Sunday, February 16, 2014

Before & After - Remodeling!!!

I love how we always get pigeon-holed into the Mega-Mansion world. Yes we do our fair share of Mega-Mansions and we love them! However, most people find it surprising that probably a good 40% of our work are remodels, renovations, and additions….and we love them!
Candelaria Design Formal Mediterranean Estate in Paradise Valley ~ Desert Star Construction ~ Crestwood Homes

Before - Clearwater Estates
Most architects once they break into the Mega-Mansion marketplace turn their noses to the remodel and addition market. Not us – I have been doing remodels and additions for over thirty years.  I have many reasons for this. First, I love the challenge of a remodel or an addition. They are like a big puzzle waiting to be solved. How do you take something that might be well done and add or modify it, or how do you take something that is horrible and make it all better? People expect perfection when you design and build from scratch but with a remodel it usually is more of a feeling or need for help or for any level of improvement. 
After - Clearwater Estates

Concept Sketch

The market is huge and with the plethora of bad homes that were hastily designed and constructed during the last boom cycle, the inventory of potential remodels is enormous. Land is getting harder and harder to find and lots with great views even tougher. I am always amazed at how many absolutely horrible homes are parked on amazing lots.

Before - Clearwater Estates
I know that one of the best ways to evaluate a remodel or potential remodel is before you purchase it! This can’t always be done, but if you are in that position it is best to have an architect and builder on board as part of your team to assess the property in terms of your needs and wishes. Set up an adequate due diligence period with the seller and get to work. If you already own the property and have been living there for  awhile then that can be an advantage too in that you know the property and what its downfalls are but you may not see all the advantages – the "can't see the trees in the forest" phenomenon. Get your builder and architect out there and do the same thing – some brainstorming!
After - Clearwater Estates

I then like to quickly sketch some thoughts on an as-built set of plans. First a little bit about as-builts. I don’t care what set of plans you may or may not have, they will be wrong and not accurate. We always take some time to go through and verify the as-builts as best we can. These are our XRays and if they are not right it is difficult to diagnose the patient correctly.  We like to do our own as-builts of both the plans and exterior elevations so that we actually see every corner of the house inside and out. It gets the house in our heads.  Many times, depending on what we are doing we like to get a survey showing all property lines, setbacks, and easements. I cannot tell you how many existing homes are over setbacks or even over property lines! We always want a copy of the CC&R’s to make sure we understand the deed restrictions of the properties. Most properties don’t allow chickens or small farm animals, amongst other things that you will likely find most interesting and many times politically incorrect! We always get down to the local jurisdiction and/or HOA and see what they have up their sleeves.  Many projects require design review of some sort so you want to have a good face to face with them as they can make your life miserable if you ignore their wishes.

Kitchen - Before
Ok with that done, our process then starts with sitting down with the homeowner and having a brainstorming “what if” session.  This is fun and creative. Instead of me sitting down with their wish list and coming up with something I think is unique and special, I like to do this process with the homeowner. I like to extract their ideas and make them creative and beautiful. They know their house and they know what they like! Once we have some ideas on paper we clean them up and break them down into almost a shopping list of areas or phases that the builder can then prepare an initial budget range for each item or area. From there we can dial in the scope a bit more and then further develop the design knowing where the budget it. So many architects and designers lose this aspect and carry the client to far down the design path without getting a handle on the budget. It is difficult to budget remodels and additions because they are usually so piecemeal. Having a great team with a lot of past historical data on hand really makes a difference.  The last thing you want to do is go all the way down the design path and then put the project out to bid!!! That is the absolute worst way to do a project of this nature. It all becomes about price and opens the client up to a plethora of unexpected surprises and stress.

Kitchen - After
As the design develops the budget and pricing follows along. We love the team approach! It has proven over and over to be the most successful way to execute a remodel and addition.  No project is too big or too small. We are doing everything form whole house remodel/makeovers to just picking new paint colors and tweaking a few materials and the landscaping on the exterior. I am always amazed at how sometimes just a few modifications, well done and well thought out can make an enormous difference to the aesthetic  feel and value of a property and how using someone unskilled can completely ruin the value of a property.

