Wood: An Environmentally-Friendly Choice

Wood: An Environmentally-Friendly Choice

While we always have wood on our minds here at Butcher Block Co., this week we are honoring North American Hardwood trees, as we celebrate both Earth Day and Arbor Day. Because our business revolves around wood, it is important for us to be conscious of the environmental impact this industry has, and to be careful that the manufacturers we support are good stewards of the Earth.

Did you know that most U.S. Hardwood forests are found in the eastern half of the United States? U.S. Hardwood inventory has increased each of the past five decades, and annual new hardwood tree growth exceeds harvest by a margin of two to one! hardwood map 300

We at ButcherBlockCo are proud to sell butcher block products from John Boos, a recognized leader for their responsible “green” manufacturing processes.

John Boos only buys wood from suppliers who are members of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) that focuses on replenishing forests through reforestation. Individual trees are selected for harvest, encouraging forests to renew and regenerate themselves naturally. And none of the wood used in the manufacturing of butcher block products goes to waste. The short leftover pieces of wood are used to make end-grain boards, and pieces not long enough to repurpose are ground into sawdust that they burn to generate steam for their kilns used to dry the wood. The extra sawdust is also recycled as livestock bedding for local farms.

Twitter Manufacturers Environmentally friendly

Not only are butcher blocks sturdy and beautiful, they’re made of wood…a natural material that’s renewable, sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable!

  • Durable – Wood furniture lasts for years and years.
  • Renewable – You can cut them down and replant ones in their place.
  • Sustainable – More are planted than are harvested.
  • Recyclable – You can reuse it or repurpose it pretty easily.
  • Biodegradable – Wood is an organic material that will break down naturally.

John Boos has active recycling programs in place with 95% of all wood scrap and sawdust being recycled.

While it may at first seem counterintuitive to consider wood an environmentally-friendly choice, when grown and harvested responsibly, it actually makes a positive impact. We’ve only got one Earth, and we’re set on doing our part to keep its resources abundant. We hope you feel confident choosing butcher block for your home!

 

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast is the greatest creation of humanity.  Because I am Breakfast a grownup (ha!), I can have breakfast whenever I want. I can also take a road trip to visit my amazing friend, Claire Hoenke, who just so happens to be the Goddess of All Things Breakfast. The first time I visited Claire, she made the world’s best biscuits and gravy, and I may have proposed marriage. The last time I stayed at Claire’s, I had driven up as a surprise for her birthday (planned by her husband, who is obviously the luckiest man alive), so she didn’t have any special ingredients stocked away to spoil me with.  Somehow Claire managed to whip up an absolutely delightful breakfast feast without waking me up.  I finally stirred when the scent of bacon, potatoes, sautéed veggies, and perfectly fried eggs became so overpowering my brain decided that maybe I could be a morning person. What I am trying to convey to you is that Claire is the best hostess and also the best at breakfast, so you should listen to everything she says. I am so excited that she is sharing some of her delightful self with us today. I think I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll pass the mic to Claire now.

I love cooking for my friends. Welcoming people to my table gives me a sense of fulfillment like nothing else does.

While I adore hosting dinner parties, anyone who has ever spent the night at my house knows that breakfast is where I really shine.

And why not? What could be better than waking up to the smell of fresh bread and a hot griddle? Starting my morning with a hearty meal is the best way to guarantee a good day. For me, nothing beats bacon and eggs with buttermilk biscuits, or waffles with pools of butter and syrup… until spring rolls around. When the ground starts to warm and the first plants of the growing season start popping up, my appetite shifts and I crave something different.

Breakfast Around this time of the year I find myself flashing back to spring in my childhood home, huddled with my friends in my parents’ vegetable garden. As kids, my sisters and I spent all spring and summer in the back yard, and when we got hungry, we would head for the garden. I can remember the feel of the cold dirt under my bare feet, the smell of the mint, and the sweet crunch of the sugar snap peas between my teeth. There is nothing like fresh veggies right off the stem. Alas, as an adult who seems to have inherited none of her parents’ magical green thumbs, the best I can do is head to the farmers’ market with a basket on my arm.

