Open-concept kitchen in Bayou Vista is made for cooking and crowds
Jeanne and Bill Kidwell’s Bayou Vista home is just steps away from the John M. O’Quinn Nature Preserve where the marshlands provide unspoiled views and manna from the sea.
“I usually get my crabs right in front of the house, so I have the opportunity to make really fresh seafood dishes,” Jeanne Kidwell said.
Kidwell remodeled her open-concept kitchen, dining and living room a few years ago by updating décor and giving the area a more classic look.
“To achieve that style, I replaced the white kitchen cabinets with custom-built ones and had them painted a soft ivory with an inking effect,” she said.
Inking is a process in which a darker color is used to bring out the details in the cabinet insets and molding, she said.
The Kidwells had new granite installed atop the L-shaped bar, enhanced with decorative corbels that got the same inking treatment. New barstools with black herringbone cushions and nailhead trim also were added.
A 9-foot dining table, which seats 10, matches a black double-door glass hutch from Restoration Hardware.
A travertine fireplace with custom-built mantel in the living room is flanked by matching bookshelves.
White spindles on the staircase were replaced with custom-built, heart-shaped iron railings.
“The designer built the railing to match the base of my coffee table, and I’ve used that design in other areas of the kitchen and dining room,” Kidwell said.
Now that everything is to her liking, she spends more time being creative in the kitchen, such as making her famous kolache bread and anything having to do with fish.
“My grandmother fried a lot of fish, but I put a healthier twist on that now, and since we catch a lot of redfish, I like to bake them in the oven, covered with tomatoes, bell peppers and green onions,” she said. “We also eat a lot of crab that we harvest and freeze, so I always have crab on hand to make dips, soups, bisque and salads.”
The close-knit Bayou Vista community is known for socializing, so it’s common for neighbors to stop by in their golf carts or boat over on one of the canals.
“The openness of everything now provides a mingling space,” Kidwell said. “When we have gatherings, we have wall-to-wall food. You can sit at the bar, stand, sit at the dining table or in the living room.”
Indoors or outdoors, there is always something going on involving food.
“We have impromptu cocktail cruises when someone might call and say, ‘We’re coming down the canal in our boat, so whatever you have in the refrigerator, get it out,’” Kidwell said. “So, I’m always prepared by keeping frozen cooked shrimp in the freezer that thaws under cool water. I just pour some Tony Chachere’s seasoning on them, make a quick cocktail sauce and I’m good to go.”
With a separate outdoor kitchen and grill downstairs by the pool, there’s extra room to accommodate a crowd.
“We mostly do everything buffet-style for wine club, book club and ladies’ night out,” she said. “For special events, like Christmas and garden club, we’re more formal. My neighbor, Penny Salter, has 185 wine glasses, 250 chair covers and about 80 round tablecloths in all colors that come in handy.”
Although the kitchen is Kidwell’s favorite room in the house, the view of those marshlands from her dining-room window is an added plus, she said.
“While I’m preparing something in the kitchen, I never get tired of seeing the view,” she said. “It makes cooking fun, like when I make my shrimp and crab salad that I serve in tall martini glasses. It’s a big hit here.”
SHRIMP AND CRABMEAT SALAD
1 pound cooked, deveined shrimp
1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat (fresh blue crab works best)
½ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup chopped green onion
1½ cups diced celery
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Old Bay Seasoning
1 cup mayonnaise
1½ cups potato chips, crushed
Paprika to taste
Mix all ingredients except potato chips and paprika. Top with crushed chips and paprika just before serving on lettuce.
Kitchen secret: When I cook crab, I keep the water I cooked it in, strain it, freeze it and use that as my base instead of water for another seafood recipe.
Favorite gadget: Silicone garlic peeler
Heirloom item: Luncheon plates from grandmother
Recipe book: “Texas Bed & Breakfast Cookbook”