As we go through life, there are people you meet who you’ve never heard of before, while there are others who come with a preface, an introduction that’s been put out there about them. It could be from friends who have said something like, “Oh, you have to meet Bob and Diane. You’ll love them.” Or because they’re in the public eye, which happens more and more, thanks to social media. Fifteen years ago, I would have known who the head of J. Crew menswear was, given my day job. These days, we not only know what Frank Muytjens looks like, but that he has an adorable dog named Dutch and a picture-perfect house in Columbia County. We know that he likes to entertain, thanks to Bon Appetit, but I wanted to know more.
There he was, strolling past us at Guido’s market last Fall, his cart somehow managing to look chicer than ours simply by the produce he had chosen. Then there he was at Stagecoach Tavern, dining with friends we also knew. The next time I spotted him in Guido’s last Spring, I ambushed him. It was just a quick hello, with a little “You work here, I work there, we have people in common, come to dinner soon,” but my tail was wagging as we went our separate ways. He has since come to dinner and is as friendly, funny and thoughtful as his Instagrams lead you to believe. But should you need further proof, here you go.
Favorite paint color
I have two: Benjamin Moore Gargoyle, which is a brown-ish warm grey that I’ve been using forever, but my new favorite is BM Tavern Charcoal. It thinks it’s a grey, but it really is a nice dark olive…there’s something military about it. I just recently used it to update all the outside trims. I love colors that are ‘in between’, like a grey with a brown cast, or an olive with a grey cast.
Definitely thyme…It always reminds me of Spain, where I used to vacation with my family as a kid. It was just growing everywhere; my little brother and I would harvest it coming back from the beach and my dad used to throw bushes of it on the grill, then throw the meat on top of it…I can still smell it.
Secret ingredient to a dish
Dried porcini powder. It gives everything a subtle earthy deepness; I use it in ragouts and stews, especially in the Fall. I also rub it on steaks before grilling.
What cooking ingredient do you splurge on?
Everything! But especially meat. I’m a big foodie and I love good fresh honest food. It makes all the difference.
What appliance in your kitchen are you most proud of?
My stand mixer. It was a birthday present. I was a little intimidated in the beginning, but now I love it. I even used to to make my own sausages.
I have this bunch of French vintage dishtowels that I pick up in Tokyo. They’re all different; I like to mix them up and keep the table setting as informal as I can.
Wüsthoff. I have a friend who always gives me something for my kitchen that he feels is missing. Recently, he gave me a knife sharpener, and now I don’t know what I ever did without it.
I “import” my pasta from the city. I love the pasta from Setaro that they sell at Buon Italia
in Chelsea Market. People notice the difference. The packaging is amazing as well. I display them face-out in my pantry.
Speaking of your pantry, what’s the must-have there?
Maldon Sea Salt, fresh roasted coffee beans and a chewy sourdough bread.
No dish is made without: salt
I freak out if we don’t have this in the fridge: European salted butter and Gruyere.
When I purchased my house 9 years ago, all my dinnerware came from Fishs Eddy. Can’t go wrong. All off-white and sturdy and uniform, and they always have it in stock. But recently I started to mix in some vintage British transfer ware, especially oval serving platters. It feels country-appropriate.
Favorite room in the house?
It’s actually the garage, which I hope to convert into a summerhouse in the future. The house itself is kinda ‘done’ ( although, it never really is, of course) so this new project allows me to fantasize and think about how it should look like. It all started with the need for an outdoor shower off of the garage and in my mind this project is getting bigger and bigger…
Catching up on my TV shows. Right now I’m binge watching Mr. Robot. But the latest seasons of Homeland and The Americans are waiting in the wings, so we need a lot of rain! (which we need anyway…)
What you love to do most when you’re up at the house and its region?
Working in the garden. To see the colors change season by season is just mesmerizing. I love how time and temperature alter the palette. I have a couple of vegetable beds that are becoming indispensable. They’re so rewarding, digging up potatoes is the best! I love to eat off the land, and get my hands dirty in the process.
Spring, because there’s still Summer to look forward to.
Manitoga, Russel Wright’s house at Dragon Rock. We visited it this Spring, and it was like walking through a piece of American Mid Century Modern history.
