18 November 2008


“Steaming is great because of its speed and minimal impact on [the] flavor and texture of food. The method is particularly appropriate with ingredients that bring a delicate flavor. Fresh vegetables are perfectly suited to steam cooking, as they have subtle, delicious flavors that are lost to more aggressive heat. Poultry, pork, and many kinds of seafood are also beautiful matches with this form of cooking.” FamilyEducation.com

“Steam ovens, (often called ‘combi ovens,’ because they cook with a combination of steam and dry heat), are a chef’s secret weapon.” Food and Wine Magazine

Last week, at Viking Range Company’s designer open house program, I had some of the best stir-fried rice and cheesecake I’ve ever enjoyed – prepared in its Steam/Convect Oven™, (shown above right). Now I seriously want one! This baby:

* Steams
* Roasts
* Bakes
* Browns
* Reheats

It even multi-tasks! The Steam/Convect Oven can cook two dishes on two separate settings at the same time to get dinner on the table faster. How perfect is that for busy homeowners?

Here’s a 10-second video Viking has prepared to show the S/O in operation.


Many major manufacturers make combination steam ovens. Here are a few links for your convenience:

Kitchen Aid

The Gaggenau offers the unique feature of a side-opening door, which is ideal for wheelchair users. I have not had the opportunity to evaluate or use any of these competing combination-steam ovens on the market, so I can’t comment on them with any authority.

If you decide that this is an appliance that would enhance your kitchen – as I have – then compare and contrast. When I start shopping for my own Casa de Goldberg combi-steam oven, these are the Viking benchmarks I’ll be using:

* Doesn’t need to be plumbed for less expensive installation and easier maintenance.
* Multi-tasks for cook’s convenience and faster cooking time.
* Alerts owner to run self-clean (de-scale) function so I don’t have to worry about it.

Here are a few related considerations for adding a combi-steam oven to your kitchen:

* Will it replace an existing second oven?
* If so, does it need or come with a trim kit?
* Do you need a new cabinet to accommodate an added appliance?
* Do you have a licensed electrician to run the wiring and install it?
* What is the most convenient location in your kitchen for this new appliance, based on your cooking plans for it?
* Where can it be safely installed?
* Do you have trusted local appliance and remodeling experts to guide you?


Here, compliments of Viking Product Training Manager and hostess extraordinaire Dorothy Gates, is the recipe for the best cheesecake on the planet:



3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Using a [Viking] Food Processor, combine ingredients until blended.

Press into a spring form pan, pressing halfway up the sides of the pan.


16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups sour cream

Using a [Viking] Stand Mixer, cream cheese and sugar until smooth on medium speed.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth, scraping down bowl from time to time.

Mix in vanilla and sour cream until combined.

Pour into spring form pan.

Place rack at level 1 and level 3.

Preheat oven using Truconvec™ cooking, 300°F.

Bake until center is set but not firm, at 300°F, 1 hour 10 minutes.

Let set in oven for 10 minutes with door open.

Cool completely before removing from pan.



This is my second entry in a Gold Notes holiday entertaining series. Last week, I focused on wine storage. I haven't decided on next week's topic yet. (If you have a request, don't hesitate to let me know.) I also shared some holiday entertaining tips with my Tampa Tribune Flair Magazine readers this month. Click to page 41 to read this story, which includes tips from an appliance pro, caterer/cafe owner and wine expert.

12 November 2008


Thanksgiving is, unbelievably, just two weeks away. For many of us, that means wining and dining friends and family. The dining topic I'll leave to other sources. I personally enjoy selecting wines, and thought I'd address the subject of storing them.

There are great, good, OK and really, really terrible ways to store wine.


If your collection is large and valuable, protect it with a climate-controlled “wine cellar.” Strictly speaking, a wine cellar doesn’t have to live in your basement. They’ll work just fine in a main floor area near where your wine will be served. Ideally, you'll have a system to index your collection for easy bottle location. If this space doubles as a tasting room for you and your guests, you'll want to include comfortable chairs, a table and perhaps a mini-fridge for palette-cleansing accompaniments near -- but not inside -- the chilly wine vault.


If you entertain frequently, but don't consider yourself a serious wine collector, consider incorporating a wine bar or butler’s pantry near your kitchen and dining room. This is easiest to accomplish when you're building a new home, but it can also be factored into a remodel, or just added to your existing space. It will ideally include wine racks and a dual temperature zone wine captain, along with storage space for wine glasses, corkscrews, wine charms, decanters and related wine paraphernalia.


