Via Corona Exterior: You Need A Montage!

TD here.  When The Misanthropic Hostess herself told me I had the incredible honor of writing up Via Corona’s exterior, I really didn’t know what to say about an edifice that was both far from good and not good from far.

That’s when it came to me . . . we’re gonna need a montage!

Enjoy!

Shannon here…do you have any idea how long he’s been waiting to incorporate something from Rocky into a Via Corona post?  Dude just seriously dropped his mic and walked off stage.

Exterior Sources

Siding: Hardiplank Siding

Shutters: ArchitecturalDepot

Door: Superior Moulding

Mailbox: Pottery Barn

House Numbers: Atlas Signs and Plaques

Exterior Lights: Lamps Plus

Excellent Montage Music: Team America World Police Soundtrack

You say summer, I say corn!

Is it me or does that sound vaguely dirty?

The seed for this recipe was planted one Friday evening at the Fresh Choice Market in Lomita CA.  I drive by this newish grocery store on PCH every day on my way to work (and sometimes on my way home).  Unfortunately, it’s closed when I’m driving in and on the wrong side of the street to easily stop into on the way home.

So, it wasn’t until one early Friday evening that I finally had a chance to experience the Fresh Choice Market.  To quote Stefon, “this place has everything!”: panderia, Jerusalem bread shop, baklava station, insane carniceria, crazy exotic produce section, aisles and aisles of international ingredients that I’d previously only been able to order.  I wasn’t the only person with conchas on my mind that Friday–the place was packed with all kinds of people.  After slowly perusing the market, I somehow ended up with a cart full of interesting odds and ends I had no idea I needed.  Among them was a pouch of honey powder.  Per its name, honey powder is just dehydrated honey and can be used as a sugar substitute.  I’m always on the lookout for new things to put into French macarons so I grabbed a bag.

With the Via Corona renovation wrapping up, much of my free time is still spent on “house stuff” so macarons won’t be on the agenda until late summer.

But regular cookies I can do.  I love Christina Tosi’s corn cookie recipe and have been looking for excuses to play with it some more.  Honey powder was my in.  Honey, corn and jalapeno are great friends in a biscuit, corn bread or scone so why not a cookie?  I replaced some of the sugar with the honey powder and then  infused a diced jalapeno into the remaining sugar.  In addition to using the freeze-dried corn powder in the original recipe, I also threw in some whole freeze-dried kernels for additional texture. And there you go: you say summer, I say corn (honey, jalapeno cookies)!

So I have an admission to make about these cookies.  While I thought they were fun and tasty, when it came to offering them up to others, I completely chickened out.  I had a box ready to go in to work and couldn’t bring myself to bring it in.  The box sat on my counter for three days until I gave up and threw it out.

Jalapeno and Honey Corn Cookies

adapted from Christina Tosi, Milk Momofuko Milk Bar

Ingredients

Makes about 2 dozen smaller or 1 dozen large cookies

Note–I use the weight not volume measurements for this recipe.

  • 16 TBS, 2 sticks, 225g room temp butter
  • 3/4 C, 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 fresh jalepeno
  • 1/4 C honey powder (or 3/4 C granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 C, 225 g flour
  • 1/4 C, 45 g corn flour
  • 2/3 C, 65 g freeze-dried corn powder (I found freeze dried corn on Amazon but later saw it at Bristol Farms and used the Vitamix to make the powder)
  • 3/4 tsp, 3 g baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp, 1.5 g baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp, 6 g kosher salt
  • 2/3 C freeze dried corn kernals

Directions

  1. Finely chop jalapeno (de-rib and de-seed), combine sugar and chopped jalapeno into an airtight container.  Shake to distribute and allow to mingle for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter,  sugar and honey powder using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or an electric mixer on high for 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape-down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  5. Reduced the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, combining until the dough just comes together (no more than a minute).  Fold in the corn kernals by hand.
  6. For smaller cookies, use about a one ounce scoop (the original recipe calls for a 2  3/4 ounce scoop) and scoop dough out, placing on to a cookies sheet lined with parchment.  Leave a couple inches between each dough mound.
  7. Either pat, or use the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar to flatten-out the dough.  Wrap tightly and cool in fridge for a minimum of  an hour, but up to a week.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Arrange chilled dough on parchment-lined baking sheets (they’ll need more room between them then when you put them in the fridge).  Leave 2 inches in between each.
  10. Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will puff, crackles and spread.  Done cookies will be faintly browned on the edges but bright yellow in the middle.
  11. Cool completely on sheets before transferring to a plate, storage container or your mouth.

Reveal: Powder room

Before

While the foyer probably has a lock on “Most Improved” in the Via Corona superlatives, her powder room is a serious honorable mention (and is a ringer for best personality).  Recall that she started with pink and brown tile–with curtains to match–that ran all the way up the wall to be crowned by a coved ceiling in frothy white frosting.

