Sticking it out

by Gia26. January 2014 10:01

I've never been very good at New Years Resolutions. Apparently, I'm in good company. Only 8% of resolution-makers hold out. We're here today to talk about sticking it out.

The top 5 New Years resolutions are to:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Stay Fit and Healthy

Look familiar? Fear not! We have the perfect sanctuary for you to achieve your goals:

Your Kitchen!

You probably already know that home-cooked meals are healthier and cheaper than meals cooked outside of the home. Still throwing around some lame excuse for not cooking at home? Let's go through these huh?

I can't cook.

At a certain point in your life you couldn't read or type or speak more than 6 intelligible words. But, you learned. No one is born with the ability to slow-braise a perfect pork shoulder. As long as you're willing to eat your failures (or stock a few emergency frozen burritos) you can learn to cook anything.

  • Ask: your butcher, your grocer, your mom, your best friend. Everyone has an opinion on how to cook something and most people love to talk about food. Its also a great way to pick up cute chicks in the pasta aisle.

  • Use the internet: you can access the entirety of human knowledge from a screen in your pocket. Stop scrolling through top-10 lists and look up something of value. Youtube is chock full of how-to videos, and there are probably more cooking blogs than chefs in the world at this point. Benefit from someone else's mistakes.

  • Call Kitchenworks. Didn't think you could do that huh? Loving food is pretty much a pre-requisite for working here and we've helped customers through many a kitchen nightmare. Chances are, we have a good idea why your biscuits taste like glue

I don't have the right equipment.

You don't need fancy equipment to cook for yourself. When you find yourself coveting that new gadget on tv, remember that your ancestors got by with little more than a skillet and a stick and we're still passing down those recipes. 

All you need are:

I don't have time

Let's return to our ancestors, shall we? On average, they had more children, less electricity/running water, and far more diseases. You have time, you're just not spending it wisely. Here are some things that might help:

  • Plan your meals. You'll save time and money by pre-answering the much-resented 'what's for dinner' conversation. Go through your cookbooks or browse your grocery store serials for inspiration.

  • Involve the kids – picky eaters are much more likely to eat something that they had a hand in choosing and preparing.
  • Prep ahead of time. Only using half an onion for that breakfast omelet? Chop all of it anyway and save the rest for the sauce you're making for dinner. Having tacos for lunch? Cook all of the ground beef in the package and save the remainder for tomorrow's sloppy joes.

Salt & Smoke

by Gia10. November 2013 21:02

Last weekend was one of those times that reminds me why living in North Carolina is one of the smartest decisions I've ever made. Salt & Smoke is a community pig and oyster roast. I heard about it from the folks at Acme, who put on the event with Core Sound Seafood and Rock Quarry Farm, which hosted the afternoon's revelries. The rest of the details read like a who's who of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro local food scene.

After checking in I headed to the bar, which featured Steel String Brewery on tap and wine curated by De Maison Selections. I decided a spanish red was best for wandering and headed over to the oyster pit.

 

Tending the fire under a bed of roasting oysters

 

I didn't garner an appreciation for oysters until college, so when I get to eat them, I feel compelled to make up for lost time. Shooting Point Oyster Company hauled 3000 oysters from their farm on Virginia's remote eastern shore and were roasting the first batch when I arrived. A grill the size of a twin bed sat beside the barn, covered with a pile of steaming oysters underneath a burlap sack. Company men stoked the fire and shoveled cooked oysters into basins for waiting shuckers. 

Checking the oysters (note shovel)

 

 My oyster experience up to this point has been a fairly privileged one - I've never had to shuck them myself. In anticipation of an afternoon of shucking, I stopped by Kitchenworks and picked up a Carolina Oyster Knife. We've carried these knives for years and customers ask for them by name, but I've never had an opportunity to try them out until today. 

 After throwing back at least a dozen (pre-shucked) raw oysters, and switching to a Big Mon IPA, I sidled up to the shucking tables and dug in. My first impression was congratulatory: a number of other shuckers were clutching Carolina Oyster Knives, and there were more scattered across the table. I patted myself on the back for at least dressing the part. Now came the moment of truth - admitting to the woman next to me that I had no idea what I was doing.

She waved off my trepidation and handed me an oyster. "You gotta find one that's smiling," she said, "Or smirking!" added her friend. "Find a seam, slide the blade along until you get inside the shell and twist to open." Seemed easy enough.

I soon learned how much of this technique is dependent upon picking the right oyster. After a few minutes digging into tight-lipped shells and cursing myself for coming without a glove or washcloth (those things were hot and sharp!) I learned to spot the smilers and fell into a nice rhythm.

The first thing I noticed about the oysters was that the shells were fairly thin. They chipped easily and felt light in my hand. I thought this could just be what happened when you roast oysters, but upon investigation, learned that this is one of the things that makes Shooting Point oysters special - the farmers 'tumble' them regularly to cull for shape and quality, which makes them more delicate and, ultimately, tastier.

