pack in 600 people plus their luggage. Actually, I'm exaggerating, it's not that bad at all, and frankly, after years cooking in NYC restaurant kitchens, I'm totally fine working in a tight space—I know how to dance in there.
The chair and tools you see near the window are there because I was installing a shade and ran into some trouble when one of the shade bracket screws hit metal inside the window casing, preventing me from anchoring it securely. It stayed like that for about a week as I scratched my head and tried to figure out what to do. I'm happy to report I solved the problem, the shade is in, and the tools are gone.
The Seasoning Station
Pretty straightforward: I keep my salt and pepper next to the stove for easy access. I like having different salts like kosher salt and various sea salts, and then of course black pepper in the larger Peugeot mill, with a small mill for white pepper, though that one is actually empty right now.
This is the stove. What's amazing is that when we moved in, the top of it was coated in the thickest layer of grease you've ever seen, so cooked-on it took us hours to scrub it off. But then inside the oven it was totally spotless, I'm talking in the never-used, factory-new kind of way. I guess the prior occupants did a lot of frying and not a lot of anything else. It was a really weird contrast for a single appliance.
On the stovetop, there's a Le Creuset pot that lives there and that I love (does anyone not love their Le Creuset?), along with a water kettle for coffee. I have a pretty serious coffee setup, that kettle included. I also have a Nespresso machine. I know a lot of the coffee elite will be offended to see the Nespresso, but I'm sorry, it's a really useful little machine. It can't pull a shot like a barista in a craft coffee shop, but then again, neither can I. If I want a cappuccino in a pinch, it's such an easy solution for the home user.
The Coffee Cupboard
How many coffee-brewing gizmos can you spot? From scales to grinders (portable hand grinder and electric), Aeropresses to Chemexes and moka pots to French presses, I've got my bases pretty well covered, and I'm happy about that.
Take care when opening the overhead bins, as objects may have shifted during transit! Seriously though, every time I open this thing, something falls out.
Before we moved, I had an overwhelming number of plastic pint and quart containers. When we moved, we got rid of a lot of them. Now I'm starting to think we got rid of too many of them, because I keep running short. I need more quart containers, pronto! The lesson here is: Never underestimate the value of storage containers. You can't have too many.
Really Useful Stuff
This photo pretty much sums up how we haven't settled into our apartment yet: I have liquor bottles overflowing from the dining room, but then this cabinet is strangely empty. What is in there, though, is super useful. Mixing bowls, strainers, measuring cups, hand-blender, salad spinner, and knife oil. Okay, the knife oil is really in a weird spot. It's great stuff though, from Black Creek Mercantile, a company upstate owned by an amazing woodworker named Josh Vogel and his wife; he makes oils for cutting boards and knives, and of course, as a woodworker, he makes the cutting boards too. I can't explain why it's in this cabinet though.
Two Very Different Sources of CO2
I swear by my SodaStream. I love carbonated water, but I'm way too lazy to shop for it regularly. This thing solves that a million times over. Right next to it is my crock for fermenting things like sauerkraut and kim chi. If I were smart, I'd find some way to catch all the carbon dioxide that bubbles out of the fermenting foods, and then pump it into the CO2 tank for the SodaStream, because those refills are expensive! Any ideas?
Random Countertop Things
There's a lot in this photo. First, the cereal. It's really rare to see cereal in my place because I kind of hate cold cereal, but my nephew was visiting me, and he likes Cheerios, so that's why they're there. Then there's a Krups juicer that I'm just starting to play with. It's pretty cool looking, but I can't give much insight on how well it works yet since I've only used it once. Like Kenji, I have two crocks, and I try to keep metal and wood/rubber utensils separate. There's no functional reason for that, but it makes sense to me anyway. Oh, and then there's a little barrel I used to age cocktails a while ago. This one had negroni in it, but then I decided to make red wine vinegar. That was a mistake: negroni-flavored red wine vinegar is nasty stuff. I've been filling it with water, letting it sit for a week, and then putting in fresh water to try to draw the negroni-vinegar flavor out of the wood enough that I can use it for real again.
The Knife Drawer
Show me a serious cook who doesn't have a knife fetish. These are mine. My favorites, hands-down, are my carbon steel knives. With a whetstone and just a few minutes, I can put an edge on them sharp enough to shave with. Stainless steel holds its edge longer, but it's also a lot more difficult to make extremely sharp. You have to care for the carbon steel, though, by rubbing it with oil, because it rusts and stains easily. But I also like that about it: Over time each knife takes on its own patina and all the marks and scars of use. It's like copper, old raw denim, or full-grain leather. When cared for, it's a deeply beautiful thing. Stainless doesn't really age like that.
I know I said I don't like this kitchen, but I kind of like these sliding drawers, which are spaced apart far enough that you can put tall pots on them, along with appliances like a food processor. If we redo the kitchen, there's a very good chance I'll incorporate something like this.
Pots-and-Pans Drawer, Pt. 2
There's plenty of space for stacking pans on the upper level.
The utensils drawer isn't too out-of-control yet. We'll see how long this lasts. Note the white rubber thing with a pig nose imprint on it. I guess it's to keep foods in the microwave from splattering? I think I need to get rid of that...
This empty freezer is another sign we haven't lived in this apartment long. Normally, my freezer is so densely packed that the Wildlings from the frozen North wouldn't be able to find their way through it. But at the moment, I just have some ice, some frozen vegetables, and some frozen osso bucco I bought at the farmers market, but don't yet have plans to cook.
The Freezer, Pt. 2
I do have my priorities straight, however: This jumbo bottle of ice-cold gin is at-the-ready for G&T's.
Gosh, what fun condiments do we have here? I think there's 3 or 4 different kinds of miso, some really great mustard from Lady Jayne's Alchemy up in Hudson, NY, yuzu kosho, etc., etc., etc. Also, note how much space I allocate for wine. I'm actually more of a beer drinker, but I drank most of the beer that had been in the fridge, so this isn't really a representative sample.
Cocktails and Curiosities Cabinet
I keep all my cocktail-making tools in here, like muddlers, shakers, stirring spoons, a swizzle stick, and even a lewis bag for crushing ice. Up top I have a couple iSi siphons, which are really fun to play with. But wait, what's that there on the middle shelf? Let's take a closer look...
Close Up: Cocktails and Curiosities Cabinet
My mom gave me this antique bottle. It's over a century old, and it still contains its original contents. The label says Aubergier's Syrup, and that it was imported by E. Fougera, a company on Beekman St in Lower Manhattan. Amazingly, that company, or at least its name, still exists today, and sells pharmaceuticals. This bottle, though, is what would be known as a patent medicine. Before the FDA existed, snake oil salesmen abounded, and sold all sorts of horrific things under the false claim that they'd cure various ailments. It wasn't until 1906 that the practice was abolished, and most of these "medicines" went the way of the dodo (some survived, with altered formulas and/or altered claims, like Coca Cola, which ditched its claim that it was a "Brain Tonic").
Anyway, back to my bottle. Apparently, it was sold under the promise that it offered the benefits of opium without any risk of addiction, but behind closed doors, makers were sometimes sneaking opium extract into their formula. Which means that I may well have a bottle of morphine in my kitchen. Ancient morphine that will never ever be opened.
We've been using these drawers for spices, oils, and other dry and canned goods. It's a real problem for the spices, because when you pull out a drawer, all you can see is the top of each jar, not the label. It makes finding spices really hard. I definitely need a better solution to this.