The craftsmanship in this space was remarkable.  I mean look at it–the former owner laid ALL that tile by hand.  However, we quickly tired of the phone ringing and the voice on the other end telling us that 1985 was, like, oh my god, calling and wanted its loo back.

Little did we know that it was about to get much worse very quickly.

Termites and Southern California go together like peas and carrots.  And let me tell you, this bathroom was serving up a hungry man’s portion.  I think I told you how we were afraid to go in here for fear of falling through the floor.  And yet, we couldn’t stop checking on it to confirm and reconfirm how awful it was.

After

Beast: meet Beauty!

As I explained in the powder room plans post, we gave up about a foot in this space for a little bit more room in the kitchen.  We don’t miss it.  Also, out of sight but never out of mind, we also raised the roof in here.  1985 would be totally pleased.

Going with an exposed sink was a bit of a risk, but with a room that now measures roughly five by five feet, I wanted to leave as much open space as possible.  Besides, it’s a powder room.  Other than a spare roll of toilet paper or two, this space has no need for storage.

We frosted the generous but poorly placed window (it’s the first thing you see when you walk into the courtyard).  While there is potential for some evening shadow-puppet shenanigans, forgoing any window treatments also helped to keep the space open.

The light fixture, hook and TP holder all came from a shop called OneFortyThree.   The proprietor started the company after renovating his own house (and blogging about it).  OneFortyThree was a delightful find and I feel a sense of (completely unwarranted) renovation camaraderie with the owners.

Of all the baubles in this tiny space, finding the right mirror was the hardest.  While incredibly fashionable, that sweet hexagonal mirror that was originally in the powder room just didn’t fit right with the new vibe.  I ordered and returned three or four (and kept yet another one for a different space).  This one came from CB2 and we have two other iterations of it in other parts of the house including the guest bath.  (Note the photo bomber.)

In a move that some future homeowner will most likely describe in the same OMG so outdated way I described the pink and brown tile on the original, I decided to go with black fixtures.  This began when I fell in love with a gamine faucet from Ikea that was nimble and elegant.  Sadly, by the time I got around to ordering it, the faucet was no longer available.  At that point I had my heart set on powder-coat and found this one in our price range at Home Depot.

A digression if I may.  If this project were to have a catch-phrase, it would be: because that’s what we could afford.  The market is rich with gorgeous finishes and fixtures–from bathrooms to kitchens to lighting–most of which weren’t even close to being in our budget.  While Pinterest, Instagram, Google and the others offer a vast universe of design opportunity, they don’t account for price point.  Just about every finishing material in Via Corona was inspired by one thing but executed as something like it that was in our budget.  Welcome to the real world.

As you probably don’t recall, I’d originally planned encaustic cement tile for the powder.  I spent weeks looking for just the right pattern (that we could afford).  I put (paper) samples up on the wall in my office and asked for the opinion of anyone who entered.  It became a minor obsession.  But after all that searching, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I actually had the tiles in my cart, finger hovering above the order button and then I clicked away.

The design universe works in mysterious ways and the moment I gave in and admitted I didn’t have the cojones for bold tile, I chanced across this wallpaper design by Abigail Edwards.  It’s a subtle nod to our (hopefully) subtle beachy vibe for Via Corona.  It’s also a nod to Edward Gorey, a longtime favorite of mine.  Not wanting to go so far with the sea-theme as to actually make people seasick, we stuck with the pattern on one wall only.

There she is folks, though she be small, she be mighty. And, at least in my estimation, she has a great personality!    I purposely keep the door open so that I can take a glimpse every time I walk by.

And it’s true about what he said in the Entryway Reveal post:  TD isn’t allowed to use the sink in here.  For the record, I’m not either.  The wallpaper–though perfect for the spot aesthetically–is actual untreated paper.  While the occasional splash from hand washing is fine, everyday wear and tear would probably make quick work of this delicate covering.  It breaks my rule of not having anything in the house too precious to be used BUT I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing that does.

And now for the montage you’ve all been waiting for.

Go here for more Via Corona: Via Corona

Powder Room Sources

Wallpaper: Abigail Edwards Seascape in Winter

Vanity Console: Duravit

Sink: Duravit

Faucet: Vigo Satro

Mirror: CB2 Infinity Round Brass Wall Mirror

Vanity Lights: OneFortyThree

Towel Hook: OneFortyThree Woodblock Wall Hook

TP Hook: OneFortyThree Tissue Roll Holder

Basket: Target


Chocolate Dirt Cookies

Long ago

And oh so far away

I was in a social club

Lived on sorority row

It probably isn’t appropriate to riff on a Carpenters song in the same post as a cookie recipe.  It also isn’t particularly appropriate or appealing to use the words dirt and cookie in the same sentence.

