Saturday, 2 April 2011

"Kathy Casey's Northwest Table", Kathy Casey

I very much enjoy living in Beckenham, but sometimes it has the potential to annoy. The small local kitchenware shop, the Kitchen Range on the High Street, which I've patronised happily in the past, basically screwed up today, and it frustrated. I posted a rather choleric tweet on the subject while stomping back to the car, and in hindsight maybe there should be a little more balance than that afforded by the 140 characters of a microblogging tweet.

So, some context. Mrs Semi Dweller bought a large purple casserole dish from them on Tuesday, but not wanting to carry it home on foot - it being rather significant in size, arranged for it to be collected on Saturday. The staff at the Kitchen Range were perfectly happy about this - reflecting some of the best things about small local shops - with the affable "no, you won't need to bring the receipt, it's an unusual surname and we'll have it for you" - so far so good.

Sadly however when trying to collect it this afternoon, having battled through usual levels of traffic, the store failed to track down the said casserole. The best explanation they could come up with was that it might, for no clear reason, have been sent to their other store, but they weren't sure. Problems happen - I'm all too aware of this, but the hallmark of a business is how it responds to them, and today, the Kitchen Range struggled a bit - no real willingness to look for the item, no real route to fixing this other than idly jotting down my name on a bit of paper, managing to convey little or no impression that this was going to go anywhere.

I like local businesses, and I try to support them whenever I can, but I can't help thinking that they need to play to their strengths in making that personal connection with customers and being entirely responsive. Think about it - even the most basic ebusiness has some form of rudimentary CRM allowing a consistent connection and channel of communication to customers, a traditional meatspace shop doesn't have that out of the box, so it needs to either build that rapport of knowledge about its customers, or play to its strengths in being able to communicate with them on a broader base.

I'll still go to the Kitchen Range, and I'd be extraordinarily sad to see it go, but it could be better, it should be better, and I suspect that it may need to be better.

More positively on the kitchen front I've a weekend more or less to myself. It's an opportunity to put films on in the background, dig out some lesser used recipes, and create a bit of havoc. Today has involved experimenting with brining, marinading chicken in a broth of paprika, coriander, garlic and salt. I probably should leave it for longer than it's going to get, Kathy Casey talks about doing it overnight, and this time round I think four hours is more likely to be what's involved, but nevertheless the process creates something that smells fantastic and reminds why making anything from first principles rewards.

I'm trying to remember where Kathy Casey's Northwest Table was procured. It was certainly during 2008, and my suspicion is it was a Borders in Seattle that provided the source. It's fitting that there is something inspirational in there, the food in the Pacific Northwest is breathtakingly good and Casey succeeds in getting across the appeal of working with ingredients, and in making you want to explore something new. It's the hallmark of a good cookbook, and it's present here. I should know better, it should come off the shelf more often.

Brining described. Probably should be done on the barbecue, but tonight it's one for the griddle.


  1. Just as a coda, the Kitchen Range did track down the casserole, it indeed having been on a trip to West Wickham. Somehow things seem to have worked, much in the same way that brining chicken did result in a very tender piece of meat.

    In both cases though there's scope for improvement. Kathy Casey suggests using a barbecue for brined chicken, and I can assert that a griddle is no real substitute, and for all that the Kitchen Range delivered a result ultimately, first impressions remain really significant.

    I'll shop there again, and in not wanting to see another bit of the high street fade away I'd encourage everyone else in the Beckenham area to do so, but I can't help hoping they listen and start being the engaged business they should be, and that Beckenham High Street needs.

  2. Additionally I should own up to a typo - book procurement in Seattle was likely in 2007 rather than 2008 - but I'm hoping this isn't the sort of egregious misrepresentation the ASA will come after me over.