Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New kitchen design

Once we got a good look at the place after the demolition process began, we knew we wanted to open up the space between the kitchen an the dining room. So instead of rebuilding the wall the was it was, (see 2nd picture of 1st floor demo picture below- this sketch here is of of the other side of that wall) we want to widen the space of the door way to increase the flow. So far, it's just on paper, and as we know by now, anything can happen.

Predatory Lending Laws- a HORRIBLE idea

After months of deliberating over what, if anything, to do about the large number of defaults in the subprime industry and the lax lending and borrowing standards that led to them--the House has passed its answer: The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007. But while this bill purports to foster a well-functioning mortgage-market in which borrowers get affordable loans, it attempts to do so by making life impossible for lenders.

The bill tells lenders they may not engage in the undefined practice of "predatory lending"--examples of which include vague offenses such as offering loans that are not "solely in the best interest of the consumer" or offering loans that a borrower does not have a "reasonable ability to repay."

Since the bill offers no clear standard of a "reasonable ability to repay" or the "best interest of the consumer," if it is passed, lenders could be held liable for any loan a borrower fails to pay off. All an irresponsible borrower or unscrupulous lawyer needs to do is convince a jury in hindsight that the lender should have known better--and he can cash in at the lender's expense. To compound the injustice, the new law would apply, not only to those who initiate loans that fail, but to any financial institution that buys and pools loans made by others (a practice that makes possible better risk management and lower mortgage rates).

If you were a mortgage lender facing this sword of Damocles for any loan that goes bad, what would you do? Exactly what mortgage lenders will do if this legislation passes: jack up rates to account for the high risk of lawsuits--and likely avoid lending to higher-risk candidates altogether. Is this going to protect the lower-income home-buyers that "predatory lending" opponents claim to treasure? Is this going to yield a well-functioning mortgage market?

This bill is so bad that even many of the congressmen who voted for it acknowledge that it has problems. But, in the words of Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., they believe "we need not let the perfect get in the way of the good"--"the good" here being some kind of government crackdown on mortgage lenders to prevent the lending and borrowing practices that have caused lenders to lose billions and borrowers to lose their homes.

But no government crackdown is needed to promote borrowing and lending that allows lenders to make a profit and borrowers to keep their homes. If the market is left free to function, participants learn from their mistakes and adjust. By the nature of the mortgage market, it is both in lenders' long-term interest and borrowers' long-term interest for loans to be paid off. That's how lenders profit and borrowers keep their homes.

When bad loans are made, both borrowers and lenders are punished--and must correct course. Observe that Wall Street financial firms and direct lenders who engaged in lax lending are suffering huge losses (such as Merrill Lynch's $8 billion loss) and internal upheaval--and have changed their practices accordingly. The number of subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages has declined by 50% this year. As for the middlemen who tried to make (and often succeeded in doing so) a quick buck on dubious loans, their reputations are sullied and their business has dried up.


Monday, December 3, 2007

OT: Foodie Alert

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, when we're not working. As such, we tend to be hip to food and seasonality. Folks, the Pacific Northwest truffles are in and they are the best I've seen in years. Madison's produce at Findlay Market carries them all season long. If you've never had the black truffles, they are utterly amazing. I didn't even know we had them in this country until 9 years ago.

I bought two fairly large truffles on Friday for abut $17 bucks. That's enough for 3 meals, but we'll only use them in two. wink.gif. So, $8.5 per is pretty reasonable.

I have to tell you, a truffled hen (or better yet, a capon) is something to experience. What I do is start with an unglazed roasting pot (romertopf), but you could probably use any covered roasting pot. I then get the best quality bird I can find. Fresh and Amish is my preference, but free range is a good call too. I season the cavity and stuff it with a couple shallots, a little garlic, fresh sage, and a few bits of truffle, usually end slices. Then I tuck two cloves of garlic under the breast skin and four slices of truffle. I'll also tuck a little truffle under the leg skin. You should have a half truffle left. Reserve this for later. Brush the bird with oil or melted butter, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Place the bird in the pot.

Peel and quarter a small onion and place around the bird in the pot. Peel and roughly chop a carrot and arrange around the bird. Add 4 peeled cloves of garlic, and 6-8 small, peeled, oiled and seasoned new potatoes. A few peeled shallots and extra sage leaves are nice too. Add enough DRY sherry or white wine to the pot to bring it up to 3/4" above the bottom. Cover and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature at 475 and roast for 1 1/2 -2 hours (depending upon your oven and the size of the bird). You may want to uncover at 90 minutes to brown the skin and potatoes more. If you do, check it after 15 minutes.

When the bird is tender and brown, pull it and let it rest only 5 minutes. Keep the pan juices hot. Preheat plates and add potatoes, whatever carrots and garlic you might want from the pot. Carve the chicken, then thinly shave truffle slices over the top of the meat. Spoon the hot pan juices over the truffled meat. The room should become infused with the perfume. You can serve this with buttered and dilled green beans. If you want to go over the top, an endive gratin works really well with a capon for Christmas dinner.

A fine red wine is called for here. I like a good, velvety (not tannic or acidic) Rosso. I'm thinking that a Corbieres might work well too.

If this isn't one of the finest dinners you've had, I'll be amazed.


Endive Gratin

Wash and trim endives. Halve, length-wise. Place in acidulated water while you work. Blanche the endives in lemoned and salted water (2 per peson, I think) for 2 mintues. Gently drain and dry. Wrap each endive half in a thin slice of prosciutto. Arrange in a buttered gratin dish or lasagna pan as they are just touching. Sprinkle fresh chopped thyme (about a teaspoon) over and around. Top with a little grated Gruyeres cheese, a little (1 Tb) parm, heavy whipping cream to cover 1/2" of the endives, and top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake it in a 350 oven until golden, the cheese is melted and the cream is bubbling, about an hour, but check it often.

You'll probably want a crisp frissee' or bitter greens salad to finish this meal off and cleanse the palate. Maybe some pears and St. Andre cheese for dessert with a Moscato d'Asti.