Kitchen Remodel – Demo & Install

I’m back talking about the kitchen remodel again!! I know it’s been a while – sorry for the delay in finishing these posts. Timing is perfect though since I just finished patching our kitchen ceiling where we had recessed lights installed!

Because we were cutting costs wherever possible with this remodel, we decided to do the demo ourselves. We felt confident we could handle it with all the carpet, linoleum and hardwood we had already ripped up ourselves. How difficult could unscrewing a few cabinets really be? Well, it actually proved to be one of the easiest demos to date. Everything came down/up pretty easily and much quicker than expected.

Kitchen Remodel Before 2

We gave ourselves two weeks to demo the kitchen and lay the new floors before Oscar was scheduled to be there to install the cabinets. We got home from the beach and were blessed by the site of full boxes and empty cabinets – my mom had packed up well over half of our kitchen while we were away. We were so incredibly grateful!

We spent the next morning boxing up the last of the kitchen and then the afternoon demoing. Fortunately that Monday was Memorial day, which we both had off from work, so we were also able to get a jump start on the flooring. The kitchen demo itself only took a few hours and the hubs did almost all of it completely by himself. He started on the stove wall by unscrewing the upper wall cabinets and taking them down, then he removed each piece of counter top easily be unscrewing them and they just lifted out of place.

Kitchen Remodel Before

The sink wall was a pretty more tricky because that sink was deceptively held in place by one drywall screw and some crumbling counter tops. Scary! This is what it looked like underneath that sink too…so so gross.

Kitchen Remodel Sink Demo

You can see the bane of our existence and reason for this early remodel here where the home-builder laid the original linoleum under the kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Remodel Linoleum Before

We got the room completely cleared out in about half a day because most of the floors were already up weeks before when we attempted to just lay new flooring in here and the old fluorescent light fixture was removed when we scraped the popcorn ceiling. So we pulled up the counter tops, removed the old faucet and sink, took down the microwave over the range, pulled out the cabinets, and removed the old dishwasher.

Then we proceeded to lay down the new hardwood flooring over the next week to prep for the new cabinet install – we managed to get it done over the course of a holiday off from work plus two weekends. The hubs chose not to run it all the way under the space where the cabinets would sit so not to waste good bamboo hardwood where it wouldn’t be seen, so we just left the plywood exposed there. We ended up with a room that looked like this (don’t mind the Corgi):Kitchen Remodel New Bamboo Hardwood Floor

Oscar, our cabinet builder with CurvePoint Custom Creations, ended up being just 1 week behind schedule. but he was great about updating us and keeping us informed on the schedule. This was fine with us because it gave us more time to ensure we had the floor done. And it gave us time to add two things we had discussed as little additions – a recessed alcove/shelf above the stove and a pot filler!

At my behest, Remington cut a hole in our wall to create the alcove. Let me tell you – it is really scary to cut a big hole in your drywall when you aren’t one thousand percent confident in what you are doing. Well, we just went for it after he had several discussions with friends about how to tackle it. We measured the space between the studs we knew were in that wall so we could make it as large as possible and centered on the space – I’d have preferred it be more rectangular, but with the stud spacing as it were, it seemed illogical to cut out two studs for such a small alcove. After marking out the space on the wall, we just….kinda….go with it. Starting with a drywall saw, just hack away following along the pencil marks. Next step was cutting out the stud. Grab the trusty sawzall and be careful not to go through the other side because in our case that was the wall sitting on the opposite side in our half bath. After cutting out the hole, we had to frame it back in. Using some fresh 2×4, you just frame across the bottom and top into the next vertical stud. We then installed backer board back in along the edges and at the back of the alcove so that the back-splash could be tiled around it. Patch the drywall and then you’re ready for tile!

Setting up and installing the pot filler was a TON more work than that alcove. Remington said he would NEVER ever do plumbing again. First he cut another hole in the drywall exactly where the pot filler would sit on the wall and cut it just big enough for the pipe fitting to fit through. Then he drilled a hole in the floor at the wall where it would be hidden behind the stove so he could run the plumbing through the subfloor and up inside the wall. And then he spent an entire day crammed in our crawl space running the new pipes. With the half bath sitting behind the stove wall, we could fairly easily splice into the toilet line to access water without adding much new pipe. We did not want to get into the business of soldering pipes though and we only had a few joints/connections to make anyway. So he decided to use sharkbite connectors, which ensure a strong and lasting connection without leaks. Almost a year later and they are still holding up. The only scare we had with the pot filler was a small leak the night after it was installed and Remington realized it was just a pinhole leak actually caused by over-tightening. So, Remington ran out the next day and bought some pipe dope (thread sealant) and put everything back together. Lesson is: when they say don’t over-tighten, they mean it. Pipes are fickle things.