I went to this event by myself because I couldn't convince anyone that an afternoon slurping oysters was one well-spent. 'They taste like boogers' was a common response among those surveyed and, really, who could blame them. Most oysters, even after they've been cooked, retain a kind of gelatinous structure that is hardly appetizing. I've eaten oysters from all over the world and, barring some differences in size and taste (mostly variations in sweetness and freshness), the texture is generally consistent.

Shooting Point Oysters are a whole other bivalve. I scolded myself between mouthfuls for not knowing about these sooner! Instead of a Dali-esque puddle, the oyster meat sat plump and bright inside the shell - even the raw ones - as if it had been waiting these past two years for just this moment. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked - a texture at the elusive sweet spot between jello and rubber, much like an expertly poached egg, that evokes the satisfaction of scallops or young octopus. These oysters are meant to be chewed, not just swallowed, which gives you ample time to find the pure sweetness underneath an expertly balanced layer of, what else, salt and smoke.

I lost track of time: transfixed by the seductive smoke and the regular cadence of tossed oyster shells. When I finally came up for air, I had finished most of my Big Mon, and it was time to switch proteins.

During my initial survey of the grounds I snuck a pre-chopped chunk of pork from under the dedicated gaze of Wyatt Dickson, the master behind The Pig Whistle, a whole-hog pork BBQ outfit dedicated to everything local and delicious. 

Wyatt pulling and talking pork with eager guests

I've eaten a lot of BBQ since I've moved here and, I must say, not all pork is created equal. There are only two local BBQ outfits I take yankees to when they visit (the barometer for my devotion) and, after Salt & Smoke, I am actively trying to determine how to gather enough people to justify bringing The Pig Whistle to my backyard. 

Wyatt encourages folks to come up and check out the meat, nab choice cuts, and talk pork with him. I lingered long enough to dip in for a check morsel. The meat was juicy, tender, and flavorful in a way that melts into your tongue - evidence of Wyatt's expertise at picking local, pasture-raised hogs, and smoking them to perfection.

After rinsing the salt off my fingers, I ambled up to the barn for a plate of pork, collards, cornbread, sweet potatoes and beans. I knew Acme was in charge of the sides, but a pig picking generally means the pork is the star of the show, so I had low expectations. The pork was chopped and bathed in sauce, which added a nice tang to balance the fat in the pork, but wasn't too briney that it overpowered the smokiness. The cornbread was peppery and moist. The collards were (of course) salty and smokey, but fresh and not at all oily. The beans were cooked but not mushy, sweet but not syrupy. The sweet potatoes were not-so-subtly packed with aromatics - like a holiday ale - that had everyone swooning. Lesson learned: never underestimate Acme.

After a few more rounds of oysters and beer, I finished the night beside the bonfire, contentedly breathing in the lingering smoke and watching the younger guests make castanets out of empty shells. It took a good 24 hours for the smoke smell to dissipate from my fingers, and I my palm is still healing from a few errant knife pokes, but I'm keeping my Carolina Oyster Knife, and I'm ready for next year.

The bonfire action post-gorge

 

Haitian Art

by Gia3. November 2013 18:37

 Across the back wall of our store, we have a huge Haitian art display.

Each item is a unique, handcrafted, piece of art imported straight from Haiti. 

 

 Using recycled 55-gallon oil drums, the artist first removes both round ends of the drum and places these inside the cylinder along with dried banana or sugar cane leaves. He sets this on fire, to burn off any paint or residue. When cooled down, the artist then cuts the round drum from top to bottom. The flattening process is a sight to behold, as one of the artists’ helpers will climb inside the drum and using all his weight, push with feet, legs, arms and shoulders to open it up.  It is then pounded into a flattened "metal canvas" of approximately 3" x 6". With chalk, the design is drawn onto the metal sheet. Using hammer, chisel and various primitive tools, the shape is cut and the various decorative patterns are pounded into the metal. The finished design is signed by the artist and coated with a protective finish.

 

 

Haitian steel art began in the early 1950's with a simple blacksmith: Georges Liautaud. In his small shop, he made and repaired tools and created primitive metal crosses for the graves in the Croix-des-Bouquets cemetery. It was at the encouragement of an American teacher, DeWitt Peters, who in 1944 opened the Le Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince, that Georges Liautaud expanded into the creation of decorative metal sculptures. A few talented men apprenticed under him, and this tradition has continued. 

Click here to check out our Haitian Art! 

History and info courtesy of http://www.haitimetalart.com/

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Products | Vendor Spotlight

Happy Birthday to Us!

by Gia26. October 2013 13:45

On October 5th, we celebrated our 29th birthday! We had giveaways, promos, sweet treats and demos from professional food producer Debbie Debetino! Check out the festivities below. 

 

 Our Chapel Hill storefront, all decked out for the occasion.

 

 

Our birthday cake, courtesy of Sugarland Bakery in Chapel Hill.

 

 

Our awesome prize wall!