Concept Sketch and Project Under Construction with Schultz Development

Before - AZ Biltmore Patio Home
The other big question that pops up during major remodels and renovations is should we just take the whole thing down. I personally hate to see and generate unnecessary waste so I am always inclined to try and save and work with what’s  there but there is a point where it just does not make sense and scraping is the right answer. Again, having the architect and builder on board right out of the gate can really help a homeowner make the proper assessment as early as possible so that fees and costs are kept to a minimum.  The problem many times with homeowners is they start the project with a limited scope and vision but then during the process, especially during construction, get carried away and start the “while we are at it” drill and next thing you know they are remodeling or modifying the whole house. That gets expensive and that’s usually when I hear “we should have taken the whole thing down!” Take your time folks! Don’t rush the design and budgeting process. Think through the design – live with the ideas for a while before you rush into demolishing!  Also – work with your team during the design phase to get all of your selections, materials, and goodies selected. These will make up 50% of your budget and if done ahead of starting construction it will save you time, money and aggrevation!

After - AZ Biltmore Patio home ~ Schultz Development 
Ok – I will leave it there for now. Definitely more to come on this subject. I will be posting several Before and Afters in the months ahead and relay some of the lessons and cool ideas learned in each project! The important thing is to put a great team together, set your budget and expectations early and clearly and work WITH your team to create beauty and value! And remember to have FUN!
Team Photo - House under construction in Desert Mountain ~ Signature Homes ~ Earth & Images Interiors

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday - Standing Rib Roast with Porcini Mushroom Sauce

Roast 2 in the oven is a Standing Rib Roast with a delicious porcini mushroom sauce. Yes we had to go with two roasts. This is before I knew the Broncos would be the third roast of the day! Wasn't sure if my guests like beef or pork, so we are covered.

1 standing rib roast with 4 - 5 ribs.
6-1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
Kosher Salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil and then 2 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
10 oz sliced white mushrooms
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp flour - gluten free
1-1/2 cups reduced sodium beef broth
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 bunches fresh rosemary for the garnish

Place the roast, fat-side up, in a heavy shallow roasting pan. In a small bowl, mix together 4 tsp of the rosemary, 1 tbsp of the kosher salt, and 2 tsp pepper.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of olive oil. Brush the roast on all sides and bottom with this mixture. Make sure roast is at room temperature when you add to the oven.

Put the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water and let them steep for 20 min. Strain the mushrooms and like a sponge push out the liquid through a strainer. Collect the juice/liquid in a bowl and save the mushrooms. Then coarsely chop the porcini mushrooms and chop the garlic.

Heat 2 tbsp of butter and the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large, heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the sliced white mushrooms and cook stirring until browned for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped porcini mushrooms and cook stirring for another minute or two. Season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper.

Combine the remaining 2 tbsp butter, remaining 2-1/2 tsp rosemary and flour in a small bowl and mash with a fork to make a paste.

Arrange the rack at lower position and preheat the oven to 350º. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 125º - 130º F - about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Transfer the roast to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil. Let rest 35 to 40 minutes while you prepare the sauce. Skim and discard any fat from the pan juices. Set the roasting pan over two burners over medium heat. Add the reserved porcini socking liquid, the north, and the wine. Bring to a boil whisking constantly to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom and sides of the pan into the liquids, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture and cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in the butter and flour mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish the roast on the platter with several sprigs of fresh rosemary. Slice the roast and pour the mushroom sauce on the meat or serve in a gravy boat.

Enjoy - we will!

Super Bowl Sunday - Gorgonzola Stuffed Herb Crusted Pork Loin

Ok - getting ready for some Bronco action. Let's get our two roasts ready and prepped before everyone gets here.

Roast 1 - Gorgonzola Stuffed Herb and red Chile Crusted Pork Loin

Large Pork Loin - Minimum 2-1/2 lb boneless pork loin.
4 tbsp dried herbs de Provence
2 tbsp to fast of crushed red chile pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1-1/2 cup of gluten free bread crumbs
1 cup of gorgonzola blue cheese - crumbled
3 tbsp plus 1 cup of chicken broth
4-5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 slightly under-ripe Bosc Pears, un-peeled, quartered and and cored.
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish

Using a long knife core out both ends of the pork loin and create a pocket. Turn the knife to make a nice core.

Mix together the herbs de Provence, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Split the mixture in half in two separate bowls. Add the breadcrumbs to one of the two bowls and add the cheese, mix this all together. Add 3 - 4 tbsp of the chicken broth to get a nice moist mixture.

Then take the herb, cheese and crumb mixture and start stuffing the roast core with the mixture. Use the end of a wooden spoon to get the mixture deep into the roast. Work from both ends. Once stuffed, pat the roast dry and rub the other bowl of seasonings all over the roast.

Arrange the rack in the oven at the center position and pre-heat the oven to 400º F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, then add the pears and toss to coat.

