Wes and Brianne are world travelers who upon returning to the US a few years ago, settled into a small Portland, Oregon, home. This couple shows us that outrageous, ambitious meals certainly can come from tiny kitchens. Plus, the creativity of this home cook will inspire you!
Wes and Brianne share a love for travel and their home cooking reflects this passion. Their kitchen is also home to many objects, picked up on trips around the globe. Brianne often shops for fresh, organic produce, while Wes turns the goods into a fabulous dinner. Their interest in international cuisine coupled with their amazing hosting skills make them ideal neighbors (I'm fortunate enough to live three blocks down the street!). You know when Wes is "just putting together some Bun (Vietnamese cold noodle dish)," it's time to drop everything, high tail it over there and get ready for an outrageous bowl of noodles and a glass of perfectly–chilled wine. The same happens when he decides to "throw some pizzas on the grill." Such a humble sentence hardly does justice to the expertly cooked, layers of flavor that permeate these crispy pies, topped with arugula and fresh herbs.
The kitchen where all this artistry happens is one of the bigger rooms in the 660 square–foot house, but it's by no means large. It doesn't matter though, because tools and utensils are strategically arranged and meticulously organized. The flow, organization, quality of ingredients used and vivid imaginations of the owners are all inspiring, especially to those of us working in a small space. It's the most popular spot in the house, what with all the wonderful meals created by two generous hosts, it's easy to see why. This kitchen is where the action is and where you may be slipped secret slices of fancy cheese, a piece of dark chocolate or a just–toasted, salty almond. Join me in learning more about this unique kitchen and what's on Wes and Brianne's menu.
10 Questions For Wes & Brianne (And Their Kitchen)
note: Wes answered this questionnaire
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Well we repainted the kitchen from hunter green and yellowish tan to the silver, white and red colors we have going in there now. We didn't change the structure of the kitchen at all, which is pretty much in its original state from when it was built in 1918. In cooking, I like international dishes with local produce. My wife, Brianne, often buys interesting produce and I just have to figure out what to do with it.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
My hands. inevitably, everything i make, i use my hands when cooking. i have drawers full of gagets, but I still use my hands most often.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Salmon and the salad became somewhat of a sensation with us and our friends last summer. The inspiration struck me in the produce section, stone fruits were looking great, so i thought how can i use them? I just came up with what became known as the salad. It consisted of grilled chard and kale, green leaf lettuce, grilled peaches and apricots, avocado, baby basil, crushed roasted almonds, goat cheese, fresh raspberry/strawberry vinaigrette. All this was topped off with a little baked salmon which I cooked with ginger, garlic, lemon, and maple syrup glaze.
For dessert I served the syrup from the grilled peaches on top of vanilla ice-cream with fresh raspberries from our garden.
This meal is best enjoyed with friends. I like cooking for Brianne and I, but I really i enjoy cooking for friends.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
The kitchen probably needs to be updated. There's no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, the oven is small and there's not enough prep space.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently? [if renovated]
Haven't renovated, just repainted.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
We don't have the space for any real big indulgences, so we really appreciate the small objects in our kitchen — for example, pictures from a gallery in Edinburgh, vintage cocktail glasses, milk and sugar vessels from Denmark, metal glasses from Brianne's German Grandma, etc.
I have a little problem with nice wines, I do have an assortment, mostly from Oregon, but i try to find new wines from other countries. I like French wines.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
garbage disposal, dishwasher, new stove.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
International, free style and seasonal — grilling in summer, soups in winter — I'm inspired most by Asian and Mexican cuisine.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Taste it before you serve, trust your palate, and don't be afraid to improvise.
10. What are you cooking this week?
I saw parsnips at the store and had never had done anything with them, so i decided on a parsnip challenge. I ended up with roasted parsnip and beet soup. I got the beets and parsnips, roasted them with ginger, garlic and butter, then added veggie broth and basmati rice and garam masala. A little cayenne too, at the end. It was a chunky soup.
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)