But anyways.  I think we’ve already talked about the whole sorority thing  right?  I loved my Hellenic days and now more than 20 years later, I continue to be impressed by the accomplishments of the women I chose as friends in college.

But what does this have to do with dirt?  Long before Pinterest, some clever member came up with (or borrowed) a bid-day treat that was as much an institution in our organization as owls and the Chi Omega Symphony: flower pot sundaes.

Nowadays, anyone who can Google garden party knows what these are.  Crafted in tiny flower pots,  a layer of ice cream is topped with fudge and then finished with ground-up Oreo cookies.  A straw is  inserted into the concoction so that an actual daisy pops out of the center.

Pretty mundane by today’s standards, but in the mid-nineties, these were the pinnacle of sophistication (at least to me…so take it with a grain of salt).

What does all of this have to do with today’s post?  Well, I’ve been playing with Christina Tosi’s cookie recipes (again) and made her chocolate-chocolate cookies to get the wheels turning.  Simple though it appears, this deep, dark treat is fortified by a chocolate crumb.  Or, for the more literal, chocolate dirt (I think Ms. Tosi would support and encourage this idea).

Consider yourself warned.  In the coming weeks, alternating between Via Corona posts, I have half a dozen riffs on Christina Tosi cookies.  This one is a straight shot, but future cookies will feature ingredients like jalapeño, Nestle’s Quick, graham crackers, honey powder, crunch berries and Ritz cracker sand (in no particular order or combination).

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

In milk momofulu milk bar by Christina Tosi

for the chocolate crumb

Ingredients

  • 1/3 C, 53g flour
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1/3 C, 53 g cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 TBS, 82 g butter, melted

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Paddle on low until mixed.
  3. Add the butter and mix on low until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
  4. Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, breaking up the clusters occasionally.  The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
  5. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating.  Stored in an airtight container, they will keep fresh for 1 week at room temp or 1 month in the freezer.

for the cookies

Ingredients

  • 15 TBS, 2 sticks, 225g butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 C, 300g sugar
  • 1/4 C, 100g glucose
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ounces, 60g 55% chocolate, melted (the chocolate police won’t come and arrest you if you use semi-sweet)
  • 1 1/4 C, 200g flour
  • 3/4 C, 100g cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Chocolate Crumb

Directions

Combine the butter, sugar and glucose in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.  Cream together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down bowl, add the egg, vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat for 7-8 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flora, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix just until the dough comes together–no longer than 1 minute,  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Still on low speed, add the chocolate crumbs and mix just until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Using a 5/8 ounce scoop (or heavily rounded tablespoon), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat.  Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week.  Do not bake at room temp, they won’t bake properly.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 3 inches apart on parchment-lined pans.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  The cookies will puff, crackle and spread.  It’s tough to gauge if a cookie that is this dark is done.  If, after 10 minutes, the cookies still seem doughy in the center, give them another minute in the oven.

Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage.  At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days, in the freezer they’ll keep for up to a month.

Walk (in) this way: Entryway reveal

TD here.  If I were Santiago, the haggard Cuban Fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea, Via Corona’s entryway would be my giant marlin (only with a much happier, less Hemingwayesque ending).

It’s said you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  While this may be true in job interviews, dating or armed robbery, it thankfully does not apply to the reveal of Via Corona’s least appealing original feature — the entryway.

Walk this way . . .

Call it an entryway, a foyer, an anteroom or even a narthex, there was no doubt it was a problem.  A big one.  Or should I say a short one?  When we purchased Via Corona, the entryway ceiling stood a claustrophobia-inducing 6 feet 11 inches high.  Likely not a concern for the previous owner since he stood all of 5’3″, but when you’re 6’2″ it feels like the sky is falling.  If you don’t believe me, hold a personal-sized pizza box vertically over your head and imagine that’s where the ceiling is.  I’ll wait.

True fact:  No one is sure who is actually responsible for the “never get a second chance” line.  Some attribute the quote to Oscar Wilde.  Others trace its use to a Botany Suits ad from 1966 (the same year Via Corona was built).  The majority claim Will Rogers turned the phrase.  Rogers also reportedly said, “I never met a man I didn’t like” thus proving he never met the previous owner of the house.

The ceiling wasn’t the only problem with the foyer, just the most glaring.  Honorable mentions go to the “Liberace’s pool house” double front doors and the creepy staircase complete with “end of life” carpeting and railings nearly a foot lower than the modern code.

Then there was our lady with the urn.

Earning the title of Worst Original Feature in a place like Via Corona is a bit like being the Cleveland Browns starting QB, World’s Greatest Mime or the biggest hit by Nickelback.  You’re the best of a bad lot.  A distinction without a difference.  So even before we chiseled rocks off the side of the house or destroyed the mantel, I dreamed of bashing this atrocity to smithereens.