When you're building or remodeling, factor in space for a base cabinet or countertop-installed wine rack. Place it near to where it will be consumed, but avoid any heating vents or intense, direct sunlight. I give this approach an "ok," because it doesn't factor in the added storage for all the goodies in a wine bar or butler's pantry, or the climate control of a wine captain.

If you're maxed out in your entertaining zone, wine expert Charles Visalli of Time for Wine in Tampa, Fl. suggests the following alternative:

"Simple storage of wine requires two things: 1) An area that is temperature neutral...i.e., it does not fluctuate more than a few degrees and 2) It's kept away from sunlight. Therefore, I recommend that wines can easily be stored in a hall closet or spare bedroom closet/home office closet."

Alternatively, you can incorporate a wine rack into your wall-mounted cabinets – especially in a butlers’ pantry or wine bar area – but be sure it’s not too high to reach, not close to a heating vent and out of direct sunlight.


Please don’t store your wine above your refrigerator. That puts it where heat rises and step stools are required. Storing your wine close to your range, cooktop or dishwasher is also generally a bad idea.

Please drink – and store – responsibly!


A handsome wine bar with wine captain, granite countertops and CWP Cabinetry's custom cherry cabinets.

03 November 2008


My husband will leave the room if I turn on a TV design show. But he totally enjoys DIY’s Man Caves, a program about men getting personalized rooms created just for them. In fact, he likes the show so much, he records each episode. So when my future cave dweller suggested that I write a “Man Caves” blog entry this week, I decided to take him up on the challenge. (Who knows, maybe it'll boost my male readership!)

So, what is a man cave, you ask? In short, it’s a room that showcases a man’s hobbies and allows him to relax and enjoy them by himself or with his buddies. In other words, it’s a no-potpourri zone where a guy can put his feet up anywhere he darn well pleases. The episodes I’ve watched crafted a private putting green and a baseball-inspired rec room.

If you’re inspired to create a man cave for yourself or a loved one, here’s how to make it happen if DIY hosts Tony Siragusa and Jason Cameron aren’t around to help.


Find the right room for the purpose at hand. It needs to be the proper size for the main activity – be it billiards or home theatre – and properly insulated if noise and vibrations are likely to impact neighbors or other family members. Potential rooms include unused bedrooms, finished basements, garages, even oversized sheds with windows.

If there is to be equipment or large furniture moved into the space, like a billiards table or sectional sofa, for example, make sure that this is achievable given current access to that space. There also has to be sufficient room to maneuver around large objects.

I highly recommend creating a scale drawing of the space and moving paper furniture around to ensure everything – and everyone – will fit, as desired. (Your back and buddies will thank you later.) Also, if an extremely heavy item, like a billiard table, will be moving into a second floor room, be sure that your floor joists will handle the extra weight.


Having the right lighting will ensure that the cave men will be able to enjoy their space. You’ll need task lighting for most activities, as well as ambient room lighting, probably dimmable. Work with a professional to make sure that the lighting plan will love up to the room’s planned activities.


Make sure that the flooring is appropriate to the room's main function. Home theatre spaces benefit from easy-to-clean carpeting or area rugs. An exercise room’s ideal flooring is rubber. Consider the room's purpose and find a flooring option that will provide the best look with the easiest maintenance.


What goes into the man cave will depend entirely on the cave man's preferences. A few generalities apply, though. One, if the space will be used for lengthy social visits or strenuous physical activities, it’s ideal to have a beverage source within or very near the room.

Additional electrical outlets may be needed to handle the demands of a repurposed space. These may accommodate a beverage cooler, a fan or a new television. Additional plumbing or internet access may also be called for, depending on the room’s function. Be sure to plan for these in your budget and space planning.


The best part of a man cave is its personalization. Posters of the owner's favorite films will greatly enhance a home theatre cave. Sports memorabilia will make time spent in a sports bar cave that much more special. This is where the man gets to show off and enjoy his sentimental stuff – the stuff Mrs. Cave couldn’t stand cluttering up the master bedroom or kitchen.


If you’re a DIY type, you’ll love DIY Network’s Man Caves section with full-length episodes and project pages. If you’re a 'hire a pro' kind of guy or gal, consider a professional designer and contractor for your project.

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