Saturday, September 30, 2017

Vetrazzo Countertop Installed

The Vetrazzo counter top was recently installed on the wet bar counter top downstairs on our remodel project.

We have been looking at Vetrazzo for a number of years and have hoped for a chance to find a use for it. Once this part of the redesign began to form in our designer's plans, we immediately jumped on the opportunity to use Vetrazzo.

You may or may not have heard of Vetrazzo, but what attracted us was the use of recycled glass and the sustainability of the product. I will let Wikipedia take it from here:
"Vetrazzo recycled glass countertops were invented in Berkeley in 1996. A materials scientist, Don McPherson, pursuing his PhD combined recycled glass and a cement binder to create a sustainable, polished countertop. The company at that time was known as Counter Productions. The production batches were small and handmade, demanding a more streamlined and repeatable process. 
In 2006, a former customer and designer named Olivia Teter was looking for a new project and found the company in financial straits. She, together with James Sheppard and Jeff Gustafson, partnered to raise capital, buy the product formula and assets behind the Vetrazzo countertops, and co-found what is now Vetrazzo LLC. 
The Vetrazzo manufacturing facility was located in Richmond, California in a recycled Ford assembly plant. The plant is on the National Register of Historic Places and hosts the Rosie the Riveter Museum. It utilizes daylight, controls air pollution with a special negative-pressure dust booth, recycles water and hosts a 1 megawatt solar system manufactured by building tenant Sunpower Corporation. 
In June 2010 Polycor acquired Vetrazzo and move the plant back Georgia where it now shares a manufacturing space with the Georgia Marble company."
We were made aware of Vetrazzo soon after it was invented through an article in Sunset Magazine. We were updating a kitchen in our first condo at the time and seriously considered using Vetrazzo on the kitchen counter top. We ended up going with something else but we have always been looking for the opportunity to use it. We ended up going with the Floating Blue color scheme. It's made of recycled glass, concrete, and composite. We are quite happy with the final product.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Creamy Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Olives

During the recent Blue Apron/Hello Fresh epic week, we made a Blue Apron dish that had a very unique and satisfying side salad that caught our attention. It was only a side salad on this particular menu but we thought the salad really upstaged the main dish. The salad was interesting, unique, and a great mix of diverse ingredients. We saved the basic recipe and have made it a few times (both as a side and a dinner salad) since the first time. Personally, I'm still tweaking the recipe to get the right proportions but the basics are there.

One of the ingredients is roasted pistachios. I enjoy roasting my own pistachios. You can buy raw pistachios at higher end supermarkets. Roasting at home means you can control the amount of salt and you know they are freshly roasted. They keep in an airtight container for a good long time. Here are directions for roasting at home.

This salad is served already dressed. Which is a bit of a different approach to a typical weeknight side salad where each person grabs a bottle or carafe and dresses their own. But when serving a dressed salad, I've been learning the importance of getting your hands into the mix. Don't rely on salad tongs. When you use your hands, you are able to coat each leaf with dressing and the result is a more evenly distributed salad that has a consistent taste throughout.

Creamy Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Olives

Serves 2
  • Arugula - 2 handfuls
  • Creme Fraiche - 2 tablespoons
  • Castelvetrano olives - 10-12 olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Roasted pistachios - 1/4 cup, roughly chopped
  • White wine vinegar - 1-2 tbsp.
  • Olive oil - to taste and texture
  • Salt and pepper
  • Make the dressing in a bowl by combining the creme fraiche and the vinegar with a fork until mixed. 
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to mix and set aside.
  • With the flat side of a knife, smash the olives and remove the pit. Roughly chop. 
  • Roughly chop the pistachios
  • In a large bowl, combine the arugula, pistachios, and olives and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add enough dressing to coat the salad mixing by hand
  • Let sit for a few minutes before plating the side dish
The pistachios and the olives tend to fall to the bottom, so when mixing by hand be sure to scrape the bottom and pick up the heavier ingredients and get them into the mix.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cabinets and Wine Fridge

Cabinetry was delivered last week and my contractor got to work right on the northern wall so that all of the cabinetry around the wine fridge would be completed just prior to delivery. For our cabinets, we went with bamboo just like we did for the kitchen. This time, our designer went with a different company from the one we used for the kitchen. Nonetheless, the end result is a very similar look and feel.

The house had a floor to ceiling closet against the eastern wall which was removed during demolition. The plans called for a Murphy wall to be built. A soffit was built out beyond where the old closet doors were. The design called for a portion of the wall to be on a hinge and behind the cabinetry would be a walk-in storage area. The middle portion of the cabinetry will be where we place our TV on top and an electric fireplace below. The idea being that if you just walked into the room you couldn't tell that there something behind the wall. But then the middle portion can swing out. A motion detector turns on the lights as you enter the storage area. The plan is to put shelving on the real wall so that storage boxes can be placed on them.

Another element that we wanted in the redesigned downstairs room was a proper wine fridge. Before, we had an inexpensive wood wine rack held 44 bottles. We quickly outgrew that and it became surrounded with wine boxes. We are club members at three different wineries so we receive regular shipments to our house. Couple that with trips to Sonoma County and the close-by Livermore (and Santa Cruz) wine region, and the boxes of wine were getting higher and higher.

When it came time to clear out the room, I emptied the wine rack into boxes and then temporarily stored the wine in one of the bedrooms. The total was ten cases of wine.

So this week our new wine storage fridge was delivered and set up. It was actually one of the first purchases we made last summer. It was almost literally one year to the day from when we put our down payment to when we paid it off and arranged for delivery. On the recommendation of some friends, we purchased a fridge by the French company Transtherm. Give the amount of wine we wanted to store--and to allow some room for growth--we selected the Prestige Ermitage. Depending on the shelving configuration one can put 182 to 234 bottles of wine in it. At this point, we will go with the 14 individual, pull-out shelves (182 bottles) rather than the maximum configuration of 234 bottles.