With all due respect to Heaven, Via Corona is the place where dreams come true.

I felt like the end result was about a 100% improvement as-is.  Fortunately Shannon assured me we could rebuild him.  Make him better than he was.  Better.  Stronger.  Faster.

The first move was to raise the ceiling to a normal height and install LED lights.   Here you can see how much difference a foot can make.  We couldn’t raise the ceiling in front of the powder/ stairs for structural reasons–but this was the height of the entire ceiling when we started out.  Sadly, doing this went a long way in destroying the haunted house vibe the previous owners had cultivated so spectacularly.  Everything is a compromise.

We also installed a single front door with operable, screened sidelights.  [SF here] Via Corona sits on a corner with the front door facing South. Due to this and some other weather and location related stuff we don’t understand, the breeze runs South-to-North.  By adding the sidelights we created an air flow straight through the house that should make up for the fact that we don’t have AC.  We hope.

We ran hardwood down the stairs and had iron railings made to bring everything up to code for this century.

The coat closet to the left is now a quite inviting home for our in-house wine storage (not to be confused with Garage Wine).  While we don’t have photographic evidence, the before looked like Jame Gumb’s basement in Silence of the Lambs.  Go ahead and look that up if you need to.

See that air vent at the end of the hall?  It was at ceiling height before.  After we raised the roof, it wasn’t.  So we had it moved-up at a cost equal to a year’s supply of foot long subs (this is where the builders get you–all the little bits and pieces here and there).  We also installed a wireless doorbell that plays 50 different songs — each  more annoying than the last!  I thought it would be funny to have “Memory” from Cats be our doorbell song.  It’s not.  Not even a little bit.

What of the space formerly ruled by Lady with Urn you ask?  In the fullness of time she’ll be replaced by a mirror.  Something about reflecting ambient light or words to that effect.  I honestly wasn’t paying attention but I’m sure it’ll be great.

Finally, at long last, the makeover montage. . . Flip or Flop-style (minus the high-profile divorce and tabloid headlines, of course).

Stay tuned.  In a couple of weeks we’ll reveal the smallest room in the house with the greatest number of fixtures I’m not allowed to use . . . the Powder Room!

Can’t wait, want more?  Go here: Via Corona

Sources

Rug: Rejuvination (they frequently have 20% off sales)

Door levers: Kwikset Halifax Square Lever

Interior Doors: Winslow Three Panel

Front Door: Plastpro Smooth Skin Craftsman





Gingers Welcome!

These muffins have been sitting in my SmugMug account for several months.  Well, not the actual muffins…those are long gone…but you know, the pictures.  The thing is, I keep stumbling across the photos, wondering why I haven’t posted and then remembering: oh yeah, there are no photos of the final product.

I have no explanation for it.  Just no finished muffins.  Alas, what feels like weekends and weekends of yard work (I know, TD and I are the first and only people to ever attempt to landscape their yard on their own EVER.  Or at least, that’s what it sounds like) has seriously eaten into my baking time.  So, I’m down to my last couple of reserve bakes.

But back to the muffins.  You’ll have to take my word for it:  these were very tasty and kind of an unusual twist on the traditional morning baked good.

The orange doesn’t add a ton of flavor–there isn’t much of it and it’s hard to compete with the dominant ginger.  But, it did make the batter prettier.  So, there is that.

These are great slightly warmed with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Ginger Orange Muffins

adapted from Double-Ginger Sour Cream and Bundt Cake with Ginger Infused Strawberries by Abigail Johnson Dodge, Bon Appetit, April 2009

Makes about 12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1/2 C orange juice (blood orange or other)
  • 2 TBS orange zest
  • 1 C chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4-1/2 raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Directions

  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
  2. Line cupcake pan with 18 liners.
  3. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until smooth. Add 2 cups sugar; beat on medium-high speed until blended, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1 egg yolk and vanilla, stopping to scrape down bowl as needed.
  6. Add-in zest and orange juice, beat to combine.
  7. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with sour cream in 2 additions, beating on low speed just until blended after each addition. Mix in crystallized ginger.
  8. Scoop batter into cupcake tins, about 3/4 full.
  9. Sprinkle tops with raw sugar
  10. Bake cake until tops are light brown and tester inserted near center comes out with a few small crumbs attached, about 20-25 minutes.

Reveal: The Champagne Room

 

And by Champagne Room, we all I know I mean the kitchen.

Before

Let’s go back to where we started with the kitchen.  It really wasn’t bad.  It even came with double ovens.  In the original plan, the kitchen was actually slated for phase two.  But, then we lost our minds and decided to throw the old range out with the bathtub (and the toilets) and just start from scratch.