Waking up the morning after a particularly successful trip to the market, the piles of fresh green things always call to me from my fridge. “Cook me! I’m healthy and tasty and sweet! I’m some kind of crazy gift from the earth!” and I am not one to ignore the food voices in my head. This recipe is perfect because it can be made to order. Whatever fresh produce is at the local market this week is what belongs in this dish, and it’s that kind of simplicity that appeals to the barefoot kid in me. This time, I am using:

  • Half a bunch of asparagus, cut Breakfast on a diagonal into 1” pieces
  • White and pale green parts of 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A small fistful of watercress
  • ¼ cup of basil, torn into ½” bits
  • ¼ cup mint, torn into ½” bits

Depending on where you call home, you might be lucky enough to find fresh fava beans, ramps, or spring onions at your market, and those would be perfect in this dish. Spring peas are also well worth the work of shelling, and fresh escarole would take this dish to a whole new level.

In addition to your produce, you will need:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 or 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • 4 eggs
  • Good, crusty bread

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn the heat down to medium-low and toss in the asparagus and leeks. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until the asparagus just starts to get tender. Add the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add the mint and basil and cook until the asparagus is very tender. Add the watercress and toss until it’s just slightly wilted. Season with some kosher salt and divide the greens into four bowls. Breakfast

Meanwhile, bring about two inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl, and then gently slide the egg into the water. Once the white is opaque, repeat the process with the next egg, and so on. Poach the eggs for about 3 minutes each until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

Breakfast

Using a slotted spoon, transfer each egg as it finishes onto a bowl of greens. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and some grated or crumbled cheese. Serve with slices of bread and soak in the goodness!

Breakfast

Wait; it gets better…

Breakfast Are you still breathing? Want to meet me at Claire’s for breakfast? If you’re not up for the trip, print off the recipe and give it a go at home using goodies from your own garden or local market!

Printer friendly recipe:  Poached Eggs with Spring Veggies

Feeding Friendships – Festivals and Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Feeding Friendships – Festivals and Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Spring is the perfect time to feed your friendships; the weather is starting to cooperate and towns are waking up from the long, cold winter! Now that it is starting to warm up, festival season is kicking into gear, bringing with it a sense of community and friendship to cities and towns across the country. This week, Sarah Weber is back to share memories of her favorite town festival along with a recipe using a local commodity that is sure to score you some friendship points!

I grew up in Chardon, a small town 35 miles east of Cleveland. I don’t know if it’s a huge thing in places other than the Midwest, but spring is festival season around these parts. Smaller than a county fair, with the same terrifyingly-quickly-assembled rides and street food vendors, these festivals usually celebrate a main commodity of the community with several tents, parades, exhibits, and contests to show off that commodity’s products. Not only do these festivals foster a sense of community, they are a great place to feed friendships.

Chardon is host to the oldest maple festival in the country, and having attended since I was a small child living six houses down from the town square, I can tell you it’s big fun. It’s counted as a point of pride that so many maple trees thrive in the community, and every March brings “Tappin’ Sunday,” a ceremonial tapping of a sugar maple on the square with a golden tap. Ubiquitous sap buckets hang from trees all over for the better part of a month, and a small building on the square known as the Sugar Shack starts throwing large clouds of white steam on Sundays as they prepare to serve up super unique maple stirs.

Friendship

This is maple syrup heated to a magic temperature (about 250°), then poured into a little cardboard bowl. You’re handed what looks like a tongue depressor and told to stir. This is where I learned patience as a child and where many friendships blossomed. You stir the thick syrup until slowly it turns into creamy maple candy, which you scrape out and eat with your stir stick as your spoon.

Needless to say, maple is one of my favorite flavors. Maple icing on eclairs, maple barbeque sauce, maple beer (yup), maple cocktails, real maple syrup on waffles. These are some of my favorite little pleasures in life when it comes to my taste buds. One of these favorite indulgences? Maple fudge. With just four ingredients, you can make a great nutty, maple treat that disappears as if by magic from whatever gathering you bring it to. And what better way to feed your friendships than to offer gifts of delicious fudge?

To prep, line a dish or pan with foil, and spray the foil with cooking spray. I used an 8×8 pan here, and thickness of your finished fudge will depend entirely on pan size. One batch comfortably fills an 8×8 pan. If you want thinner pieces, size up.

Tip number two is to use crunchy peanut butter if you want nuts in your finished fudge. It’s actually a pretty genius move (if I do say so myself) because the peanuts are already cut to a small size, and aren’t dense enough to sink to the bottom of your batter/fudge/icing/whatever you’re peanut buttering. One of my favorite shortcuts.

