In My Kitchen: Chef Carlie Carey, owner of Fenwick Island’s One Coastal restaurant

Restaurateur Carlie Carey loves cooking with daughter Eamer
Restaurateur Carlie Carey loves cooking with daughter Eamer. Photo by Eric Crossan

As told to Peter Osborne

Carlie Carey takes “farm to table” literally when it comes to her Fenwick Island restaurant, One Coastal. The family farm that her husband Scott runs is just nine miles from her 49-seat restaurant, and she told Delaware Business Times last year that her drive to work each day normally includes reusable bags and milk crates full of herbs, organic vegetables, and free-range eggs.

Carey opened One Coastal in 2014 in a strip center that formerly housed a sandwich shop. She created a huge black-and-silver mural and an open kitchen that works like a performance stage. She took time out of her busy schedule to give readers a look inside her home kitchen and to share a favorite recipe.

When I’m at home I normally cook … Anything that involves sugar, butter, and flour! As an unapologetic fan of homemade treats, pastries, and breads, I can usually be found in my kitchen with those items happily scattered all over my counters, my heart full and my mind searching for just the right recipe. Basically, if there’s flour in my hair, on my toddler, and scattered on the floor, you know we’re having a good day!

The thing people notice first about my kitchen … Our floor (when it’s not covered in flour, of course)! In a moment of agreeable consent (he’s famous for them — cue the chickens, alpacas, mini horses, and the rest of the farm), my husband agreed to a complete renovation of our outdated kitchen. As I worked towards the redesign, I knew I wanted our small kitchen space to feel airy, a bit funky, and functional. The first commitment I made to that vision was a hand-painted, beautifully patterned black and white cement tile for the floor. It’s definitely the first thing people notice and a great way to remind ourselves that in life and in cooking, plenty of successes are found outside the box!

In my pantry you’ll always find … Extras of EVERYTHING. As a small business owner, I like to think I’m fairly organized but when it comes time to go to the grocery store, I always have that moment of “uh oh, do I have baking soda? Or just powder? Semi-sweet chips? Or just milk? Cream of tartar? Yeast that’s still active? Oh shoot, did I see lemon extract in the cabinet?” In order to avoid ANOTHER trip to the store (one trip is usually more than enough [when] toting a tiny human, even a sweet one), I just throw any of the items in question in the cart and call it good.

The books I repeatedly cook from are … Just one, my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens “The New Cook Book.” I know this red-and-white-checkered food bible is a staple in a lot of homes, and in the day and age of internet browsing I’m increasingly glad I was raised to read (and sometimes tweak) recipes in an actual book! Even though my mom is no longer with us, I find immense comfort in flipping through the well-worn pages, knowing that my mom — at my age — was doing the same exact thing. She’s got notes in the margins, her favorite recipes dog-eared and stained from a too-full cup of coffee or a drip of melted butter, and a lifetime of love making those recipes for her family.


Read Carlie’s Cinnamon Rolls recipe here


 

The most difficult thing for me to cook in the kitchen … Any “real food” that doesn’t come with explicit directions! My husband can take one look in the fridge and the spices in the cabinet and come up with a dinner to beat all. (Which is equally impressive and aggravating!) I, on the other hand, couldn’t do that if you promised me all the cinnamon rolls with extra cream cheese frosting in the world. While there is some essence of “winging it” in baking (and I’ve learned over the years what can be substituted … and what cannot!), there’s still a certain comfort in knowing there’s design and specificity underlying it all. Regular cooking, to me, is so much more difficult than that!

The kitchen tool I can’t live without … My [KitchenAid] mixer! It’s not that it’s that fancy, or even that pretty (although to me, she’s a supermodel), but she’s a lifesaver! My mixer is like that friend you have who always has your back when you’re not sure that you can do something. She says, “YOU GOT THIS!”

My answer to every family gathering is … CHARCUTERIE! My friends and family all know this about me, and I’m frequently the butt of some good old-fashioned teasing: “Gee, I wonder what Carlie and Scott will bring to the brunch party? What can I say? I’m a grazer by nature — give me some cheese and olives over a full-blown meal any day.

My favorite cooking trick is … Salt! As with cooking in general, my ultimate goal for dessert is a perfect blend of flavors with a taste that has you begging for the recipe. While there are plenty of dessert recipes that don’t call for it, I find that adding a (generous!) pinch of salt gets me that perfect balance.

My time in Delaware has made me a better chef because … I frequently like to say that baking is my love language. Regardless of the occasion (or non-occasion, as “just because” sweets are my favorite!), treats are a tangible way for me to be there for you. Getting married? Cake! Hosting a party? Cookies! Lost a loved one? Breakfast bread with a big, hard hug. Since my husband and I both grew up here, we are fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family. Given all the wonderful humans in our lives, it’s no wonder there’s always SOMETHING to be working on in the kitchen.

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