Charley and Jessica use their kitchen for cooking delicious homemade meals, but they also use it as the test kitchen for their bean-to-bar chocolate company.
• More about Woodblock Chocolate
I first met this delightful family (they have a 9 year–old daughter and a 7–year old son) at a craft fair. Upon sampling the pure, dark (and sometimes salty! Mmm!) chocolates, I had to know them more. I wanted to discover the secrets of belonging to a set of parents who made chocolate for a living; such lucky kids! Woodblock chocolates are divine and it's pretty amazing that the business started in this very kitchen.
The kitchen is a beautiful remodel Charley and Jessica tackled themselves. They opened up what was once a shoebox room, long and thin, to make the kitchen and dining room one highly social hub of activity.
They installed open shelving for easy grabbing of grains, salts, and chocolates and lined the walls with simple white subway tiles. The countertops are IKEA butcher block, trimmed to fit. The effect of the white and wood grain is lovely — simultaneously classy and modern.
And no visit to this kitchen would be complete without a taste of something outrageously good. This time I was offered a chili–spiked pot de creme. It was only 10 am but that's chocolate–eating time in my book. Thanks so much for the tour and the treat, Charley and Jessica!
10 Questions for Charley and Jessica (and Their Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Our kitchen is a workshop. We are inspired by our tools, our ingredients, what our friends are eating and the seasons. We did away with a lot of the existing cabinets in our kitchen and replaced them with open shelves so we can see what we have to work with. We also like to put dry food in nice jars so we can see it, rather than the packaging. Except for stuff in cool packaging! Ha!
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I love the functional/historical depth in the cured patina of our cast iron skillet. Its home is on the range. We use it every day. The burnished, worked surface is so rich and personal. It is actually quite intimate. If you are what you eat, they could probably grow a pretty good version of us from a scraping of that skillet.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Our friend Paula packs more dried peppers than clothes in her bags when she returns from visiting her family in Mexico. She is also crazy for chocolate so she suggested that she come over and make an authentic mole. It was so colorful, and complicated. After hours of cooking, we ended up with very pale chicken and a brown sauce that, to the eye seemed simple but as soon as the aroma hit your shnoz, all bets were off. All of that effort became glaringly apparent. Man, I wish Paula didn't move. My mouth is watering. It was like eating a color wheel, so bright and dynamic.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Because we opened up the kitchen to be integrated with the dining room, it is quite difficult to sneak kale and flaxseed and whatnot into the kids' smoothies without them seeing. If they knew half of the good stuff they were eating, they would freak.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
I bought Jessica some really beautiful copper canele molds that I might use to germinate tomato seeds this spring since there are no caneles being made...hint hint, Honey Baby pleeeeeze make me some caneles!
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
I wish we had a glass door on our fridge like the one at the chocolate manufactory.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
We have tons of cookbooks; a permanent collection and revolving selections from the library. We have notebooks full of recipes. We have dog-eared magazines. We have bookmarked websites and we have friends on speed dial. We will usually be referring to some version of a recipe for dinners but as far as specific taste goes we are open to anything that goes well with salt.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Recently my pal Ben, who is a FCI graduate, told me that his daughter got her hair wound up in the KitchenAid mixer! She is okay but it sounded scary and hectic. Our 9-year-old daughter, Madeleine is quite a baker herself and we now make her tie her long curly hair back before she runs that machine. Unless fresh scalp is in the recipe, you might consider tying yours back too.
A more general tip that we live by is what old Hippocrates said: "Let food be thy medicine". Fortunately food is one of the few medicines that actually go really well with wine!
10. What are you cooking this week?
My dad was a soup fiend. His freezer looked like an icy compost heap with onion skins, carrot ends and whatnot. He saved everything and would use it later to "educate" water. Except for the year he cut salt out of his diet, his soups were amazing. That is one of the things we are working on now. I'm going to make a killer cilantro and lime chicken soup. My mouth is watering again.
• Stove/oven: GE
• Pots and pans: All Clad and Le Crueset
• Dishes: Random
• Subway tiles: Habitat for Humanity
• Kitchen paint color: Leaf by Yolo
• Sink: believe it or not, our plumber had it in his van and just gave it to us. I don't know who made it.
• Cabinets: they were installed when we got here and we just painted them white. They used to be wood, like everything else in our house!
• Visit Charley and Jessica's Chocolate Company: Woodblock Chocolate
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Show us your kitchen here!
Related: Shauna's French–nspired Renovation
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)