Ingredients

Friendship

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8-1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine sugar and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally until the mixture starts to boil. I used a thin rubber spatula so the sugar mixture wouldn’t stick when it came time for clean-up.

Once you’re boiling, stir constantly for 3 minutes.

Friendship Remove your saucepan from the heat, turn off your burner, and add your peanut butter and maple syrup. Stir until the peanut butter is fully incorporated and you have a uniformly-colored creamy mixture. I didn’t measure my maple syrup — eyeballing it, I probably added close to ¼ cup in two good-sized pours straight from the bottle.

Friendship

Pour your fudge into your lined pan and pop it in the fridge. You can cut it into squares or slices in approximately 2 hours. I like squares about an inch all around as a bite-sized treat. Wrap individual pieces in wax paper and add to friendship baskets or tins. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Friendship

Is your area also a festival town? Have you had friendships grow from these fun community gatherings? Have you ever had a maple stir? If you’re in the Northeast Ohio area April 23-26, make your way to Chardon and I might see you there!

Printer friendly recipe: Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Butcher Block Finish: Natural Oil vs Varnique

Butcher Block Finish: Natural Oil vs Varnique

When ordering butcher block countertops you have the option to choose a Natural Oil Finish or a Varnique Semi-Gloss Finish. The most commonly asked question we get from consumers is “What is the difference between a natural oil and a Varnique finish?” This is a great question and an easy one to answer. All you have to do is think about how you intend to use your butcher block and how much maintenance you are willing to sign up for.

NATURAL OIL FINISH

Most butcher blocks come pre-treated with a food-safe, natural oil finish that moisturizes and protects the wood and makes it safe for food preparation, including cutting. All cutting boards and chopping blocks come with a natural oil finish. This finish must be renewed through the reapplication of butcher block oil or board cream about once a month. A stained or discolored natural-oil board can be restored fairly easily by simply sanding the stained area lightly then re-oiling the board.

A natural oil finish does require monthly maintenance.

  • Oil it every 3 to 4 weeks depending upon usage. When it looks dry or lighter in color it is time to oil.
  • Boos Block ® Mystery Oil and the Boos Block ® Board Cream are recommended to be used together.
  • First apply Mystery Oil. The oil and minerals penetrate through the wood surface to increase its longevity. Let dry.
  • Then wipe on Block Cream to seal the top coating of the wood to provide a thick surface protection.
  • Tip – use a plastic grocery bag instead of a cloth to spread the Mystery Oil over a large butcher block surface. This avoids oil absorbing into a cloth or getting on your hands.

VARNIQUE SEMI-GLOSS FINISH

Varnique is a branded, varnish-like product developed by John Boos & Co. Although Varnique provides a fine-furniture look and is perfect for general kitchen chores, it is not to be cut upon, since nicks in this hard-shell coating could leave unprotected the wood beneath. Varnique provides a virtually maintenance-free semi-gloss finish that seals and protects wood. It is the finish of choice among bakers in particular, since it provides a hard, smooth, non-stick surface on which to roll dough. Although not impermeable, a surface finished with Varnique is more resistant to spotting and staining.

Varnique finish is virtually maintenance-free. It is easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water, followed by a towel dry.

Which butcher block finish is best for you?  If you want to cut on your butcher block, you must choose a natural oil finish.

Oil vs Varnique white

Oil vs Varnique.xlsx

Space Saving with Clever Kitchen Carts

Space Saving with Clever Kitchen Carts

Now that it’s spring and you are hopefully starting to defrost, it’s time to throw open the windows, air the place out, and get a fresh start! Getting the kitchen into tip-top shape is a great way to kick off the season.

We’ve got plenty of space saving innovation packed into these clever kitchen carts!

I’m going to start off with what will hopefully be the next addition to my own kitchen: a Microwave Cart! I will most likely end up with this little number form Catskill Craftsmen; it is the perfect size for my petite kitchen and will add some much-needed enclosed storage (keeping my new kittens out of my mixing bowls!) and allow me to bring the microwave down from on top of the fridge.

Space Saving

Another favorite from Catskill is the Grand Island Wine Cart with Drop Leaf. This space saving cart features a deep drawer to store your tools, a 6-bottle wine rack, a towel bar, and a drop leaf that adds 10” of extra work space when you need it. Rolling in on locking casters, this handy cart doubles as a mobile wine and cheese party!