But lookit…so handy!!

Kitchen Remodel Recess Above Stove

Then the next miracle was that Oscar actually did show up 1 week later just like he said he would with our CABINETS ready to install!!

Kitchen Remodel Cabinets Delivered

He said it would only take him two full days to get everything installed, which was going to be super impressive. However, he got a bit of a late start on day 1 and ended up having limited help when he thought his normal go to guy would be available. But he still managed to get just about everything finished.

He started the install on the shortest, easiest wall…where the stove sits. Those went up relatively quickly.

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets Install Stove Wall

Next he installed the island and lined it up as even with the stove wall as possible. It was in 6 pieces when he delivered it – two 30 inch base cabinets, two 9 inch base cabinets, and two bookshelves. You might recall this drawing he did of how the finished product would look:Brown Kitchen - island detail

And lookit…pretty. It came out quite possibly better than I had hoped.

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets Install dark grey island

Here’s the back…two bar stools should theoretically slide into that cut-in section perfectly with enough space to get in and out. Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets Install dark grey island

Then he moved on to the longest run – the sink wall.

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets sink wall

Kitchen Remodel Cabinets Install

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets Install sink wall

That section was not quite so easy because our floor isn’t level – in fact it dips down quite a bit near the door to our garage. But the cabinets needed to be level for the counter top install.

He had to finish up the uppers the next day…

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets Install

And then in went the sink. Finally a kitchen sink after 3 weeks without one at this point, well not quite useful without running water yet. BUT ain’t she a beaut? The sink might just be my favorite part. And just look at those feet on the cabinets…it’s the little things.             Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets sink wall

He sized the cabinet over our fridge wrong and made it too large, so he had to re-order the doors for it. The mistake was good for us though because he easily hid the extra space behind the molding that goes up over it, but we got to keep that extra storage room. Oscar was also awesome about noticing little imperfections and fixing them before we had to ask. For example, the glass cabinet doors ended up being too small (the gap around them was larger that the other doors), and before we even mentioned it he had already re-ordered them. :)

The final cabinet to install was our coffee station. Remember that picture from earlier of our blank slate with new floors…well here it is again to show you the location of our coffee station. It was going on the wall in our breakfast nook space beside the fridge.

Kitchen Remodel Coffee Station Location

We intentionally made the cabinet more shallow (less deep?) so it wouldn’t stick out too much in the space – it ended up being 18 inches deep versus the standard 24 inches for base cabinets. The opening is for our microwave. Also, the openings where the kickplate should be will house our doggy bowl drawers. And those shelves standing on end will go over the sink.

Kitchen Remodel Custom Cabinets coffee station

Now it was time to accessorize – as I like to call it. Time to install the knobs and pulls to really pull the look together. ;) Remember we chose to go fairly simple with round knobs and cup pulls in a satin nickel finish to match the other hardware (lights, faucet, and pot filler).

P.S. That is sooo not a box of donuts. I promise.

Kitchen-Remodel Custom Cabinets Install Stove Wall

After that we had to wait about a week for the counter tops to be installed by Rocky Tops, but they managed to get out pretty quickly and two guys laid them in a few hours.

Now up to this point the whole installation process seemed to be going really smoothly. Too smoothly. We had cabinets in with a few details to be finished, a sink and counter tops in less than a month from demo. Is that even possible?

Well, I was right to be concerned. When I got home from work to gaze upon gleaming new granite and marble counter tops, something didn’t seem right. The black pearl just didn’t look like black pearl to me. And this was a BIG problem if I wasn’t going out of my mind because we had a tile guy coming the next day to install our back splash. So I quickly called up Rocky Tops who was closed, then tried the cell of our sales person to get her voicemail. I don’t even want to know how crazy I sounded in the message I left her. No word that night, so we had to cancel the tile guy and called Rocky Tops first thing the next morning. When I finally convinced someone to look at the paperwork for what stone actually got pulled and cut? I was right. They had cut the Black Absolute in a honed finish instead of our lovely Black Pearl. They are quite similar, but the flecks in the Black Absolute are smaller and more uniform so we thought it too resembled engineered stone and for that reason had gone with the Black Pearl, which is why it looked so off to me. And thankfully I had held onto my sample pieces of stone to compare and knew it wasn’t the Black Pearl we ordered. But how? How does that even happen?? It was extremely frustrating to be so close to having a finished kitchen and have to sit and wait another week.

Rocky Tops offered to refund our costs slightly if we kept the Black Absolute or to come out as soon as they could to install the correct stone. The discount wasn’t nearly enough for us to live with the wrong stone, so we opted for them to fix it with a re-install, which meant pushing the back splash out another week or so. I do have to hand it to Rocky Tops though – they came out in just under a week which fell over the July 4th holiday weekend to get it done – so they did fix it quickly. They also spent a couple of hours polishing the marble counter top because it had residual swirl marks from the initial polish that I could still see. In the end, we were really happy with our counter tops, but not so thrilled with the mistake that Rocky Tops made and the hassle to get it fixed.

With the counter tops in place, we could install the new faucet! We chose the Kohler Bellera in Vibrant Stainless (very close to satin nickel) – it was a good quality name brand and it was still affordable. We were shocked at how expensive a kitchen faucet can range – we got this one for $170. We wanted a faucet with a pull down spray nozzle and I liked the taller goose neck style. I really really wanted a bridge style faucet because I love that classic shape, but NONE of those that I liked from a reputable brand were under $200 or even $300. The pull down faucet is great, but in our large, deep sink it does tend to cause spray-back. Not a big deal, but we do have to be careful not to get water all over the kitchen and ourselves.

Finally we were able to get Oscar’s tile guy out to install the next finishing piece – a beautiful tile back splash. Again, we were digging the simple, clean finishes that would be classic over time and not lose their appeal. It just so happens that I was so in love with the white subway tile that has been in style for decades, but has made it’s way back to the top of trends in kitchens lately. Oscar’s tile guy came out for two days to install the back splash – one day for tiling and about a half day for grouting. We were amazed at how fast one guy could knock it out. We chose a medium gray grout to go with the white tile – pearl gray in the unsanded grout from Lowe’s.  You can also see from the picture below that we took down the fluorescent light on the wall.

Kitchen Remodel white subway tile backsplash

We did something a little different for the recess alcove above the stove to make it pop – and all we did was make a herringbone pattern out of the same tile instead of just tiling them horizontally across. We really love how that turned out, but felt bad for the tile guy because it took him the same amount of time to finish the entire wall above the sink as it took him to finish the recess alcove.

One thing I wish now that we had known or thought about then though was to measure the spacing so that where the recess sat would line up to have full tiles up to the border row – meaning that he didn’t have to cut thinner piece to fit in between. Oh well – you live and learn.

Kitchen Remodel white subway tile backsplash herringbone

The last few details for Oscar and us to finish up included installing recessed puck lights in the shelf above the sink, hanging the two shelves on the wall above the sink, installing the crown molding, filling in holes and cracks, hanging pendants over the island, attaching the pot filler to the wall, painting the walls, and building shelves to go above the coffee station.

So stay tuned for a final reveal of the new kitchen post-remodel and our thoughts on the whole process, including a detailed source list. If you’ve got any questions until then, ask away! :)

Knoxville’s 4th Annual Biscuit Fest

So the official name is the International Biscuit Festival because our little city is proud of the fact that people come from all over to celebrate a staple of southern comfort food – the biscuit.
It really is a week long affair – there is a southern food writing conference, Blackberry Farm biscuit brunch, Biscuit Bash, Biscuit Bake-off, Biscuit Boulevard (the best part in my humble opinion) and a Biscuit Bazaar. You even have a chance to be crowned Mr. and Miss Biscuit.
No form of bad weather will deter a biscuit lover from hitting Biscuit Boulevard on Saturday morning and a little rain certainly did not keep us away. We met up with pals, Matt & Erin, and headed downtown as early as we could.
Biscuit Boulevard
Each $10 ticket is good for 5 biscuit samples and one voting ballot for your favorite at the Biscuit Boulevard. The Biscuit Bazaar is adjacent and lots of local purveyors, including Scoop’d and Benton’s Bacon, were also giving out samples of their goodies.
There were many fantastic vendors this year – 17 to be exact – handing out their signature biscuit creation for ticket holders to try, so please know that this is just a sampling of what was available. We are posting links to the vendors we tried that morning so that you can learn more about each of them.

First, we perused the available booths and then chose our first victim, er, biscuit of the day from Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts.Walter State booth
A bananas foster biscuit speckled with sprinkles topped with caramelized bananas and a boozy caramel sauce. Who can say no to dessert for breakfast when it’s 9:00 in the morning?? Not this gal.
bananas foster
Our next stop was the Biscuit Love Truck out of Nashville.
Biscuit Love Truck tent
Their “Bonut” was delicious and got my vote. It was nestled on a blueberry compote and topped with a luscious lemon cream that was out of this world.
Bonuts sample
RT Lodge in Maryville, TN had our first savory offering of the day – a deep fried biscuit filled with braised short ribs and pickled onions. Yum yum! The fried biscuit was a soft pillow on the inside and the pickled onions were perfection.
RT Lodge Deep Fried Biscuit
Next up was Sapphire Knoxville with their Blueberry Oatmeal Scone.
Sapphire tent
The oatmeal gave it a slight nutty taste and texture.
Blueberry Oatmeal Scone
We were delightfully surprised by the Herbed Strawberry Scone from Tea at the Gallery.
Tea at the Gallery
A crumbly scone scented with rosemary and filled with a dollop of sweet strawberry jam. The perfect bite for a cup of tea.
Herbed Strawberry Scone
Applewood Farmhouse known to many locals as the Apple Barn brought a biscuit steeped in classic southern cajun flavor.
Applewood Farmhouse
Their fluffy biscuit had the perfect texture and it was topped with a spicy savory shrimp andouille sausage gravy. Incredibly rich and flavorful!
Shrimp Andouille Sausage Biscuit
As we headed for our next booth, we realized that there was quite a line…it turned the corner and ran down an adjacent street.Line for Tupelo
They were all waiting for Tupelo Honey Cafe’s green-eyed monster.
Tupelo Biscuit sign
Tupelo is a newer restaurant to downtown Knoxville and we welcomed their fresh, locally purveyed fare with open arms and there is almost always a wait. They have quickly become one of our personal favorites. And anyone that’s eaten here knows they serve up a mean biscuit instead of rolls, so we were certainly not the only ones excited to taste what they were bringing to Biscuit Fest. After all, their pimento cheese filled biscuit from 2012 was very memorable.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
What they served up was a jumbo buttermilk biscuit baked with pimento cheese and stuffed with a pickled fried jalapeno. I mistakenly thought it was a fried green tomato and that I’d be eating most of it on my own since Remington doesn’t eat tomatoes. Rats. Darn! I had to share.
Green Eyed Monster Pimento Cheese biscuit
Bella Luna is another newby restaurant to the Market Square scene. Bella Luna
They sampled an Italian pizza biscuit with classic pizza flavors – oregano, tomato, sharp cheddar.
Italian Pizza biscuit
We were all very excited to see what The Plaid Apron brought this year – their smoked chocolate biscuit last year was to die for, so we knew they would have another unique flavor.
Plaid Apron tent
They did not disappoint. A buttermilk biscuit with candied Benton’s bacon, filled with clabbered cream and drizzled with a honey & balsamic reduction that was definitely unique in flavor. This biscuit had a distinct sweet and tangy profile when all of the ingredients came together! And if you are asking yourself, what is clabbered cream? It has a texture similar to créme fraîche, only slightly thicker in consistency, with a flavor akin to buttermilk. It would be a tangy alternative to sour cream. Clabber cream once commonly found in Ireland, Scotland and the U.S., no longer exists due to the pasteurization of milk.
Bacon Clabbered Cream biscuit
Southern Living was the official media sponsor of this year’s events. Naturally the Southern Living test kitchen held booth space at Biscuit Boulevard.
Southern Living
They offered up a two-for-one deal featuring a Conecuh sausage biscuit and a pickled strawberry biscuit topped with whipped cream. I would have never thought to pickle strawberries for a biscuit, but the flavor was great – sour and sweet against a flaky biscuit and creamy whipped topping.
Southern Living biscuits
Somehow we ended up with one sampling leftover, so we made our way back over to the Flour Head Bakery tent to try their Sweetwater Valley smoked cheddar and onion biscuit. It was ooey gooey and packed with smokey onion flavor – the biscuit just fell apart! We were glad we got to try this one.
Flour Head Bakery biscuit

And the winners by category of this year’s Biscuit Boulevard were:

1st Place: Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant – Biscuit with Shrimp Andouille Sausage Gravy
2nd Place: Flour Head Bakery – Sweetwater Valley Smoked Cheddar and Onion Biscuit
3rd Place: Tupelo Honey Cafe – Pimento Cheese Biscuit stuffed with Breaded Pickled Jalapeno

RT Lodge – Deep Fried Biscuit with Braised Short Rib and Pickled Onion

Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts – Walters State – Bananas Foster Biscuit

Tupelo Honey Cafe – Green-Eyed Monster Pimento Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit

Latitude 35 – Country Apple Cinnamon Biscuit

The dates for next year’s Festival have already been set. May 15th-17th. See you there!

Restaurant Review: Surin of Thailand

First off, let me say, please forgive the iPhone pictures. I was too afraid to look like a tourist in my own city to whip my big ol’ Nikon camera out. So anyway, onto the important schtuff…

Surin of Thailand is a newer Thai restaurant in Knoxville’s Bearden district. Situated across from Deane Hill Drive next to Krispy Kreme, it is a spot that has historically had trouble keeping an eatery in business. Surin seems to be here to stay though.

The restaurant has an expansive menu covering the gammett of Thai cuisine from sushi and stir fry to noodle, curry and specialty dishes created by Surin’s head chef.

The hubs’ favorite restaurant is Taste of Thai and I must say it is one of the best places to eat in Knoxville; so naturally we had to give this place a try to see if it can hold a candle to the competition for best Thai in Knoxville. One of my litmus tests for good Thai cuisine is their pad thai dish. Unfortunately no one ordered it this time.

The appearance of the restaurant from the street is very non-discript, but once inside you feel transported to a temple or garden in Thailand. A wall of bamboo separate the dining room from the bar. A “miniature” version of the many Giant Buddha statues found throughout Asia sits against the back wall. There is a sushi bar in the back. Light wood floors and bright accents fill the room with warmth while you are seated at dark wood tables with dark leather chairs.

We went to Surin on one of our adult play dates (as I like to call them) with the Brownes. Yeah, basically, we cook or eat out, lots of good food is always involved, maybe have a drink or two, maybe play some Mario on the Wii, but mostly vent about regular life. It’s just our speed as far as a good ol’ hang out goes, but I digress. Back to the food…

So we each ordered an appetizer to start and to share.

The chicken larb served with crisp cabbage. A Thai specialty similar to lettuce wraps. Great flavor with the basil and cilantro.

The surin baskets were a house specialty created by Surin’s chef. A mini pastry basket was filled with shrimp, corn, chicken, onion, cilantro and spices. They serve it with a yummy light honey-peanut, cucumber sauce.

For the main dish, I ordered the chicken panang on the left. I love Thai curry, especially the peanut flavored curries infused with coconut milk. They tend to be slightly sweeter, which balances the heat from the spice. This was a flavorful and delicious panang curry. I would have liked more veggies other than just the bell pepper though.

Hubs ordered another house specialty – the spicy spaghetti. It was loaded with chicken and shrimp.

Matt ordered the masaman beef, which is served with potatoes, carrots and peanuts. His dish looked by far the best when they brought all of the entrees out to the table. I would definitely go back just to try this dish. I love the masaman at Taste of Thai, but usually order it with chicken and it is served with avocado and cashews. To me, this was a whole new take on masaman. He ate almost every bite, so I take that to mean it was delish!

Erin ordered the chicken curry, but I did not get a picture of it. :( Epic photog fail. It looked very similar to my dish so you can imagine or just scroll back up. :) The sauce was a mild yellow curry served with potatoes and carrots. She has not always been a big fan of curry, but ate the heck out of this one and said it had great flavor.

As a wrap up, I’d definitely go back to Surin. The food was inching up on my list of best Thai in Knoxville (although I still have to give that title to Taste of Thai), the service was excellent, the Thai iced tea was some of the best, the decor is unique, and overall we had a great experience. So I hope that the historically bad luck of that location stops with Surin and that it stays around for good.


Happy Eating!