Forget the rules. A Southtown couple uses entertaining as a reason to try new recipes., who is in social work services, and her husband, Dean French, a hospital administrator.
Since moving to Southtown about two years ago, Jennifer has expanded her cooking repertoire beyond Midwest fare.She relishes having easy access to fresh ingredients, something that wasn't available in her native Montana. Before, getting specialty ingredients required an 85-mile drive each way.
Now, she can make a quick trip to Groomer's for fresh seafood or Bolner's for a small order of ground veal, beef and pork for meatballs.Dean is an experimental cook and bartender. He is perfecting his skills with a new smoker.
In addition to cooking meats, he smokes peppers and tomatoes over mesquite to make salsa.For Sunday dinners with neighbors, they might cook or serve leftovers from a party the night before. They have parties about once a month, usually informal gatherings of about 10.
The couple's early 1900s house on the fringes of King William had been renovated when they bought it two years ago.The 11-by-15-foot kitchen sits at the back of the large, open main floor of the house and draws guests to gather around the island, which is about 31/2-by-8 feet.The contrast between white flat-panel cabinets and deep espresso stained bamboo floors sets a dramatic tone that's heightened by soft lighting in the tall glass-front cabinets.
The black-based island is topped with Blanco Delicatus granite, a pattern with a crackle-like appearance of browns against cream. Shimmering flecks in the granite give it depth and complement the stainless steel appliances. Marble tiles on the backsplash are set on the diagonal and accented with small black tiles to complement the brown-black granite on the perimeter counters.
The island works for dining and serving, and it's where guests gather during parties.Vertical storage seemed at first like wasted space to Jennifer, but she said she never wants another kitchen without slots for baking pans and serving trays.Shelves that flip out on piano hinges maximize the space in the chef's pantry.
Nearby restaurants such as Biga on the Banks, Restaurant Gwendolyn, Monterey, , Bar 1919 and Saveurs 209 often inspire experiments. We just play with stuff, she said.Sangria is on the menu for most parties.
It's easy, it works, and everybody loves it, she said.If sangria fails as an icebreaker, extending the dining table will get the crowd talking. Hidden between the table's marble base and its glass top is a glass leaf that spins and rises into place when the ends are pulled out.
Regular guests are so enamored of the table trick that they demonstrate it for newcomers.Jennifer riffs off of recipes in magazines and cookbooks. I read cookbooks like some people read novels, she said.
A Bon Apptit spread about street tacos inspired two parties, and she made her own corn tortillas for the first. A girl from Montana making her own tortillas, she said with a laugh. The next time, she bought them from a neighborhood tortillera.
It was a lot more work than I wanted to do while we were having a party.Jennifer wants to try making crme brle and infused bourbons like ones she has sampled at Bar 1919.