A Sonoma vintner and her tea-impresario husband use their beautiful outdoor kitchen for everything from weeknight dinners to blowout parties.
Three sets of steps separate Chris Hanna and Jake Whiteley’s house from the patio where they entertain. So they did the only logical thing: build a kitchen outside.
Hanna oversees 250 acres of vineyards for her family’s Hanna Winery in Sonoma County, California, while Whiteley is a cofounder of Flying Goat Coffee, a roaster, café and winemaker hangout in the Sonoma town of Healdsburg. In 2004, the couple established Bungalow Coffee and Tea, which sells to top local restaurants as well as to online customers.
From May through October, Hanna and Whiteley constantly invite friends to their restored 1917 Craftsman-style house, a former hunting lodge surrounded by 14 acres of vines. "The outdoor kitchen is where we spend our days," Whiteley says. A 16-foot-long stretch of mahogany cabinets topped with concrete countertops surrounds a five-burner Grand Turbo grill and smoker, a sink and a refrigerator—which are all sturdy enough to be hosed down when the party’s over. Specially designed shelves hold plastic restaurant tubs, ideal for carrying plates and silverware inside to the dishwasher. The kitchen also incorporates many recycled materials, including the dining table, which Whiteley built from old redwood bridge beams. "Older building materials have more integrity," Hanna says. "Plus, who wants to throw such great stuff into a landfill?"
A favorite silverware-optional dish that the couple makes for large groups is Middle Eastern shwarma: Slices of grilled cumin-and-cardamom-seasoned lamb are wrapped in fresh pitas with grilled onions and peppers and homemade tahini sauce. Recently, the couple served it to 30 guests at their son Brian’s fourth birthday party—and the birthday boy helped make the bread. "Brian’s a good baker," Hanna says.
A talented cook, Hanna learned her way around the kitchen from her Syrian grandmother and half-Syrian mother. On weeknights, she often prepares quick Middle Eastern-inflected dishes such as a grilled eggplant salad tossed with feta cheese, tomatoes and arugula; all of the produce comes from their quarter-acre garden. The family also collects honey from Italian bees and grows 12-foot-high fig trees.
"That was part of everybody’s holiday present," Hanna says. "Fig jam and green-tomato pickles."
"And tea," Whiteley chimes in. "And wine."
Hanna and Whiteley chose reclaimed redwood for the beams (it’s ideal for the outdoors because it’s nearly impervious to water). The galvanized tin for the roof and the cast-iron back panel came from a scrap-metal yard.
Since the family uses the outdoor kitchen almost daily in summer and fall, they store condiments and drinks in a Sanyo undercounter refrigerator. Details $150; 818-998-7322 x525 or us.sanyo.com.
Grill and Cooktop
The 38-inch built-in Grand Turbo Grill from Barbeques Galore has all the bells and whistles of more expensive brands, like a rotisserie and a smoker. The two-burner cooktop, also from Barbeques Galore, has a stainless steel cover to protect it from the elements. Details $1,800 for grill, $400 for burners; 800-752-3085 or bbqgalore.com.
For entertaining at night, floodlights from a company called Malibu illuminate different areas. Details From $87 for a four-light kit from Home Depot; 800-553-3199 or homedepot.com.
A 30-inch stainless steel drawer and cabinets with stainless steel doors from Barbeques Galore hold pots, pans and dishes. Details $150 each for cabinets, $370 for drawer.
Cleanup strategies Hanna designed special shelves to hold 7-inch-deep tubs from Economy Restaurant Fixtures, useful for bringing dishes back to the house for washing. Details $4 each; 800-BIG-TRAY or bigtray.com. —Kristin Donnelly