By way of review, here were the main objectives of the kitchen renovation:

  • Pull the range off of the peninsula to free-up counter space
  • Maximize work space
  • Maximize storage
  • Keep double ovens
  • Replace appliances

As I mentioned in the plans post, we didn’t have a lot of freedom to enlarge the space.  Well, we could have but it would have meant losing one of those gorgeous picture windows.  That was not going to happen and so other than adding about five linear feet so that we could sink the fridge into the wall, we stuck with the 12 X 12 space.  Crappy iPhone shot but the amount of tile they pulled up was impressive!

Given that the house is now about 2200 square feet, the size of the kitchen is probably about right.

If you want to see a recap of the demo and rebuild up to cabinet install, go here: Via Corona kitchen progress.

Let us also revisit the Via Corona kitchen mood board (by the way, mood board is a seriously douchey term).  Whether kitchen, office or sartorial, I like my work space to be functionally efficient and uncluttered.  To keep things interesting, on the permanent fixtures I worked with lots of texture rather than color.  This is pretty much my M.O.: keep it neutral and rotate in the color with details that are easy to replace when I need something fresh (I know, now whose being douchey?)

After

From a different angle.  While we couldn’t expand the kitchen much, losing the dropped soffett made things a little less vertically challenging.

A note on the kitchen rug (you can barely see it in each of the pictures above).  Part of the reason I chose our hardwood floors was because their light color and oil finish mean they’re less apt to show dirt as well as wear and tear.  However, regular wear and tear and misanthropic hostess kitchen wear and tear mean two different things in our household (I am the messiest neat freak I’ve ever met).  In theory I love the trend of an antiqued Turkish wool rug in the kitchen.  In practice it would have been rugicide in Via Corona.  I did some research on the best rugs for kitchens and all roads seem to lead to cotton flat weave.  The reason is easy: you can throw it in the washing machine.  This one has already made the trip.  Twice.

All of the small appliances save the coffee and espresso machines are stored in the butler’s pantry/ laundry.  However, all of our every-day use tools–which includes no fewer than 12 sets of varying types beverage vessels (we are thirsty people) easily fit into the kitchen storage. Score!

In addition to limiting expansion opportunities, the windows also added constraints to the peninsula depth.  In my head, this was  going to be a 60 incher (so many jokes here).  Alas, the builders wouldn’t allow us to cantilever the counter top out over the window (even when I made liberal use of the term corbel).  In the end we ended up with about 32 inches.  Not too shabby but also a little more conservative than I wanted.  Don’t tell TD but I do have plans to deepen this baby down the road.  I’m confident that there is a duplicitous contractor out there who will do my deep counter dirty work.

I spent a lot of time designing the kitchen thinking that once we worked with the professionals they’d nicely explain that most of it couldn’t be done.  Turns out the only thing the builders wouldn’t go for was the deeper peninsula.  This means that the entire kitchen was custom designed by me.  Kind of cool.  Or a total disaster.

By moving the fridge from the West wall to the South, we were able to relocate the cooktop off the peninsula and install a serious bad ass hood.  Upon installation, we immediately put the ventilation system to the bacon test.  No trace when we cranked her up to high and let her rip.

Cook top close-up.

The food pantry was the one spot where we lost storage space.  Once the builders got into the wall, we lost about six inches of cabinet width going from an 18″ to a 12″ cabinet.  While small, pull-outs help us to fully maximize the space.  All baking ingredients are stored in the deep cabinets above the fridge.

The view looking out from the kitchen.  The actual view also includes the fireplace and the dining room to the right but once again, my limited photographic skills sell the space short.

More details?

I knew I wanted a semi-commercial faucet and giant, deep stainless sink.  Imagine my surprise when I went to order the faucet and the company wouldn’t ship it to California because of water regulations.  While I totally love the one we went with (source info below), it wasn’t until it was installed that I realized I might have gotten a little overzealous on height.  Let’s just say this faucet is always ready to party but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I built drawer and cabinet organization into the budget to help keep things tidy. Exhibit A: the spice drawer.  So, like when I go to cook something this happens:

I open the drawer and it (the drawer) says, “tell me what you want what you really really want.”

And then I say something like, “paprika!”

And there it is.  The paprika.  Right in front of me.

You’re still with me?    Exhibit B: the parchment paper, doilie  and measurement drawer.

Exhibit C: Commonly used baking dishes stored right under the ovens.  Cookie sheets live on the bakers rack stored in the garage and less-used pans and tins are stored in the cabinet above the ovens.  In our last house I had baking pans stored all over the house like some sort of culinary squirrel.  Now not only are they front and center but also much easier to access.

Every day dishes are stored in two large drawers in the peninsula which we use for casual dining.  Plates in one drawer.  Bowls in another.  These drawers are just to the right of the dishwasher making emptying a breeze.  I would know.