Space Saving

If your space saving needs involve more spice bottles than wine bottles, we’ve got you covered there, too! Several options come with built-in spice racks to keep the flavor at your fingertips. With attached knife blocks, all of your tools can be right at hand.

Space Saving

The Deluxe Culinary Cart from John Boos & Co. is Space Saving the perfect space saving solution for the serious baker or cook. This cart comes with a knife holder, towel peg, tool drawer, and drop leaf. The most impressive part, though, is the attached power strip. On one handy work station, you can prep all your ingredients to throw in your stand mixer, food processor, or blender! When you’re finished being an expert chef, tuck your appliances underneath on the lower shelf and roll the whole setup out of the way!

Chris & Chris utilizes their Chop and Drop system to make food prep and cleanup a breeze! A small hole in the butcher block chopping surface allows you to slide your chopped produce or meat trimmings into a hidden stainless steel pan to keep your work area clutter free. This nifty little system is also great for collecting juices for gravy when you’re carving up your delicious roast! The Chop and Drop system is definitely a unique and incredibly useful feature, but what I really love is how much function they manage to squeeze into these carts! There are shelves, towel bars, spice racks, utensil hooks, drawers, built-in granite pastry slabs, and more. Everything you need to prep your meal from start to finish is right there in one multi-purpose cart!

Space Saving

A post about space saving would never be complete without talking about the Oasis Concepts Flip & Fold carts, tables, and desks. The Flip & Fold system is truly remarkable. In just a few seconds you can go from having a full sized workstation to rolling your compacted cart into that little 6” gap next to the fridge. These carts come fully assembled and ready to use; all you have to do is unfold and get to work! Oasis Concepts doesn’t just focus on kitchen carts, either; they manufacture a full line of affordable dining tables and desks as well. I’m thinking this Cherry Red desk would be an awesome addition to my office for when I’m working on a project with my son. I have several friends and relatives who are into gaming, and one or two of these tables would be the perfect way to make space for having friends over – just unfold and throw the laptops down and you’re ready to go (please don’t actually throw anyone’s laptop – that is a real good way to lose friends).

Space Saving I find our lineup of space saving kitchen carts pretty impressive. What do you think? Do you have any helpful hints for those of us with small kitchens? We’d love to hear them!

March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness is upon us! I don’t understand the bracketology or even the enthusiasm, but I’m certainly not going to judge you if you’re into it…mostly because I’m a nice person, but some of it has to do with wanting you to share your game snacks with me. Thankfully, Sarah Buchanan is back and willing to share some tips and recipes to make your March Madness parties successful. I’m going to sit on the sidelines now and pass this to Sarah. (Get it? I crack myself up.)

It’s the time of the year when the madness strikes – March Madness. Fully grown adults will gather around TV sets, scream at refs and at athletes barely out of high school, and feverishly track wins and losses on brackets drawn on huge pieces of paper in the conference room at work.
Before I moved to California, I lived in North Carolina, where college basketball is its own special kind of religion. UNC, NC State, and Duke are the big three, and if you’re a North Carolina native, you probably have a favorite you’re passionate about. Or you could be like me, the fourth kind of NC basketball fan, the ones who may or may not have a preference between State and Duke, but are known as the ABC Fans: Anyone But Carolina.

March Madness games provide a great excuse to get your friends together for sports and food and…more food.

If you’re the host of one of these get-togethers, below are some tips (and recipes!) to make sure your March Madness party is a slam dunk. (Sorry.)

  1. Serve several snacks and appetizers rather than trying to plan and execute a full blown dinner if you’re having more than three people over. You don’t want to be running around, checking the casserole, stirring the beans, and making the salad while the game clock is counting down and everyone else is having fun. Choose some easy to make snacks, and if you really want to have a meal, order some pizzas to go with your snacks!
  2. Make sure that you have everything you need beforehand. Check your stock of drinks, napkins, plates, ice, snacks and ingredients, and cups. You don’t want to have to run out of your own March Madness party to pick up ice in the middle of the game.
  3. Consider making it a potluck. You provide the pizzas and plates and entertainment; your guests provide the apps and drinks. This is a much less stressful way to have a party, and most of the dishes will go home with their owners at the end of the night. Win-win! Just make sure you have your guests let you know what they’re bringing so you don’t end up with 15 cheese plates. (Although, I suppose there are worse things…)
  4. Have fun! Parties are no time to stress out. If you spill a drink on the rug or end up with dip on the armchair or inadvertently give your dog a mohawk in the colors of your favorite team, it’s okay. You’re having a get-together to enjoy your friends and the madness of March, so enjoy yourself, take pictures, and scream at the TV. Have a ball. (Again…sorry.)

