How the Other Half Cooks
By Louisa Chu
Browse through the $40-million-and-up Manhattan real estate listings, and something might surprise you. Not that there are so many homes for sale at that price, many of which are clustered on the western edge of the Upper East Side, but that two features merit mention, just after “7 bathrooms” and “library”: eat-in kitchens, and the windows in those kitchens.
Once upon a time, the residents of those penthouses, row houses, and single-family mansions never noticed a lack of light in their kitchens, because they never went in them, much less ate in them. Kitchens were the domain of servants, who brought dishes into the dining room where family and guests had their meals. But we live in more informal times. The kitchen is the new living room, where folks are likely to gather (and eat) whether or not the family has staff. And kitchen equipment is like furniture: You want it to look nice (i.e., expensive). You might also sometimes use it to cook, like to show off the mad skills you picked up on your hands-on culinary vacation in the Loire Valley.
Here’s a list of what you’ll find in the best homes in the most exclusive enclaves of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Prices will vary according to location and optional features.
Wolf is truly the Land Rover of ranges. The stainless steel, 60-inch Dual Fuel model is coveted not only for its powerful gas cooktops and twin electric convection ovens, but also because it’s as wide as some trophy wives are tall. The ovens feature cobalt blue porcelain-lined interiors, halogen lighting, spring-dampered doors, and a hidden pivoting touch control panel. A stainless steel cover conceals this model’s Michelin-restaurant-quality charbroiler and French top, flanked by two pairs of burners providing up to 15,000 Btu. It is everything you could possibly ask for when boiling water to make rare, specially imported Japanese ramen.
The largest Wolf range needs the largest Wolf hood, naturally. This stainless steel, professional-grade model is available with an optional decorative rail in stainless steel, platinum, or bronze. The interior has adjustable halogen lighting and a night-light to gently guide the way to midnight madeleines and a glass of biodynamic skim. A heat sentry feature automatically turns the unit on and adjusts the blower speed accordingly. With the indoor grilling that husbands say they will definitely do this year, it’s the best way to keep freshly done hair smoke-free.
One’s refrigerator is always a Sub-Zero, because it’s simply the best and everyone knows so. The beautiful PRO 48 is the finest “monument to food preservation” available, according to the maker. The expansive stainless steel facade features a pair of side-by-side doors and four drawers. The optional UV-resistant glass door is preferred, in order to display one’s nitrate-free charcuterie, heirloom pears, and sparkling French lemonade. Three evaporators prevent odor transfer—finally there’s a way to keep the artisanal, handmade gelato from tasting like white Alba truffles.
De rigueur are additional Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers, hidden conveniently in one’s cabinetry, to save a strenuous stroll across the kitchen. The drawers handily hold bottled water (it’s important to stay hydrated in all quadrants of the kitchen), juice for the children, and prescription medication. The interiors are brightly illuminated, and an alarm also beeps if they’re left open. These drawers have replaced small undercounter refrigerators as the must-have refrigeration annex. The latter are no longer acceptable, because they require unseemly bending over.
Built-in Miele coffee systems are the standard in the best homes. Now Nespresso, maker of upscale coffee capsules, has partnered with Miele to create the ultimate home coffee appliance. An optional hydraulic-hinged door lifts to reveal a LED-lit black-and-stainless-steel machine. A carousel accommodates 20 separate espresso capsules. Four programmable user profiles remember personal preferences, like how tall you want your macchiato. The Cappuccinatore milk jug delivers steamed milk directly into your cup or holds it, allowing you the pleasure of spooning it yourself. One major oversight: The system lacks a monogramming function for personalizing your latte foam.
The largest Sub-Zero wine cooler model correctly holds 147 bottles in dual temperature zones at ideal humidity. A solid door is optional, but the UV-resistant glass door is certainly preferred. A display shelf presents prized bottles, while the interior glows discreetly and gently. Glide-out shelves also accommodate half bottles and magnums. An optional door lock and link to the home security system is available. While certainly most of one’s wine collection is stored off-site, it’s nice to keep just a few dozen favorite bottles on hand.
When the time comes for the unpleasantries of cleaning, Miele is the only acceptable brand. LaPerla is the company’s flagship dishwasher. Both the proprietary touch-screen control panel and machine front are available in black, white, or stainless steel; the front can also be matched to cabinetry, even the rare, antique cupboards you had shipped over from a château in the French countryside. Nineteen programmable wash settings include the gentle China & Crystal and Plastics as well as the more vigorous Cheese and Starch choices. An optional Cappuccinatore insert is available. You may never touch icky, dirty dishes, but it’s nice to consider your staff’s needs.
Central Locking Feature (for Cabinets and Drawers)
By Smallbone, $650 each
One has one’s kitchen done by Smallbone of Devizes—the English design firm specializing in “bespoke” kitchens complete with concealed security systems. The programmable, remote-controlled central locks for cabinets and drawers really come in handy. Press a button on a pocketable pad to lock the liquor cabinet when the resentful stepkids arrive home from. Last year Smallbone opened its first U.S. showroom, naturally on the Upper East Side.