A Note from the Chef
I’ve always considered myself to be a free spirit. It’s the alter ego to my more traditional expression. Both sides are evident when I consider the differences between the Ridgefield home I lived in until June of 2010 and the lakeside cottage in New Milford I moved to. The former was Mediterranean on the outside and traditional/artsy (with a hint of eclectic) on the inside.
The lake house couldn’t be more different; small/charming, with a dose of bohemian. And a great view. Yet, both are me.
Though I lived in my Ridgefield home for 12 years, it had a complete makeover in November of 2004 when a fire that nearly destroyed it made it necessary to rebuild from the foundation up. It was a fascinating and revealing process as every aspect of its design became an authentic expression of me and I loved the result. So it came as quite a surprise to find myself comfortable with old plumbing, small closets, a miniscule kitchen and the horrors of an electric stove. It’s charming cabin feel, with its knotty pine walls, stone fireplace and twisty stairs leading up to a treetop bedroom with a deck and stunning view of the lake below, brought out the child in me.
And the bohemian was reborn – now with a distinctively chic side. I had plenty of furnishings.
As a chef, I thought I regularly let my inner bohemian come out as I toyed with traditional Italian and Mediterranean dishes and served them to thousands of my former restaurant patrons or shared online and in my book Simply Sauté. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I haven’t really ventured far from shore. In a culinary sense, I’ve been playing it rather safe. Though I was irreverent enough to add cheddar cheese to lasagna or mix ricotta with béchamel or even mess with meatloaf and make it Italian by adding eggplant to it, I rarely left my comfort zone far behind. Recently I did.
The sauté cook in me was urged to meet her Asian cousin when I was encouraged by Sandra (the part Japanese owner and incredible baker of the Green Granary in New Milford) to try my hand at making Pad Thai. Sauté instincts took over as I stir fried the chicken, tofu and rice noodles in the sauce we prepared together beforehand. The result – according to the high standards of Sandra – was worthy of rave reviews.
I couldn’t help but notice that being far from shore was just another way of going home.