When my friend Amy began dating Peter, before I met him in person, I knew him through food. When she described the dishes he cooked for her, my mouth watered. Turns out, not only is Peter a fantastic cook, he’s one of the most easygoing, loveable people I’ve ever run across.
Peter’s cooking career stretches back thirty years. Fresh ingredients are his passion. He was instantly impressed when he moved from his roots in Philadelphia to California, where he discovered an abundance of small farm produce and free range meats. Working in the valley, Peter became familiar with many of the highly esteemed, old guard wine families. This inspired a move from the hectic hustle and bustle of restaurant life to a career as a private chef, developing menus for private parties and events with a few of these Napa Valley wineries.
When Peter and Amy began to search for a home together, they found the perfect place on their first showing, a high-ceiling house perched on a hill with views of nature from every window. But at the time, they weren’t sure if this place was so great — what other wonderful homes might be out there? Turns out, none. But luckily, after six months of searching, the first home was still available.
Peter and Amy got to work to make the kitchen their own. They added a huge 4’x7’ butcher block island, black granite counter tops, subway tiles (which they laid themselves) farmhouse sink, floating shelves, a Subzero refrigerator and a BlueStar stove. This is the haven where Peter whips up meals for at-home dinner parties. I’ve been lucky enough to be at several of these parties, when this butcher block was laden with platters of delicious foods from end-to-end, and I’ve also sat at the dining table where he served duck confit on his Grandmother’s china dishware.
When I ask, “What advice can you give home cooks?” Peter replies, “Keep it simple. There’s a lot to be said for a perfect roast chicken, as well as having delicious leftovers the following day. The less ingredients, the better. Don’t work your dish too hard, make sure the original flavors come through. Fresh ingredients are key.” As evidence of this he opens their refrigerator door and asks me, “What do you see?” I respond, “Alcohol.” We laugh. There’s very little produce because Peter likes to buy fresh produce on a daily basis. He also suggests looking at the weather when planning out a menu, if it’s cooler you can go with more substantial foods. And of course, Peter says, “Pay attention to your pairings with wine. It’s nice to incorporate some wine into the dish itself: a reduction sauce, some verjus (wine vinegar) or a granita desert.” If you want to check out some of Peter’s recipes you can look up his cookbook on lulu.com, ‘Eating at Home and Other Simple Pleasures.’
I ask, “What about kitchen utensils, do you have some favorite tools?” He surprises me by pulling out a simple wooden skewer stick. “These are great,” he tells me, “I use these to poke at and test food. And sharp knives, of course. I don’t like a lot of gadgets, it clutters up important counter space.”
If living in Napa is all about enjoying good food and wine, then for these two and their family of two cats and a roost of chickens, they have it in spades! NVL