Cherished piece of artwork
A custom artwork by Hugo Guinness he made of my dog.
Heat up a can of canellini beans with some garlic powder and some rosemary. Drain. Dump in bowl. Scatter a can of tuna on top of it, and drizzle some olive oil, pepper and sea salt on top. Done!
What’s the best hostess touch you do or have experienced? Or stolen?
Over the summer we were invited for lunch at a friends place, who has a beautiful garden, and immediately upon arrival they pushed a drink in my hand…it was Negroni and I haven’t been drinking anything else since. I just loved strolling in this magnificent garden, admiring at all the plants and shrubs with our hostess and all the other guests with a drink in my hand.
What’s was your worst dinner party debacle?
In college I organized a birthday dinner party, and I wanted to mix up the guests a little bit. But that backfired, there we’re all these awkward silences…no one was really talking to each other. I think I fled into the kitchen ‘checking on food’ a couple of times too many.
Cuisinart or Vitamix?
Vitamix, especially in the summer when I have to process all the tomatoes from the garden. It takes ten seconds to make a quick tomato sauce.
Most often used cookbooks?
I love the Time Life cook books from the ’60. I have the complete series, but I especially love the Provincial French one and Cooking Of Italy. They’re my go-to books to if I need a quiche or Bolognese. To me, every recipe tastes and feels authentic.
And I love Nigel Slater’s unassuming recipes, they’re almost just guidelines, and they’re great when I need to process all the vegetables from the beds.
I need to get a better system in place; I often forget where I found a certain recipe…
One thing you can’t get right in your house or decor:
For some reason the shower has never really worked well…it has been looked at many times, but we can’t get the water temperature right. It’s either hot or cold.
Bed linens brand?
Especially when they are air dried and crisp. Nothing better!
Fluffy or flat pillow?
The Monterey General Store
Mickey Muennig, who built all these beautiful organically shaped houses in Big Sur. They’re one with nature. The Post Ranch Inn is one of them.
Post Ranch Inn
Omnigod in Tokyo has the perfect olive green towels.
Fave podcast to listen to on drive up or down?
I make playlists on iTunes especially for the car…it’s the only time a really get to listen to new music. Right now I’m listening to Christine and the Queens, the new Bon Iver, and Ultimate Painting’s Dusk.
Early or late riser?
Early! Always trying to get the most out of a day! Sometimes I get into the car and drive around to take pictures just when the sun comes out.
How do you spend your first 15 minutes in the morning?
Cuddle with my dog Dutch. Check Instagram. Then I’ll jump in the car to get the paper at the gas station, brew a pot of fresh coffee, and gradually flow into the day.
How do you spend your last 15 minutes of the day?
Doing the washing up. I don’t like to come down the next morning with dirty dishes in the sink. My house is sacred like that. Then I cuddle with Dutch again and check Instagram one last time.
Care to share a favorite recipe?
Drunken Upside-Down Cake from Gather Journal
. I love making in because it looks so festive and photogenic and it always reminds me of fallen leaves with it’s colors and ingredients.
I love baking more and more, and it helps that I got a digital food scale, which is super precise. Baking is a science!
- ½cup dried cranberry
- 2Tbsp dried currants
- 4dried figs
- 1cinnamon stick
- ½cup rye whiskey or bourbon
- 1 ¾sticks butter, softened, divided
- ¾cup packed light brown sugar
- 3pears, halved and cored
- 1 ½cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½tsp baking powder
- ¼tsp salt
- 1cup granulated sugar
- 2large eggs
- 1tsp vanilla
- ½cup whole milk
Simmer cranberries, currants, and figs in whiskey with cinnamon stick 5 minutes then let stand 1 hour or overnight. Drain, reserving liquid. Slice figs in half.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Smear a layer of butter using ¾ of a stick on bottom of pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Arrange pears, cut sides down, and dried fruit over sugar.
Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat granulated sugar and remaining butter with an electric mixer until pale and light. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla and reserved whiskey. On low speed, beat in half of flour mixture, then milk, then remaining flour. Gently spread batter over fruit.
Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in its pan set on a rack 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate to cool completely.