Sheridan Road visits the kitchen of Lake Forest foodie Wendy Franzen to hear her entertaining secrets in her own words.
What is the inspiration for your blog, Fletcher + Fork?
Cooking and entertaining at home are the subjects that light me up! Fletcher + Fork was created to share my passion, a place where people come for inspiration to cook for friends and family. And for themselves. Cooking is inherently a nurturing act, and when you put something homemade on the table, those gathered around it feel taken care of. Fletcher + Fork, ideally, is a conduit for creating that nurturing experience.
Speaking of entertaining at home, you’re hosting 20 dinner guests, including a famous author, for Ragdale’s Novel Affair in April. Most people would find that intimidating! Where do you begin?
Every gathering starts the same way for me, whether it’s four guests for a Friday night dinner or twenty-four for a holiday celebration. What is in season? And how do I highlight those seasonal ingredients in a creative yet familiar way? After that, it is all about the table setting, which immediately sets the tone. I have an embarrassing amount of dinnerware, glasses, and napkins on racks in my basement, ranging from rustic pottery to gold-rimmed Limoges. But truthfully, the most important ingredients are having a cocktail ready to hand your guests as they walk in the door, soft lighting, and a warm disposition. Even if the roast burns, you can order Thai and plate it on your grandmother’s blue and white china.
Do you have a culinary hero and why?
Melissa Clark, the cookbook author, and The New York Times food columnist. She has an adventurous yet approachable style of cooking that aligns with mine, and I learn something whenever I use her recipes. And she’s written 40 cookbooks! I’m steadily building recipes for my first and wish I had her on speed dial.
If you could invite three famous guests to a dinner party, who would they be?
All would be laid back guests who are wildly passionate about what they do, providing spirited dinner table banter to keep the party going! Anthony Bourdain, for his magnetic story telling and global culinary knowledge; Bill Murray, for his offbeat joie de vivre and ability to bring levity to any conversation; and Gwyneth Paltrow, for her shared love of food, wine, and laughter. And if John Mayer stopped by for dessert and a few songs, I wouldn’t turn him away!
Describe the book you’re currently penning.
I keep a notebook in the kitchen where I write and refine recipes and a monogrammed Smythson journal next to my bed where I record my dinner party menus, wine pairings, how I set the table, playlists, and notes on the evening. The book is an extension of those notes and recipes—a guide to gracious entertaining done in a relaxed and modern way.
If you had to pick one place to have your last meal, what would it be and why?
My mother was an extraordinary home cook, gardener, and baker. I’d have my last meal at her table—simple roast chicken, a baked potato loaded with butter, and tomatoes straight from the garden, sliced and sprinkled with salt. I’d end with a generous piece of her cream cheese frosted carrot cake.
What is your favorite ingredient, if you had to choose just one?
Salt, without question. It brings out the best in every dish, every baked good. I season as I go which heightens other ingredients and creates a well-seasoned but not salty meal. If I could choose two more ingredients, they would be lemon and garlic, which appear in most of my recipes.
For more about Franzen’s Fletcher + Fork blog, visit fletcherandfork.com