Describe your BEFORE kitchen:
It was the El Toreador kitchen! Blood red fake brick linoleum, dark veneer carved cabinets that were EVERYWHERE, a dysfunctional layout. The most charming thing was a brown six burner, double-oven stove that was famous in the neighborhood. When we moved in people kept coming up to us in the street and asking us if it was still there.
Really? What is the history of the house?
It was owned by the same family until the 70's when the dreadful remodel happened. The kitchen and the stove were especially famous because it was the first house to remodel in the neighborhood and everyone was very impressed.
What were your influences for your color choices?
Ray: We saw a historic kitchen in the town of Sonoma. The colors were putty and buttermilk but we ended up darkening the buttermilk to the golden yellow. The green came from a photo of a New Orleans house.
What’s your favorite thing in your kitchen?
Ray: The glass cabinet knobs. I've been collecting them for years. I have 28 of them and I need 29. Almost there! Or maybe the 1927 wall phone. It works!
What about the tiles?
The countertop tiles are handmade from Italy and the subway tiles are handmade, too. We installed them ourselves.
What is the biggest challenge in your kitchen?
The lighting over the sink.
What about the plates on the wall?
They're by the Italian artist Carlo Marchiori from the series Pulcinella and the Moon. He lives in Calistoga and has a gallery called Ca'Toga.
Anything you would change?
The bamboo floor. The finish scratches very easily and it really shows the dirt.
Kitchen task that you hate?
Scott: I hate making cookies.
Ray: I love making cookies! I hate the planning stage, coming up with the menu.
What’s always in your pantry?
Extra virgin Italian olive oil. An assortment of dried beans and legumes, stock, wine, wide array of herbs and spices. Frozen ravioli for a quick dinner.
Scott: I cannot answer that question. Impossible! Always inspired by whatever is in season. Right now it's pumpkin, earlier it was everything tomato.
What's the first thing you've ever cooked?
Scott: Quiche Lorraine.
Ray: Can you believe that? And then he made brioche. He was TWELVE!
Scott: No, wait. Before that I used to make the coffee cake from the back of the Bisquick box.
Ray: I liked to bake. I remember making a cake from the Betty Crocker book. It had a brown sugar frosting.
Best cooking advice or tip you’ve received?
Scott: Don't be slavish in following cookbooks. Use for them for inspiration.
Ray: Never try a new recipe at a dinner party. I did that one Thanksgiving for the whole dinner. The whole dinner! Disaster! Everything was awful.
What are you cooking right now?
Scott: Richard Olney's Pumpkin Tian, roasted tomatoes, homemade ketchup for canning.
Ray's birthday meal menu (above) translated and expanded on:
• Raw Oysters with Meyer Lemon
• Filet of sole stuffed with shrimp mousse poached in court-bouillon served with light tarragon/tomato cream sauce
• Quails stuffed with truffles poached in veal demi-glasse and served with truffle sauce
• Lamb cutlets breaded and served with a red wine sauce
• Braised endive
• Chocolate soufflé
Influence: Turn-of-the-20th-century, over the top gourmet French food, for a post-absinthe birthday toast.
We love our bi-weekly mystery box from Mariquita Farms, SF Farmer's Markets, our local Canyon Market and (soon, hopefully!) the chicken and egg CSA from Soul Food Farm.
Your culinary childhood?
Ray: I grew up in an Italian-American household in Napa, California. A lot of fresh, local produce. I learned to cook from my grandma who learned from her mother who had immigrated here. I still have all their recipes, still make their food.
Scott: My grandmother on my father's side made a lot of English holiday food. My mother's side had a strong southern influence. But mostly it was standard, plain 70's cooking from my mom. My grandmothers' love of cooking and always sitting down at the table was important influence.Favorite thing to cook? Scott: Right now I'm enjoying the transition between our local high summer/Mediterranean foods (tomatoes, peppers, basil) and the precursors to winter (pumpkins, squash.)
(Images: Dana Velden)