all photos: Kimberly Cadena, all words by: Svetlana
Barton Seaver lives, with wife and two cats, in a glorious little home in a glorious little cul-du-sac street right behind Mount Pleasant’s main drag. The home strikes that delicate, elusive balance between cool and artful and functional (kind of like the Seavers themselves) that instantly brings to mind the glorious spreads of The Selby, and you just want to take a bajillion photos of it, and pick up every book, and look at every poster and painting and smell every jar and bottle around. But we’re here for the fridge so, we try and restrain ourselves from a full on invasion of privacy.
Thankfully though, Barton, who grew up just a couple of blocks from where we stand now, waves us in and says: “You should check out the house too, because it kind of sets the tone for the kitchen”. Amen to that.
On the day we’re there the Seaver compound is in full action: over the next two days, 65 recipes will be cooked, placed around the house and photographed for Barton’s new book (his first one “For Cod and Country” is out now and available, well, everywhere) and somehow, between that and his other sustainability efforts, in the mix of it all, he will be the hosting chef of CUISINE CONTRA next Monday @ The Textile Musuem. But for today, the whole house is a photo set.
I usually don’t have lemons on my bookshelves, he gestures as he walks us through the bedroom and onto the patio where new cocktails to accompany the meals in the book are being sampled (“It’s good you guys cabbed”- Carrie Anne, his wife, laughs)
Slowly, past the books, the canned waters, the new art purchases, the family mementos, and the perfectly juxtaposed laptops vs. typewriter set-ups, we make our way to the kitchen, which looks kind of like a kitchen you’d have, narrow, part of a hallway, with pretty good light, but that is literally covered in emulsions, sauces, fresh vegetables and as we’re about to find out, all things anchovy.
You see, the #1 word used during our visit was, in fact, ANCHOVY. It is everywhere, on shelves (alongside other canned, smoked fish(es), which Barton loves), the fridge, in recipes, everywhere. When I ask what is the one thing that he always has in house, big book prep day or not, he doesn’t skip a bit and says “ANCHOVIES”. Which, frankly, we’re fully on board with.
So, as the fridge opens, the Anchovy oil is dutifully pointed out and we move onto the rest of the door:
- where we find:
- goya olives
- pistacchio, sockeye salmon and walnut oils (refrigerated because they tend to go rancid faster than regular oils)
- regular, rice AND soy milk
- maple syrup
- beers and “Please don’t forget to capture my fridge collection of red wine and vermouth, k?” he laughs (whatever, chilled red wine in summer IS DELICIOUS, we think)
The main portion of the fridge is a sea of fruits and veggies (“We just eat a lot of vegetables, that’s all I have to say”) and cheeses (which come with some hot tips like the fact that Barton thinks that Cracker Barrel’s black aged reserve is the best mass produced cheese around, if you’re into that kind of thing) and…
…does uncover one unexpected guest: his phone, which is literally just chillin’ there after overheating in the kitchen.
what is not unexpected is all the mackarel we locate in the crisper as well as mouth-watering things like goat cheese medallions just waiting to be baked and crisped to perfection
Faced with the sea of vegetables, we ask where they shop and find out that most stuff in there is a combination of Mount Pleasant farmer’s market and Columbia Heights GIANT (“which is by no means ideal, but it IS close”)
And while the fridge does feature an (untouched) 6 pack of Sam Adams and some Guiness, Seavers prefer dubbels and hefeweisens, and do have some Shipyard Wheat ales (“a brewery owned by a friend”) hanging around the sides. (“One of my 2011 resolutions”-offers Barton-”is that I would drink more. Not just drink though but actually leave the house, see my friends and have a drink with them. The main problem I have is that after my restaurant days were over, I became just so enamored with doing NOTHING at night. Just being home felt so great. Now, we’re trying to change that up a little”)
Opening the freezer is usually one of my favorite things with these stories and that is because, unlike the fridge, the freezers really show your true colors. Your true colors AND YOUR HIP HOP ICE CUBE TRAYS, in this case.
Prominently featured in there as well:
- frozen vegetables (“Which I am a big fan of”-he offers- “Because, well, they last longer”)
- popsicles (“My wife loves them”)
- a lot of frozen seafood (“As you can imagine, I get sent a lot of samples”)
- two big bags of their tomato sauce (“Which every year, we make the mistake of packing into big bags since you can’t defrost and then freeze them up again, and I mean, who needs a gallon of tomato sauce in one sitting?”)
- and some tater tots (kudos on that)
In brief, if the Seaver household invited you over for a drink or a meal, on the basis of this visit, you’d be a (damn) FOOL to decline.
Like what you saw? Miss eating food Barton Seaver made @ Hook and Blue Ridge and Saint-EX? Well, grab his book, see him at one of his public lectures (he is a National Geographic fellow) and/or visit Pink line Project’s CUISINE CONTRA on Monday @ The Textile Museum (there are still tickets left)