Here are a couple of easy recipe ideas for your March Madness party. (Easy is important when you’re whipping up treats for several people!) Feel free to dye the dip the appropriate team color.

Fiesta Ranch Dip

  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch Dip (you can use less for a less intense flavor)
  • 1 10-oz. can original Rotel, drained
  • 16-24 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips and/or crunchy veggies like carrot or celery sticks

In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, Rotel, and ranch packet (start with half and taste before adding more). Stir in cheese. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

March Madness

Nutella Grape Bites

  • One bunch of green grapes (use roughly 50)
  • One container Nutella
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, or walnuts, or peanuts, or…)

Wash grapes and dry thoroughly. Dip one end of each grape in the Nutella, then gently roll the grape in the pecans. Spear each grape with a toothpick and serve.

March Madness

What’s your go-to dish for pleasing the crowd on game day?

Printer friendly recipes: March Madness Appetizers

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

This St. Patrick’s Day, stay in and treat yourself to some ooey-gooey goodness with these Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls. Sarah W. sure knows how to make my mouth water; I knew I was in trouble as soon as I opened the pictures. There’s just something about boozy food that really gets me going…maybe it’s the booze? Anyway, Sarah Weber is my reigning queen of deliciously boozed savory treats, and she does not disappoint with these super easy, intriguingly cheesy pull-apart rolls. Care to join me for St. Patrick’s Day? Let’s have Sarah come, too. Or, at the very least, let’s have her teach us how to make these amazing rolls at home. Sarah, show us your cheesy ways!

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Which, unless you’re very dedicated to partying down on this holiday and are willing to take a vacation day, means probably no big wild parties (or green beer). But it doesn’t have to be a disappointment or no fun.

I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so going out on St. Patrick’s Day to see the parades and drink cheap green beer while being pinched by strangers if I’m not wearing green has never much appealed to me. But I do have a small group of friends from college who get together on the weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day every year for what we call “Green Weekend.” We watch terrible movies, play games, catch up, and relax, which is MY idea of a great weekend. I’m happy because I get to make a giant crockpot of corned beef and cabbage (which might be my husband’s favorite part of the weekend, too!) and I don’t have to deal with a crushing press of people.

Even if you’re not having a big shindig to celebrate the patron saint of getting drunk, you can make a fancy, satisfying, pint-sized appetizer that’s sure to be a hit. And if you ARE braving the crowds and whatever the weather decides to throw at us this year, these are a quick and easy way to start or segue your day of drinking and being merry (have two).

With a few ingredients you most likely have on-hand and about 25 minutes (including clean-up), you can have a cheesy, beery bite to get you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

St. Patrick's

 

Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

  • 3 large rolls
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can beer (room temperature)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Thyme to taste

In honor of the holiday, I’ve chosen to use Guinness and an extra sharp cheddar cheese, but if neither of those is appealing to you, pick a cheese as sharp as you can stand along with a beer as dark as you like. Guinness gives a great caramel taste to the end product here, but is distinctly its own flavor – if you don’t like it, use something else. I can think of plenty of great beer (or wine!) and cheese pairings – Swiss and a mid-dry white wine, goat cheese with a fruit-brewed beer, asiago with a nut brown ale… the options are endless!

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Cut or rip your rolls almost all the way down to the base. The idea here is to get them pretty loosely held together so that once it’s baked with some cheese and beer to soften it up, pieces will pull apart easily in your hands. I chose to use egg knots, and they worked like a charm – they’re basically already marked with perforations to tell you where to rip. I also made rips halfway along the side pieces to give my end result more poof (and more room for cheese!). You want to create as many crevices as possible, while ending up with nice big bites of bread.

Melt your butter. Once melted, add garlic powder and thyme to taste. Add a splash or two (or three) of your Guinness.

Arrange your ripped-up rolls in a dish with sides. These are going to leak a little bit by the nature of what they are, so make sure your dish isn’t too shallow. I used a 9” cake pan, which easily held 3 rolls and could have held more.

