Anthony Manuel Ramos
It has been a week – officially – that we’ve moved into our new home. Last week, we had a whirlwind of activity as final finishes were put into place and our screened porch was built in five days flat.
I’ll admit, there was much stress and anxiety as we approached the finish line. With guests scheduled to arrive on Friday to stay throughout the weekend, we JUST needed to get this house done. We broke ground on July 20, 2020 and here we are 11 months later and I’m sitting at my new kitchen island writing this blog post.
And just two hours before our guests from the Hamptons arrived, the dust literally settled and we had a fully enclosed porch and we scrambled to be ready to have dinner prepped, and cocktails ready.
The day started at a frenetic pace, the punch list included a dentist appointment, a Home Depot run, and a full-on grocery store marathon. Our local Meijer was more crowded than I’ve ever seen or experienced it. With my freshly sanitized cart I raced around the 180,000 sq. ft. store to acquire everything on my list. Meijer – my favorite place to shop for produce and fresh fruit – is just 35 miles away but a million miles away from the green grocery I used to visit in my former Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene. Yes, I miss and don’t miss – I know it is confusing to me too – the daily run after work to the produce market to fulfill my menu du jour to make dinner. On any given weeknight, Marc and I would gather our reusable bags and hit the butchershop & specialty store – Greene Grape Provisions. We would chat up the lead butcher, Lena, and she would take care of us and always share what was new and special.
If I needed, ginger, lemongrass, San Marino crushed tomatoes, cooking wine, nuts, and/or spices…our green grocer, Fresh Garden Market, and the friendly faces behind the counter knew what I was cooking. I once asked for Gochujang and I was directed to the Korean chili sauce and confirmed that I must be making Bo Ssam. That was my New York experience and it confirmed to me that cooking, preparing, and enjoying food was a universal language and experience in that community.
Here in Michigan, some ingredients are hard to find without traveling far and wide. And, I’ve had to learn to plan dinners and ideas of what I want to cook much farther in advance. It just requires me to be better prepared and to think days ahead. It’s all a good learning experience and I’m getting used to a new routine of buying ‘fresh for five’ days at a time. Organic spinach, heirloom carrots, baby bok choy, asparagus and fresh lettuces are always on the ‘buy list’ and I supplement as the season dictates. Soon, farmer’s markets will be open and I will buy ‘fresh picked’ produce and I'll be cooking according to the farmer’s latest crop.
My new kitchen is testing me in new ways too. New appliances have their own set of protocols and learning curves. I stocked my new refrigerator to the coolest of rafters and my shopping spree was fully accommodated by the new KitchenAid 48” unit. My range top – well, it is a beast! When I turn those 22,000 BTU burners on – there is no joking around. This BlueStar range top is in it to WIN it. No longer do I wait to heat pans to the right temperature – and then heat the oil, then add the protein. This range top cracks a whip and I need to be ready immediately. The BlueStar range outperforms any cooking range I’ve ever worked on. It is screaming hot and ready to cook! It is a marvel with lots of power and I need to step up my game to get in line with its performance.
This past weekend, cooking was at the forefront of our entertaining. Friday night, I made a richly satisfying madras chicken curry with basmati rice perfumed with clove, galangal, star anise and cinnamon. I used my cast iron Dutch oven to do most of the heavy lifting. Along with our first guests a wonderful housewarming gift arrived courtesy of them – a state of the art Zojirushi bread maker. Red wine had been uncorked to breathe and chilled cocktails were standing by – the rest of the weekend was a blend of sunset pontoon rides, quiet mornings with brunch on the porch, and a late night dinner of skirt steak, grilled corn on the cob and a Aji Verde that rocked our socks off with its spicy and herbaceous punch of flavor.
Our first week in our new home and we are nesting just like a pair of birds, ensuring our soon-to-arrive brood of more family members will be comfortable, sated, and well-fed. We are thrilled to wake up and gaze out the windows unto Windover Lake as the sun rises. The lake always looks so fresh and different each day. Just like us, it welcomes the day in its own way with a glimmer of hope for the new day and ripple of dappled sunlight.
A Robin's nest found on our lawn - it looks expertly built!