Once reluctant to renovate, islander finally has kitchen she loves
There’s no ignoring the sword-swallowing woman whose image dominates Anne Reiswerg’s color-drenched dining room and kitchen. Nor can you miss the vibrant butterfly garden that boldly announces its presence just outside the adjacent glass patio door.
If that doesn’t capture your attention, there’s a nearby arrangement of porcelain castings that depict human hands, one of which holds a single flower. Plus, there’s the surprise of soft rose-colored velvet chairs set around a rough-hewn, 5-by-9-foot table. The table incorporates salvaged lumber from the Old Galveston Club, a “speak easy” hangout that in its time was among the island’s most popular.
“This is a complete turnaround from what this part of the house looked like before Hurricane Ike flooded it with 4 feet of water in 2008,” Reiswerg said of the kitchen of her Adler Circle home on the island.
As if one redo wasn’t enough, Reiswerg has just completed a second, more recent upgrade after deciding her post-Ike project was adequate, but didn’t result in a kitchen she could love.
“Anne was not especially interested in cooking, however, so taking her kitchen to the next level was not of great importance to her,” said her good friend Ilse Benard, who also is an interior designer and feng shui consultant. “I finally was able to appeal to her practical sense, however, by pointing out that an attractive kitchen greatly improves a home’s resale value.”
It was a message that registered with Reiswerg, who oversees the rental component of island-based Sand ’N Sea Properties, the family-owned business in which she works with her mother and sister. And although Benard and Reiswerg share a deep friendship that goes back years, the upgrades did not always go smoothly.
“Initially, Anne was simply not even open to ‘open’” said Benard, describing the home’s earlier kitchen as one of several, small closed-off rooms that seemed to have been shoved together across the back of the house.
Reiswerg remembers those early discussions clearly.
“She really pushed me,” Reiswerg said.
But, just as only a good friend can, Reiswerg pushed back.
“That is going to look really weird,” Reiswerg would often say when Benard proposed a new idea, to which Benard would then respond, “Trust me.”
In retrospect, that trust has paid off throughout the two renovations, but they still laugh as they recall the negotiations.
Today, where dated and dowdy once ruled, high-tech fixtures and lighthearted furnishings happily coexist within an exuberant color wheel of pink, red, orange, gold, green, blue and violet. Deep espresso cabinetry, a crisp white tile backsplash, blonde bamboo flooring and walls washed with a pale sea glass shade of gray provide strong base tones. A suite of stainless steel appliances and accessories add shimmer and shine, and glass insets in the cabinetry feature a rain-streaked pattern that provides an illusion of transparency but strategically obscures contents.
State-of-the-art appliances include a KitchenAid double-door refrigerator/freezer and combination double oven with conventional and convection features. A rounded, free-standing bar area includes a five-burner KitchenAid cooktop above which a Miele brand range hood provides highly efficient updraft venting. Reiswerg’s pride and joy, however, is a General Electric Advantium oven that offers ultra fast cooking through the incorporation of halogen lamps plus microwave energy.
With a sleek, no-nonsense food preparation area, Reiswerg can now better showcase treasured memorabilia she has collected locally and through her travels. As the daughter of the late Meyer Reiswerg, longtime proprietor of the island’s beloved Col. Bubbie’s Strand Surplus Senter — which closed several years ago — she has inherited an eye for the unusual. But today, it’s a greatly pared down collection.
“I used to own a lot of vintage pieces, but I lost so much in Ike that I decided to refine my passion for collecting and concentrate on only those items that have special meaning,” she said.
This includes two cookie jars, one shaped like an apple and the other featuring a mischievous elfin image, several pieces of orange pottery, a grouping of pink flamingos displayed in front of a vintage tourist souvenir tray from Silver Springs, Fla., papier-mâché bowls from Tel Aviv and various handmade crafts purchased from street vendors in Cuba.
More locally sourced treasures include a token once used by the Galveston Transit Co., and a 1953 Galveston City dog tag, both of which have been inset into the top of the dining room table, a custom creation by Scott Hanson, owner of the Antique Warehouse in Galveston. More island history is captured in the table’s beveled edge that incorporates vintage wooden yardsticks advertising local merchants from the past.
Just beyond the indoor dining room, Reiswerg’s entertaining area spills out onto a secluded back patio in which an additional lattice-shaded table and chairs are set amid what Reiswerg refers to as “a butterfly haven” planted with an array of native plants, culinary herbs, night-blooming jasmine and white bird-of-paradise. Oversized lounge chairs are shaded by giant umbrellas, and a small, round pool — heated in the winter — seems to offer an invitation to jump in and relax with a cool drink on one of its built-in underwater banquettes.
Along the way, Reiswerg, as predicted by Benard, has discovered yet another joy in her life.
“I kept telling her that if she had a kitchen she loved, she would learn to love cooking,” Benard said, as she sampled a bite and gave an enthusiastic “thumbs up” to the special blue-cheese topped steaks her friend now regularly serves guests. “And now she’s cooking.”
Anne’s New York Sirloin Steaks
2 generously sized New York strip or rib eye steaks, about
1½ pounds each
Canola or other oil
Salt and cracked black pepper
Blue cheese butter (recipe follows)
Brush steaks with oil and season with salt and cracked black pepper.
Grill until meat is charred on both sides and steaks are cooked to desired preference. (Reiswerg said she likes her steaks cooked rare, so this works out to about 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the meat cut.)
Remove steaks from heat and let stand about 5 minutes before serving. Just before serving, top each steak with a dollop of the blue cheese butter.
Blue Cheese Butter
½ cup real butter, softened to room temperature
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 small clove garlic,
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.