Pour half to two-thirds of your butter mixture over your rolls (get those crevices!) and put them in the oven for about 7 minutes.

St. Patrick's

While this is baking, throw your cheese in a bowl (if you have a block of cheese, now is the time to grate it). Pour the rest of your butter mixture over your cheese, and mix in more garlic powder and thyme to taste (a pinch or two of salt wouldn’t go amiss here, but be cautious – the cheese is pretty salty to begin with). Toss your cheese around with clean hands or a fork until your cheese is evenly coated.

Pull your rolls out of the oven and carefully spoon your cheese into those crevices. Load these suckers up – I had juuust enough cheese, so if you have extra, poke around for any crevices you may have missed.

Pop these in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and maybe starting to brown.

This last step is important. Let these babies cool for a few minutes in the pan before you try to plate or move them. That cheese is going to want to ooze in some unhelpful ways unless you give it a minute to set. Use a spatula to transfer to individual plates (or one big plate if you’re doing a big batch for a party).

The result? An oozy, cheesy mouthful of YUM with a deep caramel flavor and a smooth cheese that gives a satisfying melty stringy rip-away from its roll.

St. Patrick's

Pour the rest of your Guinness into a super-chilled glass, and enjoy! These little treats are a quick way to turn up the “special” on this day and can easily be enjoyed while you wait for the corned beef in your crockpot to finish cooking.

What are your St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Do you think the parades and beer specials are worth taking a day off work? What’s your quick-and-easy-sure-to-please recipe? I think everyone should have at least one!

Custom Countertops from Start to Finish

Custom Countertops from Start to Finish

Last week we talked about some of the cool custom projects we have worked on with our customers, so I thought it would be a good time to fill you in on just how to do a custom countertop project of your own.

If you are in the market for a new custom countertop for any room of the house, we have a fairly simple process to get you from design to install.

Step 1: Choose Materials

Your first step is to pick out your materials. We have a nice rundown of your options here, which explains the pros and cons of the different wood species and grain styles and what jobs each type works best for. If you’re having difficulty making a final decision, let us know and we’ll send out some samples for you.

Step 2: Send in Specs

Once you have determined your materials, we need to see your layout and size requirements. You can send a simple sketch of your countertop needs to [email protected], detailing the dimensions and any cutouts. This can (should) be very basic; I don’t need your cabinet plans or blueprints from your contractor – just a simple sketch of the countertops. Because we can’t sit down together in-person, it’s important that I can see what you are visualizing; this occasionally manifests as a cell phone picture of a doodle on a napkin that is emailed to me while I am still on the phone with the customer, and that is perfectly okay! If you are unsure of the best layout for your space, send over what you have and we can talk it through. Sometimes we need to change things around a bit to accommodate extra-large sizes or unique shapes, and I review each project to make sure we are using the method that makes the most sense for design, installation, and budget. As you can see, we work with super simple hand-drawn sketches, professional images, and everything in between.

Custom Countertop

Step 3: Review Your Quote

We will price out your custom countertop project and send you a firm price quote. This can generally be done within about 24 hours, depending on how complicated your design is. Your quote will have a breakdown of the pricing if you have multiple pieces.

Step 4: Place Your Order

After reviewing your quote and finalizing all your details, we can get your order processed and sent over to the Boos factory for manufacturing. I will need the details for any and all appliances, sinks, etc. that will be installed in your tops; you can email me the make and model number of each item.

Step 5: Confirm Specs

At this point, I create a drawing to send over to the engineering team at Boos, who will do all their fancy engineering stuff and work up an approval sketch for you to sign off on. This is the most important step in getting you the perfect custom countertops, so review the details thoroughly and have your contractor (if you are using one) verify all the specifications. If there are any issues, you just need to let me know and I will have them corrected. When everything looks perfect, sign your sketch and send it back to me. With your signed sketch on file, your order is put into the production queue at Boos and manufacturing can begin.

Custom Countertop

Step 6: Patience and Excitement

And now you just need to wait. Custom countertops average about four weeks for production, so make sure you order far enough in advance. Nobody wants a kitchen without countertops! Once your countertops arrive, inspect them thoroughly and then allow them to acclimate for at least 72 hours in the room in which they will be installed. Installation is fairly straightforward and is often done by the homeowner without the aid of a contractor. Just make sure you follow these instructions properly. If at any point in this process you have questions, just let us know! We are here to help!

