Who cooks and eats here: Emily Stoffel and her husband Chris Stoffel
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Rent or Own? Rent
I arrived at Emily’s cottage-like home in Menlo Park, CA, not really knowing what to expect. Em and I had cultivated a pretty ferocious online friendship through our respective blogs, but hadn’t met in person until this point. This is the life of blogging. It’s much like blind dating. I stood at her front stoop and knocked. She answered. She invited me inside and promptly handed me a watermelon mimosa. Okay. I think we just became best friends. It doesn’t take much. As we walked through her living room, the smell of bacon and sweet potatoes wafting in from the kitchen, I promptly decided: I like it here.
Emily’s kitchen comes with a hint of nostalgia. It sports vintage-y cream wallpaper and a wall full of warm, wooden cabinets surrounds the sink. A cute Wedgewood stove sits in the corner. The space is narrow and limited, but Emily found ways to maximize her storage space by bringing in some smart and practical open shelving. The open shelving arrangement also shows off some of her fun and colorful kitchen dishes and accessories, which naturally brings life to the kitchen. The space is still studded by warmth and personality with personal touches such as a handmade wooden calendar, a housewarming gift for the couple that was handcrafted specially by Emily’s father. A lot of her major kitchen gadgets also live on the open shelving unit next to the fridge in order to achieve maximum accessibility. "I like everything to be at my finger-tips and ready to go," she explains.
This desire for an easy-to-use kitchen spawns from the fact she spends over 60 hours a week at her marketing job, so she takes a no-nonsense approach when it comes to cooking and creating new recipes for her blossoming (and oh, so sassy) food blog, The Pig And Quill. Any given tool is within a foot or two, so she can make the most of her time in the kitchen (and continue to dupe her picky-eater husband into eating his vegetables by adding things like bacon into the mix — it’s working).
This old-fashioned space is not only accessible in style, but also in the atmosphere created by the people who live there. The vibe created in their home has an undeniably "everyone is family" feel. Seriously, she welcomed me with an impressive spread of food, a watermelon-flavored boozy drink, and a ton of laughs. I qualify this as Warm Welcome: Level Expert.
10 Questions for Emily (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
My cooking is definitely inspired by our families. We're lucky to have a rich culinary heritage on both sides, and we come from a place of deep appreciation for what our families were able to provide growing up. I hate wasting food. I’ve been known to dig the heel of the bread out of the trash rather than see it thrown out (still in the bag, of course... I think). When it comes to our kitchen, I love the look and feel of open stock, similar to an industrial kitchen, and having everything out in the open. Quick at hand is just so easy.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I love our classic Wedgewood stove. It heats up evenly, and fast! And its petite size might be the sole deterrent from buying those enormous (-ly tempting) take-and-bake pizzas from Costco. When it comes to kitchen electrics, we had one little nook where we could put either a small microwave or a toaster oven. I’m Team Toaster Oven all the way, baby.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
When we first moved back to California, Chris and I rented a single bedroom in a house a few blocks over. We had access to the kitchen, but it didn't feel like ours. The day we moved into our current house, I made a couple of quick breakfast sandwiches with griddled ham, eggs and freshly baked biscuits. Super easy, but I was so giddy to be back in the kitchen, they were absolute bliss.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Counter space. Or lack thereof. We make do, but it would be great to have just a little more wiggle room for prep, plating, drying dishes, the usual.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
We daydream about what we'd do if this kitchen was actually ours to modify, but we love a lot of things about it. New wallpaper and window treatments would jazz things up a bit. And the linoleum is dated, but it hides my mess so well!
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Our Shun knives. Chris and I bought each other a good block of knives six years ago, and they've drastically improved the prep experience. We've added a couple here and there over the years, but would you believe we’ve never even had the first set sharpened? Should I be embarrassed to admit that?
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
We're pretty limited since we're renting, but I'd love a French door fridge. As it is now, the refrigerator door completely blocks passage through the kitchen when we're putting groceries away (or any time it's open, really). A nice-to-have, for sure.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
What's Clean Eating that's a little bit dirty? Dusty Eating? I’d say 80% of what comes out of our kitchen is thoughtful, balanced, fresh and in line with the seasons – all that good stuff. The rest leans toward the indulgent (hence the pig, I suppose). And I strive to keep everything accessible. You'll hardly find me in a specialty food store or spending three days prepping a meal that can be made in one fell swoop.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Clean up as you go. It's not original, but it works. Clean-up after dinner in our house — whether it's just the two of us or a bigger crowd — takes 15 minutes, max. We also wipe down the whole stove surface every time it's used. I haven’t actually "cleaned" a stove in probably 10 years.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Once upon a time I actually planned my weekly meals and shopped with a grocery list that reflected that plan. These days I’m wingin' it. Based on what I've got around the house, it looks like we’ll be on a salad kick for a while – but none of that rabbit food nonsense. I like big, oafy salads, preferably topped with smoky, roasted or fried things. Oooh, or a squeaky hunk of ooey, grilled halloumi! Chris has also placed a request for a savory, portable snack bar to take along during mountain bike rides. How off-putting is a bacon-studded quinoa bar? It just might happen.
Resources of Note:
- Kitchen table and chairs: Cost Plus World Market
- White Everyday Serveware: Williams Sonoma
- Colored ice cream bowls: Anthropologie
- Bread warming basket: Emile Henry
- Hanging fruit basket: Cost Plus World Market
- Metal open shelving and utensil/pot rack: IKEA
- Butcher board: IKEA (it's like $10! Best deal there)
- Pots: Calphalon
- Magnetic kitchen timers: Amazon
- Glass pitcher: Goodwill
- Champagne flutes: Reidel
- Espresso machine & milk frother: Nespresso
- Stand mixer: KitchenAid
- Perpetual calendar: Handmade housewarming gift from my Dad
- Flatware: Hand-me-downs from the parents
- Stove: Wedgewood circa 1950's
- Tea kettle: Le Creuset
- Knives: Shun
- Wooden bakers cart: The Home Depot
- China teacups and saucers: Vera Wang and Kate Spade (L to R) - we didn't think registering for a whole set was worth the money or the cabinet space, so we each chose a favorite. Bonus: we didn't have to agree on a pattern, and we actually use them quite a bit!
- Biceps: Body by Emily "Fork-to-Face" Daily Workout
Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen!
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(Images: Gina Biancaniello)