 

 

Swivel peeler test kitchen

 

 

Apple Corer/Slicer test kitchen

 

 

Corn tools test kitchen

 

 

Our sweet salespeople work the crowd.

 

 

Come and get it!

 

 

Our Lucky Winners!

Staff Picks: Joanna

by Gia4. October 2013 12:16

Joanna is a New England native with an eye for design and a soft spot for a great deal. Come check out her fabulous window displays at our University Mall location!

Name: Joanna

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Steamers, Lobster (with lots of melted butter for dipping) and fresh sweet corn on the cob; all to be shared with close family and dear friends.

What are your three favorite meals to prepare?

  • Party Appetizers
  • Sunday Dinners
  • Baking on a Snow Day

What are your favorite restaurants?

  • Crook's Corner (Chapel Hill, NC) - Shrimp & Grits on the patio: heaven!
  • Antonia's (Hillsborough, NC) - Perfect place for a leisurely Sunday afternoon brunch.
  • The Silver Shores Shanty (Falmouth Height, Cape Cod, MA) - Best fried clams on the cape!
  • Allen & Son BBQ (Pittsboro, NC) - Always good and tasty. They never dissappoint!

What are your top 5 essential cooking tools?

What are your top 5 essential kitchen tools?

What products would you like to receive as gifts?

Staff Picks: Gia

by Gia19. September 2013 14:59

Gia is our Web Store Manager. She is a proud Yankee with an insatiable sweet tooth and a weak spot for cute dogs with funny girls. Check out her favorites below!

Name: Gia

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

My grandmother's Penne with Sauce, Breaded Chicken Cutlets and Eggplant Parmesan + my mother's Roasted Cauliflower and a fresh Mixed Salad with 18-year aged Balsamic Vinegar and fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Aged Parmesan Cheese and Crusty Sourdough Bread.

What are your favorite meals to prepare?

What are your favorite restaurants?

This was like choosing my favorite child...I went a little overboard...

What are your essential cooking tools?

What are your essential kitchen tools?

What 5 products would you like to receive as gifts?

Staff Picks: Sara

by Gia19. September 2013 13:54

Sara is a newlywed, tabla-playing, martial arts practicing, all-around renaissance woman who staffs the floor with limitless humor. Check out her favorite products below!

Name: Sara

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Chicken Tikka Masala

What are your favorite meals to prepare?

  • French Toast
  • Kebobs
  • Homemade Bread
  • Guacamole

What are your 3 favorite restaurants?

What are your essential cooking tools?

What 5 products would you like to receive as gifts?

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Staff Favorites

Staff Picks: Martha

by Gia19. September 2013 11:08

We're kicking off our birthday week with our first staff picks post by our fearless leader - Martha! Click here to see all of Martha's favorite products.

Click here to see all of our staff favorites - on sale for our birthday month!

Name:

Martha

What are your favorite meals to prepare?

  • Sundried Tomato and Cayenne Pepper Angel Hair Pasta with Herbed Lemon Mustard Grilled Chicken
  • Colerain (Eastern NC) Barbeque Chicken with Homemade Vinegar Slaw and Corbread
  • Chicken Marbella - from Silver Palate Cookbook
  • Pickled Shrimp with Onions on Crackers
  • Psari Plaki - Greek Baked Fish with Fresh Tomatoes, Onions, Lemon Juice and Dill

What are your favorite restaurants?

What are your essential cooking tools?

What are your essential kitchen tools?

What 5 products would you like to receive as gifts?

After 40+ years in the business, I have all of the small kitchen tools I could want, so here's a wishlist:

  • A Butcherblock Countertop
  • A Screen Porch - to be able to eat outside without mosquitos
  • A Double Set of Ovens
  • A Case of Veuve Clicquot Champagne
  • Champagne Glasses - exactly like my Govino plastic ones but in elegant glass.

Staff Picks: CL

by Gia11. September 2013 14:46

Our pinch hitter extraordinaire, CL, tells us about his favorite products and the meal for which he'd give up vegetarianism.

Name: CL

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Pot Roast; I'm vegetarian, but if I'm on the way out...

What are your three favorite meals to prepare?

  • Vegetarian Lasagna
  • Vegetarian Meat(less) Loaf
  • Vegetarian Chili

What are your three favorite bars/restaurants?

What are your top 5 essential cooking tools?

What are your top 5 essential kitchen tools?

What 5 products would you like to receive as gifts?

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Products

Staff Picks: Banshion

by Gia11. September 2013 14:25

Banshion is our Operations Manager and something of a superhero around the store (hence his chosen image). He is a musical theater geek and a non-so-secret ninja who enjoys happy hour and entertaining small children.

Name: Banshion

If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?

Lasagna

What are your three favorite meals to prepare?

  • Beef Stew
  • Cheesecake
  • Raw Gumbo

What are your three favorite bars/restaurants?

What are your top 5 essential cooking tools?

What 5 items would you like to receive as a gift?

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