Custom Countertop

Butcher Block: Unexpected Beauty for Your Whole Home

Butcher Block: Unexpected Beauty for Your Whole Home

Butcher Block is an expected material for cutting boards, island tops, and chopping blocks, but did you know it’s good for so much more? I have the extreme pleasure of working on our custom projects daily, and let me tell you, some of my favorites have started with a customer saying, “This idea is going to sound a little crazy, but…” But nothing! Let’s do it! Besides the amazing kitchen makeovers we’ve done, we also do quite a few non-conventional projects like bathrooms, garages, and even closets. One time I even got to help design a shuffle board table!

Butcher Block makes for an extremely versatile, durable, and beautiful surface for just about any room in the house!

We’ll ease our way out of the kitchen with this gorgeous handcrafted bar one of our talented customers built. He made everything by hand except the butcher block top, which is 12 feet of beautiful Maple.

Butcher Block

Kitchens are, of course, the most common projects I work on, but gaining speed in second place is the home office. You could have a beautifully warm desktop custom made to your specifications to create the perfect workspace. We can even drill the holes for cables and wires to keep your work area sleek and uncluttered. The John Boos Varnique semi-gloss finish creates the perfect surface for an office; it’s polished-looking without being glaringly shiny, holds up well to daily tasks, and cleans up like a breeze. The desktops for the office pictured below are custom Walnut Edge Grain from John Boos & Co. The shape of the top was perfectly and precisely designed to accommodate the computer station, and Boos even custom cut a piece to be used as a leg. It turned out beautifully and is still just as attractive more than two years later.

Butcher Block

We work with quite a few restaurants as well, providing work tables for the kitchen and dining tables for the guests. We have some crossover with the work tables for residential customers, but the John Boos dining tops have really gained in popularity for household use. They are beautiful, durable, and affordable, making them the perfect solution for just about anyone! While there are the traditional restaurant-style black metal bases available, most of our customers are looking to add a custom top to a preexisting base, whether it’s something they found at a flea market, or the legs from the antique dining table passed down by Grandma. These unique dining tops are available in Maple, Cherry, and Walnut.

Butcher Block

Stepping out of the living space, we find ourselves in the garage. You may be wondering what on earth a butcher block would be doing out in a garage, but this is actually quite common. We’ve done some gorgeous Walnut tops to outfit a collector’s garage, Commercial style Maple to accommodate the everyday workbench, and Industrial Maple for those who really get down to business! No matter the purpose, butcher block can add unexpected character and warmth to this often forgotten room. Here you see one customer’s (almost finished!) laundry center in their garage. The sleek Varnique finish makes for an excellent folding and sorting station!

Butcher Block

To a lesser degree, we have also outfitted bathrooms and closets. Can you imagine having a huge walk-in closet with an island for accessories right in the middle? Now picture a gleaming Cherry block atop that island…ahhh, heaven! Something like that would have never occurred to me if I hadn’t had a customer ask for just that. Add a gorgeous Roman Ogee edge, and you’ve got swank to the nth degree! One of my favorite bathroom projects was for a man who was re-figuring the room for his new wife. He had a custom Walnut top made with a curved edge (like a half moon) to expand on the vanity space so she had room for her perfumes, makeup, and hair toys without getting bogged down with “boy stuff” (his words). Because he designed and installed it himself, it was a lovely personal touch and I consider his wife a very lucky lady.

The downside to all of this design fun is that I don’t always get to see the finished product. We LOVE when our customers send photos of their projects so that we can ogle and share. There’s a lot of inspiration out there, and we want to spread it around! So, if you’re planning a butcher block project, take pictures along the way and when you’re done and send them on over to us. You may even end up featured on our blog!

Winter Warmth – Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Winter Warmth – Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup is pretty much a standard in our households throughout the winter. This winter has been brutal for many across the country, and I imagine a lot of you are getting tired of the snow and the boring soup. As a Phoenician, I am not allowed to talk about winter, but I can speak with some authority about food. Sarah W. is back with a killer Chicken Soup recipe that gets its punch from cooking the onions in whiskey. While I haven’t had the honor of trying her “Midnight Whiskey” Chicken Soup, I did use her technique to make an onion and mushroom topping for crostini the other night, and WOW. I can’t wait to make the soup! Sarah is here to commiserate with her fellow snow-bound citizens and provide some much needed warmth. Take it away, Sarah!