In a large, roasting pan/tray, add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil, or enough to lightly cover the bottom, and set the pan over 1 to 2 burners on medium heat. When the oil is hot, brown the loin on all sides, for 6-8 minutes. Place the pan in the oven and roast the pork for 10 minutes and then scatter the pear quarters skin side up all around the loin. Roast now for another 10 minutes, and then turn the meat and pears. Continue roasting until the thermometer registers 150º F when inserted into the thickest part of the loin and the pears are tender and golden for 20 to 25 minutes longer.

Remove the meat and pears to a cutting board; cover loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove and discard any loose stuffing from the pan. Skim off and discard any fat in the pan.

Place the roasting pan over high heat and add the remaining 1 cup of broth and remaining 1 tbsp of vinegar. Reduce the liquids by a third while scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan into the sauce. Swirl in the butter and season with additional salt if needed.

To serve, slice the roast 1/4" thick. place the slices on a serving platter and garnish with the pears and fresh herbs. Drizzle the meat and pears with the pan sauce!

This roast was so flavorful and juicy! The best - you will enjoy this and easy to make.

Super Bowl Sunday Tiramisu

Let's get the dessert started so it can chill and set up while we watch the big game.

Here are the ingredients:

1/8" cup of heavy cream
1/4" cup of semisweet chocolate chips
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of Marsala wine or Vin Santo
Pinch of salt

I start by warming up 1/8" cup of heavy cream in a sauce pan just so its warmed over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Keep warm.

Then in a metal bowl add the sugar, egg yolks, pinch of salt, and Marsala wine and whisk them together. While doing this I get a large pot with about 2" of water heating up. Get this hot but not boiling - just steaming nicely. Place the metal bowl over the pot and keep whisking the mixture. Use a candy thermometer and keep whisking until the mixture is thick like a custard and the temp of the custard is around 160º to 165º. Don't let the eggs scramble! Whisk away. When you hit 160º take the metal bowl off the heat and whisk a bit more so the custard is nice and thick like a soupy pudding.

Fold in the chocolate chip mixture so they are all combined and chill the metal bowl in the fridge.

This is a great dessert on its own with fruit in a dessert cup!

1- 8 ounce tub of Marscapone Cheese
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2/3 cup of sugar
2 cups of coffee or espresso
32 Savolardi ladyfinger cookies.
Unsweetened Cocoa powder sifted over the top.

Take the heavy cream and 1/3 cup of sugar and whip this into stiff peaks.  Then stir in the Marscapone Cheese and mix. If you have an electric mixer that is the way to go for perfect consistency. Then add the Zabaglione and mix that in. Get it all smooth and incorporated.


Line a 9-1/2" x 5" x 2-1/4" meatloaf pan with saran wrap. Then take the coffee and dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar and combine. Dip one cookie at a time very quickly so they do not get too soggy and line the bottom of the pan with the sugar side down. Line the entire bottom with the dipped cookies and then spread half of the Zabaglione mixture over the top with a spatula. Then add another layer of dipped cookies. Add the final half of the Zabaglione mixture and then a final layer of dipped cookies.

Wrap with saran wrap and let the whole thing sit in the fridge for about 6 hours to set up.  When ready to serve, unwrap the top, flip the pan over on a decorative plate and unwrap the saran wrap from the bottom (now the top). Sift some unsweetened cocoa over the top, slice and serve.

Super Bowl Sunday - Go Broncos!

Ok - right out of the gate I am a huge Denver Bronco fan! Yes that is my John Elway signed Denver Bronco helmet that will be adorning my coffee table during today's game. I grew up in Denver and my Dad was an original Denver Bronco season ticket holder. Trust me he still doesn't miss a game; it is just now he enjoys them from his home with a glass of wine and Mom's amazing cooking….smart man!

Speaking of cooking, we are going to do some today! I have a few friends coming over, including several Durango High School classmates: including one I had not seen since my senior year in 1978! So that will be fun! We also will have star ASU lineman and former Detroit Lion, Juan Roque, in the house so we are getting up early and getting started.

I thought today's blog would be an ongoing blog today where I add the recipe with pics of each dish we prepare - many of which my Facebook friends have been clamoring for! I am going to update the blog during the day as we prepare the dishes and our guests arrive! Today's menu:

Porchini Mushroom Crusted Standing Rib Roast
Herb Crusted and Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Balsamic Roasted Veggies

and of course champagne and a MonteCristo cigar to celebrate the Broncos victory!

So let's get started! First we need to get the tiramisu made so it can set up all day and be ready when we begin the celebration. Here we go!