Okay, one more.  The knife drawer.  Just looking at the knife drawer makes me calm.

As we all know, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and so far Via Corona’s has been a delight.  But, what wouldn’t be when you have a sunrise view like this?

Want more house renovating shenanigans?  Go here: Via Corona

Kitchen Sources

Cooktop: Thermador 36" Masterpiece Series Gas Cooktop

Hood: Broad Elite EW58 Wall Mount Chimney Hood

Fridge: Frigidaire Professional French Door Counter-Depth Refrigerator

Dishwasher: KitchenAid

Ovens: Whirlpool 30" Double Electric Oven

Sink: Kraus KHU100-32 Stainless Steel 32" Single Basin

Faucet: Kraus KPF-1602 Chrome Commercial Style Pre-Rinse Kitchen Faucet with Pot Filler

Countertops:  Bianco Venato Extra in MaxFine

Drawer and cabinet pulls and knobs: Lewis Dolan Bar Series

Stools: West Elm

Momma said

First things first. I realize it has been forever since we’ve posted anything about Via Corona on the blog.  The thing is, I’m having a hard time photographing all of the “afters” in a way that does justice to what she actually looks like.  Exhibit A above is clear proof of that; “hey–check out the back of my shadowy couch.”  It’s one thing to put my dubious photographic skills to work taking hazy, murky shots of “end of life” carpet and uber-low ceilings.  When it come to the ugly, bad shots are what you want.  However, photographic incompetence doesn’t work all that well on the other end of the spectrum.  I have big plans to rent a wide-angle lens but I’m not sure even that will help.  Luckily my plan has a back-up plan: we’re going to start to roll-out more reveal posts–maybe one-or-two a month with the best photos we take and then we’ll replace the photos with better ones over time (here is where my plan fall apart as I’m not really sure where the “better” photos will come from but let’s just go with it).

In that spirit, up next week: Champagne Room Reveal.  I’ll let you guess which room this is.

In the meantime, let’s make some not quite cookies, not quite biscotti.

My parents came to visit about a month ago.  In addition to immediately putting TD and I to work in the front yard (yes, I know, it’s our yard but when your 70+ year-old mother tells you to pull weeds, you pull weeds), my mom kept telling me I needed to make these not-quite biscotti, not-quite cookie creations from Dorie Greenspan’s new book.

We didn’t have time to make the treats while they were here (it’s hard to mix batter and pull rocks out of the front planter boxes at the same time).  However, I did get to work on them the first free moment I had.

These treats are called mandelbrots.  As Dorie explains in the introduction to the recipe, these oddly named near-biscotti came to her from a client at her former bake shop.  The word mandelbot translates to “almond bread” and it is thought to have been developed in the Ashkenazi Jewish community in the Piedmont area of Italy.  This particular recipe however contains no almonds.  For the record, the recipe title is ‘Chocolate chip not-quite mandelbrot’.  So, now we know what the “not-quite” part means.

While the ingredients are simple, a generous dusting of cinnamon makes them special without or without a strong cup of coffee or a nice glass of light red wine.

Now,  back to the front yard.  Here is what it looked like when my parents arrived.

This is what it looked like when they left.

I know, you are astonished about how NOT different it looks.  To be fair, the front yard did look like this for a couple of months.  So.

TD and I have since removed ALL of the Arizona rock, turned the soil and installed many cubic feet of soil amendment.  This weekend we’ll mulch and maybe by the end of May we’ll work up the courage to actually plant something.

Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup flavorless oil, such as canola (I used grapeseed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add the oil and vanilla and continue to whisk until you have a smooth, glossy mixture that’s slightly thickened. Switch to a sturdy rubber spatula, add half of the flour mixture, and stir until the flour disappears into the mixture. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir — you’ll need to put a bit of muscle into this — until it’s almost incorporated. Add the chocolate and continue mixing until you’ve got a thick, sticky dough.
  4. Starting close to one long side of one of the baking sheets, drop, spread, and cajole 1/3 of the dough into a log about 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. (Get the width, and whatever the length is will be fine.) Make a second log in the center of the baking sheet, and a third one close to the other long side of the sheet (note–I failed at this and had to use two cookie sheets). It’s not a neat job and your logs won’t be pretty, but it won’t matter.
  5. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle some over the logs, saving the rest for the second bake. (You’ll have more than you need, so be generous.)
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet from front to back and bake until the logs are golden brown on top and deeply golden brown on bottom, 15 to 20 minutes more. They’ll crack a little, and that’s okay. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack.
  7. When the cookies are cool enough to handle but still warm, transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch wide slices. Transfer the slices cut-side down onto the second baking sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with more cinnamon-sugar and bake for 10 minutes more. Place the baking sheet on a rack and let the cookies cool completely.