April may be the cruelest month, but February sure has to be a close second. New England is in a state of emergency with record snowfalls, and the Midwest is seeing historically low temperatures. Records are being shattered. It really just makes you want to stay holed up inside for days. It’s too cold to play; the roads are too dangerous to navigate.

Being a Clevelander, growing up in the heart of the Snowbelt, I understand the snow gods. Every childhood Halloween costume was loose enough to fit over a snowsuit if the occasion called. After a record snowfall in elementary school, I remember watching the National Guard trucks drive past my house, ready to help dig out the schools and city buildings. I grew up with a big black dog who loved to play in the snow – some winters you could only see the tip of her nose and tail as she cavorted in the drifts. Snow will most likely be a factor in life as early as (late) October through possibly (early) April.

The lesson from this constant threat is to keep your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator well-stocked. All autumn, I buy extra everything and throw it in my freezer like a squirrel hiding nuts for the spring. The goal is to be ahead of the emergency announcements so that you’re not at the grocery store at 6pm on a Friday trying to stock up on necessities. No one wants to wait in line for an hour at the grocery store for canned soup, frozen dinners, and ramen. Nor should those foods be your sole emergency rations. By keeping a few basics on-hand, you can make something really tasty, bust out the candles when the power goes out, and build a pillow fort to occupy yourself when disaster strikes. That sounds more like a fun date night than an emergency, no?

The best food in this kind of weather is chicken soup. There can be no argument – it’s easy to prepare, doesn’t need your constant attention, fills you up, and leaves you noticeably warmer.

This chicken soup has a whiskey onion base, which adds a lot of depth of flavor, even if you shortcut by using boxed stock and pre-cooked chicken. Honestly, I use these shortcuts even when not in a state of emergency. With clever seasoning and a whiskey base, you can build a lot of complexity, and the goal when cooking should be to make something that is impressively good; it doesn’t have to be impressively hard to make or use impressive ingredients.

This soup is easy to throw together after a long day, it’s perfect to prepare early in the day to let simmer while you shovel, and it’s heaven in a bowl when you’re frozen to your core.

Notes on whiskey – I would recommend using a brand you’d enjoy drinking in a cocktail, but wouldn’t prefer to drink straight. In other words, use the whiskey you’d drink at midnight, rather than your first choice.

Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 roasted chicken (or a few chicken breasts, really whatever chicken you have on-hand)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 1 ½ cups whiskey
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Throw your onions in a stockpot Chicken Soup over medium heat, then cover with a few splashes of whiskey and a drizzle of olive oil. Leave this uncovered as you prep the rest of your ingredients, adding more whiskey as it cooks off. This is going to imbue your onions with a lot of really good, deep flavor and add richness to your soup’s broth.

 

My friend Claire recently showed me this method, and I thought I’d try it out on my carrots. I tried to do quarter-to-half inch pieces. I ended up with something a bit bigger than expected, which is ok. New techniques often seem awkward until you’ve tried them enough times to really get them right.

Set your carrots aside, and get to your chicken. My favorite trick is to use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If you have frozen chicken in your freezer, fantastic! Thaw them and dice them up. If you have leftover chicken from a previous meal, dice it up. If you have a whole chicken, strip the skin, remove the bones, and dice the meat up.

Chicken Soup

Throw your carrots and chicken into your stockpot, add about half your broth, and season. I am really loving Penzeys French Thyme in everything I make right now, and rosemary is a great poultry herb, so start from there. If your chicken was already cooked, feel free to taste your soup – add salt and pepper, maybe a drizzle of olive oil, maybe some ground chipotle pepper for some kick. If your chicken is raw, let your soup cook at least an hour before you taste (and check the chicken before you taste – raw chicken is the most terrifying kitchen thing).

Chicken Soup

Cover your pot and leave it at a simmer or slow boil for an hour or so, then add the rest of your broth and continue to taste and season. Let that simmer awhile, and voila! Soup!

And if you need a serving suggestion for a cozy evening, may I suggest…

Chicken Soup

 

What’s your favorite deceptively easy delicious dish for a snowed-in night? What are your best kitchen shortcuts and tricks?

Printer friendly recipe: Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup