The Kitchen Spy: 80 Thoreau's Carolyn Johnson and Nubar's Bill Flumerfelt
When longtime chef-couple Carolyn Johnson (80 Thoreau) and Bill Flumerfelt (Nubar) moved into their Fresh Pond home, the kitchen didn’t fully suit their culinary needs. “It was definitely tricky, because there was no cabinetry or counter space inherently in the space,” Johnson says. “So we bought the butcher block table specifically for the space as a prep area. We repurposed these old CD racks as spice racks, to give us some shelf space. Billy installed shelves over the window.” Thanks to the additions, there’s now lots of space for the professional gourmands’ stuff: obscure spices, mementos, and quality booze aplenty. Before diving into some homemade linguica, Comte, and egg breakfast sandwiches, the couple gave us a tour of their digs.
1. The long shelf above the window is lined with mason jars of the couple’s pantry essentials like lentils, cornmeal, popcorn, barley and lots of other grains and beans. There’s also pickled jalapeno and cayenne peppers and homemade soups (like white bean and pumpkin). “We are kind of bean heads,” Johnson says. Just behind Flumerfelt is a sprig of Juniper “purloined from Fresh Pond,” per Flumerfelt, which they use fresh for brines and winter braises. 2. The small stuffed white turnip hanging by the bookshelf was a gift, and it’s a Taiwanese good luck charm. 3. A selection of cookbooks. 4. “It’s a flip flop with a chef with a piece of pizza on it,” Flumerfelt says. “It’s from Jax Discount Outlet, and it’s been going out of business for the past year,” Johnson says. “We just thought it was too hilarious to pass up.”
1. A watercress starter that Johnson bought to plant in a vegetable garden. 2. Flumerfelt’s first Executive Chef gig was at Arlington’s now-defunct Tea Tray in the Sky, which turned him into a bit of a tea aficionado. His favorite? “I really go back to the Oolongs a lot,” he says. “You’ve got your green teas at one end of the spectrum that are raw and unfermented, and the black teas are fermented for a long time. The Oolongs are right in the middle. 3. One of Flumerfelt’s past cooks made him a gorgeous, detailed, illustrated recipe book as a gift. 4. A copy of Joy of Cooking that Johnson has had since high school. It contains her go-to brownie recipe.
Johnson and Flumerfelt are foragers, and, as a result,are really into mushrooms. Flumerfelt paid about $20 for a log at a farmers’ market that’s supposed to provide an endless stream of shitakes. “You can see, it’s run through with mycelium, and they drill holes and put plugs in,” he says. “So in theory the thing is thoroughly ripe with shitakes, but that’s not been our experience. If the temperature gets right, it should supposedly just explode [with them]. I’m still waiting for that to happen.”
1. A re-purposed CD rack acts as a spice organizer, containing seasonings like smoked habanero powder, fennel pollen (for garnishes), truffle salt, bacon salt (an ideal popcorn-topper), black cumon, epazote, and curry powder. 2. The duo are avid home brewers, and meticulously document their creations in notebooks. 3. Tangerine juice, which Johnson prefers over basic OJ. 4. The home brew set up. Johnson and Flumerfelt tend to go for hoppy, malty, porter-style brews.
1. A custom butcher block table next to the stove provides essential counter space. 2. The couple has a bit of an obsession with old-school potato ricers, and owns several. “We’re always ricing, 24/7,” Flumerfelt jokes. 3. Since Johnson preserves lots of vegetables and soups, she relies on this monster pressure canner to get the job done.
1. An old-school bacon press, which the couple uses mostly for crisping up quesadillas. 2. Flumerfelt’s carbon steel, standard-issue military cook’s knife. 3. A two-part garlic paster. “You roll the garlic [in the tube] to de-skin it, and then you press it on [the plate],” Flumerfelt says.
Unsatisfied with basic, flimsy pizza stones, Flumerfelt custom-ordered this beast from Fibrament. The two make pizza often, with favorite combos like bacon and caramelized onion, or sausage, chile flakes, and broccoli rabe.
Finally, the fridge! 1. More tangerine juice. 2. Johnson’s homemade marinated olives. 3. A mini keg of some home brew. 4. The plastic tub contains pork spread, which was a housewarming gift. “It’s sort of like rilletes, a smooth pork paste,” Johnson says. 5. Just your average cheese-in-a-can. “Washington State University has a big agriculture program, and they make this canned cheese,” Johnson says. “My grandfather is somewhat obsessed with it, and he sends it for Christmas every year. It’s very good. It ages in the can, and it’s good indefintely in the fridge in the can. The Cougar Gold they’ve been making forever, and it’s a cheddary, creamy cheese.” 6. A slew of condiments, including homemade piri piri sauce from Tavolo chef (and good friend) Nuno Alves, plus duck fat, mustard, capers, sweet chile sauce, and horseradish for Bloody Marys.
1. Frozen croissants that Johnson’s mom sends her each year. 2. The couple’s guilty pleasure: Trader Joe’s mint-chocolate ice cream sandwiches. 3. Empanada dough.
Of course, one fridge is never enough—especially for beer nuts. Some typically on-hand brews include Allagash White, Harpoon Rye, Old Chub Scotch Ale, Mayflower Porter, and Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Cocchi Americano is also a current favorite of the duo, and usually use it to make soda spritzers. “We add gin if we’re feeling sassy,” Johnson says.
1. + 2. Mementos Johnson picked up from a trip to Japan includes a cute sandwich cutter, and, even cuter, capsules designed for Japanese school children to use for transporting soy sauce in their lunchboxes. 3. A mandoline for slicing veggies. 4. A Saeco Incanto espresso machine. “That’s a cappuccino machine, probably our most prized possession,” Johnson says. 5. Other various kitchen gadgets include a Vietnamese coffee grinder (left) and old-school egg slicer.
Behold, the home bar, which is stocked with spirits like Berkshire Mountain Distiller’s Ethereal Gin, Old Overholt rye whiskey, and, of course, Fernet Branca. “There’s always lots of rye and gin,” Johnson says.
“We’re big Lillet fans,” Johnson says of the French apertif, which they often blend into Manhattans. Angostura bitters, orange bitters, grenadine, and Dolin vermouth round out the mix.
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