What to do with the rest of that jar of tahini

So, you made my tahini blondies but you’ve got some tahini left and don’t really feel like making hummus.  What should you do?

Four words: Cinnamon apple tahini muffins!

These were super easy to whip up while Gracie and TD read the Sunday paper.

While these are a nod to a lunch box favorite, apples and peanut butter, the spice mixture makes them a little more exotic.  The tops get crunchy while the apples help to keep the insides moist.

Cinnamon Apple Tahini Muffins

taken directly from Food 52 (where it seems all my recipes have come from this year).

makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C tahini
  • 1/3 C butter, melted
  • 1/2 C milk
  • egg
  • 1 C diced, peeled apple (about 2 medium apples)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, or grease each tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and brown sugar.
  3. Whisk together the tahini, butter, egg, and milk. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Stir in the chopped apples.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups.
  6. Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on the top and just set. The muffins should still look slightly underbaked.

The perfect is the enemy of the good

TD here.

As you may recall from previous episodes, we spent a good amount of time, effort and shoe leather traipsing around the greater Torrance area getting approval for, among other things, a new, expanded deck for Via Corona.  Sadly, due to a lack of funds in our greater wallet area, the expanded deck was relegated to phase II.  Or III.

And so, against my nonexistent better judgment, I set about beautifying the existing deck.   The game plan going in was: “we’re not trying to win the championship, just make the loss look respectable.”  As you’ll soon see, for a number of reasons, even this was a fool’s errand.

The deck itself is kind of like Charlie Sheen. It’s 50ish, but looks much older.  Impossible to dry out.  In desperate need of lasting rehab.  Filled with cocaine and strippers.  Ok, the last one is exclusively about Charlie Sheen, but you get the picture.  If not, here’s a picture (or two).

Shannon had a 10-day business trip to the Land of China (where people hardly got nothing at all) and so I promised a new, improved, respectable deck upon her return.

I only missed it by 10 days . . . and I would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling kids (and the Internet, and the weather, and my own ineptitude, and . . .)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go back .

Planning: Alternative Facts

Before we get started, a little note on the ABC’s of me.  For some reason my father and brother are what I would call handy people.  I am not.  Not even close.  And yet I am a perfectionist when it comes to these projects.  That is to say, I notice the flaws, rather I fixate on them  . . . and they haunt me  . . . forever.  For this reason, and the aforementioned appalling lack of handy-ness (handitude?), I normally eschew anything approaching home repair and improvement.  I once paid a man to install a toilet paper holder in our old house.  A poor man’s Bob Vila I am not.  A homeless man’s Bob Vila is more apt. [SF note: what he’s left out of this story is that he attempted to install the TP holder on his own, couldn’t, and then spent the next weekend obsessing over it while the hole in the bathroom wall grew.  Finally I convinced (hen-pecked) him into calling in a professional who not only had to install the holder but also patch and paint the wall].

Prior to owning Via Corona, I had rehabbed exactly zero decks and so I took to the Interwebs for instructions.  Surely there had to be a foolproof way to get a sparkling deck.  Right?  Well, no, there’s not (and don’t call me Shirley).

The shallow web is good for some stuff, like bitching about movies, or bitching about sports, or bitching about politics, but finding facts?  Not so much.  The problem is that every answer is there.  Should I buy a commercial deck stripper or use a home made concoction including oxygenated bleach?  What about a pressure washer?  Should I use two coats of sealer or one? The definitive answers are, of course, yes, definitely  . . . or absolutely not . . . or concentrate and ask again.   Whatever you want the answer to be, you can find some mustachioed dude in coveralls offering a video sermon confirming your preordained version of the truth.   Not to be sexist, but I found no women who had an opinion.  Guessing they were all in China.

If there was any consensus of opinion it seemed to be that the project would be cheap, easy and unless you were a complete simpleton, complete in 2-3 days.  In hindsight, this is the deck rehab equivalent of “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” or “we’ll make Mexico pay for it” if you prefer.  Just like everything else about our dear Via Corona, it cost more, took more effort and dragged on forever.

Cleaning: Let’s Get Funky

Armed with my own set of “alternative facts” I set about cleaning the deck.  I decided to go with a belt and suspenders approach.  I started with the home made concoction with the commercial solution warming up in the bullpen.

In all of the videos I’d watched, deck cleaning appeared to be child’s play.  Simply squirt some oygenated bleach with dishwashing liquid mixed in and watch as years of dirt and grime magically bubble to the surface, requiring no more scrubbing than you’d use on the sensitive parts of an archeological dig or in washing a toddler’s hair (mind you, these are two additional things I’ve never done).

Maybe your deck comes clean with a gentle fairy dusting, but Via Corona comes equipped with mold, mildew and the the funk of 40,000 years.  It took a bit more elbow grease.  After two rounds of home made cleaner and scrubbing like I was trying to get Karen Silkwood clean, I called in the commercial product.  Here’s the result.

Halftime:  Come On Up For The Railing

While the deck dried, I moved to the rusty railing.  If the entire project took 400 hours, the railing took 401 of them.  Through the hours of wire brushing, sanding, taping and priming I asked why I started this in the first place.  I also listened to Spotify.  I have exactly zero railing tips or tricks; however, I would recommend the most recent efforts of the following musical artists (in this order):  Michael Kiwanuka, Bruno Mars, Rag and Bone Man and Lake Street Dive.

Repair: She Fills Gaps

When Paulie asked Rocky what he saw in his sister, Adrian he said, “I don’t know, she fills gaps.  I’ve got gaps.  She’s got gaps.  She fills gaps.”  Leaving aside the Adrian Balboa had to have been the worst sports movie wife in history (“You can’t win!” she says at one point.), I decided to fill some gaps in the deck.  In retrospect, I probably could have (and should have) left this alone, but welcome to the thing I will now fixate on forever.

This would probably be a good time to mention that I filled the holes with putty because the deck was constructed with a combination of pressure treated lumber and the original planks from the Mayflower.  Not for nothin’ but the makers of Viagra have never seen wood this soft, amirite?

Railing 2: Electric Boogaloo

I should mention here that the railing primer was oil-based and the paint was not.  I was told this wouldn’t be an issue by an employee with two (count ’em, two) neck tattoos.  Nothing says, “yeah, lifetime minimum wage is fine for me” like two neck tattoos and yet I was only too happy to buy whatever she was selling.  Essentially the staff at The Home Depot are human versions of the internet.  Walk in with a theory.  Walk out with a fact.

If Lie #1 was “requires no scrubbing”, Lie #2 was “covers in 1 coat!”  Call me a wild-eyed optimist, but I truly, madly, deeply wanted to believe the paint would cover in 1 coat.  About .0045 seconds after the paint hit the railing it was apparent it covered like a white defensive back.  No doubt I was in for a second coat.  And maybe a third.

Railing 3:  “Ahhh, Flake!”

Though she was staying at the same hotel in Beijing as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it was eventually apparent that Shannon would return home just as the second coat of paint was drying.  That was until The Flaking.  I woke up on a bright Sunday morning to find that the black paint was flaking off in spots like it had some kind of deck leprosy.   If you’re a fan of the F-Bomb, I dare say you would have been impressed by some of the new and creative uses for the word I came up with during yet another round of stiff bristle brushing & sanding.

Sealing:  A Long Run For A Short Slide

I sealed the entire deck in 90 minutes.  Probably the first time its ever been sealed.  It looked better.  Actually good-ish.  The wood putty looked pretty stupid though.

As Shannon’s plane touched down at LAX there was work to be done on the infernal deck, but it would have to wait.  My handy brother rightly suggested that I wait a bit to see if more of the railing would flake off (it didn’t).  Besides, my spidey sense told me it would be a good idea to pick my wife up from the airport if I didn’t want to end of sleeping on the freshly sealed deck.

Completely unrelated, but we were rear-ended by a giant truck on the way home from the airport.  It had a giant roll bar on the front which was painted flat black (I notice these things now) which is how I got two holes in my bumper.  Everyone is fine, but the car has about $2,500 worth of damage.  So I’ve got that going for me  . . . which is nice.

Conclusion:  Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

We’re closing in on 1,500 words here, so let’s put this cat in a bag . . .

Over the next week I re-filled all the holes in the deck with a different kind of putty and painted them brown so they would be less noticeable.  I repainted the railing and convinced myself and everyone around me that the flaking was weather-related.  The the railing maybe needs a third coat, but she ain’t getting it from me.  In one last fit of pique I resealed the already sealed deck with an opaque stain that looks absolutely the same as its semi-transparent predecessor in my view (I had hoped it would hide the patches).

In the end, our creaky deck took 43 hours and about $200 to get an LA face for its Oakland booty.  In the hands of a capable person (or just a person who values his/her free time) it might’ve taken half that time.  Then again, that person would’ve charged me more than $200 beans to slap lipstick on this pig.

On Saturday I spilled a few drops of beer on the deck and it beaded on the surface.  I’m calling that a win.

And a christening.

She may not hold up during a Bruno Mars dance party but she’ll keep until we scrape together the funds to tear her down and build something nice.  That’ll do, pig.  That’ll do.

Furniture Sources:

Lounge chairs and love seat: Frontgate

Ottomans/ coffee tables: Target

Dining Table: World Market

Dining Chairs: Target

Cleaning & Resealing Sources:

Thompson's WaterSeal Wood Deck Cleaner & Brightener

Rust-Oleum (primer & paint)

Thompson's WaterSeal Waterproofing Stain

Spotify

The F-Bomb